What a Feeling

An Oak Street retrospective pulls us back to the flashy days of Eighties cinema

In terms of the period films in the series, is it nostalgia for nostalgia that makes us want to revisit the Fifties-set Diner and Stand by Me? Perhaps, though even the contemporary Eighties comedies seem oddly rooted in the past. In Ghostbusters (screening Friday through Sunday, along with Caddyshack), the title characters' freelance eviction of New York's bad element has been made downright quaint by Giuliani standards. In its day, Risky Business nearly blushed from the turn-on of bringing an Eighties sense of class to the teen-male-fantasy genre. Yet its sleek fetishization of brand-name product (the Ray-Bans, the Top Siders, the Porsche) is now de rigueur. Come to think of it, Tom Cruise, playing the film's Princeton-bound yuppie-in-training Joel Goodson, sold himself pretty shrewdly, too. How much do you think that "Old Time Rock & Roll" underwear dance was worth to the kid's career?

Maybe I shouldn't be so mordant. After all, this kid got a career out of risky business, too. But while I'm allowed to drive myself to the theater these days, the movies inside remain frozen in adolescence. Forget about retrospectives. In a way, we're all still screening the thrill rides of the Eighties, over and over. And forget about nostalgia, too. Who has time to raid that lost ark again when the order of the day is to raid its tomb?

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