Episode #154: Reflections on Rewatching Some Kind of Wonderful
This week, I decided to take on one of my all time favorite movies, Some Kind of Wonderful. I’d been awhile since I watched the whole thing, start to finish, and given that I’ve done a bunch of these retrospective rewatchings over the last few years for this show, I’ve mostly gotten over the worry that I’ll tarnish a rose-colored, nostalgic view of a film I enjoyed as a kid when looked at through adult eyes. In many cases, like this one, my views are somewhat different, but thus far, the basic elements that drew me to films such as these years ago have not changed much despite the years in between.
Of all the 80s teen movies, for some reason, this one was always my favorite. In some ways, it ironically also feels like the most grown-up of John Hughes’ 80s teen movies, and from what I’ve read, was his last one of this type. Most people know of The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink, but for some reason, this one is not quite as well known. It does sound like it quite difficult to write, and the backstory behind the making of the film is quite interesting to read if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
I identified with the main character, Keith, as a teenager and remember thinking it would be great (and probably too good to be true) if your best friend also turned out to be your significant other. (I’m guessing a lot of guys can identify with that wish, especially if it all happens without you having to, you know, do actual work.) I loved the way Keith and Watts bantered back and forth, and it’s probably one of the main reasons why the main characters in The Thirteenth Hour, Logan and Aurora, not only have a similar relationship but come to understand their love for each other in much the same way Keith and Watts do in the movie.
Rewatching it years later, the basic charm of these two still holds, but I found myself appreciating the other characters in the film much more. Perhaps even more than Keith and Watts. All in all, I thought Keith’s father, played by John Ashton, was actually a pretty good guy and, in the end, supported his son in the way we can all only hope to support our own children (i.e. the most difficult way – even if we don’t like or agree with what they are doing, we still believe in them, to paraphrase what Keith tells his father.) I found myself siding a bit more with his father this time around. I know, I know. But just a bit. I found myself wanting to take Keith aside and give him the low-down – forget about high school drama – no one is going to remember or care in ten years. Don’t blow your college fund on a single date for a girl who you don’t really know and probably won’t appreciate it. Not fair to you. Not fair to put that kind of pressure on her. And, you know, hate to say it, but your old man’s onto something. He wants you to go to college, I get it. Make him happy. He ain’t gonna live forever. He doesn’t want to be worrying about you when he retires. So pick a school in a place you can tolerate. But by all means, pick one that has a good fine arts program so you have the option to major in that if you like. Once you’re in college, it doesn’t matter! So few people actually use their college degrees for their actual work, anyway! Alas, I’m not sure anyone gave Keith this talk (not sure if it would have done much good – what 17 year old wants to hear this kind of stuff?). But his Dad came sort of close.
John Ashton as Cliff Nelson
I always liked the unlikely pals that Keith meets in morning detention, Duncan and his gang, but appreciated the comic relief Duncan brought to the film much more this time around. Elias Koteas, who plays Duncan (below), sort of reprises the role as Casey Jones in the first live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film a few years later (1990).
I love the scene where Keith walks into detention, expecting Amanda, only to be greeting by a bunch of dudes in motorcycle jackets and shades. The guy above randomly rips a book in half, a scene that still cracks me up to this day.
Two artists bonding over their works of art – Duncan’s is a vandalized school desk (scratched with a pocket knife) and Keith’s is in his sketchpad (I don’t think we ever see it – probably a picture of Amanda Jones). Another great short scene. Duncan, of course, has to break the desk in order to show it to Keith 🙂
Lea Thompson as Amanda Jones
Speaking of Amanda, I always liked the way the Amanda Jones character was a bit more three dimensional than just phoning it in for her looks, but I liked her a lot more this time around. She’s no angel, of course – she cuts class and then weasels her way out of detention by sweet talking the driver’s ed teacher and clearly doesn’t have the best taste in friends or boyfriends. But, hey, no one’s perfect. She’s portrayed as a human being, flaws and all, and one of the nice things is that she grows. You get to see her change course at the end of the film, when she decides to learn to make friends and find significant others who like her for who she is, not for who she’s with – a great lesson that everyone needs to learn in some capacity at some point. Unfortunately, there traditionally aren’t as many of these roles for women – the kinds where it’s seen as a positive for her to stand on her own two feet even if it means outwardly losing face in the eyes of school (mirroring the eyes of society). This article hints that Lea Thompson pushed for more three dimensionality in her character than the script originally intended.
Speaking of which, this site is a great resource for all kinds of trivia regarding the film, including a copy of the script. There’s also whole music section. I mentioned on the @the13thhr.ost instagram page how much I’ve enjoyed the soundtrack over the years, though unfortunately, it really should be a two disc set since there are lots of good songs and instrumental parts not found on the album. The synth instrumentals were done by Stephen Hague and John Musser, which you can find here as isolated tracks. Thanks to fans, here’s an instrumental compilation of the score:
The song playing when Amanda and Keith head up to Hardy’s house is Charlie Sexton’s “Beat’s So Lonely,” a great 80s track, also not on the official soundtrack, but a great high note to end on. Stay tuned for more 80s films as the summer progresses!
Between Two Worlds, the synth EP follow up to Long Ago Not So Far Away is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.
The bonus track, called “Flight of the Cloudrider” has a 80s movie mashup music video (see if you can identify all the movies!) which is available on youtube. This app was largely created with the iphone app Auxy.
Stay tuned. Follow along on Spotify! There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hourplaylist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.
As always, thanks for listening!
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