Though steadily building a reputation as one of the most daring networks on cable in respect to its original programs- Mad Men, the brilliant Breaking Bad- American Movie Classics has, of late, become a home to films that play very fast and loose with the term "classic." While an 80s cheesefest like Iron Eagle may be a film I will enthusiastically watch, it's not exactly of the caliber of, say, The Maltese Falcon, though it's probably celebrated by the handful of people who want to remember Jerry Levine, Larry B. Scott, Robbie Rist, and Louis Gossett, Jr., as anything other than Styles, Lamarr Latrell, Cousin Oliver, and the badass military man from An Officer and a Gentleman (okay, Gossett plays another military badass in Iron Eagle- let's substitute the space alien stranded with Dennis Quaid in Enemy Mine and call it good.)
More after the jump.
The hand AMC has been dealt is a rough one, to be sure. While it was previously the network of choice for those of us who enjoyed truly classic films- I remember watching the Lon Cheney, Jr., version of Phantom of the Opera there as a kid- the emergence of Turner Classic Movies, with its impressive access to the film vaults of old Hollywood and its willingness to run uncut, commercial-free films with hosts who provide actual context for the presentation, has forced AMC to take a hard look at what they really are.
While the definition of "classic" is debatable- I think the car world refers to cars older than 25 years as classics, which makes my first car a prime example- one would probably be pretty safe in saying AMC has cheapened the term with some of their choices. While some of the members of the "class of '94" are deserving (Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump), inclusion of turkeys like Catwoman makes it really, really hard to take the network's name seriously.
However, AMC managed to earn a little more credibility this week by commemorating the 25th anniversary of a film that has managed to establish itself as hugely influential, despite its somewhat underwhelming box office (the previous year's Amblin-produced, Chris Columbus-penned film was Gremlins, which brought in more than double what this one made.) The film's influence is apparent in a number of homages in movies and television as well as in the art world and the American landscape in general, which lends credence to the notion that the film is, in fact, a classic.
I'm talking about The Goonies.
While the argument that The Goonies should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with, say, The Godfather (which also airs on AMC from time to time) is a little tough to make while keeping a straight face, the programmers at the network would do well to capitalize on the emerging need to recognize the cultural significance of films from the 1980s. While TCM has a lock on presenting historically and artistically important films in a serious context, AMC might do well to work on developing the pop culture aspect of "classic" films. Some ideas:
- Perform a more thorough vetting of films to add to the lineup. There is no reason to air Enough on a channel called "American Movie Classics" (or anywhere, for that matter.)
- Consider developing an on-air staff to provide social and cultural context, much as Robert Osborne and company do at Turner.
- Capitalize on opportunities to package programming beyond the "Action Pack" brand. What about developing a Friday night "midnight movies" feature, focusing on cult films and drive-in fare? How about inviting celebrity curators to program theme nights? Perhaps doing a weekend of films chained by appearances by character actors could justify a Teen Wolf/Iron Eagle/SpaceCamp triple feature. (Yes, I know waaaaay too much about the Larry B. Scott filmography.)
By creating a greater perceived value in their network, AMC could create a stronger platform in which to showcase their original programming while creating a clearer definition of what they mean by "classic."
What do you think?
Bonus: Iron Eagle features a rad prom scene, complete with a dance break by Larry B. Scott. Watch for Jerry Levine's Teen Wolf-worthy moves in the background.
Also: check out Dave Perillo's other pop culture-inspired art.