movies, nostalgia

Repost: My review of the 80s gymnastics film, American Anthem…

Here’s another repost. I originally wrote this movie review for Epinions.com on May 21, 2007. I am reposting it here for the sake of nostalgia. It appears here as/is.

American Anthem… What’s reality got to do with Hollywood?

Pros: Music video quality. Decent soundtrack. Nice shots of Gaylord in shorts. Mindless fun.

Cons: Incredibly stupid plot. Bad acting. May be hard to find.

Twenty years ago, I was a devoted cable TV fan who had just discovered gymnastics. No, I’ve never been one to turn a cartwheel myself (having big jugs makes acrobatics difficult), but I do enjoy watching the sport. In 1986, the U.S. men’s gymnastics team was still basking in the glory of their team gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Hunky Olympic gymnast Mitch Gaylord apparently wanted to cash in on his new found fame and good looks. Perhaps he also wanted to get out of the gym.

I don’t know the real reasons behind his decision to make the 1986 flop American Anthem and try his hand at acting, but the regrettable fact remains that Gaylord does have American Anthem on his resume. Yesterday, I had the chance to view it again, courtesy of Amazon.com’s new Unbox service.

Let me be frank. When I was a teenager, I loved this movie. It used to come on HBO all the time and I never got tired of watching it. Now that I’m in my 30s (um… 50), this movie is not as enchanting. In fact, I’m pretty embarrassed to even count this flick as a guilty pleasure.

Anyway, Mitch Gaylord plays Steve Tevere, a former high school football star turned gymnast turned sports burnout. Steve Tevere lives with his parents, played by Michelle Phillips and John Aprea, and his little brother, Mikey, played by R.J. Williams, and works at the local motorcycle factory. Although at the beginning of the film, ol’ Steve has given up his dreams of gymnastics glory, he still hangs out with his athlete buddies and sneaks into the gym to watch them work out. And that’s when he catches sight of the babelicious newcomer to the gym, Julie Lloyd, played by dancer, Janet Jones (future wife of hockey star, Wayne Gretzky).

Julie Lloyd moved to the gym against her parents’ will to train with the demanding Coach Soranhoff, played by Michael Pataki. She quickly makes friends with a hardworking but less sexy gymnast named Becky Cameron, played by former University of Florida gymnast Maria Anz. When Julie and Becky go out for some good times at the local bar, they run into Steve, who immediately hits on Julie. Julie and Steve predictably hook up, which leads Steve to consider going back to gymnastics. After getting a lecture from his friend, Kirk Baker, played by Stacy Maloney, Steve decides to go back to the gym. His father is against his decision, leading them to fight.

There’s a third plot in this story. Julie’s disabled cousin Arthur, played by Andrea Bianchi, also happens to live in the same town as the gym. Arthur lost his parents in a car crash and was left with a leg brace. He spends his time holed up in a house, composing music on his synthesizer. Julie pays him a visit and establishes his role in the film.

Both Julie and Steve are headstrong athletes dealing with personal conflicts. Steve struggles with a fear of not living up to his past successes. He’s unhappy as a clearly mature man, living with his parents and working at a dead end job. And Julie doesn’t like her floor exercise music. If I could, I’d insert an eyeroll smiley right here. Since I don’t have access to smilies, I will just repeat myself in italics. Julie’s conflict is that she doesn’t like her coach’s choice in music for her floor exercise routine. After listening to and watching Julie’s routine, I can’t say I blame her. The flatulent sounding piece sounds like it was an early inspiration for the Who Framed Roger Rabbit soundtrack.

Anyway, Julie would rather use a dynamic, snazzy piece composed by her disabled cousin, Arthur. The coach won’t hear of it, so Julie gets an attitude at a regional meet, which upsets her teammate, Becky Cameron. The movie plods on with Steve on the outs with his parents– especially his father– and Julie on the outs with the coach and her high achieving teammate. Arthur hangs out on the sidelines, pressuring Julie to use his music instead of the beastly number the coach has chosen.

At this point, I’ll just say that naturally, Steve and Julie work through their issues to become triumphant at the movie’s splashy gymnastics meet finale. They also make progress in healing their personal rifts with family. Incidentally, I always get a kick out of the final gymnastics meet, meant to choose the U.S. gymnastics team. I read that the scene was filmed in the gym of an abandoned high school. The overall lighting is kept low, with dramatic colored lights very obviously displayed. It looks more like the Ice Capades than an actual gymnastics meet. Watch gymnastics on ESPN someday and you’ll see that the lighting in real meets is kept very bright. But then again, these are the movies. What’s reality got to do with Hollywood?

American Anthem is a pretty stupid movie. For one thing, Janet Jones and Mitch Gaylord were way too old for their parts. Most serious female gymnasts are in their early to late teens with a few managing to hang on in their 20s. In 1986, Janet Jones was 25 years old. Although she was thin and had a beautiful dancer’s body, she certainly didn’t have a gymnast’s body. Successful gymnasts tend to be very small, flat-chested, and childlike. Make no mistake, Janet Jones did not look like a child in this movie. Male gymnasts tend to be a bit older, but the way this story is presented, it looks like Steve Tevere is supposed to be several years younger than the 25 year old man Mitch Gaylord was at the time.

For another thing, Julie and Steve are shown spending a lot of time having fun. Steve, in particular, seems to spend all his spare time smoking Marlboros and drinking beer. Julie hangs out with her disabled cousin, coming up with a new floor exercise routine with the music he composed for her. Again, it’s unrealistic. Serious gymnasts spend most of their time at the gym. They don’t have time for fooling around. There’s only one realistic looking gymnast in this film and that’s 12 year old Jenny Ester, who played Tracy Prescott. Jenny Ester was an actual top level gymnast in the 1980s.

The acting is laughable, too. The only character in this film whose acting really impressed me was R.J. Williams’, who was eight years old when this flick was made. I thought he did a fantastic job considering the material he had to work with. Everybody else delivered their lines with all the personality of an empty pizza box.

The one thing that does stick out about this film is that it looks like a music video. Famed Hollywood composer Alan Silvestri scored the film and several rock stars, including John Parr, Graham Nash, Andy Taylor (of Duran Duran), and Mr. Mister all contribute tracks. The music is non-stop throughout this film, along with plenty of cinematic photography. It shouldn’t be surprising that this movie looks like a music video, since it was directed by Albert Magnoli, who also directed Prince’s film debut, Purple RainPurple Rain is another 80s guilty pleasure for me, but like American Anthem, it’s not long on great acting.

Filthy language is at a bare minimum in American Anthem. The flick is rated PG-13 and I only heard the F-bomb dropped once. But this movie runs for an hour and 40 minutes and unfortunately, the time is mostly filled with boring dialog, 80s music, and sexy guys and girls in leotards. The gymnastics are kind of fun to watch, but they look pretty dated nowadays. It’s also pretty obvious that whoever did Janet Jones’ gymnastics stunts was quite a bit shorter than Jones.

Watching American Anthem is probably not the greatest use of your time. In fact, it amazes me that this movie actually had a short run in movie theaters. I recall that it was on video in record time. However, people must have liked it since it seems that a DVD release may be coming in the near future. Of course, you can download it off Amazon.com for $9.99 or buy the videocassette for an arm and a leg. Unless you really love gymnastics or have a unique fondness for movies that are so bad they’re good, I’d recommend skipping American Anthem.

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politicians, politics, Trump

“Get my change, would ya?”

This morning, I read several infuriating articles about Donald Trump’s latest shenanigans. One article was about how the military is getting a 3% pay raise, the second largest they’ve received since 2010. On the surface, it sounds great. If Bill were still in the Army, I wouldn’t complain. I’m not surprised, either, since this is an election year and lots of military folks like Trump. A generous pay raise is one way to secure their votes in November.

I also read about how Trump wants to cut retirement benefits to government service employees, although they too will get a 1% raise this year. A 1% raise is better than nothing… but Trump wants government employees to pay more toward their retirement benefits. Some of his proposals would only affect new retirees, though others would affect everyone.

I also read about how Trump wants to end a popular student loan forgiveness program started in 2007 by fellow Republican former President George W. Bush. Two thoughts came to mind as I read this news. First, I thank God that we paid off my loans in 2018. I will be eternally grateful to Bill for making it possible for me to get rid of those loans, once and for all. Second, I can’t help but remember that Trump ran a fake university that bilked millions of dollars from students who hoped to learn the “secrets of the real estate industry”. Trump now wants to screw over people who have taken jobs in low paying public service jobs so he can continue to artificially prop up his big promises to his supporters during this election year.

I’m not sure what will convince Trump supporters that he’s not worthy of their vote. It doesn’t matter to them that he molests women and insults anyone who doesn’t kiss his ass. All they seem to care about is a few extra bucks in their paychecks. But I wonder if they’ve thought about what those extra bucks are going to cost them in the long run.

My friend Audra has a friend who, just the other day, was praising how well his 401K was doing in the Trump era. This guy, married and with a daughter, doesn’t care that Trump probably couldn’t be trusted in the presence of his wife and daughter and would happily grab them by the pussy. What seems to matter most to him is that extra cash that he’s getting today. I wonder, though, if he’s thought about what will happen years from now, when he’s old and infirm.

Trump is going after Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, with plans to shred them. Many elderly people– people who have worked and paid taxes their whole lives– depend on those programs for their survival. I don’t know how old Audra’s friend is, but I do know that his wife, who was in my high school and college class, is my age. Does he realize that the senior years are just around the corner, at least for his wife? Does he have a plan for those years? Is he independently wealthy? Can he keep working until he drops dead?

Not even military retirees are being spared. One of the best hyped benefits to retirees is the ability to use military treatment facilities for “free” medical care. But that benefit is going to be slashed, as more than three dozen military hospitals will stop offering care to military retirees and family members. Granted, this plan came about in 2016, when Obama was still president, and it’s always been true that active duty military members get treated ahead of retirees and “dependents” (hate that term). However, a lot of elderly people who were promised healthcare for life are going to see even higher medical costs, especially since Trump is hellbent on decimating Medicare and Medicaid.

Healthcare is obscenely expensive in the United States, and some people have found that it’s cheaper to go to Mexico or Canada to get their drugs… even factoring in the cost of a plane ticket! In fact, right now, there is a year old program in Utah seeking to lower prescription costs for the state’s insurance program by paying for airline tickets of beneficiaries so they can fly to Mexico to get their prescriptions filled! Not only does it seem sketchy to send our citizens to Mexico to get prescriptions (good thing they’re still letting Americans across the border and not putting them in cages), it also means that elderly people are making exhausting trips south of the border to get the drugs necessary for their survival.

So much for the pro-life crew, huh? They’re only pro-life for the unborn. Those who have already been born are on their own. Not to mention all the pollution caused by air travel… wouldn’t it be better if these folks could simply pay a fair price for their medications in the United States without taking trips that put them at risk and foul the environment? But Trump doesn’t give a shit about that, and I guess his supporters don’t, either… which brings me to the title of today’s post.

A few days ago, I watched Purple Rain for the first time in many years. That film, which famously starred Prince in his acting debut when he was just 27 years old, came out when I was 12. Back then, I thought it was a great film. As I watched it the other day, I realized it’s actually a pretty crappy movie. The music is incredible, of course, but the acting was terrible! The story was full of misogyny, too, with women being thrown in Dumpsters, tricked into jumping into freezing lakes, and slapped around by men, once the men had them under their power.

That film also starred Morris Day, who played a slick, flashy, womanizing guy who would try to impress the women he was interested in with grand gestures of largesse and tempting stories about his brass bed and Italian cook. Then, once he’d gotten what he wanted from them, he’d toss them in a Dumpster.

Morris Day meets the comely Apollonia and tries to dazzle her by paying for their drinks and telling the waitress to keep the change. Then, out of the side of his mouth, he tells his henchman, Jerome, to “Get my change, would ya?” I can’t help but think of Trump courting his supporters with a little cash thrown their way as he tells government officials to “go get his change”.

So much for his “generosity”…
I fear this may be our future as people wake up to Trump’s empty promises… I’m sure Morris dazzled this woman, too, before she surrendered to his empty promises.

If you need a less Hollywoodized version of this idea, consider a story Bill told me this morning about his shyster uncle, who used to sell aluminum siding. Bill’s uncle had no qualms about being shady to make his sales. When Bill was a child, his uncle would sometimes take Bill with him on sales calls and, when Bill was out of earshot, he’d garner sympathy by telling his would be customers that Bill had some kind of terminal illness. He had a medallion that he’d wear with a cross on one side and a star of David on the other, which he’d flip according to his customers’ religious beliefs. And when it came time to make the sale, he’d “sweeten the deal” by telling his customers that he’d give them $1000 cash if they’d sign up for the siding. What the customers didn’t realize is that dear old uncle would write that $1000 cash “gift” into the loan. So his customers, thinking they had scored a sweet deal by getting an extra grand, would end up paying for that cash, plus interest!

When I listen to Trump’s big plans for the economy and watch as he boldly craps all over American laws and traditions, as well as our beloved checks and balances, I can’t help but think of sleazy characters like Bill’s shyster uncle and Morris Day. Trump can fast talk with the best of them, and when you’re getting an extra $100 in your paycheck, what he says and does looks good. But what happens when you give him your vote and wind up in a Dumpster afterwards, discarded like one of Morris Day’s conquests? I don’t think a lot of Trump’s supporters have thought about it much.

Not really.

My well read husband also brought up the book 1984, by George Orwell, and how “chocolate rations” went up… only they didn’t, really. I’m ashamed to say that even though I was an English major, I never came across that book in my studies, although I did read Animal Farm. I was also around in the year 1984, when everyone was talking about Orwell because of 1984. I tried to read it years later, but couldn’t get into it at the time. Maybe it’s time to try again, because some of what Trump is doing is eerily reminiscent of Orwellian society… Yeah… you’ve got more money in your paycheck today. But will you still have it when you need it, years from now, as Trump destroys programs designed to help those who can’t help themselves while he pads his own wallet and those of his friends? I wish people would think about that before they enthuse about how “great” Trump is making America.

This looks like it was done by an AP high school English class… but it’s still pretty good.

Yes, you’ve got a little extra chocolate right now… but you don’t have nearly as much as the top 1% does. And once Trump gets a second term, there will be no stopping him. We’ll all end up in a Dumpster, with neither extra chocolate nor change.

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