Winona Ryder

Stranger Things

StrangerThings

I’m not usually one for bandwagon jumping, but in this case, I am all for it.

You and your mother (yes, even your mother–mine loved it) need to start checking out Netflix’s latest original series, Stranger Things. Because guess what? Everyone telling you to watch it is right.

It’s part Stand by Me, part Alien (actually I’ve never seen Alien so don’t quote me on that), and part ET. Just your every day group of young best friends who stumble upon a government-run experiment and face a fantastical monster in the meantime. Sure, it sounds “out there,” and while it is, it’s also a wonderful homage to the 80s and the nerds who made it through the decade barely unscathed, and it also tells the story of some good ole, true at heart characters we don’t tend to see on regular television anymore.

Stranger Things focuses on four young best friends in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. Their science-obsessed, fantasy-playing after school hobbies suddenly take on real life importance when one of their own goes missing. While the adults around them, including a well meaning sheriff, focus on your standard CSI means of operating, these kids sense there’s something more to the story–you know, like telekinesis, alternate dimensions, and government conspiracies. I mean, stranger things have happened. (See what I did there? …If you never read this blog again, I’ll understand.)

However, one adult in town does think like the kids: the missing friend’s mother, played by my fave lady of the 90s, Miss Winona Ryder. (WELCOME BACK, WINONA. WE’VE MISSED YOU.) As the police go knocking on doors and walking through the woods in search of the missing boy, his mom senses her son is much closer than anyone else thinks is possible. He might be right in front of them; they just can’t see him. And here’s where the show gets not good but great: this adult starts thinking like a kid, willing herself to believe in the fantastical to find her son.

In addition to my 90s queen Winona, Stranger Things is made even better by a slew of great supporting characters who are each rightfully given an opportunity to steal the show. David Harbour plays Jim Hopper, a cop who doesn’t inspire much hope at first but may surprisingly have more heart in the case than anyone else. Then there are those who seem as if they’ve been handpicked from a John Hughes film: from Barb, the 80s girl personified, to Steve Harrington, the Jake Ryan of Netflix, these characters help capture that nostalgia for a time of over-fluffed hair and ill-fitting jeans.

I mean, my head is practically exploding with how much genuine awesomeness they’ve managed to cram into this show.

And the best part? Episodes are only 50 minutes long. And there are only 8 of them. Which means you can watch the whole series in, like, three days and not feel bad about it. (Come on, it’s like two two-hour movies, with a shorter one thrown in. It’s binge-watching, but guilt free!)

So grab your favorite bean bag chair and hit pause on that Toto song. Stranger Things is waiting for you to join the bandwagon.

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Bob Hoskins

About six or so years ago, I discovered the film Mermaids. I saw it mainly because two of my favorite leading ladies, Cher and Winona Ryder (yes, those are two of my favorite leading ladies), are in it. While the film focuses on a single mom who raises her two daughters in an unconventional, gypsy-like manner, there is one male cast member whose role is especially memorable, Bob Hoskins’. Although a female-dominated film, Bob’s role as a lovable shoe salesman is one of the most endearing aspects of the whole movie. Kind, charming, and generous, Bob’s Lou Landsky helps Cher’s Mama Flax come to terms with the idea that maybe all men aren’t meant to be disposed and run away from when things get complicated. Bob’s character lit up every scene and helped melt Mama Flax’s steely persona.

Today Mr. Hoskins passed away at the age of 71, and although I can’t say I’m very familiar with his career, having seen just a handful of his films, I’m still glad his role in Mermaids is one that I’ll always have to remember him by.

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Heathers: The 25th Anniversary

It has come to my attention that this year is the 25th anniversary of the film Heathers. Never seen Heathers? OH BOY. Get on Netflix now, my friend, and get watching. Oh, it’s on Instant. I’ve checked.

HeathersBack one day many moons ago, I caught the film Heathers as it began on the WB (remember when it was the WB? what does “The CW” even mean? anyone? anyone?). I had already entered a bit of a Winona Ryder phase, having seen Edward Scissorhands at least a half dozen times due to my obsession with respect for Johnny Depp at the time. I was 14 and he was, well, he was Captain Jack Sparrow. But I digress.

I remember watching Heathers and thinking, “Is this actually happening? Am I actually seeing what I’m seeing?”

Veronica, a less-than-enthusiastic member of her school’s most popular clique, suddenly finds herself committing accidental murders with the school’s resident sociopath. That killer of smile of his proves distracting though, and before she knows what she’s done, Veronica has become her own worst nightmare. But the craziest part of this film? How funny it is. I hadn’t seen a film before and I haven’t since that makes, well, death, I suppose, seem so funny. The only thing I can think of that comes close is This Is the End. But that didn’t have the smart wit of Winona Ryder or, more importantly, the flamboyant bombastic look of the 1980s. From the poufy red scrunchie Heather wears as her symbol of school dominance to the explosive ending, nothing in this movie is mellow or understated. Even as Veronica writes in her journal, she wears a monocle, showing in the most obscure of ways how different she is from her “best friends.”

Is this a style trend we can bring back?

Is this a style trend we can bring back?

Anyone who resented the popular kids in high school, or didn’t understand why they were popular in the first place, can relate in some way to Ryder’s character. Hopefully, you have more difficulty relating to J.D. the psychopath, played by a young Christian Slater, whose rye look quickly reminds one of Jack Nicholson at his schemiest of moments. (Schemiest, yes.)

Forget Mean Girls. This is the daring (and hysterical) high school film you need to see.