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Monday, April 28, 2014

Everybody Cut Footloose!

I'm going to just come right out with a huge confession.

I can't dance to save my life.

Seriously.  I have two left feet when it comes to mastering dance moves.  Trust me when I tell you that when I am coerced on a dance floor that I am no Michael Jackson.  Hell, I'm not even Michael Bolton.  But then again, he's more of a singer than a dancer, and I can't even do that.

Maybe it's a good thing that all my musical training involved a rusty baritone.

Anyway, I suppose that if I were to have a couple of beers or a cocktail that is spiked with liberal amounts of vodka, I suppose it would give me enough liquid courage to get out on the floor and pretend that I'm at the hottest discotheque in the world.

Which in itself is a bad thing since discotheques went out with roller disco nights. 

Anyway, back to my little opening statement before we move ahead with this week's Monday Matinee.

Because my dancing abilities were not that great, I tended to avoid all things that had to do with dancing.  I never enrolled in any dance classes because I didn't think I had the rhythm to keep up with the rest of the pupils.  At the rare wedding ceremony I attended, I avoided the dance floor the way that someone with peanut allergies avoided a Peanut Buster Parfait from Dairy Queen.  And, don't even get me started on school dances.  After being laughed off the floor by some of the kids at a ninth grade dance, I never attended another one.  But, I look back on it as being my fault for lacking the strength to stand up to all of them.

And even so, it still wouldn't have made me a better dancer.

I mean, let's face it.  There are just some things out there in the world that people will never excel at.  My Achilles heel happens to be dancing.  It's not that I didn't try to learn how to dance when I was younger...I just couldn't seem to grasp it.  And that's okay, because I make a much better writer than I do a choreographer any day of the week.

But one thing that I will say is that while I admit to being a terrible dancer, at least I had several resources available to attempt to improve my dancing skills - or lack thereof - available to me.  Could you imaging living in a place in which there were no such outlets to learn how to dance?

Even worse...could you imagine a place in which dancing is absolutely forbidden?  No school dances.  No ballet recitals.  No cheerleading routines.  Not even rock music blaring out of CD players, iPods, and mp3 players!  Wouldn't you consider a place like that to be one of the most depressing places in all the world?

Why, you'd just have to ask any teenager who lived in the Midwestern town of Bomont circa 1984 what that would be like.  They'd probably tell you that it was absolute torture.  And, yet, that's exactly what it was like in the fictional community...

...well, that is until a fleet-footed hellraiser from Chicago dropped in and decided to bring the funk back to Bomont. 

This is the story of how that one teen flipped things upside down in Bomont, and made sure that the entire population would get a chance to get up on the dance floor to cut loose, footloose.

So, kick off your Sunday shoes because everybody's losing their blues to cut "Footloose"!

Don't worry.  We're going to be reviewing the original version released in February 1984 - not the lame remake some two and a half decades later.  After all, this is the film that made Kevin Bacon a star.

Come to think of it, a lot of people got their big breaks in this movie.  It was Sarah Jessica Parker's first major role in a motion picture, and was one of several huge films that the late Christopher Penn starred in.  The film also starred Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Francis Lee McCain. 

Now, most of you already know what the major plot of "Footloose" is.  Kevin Bacon plays the role of Ren, a big city teen who moves to Bomont with his family, and is stunned to discover that the town he now calls home has absolutely no fun whatsoever.  It appears as though every social event revolves around the town's only church, which is headed up by the extremely conservative Reverend Shaw Moore (Lithgow).  And just how conservative is Reverend Moore?  Well, he's the one you can thank for eliminating dancing from the town of Bomont!  A few years prior to Ren's family arriving in Bomont, there was a terrible tragedy which saw the lives of several teenagers come to an abrupt end after a dance was held, and the Reverend decided that in order to protect the rest of the children from experiencing a similar fate that he would remove the temptation completely.

Sounds like something that could only happen in a movie, could it?

Well, allow me to blow your minds.  Because the events of "Footloose" were based off of a real life community that had banned dancing for almost an entire CENTURY!  No kidding!

That community was Elmore City, Oklahoma, a village with a population of less than a thousand people and whose residents were extremely religious. 

And it is estimated that when the community was first established in the late 1800s, the ban on dancing was first placed.  I was unable to come up with a reason as to why the community would implement such a ban to begin with, but I can only wager a guess that it had to do with the religious morals that the townspeople grew up with.  Maybe they saw dancing as a gateway activity to more scandalous activities, and the community felt the need to nip any sinning in the bud before it even happened.

It wasn't until 1980 before the ban was finally lifted, after students of that year's graduating class asked for permission to hold a dance at their school.  If you rent the DVD version of "Footloose" (or buy a copy of the film for five bucks at many retail outlets), you can hear stories from the people of Elmore City themselves talking about how the ban was lifted, and how the 1980 graduating class of Elmore City High School held their very first prom.  It's a very interesting feature for sure.

So, right off the bat, you can pretty much guess the ending (one of the very few Monday Matinees in which I had really no choice but to).  But I'm purposely leaving out a few details about how we get there, because the story behind how we get to the end is probably more interesting anyway.

For instance, Ren's friend, Willard (Penn) is apprehensive about having a dance in the first place...not because he sides with the Reverend...but because he has a secret shame that he doesn't want anyone to know.  With help from Ren, will Willard gain the strength necessary to fight ahead?

There's the pretty young woman named Ariel (Singer), who immediately warms the cockles of young Ren's heart - but Ariel's family background is extremely complicated.  What happens when Ren discovers that his antagonist is closely linked to the woman he loves?  And, for that matter, why is the main antagonist of the film so anti-dancing?  It wouldn't have to do with a personal tragedy, would it?

And, what about Rusty (Parker)?  What sort of role does she have to play?  Well, I don't want to go into too much detail, but she finds herself at the center of a conflict which quickly erupts into a bar fight.

And, hey, with a successful soundtrack that included hits such as this one...

...and this one...

...and who could forget this one?

Why, the movie quickly became a smorgasbord of everything that was cool about the 1980s!  Sure, it wasn't a critical darling, but when you consider it was released the same year as "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", "Ghostbusters", "Beverly Hills Cop", "Gremlins", and "The Karate Kid", I'd say it held its own.

So, that's all I have to say about "Footloose" the movie.  But I'm sure you want to know some secrets behind the filming of "Footloose".  Believe me, there are quite a few to share!

For instance...

1 - Tom Cruise was an early favourite to play the role of Ren in "Footloose" after producers noted that he really could dance during his tighty-whitey jivin' on "Risky Business".  Alas, it was not meant to be, as he had already committed himself to "All The Right Moves".

2 - Rob Lowe was also considered an early favourite for Ren, and had he not gotten injured, he probably would have had the part handed to him.

3 - The list of actresses who were considered for Ariel is extensive.  Heather Locklear, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Elizabeth McGovern, Daryl Hannah, Lori Loughlin, Tatum O'Neal, Bridget Fonda, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rosanna Arquette, and Brooke Shields were all contenders at one point!  Of that list, I could see Lori Loughlin and Brooke Shields doing just as well as Lori Singer did playing Ariel, but that's just my opinion, of course.

4 - Madonna actually auditioned for the role of Ariel.  That would have been...interesting.  Especially given that her future brother-in-law was in the film as well!

5 - The majority of the film was shot in Utah.

6 - Kevin Bacon remarked that he had four stunt doubles in the film - one for dancing, one for stunts, and two for the gymnastic scenes.

7 - Prior to joining the cast of "Footloose", Christopher Penn really didn't know how to dance at all.  I wonder if that influenced a particular scene with Deniece Williams playing in the background...hmmmm...

8 - Believe it or not, to get the authenticity of playing a high school student, Kevin Bacon (with the principal's knowledge) managed to slip into the high school classes as a transfer student named "Ren McCormack".  At the time of filming, Kevin Bacon was 24!

9 - Look closely at the opening sequence.  All the different pairs of shoes featured belonged to the cast and crew of the film.  And speaking of which...

10 - ...look at the pair of feet wearing gold shoes.  Those belong to Mr. "Footloose" himself, Kenny Loggins!

11 - In an interview that he did with Howard Stern, Kevin Bacon admitted to paying off DJ's at parties NOT to play "Footloose"!

12 - Dianne Wiest plays the role of Ariel's mother.  In reality, there is only a nine year age difference between Wiest and Lori Singer!

13 - Kevin Bacon was so nervous about filming the scene at the City Council that he actually broke out in hives!

14 - John Lithgow did double duty while filming "Footloose".  He was simultaneously working on "Terms of Endearment" at the time.

15 - Kevin Bacon's hairstyle in the film was styled after Sting's.

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