In 1983-84, during my second year in grad school at Indiana University, working toward a M.A. in English, I was sharing an apartment in downtown Bloomington with my Viju, hooking up two or three times a week, and going to a lot of movies, so many that I had to divide the list in two. Here are the movies I saw in theaters in the spring of 1984:
January: El Norte: A brother and sister make a perilous journey from Guatemala to el Norte, where they experience all sorts of hardships. They both die. Supremely depressing, but at least brother (David Villalpando) doesn't meet the Girl of His Dreams.
February: Footloose. A conservative preacher outlaws dancing in a small town, so the teens rebel. Coming from the Nazarene Church, I could relate.
March: Repo Man: The trailers made it look like this would be about the hilarious misadventures of a repo man (confiscating your car when you're behind on the payments). Actually it's a surreal, convoluted mess involving aliens, government conspiracies, drugs, and lots of people getting killed. And Emilio Estivez didn't even show a bulge.
March: The Hotel New Hampshire, because I heard that there was a gay character. There is, Frank (Paul McCrane), just one of the bizarre siblings who run the Hotel. He doesn't actually do anything gay, but who has time, with all of the disturbing crazyiness going on?
March: Police Academy, because it starred Steve Guttenberg (sigh) as a ne-er-do-well who is given the choice of becoming a cop or going to jail. Huh? His wild antics disrupt the stuffy academy; I particularly liked the scene in which he pretends that he has given the uptight commandant a blow job.
March: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. A new version that tried to stay close to the original novels: after being raised by apes, John Greystoke (Christopher Lambert) has trouble adjusting to human society. Plus he falls in love with Philippe D'Arnot AND Jane Porter.
April: Swing Shift: During World War II, Kurt Russell falls in love with two women, one of whom has a husband overseas.
May: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The one where Indy, the Girl, and their East Asian stereotype kid, Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) run afoul of evil, superstitious, duplitious South Asians.
June: Ghostbusters. Who you gonna call?
June: Gremlins, because Zack Galligan (top photo) was cute. He and the Girl fight cuddlies that turn vicious if you feed them after midnight. The movie turns out to be far darker than the trailers suggested.
June: The Karate Kid: baby-faced Danny clobbers the bullies with the help of the mystic faux-Asian wisdom delivered by his sensei.
June: Conan the Destroyer. Arnold is back, this time with a dead wife to prevent the barbarian hero from falling in love with Grace Jones. He picks up a male companion (Mako), but doesn't fall in love with him, either.
July: Revenge of the Nerds: Problematic now, but in 1984 adding limp-wristed, swishy gay stereotype Lamar to the misfit fraternity counted as LGBTQ representation. Except, why are his fraternity brothers shocked and disgusted when he dates a guy? Did they think that "gay" means "swishy heterosexual"?
Larry B. Scott, who played Lamar, refused further gay roles to avoid being typecast. He states in an interview that he is constantly being praised for being a champion of gay rights, but "it was just a job."
July: Purple Rain: Prince's songs were playing constantly in the gay bars in 1984, so of course we assumed that he was gay. But this biopic is all about the Kid meeting, winning, and arguing with the girl.