Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 20
Something Wild November 7, 1986
Something Wild opens

With both downtown New York creative subculture and Wall Street flourishing in the mid-1980s, the collision of straight, hardworking men charismatic, possibly decadent women with bohemian lifestyles was a popular theme. There was Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, John Landis’s Into the Night, and, opening November 7, 1986, Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. Jeff Daniels plays an uptight banker who cuts loose when he is “kidnapped” on a countercultural joyride with the enjoyably kooky, black-bobbed Lulu (Melanie Griffith). They two wind up playing husband and wife at her high-school reunion (a narrative device that would recur in countless movies following), and Ray Liotta provides some third-act bloodshed with his appearance as Lulu’s ex-con ex. The film is full of cameos from directors (John Sayles, John Waters), downtown scenesters (the designer Adelle Lutz), and musicians (The Feelies). Wrote Dave Kehr for the Chicago Tribune, “It has wit, originality, color, warmth and formal intelligence. It tempers its escapist dash with a touch of darkness, and for all of its playfulness, never departs from a fundamental seriousness.... Something Wild is superbly unpredictable.” The film wasn’t a huge hit — in the States it grossed just over $8 million — but the influence of this ’80 sub-genre exists in both independent and studio film to this day.


More Flashbacks
Harold and Maude Dec. 20, 1971
Harold and Maude Opens

Hal Ashby's iconic black comedy Harold and Maude opened in theaters on December 20, 1971.

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December 20, 1979
Bob Fosse's All That Jazz

For denizens of the New York theater scene, Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical All that Jazz provided them the guessing game of the season. What scandals was Fosse going to spill in his expose musical? The film, which tells the story of a Broadway choreographer/director Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), whose excesses in life and work bring him to the edge of a collapse, was clearly modeled on Fosse’s own life. Some actors (like Ann Reinking) play characters very similar to themselves; other figures (like ex-wife Gwen Verdon, producer Hal Prince, and others) are played by others; and other actors (like Jessica Lange) who were close to Fosse play oddly mythic figures. Fosse, who’d started choreographing for film in 1954, was soon pulled to New York to choreograph and eventually direct such musicals as Pippin, Chicago, and Sweet Charity. In 1969, he started making films as well, winning an Oscar in 1972 for Cabaret. A demanding taskmaster and infamous womanizer, the chain-smoking Fosse suffered a heart attack in 1975. It was during this period that Shirley Maclaine (according to her) suggested he create something about his brush with death. The resulting film is a breathtaking musical sleight of hand as Fosse’s alter ego Joe Gideon reveals his innermost fears and desires only to cover them in the next moment with all that jazz––surreal show stopping dance numbers and Felliniesque romps into his libido and unconscious. In 1987, life imitated art as Fosse died from a heart attack, just moments before his revival of Sweet Charity was to open at the National Theater.

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