Boogie Nights Rollergirl Everett

The Wheel World

10 Great Moments in Rollerskating Cinema

Catch Boogie Nights this month on IFC.

Posted by on

The 1970s rollerskating craze gave birth to a host of films, TV moments and questionable skating attire. In honor of Boogie Nights airing this month on IFC, we compiled a list of the great moments in roller skating history that will make you want to dig out your old skates and hit the nearest rink.

1. Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights Rollergirl

Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s cinematic ode to the early days of the adult film industry is also an ode to the “Me Decade’ itself, referencing not only the decay of American morality but also many of the latest and greatest cultural fads. Our beloved Brandy (Heather Graham) embodies one such fad: roller disco. Brandy loves her roller skates so much, she never takes them off (a quirk she adamantly defends when Dirk Diggler asks her to remove them while they’re having sex for the first time), earning the nickname, “Rollergirl.” During one big disco dance number (choreographed by Hairspray director, Adam Shankman), you can see a fully clothed (for once) Brandy skating the night away with Dirk and the gang. It’s a short-lived moment of pure disco-era joy before the excess begins to take its toll on everyone, including fun-loving, free-wheeling Rollergirl.


2. Xanadu

A box office flop at the time of its release, Xanadu became a “so bad it’s good” favorite thanks to its hit soundtrack and a look that screams “roller disco heaven.” Olivia Newton-John plays Kira, a roller skating Olympian Muse who falls in love with an artist (Michael Beck) and inspires him to open a nightclub named Xanadu. Olivia Newton-John, who barely escaped starring in fellow 1980 disaster Can’t Stop the Music, did all her own skating and suffered an injury while filming the dance/skate sequence “Suddenly.” But despite its flimsy plot and silly effects, Xanadu gained a large cult following over the years and spawned a hit Broadway musical adaptation in 2007 that was nominated for several Tony Awards.


3. Whip It!

Drew Barrymore’s 2009 directorial debut about an outcast Texas teen’s coming of age via joining a roller derby team is surprisingly sweet. Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) longs to find a purpose in her life beyond the pageants her former beauty queen mother (Marcia Gay Harden) forces her into. After sneaking off to a roller derby match with her best friend, Pash (Alia Shawkat), Bliss decides to try out for one of the local Austin teams, the Hurl Scouts, and winds up making the team. As her skills grow, she earns the nickname Babe Ruthless and starts taking charge of her life, which puts her at odds with her strict mother. The cast — which also included Barrymore, Kristen Wiig, Eve, Ari Graynor and Juliette Lewis — spent hours training to be able to really perform all the skating sequences seen in the film. Page had never skated until she began training with a coach nicknamed “Axles of Evil” during pre-production.


4. Can’t Stop the Music

Young man, there’s no need to feel down– especially if you’re Steve Guttenberg gleefully skating your way through New York City in the opening credits of a Village People biopic. As David London sings the catchy-if-lyrically-inane tune “The Sound of the City,” we see Guttenberg’s character (who is very loosely based on Village People creator, Jacques Morali) skating in the midst of Midtown traffic, past Broadway and XXX-movie theater marquees (Ahhh, Times Square in the 1980s!), and through a large parade before meeting his fashion model roommate (Valerie Perrine) in Washington Square Park.  It’s all very cheesy in the best possible way, earning an appreciative smack on the butt for Morell from a rambunctious elderly pedestrian and probably plenty of grins from delighted viewers at home.


5. Mad Men

AMC

AMC

In the season seven episode “Lost Horizon,” Copy Chief Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) and lovable Roger Sterling (John Slattery) find themselves the only two employees left in the deserted SC&P offices for different reasons: Peggy’s office at McCann-Erickson isn’t ready due to a mix up, and Roger simply refuses to let SC&P go. The two start drinking vermouth and reminiscing. By the end of the day, Roger is drunkenly playing the organ while a giggly Peggy skates through the halls. It’s a rare moment of fun in an otherwise heavy episode.


6. Austin Powers: Goldmember

In the third film of the Austin Powers series, our shagadelic superspy (Mike Myers) is forced to travel back to 1975 to rescue his kidnapped father, Nigel (a hilarious Michael Caine), from the clutches of gold lamé-loving villain Goldmember (also Meyers). When he arrives, he is greeted by a flawless, foxy, vision in gold: BEYONCÉ! Okay, fine, her name is actually Foxxy Cleopatra (a nod to Pam Grier’s Blaxploitation film roles), and she’s working undercover as a singer at Goldmember’s roller disco club. As she sings, the villain makes quite a…limber entrance on his skates that would be impressive if it wasn’t also a little repulsive.


7. That ’70s Show

That ’70s Show has made several references to roller disco, but our favorite comes from the season seven episode, “Angie,” where Eric tells the gang he’s taking Spanish lessons after school to cover up his secret roller disco obsession.  Kitty can’t help blurting out Eric’s secret to Fez who quickly tells everyone else.  The entire group, including a shocked Red, go to watch Eric née “Rainbow” perform with his partner. After being teased, Eric decides to quit roller disco for good wistfully saying, “You know, here I’m an average kid. But down there?  Down there I was a star!”


8. Rollerball

In 2018 (that’s just two years away, folks!), the world is a global corporate state, with large corporations controlling access to all goods. The only form of entertainment is a violent sport called rollerball, which seeks to show the futility of individualism — until star player Jonathan E. (James Caan) decides to make his last game a gladiatorial act of bloody defiance. Such is the premise behind this dystopian sci-fi flick, which may as well be the Hunger Games on roller skates set to Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor.” The movie overall is a little silly, but the rollerball sequences are pretty thrilling to watch. Stick with the 1975 original and avoid the 2002 Chris Klein-fronted remake at all cost.


9. Van Wilder

Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) is Coolidge College’s most popular student if not the most academically-minded one. A seventh-year senior, Van spends his time posing nude for drawing classes, organizing parties and generally avoiding class. When his dad (Animal House alum Tim Matheson) decides to cut him off, Van has to grow up and actually try to complete a semester’s worth of work in the last six days of classes. But not before he can throw a roller disco-themed party to try to set up his “personal assistant,” Taj (Kal Penn), with an American girl before he returns to India. Sadly for Taj, his attempts at romance are about as dismal as his roller skating.


10. Skatetown, U.S.A.

Like most of the films of the brief roller disco era, 1979’s Skatetown, U.S.A. doesn’t have much of a plot (rival skating gangs competing for a $1,000 prize), but it does have stars like Scott Baio, The Brady Bunch‘s Maureen McCormick (who spent most of the shoot high on cocaine, according to her memoir) and Patrick Swayze (in his film debut) strapping on skates and careening around a rink to a killer disco soundtrack. Ever the triple threat, Swayze predictably nails all his skating routines while sporting some seriously feathered hair and a bad boy scowl. After the success of Dirty Dancing in the ’80s, Swayze fans retroactively gave Skatetown, U.S.A. the nickname, “Dirty Skating.”

Watch More
Rocky IV Paulie Robot

Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

Watch More
Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

Watch More
Rocky IV Stallone Lundgren

Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet