Shocking Blocking (36)

By: Joshua Glenn
September 17, 2012

I was a high-school junior when W.D. Richter’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! appeared, and for one shining moment it seemed as though the Eighties (1984–93) might turn out OK. Particle physicist, musician, neurosurgeon, and racecar driver Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) is a pioneering chic geek; John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, and Dan Hedaya are brilliantly cast as neo-fascist aliens; Ellen Barkin is a hot mess. Forget the movie’s satirical (yet thrilling) plot, and focus instead on its depiction of an Argonaut Folly — in this case, the multidisciplinary, heavily armed think tank, rock band, and strike force known as the Hong Kong Cavaliers, who (when they’re not conducting experiments in the desert or fighting bad guys) live and work together at the Banzai Institute in New Jersey. Skinny ties, Versace and Armani suits, and saddle shoes looked amazing on the Cavaliers; the subsequent Eighties fashion plague of parachute pants and oversized shirts can only have been due to a Red Lectroid plot. Anyway… the parodic, yet inspiring shoulder-to-shoulder blocking in this closing-credits scene condemned me to perpetual dissatisfaction with an Argonaut folly-less life. Sigh.

PS: Also see my post on a scene from Wild in the Streets.

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An occasional series analyzing some of the author’s favorite moments in the positioning or movement of actors in a movie.

THIRTIES (1934–43): It Happened One Night (1934) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) | The Guv’nor (1935) | The 39 Steps (1935) | Young and Innocent (1937) | The Lady Vanishes (1938) | Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) | The Big Sleep (1939) | The Little Princess (1939) | Gone With the Wind (1939) | His Girl Friday (1940)
FORTIES (1944–53): The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) | The Asphalt Jungle (1950) | The African Queen (1951)
FIFTIES (1954–63): A Bucket of Blood (1959) | Beach Party (1963)
SIXTIES (1964–73): For Those Who Think Young (1964) | Thunderball (1965) | Clambake (1967) | Bonnie and Clyde (1967) | Madigan (1968) | Wild in the Streets (1968) | Barbarella (1968) | Harold and Maude (1971) | The Mack (1973) | The Long Goodbye (1973)
SEVENTIES (1974–83): Les Valseuses (1974) | Eraserhead (1976) | The Bad News Bears (1976) | Breaking Away (1979) | Rock’n’Roll High School (1979) | Escape from Alcatraz (1979) | Apocalypse Now (1979) | Caddyshack (1980) | Stripes (1981) | Blade Runner (1982) | Tender Mercies (1983) | Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
EIGHTIES (1984–93): Repo Man (1984) | Buckaroo Banzai (1984) | Raising Arizona (1987) | RoboCop (1987) | Goodfellas (1990) | Candyman (1992) | Dazed and Confused (1993) |
NINETIES (1994–2003): Pulp Fiction (1994) | The Fifth Element (1997)
OUGHTS (2004–13): Nacho Libre (2006) | District 9 (2009)

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READ MORE essays by Joshua Glenn, originally published in: THE BAFFLER | BOSTON GLOBE IDEAS | BRAINIAC | CABINET | FEED | HERMENAUT | HILOBROW | HILOBROW: GENERATIONS | HILOBROW: RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION | HILOBROW: SHOCKING BLOCKING | THE IDLER | IO9 | N+1 | NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW | SEMIONAUT | SLATE

Joshua Glenn’s books include UNBORED: THE ESSENTIAL FIELD GUIDE TO SERIOUS FUN (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen); and SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS: 100 EXTRAORDINARY STORIES ABOUT ORDINARY THINGS (with Rob Walker).

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What do you think?

  1. Curiously, I don’t think I’ve read one review of W. Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic” that notices how Anderson lifted the splendid ending march of “…Buckaroo Bonzai” for his own film.

  2. I was going to mention that scene from the end of “Life Aquatic,” but then it occurred to me that “Buckaroo Banzai” is probably paying homage to some earlier film — and that earlier film was probably paying homage to some earlier film, etc.

  3. Hah — at one point in the late 90s I gave a lecture on the Hong Kong Cavaliers as science-utopians. But chances are good you weren’t there. I, too, have long wished I could be whatever the nonfictional equivalent of a Cavalier is.

  4. As has been pointed out a depressingly small amount online, the 11th Doctor takes his ‘look’ directly from BB in the final walking scene, sans fez. Still not enough to make me tolerate Matt Smith’s take on the Doctor, but at least such a nod was a step in the right direction.

  5. I don’t agree — the 11th Doctor wears a bowtie and has flowing hair, and he’s supposed to a cool geek, I guess… but he’s not stylish. You know who really does try to bite BB’s style, though? Tommy Hilfiger.

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