Sunday, May 31, 2020

Tweet Watch: Hard Ticket To Hawaii

Dr. Freud is doing cartwheels in his grave

Watched:  05/29/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming on "Full Moon"
Viewing:  Second, as it turns out
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Andy Sidaris

As was said during the viewing, "this movie was actually printed on toxic masculinity".  It's hard to remember how different things actually were in the 1980's, but different they were.  Or, at least, certain held viewpoints were much more in the forefront of popular culture.  And I'm not pretending like Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) was a popular movie or one most people alive during the era had seen, but it is emblematic of a certain kind of filmmaking that one could now hand over to a film-studies undergrad to get them to *really, really* understand the concept of "the male gaze" in movies.

Oddly, about 30 minutes into the movie I realized *I had* seen Hard Ticket to Hawaii at some point between 1987 and 1993 thanks to a particular dialog exchange about getting into a Jacuzzi that I recall became a running joke one summer. But, look, if you were of a certain age and had cable, there was a surprising amount of this sort of stuff being made back then that I'm not sure they're still making.  Casual and abundant nudity in film is no longer a thing, and you're less likely to see plots about sleazy drug dealers and automatic weapons as the entire driver for 90 minutes of film.*

I really don't know much about director Andy Sidaris or Malibu Bay Films, but he certainly wasn't alone in figuring out how to make movies for the direct-to-video and cable market, and understanding that as long as you were roughly entertaining and provided people with things they wouldn't get in mainstream cinema (lots of partial nudity) you could get pretty far.

No doubt this movie was probably fun to make.  It looks like they decamped to a resort in Hawaii and used various parts of the resort for a set.  It certainly has an aspect of "what do we have access to?  A remote control helicopter toy?  A sumo school?  An ultralight?  A frisbee?  Put 'em in the movie!"  Which has a certain charm.

No one is asked to "act", the movie  grinds to a halt for dumb jokes that don't work or fit - but you know they shot it and they needed 90 minutes, so it stayed in the picture.  In fact, as in so many b-movies of this era, there's a lot of dialog that does absolutely nothing for the story - like "how does the camera work?" or people just chattering as they drive along.  Random and bizarre bits abound - not the least of which is the entire "contaminated snake" B-plot.  And the absolute certainty that they couldn't be bothered to get an encyclopedia off a shelf to learn more about snakes.**

Weirdly, the movie does absolutely nothing to capture the actual grandeur or beauty of Hawaii.  Which is literally right there, if they turned the camera around.  But it's hard to look away from former Playmates running around in shorts with shuriken hidden in their cowboy boots.  Of course those Playmates are how and why the movie exists, and much like Playboy - it's not really porn, exactly, but has - as one of our tweeters (hi, Steven!) said - a kind of naive sexuality to it.  Like, here's some nudity and indications of sex, but we're not even going to dip our toe into Cinemax level sex scenes.  In fact - when a pair of our stars do get together, the guy never removes his jeans and they mostly hug and kiss!  (also, do not just remove your jeans on a beach in Hawaii when someone might wander up upon you).

I'll also note that the plot is weirdly tied to some diamonds and a larger conspiracy that they never really develop, but I am a huge fan of the villain "Chang" in this film, who...  well, you'll just have to watch.  But he wears an ascot and he wears it well.

Oh, and, yes, there's some casual racism in the film that, frankly, is a staple of the era and wouldn't have been considered weird - if maybe clunky - at the time.

Anyhoo...  I can totally see how and why this movie became a thing.  It's such a fascinating artifact of a particular time in cinema history that was already deeply misogynistic and exploitative, took parts of that kind of male-gazey-oriented action cinema and made a movie more or less containing JUST those parts.

*I will point out that this is not about drug dealers, exactly, but something to do with diamonds that I never understood.  I have a hard time believing this crew wanted to show coke dealers as bad guys, exactly

**we had no Google in 1987, so every home owned a set of encyclopedias which were books containing general knowledge on general topics.  They were pretty neat.

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