They couldn’t do this in Manchester. Crowds, about two to three hundred Western Australians, swell the vast lawns of the man-made clearing under the watch of the gasping, sun-sapped trees. We’re in Synergy Parkland, part of Kings Park, south west of central Perth on a typically warm summer evening for a typically Aussie treat. Welcome to Pictures in the Park.

The Moonlight Cinema experience. The lucky (organised) few have got there early and bagged the sofa seats and loungers. Others have brought deck chairs. And their ever present Eskies, without which modern Aussie life wouldn’t function properly. Cicadas and clacking kookaburras compete for sound space with the popping of Pringles, rustling of Tim Tams and the phutting and fizzing of bottles. The warm dew and the cool breeze and hushed anticipation provide the ambience for the amphitheatre.
The spiel on the website advises “advance previews, contemporary, cult and classic movies.” To add to the drama, China hasn’t bothered letting me in on the big feature so I’ve spent the last day guessing. There’s some good ‘uns, well the trailers look decent, out soon and now.

Hitchcock, Django Unchained, Flight?

Oh, bloody hell. Not Gangster Squad again?

My sense of humour’s pretty warped but going through that absolute shower of steaming horse poo would stretch the limits of the absurd. Even if it is in a lovely setting….

A quick check of the ticket. Goodness me.

Top Gun.

I did not see that coming.

This may surprise you but, I haven’t seen Top Gun. Not properly.

Well once, about half way through, twenty years ago (Hello Luke!). But then it stopped raining so we went back outside to play footy.
So although, through complicity I’ve nodded my head at the half baked references, half heartedly mouthed the quotes, whole heartedly led the singing, completely obliviously now it seems, to You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ on various modes of public transport all over Great Britain.

Clearly everyone else here has. A quick study of my fellow audience reveals a cheery snapshot of today’s Perth. Different ages, ethnicities, assumed social standings. They’ve all probably seen it at least once. Thirty three probably isn’t the age to be watching this in full for the first time.

The F14 Tomcats do their thing. People mockingly laugh at the haircuts, the ‘taches, the cliches, the cheesy stuff, the creepy tongueing scene. They join in with the songs, the jokes, the Maverick as Fonz bits. The score segues unashamedly through the entire range of mid-eighties mood instrumentals. The homo-eroticism scale never dips below half. Goose is cooked. Meg Ryan’s hot too. The Migs make a re-entry because everything else has been done. The Tomcats do their thing again.
Maverick wins! Tom Cruise wins! America wins! Wow!

Twenty seven years ago, this would have been the coolest thing in the world. Twenty years ago, with most of the stuff going over my head, I would have absolutely lapped it up. Now though, I’m just pleased that, after all this time, I know what the fuss is all about.

Footnote:
Prior to the start of the film, I was talking to a lass while I was sprawled, uninvited, across her picnic rug proffering Doritos in the few promising moments before her fella returned with the Magnums. My laconic opening went something like;

When people talk of the golden age of cinema, people evoke Fellini, Lean, Bogarde etc. I disagree. For me it’s the 80s.

While I’m in the confessional, I also haven’t watched The Goonies, ET or all of the Rockys. And the Karate Kids. Yes, I know, I know.
I also don’t rate Ferris Bueller’s Day Off despite being shouted down every time I voice this dissenting opinion.

I’ll be honest. I don’t think there’s any point seeing any of the above now. The only reason to watch them today would be for the glow of nostalgia associated with the time I should have seen them first time round as a teenager.

So while I’ve missed out on these iconic pictures, and part of my argument, you could say, falls flat on its face as a result, I believe I’ve seen enough of the Gr-eighties flicks to back up my thoroughly tongue in cheek (If you are reading Dr Kermode…. Oh, you’re not? No, no, I understand.) half statement/ half chat up line.

I can, however, bask in the glow of nostalgia, and lets face it the timeless genius of the Indiana Jones Trilogy, the Crocodile Dundees, the Back To The Future series, the first Naked Gun, Airplane, Big, The Blues Brothers, Die Hard, Coming To America, A Fish Called Wanda and the film the aforementioned stinker Gangster Squad so desperately yearned to be, The Untouchables. It was also the beginning of the end of the Bond movies (Octopussy notwithstanding?) before their recent re-birth. And, of course, 1981 also saw the greatest film ever made:

Escape To Victory

Decades from now, I’d love my nephew’s generation to be lounging, wide-eyed and spellbound on a balmy evening in a park somewhere, watching on as an embattled Sir Michael Caine, bloodied, unbowed and hopeful asks;

“You really think we can win this?”

Lets face it, if the freaky weather keeps up, this may even be in Manchester.

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