Pump Up The Volume (1990) review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

Do you ever get the feeling that everything in America is completely fucked up?  You know that feeling?  That the whole country is like one inch away from saying, “That’s it!  Forget it!”  Think about it, everything is polluted: the environment, the government, the schools; you name it.

So begins this little movie about a high schooler launching a pirate radio station aimed at the other high schoolers in his city.  Before social media and youtube videos, there was pirate radio.  And yet not much has changed in regards to the message this movie has.  If nothing else, it seems as relevant as ever, if not more-so.  The topics the film tackles are not only relevant today, but other issues plaguing society today can easily draw parallels to the stuff this film has to say.

The main point of contention is school, followed by parents.  In this film’s case, the protagonist played by Christian Slater finds it easy to rant about the unfair practices of the school, which gets expanded upon further and further until it is revealed that this isn’t just some petty criticism about how hard school is.  It turns out the principal implemented some policies that are questionable at best, illegal at worst.

And it’s this first point that is worth dwelling upon.  Although the film is one-sided about all this, it is worth discussing the pros and cons of it considering the knowledge we (or at least any half-assed independent individual who seeks to gain knowledge outside the system) has about school policy.  So it is discovered the principal (and others who were involved I’m sure) has been expelling students who had scored low on the S.A.T., which causes the school’s S.A.T. average among students to become inflated.  A harsh method that may doom the expelled to living a life without a diploma, yet it also keeps the school funded and doesn’t have many dumb students bogging everyone else down.  And from what I’ve seen of the expelled students, they aren’t really attempting to make anything of themselves.  Then again, “They’re just kids.”

Contrast that with the No Child Left Behind policy that’s been adopted since the early 2000s.  Nowadays, it’s not so much the students being expelled to inflate the S.A.T. scores so much as curving the scores, giving handicap points to the “minorities” to boost their scores, etc.  So now the S.A.T.s are inflated once again, but for completely different reasons, and allowing dumbass kids to drag the others down with them.

Either way, the school policies are fucked.  Either way, they do it for the monetary benefits for pretending to be better than they actually are.  The solution to me is pretty simple.  Get rid of No Child Left Behind, and get rid of the cocksucking S.A.T.s, which at this point are overrated and borderline irrelevant, at least in regards to gauging a student’s potential.  The cons have been shown to outweigh the pros, especially in this day and age.

Not to mention the pressure it puts on students due to expectations that normally can’t be met except by the best of the best.  Creating the “model student.”  And the film depicts how some of these model students are not happy with this facade they put on.  Hell, this isn’t the only film to do it.  Plenty of films just from the decade this spawned from have several examples of model students who either aren’t as cracked up as they appear to be, are suffering from depression and stress from trying to keep up appearances, etc.  That’s not to say there aren’t legit model students out there who are what they appear to be, but others shouldn’t be forced to try and live that way.

They say I’m disturbed. Well, of course I’m disturbed. I mean, we’re all disturbed. And if we’re not, why not? Doesn’t this blend of blindness and blandness want to make you do something crazy? Then why not do something crazy? It makes a helluva lot more sense than blowing your fucking brains out.

And this is where the aspect of the parents come in.  Parents who want more than to just bring out the best in their son or daughter.  They want what they think is best for them, and it’s common knowledge at this point that what they think is best for them isn’t always what is actually best for them.  But they don’t care enough about that to listen to their children seriously.  So their children have a difficult time talking to them about their problems, let alone working them out.  It can get to the point where talking is pointless.

So naturally, if they can’t talk about their problems to their own parents, they’ll seek input from other sources, or drive themselves to suicide (as was the case for one unfortunate soul in this film).  Which is where Slater’s character comes in, as an anonymous voice over the radio.  He speaks brashly, without a filter, being as foul-mouthed and offensive as he wants (primarily for comedy); and doing so allows him to talk about subjects that these dejected students not only relate to, but also wanted to get off their chest but find themselves unable to do so.  They find a voice that expresses what they want to express.  A voice that talks about things they want to talk about, says things they want to say, and offers suggestions on what they can do about it; which some of them end up doing.

We at the F.C.C. feel that democracy is all about protecting the rights of the ordinary citizen.  Unregulated radio would result in programming of the lowest common denominator, the rule of the mob.

Imagine, a fucking political hack in charge of free speech in America!

Of course, once the school faculty, and most parents, find out about this anonymous pirate radio host, they discuss ways to stop his influence, and then ways to shut him down.  Things escalate, from punishing students who sell cassettes of his program (and create graffiti of his best lines), to getting local authorities involved, to eventually getting federal authorities involved via the F.C.C.  The inevitable discussion of free speech is brought up of course; a film like this is destined to go down that road.  But it’s one-sided, in that he shouldn’t be shut down and speech shouldn’t be suppressed.   And it should be one-sided.  After all, to a lesser extent, the same thing was happening to various students all around the campus, which created many of these problems they wanted to rebel against to begin with.  Even a teacher sympathetic to the students’ cause tries to speak out against some of the mistreatment, only to get fired by the higher ups.  That being said, the students go a bit too far at times, in my personal opinion, with regard to how they freely express themselves, such as the graffiti.  On the other hand, what other way to communicate their frustrations towards those who won’t listen?

They think you’re moody, make ’em think you’re crazy.  Make ’em think you might snap.  They say you got attitude, you show ’em some real attitude.

And this is where the parallels of today can be found.  Of course, pirate radio isn’t currently in-style as it was back then.  Nowadays there’s podcasts and videos which can be found online with people speaking and ranting in the same way Slater’s character does in this film.  And the escalation still occurs.  Alex Jones too extreme, he gets banned from every major social media website, from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, his InfoWars app banned from all major app stores.  Twitter banning conservative speakers, Facebook doing this same, YouTube following suit, Amazon banning books they deem hateful/offensive, universities banning conservative speakers, and so on.  In this film, being unable to speak to parents and school staff brought the protagonist to speaking over the radio.  Being unable to have books published on Amazon causes writers to sell on their own website, or through other independent publishers.  Being banned from Twitter causes users to flock to alternatives like Gab.  Banned/removed from YouTube causes users to migrate to BitChute.  Next thing you know, the Internet will be as heavily regulated as radio stations were back then, with the F.C.C. (among others) knocking at your door should you talk about something that shouldn’t be talked about, or in a way they don’t like.

I’m sick of being ashamed. I don’t mind being dejected and rejected, but I’m not going to be ashamed about it. At least pain is real. I mean, you look around and you see nothing is real, but at least the pain is real.

And yet there are warning signs to be seen over this lifestyle of being a radical speaker.  Slater’s character is shown to be socially awkward, having difficulty expressing himself around others, yet feeling the frustration of living as an self-made outcast.  But he made himself unique out of the others because of his talent with being entertaining, edgy, and philosophical on the airwaves.  Today, anybody can be that way.  And there are so many, it’s hardly unique anymore.  YouTube videos, social media accounts that proclaim to be the best at something, they’re a dime a dozen.  It would take a lot to stand out (assuming your natural charisma isn’t enough), and even then, it would be difficult for others to find your voice/opinion on the web.  And this social media generation isn’t exactly churning out healthy individuals, hooked on that dopamine rush and all.

You see there’s nothing to do anymore. Everything decent has been done. All the great themes in life have been used up, turned into theme parks. So I don’t really find it exactly cheerful to be living in the middle of a totally exhausted decade where there’s nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to.

However…

… there is one factor to consider.  The appeal of Slater’s character in that community wasn’t because he was just a (pirate) radio host.  It was because he spoke about topics deemed relevant by the students, the intended audience.  It was because he had ways of addressing the topics that made sense to the listeners (though this outraged and triggered others that demanded his silence, the same “others” causing the topics to be relevant to the audience in the first place).  His voice was unique in how it addressed those social issues.  If his voice wasn’t around for them to listen to, just as there aren’t any serious conservative speakers in the mainstream media, let alone radical foul-mouthed ones that the more modern liberal speakers have in abundance, then another would arise sooner or later.  Because when there is a social environment that silences the heartfelt opinions and legit grievances of enough people, sooner or later, a voice inevitably rises that will cause them to rebel.  A voice that shouts out an idea, a thought, something that cannot be killed due to suppression.  And it will inevitable spread until the unheard are finally heard, or until they’ve determined actions speak louder than words.

I like the idea that a voice can just go somewhere, uninvited, and just kinda hang out like a dirty thought in a nice clean mind. Maybe a though is like a virus, you know, it can… it can… kill all the healthy thoughts and just take over. That would be serious.

Recommended film.

Untamed Heart (1993) review

Off-Topic Introduction

So the past few weeks I’ve been struggling to find something to write about.  There’s a few things I’ve been wanting to get to, but being a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy, I just couldn’t summon the willpower to get to them.  So first I’m thinking, “Hey, I’ve recently got through the original Star Trek series?  Why not review that and joke about how The Last Jedi pissed me off so much it made me into a Star Trek fan?”  But then I thought, “Oh Christ, it’s going to take me forever to point out which episodes I liked and why, which episodes sucked and why (and why some episodes from season 3 didn’t just plain suck, they sucked cock), let alone find some gifs that I want to use to highlight these moments.”  Then I thought about posting up an old drunk review I made a long while back on Friday the 13th.  Because it’s October.  I even got about halfway through finishing it, but then I thought, “It’s such a pain in the ass to find the gifs I want to use for this; I wish I still had the fucking thing (illegally) downloaded onto my computer from way back when so I could do it with ease; now I gotta track down gifs from other sites and youtube videos to help make my point; which is making me put in more effort than when I reviewed the damn thing; fuck it, I’d rather stop this, get drunk, and watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and then play Thief II and Quake.”  And then I started getting stressed out and worried that I’m not going to get through that book Gosnell in time to make a review about the movie I saw in an early access showing of it, which made me worry that I won’t get the review up by October 12 or 13 (I still don’t know if I’ll be able to do that), especially when I’m dealing with the death of my aunt and have to go drive out to the coast with my other family members to toss her ashes out to the sea during that time period.  At one brief point, I started just thinking, “Fuck all this and fuck the blog, if I don’t feel like doing it, I’m not going to do it.  I’ll just slack off for the next month or so and say to hell with all the viewers I’ll lose in the meantime.”

But then suddenly, one day, I manage to watch a film that finally lights a fire under my ass.  A movie I was driven (not by a vehicle or anything like that) to see thanks to some negative reviews I read about it.  So for those of you who follow this blog, sorry for keeping you waiting, and sorry for slacking off.

Untamed Heart movie posters at movie poster warehouse movieposter.com

Rated: 3 / 5

So I saw this had some negative reviews (to say the least) on letterboxd.com, and at first I didn’t want to think much of it; even though I don’t trust most reviews on that website anymore (for reasons I won’t get into, at least not for my review of this film). But after reading one review which mentions the guy catching the hockey puck, at that moment I knew I had to see this. Not exactly because I wanted to see that moment per-se, but because I realized this is one of those films from my childhood I caught a glimpse of (my mother was watching it at the time) that never really left my mind. And that, and the few minutes following it, are the only scenes I really remember from this movie (which basically spoils it for me, because that all takes place in the last 20 minutes, though they foreshadow the shit out of the ending, so it didn’t really matter). So it was the nostalgia that drove me to seeing this.

And, as I suspected, the negative reviews weren’t trustworthy for my experience, because I enjoyed this film. But it is worth addressing some of their points.

1.) The big one being that Christian Slater’s character Adam is a stalker, a creep, and the film makes an attempt to make him seem like a great guy in spite of this by having him rescue Marisa Tomei’s character Caroline from an attempted rape.

For example, off-screen, he snuck into her house in the middle of the night to put this Christmas tree in her room.  And he somehow did this without waking her up.  At this point, I’m less interested in him being a creeper and more interested in knowing how he acquired such mastery of stealth.

2.) That last note would be the other major strike many have against the film, using sexual assault and the rescue from it as a plot device to get their relationship started, and to make the creepy stalker boyfriend less creepy.

Regarding point #1, if that was all the information we were given regarding Adam’s actions and motivations, yeah it probably wouldn’t be much more excusable than that of Mr. Grey (but horny bitches still love the 50 Shades films, let alone the books, both of which are of lesser quality than this film, so…). However, that’s not the only information given. It’s clear that Adam is retarded, literally. He’s had mental and physical issues during his early years, which prevented him from having a normal life, and kept him as a social outcast for most of his life. He’s more of a child in an adult’s body. And on that note, let’s just say children have been known to do stuff like that, following around other girls/boys they have an attraction to. Their intentions aren’t devious, they’re innocent. It’s adults who view it as devious and creepy because they know that adults who do this generally tend to be creepers will ill-intent. They don’t even bother considering that ones intentions could be anything other than bad. Growing up and losing one’s innocence sucks.

So in a sense, you could see the polar opposite of Adam with those 2 guys who attempt to violate Caroline. Men who are the same age as Adam, more fully developed mentally, but far less innocent. Just because one grows up and learns of the bad things that can happen in the world doesn’t mean one should let go of that blissful feeling innocence and naivety can bring. It can reap heavy consequences for letting your guard down like that. But the rewards one can gain in spite of the risks (whether because they take a chance knowing the risks, or are unaware of them) is something magical, something this movie strives to show.

So while Adam does follow Caroline around unbeknownst to her, and sneaks into her house to watch her at night (this all happens off-screen), it’s because of a childlike fascination, curiosity, and adoration rather than for lust. Obviously most adults aren’t like this, but due to biological circumstances, Adam tends to be the exception to the rule. And that’s another thing some people reject, or at the very least ignore, when it comes to faulting Adam. They act like this movie is promoting the idea that it’s ok for men to follow women around without their knowledge because they enjoy that sort of thing. No. This movie is saying that in this case one should accept an exception. Because Adam isn’t like other people. And Caroline learns this the more she gets to know him.

That awkward first kiss.

Point #2, sexual assault as a plot device, the event that causes Adam and Caroline’s relationship to start after he rescues her from the perpetrators. Some take issue with the fact that the film uses such a device in this film, considering it tasteless. I say anything can be used as a plot device and make it work. It just depends on the context, if it ties into some theme/character/story that’s in the film and fits within it to keep it cohesive rather than just jutting out like a pimple on the nose. In this case, as pointed out above, one of the reasons is to offer contrast between innocence and sinful. Not to mention Caroline’s downward spiral with her luck in life (if you can call it luck), with her choice in boyfriends of the past, and eventually having one of her past acquaintances coming to do her harm. She wasn’t seeing much to be happy about in life, and experienced much that would eventually make her as much as a sourpuss as many around today. That is until Adam showed up and became a bigger part of her life, a sort of savior who shows her how wonderful life can be, what joys can be found by the naive.

And because of what those 2 perpetrator assholes represent, it was only inevitable they would come back to do harm to Adam later on, showcasing that sooner or later, innocence would be tested. Such childhood innocence is bound to die out one way or another, whether due to actual death at the hands of the sinful because of their naive innocence, or because they lose that innocence when they see how terrible the world (ie people) can be at times. So when this other form of physical assault happens, done for hatred rather than lust, it inevitably leads to the hospital where the foreshadowing comes in more heavily from then on out.

Indicated by the title Untamed Heart (as opposed to the originally proposed title “Baboon Heart”), Adam is one who won’t be tamed. And by tamed, that means the taming of his innocence, of his childhood ways. While that does keep him to be the angel Caroline comes to adore, it also means he is destined to die by the end of the film. Being naive, after all, does have its downsides.

So by the end of it, I didn’t take issue with either of those two points. Now that being said, this film isn’t perfect. There are some elements I do have issue with. The film didn’t have the talent necessary to make the last act work, where Caroline is expressing how much Adam has changed her life for the better because he made her aware of how wonderful life can be with love; true love; innocent love. The film couldn’t figure out a good way to express this, so it stumbles with the last few lines of dialogue. In fact, you could say the last act, the third act, is when the film is at its weakest. It doesn’t do anything to ruin the entire film, but it doesn’t do anything to bring it up another level. It doesn’t do enough to bring everything together in an impact way. And it goes a little too hard with the foreshadowing of Adam’s death, when it thinks it’s being smart and subtle about it. Like Adam, the screenwriters seem to have a hard time expressing themselves here.

Though to be fair, she did nail the emotional expressions in this scene.

But for what it does provide, it’s a nice charming little love story, showcasing a relationship built on a love only childhood innocence can provide. The highlight of this is when Adam and Caroline become romantically involved for the first time. It doesn’t go down the way you would think, but the way it does happen I found to be emotionally powerful and perfectly fitting for Adam’s character.

So yeah, don’t listen to the haters. Give this film a chance. It’s no “greatest romance movie of all time” or anything, not like Frankie and Johnny; but it’s good enough to be worth a watch.

The scene I remembered from my childhood.

 

PS: Oh yeah, and be wary of the DVD version.  It has apparently edited footage from the VHS version.  I’m not sure which version I ended up watching, but I intend to find out at some point.

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