Red-Eye to the ’80s

    Why La Jolla Village Cinemas is titling its latest Saturday Midnight Madness festival “Midnight Bradness” is beyond us, but if we know anything about the multi-seasonal staple at La Jolla’s indie theater, it’ll still be the best offering of camp and cool outside late-night cable. Never been? Here’s your chance to escape campus life — no car necessary — as well as to see great (or just awesomely weird) films on the big screen with a rowdy theater audience.

    “FIGHT CLUB”
    If you’ve yet to see David Fincher’s explosive, machismo-mocking (or praising?) 1999 adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s philosophical novel about a worn office employee (Edward Norton) and his fire-playing friendship with the nihilistic Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt, at his most daring), you’ve likely been living under a rock since the century’s turn. Prepare your well-hinged beliefs for a shocking two-hour submission — complete with a constant flow of adrenaline as the pair cut through social bullshit via self-destruction.
    “PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE”
    You might remember bits and pieces of Pee Wee sprinkled throughout your elementary years, but have you ever taken the time to actually watch Tim Burton’s absurd comedy about a man-child in search of his stolen bicycle? We get a colorful set of characters dead set on defying their existence — and, of course, that classic sax-staple interlude — but most of all, “Pee-wee” is the chance to see Paul Reubens at the height of his odd creepiness, before he walked into an adult theater and got his pee-wee into a big adventure of its own.

    “THE LABYRINTH”
    Yeah, yeah, Jennifer Connelly’s in it, but who could outshine Ziggy Stardust? David Bowie steals the show as the Goblin King Jareth, who pits the 15-year-old Connelly against a massive labyrinth in order to save her baby brother. Not weird enough for you? Muppet creator Jim Henson directed this fantasy-adventure-musical, which means a never-ending supply of schizophrenic, stuffed talking things.

    “THE KARATE KID”
    Director John Avildsen must have had a thing for underdogs: Nearly a decade before the grasshopper entered the dojo, Avildsen followed a certain “Italian Stallion” into the boxing ring with Best Picture “Rocky.” Turn down the target age, switch the horn fanfare to ’80s synth and blast Zen Buddhism, and you’ve got yourself another fist-pumping crowd-pleaser. Sure, the end is cool, but we know that half the fun is watching Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) train Danny (Ralph Macchio) — in glorious montage — for the final spar with Cobra Kai.
    “GREMLINS”
    Keep them from bright light, water and food after midnight. Apply these to UCSD students — er, mogwai (sounds like a good name for an indie band), the star furballs in a creature feature that’s half Furbie freak show and half subversive stab at pop-culture wholesomeness. One of the seminal ’80s films in the early days of marketing Santa-season tie-ins, “Gremlins” is, at most, a chance to relive that first toddler inkling of filmic fear.

    “SPACEBALLS”
    While legions of uber-geeks memorized Monty Python one-liners, the inner nerd of the mass public engaged with Mel Brooks’ genre spoofs — first “Blazing Saddles,” then his thumb (or finger) at George Lucas, “Spaceballs.” Loaded with every pun, jab, mock, play-on-words and sexual innuendo you could expect from the comedian who modernized cinematic shtick, “Spaceballs” is an entertaining throw-away: a laugh-for-a-minute, forget-for-a-year flick that holds up, if not for anything else, due to its dead-on roast of movie merchandising.

    “THE PRINCESS BRIDE”
    While it’s debatable whether the aforementioned ’80s films are classics, Rob Reiner’s take on fairytales of yore stands the test of time not only as a great send-up, but also, oddly enough, as the most original swashbuckling yarn since Disney stopped churning them out in the ’50s. Robin Wright (pre-Penn) and Carey Elwes (pre-girth widening) play star-crossed lovers Buttercup and Wesley, trying to live happily ever after in the face of so-evil-they’re-pathetic Prince Humperdinck and his cronies. It’s a prime collection of the trashy decade’s humor obscurity, with costars like Kevin Arnold, Columbo, that guy who hosts the Oscars a lot, Nigel Tufnel (“Spinal Tap”) and, of course, the very vengeful Inigo Montoya.
    “A CHRISTMAS STORY”
    Targeted at those yearning for the good old days, this tale of childhood innocence clashing with an increasingly commercial holiday ended up echoing with kids the country over. From yellow-eyed bullies to the double-dog dare, the diary of Ralphie Parker’s quest to get that 1940 Red Ryder Carbine Action Two-Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle chronicles every kid’s struggle to negotiate with fickle adults, a steady stream of fads and the search for meaning in materialism. Just in time for the holiday rush, “A Christmas Story” knows that beautiful red rifle will eventually collect dust in the attic — but not before Parker shoots his eye out.

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