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Brandon’s Blu-ray Wishlist – February 20, 2014

Brandon's Blu-ray Wishlist THUMBWelcome to another Thursday of my wish list picks.  I’d like to quickly point out that I’m posting these in no sort of preferential or ranking order.  I’m merely going off of what I’m feeling about discussing for the week.  And of course, it’s a title I think should be put out on the format.  I’m also trying to kind of vary my choices when it comes to genre and the like, because I could easily fill this with horror title after horror title.  But I want some variety.  I hope you’re enjoying this as much as I am.  And as always, feel free to leave suggestion of titles you want and I may choose to discuss them in the near future!  So, with all that “blah blah” off my chest, let’s hunker own down and get to this week’s pick.

Urban Cowboy Wishlist

 Urban Cowboy (1980)

We may not get excited for a new John Travolta film or think much about it when one does come along, but there were two periods in the man’s career when he was one of the best around and you got excited for his work.  From 1975 to 1981, Travolta rose to fame and held strong be it critically or financially.  He had a popular and critically adored television series (Welcome Back, Kotter) and he was taking on film roles in interesting projects and ones that would catapult him into an iconic status.  1981’s Blow Out was a great film, but didn’t take at the box office, and his follow-up Staying Alive (the Sylvester Stallone written and directed sequel to Saturday Night Fever) shot him into a land of obscurity until Quentin Tarantino famously resurrected his career with Pulp Fiction.

Travolta’s last hit with both box office and critics before his fame and fortune disappeared for pretty much a decade was today’s pick, Urban Cowboy.  It also was a healthy bounce back for Travolta after the reviled and box office disappointment that was Moment By MomentUrban Cowboy almost stands as the final chapter in a trilogy of musical-related films in Travolta’s career beginning with Grease and continuing to Saturday Night Fever.  This time the focus was on country, honky tonk and southern rock music.  It even features known performers in cameo form including the Charlie Daniels’ Band (yes, they do “Devil Went Down To Georgia” in the film), Bonnie Riatt and Johnny Lee.  The film’s impact on the country music scene was even called “Urban Cowboy Movement” in pop country music as the soundtrack was  big hit and had an impact on pop country music.

Urban Cowboy 1

Let me get this out right away, I am not a big fan of country music (especially modern era country).  But, oddly, I can get behind it in this film, as it really enhances the film and plays along as sort of its own piece to this puzzle.  One thing the film really does well is committing to being country and about that lifestyle.  Never does it ever stray or try and “fish out of water” or pull an “opposites attract” approach.  While our story follows a character that moves from the countryside to a bigger city (Houston), its still in the south and focuses on that cowboy lifestyle at all times.

John Travolta seems an odd choice to play such a character as Bud Davis, but that’s what’s great about the movie and impressive about Travolta’s range.  Within just a few minutes, any apprehension about him taking such a role is gone.  The man fully digs into it and works with flying colors.  His accent never feels phony or laughable.  And a lot of his success falls into his physical performance and mannerisms throughout the film.  When you look at him you can truly see everything this guy is and where his mentality is at.  It’s a great performance and one that I think time may have truly overlooked.  Going back to it for this piece, I was worried it may not hold up, but I was impressed with how good he still is in this movie.

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Even if you’re like me and you don’t care for country music, you’ll be able to easily look past it with the compelling drama going on in the film.  The movie can play as kind of a look at people getting married either too young or too soon.  I’m not sure how this film played with general audiences, but the subject matter regarding the couple of Bud and Sissy is pretty dark and at times difficult to watch.  This isn’t a happy story about two lovers who were meant to find each other.  This is the one about them finding each other too early and going through an extremely rocky road to figure out they are right for each other.

Both central characters go through some difficult times, and Sissy probably gets the worst of it as she winds up being stuck with Scott Glenn who does a hell of a job playing the film’s villain.  As much as this movie wants to make you think you’re wrong about this guy like Sissy wants Bud to believe, you just don’t trust him.  And as it unfolds Glenn keeps amping it up and plays one of those roles that you just can’t wait to see this bastard get what’s coming to him.

Urban Cowboy 4

What’s really impressive is Bud’s arc in the film.  He’s a loud, hot-shot cowboy whose ultimately downfall is his pride.  You get really pissed with him and his anger and the his extreme devotion to the mechanical bull riding (we’ll get to that), but once its all revealed why and where he’s come from, its almost a shocking plot twist.  I really really enjoyed the character journey of Bud in the film as what you’re watching and what it ends up being for him emotionally and as a person is not what you think it is but incredibly satisfying.

Most of this film is centered around mechanical bull riding at a bar.  And, I must admit, its kinda silly and goofy at times.  The drama surrounding it all can be a bit weird and such, but it’s just the device and method used to get this story and its character drama going.  This was also 1980 and I don’t know my history of the art of mechanical bull riding, but it may have been a new “thing” back then.  Plus, by the end, you can’t help but sort of be entranced and held in suspense during the film’s finale (a mechanical bull riding tournament).  Also, a young and peppy Debra Winger riding that mechanical bull is kinda hot at times, no?

Urban Cowboy

I think Urban Cowboy definitely deserves a Blu-ray release.  It’s one of Travolta’s best performances from his early peak years.  The film also was a notable notch on in the world of country music.  Some have even referred to it as doing for country what Saturday Night Fever did for disco.  But, mostly at its center it’s a great little romantic drama that fully explores some of the immaturity and uncertainty of jumping into a big commitment so soon at a young age.  The film also showcases a tremendous arc of a young man consumed by his pride.  Paramount is the studio that owns the rights to this film, but its unclear whether or not it was one of the titles that they sent over to Warner Bros for home video distribution.  If Travolta stays out of the tabloids and has a hit film in the near future, maybe this one will finally get dusted off and put out.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

3 Responses to “Brandon’s Blu-ray Wishlist – February 20, 2014”


  1. Brian White

    Damn. Just when I think I remembered every important Travolta film on Blu-ray I get served!

  2. Brian White

    I checked with Kori today Brandon and she’s down with this one too!

  3. Brandon Peters

    Too bad Guilley’s burned down or you and Kori could go mosey on down and two step the night away!