Trading Places

In trying to write about 100 films you must see and avoiding the obvious I’ve found that films are a little like pop music. The films that I really love, I probably saw between the ages of 12 and 25. Is this a coincidence? Or did my younger years have any special meaning in the history of cinema?

Mid 80s to late 90s? Where they a particularly rich period for cinema? It definitely wasn’t the golden age and the silver age of the 70s had already passed (even though I watched much of the great cinema of the 70s in my teens). The 80s had great action and great horror and was of course the birth of the home viewing phenomena through VHS video tapes.

This is an aside, but again for my 20th film I find myself returning to these years when I watched four or five VHS videos a week. Is everyone else the same about films viewed during their formative years? So for my 20th film I give you Trading Places.

John Landis was a favourite director as a kid. American Werewolf In London, The Blues Brothers, Animal House and the rarely seen Into the Night are all enjoyable films. His rich period ended around the time when he was put on trial for the manslaughter of Vic Morrow and some extras during the making of his segment of Twilight Zone the movie.

Trading Places is hilarious, Eddie Murphy is at the height of his powers and eating up scenes. Ackroyd is funny too and the supporting performances are great. Jamie Lee Curtis had the most paused moment in cinema history and Bo Diddly told us that ‘in Philadelphia it’s worth fifty bucks’.

What’s funny, or not so funny now is how politically incorrect the film is, and it’s often in very bad taste. But, to defend the film it was realistic about the attitudes of the time even if it does mine them for comedy value.

I wonder if Randolph and Mortimer Duke are still about somewhere and have a had a one dollar bet to see if they can get Donald Trump in the White House…

So, 19 films to go…

Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script consultant, script writer for hire and filmmaker for hire for over 20 years.