I was a sophomore at McLean High School in the fall of 1984, and a new member of the McLean High School Science Fiction and Fantasy Club. This club had a fine tradition with roots that went back to 1974 when the Literary Club renamed itself because they almost exclusively read science fiction and fantasy. Later on, this was to be challenged when a real literary club tried to edge in on our funding, but because they were 2 people and we were about 30, they always lost.
One of the first "sponsored field trips" our group did was to see the newly released film, "Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension." We all dressed up in funny thrift store clothing and descended upon Springfield Mall, one of the theaters still showing it. Back then, as it is now, Springfield Mall was a little low class and run down (from about 1989-1999 they tried to change all that, but now I heard it's so badly off, the county is stepping in to revitalize the place). It was a favorite hangout with punks and goths, mostly because the Pizza Delight was so cheap (they were later shut down when they were found to be among several hubs for an East Coast cocaine-distribution ring, and the front for their money laundering). I was wearing some pretty obnoxious stuff, including a cape I had worn for
Back then, the mall was dark and pebbly. The movie theaters were run down and a little skeevish. I was approached by a punk who said her boyfriend liked my costume and wanted me to have a cookie, and my friend stevonwolf and I tried to discern whether the cookie had been laced with something.
When we went to the movie, I was floored by it. It was so insane, so unique, so darkly humorous, and spoke to us on some level I am sure this generation's anime fans would understand. But we didn't have anime (well, some of us did, but it was very hard to come by back then). It was about aliens, but never took itslef very seriously. Peter Weller always seemed to be one wink away from a smirk to the lens. John Lithgow completely poured himself into his part, proving there are no small parts, just small actors. He ENJOYED his part. Ellen Barkin was way hot, with unbelievable legs, and Jeff Goldblum played himself which he's still doing to this day. It looked like a fan-run production, dripping with camp, and afterwards we all agreed it was the best low budget move we had ever seen.
I had felt bad because earlier in the year, at the Worldcon in Baltimore (Constellation), I had turned down the mass amounts of freebies on the freebie table relating to this film. I didn't know sometimes those freebies pay off. I have since learned my lesson.
But this was my first outing with what would later before "my people," a.k.a fandom, and this film will always be cemented in my heart as the beginning of something truly great.