River, Sidney and the innocence of the 80s

Posted by Sally

I went to a screening of Sidney Lumet’s 1988 film “Running on Empty” last night starring River Phoenix. It’s about a couple of grown-up hippies/revolutionaries who are on the run from the feds for blowing up a napalm lab in the 60s. Since then they’ve had two kids, one of whom (River) is a talented musician who’s just fallen in love and wants to go to Julliard. That’s the dramatic crux of the story, because if he goes to Julliard it means he won’t see his family again. It’s an amazing film and well worth watching again, especially if you’re like me and haven’t seen it since it’s first release.

What struck me when watching the film was a scene quite close to the opening when River very routinely skips school because it’s “picture day”. This is de rigeur for a family on the run - no school pics and no public appearances where you might draw attention to yourself. Apparently this level of vigilance has kept them out of the feds’ clutches for going on 15 years. Imagine the same story today? School photo day would be the least of his problems! Try making it to class without getting snapped on somebody’s phone. Parties? Forget it. Playing on the school baseball team? No way. Every moment of his life would be captured on digital video, uploaded to Flickr, tagged on Facebook and linked on YouTube. He’d have to undergo some serious James Bond gene-therapy-disguise treatment to evade capture in this day and age.

Which left me feeling whimsical. Not simply for the big bangs and jelly shoes of simpler times, but for that feeling of innocence and anonymity that was still so tangible during those years. And of course for River, who was so wonderfully talented. (Naturally, you can find anything out about River online, he’s a veritable peep goldmine, what with his wacky Children of God parents, extreme veganism and variously named siblings…Rain, Summer, Liberty and (how did I NOT know this??) Joaquin.


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the chocolate box bloggistas

Chocolate Box Entertainment is the yummy fusion of two award winning producers – Jeannette and Sally.   more...

Sally Blake

Sally has 12 years of experience in the radio and television industry as a writer, director, editor and producer.
She cut her filmmaking teeth in the bizarre world of professional wrestling,   more...

Jeannette Loakman


Jeannette is an award-winning producer with over 12 years of experience in the television industry. Jeannette was recently nominated for a Gemini for Spam: The Documentary, a critical and ratings hit.


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River, Sidney and the innocence of the 80s

Posted by Sally


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