June 8, 2020 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Damn. That’s a sad loss.

I went to ISU and was friends with a couple of girls in the gymnastics program. I met Kurt a couple of times thanks to them. Seemed like a nice guy.

posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


He was beautiful to watch.
posted by bearwife at 5:56 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

posted by kinnakeet at 6:23 PM on June 8

posted by coolxcool=rad at 6:53 PM on June 8

posted by clavdivs at 6:56 PM on June 8

Gymkata was the '80s movie in its purest form. More than Rocky III or IV, more than Top Gun. Show me a person with one single skill or trait, and we can plonk them down in a Cold War plot that happens to take advantage of that skill or trait, and it can run on cable forever. Bonus points for a memorable villain, but not necessary.
posted by Etrigan at 7:28 PM on June 8 [11 favorites]

There were a lot of action movies in the eighties, starring a lot of pumped-up guys in a lot of camo outfits with a hella lot of buckles, and a lot of guns and a metric shit-ton of ammo, but how many eighties action movies featured a fight scene centered around and incorporating a mysterious stone fixture of no apparent origin or function that just happened to be the size and configuration of a pommel horse?

I am here to tell you: there was only one.

RIP, you flexible angel.

posted by Halloween Jack at 8:12 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]

posted by riverlife at 11:38 PM on June 8

Going to see Gymkata with a group of friends in an otherwise completely empty theater was possibly the most fun I've ever had at a movie theater. The pure pleasure of seeing all the action movie tropes so enjoyably exaggerated, yet without the movie or its stars seeming to exhibit any sense of that excess, and being able to respond as boisterously as we wished was pure raw pleasure. So let me offer a toast of Yakamala! for Thomas' fine career in gymnastics and brief but glorious stint on the silver screen. Oh, and somewhere I have an autograph from Kurt Thomas, collected by one of the people who was working at the theater that day who later became a close friend thanks in part to the film, as I eventually got a job at that movie theater because our time watching the movie was remembered with amusement by the staff.

(For those not fortunate enough to have seen the movie, Yakmala! is the toast offered in the movie and became the expected ritual celebration of all great successes among that group of friends since then.)
posted by gusottertrout at 1:03 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

If you'll forgive me an added digression that is only tangentially related to Thomas, and something I don't want to push too hard on, but had relevance to my response to the movie, I'd just add that Gymkata is the film that really solidified my feeling that the idea of "good bad" movies is basically worthless.

Gymkata provides the same kinds of pleasures in the same kinds of moments in the same kinds of ways as any of the other "action films" of the era, but it gets the Good Bad movie label for being seen as somehow less realistic than the other movies of that entirely unrealistic genre. Something like Predator, for an example of a loved film from roughly the same era and genre, has as much bearing on reality as Gymkata, but is held to be somehow more acceptable in its exaggerations, while its really just better at obscuring the mechanisms of its conventions in ways that align with audience expectations around things like hypermasculinity and how it is to be displayed.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is accepted as a "truer" ideal of a action hero than Kurt Thomas for his manner of exemplifying a specific ideal of masculine image and attitude as a brawny bodybuilder type, quick with a quip and handy with any kind of weaponry. No excuse is needed for his character's omnicompetence and ability to kill as that is a given for the genre. That he faces off against an invisible alien is still somehow less disrupting to the viewer experience than Thomas' character coming across a well that has a fortification shaped much like a pommel horse. It's not that "deadly gymnast" is any "truer" a concept than death dealing body builder, though Thomas was certainly a better athlete than Schwarzenegger in most respects, it's that the concept of "deadly gymnast" triggers a different kind of audience response, which shapes how the audience responds to all subsequent absurdities.

That Gymkata doesn't play as parody only further cements the dissonance of response in that it appears to treat the conventions of action movies with the same seriousness as Predator rather than lightly mocking them in a way that only reinforces the conventions by an imposed ironic distance that signals acknowledgement of the difference between the "real" action movies and the parody. Gymkata's utter reliance on the established beats and tropes of other action movies draws out their inherent artifice for coming from an alienating ideal of masculine power. When Stallone has a montage building strength its just part of the story of how a "tough guy" gets even tougher, but when Thomas has one it sits funny for being perceived as so unlikely.

To be sure, the reaction to the fights and other key moments of Gymkata differ slightly in how the audience gets its pleasure, amused thrills morphing to laughs, but the intensity of the reaction is much the same and follows from the same establishing conventions, making Gymkata, for at least some audiences, as significant a pleasure as almost any other action film or more so, but where most of the audience somehow feels a need to qualify that pleasure as being of a different nature for how it doesn't fit their beliefs about the genre, even as the idea of genres is almost inherently artificial and distanced from reality to begin with and primarily hold meaning through how they work within that form, not how they match the real world. For me, that's the joy in Gymkata, how completely it explodes the idea of those expectations
posted by gusottertrout at 2:54 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]

Halloween Jack: "a mysterious stone fixture of no apparent origin or function that just happened to be the size and configuration of a pommel horse? "

It's a pummel horse.
posted by chavenet at 4:00 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]

He was such an exciting gymnast back in the day -- it seemed like the U.S. never won ANYTHING, and then in 1978 at the World Championships he won floor exercise and Marcia Frederick won bars and I was 14 and it was to me just the coolest thing ever.

(That link also has a few seconds of pommel horse for you Gymkata fans.)
posted by JanetLand at 8:40 AM on June 9

posted by mule98J at 9:49 AM on June 9

posted by BlahLaLa at 12:50 PM on June 9

posted by armeowda at 9:26 PM on June 9

posted by detachd at 11:06 AM on June 11

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