Due to an overwhelming response following the blog detailing my favourite childhood films (and when I say “overwhelming response”, I mean my best friend commented: “What about Grease? We watched the ever-living shit out of that!”) But that film came later, after David Bowie’s bulge and Captain Von Trapp’s whistle. But it does open up a new avenue of thought: favourite films from my teenaged years.
I peruse Netflix for an acceptable film to half-watch as I write, which has become a long standing practice. Even in university, during my English degree, I’d often have a movie playing as I wrote papers, I don’t care for the silence while working, and I require background noise to bring focus to my scattered mind. So, as I settle under a blanket, with “An Education” on in the background, I think about my own cinematic education.
Yes, there were many movies: where would anyone be without John Hughes movies and Molly Ringwald, “Breakfast Club”, “Pretty in Pink” but I will list my most-repeated classics. So, even though sequels are never as good as the original, lets take this bitch to the next level.
“Grease”: Yes, Evelyn, “Grease” was the word…for many, many years. I may have watched this film approximately 100 times in my youth.
How badly I wanted to roll with the Pink Ladies, sing boisterously in the middle of a school day, be kissed by Danny Zuko on the beach. Although, one must note that the ending is mildly suspect: both Sandy and Danny arrive at the end-of-school-carnival, dressed in outfits that they imagine will attract one to the other—Danny in a Letterman sweater, Sandy in leather pants. Be yourself bitches…that’s the lesson to take from this.
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”: I recently received a text from a girlfriend, telling me she watched this film for the first time “Where have I been?” she said. Where have you been indeed? I first saw this film when I was thirteen, on “Red Robinson’s Classic Theatre” on KVOS-TV. Holly Golightly was the seminal party girl. I was dazzled but her energy and eccentricity. The way she climbed into Paul Varjack’s apartment window, through the fire escape in her bathrobe. She smoked a cigarette, fixed a drink, and crawled into bed with him after claiming that he looked like her peanut butter obsessed brother.
It didn’t occur to me then that Holly was a prostitute, fifty dollars for the powder room seemed perfectly acceptable. And I don’t want to even think about what went on between herself and creepy old Doc Golightly.
But does it get any better than Audrey Hepburn in her little black dress? All I had ever seen of Ms Hepburn before was in “My Fair Lady”, which is not my favorite movie of all times. Watching this film was a revelation of style and grace.
“Reality Bites”: Two words, Ethan Hawke—has greasy hair ever looked more attractive?
Has chain-smoking ever looked more appetizing?
This movie was so cool, you just wanted to be one of the friends in this crew: cracking wise with Janeane Garofalo, but encouraging the use of condoms. Gently coaxing Steve Zahn out of the closet whilst force feeding carbs to waifish Winona Ryder. All the while making eyes with dreamy philosophical Mr Hawke.
At the time, I had no idea just how hard life would be post-graduation. I can now easily identify with the concept of finding a creative place in the world, regardless of what excellent grades were on your transcript. As Vickie (Garofalo) says: “My favorite part about graduating now will be dodging my student loan officer for the rest of my life. He will be in cahoots with the Columbia Record and Tape Company guy… been after my ass for years”.
“Empire Records”: If you ask Rotten Tomatoes.com, this is not a great film. But at the time I worked at a grocery store, and fantasized about how fun a job like that in a record shop would be. Though in reality, there is little managerial consideration for productivity vs. profit…seriously how many people need to be working at the same time? No wonder this business is going broke. Regardless, I grew up in a tiny town and I didn’t know anyone urban or hip. I wanted to look like Liv Tyler and pull off short plaid skirts, cropped angora sweaters and combat boots. Now, that record stores are becoming increasingly obsolete, you wish that places like that really existed.
But say no more, mon amour, lips are for kissing so je’ta dour. Also, loved the shit out of that soundtrack. Any song from that album takes me right back to a particular place and time where I was so awkward, and in such need of a new scene.
With that in mind, let’s move right along…
“Titanic”: It’s such a cliché now, but my god, how that film was worth the hour-long drive to the neighbouring city to see it at the cinema. I sobbed hysterically as the film came to its devastating conclusion, and the male friend I saw the film with said he felt nothing but annoyance. (He tries to climb onto the door once? What else are you going to do, floating in the Atlantic and waiting for help? Try it again!)
No matter, I was swept up in the tragic story…and come on, how about young Leo DiCaprio? I will also reluctantly admit that I did have a “Titanic” poster in my bedroom. I purchased it at the local Pharmasave while shopping with my father. I hung it above my bed, and it really complimented my vintage “Love Story” poster.
Tacked up along the album covers and pictures of Audrey Hepburn and James Dean, amongst other images which were torn out of magazines. That poster was given to me by our neighbor, who had it in her room when she was a teenager. My mother had given me her copy of the novel, and I soon moved on to the classic film. Actually, I’ve got to go ahead and give “Love Story” a proper shout out.
“Love Story”: maybe it wasn’t so much the romance I loved but Ali McGraw.
Cool and stylish, headstrong and slightly bitchy, Jenny Cavilleri was from the other side of the tracks; but despite her poverty, had the most spectacular wardrobe.
Ryan O’Neil is Oliver Barret the 15th or something, and they fall in love despite the socioeconomic odds. And then he refuses his father’s money out of spite, asked Jenny to give up an opportunity in Paris to support him through law school. They try for a baby, and then Oliver goes to the doctor (ALONE!!), and the doctor tells him that not only Jenny is infertile, she’s also dying. They decide to just sit on that information for a spell, until she dies about a half hour later.
She also makes dying look glamorous. Roger Ebert later referred to this as ‘Ali McGraw’s disease’, which is a “movie illness in which the only symptom is that the sufferer grows more beautiful as death approaches”. I watched this movie so many times in my early teens, and every time I sobbed until I was dehydated. Of course it was devastating that these lovers were to be parted by death, but it truly bothered me that she never got to live out her dreams. Top me, that was the real tragedy. Girlfriend never got to see Paris. Cue the music.
“Dazed and Confused”: Hey, this movie is twenty years old now, how does that curl your toes?
I loved this film so much, I was obsessed with it: great story, amazing music, gorgeous men, fantastic style. Made you want to wear high-waisted bell bottoms, toss your freshly ironed hair, and smoke cigarettes in the parking lot, leaning against a muscle car and discussing the night’s bitching last day of school party.
My high school boyfriend introduced me to this movie, and when we split up, I kept the VHS copy he lent me. Until he came over while I was at work, and tricked my little brother into giving it to him–ah thwarted! This was all I had left of our relationship! Plus I didn’t want to part from this movie. I didn’t feel well connected to a lot of people in my high school years, and we lived in a small town, and it was a rare occurrence to be allowed out for ubiquitous parties. In some way, these people were my friends, these were the parties I went to. These films became a part of my memory, this was my safe place to go.
I saw this film quite recently and marveled at how young everyone looked, especially the boy who I once thought of as dreamy…he literally looked like a little boy. And now he looks like this.
This is the thing about watching movies from the past…everybody looks so young, and this makes you feel quite old. But that’s what I love about these high school films…I keep getting older, while these characters stay the same age.