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Entries in High School Movies (22)

Monday
Mar312014

"monday morning, you're history"

Happy 25th birthday this very day to the daring, hilarious, and utterly classic Heathers (1989). It's one of the greatest high school movies of all time and the most shamelessly ripped off. (See also: Mean Girls, classic in its own right don't get me wrong but the debt it owes cannot be overstated. It's "very". My guess is Tina Fey (who was 18 when it came out) must've watched it a million times.

Growing up this was the bit my friends and I quoted all the f***ing time.

Heather: You stupid fuck

Veronica: You goddamn bitch 

Heather: You were nothing before you met me. You were playing Barbies with Betty Finn. You were a bluebird. You were a brownie. You were a girl scout cookie. 

I got you into a Remington party. What's my thanks? It's on the hallway carpet. I got paid in puke.

Veronica: Lick it up, baby. Lick it up.

[Great Moments in Screen Bitchery #9, Winona Ryder in Heathers]

 

While we're on the topic of Heathers, I'll report on the new Off Broadway musical tonight but I have two questions for you in the comments.

1. What lines have you quoted most often?

2. Which Oscar nominations do you think it was robbed of (since Oscar don't touch high school comedies). I am very serious when I say I would have nominated it for three that year: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actress. But 1989 is one of the years where Oscar and I have been least sympatico - none of the Best Picture nominees even made my top ten list. (If you're curious to know my top tens from years past there's a pull down menu up at the top of the blog)

 

Wednesday
Nov272013

Team FYC: The Spectacular Now for Best Picture

[Editor's Note: In this series Film Experience contributors are individually highlighting their favorite fringe Oscar contenders. Here's Deborah Lipp on The Spectacular Now.]


Dear Voters of the Academy: Think Small. I know it’s Oscar season, and I know you want to think Big Space (Gravity) and Big Epic (The Butler), but sometimes, small is beautiful. Sometimes, small is The Spectacular Now.

Consider the delicacy with which this movie sits inside the pocket of being young, and confused, and feeling alone, and makes you feel it too. Consider that Teen Romance Movie Clichés could fill an encyclopedia, and that this movie deftly steps past all of them, to arrive at an intimacy of both dialogue and unspoken moments that create a sense of presence so very rare in the movies.

The Spectacular Now has three genuinely striking performances: Its two leads (Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley) and a supporting turn by Kyle Chandler, playing disturbingly against type.

Movies about disconnected people can feel distant, but, as Aimee (Woodley) and Sutter (Teller) find each other, we feel close, and connected. With striking honesty, The Spectacular Now gives us sad and fumbling youth, the relief of having someone else there, and the painful knowledge that it isn’t enough.

previous FYCs

Wednesday
Oct022013

NYFF: An Education with 'At Berkeley' and 'American Promise'

51st New York Film Festival (Sep 27-Oct 14). Here's Glenn discussing At Berkeley and American Promise.

As an Australian living in America I have had to watch quite a few movies set in US schools. Frivolous comedies or hard-hitting dramas and everything in between and I still find a lot of it entirely baffling. At this year’s NYFF I have been able to get a couple of very comprehensive looks at the system thanks to doco legend Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley and American Promise from husband and wife filmmaking team Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson. Together they provide an illuminating look at the American education system from kindergarten right on through to college. As they should since together they total a gargantuan six hours!

The 83-year-old Wiseman isn’t exactly shy of long runtimes, but even compared to the recent 134-minute Crazy Horse and 159-minute La Danse his latest is quite an effort.

At a smidgen over four hours, At Berkeley is certainly comprehensive...

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Thursday
Sep192013

Movie Teachers: "Fame" (1980)

Back to School Month + 1980 Retrospective- StinkyLulu doubles up for Fame (1980). A partial version of this article first appeared at StinkyLulu in 2007

 

When I was a wee lil Stinky, I watched the original Fame over and over and over again. 'Twas my movie. And possibly because I watched the film so many dang times, the starkly human performances by the actresses playing teachers in the film burrowed deep into my consciousness. I’m not just talking about Debbie Allen’s legendary cameo. Mostly, I’m thinking especially of Anne Meara as Mrs. Sherwood and Joanna Merlin as Miss Berg. 

The roles of Sherwood and Miss Berg are quintessential “actressing at the edges” sorts of parts. Each is relevant to the film’s dramatic arc only insofar as she amplifies the narrative of one of Fame’s principal characters. As the language arts teacher, Meara’s Sherwood is Leroy’s obstacle, while Merlin’s Miss Berg is the ballet teacher who makes Lisa’s life hell. In the student-centric emotional swirl of Fame, Meara’s Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are indeed the hard-ass battle-axes who appear to have nothing better to do than to torment their students. Merlin’s Miss Berg permits the languid Lisa no slack, and Meara’s Sherwood refuses to buckle, even when Leroy explodes in a kinetic blaze of profanity and violence. 

But Fame, to its credit, gives both Meara and Merlin just enough room to be human. For Merlin, the kicker comes when she calls Lisa to her office to cut the young dancer from the program. With measured, unflinching firmness (you can almost tell that Merlin paid the bills by being Harold Prince’s casting director for much of the 1970s), Merlin’s Miss Berg conveys in no uncertain terms that there has no future as a dancer in the department or, in all likelihood, beyond. Merlin’s Miss Berg is brutal in her honesty, deflecting Lisa’s promises and pleas as if she’s waving away flies. Yet, when she opens the door to dismiss Lisa, her eyes brim with a glint of emotion, until she wilts — just that little bit — against the door upon Lisa’s exit.

Merlin in "Fame"

Meara’s moment comes when Leroy (suddenly terrified that his grade in English might actually be important now that his invitation to join a major dance company is contingent on his successful graduation from high school) seeks Sherwood out at the hospital where her husband is undergoing some unnamed "serious" procedure. Meara's Sherwood is at first firm but dismissive when faced with this self-involved student come, to the hospital, for a little bit of friendly grade grubbing. Then when Leroy pushes, accusing her of having it in for him, Meara's Sherwood explodes with sheer, agonizing fury. Her rebuttal ("Don't you kids ever think of anyone but yourself!?) stops Leroy cold, allowing him to grow up a little and to show Sherwood a quiet gesture of empathy and consideration.

In most ways, Meara's Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are thanklessly supporting performances. Everything each does is in support of Leroy’s/Lisa’s character arc. But Meara and Merlin mine every moment for its depth, humanity and humor. (The looks Merlin gives Debbie Allen during Leroy’s audition. The flash of fear that ripples Meara’s stern facade when Leroy physically erupts. Merlin’s way of whispering her true feelings, both snarky and vulnerable, under her breath. Meara’s heart buckling devastation when Leroy tears into Sherwood with the oblique epithet "You people...”) Each line, gesture and sideways glance conveys the simple fact that this woman is really good at her job and that Leroy/Lisa is but one of her more difficult pupils. Neither is a saintly superteacher. Neither is an inhuman gorgon. They are both simply educators working in the NYC public school system, trying to get through another day.

Meara in FAME

Indeed, I will be ever grateful to Anne Meara and Joanna Merlin for crafting these teacher characters so intelligently, so generously, so humanely -- and, in so doing, for also teaching little StinkyLulu how much was to be learned from all the actresses not only at the edges of Fame but also all those other actresses at the edges of fame itself.

 

previously on back to school...
History Lessons from Half Nelson, The Breakfast Club when you're too young for it

Wednesday
Sep112013

Cinematic History Lessons Courtesy of Half Nelson

Back to School Month - Here's Andrew "Abstew" on Half Nelson

What is History?

 

These are the first words spoken by Ryan Gosling in his Oscar-nominated performance in the 2006 film, Half Nelson. (Sadly, his only Oscar-nominated performance to date. I was so blown away by his work in this movie that I thought, for sure, he would have received at least another nomination, if not a win, by now) Gosling plays a Brooklyn middle school teacher named Dan Dunne that happens to wrestle (see where that title comes from?!) with a drug problem. Throughout the course of the film, he's even discovered by one of his students (an excellent Shareeka Epps as Drey) in a girls' bathroom stall, smoking crack – moments after a basketball game he just happened to be coaching.

Dan's struggles with addiction, while striving to be a better person, are the focus of the film and give an added depth to the "Teacher as Savior" genre. But I recently rewatched the film, focusing only on the scenes in the classroom. [more...]

Click to read more ...