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Posts Tagged ‘The Breakfast Club’

Nearly sixty years after its original release Nicholas Ray’s seminal tean drama Rebel Without A Cause has been given a limited rerelease in cinemas. Made around a decade after the term teenager was coined, James Dean’s Jim Stark probably cinemas most notable adolescent. The template set by that character has endured ever since. From John Bender and Gardner Barnes to Cady Heron and Bliss Cavendar all the notable teenage and young adult charters from cinema have been outsiders in one acceptance within a group.Rebel Without a Cause

This trend is most evident in the glut of children’s and young adult novels that have been adapted into movies in recent years. In the modern cinematic world, being a little socially awkward isn’t enough. While the 80’s may have been the era of the teen movie, today’s films deal with the same angst, but it often disguised with a thin veil of fantasy and the fantastic. Initially not knowing his magical origins and not totally understanding his destiny until the end, Harry Potter (2001-2011) never quite fitted in the Muggle world or magicians world. The same is true of Clary in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013), Lena Duchannes in Beautiful Creatures (2013), Ender Wiggin in Ender’s Game (2013) and “John Smith” aka number 4 in I am Number Four (2011).I AM NUMBER FOUR

Twilight (2008 – 2012) is an interesting addition to the theme. Edward Cullen is an outsider because he is a vampire, he is an outsider within vampire’s because he is a “vegetarian”, but he is already accepted by his family. Jacob Black doesn’t know he is an outsider until he becomes a wolf. Bella Swan is an outsider, simply by being a typicle teenager. This disparate group find their place by their acceptance of each other. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2012-2015) is somewhat different, she is human and only extraordinary by her actions, but they are actions caused by the dystopian world in which she lives. So as strange as it sounds, The Hunger Games is closer in this respect to the teen movies of the 80’s than many of the supernatural movies of recent years.The Hunger Games

But this leads neatly onto the latest pretender Beatrice “Tris” Prior in Divergent (2014). Born into a society that where people are divided into factions divined from peoples personalities: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (truthful), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave). When tested Tris is discovered to Divergent, someone who has attributes of multiple factions. This is considered to be a danger to society, a clearly flawed society making her an instrument or catalyst for change. Not satisfied with just finding her place in society, she has a part in shaping it. Following so closely on from The Hunger Games is this the new direction for the genre?Tris Prior

Have writers lost their imagination and need to create a dystopian world for our outcasts to inhabit because they have run out of ideas to make their ideas interesting? Or have we seen it all before and are too cine-literate to be interested in the mundane of real life? I think there is some truth in this, but with well drawn characters and a good script, everyday life can be just as interesting as the spectacular, take: 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), Igby Goes Down (2002), Easy A (2010) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), all films that could all sit alongside the films of John Hughes. A perfect example of this, is Jennifer’s Body (2009), while I am a fan of and constant defender of the movie, despite the inclusion of supernatural, it isn’t as good as writer Diablo Cody’s previous film Juno (2007) but they both perfectly explore the anxieties and ideas I am talking about.Juno

I could be reading too much into this but ultimately I think the success of films like Rebel Without A Cause, The Breakfast Club and Divergent is that they have all tapped into a fundamental paradox of human nature. As a society we are desperate to fit in but we also want to stand out from the crowd.

For those who are wondering, I am not sure of the origin of the quote "I want to be a nonconformist. Just like everybody else" but first saw it attributed to the street artist Banksy.

 

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Mixtape Movies Image 2

As promised I am posting a Mixtape Movies each week to give you an idea of what I have planned. For this first one as well as the final post I am going to quickly run through the process as it may help anyone unsure of what I was thinking.

I thought it would be fun to start with the movie that gave my blog its title: Fandango. Set over a single day during a time of transition for the young characters, Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti were obvious choices. I quickly added Stand By Me involving a younger group of friends. The journey they were on seemed appropriate to fandango and with Richard Dreyfuss it shares an interesting link to American Graffiti where he plays a similar character at a different time in his life.

For my final pick I was going to go for the quintessential high school movie; The Breakfast Club. I discounted it as a contemporary film and not a nostalgic one. It is also set indoors in winter where all the others are set outdoors in summer. I then considered: Animal House, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything, Rebel Without A Cause, The Last Picture Show, Rushmore and Risky Business. Discounting all of these for one reason or another I went back to The Breakfast Club because it just fits, and that’s what matters in a mixtape. As we are translating an idea from music to movies, I have also lent towards movies with memorable music.

Finally my wildcard movie: Big Wednesday. Where all the other movies are set over a day or two Big Wednesday is set over a period of years and shows the transition not just the turning point in the life of the characters. So here is my first Movie Mixtape:

Mixtapes Movies - Fandango

Stand By Me (1996) directed by Rob Reiner – Labor Day weekend, September 1959, four friends set off on a journey to find the body of a missing boy.

The Breakfast Club (1985) directed by John Hughes – A diverse group of kids attend a Saturday detention. What at first appears to be a simple tale of teenage rebellion against authority figures actually turns into a movie about acceptance and understanding.

Dazed and Confused (1993) directed by Richard Linklater – May 1976, It’s the last day of school in an Austin, Texas suburb. The following years seniors split their time between planning for a party that night and hazing the incoming freshman.

American Graffiti (1973) directed by George Lucas – August 1962, two high school graduates spend their last night cruising the strip in their small California town before they are due to fly off to collage.

Fandango (1985) directed by Kevin Reynolds – May 1971, a group of students set out on a final road trip from their fraternity house in Austin, Texas to the Mexican border on southwest Texas

Wildcard movie:

Big Wednesday (1978) directed by John Milius – Set over twelve years from 1962 to 1974, the life of a group of surfing friends is told against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.Stand By Me - The Breakfast Club - Dazed and Confused - American Graffiti - Fandango - Big Wednesday

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As we move into the last two decades I will mention lots of films I saw at the cinema when they first came out. The films I have already mentioned fro the 70’s and before I have caught up with over time, but this is the 80’s the decade of VHS. That’s how I saw all these movies on home video.

1980: The Shining, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Airplane! Raging Bull, The Blues Brothers

1981: Mad Max 2, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London, Scanners

1984: The Terminator, Once Upon a Time in America, Ghostbusters, Repo Man, Streets of Fire

1985: Fandango, Back to the Future, The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, Brazil

1986: Aliens, Blue Velvet, Platoon, Salvador, The Colour of Money

1987: Aliens, The Lost Boys, Evil Dead II, Hellraiser, Near Dark

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Are American High Schools cooler than British ones? I grew up in England watching American movies and TV shows and rapidly came to the conclusion that they had a lot more fun in American schools than we where having. I know these films are all fiction or just taking the best elements and cramming them into ninety minutes but they were so much cooler than anything British producers could come up with! These films are all about Sex and drugs, the kids drove cool cars and the American drinking laws didn’t seem to stop them having massive parties. Looking back they weren’t having that much fun in Rebel Without a Cause and I am glad we never had anything like the “hazing” in Dazed and Confused but there are still some examples of high school movies that I look back on fondly. I am not talking about sports films or horror/slasher movies set in high school but films that are actually about the kids and their time in school. The one drawback, you have to be at least 25 years to graduate from an American movie high school!

Dazed and Confused: My favourite high school movie came out the year I left school. Looking back you recognise half the cast and wonder how they got so many stars including: Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Parker Possey and yes that is Speedle from CSI (Rory Cochrane) playing Slater the school stoner! Then you remember they were virtually unknown at the time. The story takes place over the course of the last day (and more importantly night) of school term in 1976. As with so many Richard Linklater films it was shot on location in Austin Texas a place that is becoming a hotbed for independent cinema. Set at the time the director would have been 16: although not as romanticized a view of the past as films like American Graffiti it does look back on the era with great fondness and fun. When watching the film you get the impression he did half the things the characters in the film did, and wishes he did some of the others! In 2004 ten years after the film came out three of Richard Linklater’s former classmates filed a lawsuit claiming he did not gain their permission to use their likenesses and surnames (Wooderson, Slater and Floyd) and now suffer from ridicule as a result of the film. From the opening bars of Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion you get a vibe for what the film will be like and know the soundtrack is going to be great, with highlights including War, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple the music captures the mood of the era as well as the film itself. This is also captured in the classic early 70’s cars driven by the kids most notably O’Bannion’s Plymouth Duster, Wooderson’s Chevy Chevelle SS and Pickford’s Pontiac GTO. The underlying theme of the film is best exemplified by Woodersons credo Just Keep Livin’

“Man, it’s the same bullshit they tried to pull in my day. If it ain’t that piece of paper, there’s some other choice they’re gonna try and make for you. You gotta do what Randall “Pink” Floyd wants to do, man. Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they’re gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N” 

The Breakfast Club: A film that has become so ingrained in popular culture that it is referenced in countless films and TV programs. The story is so simple it’s amazing it got through a pitch; it must have been something like. “Five kids all representing a different stereotypes, meet in detention, they start of hating each other but become friends by the end”. It is one of those films that could have been so much different if the casting had been different. Widely regarded as the stand out performance of the film, Judd Nelson (in one of his three good film roles, the others being Phil Hicks in Fandango and Nick Peretti in New Jack City) nearly didn’t happen. First they tried to cast Nicolas Cage but couldn’t afford his salary demand. Then cast Emilio Estervez in the part but couldn’t find anyone to play Andrew Clark so moved Estervez to that role replacing him with John Cusack (the only other person suggested who I can imagine in the role) before replacing him with Judd Nelson. He was then nearly sacked by director John Hughes because of his attitude and treatment of co-stars particularly Molly Ringwald, co-star Paul Gleason intervened claiming it was a misunderstanding and Nelson was simply staying in character off camera (he is known to be a method actor). There where also questions over Nelsons age, at 25 he was the oldest of the students in the film and played college graduates in two other films that year; St. Elmo’s Fire and Fandango. The film like so many of the directors other films is set in the fictional (no one told Jay and Silent Bob that!) suburb of Chicago; Shermer, Illinois and was shot on location in real schools. The interaction between the charters was probably helped as the film was shot in sequence having been rehearsed like a play. You leave the film wondering what will happen when the kids go back to school on Monday, will they still be friends, you just somehow know they are going to be okay. The balance between life affirming and rebellion is perfectly portrayed not just by the kids striving to be something else but by the janitor who comes across as being a lot more intelligent than the hapless principal.

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out, is that each one of us is: a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

Heathers: Wow is this film is over 20 years old, that makes me feel old! Let’s start with the facts, anyone asking why I haven’t included Mean Girls, the simple answer is Mean Girls is a watered down imitation of Heathers and the Plastics are positively nice, friendly and liberal in comparison to the Heathers who are the most evil hateful clique in the history of high school movies. That is why the film is so good. Everyone who has ever been to school will have said they want to kill one of their classmates at some time. Most of us didn’t really mean it and the majority of those who did mean it had the sense not to do anything about it. Heathers is a great “what if” film. With the extremely black humour and high body count the events should not be taken literally in the way some of the other films should be, however the themes of alienation are a staple of the genre. A note on casting Brad Pitt was rejected for the role of JD as he was considered to nice for the role, if only they could have looked forward a few years to see Tyler Durden! Heather Graham and Jennifer Connelly both turned down roles in the film. So we ended up with a young Winona Ryder in her biggest role to date and a 21 year old Christian Slater who had been appearing in films and TV since he was 7. Slater is suitably weird; he starts out as the mysterious kid in school (every bit James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause) but rapidly turns into a psycho. A perfect film for him as for years to come you never knew what to expect from him, it was around this time he developed his off screen persona as a Hollywood bad-boy. There is a great device in the film where Veronica has virtually the same conversation with her parents twice, it is then referenced in a later conversation, it says so much about teenagers relationships with their parents. The hippy teacher or guidance counsellor has become a recurring joke and cliché in American films and TV shows but it was still fresh back in the 80’s and is played to perfection by Penelope Milford. It is also great to look back on the dodgy 80’s hairstyles and clothes. On a sadder note, two of the films stars died prematurely: Kim Walker whose character says “Did you have a brain tumour for breakfast?” died of a brain tumour and Jeremy Applegate whose character prays he will never commit suicide at Heaters funeral later committed suicide with a shotgun.

“People will look at the ashes of Westerburg and say, “Now there’s a school that self-destructed, not because society didn’t care, but because the school was society.” Now that’s deep.”

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: A film that appears in lists of best comedies and best high school movies; however you look at it this film is a classic! That’s why it is the second John Hughes film in the list. Ferris Beuller (Matthew Broderick) is a high school kid who has everything going for him. He is doing well at school, he is very popular, has a perfect girlfriend and doting parents but from time to time decides to take a day off to help him get through the monotony of school life. On this particular day he decides to bring along girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck). His intention to give Cameron something good to remember high school by. Cameron also has something else going for him, the keys to his dads Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California (sadly a replica, or possibly fortunately a replica considering its fate). The film is basically a cat and mouse chase between Ferris and his nemesis’ his sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) and Principal Rooney. Most of the action takes place out of school as the three friends have a day to remember in the city. Unlike the other films I have mentioned that gained cult status on TV and Video Ferris Bueller was a massive box office success taking over $70million making it one of the top 10 grossing films of the year.

 “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Other recommended viewing: Fast Times at Ridgemont High, early 80’s comedy with a young Sean Penn and written by Cameron Crowe. Say Anything, Cameron Crowe writes and directs this time, starring ever reliable John Cusack. Rebel Without A Cause, Nicolas Ray’s film is over fifty years old now but still good to watch, staring James Dean, Natalie Wood and a 1949 Mercury Coupe, also look out for a young Dennis Hopper who appeared in this and Giant with James Dean. The Last Picture Show is Peter Bogdanovitch’s 1971 film set in a small Texas town in the 50’s, a wonderfully bleak film. Rushmore is a curious little Wes Anderson film set in a private prep school, a fantastic cast including the geniuses that is Bill Murray. “Joel, you wanna know something? Every now and then say, “What the fuck.” “What the fuck” gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future.” The famous line from Risky Business an early Tom Cruise film that made him a star. Napoleon Dynamite is quirky comedy about a geeky high school loser. American Graffiti isn’t really a high school movie but well worth a viewing. Then we have the crossover films that incorporate sci-fi or fantasy into the high school movie: Donnie Darko is one of the best films of recent years and made overnight stars of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, if you haven’t already seen it go for the theatrical version not the directors cut. Back to the Future, one of the best trilogies ever but the 1985 original is by far the best of the three films. Not as good as back to the future but Francis Ford Coppola’s back in time high school movie Peggy Sue Got Married is also worth a look.

If you haven’t already seen them take a look at all these films. If you have they are all worth another viewing.

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