YouTube HOF: Teen Movies
Andy Greenwald: Part of the allure of the high school movie is watching very young people experimenting with acting very old. Usually this involves wooing women, pounding beers, or running an elaborate prostitution ring out of your parents’ suburban McMansion. But in the twee-range musings of Wes Anderson, young people are more likely to reenact a shaggy cop story on a proscenium stage than waste time getting slammered. There are plenty of ways to misspend your youth, but not nearly enough of them demand packing heat in a nun’s habit.
Better Off Dead, “The International Language”
Mark Lisanti: Sometimes the YouTube video description says it better than you ever could: “John Cusack, Commit Suicide, Ricky, 80s movie, comedy, alcohol accident, french fries, french dressing, french bread.” And to drink: peru.
[How come “Sorry I blew up your mom” never caught on as a mother diss? Seems like a huge missed opportunity. We can still make it happen!]
Just One of the Guys
Tess Lynch: After forty-five minutes spent looking fruitlessly for the prom scene from Just One of the Guys, including a five-minute interlude during which I watched the BMX dance clip from Rad, here’s the trailer instead. Just One of the Guys has it all: Laura Palmer, gender dissatisfaction, creepily unrealistic locker room scenes (“Hey, check out my penis, bro … you ever seen something like that? Is that a rash? Lean in closer, bro. Check it out, man. Whoa, jock strap to the face! Hey, Brad, hand me a towel — thanks [ass slap]”), getting drunk off of one light beer in front of a fire somewhere, and a disgusting brother named Buddy. It flirts with The Crying Game territory, but of course Terry (Joyce Hyser) is solidly heteronormative (1985!) and falls in love with her new bro-friend Rick somewhere between when she teaches him how to talk to girls and do his hair and when he stands up on some cafeteria tables to deliver a speech. Spoiler: Rick gets the willies when she reveals her true gender at the prom (by flashing her breasts, naturally; words never suffice), but after reading her groundbreaking gender studies article he reconsiders. I like the idea that a gender studies essay could have the same effect as Ally Sheedy’s pink-over in The Breakfast Club. Prose over bows.
The Last American Virgin
Bill Simmons: The Last American Virgin was one of the best movie titles of all time, right there with Fatal Attraction, The Longest Yard and Debbie Does Dallas. It also featured the best soundtrack of ’80s songs other than maybe Valley Girl, as well as one of the all-time great “teenagers trying to get laid at a brothel” scenes. And it has some legitimately funny moments. More importantly, it features an old-school love triangle: a lovestruck high-schooler losing his dream girl (That Girl from Better Off Dead) to his playboy buddy, who knocks her up and then dumps her, leaving Lovestruck Guy to pay for the abortion. She moves in with him — because his parents are away, you know, since this is an ’80s movie and all — and eventually, he ends up getting some pity sex out of it. There’s never a doubt it’s ending badly. Find me a more randomly depressing movie ending. I bet you can’t.
Molly Lambert: When I think “teen movies” I think “’80s.” Most teen movies from the ’80s were hopeful fantasies where everyone get laid, whether it’s the Porky’s peephole, the carnival rape scene from Revenge of the Nerds, or Molly Ringwald finally getting to cut into some cake in Sixteen Candles. Then there is 1982’s The Last American Virgin, whose new wave soundtrack and pastel palette disguise its bleeding heart of darkness. Based on the 1978 Israeli teen sex comedy Lemon Popsicle, The Last American Virgin updated the original’s ’50s setting to the ’80s, but kept the plot, including the downer ending that sees dorky hero Gary walking in on dream girl Karen getting back together with hot jerk Rick. She kind of shrugs at him in a mockingly seductive way, and then he goes to cry in his car as he drives home, and the credits roll. Brett Ratner, who claims to have “jerked off at least two hundred times” to Diane Franklin (the actress who plays Karen), has spoken publicly of a desire to remake it.
David Jacoby: During your impressionable teenage years, watching a movie like Summer School blows your fucking mind. This film basically gives you a life blueprint: how to dress (loud), what women to be attracted to (Courtney Thorne-Smith [Kirstie Alley if you’re hot for teacher]), what you want to be when you grow up (summer school teacher), everything. What Gleaming the Cube did for professional skateboarders Summer School did for apathetic gym teachers. Just watch the above trailer and tell me this doesn’t have everything you are looking for from an ’80s teen movie: Bikini girls? In spades. Subtly racist jokes? Yep, ask “Jerome.” Radical fashion? Sorry, couldn’t hear you, my leopard print beret was over my ears. This is the perfect movie to watch when you’re 13 years old and all you want is to not be in junior high anymore. (Marc Harmon’s other ’80s masterpiece, Stealing Home, is the perfect movie to watch when you’re 15 and all you want is to not be a virgin anymore.)
Michael Weinreb: Obscured by decades of Scientology and Cole Trickle, by the blossoming of its co-stars into Hellnannies and Cifarettos and Bartokomi, by the (further) bastardization of Bob Seger into a commercial accompanist and by its portrayal of the L Train as an erotic Tangerine Dream, is the fact that Risky Business holds up pretty damned well as both a gauzy teenage fantasy and a satire of Reagan-era capitalism. Though of course I didn’t see it that way when I was 12. I saw it as the movie that was on HBO late at night, every night, for three straight months, where people boinked on public transportation and Booger delivered a straight-up Gekkoish speech that made me think if I only I cared less than I possibly could, my teenage years would be far cooler than they actually were.
Grosse Pointe Blank
Dan Silver: Gross Pointe Blank is not technically a teen movie, but it should be. The state of arrested development that lives inside all of the film’s characters is the twentysomething’s equivalent of teen angst. I have no doubt that the 10 years we all spend after college graduation are part of a prolonged adolescence, and I’d call bullshit on anyone (over 30) who says differently. In Say Anything, John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler is the epitome of the most naive and raw of teen emotions, and Martin Blank (and, to a certain extent, Rob from Cusack’s High Fidelity) are the embodiment of Lloyd’s natural evolution. Once that seat belt light dings off and Ione Skye’s grasp eases up just a little bit, the world became a cynical place for a teen in love. It’s a world where Lloyd snaps, and either falls for Minnie Driver and starts killing people for money (wouldn’t you if you were in love with Minnie Driver?) or just runs away and opens up a record store with Jack Black. I’m biased: Grosse Pointe Blank is one of my top 10 favorite films of all time. When it’s 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, and I’m Facebooking and Googling old girlfriends, this is the movie, and more specifically, this is the scene I turn to as it’s the serum perfectly mixed with a dollop of nostalgia, a jigger of reality, and a pinch of Queen to Etch-A-Sketch my brain up and out of its romanticizing of the past.
Filed Under: Youtube Hall of Fame