Friday, February 08, 2008

If You've Ever Been Unsure of My Age, This Post Will Probably Confirm A Lot of Suspicions For You.

Last night, I was talking to a new dwarf friend (for reals), and as often happens when conversing with the vertically challenged, Rachael Leigh Cook, quasi-teen star of the late 1990s, came up. I noted that she had essentially disappeared several years ago, my most recent recollection of her being this heinously awful 2001 Ryan Phillipe movie that Drunk and I tried to watch a year or two ago and gave up on after roughly 15 minutes. I also occasionally hung out with a Rachael Leigh Cook lookalike in my freshman year of college, and I was so distracted by the likeness that I never bothered to learn her birth name, making it difficult to locate her years later. (A good sport though, as she must have had to program herself to react instinctively to someone shouting, "Hey! Rachael Leigh Cook Girl!" in the middle of the street and never complained. A real trooper.) At any rate, this now quasi-defunct movie star reminded me of that glorious but very, very strange period following the success of Titanic, when the film industry realized that there was a burgeoning market of teenagers with spending money who were willing to sit through mediocre movies, as long as said films were directed purely at their demographic. Thus, it is time to revisit the Golden Age of Teen Movies.

To be fair, it wasn't like post-Titanic 1990s was the first time anyone made a "teen movie." I suspect most people would immediately latch onto the overrated/overwatched John Hughes movies from the 1980s, which I find to be almost universally lame, with the exception of that scene in Weird Science when Bill Paxton turns into a pile of shizzle. (Lest we forget that Mr. Paxton also had a supporting role in Titanic in his only legit hot role. Bleached hair and pirate earrings work for him much better than being feces.) However, for our purposes today, I think it worthwhile to at the very least make a distinction between the two time periods. The overwhelming majority of those Hughes movies were comedies that, while displaying the requisite teen angst, were inherently fluffy and focused too much on the simplistic concept of the teenage caste system (i.e., Anthony Michael Hall always playing a nerd with retainers, Molly Ringwald playing lower-middle class to Andrew McCarthy's wealth, etc.) We give credit where it's due - since those movies were admittedly trailblazers in their own right, they removed the necessity for the next generation to revisit the concept. It wasn't until the mid-90s that you ended up with all of these insanely dark horror movies and teen films that were rather sadistic, when you get right down to it.

He should have played the same character in Titanic. Gloria Stuart would NOT have known the difference.

Now, I'm not suggesting that all of the movies I'm about to discuss are good - VERY few of them have stood the test of time, and many that have only did so because of kitsch appeal. Seeing as how I spent a significant amount of pocket money on these crapfests though, I might as well attempt to get my money's worth and subject the rest of you who had the distinct misfortune of not being a post-adolescent in the waning 90s to the days when Freddie Prinze Jr. and all of the Dawson's Creek cast were king. Also: my memory, like a college admissions board, is selective, so if you feel I've unintentionally slighted one of your favorite films from the time period, drop a comment and let your voice be heard. That sounds desperate. Like I want people to comment so badly that I've resorted to pleading within blog posts. Do not take it as such.

I won't be concentrating on the 80s - I've said my piece on that. This section is devoted to the movies almost immediately preceding Titanic, roughly 1994-1997. It wasn't an era of plentiful teen goodness, but it had some noble contributors.

1. The Craft. (1996)

Oh Fairuza Balk, where have you gone? It doesn't get more angsty/edgy than a movie dealing with witches, suicide attempts and predatory male love interests. My love of this movie actually came back to bite me in the ass. When I was in 7th grade, there was a rumor circulating among all the girls that one of their own had tried to slit their wrists the day before. One of the alpha girls in my class took it upon herself to grab everyone's arm and gaze intently for tell-tale scars. Vicious shizzle. Either it was an unsubstantiated rumor (what isn't in 7th grade?) or the alpha girl just didn't locate the right girl's appendage. Now, it just so happened that my then-youthful cat Arnold James Grimshaw had scratched me on my wrist the day before - not deep, but enough so you could clearly see a red line there. This is one of the many disadvantages to being paler than the clouds. You can hide NOTHING. At any rate, the alpha girl managed to snag my arm and saw the cat scratch. Immediately, she began screeching, "Oh my god! Why did you do it?" I was a bit baffled, because even though I knew very little about suicide attempts at the age of 12, it seemed very obvious that if I had wanted to make a real attempt at it, it would be deeper than, say, 1 mm. But because of my youth and as-yet undetectable ability to navigate my way through a social situation, my first reaction was to roll my eyes and say, "If I actually wanted to slit my wrists, I would cut vertically, not horizontally." Fairuza might have applauded my logic, but either the alpha girl hadn't seen The Craft or didn't want to admit she had. Ergo, I had to spend the rest of my middle school days ingratiating myself to the minions by telling dead baby jokes at the lunch table. Such is life. The Craft is totally an awesome movie though, and in my opinion propelled the career of Neve Campbell much more effectively than the inhumanly depressing Party of Five.

2. Scream. (1996)

The worst thing that can be said about this movie is that, regardless of how innovative it was at the time, it suddenly made it okay to make TONS of parody movies - thus ensuring that the Wayans Brothers will NEVER go away - and based on box office receipts, it appears that a lot of people are also okay with it. Frown. Also, Courtney Cox makes me angry because she looks like she smells. I don't know why. I probably saw a picture of her smoking and made some understandable assumptions. But since I've seen many, many celebrities smoking, including the Trifecta of Perfection (Ryder, Portman and Knightley), it's clearly just a Cox thing. In its favor, Jamie Kennedy was non-annoying and non-horribly unfunny, a condition that did not stand the test of time. Does he still have that wretched Candid Camera-esque show? For the sake of time, and because the second one really just wishes it were the first, this is the last Scream movie that will be discussed. In defense of Scream 2, it DID allow the world to vicariously live out the fantasy of mutilating Tori Spelling within the first five minutes. Now THAT'S cinema.

3. Clueless. (1995)

Before Alicia Silverstone went vegan mad and inexplicably dissed Hasselbeck on The View, she was chatting on those gynormous Saved By the Bell phones and balancing a fine line between deft parody and annoyingness. Academy, where is her nomination? I hesitated to even put this on the list, because while it clearly caters to the teen demographic (note the Mighty Mighty Bosstones cameo), it's so intelligent and funny I can't imagine Amy Heckerling was purely making this for the under-21 set. In the interest of fairness, it's hard not to wince when Alicia flippantly labels people Monets and Baldwins - I wasn't aware that there was a time when any of the Baldwins besides Billy were considered hunkified, but then I WAS only about 10 when this came out - and I always thought it was incredibly stupid to pick Paul Rudd over Jeremy Hunkified Sisto, but I'm not going to penalize greatness over such a tiny flaw. Shout out to a non-anorexic Brittany Murphy!

I decided to divide this section into different sections - the general movies and then films that promoted the careers of the Dawson gang. There were a LOT of those movies, but we'll pay homage to the broader genre first.

1. She's All That. (1999)

It would have been criminal not to acknowledge the Rachael Leigh Cook contribution to the genre, even though it's probably my least favorite of any film I'll be mentioning. What pains me about this movie isn't that it has some wretched, putrid acting, which it does, but that it's the epitome of the mediocre template that teen movie filmmakers were using to sucker us in. Predominately, it's flatly unrealistic. I'm assuming most 13-year-olds gave shit one (1?), but when it defied logic to the point of distracting me from the barely there plot - I drew a line. Rachael Leigh Cook is pretty, and for some reason, it was decided that to FOOL us into thinking otherwise, they put - are you ready? - glasses and a smock on her. Totally poochy, I know. Of course, Freddy Prinze has this hardcore epiphany at the end when she shows up to the prom wearing a Coulter cocktail dress and contacts and realizes that artsy people can be pretty too, but this doesn't jive with the story arc involving Paul Walker, who, as I recall, spent most of the movie blatantly trying to sleep with her. Was she ugly in the smock or not? Since I've already namedropped Dawson twice, it seems wise to direct you to a Rachael Leigh Cook endeavor that DOESN'T suck - namely, her three-episode guest appearance on the second season of The Creek playing the student film version of Joey Potter. Solid good time.

2. Cruel Intentions. (1999)

Too bad Ryan Phillipe thought it would be cool to start bedding a nasty skank ho and shattering the popular illusion that Cruel Intentions is real, or I would still be all about this movie. Team Reese! A very, very fun movie though, with razor sharp dialogue, an effervescent Reese, the best acting of SMG's "career" and an underrated Selma Blair that more than makes up for the wooden acting of Phillipe - which seems to get more apparent as the years go by. When I used to bike up Park Avenue on a regular basis, I tried to figure out which apartment Sebastian Valmont lived in, but since all of the penthouses look the same, it was a bit difficult. Also, there were a lot of lurching black Lincoln Towncars screeching around, so you didn't want to get TOO involved in the task. For the record, I DID figure out exactly where Scarlett Johansson was living in The Nanny Diaries, so I'm not totally useless in that capacity. Cruel Intentions also gets bonus points for having one of the best soundtracks ever, including Placebo's "Every Me, Every You," and "Colorblind," which accompanied the Reese/Ryan sex scene at the end. Heart.

3. Bring It On. (2000)

The triumph of Bring It On is that it figures out how to make Kirsten Dunst watchable. That is NOT an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. Also not easy is kind of making me want to be a cheerleader after leaving the theater. Admittedly, it was only for as long as it took to walk to Wal-Mart across the parking lot, but the momentary thought WAS there. I suspect most people would assume that high school Emma was very anti-cheerleader. Not the case. I had several chums on the cheerleading squad, including the captain, who sent our school's team to Nationals in Florida, just like Dunst, except she did not have the help of the deliciously edgy Eliza Dushku in her best performance since the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger masterpiece True Lies. We also didn't have the insanely hot Jesse Bradford wandering around the halls pretending to be punk, though my roommates and I watched Swimfan so much in college that it was like he was THERE. I digress. Bring It On is about as solid a time as you can have without watching Starship Troopers, and it includes the wonderful Dunst line - "Missy's the poo, so take a big whiff." SLAM.

4. The Faculty. (1998)

Remember when Usher was on top of the world and dabbling in the worlds of both movies and music? I would humbly submit that his music video for "My Way" was a bit more impressive than his vacuous role in this alienish/horror movie, but with one of the strongest casts in my retrospective, including a then-unknown Josh Hartnett, a post-child stardom Elijah Wood (who, we found, was never going to grow into those eyes), the pathological liar from Girl, Interrupted and Mr. T-100 himself, Robert Patrick, it's hard to go wrong. It admittedly has been quite a while since I saw this - 10 years - but I remember that towards the end, Elijah is almost physically infiltrated by the aliens via the now-standard creepy crawly shizzle things under the skin that you can see, which reminded me of the ill-fated alien drama Dark Skies on NBC's Saturday Night Thrillogy. Just saying. And, looking at the imdb page, it appears that Salma Hayek is in this, which surprises me because I was totally sure she hadn't even moved to America yet. Hmmm.

5. Can't Hardly Wait. (1998)

What with J-Love becoming grown up and whispering to ghosts, I had forgotten that there was a time when I completely despised her soul. In retrospect, a lot of the animosity was probably derived from believing that J-Love was unfairly getting the Party of Five-related attention that Neve was not getting, though Neve (as has been shown already here) was certainly doing alright for herself and my position doesn't make sense. I'm not entirely sure I ever just sat down and watched this all the way through, but every memory I have of it involves a kegger, which may or may not be the entire movie, and Seth Green hanging out in the bathroom. If I'm right about that, it would at the very least be one of the few teen movies to not even bother with a plot, which is kind of smart. Bonus points for casting the amazing Charlie Korsmo, who I thought had died of a drug overdose after What About Bob? Even Emmas can be wrong.

6. American Pie. (1999)

In high school, I had a nemesis named Looby. We were hardcore enemies from the first day of school in freshman year, when I yelled at her for taking the bus when she lived 300 yards from the school. She narrowed her eyes, ignored me and a dynasty was born that lingers to this day, where every few months or so I IM her and just say "clithead" or something equally mature. What's the relevance? She went to band camp and had bright red hair like Alyson Hannigan and was soulless. In the interest of full disclosures, I played the flute in middle school, but it's not uncool at that age. And I also negated any social stigma by being the only flute in jazz band and making fun of the clarinet people most of the time. For the record. American Pie has becoming a peculiar direct-to-DVD dynasty in the order of all those creepy Wild West Olson twin movies and Hayden Panettiere Bring It On sequels, but back in the day there was but one, and it was very Emma crude with a few more sperm jokes than necessary. Twenty years from now, I'm guessing there's going to be a sleazy 25th anniversay edition with coupons for Mrs. Fields pies and condoms included in the packaging. It was just that kind of movie.

7. Drive Me Crazy. (1999)

Drive Me Crazy is the answer to the question - What is the Wal-Mart $5 bin full of? There are also about 20 copies of Milo and Otis and a few Steven Seagal movies, but this was really, really putrid and deserves its current status at the bottom of the cinematic food chain. Starring MJH's wonky eye (not to be confused with my diseased right eye) and pre-EntourageAdrian Grenier, I'm pretty certain this movie's only purpose was to provide a convoluted outlet for Britney's third single of the same name. Remember badass Britney? Sigh. MJH was also on an episode of SVU recently, but she wasn't the rapist. SUCH a mistake on the part of the writers.

8. Never Been Kissed. (1999)

Fluffy cutesy Drew sucks a giant monkey scrotum. I wrote a post several months ago in which I mentioned Drew in a list of comedic-centered actors who bypass dramatic brilliance for no good reason, with the movies Riding In Cars With Boys (which she and Steve Zahn should have been nominated for) and Donnie Darko being cited. I stand by the statement more than ever. In the few interviews I've heard her in, she sounds like a complete moron, so it's very refreshing to know that she can pretend to be otherwise. This is not the movie where she stakes her claim to that. I saw the second half of this movie on an airplane ride to England, and for some reason it was in Italian. I'm guessing that if I had pushed a button on the side of my seat I could have understood it, but wouldn't you know? You could have this movie on mute and follow the story. Since the last shot I saw before I nodded off involved her sucking face with someone, the title is disingenuous at best.

9. 10 Things I Hate About You. (1999)

Several years ago, I saw Julia Stiles on TRL promoting (I think) Save the Last Dance, and noticed immediately that she was the most articulate guest they'd ever had. The word "like" never came out of her mouth. Are you listening, Drew? However, Julia Stiles is a horrible actress who makes balsa wood look charismatic. It tends to ruin movies that she helms. She is helped by the talent of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is very, very due for an Oscar nod, and Heath Ledger, who has an Oscar nomination to his credit and will probably not get another one unless the Academy feels like awarding one posthumously for The Dark Knight. I would support that. RIP Heath. If I have time, I will devote an entire post to your legacy, minus The Order.

The Dawson's Creek Section.

I love how you can tell just by looking at Michelle's hair that this was when the producers ruined her character and turned her into a ho.

It might be advisable to divide this by character, although I'm thinking that this list is going to have significantly more Pacey and Joey than Jen and Dawson. Therefore, we'll just start with Michelle Williams because she's the best.
1. Dick. (1999)

It's truly a shame that, because some shriveled-up kidney bean wanted to take credit for being crapweaselly and Deepthroaty, this entire movie has become moot. Although Kirsten Dunst sucks, as she tends to do when she's not playing a cheerleader, it's hard to fault probably the only teen movie with any political acumen. Since we're on the topic of Nixon anyway, I'd like to share my favorite tidbit from his memoirs. After he chose Spiro as his running mate at the 1968 Convention, a lot of Republicans decided to nominate George Romney (the Mitter's dad) as VP instead and took a floor vote on it. Of course, Spiro won rather decisively by about 1,000 votes. Afterwards, George sent a little note to Nixon that said holding the floor vote got a lot of the tension out of the room and was like "a giant burp." Yet another reason to vote for Mitt - if he hadn't crapped out yesterday, thus preventing me from getting one of those foam mitt things everyone kept waving around at his pep rallies. Someone find one for me. Thank you.

2. Varsity Blues. (1999)

In a post I wrote last year about the best and worst accents ever, I neglected to mention two putrid ones, both coincidentally failed attempts to master the peculiar Deep South dialect. One of them was Keanu Reeves - who should team up with Julia Stiles in a movie called "Two Planks of Wood" and see what happens - in The Devil's Advocate, and the other was Dawson Leery pretending to be Texan. Like Cruel Intentions, Varsity Blues has an excellent soundtrack, which includs Fastball, Green Day and Collective Soul, and it also has Ali Larter, who's always a solid good time. My only clear memory of this movie involved the really fat guy vomiting at...a kegger! Truly one of the themes that spans all teen movies. I would add that if I had to pick one actor least likely to be mentioned in this entire post, it would probably be Jon Voight. And yet.

3. Disturbing Behavior. (1998)

In the vein of The Faculty, I believe a genetic experiment of some sort at a high school went awry and all of these guys started killing girls when they gave them boners because...the arousal made them angry? It was not made clear, but it provided the filmmakers with enough fodder for sex scenes that never quite went all the way because the penile-possessing individuals kept mutilating the girls that made them horny. It's a miracle that Katie Holmes' late 90s version of slutdum made it all the way through the movie unscathed. Best thing about the movie? The Harvey Danger song "Flagpole Sitta" that played whenever Nick Stahl was running away from the mutant jocks. A total classic in every way.

4. Teaching Mrs. Tingle. (1999)

This is sadly the only movie besides The Queen that I can remember Helen Mirren being in. I am a waste. Also, I don't know if anyone else remembers this, but I feel like up until the release of this movie it was called KILLING Mrs. Tingle, and they decided to change it after Columbine or something. Not sure. It's completely conceivable that I invented that in my head one day. Anyway. Has Helen ever gotten a lifetime achievement award? If so, I hope they showed her being tied up by Barry Watson in the retrospective. It would be better than showing us those prosthetic calves she donned as Queen Elizabeth. Also, Mrs. Tingle was NOT an evil teacher in the grand scheme of things. You know who's an evil teacher? Mrs. Gorf from "Sideways Stories from Wayside School." That's right. She turned kids into apples. Mrs. Tingle's not looking so bad now.

There are undoubtedly more that I didn't discuss at length, and if their absence offends you, I apologize. This is the last image search result for "emma is a puggle":


At 4:14 PM, Blogger A Lover and a Fighter said...

I may have to adjust my netflix queueueueueueueueue to allow for all of your recommendations.

At 6:08 PM, Blogger e.e.grimshaw said...

you have netflix??? friend me! friend me!
i wouldn't actually add any of those to your queue - HOWEVER, i would recommend the australian nun mini series brides of christ with russell crowe and naomi watts.

At 8:08 PM, Blogger SocialTyrant said...

Love this post - Brings back so many memories! I had forgotton about Teaching Mrs Tingle (and you were spot on re: renaming due to Columbine).

I think I need to rush down to the video store and have a nostalgic afternoon!!


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