Film Club: Schooling Up

Andrew, Danny, Michael and Sarah hit the piccies for quality nostalgic  flicks. Artwork by Jess.

Passport Photo 1

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

“Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Where in the name of fudge is this Bueller kid? Does anybody know? Why is he not here? Is he mentally challenged? Does he not understand that his constant absence is going to be detrimental to his future!? Damn”!

The desperate words above were no doubt spoken by the boring, monotone teacher who had to endure Bueller’s antics and absences. The poor guy was clearly working for very little pay, was stressed beyond belief and may very well have turned to the bottle in order to calm his jangled nerves. His monotone voice was probably a result of a five-day vodka binge. Why this guy is portrayed as the boring sub-villain is beyond me.

I know that most people think that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is no more than a harmless, frolicking adventure story of a feckless young man and his buddies. I don’t see the film that way, at all!

Case in point (research pending on this paragraph, so take it with a grain of salt) – the film is shown to all the overzealous potential teachers studying at universities all over the world. A certain number of young students who are exposed to the film literally sob and leave the room, never to return to the fine profession of teaching. Some have theorized that the film is actually a masterpiece of Soviet propaganda devised in order to stop as many Americans as possible from becoming teachers – thereby dumbing down the general population of the United States and therefore giving the Soviets a much, much easier shot at taking over the joint!

When you analyse the film in finer detail, you’ll notice the psychopathic glint in Bueller’s eyes whenever a mischievous idea pops into his mind. I think it’s quite fair to say that the only reason they didn’t make a sequel to this immensely popular film is because Bueller, a few years down the track, ends up in an insane asylum, carving little dick-and-balls into his forehead with a sharpened toothbrush.

All in all, a truly terrifying movie that makes The Exorcist look like The Teletubbies movie if you’re an aspiring teacher or principal. A horrifying insight into the mind of the “harmless” school vagrant is what this film is. I don’t mind violence or sex or bad language in movies, but JUVENILE DELINQUENCY? No, no, no, sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand – that’s only if Bueller doesn’t waltz along and kick your line in the sand out and then run off giggling into the bushes like a cheeky, demonic leprechaun.

If you do watch this film, there’s nothing I can do to help you. You’ve taken the chance and you’re in for a wild ride. You’re probably better off just smoking some DMT; it’ll be healthier for your immediate state of mind than Bueller’s assault on your common human decency. – Andrew

Back to School (1986)

In Caddyshack (1980), Rodney Dangerfield plays a self-made millionaire. In Easy Money (1983), Rodney Dangerfield becomes a self-made millionaire. In today’s subject of analysis, Back to School (1986), Rodney Dangerfield becomes an educated, self-made millionaire. It’s safe to say that this is the most complete of the Dangerfield trilogy (at least until 1991’s Rover Dangerfield, in which he plays an animated dog).

First of all, yes, I’m aware the movie is called ‘Back to School’ while our theme is ‘School’s Out’, but hear me out. School is out for Rodney Dangerfield at the start of the film, but then he goes back to school, and given the formula of this kind of film, it’s likely school will be out by the time the credits roll unless he flunks out or ends up as the principal because he’s such an outrageous force of comedic nature the likes of which the uptight board of education has never before experienced.

The premise: Rodney Dangerfield plays Thornton Melon, a self-made millionaire who finds the only thing he can’t buy is his son’s love. Aww. So he enrols in his son’s college in order to spend some quality father-son bonding time instead of letting his son get an education. Along the way Dangerfield will use his obscene wealth to grease the wheels of the college, but in the end, good old fashioned hard work will see both he and his son achieving their goals (most of which involve getting laid and having fun).

Dangerfield’s films share the underlying theme of his stand-up comedy act: that he gets no respect. In the movies, Dangerfield’s message to viewers is that respect must be earned even if you’re rich beyond belief, as his characters usually are. In Caddyshack, he earned that respect by shaking up a stuffy establishment, while in Easy Money, respect came in the form of self-improvement. Here, Dangerfield’s quest for respect is only at an end once he gains that college degree.

But it works as a metaphor for any level of education. Once school is out, respect will follow. Every time Dangerfield throws a party or makes a wisecrack (and that’s once every 1.5 seconds if I timed it right), it’s in service of his message to stay in school. No matter what your situation (you’re too rich, you’re too dumb, you’re too smart), going the distance and achieving that goal will at the very least earn you some modicum of respect, which Dangerfield prizes above all else. It’s telling that of all Dangerfield’s films, this is the one that ends with Aretha Franklin belting out ‘Respect’ (a perfect prompt to turn the movie off/leave the cinema).

To that end, the film offers you two ways to watch. You can either sit back, enjoy the jokes (which are admittedly quite funny), and have fun, or you can look for the deeper meaning and apply the film’s themes to your own life, but either way, going the distance will reward you with the same message. For an 80s comedy, that’s a surprising amount of depth. It’s a film that respects its audience no matter who they are, and coming from Rodney Dangerfield, we should expect no less. – Michael

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)

I will never go to a high school reunion. Zuckerberg’s got me covered for that. However, I can and will live out how it would go down through these rad girls, Romy and Michele. They’ve been best friends since school, they have sick moves, they wear more PVC than the Spice Girls. They’re basically walking prototypes of life goals for me and whoever I’m bunking with in 10 years time. When Romes and Michelle are invited back to a 10-year high school reunion, they decide to show up their old classmates by pretending to be super successful businesswomen, who specialise in “business”. I’m not sure if I am equipped to describe how perfect this film is. With its always powerful Hollywood Life Lesson #5, be true to yourself and you’ll have a bitchin’ time; this is a film that is for everyone, whether you’re a fully grown man, or a teen girl powering through her own high school hell. If not for this, at least watch Romy and Michele for its amazing one-liners (“This dress exacerbates the genetic betrayal that is my legacy”) and the final dance sequence feat. Alan Cumming. – Sarah

High School Musical II (2007)

Because it’s the best one. Because whoever choreographed Zac Efron’s angry dance on the gold course deserves an Oscar. Because at one point, Ryan plays on a hot pink piano which is partially immersed underwater in a pool. Because Corbin Bleu DOES dance. Because if you’re not a HSM fan, you’re lying to yourself. And until you finally admit the truth, you can actually get out. – Sarah

Spring Breakers (2012)

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and his 2009 outing Trash Humpers are essentially the same film.

For me as a viewer, Spring Breakers amounted to a one and a half hour anxiety attack in a string bikini. The quartet of breakers seem to have been scripted to give me the worst kind of grief – almost every word comes from a position of want. We meet Brit, Candy, Cotty, and Faith on campus, where they want to escape to adventure and relaxation (in conversation over the weed and rack they already have access to). After ripping off a restaurant patronized entirely by racial minorities, they get beach-side, where almost immediately the wanting continues unabated: I never want this to end, Why can’t I have what I want? I want to be here forever!

After the four girls are incarcerated in a county lock-up, Faith’s monologue shifts gear, but only slightly: I don’t want this to end! This can’t be the end! (Of course the story can’t end here, Harmony, it’s only been thirty minutes). Once this want has been fulfilled by Franco’s Alien, Faith wants something else – I want to go home! I want things to go back to the way they were!

By virtue of contrast, Trash Humpers features a variety of depraved lunatics that have the good graces to go after what they want directly – to describe the plot with any more detail than this would be a waste of everyone’s time. If you haven’t seen one, or either of these films take it on faith that the storylines are driven by the same constant craving – throw in for good measure the strippers and alcohol that both films share, and the dehumanizing effect of the S.B.’s balaclavas and the T.H.’s skin masks and the similarities are too strong to ignore. The Humpers’ gutteral, pre-lingual grunts and Alien’s groan of “spraang breaak, spraang breaak” denote the same unrelenting hunger, a refusal to take in the beautiful or depraved moment in order to focus on the short term future. – Danny


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