high school movies

I really love movies about high school, and this enduring genre has spawned some really good movies, but also some really bad ones.

Recently, I watched two high school movies that for some reason I had blurred in my mind. One was fast times at ridgemont high and the other was dazed and confused.

Originally, I was going to write a comparison between these two same-type movies, but after watching further, I realized that such a comparison would be like holding final fantasy X on equal footing with VII (see this post).

Nonetheless, I’ll do a little comparing. Fast times is from the 80’s and details a young girl’s attempt to get laid. All the characters are a little too cheery and inauthentic and the plot is a random series of short interactions between various characters. These kids are just too innocent and it really clashes with the supposedly risque sex quest that the lead character is on. Also, the movie just isn’t funny. The “mean teacher” archetype doesn’t really have any distinguishing characteristics, and the “stoner” kid, played by Sean Penn, isn’t really funny either. He just talks like he’s stoned, which he is. Again, in keeping with the strange innocence of the movie, the references to drugs are oblique and you never see him smoking I don’t think.

Dazed and confused on the other hand is certainly a master work, and after looking it up on wikipedia, I should have known that it would be in a different league than fast times.

First, the soundtrack is awesome — as many have pointed out before — but the real genius is the way that music is blended with the American fascination with the automobile. Because the characters are almost always in the car, they listen to the soundtrack too because its blaring from their 70’s muscle cars.

Also, these kids are real. They smoke up (all the time), get in fights, vandalize things, and try to get laid. The violent maturity of the world constructed by dazed and confused is wonderfully driven home by one of the very first scenes in the movie, in which a boy is making what looks like a massive wooden paddle in shop class. These paddles are then used by the seniors throughout the movie as a symbol of the hierarchical order they control. Also, their are names written on the paddles used by the different boys including “soul police” and my favorite “fuh q.” This is high school, and has all the power and importance that high-schoolers believe it to have when they’re walking the halls, watching out for the assholes and trying to make eye contact with the cute girls.

Finally, the endless driving around in this movie reminds a lot of my life in Texas. People kind of circle the same areas all night in their cars looking for something to do or someone to meet. This is not surprising given that the director, Richard Linklater, was from Texas.

O yea, and this movie has “tuesday’s gone with the wind” in it. Great.


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