Sunday 3 April 2011

"I do have a blurred memory of sitting on the stairs and trying over and over again to tie one of my shoelaces, but that is all that comes back to me of school itself." ~ Roald Dahl

         So my school got over a few days ago and to commemorate this occasion, I have to- just have to make a Favourite High School Movies List. And that's because my very cloistered, nerdified, Indian-ish school experience would have been nothing without the expectations of teenage heartthrobs, bitches and everything else that films showed. But as Olive Penderghast said, "No, John Hughes did not direct my life." Still, let bygones be bygones I always say (no, not really). What's important is that it's over and now there's college life to look forward to...maybe I'll invent a social network, maybe I'll marry an Eduardo...we shall see. For now, here's the list (in alphabetical order).

1) 10 Things I Hate About You- I'm just going to put it out there- BEST SHAKESPEARE ADAPTATION EVER!! (Though I have to see the Elizabeth Taylor one still). Julia Stiles plays the uptight female chauvinist Kat whose younger sister Bianca has become the most sought-after girl in their high school. Two of the guys after her are poplar jerk Joey and the adorable newcomer Cameron, played by the oh-so-young-and-cute Joseph Gordon-Levitt. However Bianca cannot go out with either of them as her overprotective, paranoid gynaecologist of a father, played by the always hilarious Larry Miller has put a condition on her dating- she can only date when the non-conformist-extraordinaire Kat dates. Enters the insanely gorgeous bad boy Patrick, played by the blessed Heath Ledger who is paid by Joey and helped by Cameron and his friend Michael to seduce Kat into dating him and going to the prom with him. With many references to Taming of the Shrew, many memorable lines and an unforgettable musical number by  Ledger, 10 Things I Hate About You is easily one of the best high school films ever made.

2) Back to the Future- Stuff that legends are made off. Marty McFly's first adventure into the past and back again, where he has to avert his mother's, um...affection and get her to like his father so that he can happen, all with a little help from the one and only Doc. We love Robert Zemeckis, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd for this!!

3) The Breakfast Club- The battle of the cliques! Venue- Saturday detention. The hugely popular Brat pack classic with the criminal Judd Nelson, the athlete Emilio Estevez, the princess Molly Ringwald, the basket case Ally Sheedy and the brain Anthony Michael Hall and the one detention they spend together to realise that they aren't all that different from each other. "And these children that you spit on/ As they try to change their worlds/ Are immune to your consultations/ They're quite aware of what they're going through."

4) Bring It On- Cheerleaders have substance too...I think. Everyone knows the cheers, everyone knows the bitchiness, and ofcourse everyone knows the one and only Kirsten Dunst as Torrance. In my world the sequels do not exist. Trivia: It is called Cheers! in Japan (or so says Wikipedia).

5) Can't Hardly Wait- This is my list's version of American Graffiti ( I liked it but not all that much). The party on the last day of school when all loose ends are tied. It's sweet and funny and stars everyone from Jennifer Love-Hewitt to Seth Green to Breckin Meyer, the awesome lead singer whose clothes always remind me of Chris Martin's in Viva La Vida.

6) Carrie- The scariest entry in the list, and I think one of the best horror films of all time. The themes in this movie range from bullying to religious fanaticism, and gives us two incredibly unforgettable characters- the virginal and powerful Carrie White played by the beautiful Sissy Spacek and the scariest-mother-of-all Margaret White played by Piper Laurie. Also brownie points for the dance scene, which is according to me one of the best scenes in cinematic history.

7) Charlie Bartlett- This film is so cute and funny. I absolutley love Anton Yelchin as the precocious Charlie who goes to a public school headed by the fabulous Robert Downey (Jesus) Jr., after being kicked out of every private school and then starts counselling his peers. It also stars the lovely Kat Dennings as Charlie's love interest and Jesus' daughter and Hope Davis as Charlie's slightly insane but quite wonderful mother.

8) Clueless- I remember a few years ago how I had an argument with one of my best friends about this film. She had refused to watch it because it looked "too pink" and I tried to explain to her that it's just the appearance and that this is a highly entertaining and enjoyable film that stays with one long after having watched it. Today she agrees (and I repeatedly remind her how I was right). The modern adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Emma which stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher, the rich and popular girl in school who catches the match-maker bug after making two of her teachers to go out so that she can get better grades. She then tries to set the gullible "un-hip" newcomer Tai, played by the adorable Brittany Murphy with the snob Elton, who in fact has the hots for Cher and then the fashionista Christian, who turns out to be gay. Tai then falls for Cher's ex-step brother Josh, played by the loved-by-all-womankind Paul Rudd, which makes Cher introspect and realise who it is she really wants. It's really quite a magical spin on the classic novel and a film for the ages...or whatever.

9) Dead Poets Society- Some people can change lives and so it was with Robin Williams' character John Keating who inspires a group of young boys in a conservative to "Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary." Similarly some films can change lives too and this is one of them. The idea of romanticism and freedom and what school life should've been like (without Neil's death ofcourse...I'm still mourning him), becomes clear in this film. And it gives one of the most wonderful fictional teachers ever...I honestly cannot imagine my life without Keating. I would stand on a chair for him too.

10) Donnie Darko- While this is not so much about the high school experience as such, it is about some of the darker things we see in school life- censorship, overzealous teachers, and the definite definition of right and wrong. Add to that time travel, arson, paedophilia, mental disorders and one very stoned-looking yet scary and sweet Jake Gyllenhaal and obviously the scary bunny, we have a cult hit and a very cool film.

11) Drop Dead Gorgeous- Oh this film is epic!! The whole mock-umentary concept which satirizes a small town's fixation with a Sarah Rose Cosmetics Mount Rose American Teen Princess Pageant. I can't even begin to enumerate the absolutely mundane characters in the film- the picture perfect yet incredibly diabolical society mom Gladys Leeman played by Kirstie Ally, the rich popular high school girl with a thing for guns and winning Rebecca Leeman played by Denise Richards, the alcoholic yet loving mother of Amber- Annette played by Ellen Arkin, the sweet, talented and hardworking Amber played by Kirsten Dunst, the bimbo cheerleader-turned-stripper Leslie played by the then-newcomer Amy Adams along with characters like the ephebophile judge, the mentally deranged son of another judge and so on. This is, according to me, one of the best dark comedies out there along with one of the funniest attempts to understand the violently-pretty minds of women.

12) Easy A- I don't care what people say, I think this was one of the best and funniest films of last year. Emma Stone got a real devoted fan after this film. I love how this film simultaneously elevates and demeans the status of being a slutty or easy girl in high school, along with a hell lot of humour and wit and very quotable lines. Olive Penderghast became one of my favourite heroines after this, and really showed that nice girls can be smart and pretty and still have no life in high school, except that they don't necessarily finish last.

13) Election- Speaking of nice girls, Reese Witherspoon's character in Election, Tracy Flick was definitely not one. This film really got me confused because I found myself rooting for both her and Matthew Broderick's character Jim at different points in the film. As much as I hated Tracy, I did understand some of her motives though not really agree with the actions. Politics is a dangerous field, and school politics has its own twists and turns (or so they say- I for one am, or rather was, an oblivious fool when it came to school politics, and happily so).

14) Fast Times at Ridgemont High- Before Jeff Bridges, it was Jeff Spicoli who was the Dude. If I ever become a stoner, I would like to be just like him. One of the simplest and most blunt portrayal's of what school life is like- full of hormones and peers and very unique teacher. It's very funny and Sean Penn and Cameron Crowe emerge as the stars of the show.

15) Ferris Beuller's Day Off- "Beuller...Beuller...Beuller?" and he's off! This film shows that good kids need to fake out parents and take a day off now and then too. Ferris Beuller is a role model, and Cameron is such an adorable shmuck. From hilarious villains to jealous siblings, to incredible music numbers, this film is a teenage dream. God I love John Hughes.

16) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince- The director David Yates described this film as "Sex, Potions and Rock 'n' Roll". Voldie totally took a back seat in this film as the now sixteen year-olds (and stupid Ginny who's fifteen) truly have their hormones raging throughout. From Harry's new-found crush on Ginny to Won-Won and Lav-Lav and a very very jealous Hermione, the film shows the boy-wizard and his friends forgetting about the Dark Lord and completely entering the world of dating and what-not.

17) Heathers- "Bulimia is so '87" says Heather to Heather while the other Heather watches. Did that make sense? Anyways I think of this film as Mean Girls-meets-Fight Club, due to the fact that I watched both of them before I watched this Winona Ryder and Christian Slater-starrer. If  I had watched Heathers before, I might, just might, have been less impressed with them. The entire concept makes so much sense...especially coming from a country where a lot of suicides or suicide attempts take place because of school. However it's also dangerously witty and the leads are absolutely gorgeous. Never before has a scrunchie been in so much power.

18) Juno- Ebert had named it his number one film of 2007 as it was his "true love". I remember that when I turned 17, my very first remark was "Now I'll never get to be Juno." What is about this pregnant loud-mouthed teenage girl that makes us go bonkers? I'll tell you- it's Diablo Cody's Oscar-winning script, Jason Reitman's Oscar-worthy direction (bite me Coen Brothers), Ellen Page's incredible transformation and acting, and a very adorable Michael Cera as Paulie Bleeker. This film is warm and funny and has fantastic music and a very cute love story. It's amongst my true loves also (I possibly cannot have one).

19) Mean Girls- This film was there in my Films that Made Me list. It literally changes people. I became so much smarter after this film. The references to this film are legendary- from Harry Potter to The Social Network to me explaining USA Politics, everything has had Mean Girls in it. I have dreamt of being a part of the plastics; I want to be all of them- the queen bitch, the gossip-monger, the dumb blonde and the ignorant traitor who is friends with the best people you would ever meet. Unfortunately life's nothing like the movies...I would prefer it to be all plastic. And God bless Tina Fey!

20) Never Been Kissed- It's only because I am so glad that school is FINALLY over, that is stopping me to wishing to become Drew Barrymore's character Josie Geller. But then again Michael Vartan is one hot teacher. However of course one wants to do over all the "wrongs" and idiocy that they did while in school- I do wish I cared about being more social, and dropped Commerce...but that's a whole another thing. Josie is a newspaper reporter who gets to go undercover in a high school almost a decade after graduating it and see what the kids "today" do. Much to her misfortune, she realises that they are all much too the same. Then she gets popular and falls for the smoking English teacher Sam Coulson. And she's never properly been kissed... I love the article she writes at the end and well, the ending. Also let me stress once more that Michael Vartan is a beautiful, beautiful man.

21) Pretty in  Pink- How could you do this, Molly Ringwald?? Duckie was perfect. Jon Cryer plays one of the best John Hughes character as love-lorn and a bit mad Duckie Dale, who is in love with the beautiful and sort of a proletariat elitist, if that makes any sense. That is why she is apprehensive about dating the rich (and dumb) Blane. I just realised that John Hughes is probably the only filmmaker in whose films the girl doesn't end up with the cute weirdo...I both applaud and condemn him for it. I mean seriously, how splendid were Duckie, Brian the Brain, Cameron and The Geek? And they never got THE girls. I still really enjoyed Pretty in Pink though.

22) Princess Diaries- "Shut up!" This film brings together the old and new in such a wonderful way- Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway in one film, I mean come on! The ugly-duckling-to-beautiful-swan story of today, Garry Marshall made this hilarious and better-than-the-book adaptation of the very popular Meg Cabot book series. This film made me go on a never-ending wish frenzy in which I kept on hoping that I had some secret queen grandmother who could transform me into a princess too. And I really love Heather Matarazzo.

23) Rushmore- It's a Wes Anderson film starring Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Olivia Williams. I really do not need to say more. This is my favourite Wes Anderson film, and not The Royal Tenenbaums which is actually in the fourth place. I understand Max Fischer... and wish that I could be more like him. The whole battle for the very beautiful Ms. Cross' attention between Fischer and Herman Blume is the highlight of the film for me, though it is always hard to pinpoint why exactly one loves a Wes Anderson film. And how I worship the ground Bill Murray walks upon!

24) Say Anything- It's a John Cusack film...ofcourse it's brilliant. His character in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything has been raising expectations and breaking hearts since '89. True Story. Every girl secretly wants a Llyod Dobler to stand under their windows in the rain with a boom box. If they say it isn't so, they are lying. This film is so romantic and sweet that it kills me. And Ione Skye is the most perfect match for the very very very perfect, too-perfect-to-make-sense John Cusack.

25) She's The Man- Another great Shakespeare adaptation. I was a huge fan of Amanda Bynes as a kid, and I really think she makes a very cute boy. This is also the only film in which I find Channing Tatum remotely likeable. It's a very laughable tale in which Viola wants to become a big football (and not soccer) player and is not given a chance to do so in her own school Cornwall, and thus decides to join the rival school Illyria disguised as her brother Sebastian and make their football team. Her roommate is the very hot but girl-shy Duke who has a crush on the prettiest girl in school Olivia. Olivia in turn likes Viola dressed as Sebastian, and Viola likes Duke. There are also the exes- Monique and Justin. Slightly complicated but highly entertaining.

26) Slap Her She's French- Its tagline is "Bonjour Y'all". Funny. Jane McGregor stars as the popular, bitchy and very Texan Starla who decides to host a French foreign exchange student Genevieve, played by Piper Parabo. Little does she know that her world is going to turn upside-down. It is quite a funny film which pokes fun at everything from small-town ideals to beauty pageants to French tests. I especially love how everyone says "Ouie" as "Why".

27) Superbad- "My name is McLovin"- I dream of meeting someone named McLovin. Superbad is one crazy-ass funny film. Some of my female friends are appalled by my undying love for this extremely male-oriented film, but meh...who cares? Beneath all the cursing and wanting-to-get-laid and booze etcetera, there is a deeper story. Seth and Evan are leaving school and possibly their very long friendship behind, and all they want is one night of insanity and partying. This film marked the debut of a few of my favourite young actors- Emma Stone, Michael Cera and Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse.

 28) The Virgin Suicides- I still can't decide whether this was a dark film or not. It is certainly a very resplendent looking one, due to the genius of Sofia Coppola. It satirizes the upper middle-class ideals. The Lisbon sisters, the most prominent one being Lux played by the enticing Kirsten Dunst, had all committed suicide, and this has baffled the many boys in their neighbourhood for years. They all look back at it, trying to find an explanation, but as always get mesmerised in the beauty and mystery of the sisters. From the various episodes in their lives- my personal favourite being that of the short-lived but very passionate affair between Lux and school hottie Trip Fontaine, played by the once brilliant Josh Hartnett- they recreate the memories of the sisters in their head, but fail as usual, and fall in love with them all over again. One of the best directorial debuts, Sofia Coppola creates absolute magic with this film. Add to that the music- both the atmospheric Air score and the enchanting Heart songs, this one like the Lisbon sisters is hard to forget.

      Since I am talking about stuff that influenced my high-school experience, I must talk about Gilmore Girls. I would not have grown up this way if it hadn't been for Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, and the town of Stars Hollow and Emily and Richard and Rory's Yale, and the many men in the lives of the Gilmore girls. I have always said so, and maintain the belief that this was one of the best television series ever. From the lovely feel of small-town America to genius humour and so many cultural references that your head starts spinning, these series are absolute classic. I relate a whole deal with both of the Gilmore girls- Lorelai because I can't stand my parents either and can be overly dramatic and imaginative, and Rory because I am a nerd too. Of all the people in this list of mine, the person I want to be the most is Rory. I have envied Rory Gilmore since sixth grade- she's pretty, prodigiously smart, reads ever book, watches every film, listens to everything, and gets the best guys. And who was the best of the best? Jess Mariano- I'll never ever ever ever get over Jess. The world of the Gilmore girls is where I want to exist- no one's a philistine there- heck I don't think they've even heard of the word. I love everyone in the show- the Gilmores, Patty, Lane, Babette, Sookie, Jackson, Luke, Christopher, Kirk, Mrs. Kim, Michel, Logan, Paris, Taylor...everyone! Except Dean- he was a pea brained hick. And I love Amy-Sherman Palladino, the creator, best of all!!

Hope you had fun...I sure did. This is for all my friends who made high school possible!


  1. Great list! I probably would have had American Graffiti there, but that's just me. I love all the John Hughes love (he, like, defined high school angst after all...) It's funny how much none of us really want to relive high school yet we still love to watch it relive itself on the screen.
    I'm glad I found your blog on the Lamb! Keep up the good work. :)

  2. Nice list.

    Here's a vote for "Peggy Sue Got Married" and "17 Again." Maybe because I'm a parent and these two are about parents who get to go back to high school. And come to think of it, what was that one with Drew Barrymore going back to high school, pretending to be a teenager... "Never Been Kissed."

  3. Quite an interesting, diverse, and complete list! I love the selection of Back to the Future - it's one that I would have never really placed as a quote-unquote high school movie, what with all of the other stuff going on, but there's a lot to it in that regard, and hell, all of the main characters outside of Doc Brown are high school-aged in 1955.

    You've covered just about all of my favorites - Ferris, Clueless, Election, Rushmore, Dead Poets, Fast Times - but there is one key film missing: Dazed and Confused! In many ways, it's my favorite of them all (though it'd be hard as hell to pick!).

  4. Thank you all...
    Lauren- I liked American Graffiti, but it somehow did not mean so much to me.

    joem18b- I haven't been able to see Peggy Sue Got Married. I liked 17 Again, but I really dislike Zac Efron. I think Never Been Kissed is a really fun film...sorta gives me hope.

    Fletch- I have not seen Dazed and Confused's ending! I always seem to miss it. Same for Napolean Dynamite. Those two were like my "snubbings", but couldn't help it. Back to the Future is such a high school film...I literally wanted to time travel throughout school because of it.