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The Bottom Shelf #105


AZ's note: This was written more than a week before the events at V-Tech. No offense is intended and hopefully none will be taken.

I've discovered something. Teenagers are some bad mamba-jambas. If you're looking for trouble, there's no better place to find it than at your local high school. Be afraid, be very afraid. They have acne, they have self-esteem issues, they're ready to do some damage.

CLASS OF 1984 (1982)
Directed by: Mark L. Lester
Starring: Perry King, Roddy McDowall

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If there ever was a case for self-fulfilling prophecies, this seems to be the record setting case. True, this movie is rife with melodrama and plays out in the most painfully ridiculous ways, but let's think about how watching CLASS OF 1984 in the year 2007 is both a joke and a sad reminder that things just are no longer what they once were. Hell, back in 1982 when this movie was first released, people couldn't imagine schools having metal detectors at the front entrances. It seemed like an extreme move only employed in the most degenerate of areas. Now it's commonplace in Middle America. If people thought things were bad then, pumped full of a fear of the youth with films like this one, reality turned into something that they never could have dreamed of.

An idealistic new music teacher from Nebraska is transplanted into an urban high school. That school is menacingly run by a gang of punks, lead by the only street urchin who could have rivaled James Spader for his role in PRETTY IN PINK, the frightening Timothy Van Patten (A man so scary he went on to direct episodes of "Sex in the City" later on in his career). Drugs, prostitution rings, punk rock music and a girl in the gang who clearly was the inspiration for the majority of Gwen Stefani's wardrobe choices throughout the mid '90's. Top that off with a very young Michael J. Fox as one of the members of the terrorized student body (I blame my "Family Ties" obsession with watching this movie in my youth) and add in a theme song that sounds more like Night Ranger than the Alice Cooper that it really is and you've got yourself a film that is chock full of implausible scenes of blood and carnage.

The only reason why I haven't dismissed this movie along with every After School Special and 21 Jump Street episode that I've ever seen is the magical theme of irony. When this movie was made, teenagers were really considered to be a huge threat. Of course, not wanting to show what eventually became known as racial profiling, all of the criminals were white kids who dressed like, well... what most of the kids emerging from Hot Topic look like. After seeing the very real events of Colombine and the other numerous incidents of school shootings and various sex related crimes, this movie even with all of its horrendous melodrama ended up being one of the most telling things that our society could produce. If you really think kids are all that bad... they'll grow up to prove you right. And then some.

Favorite Scene:

Roddy McDowall teaching his class with his student aid, the handgun.

Favorite Line:

"What's the matter with you? What's the matter with me? What's the matter with matter?"

Trivia Tidbit:

The band playing in the club scene is the Canadian punk group Teenage Head and the song they're performing is, "Ain't Got No Sense."

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WICKED (1998)
Directed by: Michael Steinberg
Starring: Julia Stiles, William R. Moses

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For reasons unclear to me, people have been claiming that I look like Julia Stiles for some time now. I wish I could say that I held their opinion, but I don't see anything beyond a love of Shakespeare and a full set of lips. After watching this movie I saw some more of my former adolescent self in the devilishly bad character that she plays, this being the first movie that she completed. I could only daydream of pulling off some of the things that she gets away with here, but I also have very vivid daydreams.

A 14 year old girl hating her mother isn't all that new to the cinematic experience. A 14 year old girl who shows favor to her father beyond what the Disney Channel would be willing to show, stalks her mother, plots to run away with the adult next door neighbor that her mother had been having an affair with and shares a strange bond with her little sister is a bit different. All of these things happen, wrapped up along with a father who marries the maid soon after the mother is murdered and a police detective who seems like a noir transplant infused with the feel of a Twilight Zone persona.

This movie was never meant to be taken seriously. It does tread those steps, looking and feeling somewhat like the FEARs and POISON IVYs of the past. But there are elements planted throughout the film to point out that this is a joke that you need to be smart in order to get in on. It's also a good display of the acting talent that Stiles has, being that much of what she is restricted to doing involves subtle eye movements and gestures. I like to twist the old saying and refer to movies like this one as being "The devil made me watch it," flicks. A guilty pleasure that delivers on the guilty.

Favorite Scene:

The symbolism between the comedy and tragedy masks, while not a scene in particular, is my favorite part of the whole movie.

Favorite Line:

"So you do think it was him?"
"Him... or somebody else."

Trivia Tidbit:

Writer Eric Weiss is also responsible for the quirky films BUFFALO SOLDIERS and BONGWATER.

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And here I thought the worst thing about my years as a teenager was dating long haired musicians who wrote scathing song lyrics about me after we'd broken up. I never knew I'd have to have actual skeletons in my closet in order to have lived a full adolescent life. I feel so robbed....



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12:05AM on 04/26/2007
"Him...Or somebody else?" That has to be one of the funniest quotes I've come across EVER.
"Him...Or somebody else?" That has to be one of the funniest quotes I've come across EVER.
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