When Drew asked me if I wanted to take part in this article discussing the above three movies, I jumped at the opportunity. I mean, why wouldn’t I? I’m obsessed with teen Movies. Pretty much all of them. Even the awful ones get me. I don’t know why. But fuck. They do. When the crazy dance showcase is about to start at the end of STEP UP and Tyler shows up to dance with Nora just in the nick of time... I can’t help but get into it. I know, I know. It’s a sickness. But when there’s a good teen movie, I don’t have to feel ashamed of my love. In fact, I can scream it loud and proud. Which I rarely get to do. That’s because good teen movies, the ones that transcend, are few and far between. But when they hit, the effects are timeless. The maestro of the teen genre is widely considered to be John Hughes. His films have (for the most part) stood the test of time. And there’s a reason for that. He was tapping into a particular honesty. One that was unflinching, let you laugh at yourself, but most importantly was heartfelt in the best of ways. Since Hughes, there have been many many teen movies. Most of them (though near and dear to my heart) are considered bad, but within any genre, there’s always a few good shining examples in each decade. Examples that, as more time passes, are the ones people reference. Off the top of my head there’s CLUELESS, ANGUS, MEAN GIRLS, SHE'S ALL THAT (I know what you’re thinking, but lots of people love this movie), TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, AMERICAN PIE and maybe a few others. But two years before John Hughes began defining the teen landscape with SIXTEEN CANDLES, there were these three films from 1982. Three films that are, in their own way, just as influential. What you’ll find in each is a definitive sense of time and place, real characters, and most importantly... honesty. FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH Out of the three films, this is the one I’m most obsessed with. Not just because of the movie itself, but because I am a ridiculously huge Cameron Crowe fan. This was the start of Mr. Crowe’s movie career, and like everything Crowe, it comes with a rich backstory. For those that don’t know, FAST TIMES originally started as a non-fiction book Crowe was hired to write. To do it, he decided to go undercover in a high school to find his story. For a year, he lived and breathed the high school world and befriended many of the people who eventually would become his characters. The book was published and genius was born. The plot of FAST TIMES follows a large group of students as they maneuver through one year of high school. It was adapted for the screen by Crowe and directed by Amy Heckerling, who would later direct another decade-defining teen movie in CLUELESS. First things first, I’m 27, so I unfortunately did not get to see it in theaters on its initial release. That said, I remember vividly the first time I did. It's just one of those memories. I was 10 years old and baby-sitting on a Saturday night. The kid was sleeping so I was watching TV in the living room of whoever’s house it was. FAST TIMES was playing on TBS (or something similar) and I wasn’t quite sure what I was watching. I had already seen a ton of teen movies by then... and knew this was one, too... but it felt different somehow. Yeah, it was funny. Yeah, it dealt with sex. Just not at all in the way I’d been used to seeing in the genre. The characters didn’t feel like characters, they felt like people. The sex in it (what wasn’t cut out for TV) was awkward, not romantic, harsh and over quick. Sure, the first time I saw it I didn’t grasp or get everything in the movie. But it stuck with me. Which is what is important. I rewatched it on video a lot as I grew up. And each time I did, something new hit home. Everything about this movie is in the details. It is observational, honest and pretty much everything feels authentic. Simply put, it knows what it feels like to be a teenager. Sure, as the years have gone by things can be considered dated, but because of the honesty of its themes, it will never lose its edge or be relegated to guilty pleasure status. And for those who haven’t read the book, definitely do if you can find it. It’s out of print, but well worth the read. Crowe stuck pretty close to the core of it when adapting the movie, but it’s great to get even more of these characters, which you definitely do in the book. Not to mention a great ending that takes place at Disneyland. Trailer:Thanks, Jeff. This isn’t the last word we’ll have on Bob Clark here on AICN. There’s a very special article about his life and work that I’m hoping to publish very soon. When Jeff calls it the STAR WARS of teen sex comedies, he’s not kidding. It’s still the second-highest-grossing Canadian film of all time, and what amazes me most in looking back at it is just how sweet-natured the film is. It’s raunchy, but there’s not a mean bone in its body. And he’s right about just what a kick in the balls THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN is. That was a cable discovery for me. It was showing one night as a double-feature with HOT DOG: THE MOVIE, and I stayed over at a buddy’s house so we could see both of them. HOT DOG was exactly what we thought it would be... a snobs-vs-slobs comedy with several excuses for Shannon Tweed to drop her kit... but THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN turned out to be a massive bummer, and it really stuck with me. It’s sort of the bridge between FAST TIMES and PORKY’S, and it’s got ideas in common with both of them. We’ll have more of these coming up soon, including my first contribution to the series where I’ll be writing about the single greatest weekend of the summer. In the meantime, you can catch up with the earlier articles in this series here: Nordling Remembers E.T.! Harry Remembers TRON! Obi-Swan Remembers CREEPSHOW! Capone Remembers POLTERGEIST!
LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN I saw LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN for the first time when I was 13. I always passed by it in the video store because it had a lame cover and there was always something I felt was more important to rent. I eventually broke down and rented it because I was on a mission to see everything at this particular store. To this day, it’s still a painful watch. This movie, out of the three, is the one that has aged the worst. It’s goofy, over the top in the best of ways, and sports some pretty ridiculous outfits. That said, it’s probably one of, if not *the*, most honest teen films ever made. While FAST TIMES is honest too, it also had affection for its characters. It had heart. This has heart, too, but the broken kind. The kind that’s not optimistic and the kind that everyone has probably experienced at least once... yet rarely seen on screen. The plot is basically three friends who are obsessed with getting laid. Gary, the lead, becomes infatuated with Karen, the new girl at school (played by Diane Franklin, Cusack’s love interest from BETTER OFF DEAD). Only problem, his best friend Rick also digs her, and more importantly, has the balls to ask her out. Which means Gary is left lurching in the shadows as Rick dates the girl of his dreams. I know, not terribly original. But it’s how writer/director Boaz Davdison deals with it that makes it effective. Basically, we all know that in teen movies, or romantic movies in general, the girl/guy always comes to their senses and chooses the right person. Which doesn’t always happen in real life. Especially during your high school years. You pine over someone, make your move, and sometimes you get accepted, other times you get rejected. It’s the rejection that sticks with you. Helps you mature, teaches you life lessons, prepares you for adulthood. Well, for those who dig rejection, this movie is for you. Gary stumbles through it pining over Karen. Soon Rick sleeps with her and gets her pregnant. Gary, being a nice guy, takes it upon himself to forgo the school ski trip to help her. He pays for the abortion by pawning his stuff and then takes care of her as she heals. As he does, it couldn’t be going better for Gary in his mind. They’re finally forming a real connection and he’s even helping her plan her birthday party. It’s at this party he’s decided to finally tell her how he feels. He even buys her an engraved piece of jewelry to go along with the eventual confession. We’re hyped. Psyched that he’s finally going to get the girl. He drives to the party. Confident. Happy. Goes into her kitchen... ... and finds Karen making out with Rick. Even though he got her pregnant and bailed, she’s forgiven him. And when she notices Gary has walked in on them, she acts knowingly oblivious to his affections. Right then it’s clear to him. She just doesn’t love him. It’s just how it goes. You can’t force someone to love you. He's not going to win. So Gary gets in his car and drives away. The movie ends with a close up of him driving and crying. Not only that, it freezes on this particular image and lets the credits roll over it. Say what you will about the preceding 90 minutes, that ending is a truly honest moment. One that’s rare in American movies, even rarer in teen movies. PRETTY IN PINK somewhat dealt with this same theme years later, with poor Duckie getting shafted, but it was different, not only because Duckie wasn’t the lead, but also because his friendship with Andie was a life long one... and Blaine, who Andie ended up with, wasn’t a total idiot. Most importantly, it looked like Duckie was going to hook up with Kristy Swanson. So it gave you heart ache, but then quickly brushed it aside. Not here. Here you get to revel in it as those credits roll. As I said, this movie isn’t perfect. The humor is the typical gross out sex humor, but the moments that are real, are terribly real. Watch it and see. Thankfully, MGM saved this movie from VHS/Ebay obscurity and re-released it on DVD a few years back. Trailer: Interesting to note how the trailer sells none of the story. It's all sex. Which brings us to... PORKY’S This is a movie that was beaten to death by its sequels. But almost miraculously, it’s because of that, because of the hollowing of the franchise, that you can look back and really see what made this movie work. PORKYS, much like AMERICAN GRAFFITI, was a period movie. But even though it was period, it struck a nerve in its audience. Not just because it was funny, or because of its trailblazing nudity (which I’ll get to), but because it was honest. Written and directed by Bob Clark, PORKY’S revolves around teens attempting to get laid at the legendary whorehouse PORKY’S, and becoming embittered in a feud with the owner and his sheriff brother. Along the way, sexual and comedic hijinx take place. Hijinx that we hadn’t seen on screen before. Lots of nudity. Lots of uncompromising situations. And umm lots of nudity. So much that it birthed an extension of the teen genre... the teen sex comedy. That’s right, in my opinion, the teen sex comedy started right here. PORKY’S was kind of like STAR WARS in that way. Obviously, it wasn’t a technical breakthrough or worldwide wonder, but the nudity and jokes in it were just as influential. After this movie *everyone* thought they could make a sex comedy. And everyone did. And it was done wrong many a time over the years. In fact, I think LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN was made quickly for this exact reason. Thankfully there, they tried something different. Most others didn’t. Over the years there were many variations of the teen sex comedy (including the sequels). Some like REVENGE OF THE NERDS worked, others didn’t. But the reason most didn’t work is they forgot (or didn’t know) what made PORKY’S *work*. Sure, the nudity was a bonus... the talking point... but if it was all about that, then all these rip-offs would have been just as good. In my opinion, what made PORKY’S work was the feeling of true friendship amongst the teens. It was over the top, but it felt real. Further more, it effectively captured a specific time and a place. Bob Clark pulled this off equally well with A CHRISTMAS STORY. Both of those movies, you really felt like you were there. Looking back on a time long since relegated to memory. To me, the whole movie feels like the idealized moments you have of high school. The ones you look back on that make you say, “High School was awesome”. It’s like a greatest hits collection. It has some of the highs, some of the lows, but no matter what, made sure to tap into the memories in the best of ways... while still managing to tap into it honestly. Not only with the sex, but the struggles of friendship, growing up, and also the racial/bigotry that still takes place. Again, if you doubt this movies influence, look back at what came out after. It’s crazy. The teen sex comedy eventually ran its course because studios wanted to make more money with PG-13 films... but it eventually made a worthy comeback with AMERICAN PIE. Trailer: not on YouTube. The teen movie genre isn’t always perfect. In fact, it’s mostly about niche marketing for maximum dollar. These movies make money because that audience wants something to see, something that speaks to them, and while they may *like* the movies, they rarely *stick* with them. They’re forgotten the next week. That can be attributed to many reasons, but the main one being, in my opinion, is that these movies are sugarcoated... suffocated... not honest... and in the end reflect a glossy shell of what they’re going through. But these three movies from 1982, combined with those of Hughes and a few others, stand tall as a pinnacle, not only as what a teen movie can do... but also for anyone who ever wants to remember what high school was like.