Back where I grew up, school started on the same day for everyone everywhere: September 1st. No exceptions. So, despite a decade in the US, in my mind, today is the day you go, find out whether you got the mean Geography teacher or the nice French one, the day you discover how many inches you grew taller than your crush, and break out a brand new set of notebooks (of the old fashioned, not macbook variety). On that occasion, we’re throwing a big back-to-school, end of summer pool party this Saturday, and I have an excuse to do another movie marathon post (hey, no one outranks me on this block).
Now, what I figured we’d do here is walk you through some of my favorites for each stage of a human being’s educational process. Obviously, some stages (ahem, high school) are more fruitful ground for cinematic exploits, but still, with a little research (and a little help of one’s facebook friends) there is definitely something for your every mood.
And as always-PLEASE POST YOUR OWN FAVORITES IN THE COMMENTS
- Kindergarten Cop
here, because lets face it, it is THE ONLY kindergarten movie we can ever think of. Arnold is in full undercover cop/ manny mode as John Kimble (accent, never explained) Penelope Ann Miller does her best to fake some genuine chemistry with him, and the kids are adorable enough. Plus, no matter what, it’s still (WAY) better than “Jingle all the way”
- Son of Rambow
Because lets face it-this scrawny kid who decides to recreate all the Rambo movies in his spare time is bound to become the coolest kid we’ve ever known, and the unlikely friendship between him and Lee Carter is exactly what our elementary school interpersonal relationships are like: inexplicable and good for life.
- young Alvy scenes in Annie Hall
Kudos to Alyssa Lesser for pointing this one out, it may have slipped under my radar, but it is a perfect nugget of humor and soon-to-be-lost innocence
You know how when you were a kid you thought you were smarter than everyone else and that the stupid adults around you were ruining your life? Well, in Matilda’s case, that was actually true. Roald Dahl wrote some great, young characters, and Mara Wilson does a swell job of bringing the wise beyond her years Matilda to life (Danny de Vito and Rhea Perlman have a ball as the parents from hell too)
- Lady in White
Kids like being scared, and the way you’re scared at 10 is very different from the way you’re scared at 15. Plus, it stars a very young Lukas Haas, which is always a bonus for people of my generation. Out of all the movies on this list, this is the one I wish was on instant netflix the most.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM9pIeZSy5Q
- About a Boy
Nicholas Hoult (who would grow up to be the rakish lead in British “SKINS” and an object of Colin Firth’s desire in “A Single Man”) is perfectly cast as the titular “boy”, the ultimate awkward middle school ugly duckling of a kid with a depressed Mom, lame shoes and a bowl hair-cut that would make Dorothy Hamil proud, until Hugh Grant’s unlikely friendship makes life moderately tolerable for him.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ie5m7NuWgXM
- Half Nelson
Can you imagine a world in which your middle school teacher is Ryan Gosling? (even if it is a drug addicted, tortured Ryan Gosling of yesteryear as opposed to the slick, funny Ryan Gosling of now).
Before TWILIGHT and the HORRIBLE Red Riding Hood, Catherine Hardwicke directed this frank, funny, and at times brutally honest depiction of barely-there-teendom. Evan Rachel Wood owns every scene she is in, and her co-star Nikki Reed (who went on to actually be in TWILIGHT later on) helped write the (at the time very contraversial) screenplay when she was, well, just thirteen.
A movie you loved as a kid that still holds up REALLY REALLY well 20+ years later. The proposition is simple: what every 12/13 year old wants to do is grow older, get girls, drive cars, have money to spend on girls and cars. But when that happens (and it will, sooner or later) – will you miss your 12 year old life more than you ever expected? (the answer is: yes, you will).
- Mean Girls
SO-it was this or HEATHERS. And both are just about the greatest high school movies ever made. But I went with “MEAN GIRLS” because rewatching it, you: feel bad for Lindsay Lohan’s career, almost wish Lacey Chabert was in more movies, want to see Rachel McAdams not be such a nice girl all the time anymore and then go on a rampage and burn all the copies of MAMMA MIA, LETTERS TO JULIET, RED RIDING HOOD, DEAR JOHN and whatever other drivel Amanda Seyfried’s comic talents have been wasted on since. Plus, all your favorite SNL people, led by the high priestess Tina Fey. And Casey from “Party Down”.
Never mind the ending. The opening shower sequence where Sissy Spacek (who, in real life was actually a homecoming queen in her hometown of Quitman, Texas) gets her period and the mortification that ensues, pretty much sets the tone for what turns out to be the most dramatic, horrifying high school experience one could ever have. If that happened to you, and you had telekinetic powers, you’d be on edge as well…
Mainly because Alexander Payne had the absolutely genius idea of pitting (a now grown up) Ferris Beuler (aka Matthew Broderick) against the ultimate alpha over-achieving character ever committed to screen: the inimitable Tracy Flick. And Ferris never stood a chance.
The only movie Mandy Moore ever made that is worth seeing (and owning).
- Picnic at hanging rock
While this haunting Peter Weir classic, set on Valentine’s day of the year 1900, when a group of classmates set out on a picnic that goes all sorts of wrong, could be applicable to any age, it is useful to revisit just to see that the girl-to-girl dynamics are universal, whether in a suburban Chicago school in the 80s or a boarding school in the wilderness of Australia at the turn of the twentieth century. Plus, it’s actually a really amazing mind-fuck of a movie all in it’s own right.
For the universal “boys and their hormones” theme, done well.
- Kicking & Screaming
As we all know, I am a BIG BIG BIG fan of Noah Baumbach. And “Kicking and Screaming” is his most seminal number. In retrospect, is maybe not a cohesive whole but it has so many great lines and makes so much fun of your standard issue 22-year-old-issues that it is still a landmark movie for me. I think you just need to see it at the right time for you.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_Q1WwePBNI
- With Honors
Brendan Fraser, Patrick Dempsey, Josh Hamilton and Maura Tierney find meaning to life as college is ending with the help of a homeless man played by Joe Pesci. It’s such a “capturing of a generation” movie that even if it was to suck when you see it in 2011, it would not matter to me. As an added bonus: the sets are a veritable postcard of scenic campuses across America. Even though the movie is set at Harvard, Northwestern, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois Urbana Champagne and Indiana University all stand in for particular buildings on campus. PLUS, a Madonna theme song.
When I first came for a visit to America, I stayed for two weeks in a leafy suburb of Chicago with a girl I was pen-pals with (for real) just as she was about to go and tour colleges. So I came along. We went to Washington U in Saint-Louis (beautiful), Tulane (where she ended up going) and Notre Dame which was described to me as “THE COLLEGE “RUDY” TAKES PLACE AT”, no doubt in an attempt to simplify it all in pop culture terms for my overwhelmed-by-all-the-choices brain at the time, but it was enough. I knew exactly what she meant. Every college movie marathon needs a movie about an underdog, about sports, about acceptance-and RUDY is all that. Never mind LORD OF THE RINGS, this is Sean Austin’s crowning cinematic achievement.
aka “the movie Julia Roberts met Kiefer Sutherland at and got engaged in a matter of months”. I’m pretty sure the movie is actually bad, but anything featuring Julia, Kiefer, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin AND Oliver Platt as peers and medical students testing the limits of love, death and science should be worth revisiting.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g92ESJbJbyA
- Legally Blonde
What can I say-Reese Witherspoon really knows how to go to school (see also, ELECTION above)
This post Shakespeare in Love reunion between director John Madden and Gwyneth Paltrow never got much love from audiences or the critics, probably because of it’s sort-of-stilted format (after all, it was based on a play, even if it is a very good play), but I always loved it. The cast is superb (Anthony Hopkins as Gwyneth’s genius father, Jake Gylenhaal as the nerdy/sexy math grad student, Hope Davis as her harried sister), the writing is sharp, the story, despite being about scientific research, oddly compelling, and it reads much better on the small screen.