Thursday, August 13, 2009

Top 10 Back-to-School Movies

Editor's Note: I wrote this for somebody else, and I believe it is now legal and appropriate that I can post it on my own blog. (If not, oops!) As an aside, I picked up this assignment on the very day that John Hughes passed away -- Aug. 6. Weird.


Without the work of the late John Hughes, this wouldn’t be much of a list.

Hughes wrote and/or directed some of the most popular movies of the ’80s, bringing fame to some relatively unknowns at the time and reassuring all of us that the perfect high school experience is but a myth.

School is intertwined in American culture, so as you embark on a new academic year, carve out some time to salute the American school experience with one of these Top 10 Back-to-School Movies (in no particular order and with an added bonus that I just couldn't leave off) . . .

Sixteen Candles (1984)—A husband forgetting your birthday is one thing; realizing that your parents and entire family dropped you off their radar is another. Molly Ringwald’s character Samantha Baker deals with all the drama of turning 16, without any acknowledgment or even a cake. At her side are the King of the Geeks (Anthony Michael Hall) and best friend Randy. And far, far away is the most awesome Jake Ryan in his Porsche. Sixteen Candles is chock full of teenage crushes, high school parties and general teenage angst.

Just seeing this photo whisks a girl back to 1985. I wish I had been sent to Saturday detention. I would have sat far, far away from Ally Sheedy and probably equidistant from Molly Ringwald and her sushi. As the day wore on, I would have inched closer to Judd Nelson.


The Breakfast Club (1985)—The entire movie is based in the library and near-empty halls of Shermer High School as five kids come together for Saturday detention. If you love John Hughes, then you’ll love his brief cameo as Brian’s (Anthony Michael Hall) father in the closing scene. Don’t blink.

Pretty in Pink (1986)—Written by John Hughes, this one is so full of teenage angst that you might find it too realistic and maybe a little dark. Instead, focus on the endearing relationship between Andie (Molly Ringwald) and Duckie (Jon Cryer). Be patient with Blane (Andrew McCarthy) and go ahead and dislike Steff (James Spader) all you want. Two very different worlds collide, as they often do in American high schools, but with a very enjoyable soundtrack.

Grease (1978)—If you scoff at the High School Musical movies, remind yourself of this piece of cinematic work. Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and their respective entourages break out in spontaneous bursts of song at the beach, on the bleachers by the track, in the school’s garage, at sleepovers, you name it. They even perform a little dance competition at . . . well, the high school dance. No spoilers here. It’s a musical.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)—Sure, Ferris skipped a day of school, but this is a shoo-in for the Back-to-School Movie List. The very popular Ferris (Matthew Broderick) has nothing to run away from at his upper-middle-class school, but he fakes an illness so that he and girlfriend Sloane and best friend Cameron can explore Chicago, via Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)—This is a back-to-school movie? You bet. When John Stark (James Dean) moves to a new town and enters a new school, you should know nobody will be the same. This is classic cinema, with quintessential ’50s lingo and garb throughout. Natalie Wood and Dennis Hopper round out a classic cast.

Footloose (1984)—Kevin Bacon as the streetwise Ren McCormack created quite a stir back in the mid-’80s when he moved from the big city to a small Midwestern town. This modern-day James Dean, with his Walkman and all that fancy footwork, singlehandedly transformed a city with no musical soul into a dance-crazed, freewheelin’ town. But not before he struggled with being the new (and rowdy) kid in town, navigating the halls of a new school and trying to make friends with members of the popular crowd.

Back to School (1986)—What’s a back-to-school movie list without the namesake movie? Rodney Dangerfield plays a wealthy business owner who goes back to college. He just happens to enroll at the same college his son attends. But the dad throws better parties.

Freaky Friday (1976)—Not that anything is wrong with the 2003 remake with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, but Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster? Classic. Besides, what teenager would whine about trading places with the very cool Jamie Lee Curtis? But Barbara Harris messing around in your business? Totally different matter.

13 Going on 30 (2004)—What girl doesn’t want to bypass her 13th year? Especially when she hosts a pretty stinky 13th birthday party. Oh, but what a tangled web Jenna Rink (Jennifer Garner) weaves when she wishes for an older and improved self, fast forwards herself by 17 years, finds that cute boy turns out to be a not-so-wonderful adult, and that she (in adult form) isn’t what she thought she should be either. It’s like a female version of Big, but with better clothes.

Clueless (1995)—This one isn’t so much about high school as it is about the clothes. And the cars. And the popular crowd. So maybe it is about high school. Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) plays matchmaker for teachers, new students and herself. Ultimately, after makeovers and matchmaking, she uncovers a better Cher—one who has more depth than she even expected.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Amy's Dream Analysis: Fred Thompson

Dream: My dental hygienist called to say that former Sen. Fred Thompson phoned her office and was looking for me.


"That Fred," I told her.
She relayed the message that he had dyed his hair blonde and needed to talk with me about it. I assured her that I would call him later. I was preoccupied with a new zoning ordinance that would allow a state highway to run perpendicular to my front yard, which means that the new road would pass right through my kitchen. The highway would be lined with produce stands.
While Fred Thompson waited for my return call, I met with the DOT engineer, who toured me through the woods across from my house and told me to ignore the boxes and display cases of oranges and tomatoes--nothing was definite yet.

"Roads take years to build," he assured me.

And then he convinced me that this matter could stay just between us with a payoff of $35.12. (He paid me with a promissory note.) I asked him where his office would be so that I could reach him if I had any questions. He said that he would be working from the marina, where he could get free WiFi.

Analysis: Congressional elections are only a little more than a year away, and Excedrin Migraine was working overtime during my REM sleep.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Time to Get Up; Blog Break Is Over

If you were expecting a fabulous Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition, I apologize. It's sort of like this summer, as my husband was preparing to leave the country and I assured him, "You are going to come home to the cleanest house." But then he returned home, and he was disappointed to find the same crap heaps all over the place.

After a two-month hiatus from this blog, you would think I could deliver a new-and-improved look. ("My gosh, Amy, what have you been doing with yourself?") When it all shook out, I just couldn't bring myself to make any big design changes . . . or pay anyone to make any big design changes. I have some unpaid help working on a new banner and maybe a background, but for now, let's focus on the content, shall we? Don't be so shallow.

I am re-entering the blogosphere with a renewed sense of determination and adventure, as this summer brought more and new (paying!) clients and hope for the future in freelancing, and that makes me slightly euphoric. (Thanks, God!) Yes, even in the face of a recession, shrinking freelance budgets and a moderate mid-life crisis that could have rendered a weaker person susceptible to cosmetic surgery, spa treatments and costly therapy, I found myself refreshed, grateful for the short break and ready to get back in the blogging groove.

As this thing sputters and burps in its reignition phase, please take note of a few changes and maybe a couple of additions. Because this is a Facebook-free zone, I have nowhere to place Pictures That Nobody Else Cares About. So I have added a new box at the upper right corner. Today's installment is first in my Summer 2009 Flashback. While summer is certainly not behind us, the leisurely days of summer vacation are all but gone. Schedules, schmedules, but this is our lot. Check out this space in the coming days as we rewind the past couple of months.

For you technofreaks, be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed so that your iPhone, iTouch or some other something I don't have can thwack you on the head when a new post arrives. For the rest of you old-schoolers still using a desktop, this will work for you, too. The hamster running on the wheel at full speed will keep your dial-up or whatever in sync.

You will notice that I've stuck to my guns on the "no comments" arrangement. But you are always welcome to send comments via e-mail to cates (dot) amy at gmail (dot) com. (I've spelled this out for a reason; that reason is, I don't like spam. In a can or in e-mail.)

The next couple of weeks will be spotty (there she goes, already whining and backing out), as deadlines for the paying gigs loom and kids start back to school in two spurts, one week apart. And somewhere in there, I will take the last First Day of School picture of my oldest, as she begins her senior year. (Sigh.) So forgive me if it seems I'm already slacking off.

It's not my fault.

It never is.