Showing posts with label Teen Movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teen Movies. Show all posts

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fictional 90s Bands We’d Still Totally Go See on Tour

Some of my favorite bands don’t exist. There, I said it, and I feel much better to get that off my chest. It can be a pretty embarrassing when you realize that a fair number of songs coming up on shuffle on your iPod were recorded by fictional characters, some of whom are actually cartoons. Note to self: take iPod off shuffle when I have company if I don’t want “Bangin’ on a Trashcan/Think Big!” from Nickelodeon’s Doug to blare loudly from my speakers.

Real or fake, I’d still pay to see these bands live:

Jesse and the Rippers

As someone who’s only slightly embarrassed to admit she bought the Uncle Jesse’s Photo Album from Scholastic book orders, it’s no surprise I was heavily into Full House’s fictional band Jesse and the Rippers. To be fair, John Stamos is actually fairly musically talented and has appeared in Broadway musicals and drumming on tour with the Beach Boys. Check out Jesse and the Rippers’ fantastically cheesy cover of the Beach Boys Forever above--it’s enough to make you jealous if you missed Stamos’s cameos on their tours.

Zack Attack/Hot Sundae

Zack Attack - Friends Forever by ray548

If Saved by the Bell was your thing, you have your pick of fictional music groups behind which to throw your fandom. Apparently the writers had a bad case of Days of Our Lives-grade amnesia and forgot that they had already used the “main characters form a band” storyline. Luckily, they managed to cover it up with some clever plot-changing details--in one case (Zack Attack) it was all just a dream, whereas in the other (Hot Sundae) we get to see Jessie’s classic caffeine pill freakout.

The Beets

With lyrics like “I need more allowance, yodel ay hee hoo!” and “Ahh eee ooooh, killer tofu!” the Beets’ catchy tunes probably made up for more of their appeal than did the content of their songs. A parody of the Beatles, Doug and the gang were forever trying to win tickets to their concerts and convincing this world-famous band to play a show at Bluffington Middle School.

The Wonders (formerly the Oneders)

They may not have been a real band, but That Thing You Do’s The Wonders had a real-life hit with “That Thing You Do!” The song made it to number 41 on the Billboard Top 100--not bad for a movie song performed by a group of actors. It is a catchy song, and of course, the guys look pretty dapper in those maroon suits.

Mystik Spiral

MTV’s Dara had a longtime crush on her best friend’s brother, the pitch-perfect 90s alt rocker Trent. As the frontman of the ever-struggling Mystik Sprial, Trent wrote some pretty deep lyrics, like in the video above:

You put me on a short leash/and threw away my hydrant! You ate up all my cable/now my coat’s no longer vibrant. My nose is dry and chapped/but this puppy’s here to stay/scratch my belly baby/every dog has its day. Awoooooooo!


This band from Can’t Hardly Wait kept us in suspense, gearing up for a hyped performance but never delivering on their promise. In this case, I have to agree with the band’s frontman: you probably shouldn’t wear the shirt of the band you’re in. Though, to be fair, if he gets to wear the shirt, I’d probably want to wear the hat, too. It’s a fair exchange.

Rex Manning

The day I realized Rex Manning from Empire Records was the kid from Grease 2, it blew my mind. Who knew there could be a single actor who could play both a cool rider and a washed-up 80s pop star? Unfortunately for Rex, love can’t turn back the hands of time like it did for Grease 2’s Michael. At least in Empire Records, Maxwell Caulfield can make fun of himself as a cheesy character. In Grease 2, he was absolutely serious.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Teen Witch

Some teen movies fail to accurately capture the coveted "cool" factor marketers are always trying to strain out of popular adolescents. This holds true especially in the cases of movies designed to be family friendly, presenting teenagers in a way that more often appears cheesy than realistic. When a studio attempts to release a movie that capitalizes on several major markets--supernatural themes, good-looking teen characters, a female protagonist, and package the whole thing as allegedly fun for the whole family--it can often end in box office embarrassment.

Perhaps there is no better example of this phenomenon than the 1989 movie Teen Witch. MGM was eager to ride the coattails of the success of the 1985 hit Teen Wolf starring Michael J. Fox, seeking to cast a female lead character in a similar teen-geared film.

Just in case you also think this sounds like a good idea, try watching the following trailer. It should be more than enough to change your mind on this ill-advised filmmaking venture. Plus, you’ll also get some killer late 80s dance move inspiration paired with a stellar makeover montage. You’ve been warned:

The movie is, if possible, worse than it looks in the preceding preview. It performed incredibly poorly at the box office, earning just under $28,000 throughout its wide release period in the spring of 1989. Instead of simply retreating in shame, however, Teen Witch producers seemed to think the best method of reaching a broader audience was to simply bombard us nonstop with the film, playing it in continuous loops on cable TV channels like Cinemax, HBO, and more recently ABC Family. The movie gained a loyal fan base, morphing it from a box office disaster to campy cult classic over the course of the 90s.

Teen Witch’s plot is made up of equal parts lazy rehashed plot points of similar films in its genre, bizarre revenge fantasy enactment, and ultimate heartwarming lesson learned. The writers also inexplicably felt strongly that it should sort of be a musical, creating a slew of inexcusably corny song-and-dance numbers.

Occasionally Teen Witch tries to work songs in the plot, like demonstrating a cheer to the high school cheerleading squad, but mostly they were just lazily thrown in as a cheesy afterthought. “I Like Boys”, below, is one of their more creative attempts. I will give them some extra credit for the innovative uses of towels as dance props in the locker room sequence.

Other times, the movie randomly inserts a musical number, like this one in which main character and eponymous teen witch Louise fantasizes about being the most popular girl:

For those who still didn’t think that was that bad, if you’re out there, the “Top That” rap should probably be enough to set you over the edge:

And, just for fun, here’s Kenneth from 30 Rock performing the same number. I personally prefer his version:

For those who managed to miss this gem during its many airings on television, here is a woefully abbreviated synopsis of the plot. Already beautiful but unfortunately hairsprayed 80s-mall-banged protagonist Louise is a nerdy teen who is unlucky in love. If that weren’t bad enough, she has a horrifically irritating younger brother who sort of weirdly looks like Tori Spelling and terrorizes her daily. Anyone who’s not into subtlety or nuanced pop culture references may also appreciate Dick Sargent as her father--as the second Darrin on Bewitched, these mortal-to-witch switcharoo plotlines are nothing Sargent hasn’t seen many times before.

Our girl Louise innocently stumbles in the home of the mysterious and fun-sized Madame Serena (Zelda Rubenstein), who you may recognize as that little lady from Poltergeist and the voice of all of those Skittles “Taste the Rainbow” commercials. Madame Serena conveniently immediately places Louise as reincarnation of her old witch buddy, hooks her up with a power-producing amulet, and sends her on her bewitching way.

Louise casts a spell to make herself the most popular girl in school and to gain the attention of her love interest, Brad, which we all know will work out exceptionally well. She plays tricks on her teachers, gains the unwarranted love and adoration of those awesome cheerleaders we met in the “I Like Boys Video” above, and makes Brad as interested in her as he could possibly be against his own free will.

To squeeze in a heartwarming life lesson at the end, Louise eventually realizes that believing in and loving herself for who she really is trumps magical powers. Those of us who met the original magic-free Louise at the beginning of the movie may beg to differ based on how much cooler and prettier she seemedpost-powers, but we’ll just have to go with it to ensure this story does indeed contain a moral, no matter how vague and haphazardly presented it may be.

Few would argue that Teen Witch was a substantial or even worthwhile film, but many of us lost several hours of our lives to watching it regardless. If you somehow managed to miss it, you can watch it in segments on You Tube or download the full movie or music on iTunes.. Bonus tip: some of us may even have “Top That” and “I Like Boys” on our iPods. If you don’t yet, I highly recommend it--it’s a great way to break the ice when your iPod in on shuffle during a party. Warning: this tip is not for the easily humiliated.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Memorable 80s and 90s Teen Movie Songs

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If only our own high school experiences had come with their own signature soundtrack, we may have had a better idea of how to properly process our emotions. It's tough to try to have a pensive moment without something deep and soulful playing in the background. Believe me, I've tried.

Real life just can't always measure up to the effective power of a good soundtrack. When the moviemakers choose just the right song, it can skillfully set the mood for a crucial moment. From that point on, whenever we hear that song out of the context of the movie, our minds are likely to transport us back to the scene. A solid song choice has the power to cement the moment in our heads forever, iconic for posterity,

Some of these teen movie moments are silly and some are serious, but they all have one thing in common: they're highly memorable. Without the music, many of these scenes may not be especially worthy of remembering. With the music, though, they create defining moments in the teen movie canon. To create an exhaustive list would be, well, exhausting, so consider these to be a mere skimming of the teen movie music moment surface.

She's All That: Rockafeller Skank

This scene is undoubtedly cheesy, but it's enough to make a tiny part of us wish our own proms had included a highly choreographed school-wide dance number. Granted, most of our peers in high school probably weren't capable of professional-level dance moves, but it may have been fun to watch them try.

10 Things I Hate About You: Can't Take My Eyes Off of You

It's more than enough to make us all mourn the loss of Heath Ledger. He just oozes charm in this scene, allowing us to suspend our disbelief that a high school boy might actually have thought up something legitimately romantic. To be fair, Ledger was 20 years old at the time, so no wonder's his musical seduction outstrips the average high school boy's in maturity.

Can't Hardly Wait: Can't Get Enough of You Baby

Smashmouth must have written this song with the racially deluded white rapper Kenny Fisher in Mind. Seth Green plays this moment to absolute perfection. I suppose if I had to practice romancing myself in the mirror, I could use some good musical motivation, too. Granted, most of us don't need quite as much musical lubrication as Kenny to woo our own reflections. Then again, most of us don't wear goggle/JNCO jeans combos.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Twist and Shout

Next time I come across a Von Steuben Day parade, I am totally pulling a Ferris. If the band doesn't know "Twist and Shout," I'm willing to settle for "Danke Schoen." Anything else would just clash with the float girls' Heidi-esque German barmaid ensembles.

Say Anything: Your Eyes

Ah, the moment that inspired a generation of young girls to daydream about the moment a boy would stand in their yard with a boombox held persistently over their heads. This is a moment that might lose of of its recreatability over time. What are kids today supposed to do? Hold wireless iPod speakers over their head? Please. It just isn't the same.

Breakfast Club: Don't You (Forget About Me)

Simple Minds recorded "Don't You (Forget About Me)" specifically for the Breakfast Club, so it's no wonder it comes across as particularly poignant in this coming of age film. Simple Minds may not have gone on to do great things, but they're probably rolling in royalties from all of the many, many Breakfast Club parodies in movies and TV in the years since the original.

Clueless: Kids in America

So you're probably thinking to yourself, "Is this like a Noxema commerical or what?" Cher claims the answer is "or what," but I'm tempted to believe otherwise. No real high schoolers ever frollick in their backyard waterfalls. At least none who attended my high school. Maybe you all grew up in heavily waterfall-populated neighborhoods.

Center Stage: The Way You Make Me Feel

Michael Jackson may have released "The Way You Make Me Feel" back in 1987, but a new generation of teens fell in love with the song after hearing it in the climactic dance performance in the 2000 ballet film Center Stage. It was almost enough to distract us from Jody's impossible pink-to-red shoe switcharoo.

Cruel Intentions: Bittersweet Symphony

Exposing the popular girl in school for dipping into the secret cocaine stash in her cross necklace may not seem like a particularly poignant moment, but back it up with the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" and prepare to be moved. Really.

Pretty in Pink: If You Leave

It's pretty much impossible to hear Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's "If You Leave" without immediately recalling the final scene in Pretty in Pink. Runner-up for most impossible? Spelling "manoeuvres". That's a tough one, at least for the ignorant Americans among us.

Romeo and Juliet: Lovefool

The Cardigan's major hit single aptly set the mood for the romantic meeting moment between Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio as Juliet and Romeo. Their eyes lock across an aquarium, which sounds highly unromantic without "Lovefool" playing in the background. It just works.

Note: Yes, I realize some of these videos don't contain the actual scenes. It's the best we can do with the YouTube copyright crackdown. Thanks for your understanding.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

90s Teen Idols: Hunks Edition...Yes, I Said It..."Hunks"

It may seem easy these days to pick on the dog-whistle declibly screechy screaming hordes of Justin Bieber fans, but mainly because many of us girls have selectively blocked out memories of our own embarrassing teen idol worship. Back in our adolescent years, we did more than our fair share of shrieking over tame pin-up celebrity teen centerfolds ripped from BOP! or J17 magazine. Embarrassing? Yes. Escapable? No. Nostalgic? Absolutely.

Teen stars usually have a capable team of managers and industry experts who specialize in issuing their clients as a palatable brand: The Bad Boy, The Sensitive One, The Free Spirit. The 90s boy band boom specialized in this sort of one-dimensional projection of celebrity personality, condensing full people into an exclamation mark-laden photo caption in a teen magazine fluff piece. These brief blurbs were practically irrelevant to young girls, though--we were far more interested in collecting the tear-out posters and plastering our walls with their dreamy likenesses.

All you heterosexual male children of the 90s may just have to hold your tongues on this one--or rather, your impulsively commenting typing fingers. Yes, this is admittedly incredibly girly fare, but it was in its own way a thriving industry throughout the decade. Some of us spent inordinate quantities of time and resources collecting airbrushed publicity photos and devouring carefully managed and processed information about these young male celebrities. As a female child of the 90s, it's still a little tough to repress my swooning reflex at these photos. That said, I'm open to taking bids from male blogging volunteers to detail the other side of the teen idol coin. Oh, and by bids I mean just send me an email and we'll talk. Thanks.

Until that point, here is our squealing, giddy side of the teen idol story:

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Best known for his role as Randy Taylor from the TV show Home Improvement, Jonathan Taylor Thomas was a major young commodity in the 90s. He cemented his young appeal with family-friendly roles in films like Tom and Huck, Man of the House, I'll Be Home for Christmas,
and The Lion King. Plus, he had that hair. My god, that hair. 90s teen idols really knew how to lay on the mousse.

Devon Sawa

One glance at Sawa in Little Giants or as the human version of the animated ghost Casper and we fell hard. Add to that the glimpse of his butt during the naked-boys-running-through-the-woods segment of Now and Then and you've got yourself a serious celebrity crush.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Now here's a child star with staying power. Leonardo DiCaprio has maintained respectable and relatively incident-free fame since his breakthrough role on Growing Pains. Following his roles in Romeo + Juliet and especially Titanic, teen girls worldwide broke out in contagious fits of floppy hair-induced Leo-Mania.
In atypical teen idol form, though, DiCaprio shunned his "Tiger Beat" image and sought credit as a legitimate actor. A 2000 Time article explains:

"...DiCaprio still thinks of himself as an edgy indie actor, not the Tiger Beat cover boy. "I have no connection with me during that whole Titanic phenomenon and what my face became around the world...Although it's got to hurt deep inside, DiCaprio says he's at peace with being usurped by the Backstreet Boys. 'I'll never reach that state of popularity again, and I don't expect to,' he says. 'It's not something I'm going to try to achieve either.' Instead, he has spent his post-Titanic life avoiding interviews."

It certainly didn't hurt him any; DiCaprio has since achieved an impressive acting resume, boasts numerous award nominations and wins, and has dated scores of supermodels. All in all, I'd say he came out of teen stardom pretty well.

Jared Leto

I don't care if you are on Team Brian Krakow--you have to admit Leto as the rebellious and near-illiterate Jordan Catalano on My So-Called Life was worthier of our swooning affections. Leto went on to appear in films such as Requiem for a Dream and achieved musical fame as lead singer/songwriter/guitarist for the band 30 Seconds to Mars. It's hard to believe that this former teen star is now 38 years old. Really. 38. I'd always sort of thought I had a chance with him, so I'm shocked to learn that when I was idolizing him at age 10, he was already in his mid-20s.


Take heed, Jonas Brothers: you're next. Brothers? Check. Religious? Check. Endearingly floppy hair? Check. It's like looking into the future. Truthfully, the Hanson brothers weren't nearly as persistently chart-topping, but their hit "MMMBop" established them as serious contenders for teen idoldom.

Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC

These two groups deserve far more than a fleeting mention, but as this is a compilation post that's the best they can expect to get. These rival harmony-rich tightly managed boy bands dominated the pop music scene in the 90s, both catering to the same general screaming young girl fan base. The record companies and teen magazines portrayed each band member as a specific and easily definable "type," featuring characters like The Sensitive Guy and The Baby of the Group. Incidentally, these characters were actually real people, but for years they resided pretty comfortably in a describable space of 100-200 words.

Rider Strong

I'll say it again: teen stars in the 90s had the best hair. It wasn't too featherily androgynous like in the 70s or bat-poop crazy a la Flock of Seagulls in the 80s. Rider Strong had great 90s hair, though he and Will Friedle probably could have duked it out for the title of most attractive Boy Meets World cast member while hair is blowing gently in the breeze.

Andrew Keegan

We met Keegan as a camper in the Home Alone-esque summer flick Camp Nowhere, after which he made the rounds on the requisite teen-dream guest part circuit in shows like Full House, 7th Heaven, and Party of Five. Add a dash of satirical modeldom in 10 Things I Hate about You and you've got yourself a teen star. His acting career may not be accelerating at the rate it did in his younger days, but his fame will undoubtedly live on through the ceaseless rerunning of 10 Things on television.

Luke Perry and Jason Priestley

These two were both beloved by teens for their respective roles on Beverly Hills, 90210. At the time they seemed the epitome of the cool teenager, which is somewhat ironic considering they were both in their 20s at the time. Yes, these two former heartthrobs are currently in their 40s. How old does that make you feel? Don't fight it, it will only hurt more. Embrace your aging teen dreamboats.

Some remain famous and others have faded into obscurity, but they're forever ingrained in our memories as teen idols. In some cases, their likenesses are still attached to the walls of our childhood rooms, cementing their stardom for posterity. Believe me, if I could plaster my current walls with old foldouts of Andrew Keegan and Luke Perry, I would. Really. I wonder if eBay is a viable marketplace for Tiger Beat magazine circa 1996...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

She's All That

What happens when you take a handful of teen movie tropes and cliches and roll them all into a conveniently packaged single film? Why, you end up with legions of devoted teenage fans a bunch of grumbling and crotchety grown-up film critics, of course. Teen movies like She's All That serve to prove that the divide between teenagers and adults is still alive and kicking. Or, more accurately, alive and breaking spontaneously into over-the-top song and dance numbers set to Fatboy Slim's "Rockafella Skank." Either way, the reactions just don't add up.

In every film-producing generation, adolescents flock to schmaltzy coming-of-age teen flicks that continually leave most adult viewers scratching their heads. It's a bit ironic, of course, that these films are invariably produced and dictated by roomfuls of adults who seek to crack the code of youth culture. They manage to convince us that the story they're telling is indicative of the plight of young people, despite the fact that the only young people involved played no role in the creative decision-making process. Savvy adults issued the call and we 90s teens and tweens were more than happy to answer.

All youth cultural analysis aside, She's All That swiftly ascended to the rank of widely accepted canonical teen movie. That is, mainstream teenagers in the 90s absolutely ate this film up. I mean, really, would you expect anything less from the director who went on to spearhead projects like From Justin to Kelly? Its monumental success was practically inscribed.

She's All That is loosely based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalian, the same play that formed the basis of the 1956 Broadway musical My Fair Lady. In case you didn't follow that, the movie was a reinvention of a play based on an older play based on a Cypriot myth, only to later be remade into a musical play that was later made into a movie. That's right, we just can't get enough of these I-bet-I-can-make-that-social-outcast-chick-passably-popular productions.

They teach us such valuable and morally astute life lessons, it's no wonder we like them so much. For example, from She's All That I gleaned that beneath the surface of every pretty girl wearing glasses lies a pretty girl not wearing glasses. I'm going to go out a limb here, but it seemed the message has been diluted just a bit since the Pygmalian story debuted as an ancient Cypriot myth.

BMOC Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is one of the top-performing students in his class, also boasting class presidency and several sports team captainships. He is, of course, also dating the most gorgeous girl in school. Or at least, he was, until she met a self-promoting douchenozzle of a Real World cast member during a Spring Break trip to Daytona. Yes, that's right: Taylor dumps Zack for the dyslexic volleyball player that got voted out of the house. Bummer.

Meanwhile, offbeat social outcast Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) is classified by her peers as an artsy freak because electrical impulses occasionally run through her brain and she likes to paint. How enlightened.

Zack's buddy Dean bets him that Zack can't turn any girl in the school into the prom queen. It's a pretty quick development, but since our entire plot hinges on it, we've got to go along for the ride. Laney bites it on the pavement right in front of their bet selection panel and thus becomes the chosen one for this twisted though admittedly entertaining high school social experiment.

Laney wants nothing to do with Zack's suspiciously friendly advances, but she just can't say no when he accosts her at work in the falafel shop. She does what any normal girl would do in this situation, which is to invite Zack to accompany her to a quirky performance art piece complete with little blue people and a writhing Alexis Arquette chanting, "Be silent, be still." Naturally, Zack gets invited onstage and improvises a hacky sack-driven expose on the life of a golden boy. Deep.

Zack invites Laney to the beach, everyone suddenly realizes she's incredibly attractive, and she undergoes an impromptu makeover courtesy of Zack's sister. Like in any teen movie, it takes about 3 minutes flat to transform Laney from the sort of ugly duckling you're always hearing about on your Farmville newsfeed to a totally hot swan. Just like real life, right?

We get some Sixpence None the Richer, Laney makes her comic entrance and ta-da! Transformation complete. They head to a party jam-packed with the high school elite and everything seems to be going just great until Zack's ex Taylor publicly humiliates Laney. All of Zack's sister's amateur haircutting skills are no match for Taylor's vicious wrath.

Fast forward a bit and Laney's in the running for prom queen. Dean pulls out all the villainous stops by beating Zack to the punch of asking Laney to the prom. We get our requisite dance number, Zack is the prom king, but all is not well in promland. Dean has plans to put the moves on Laney at a hotel after the dance. Zack hears the news and frantically tries to stop the unfolding of these most unfortunate events.

Laney doges Dean's lecherous advances and Zack eventually catches up with her at her house. He confesses everything, including revelations about the bet and his undoubtedly true love for her, and we all learn a valuable lesson. Especially Zack, who learns that losing a bet means you have to appear nude at graduation in front of the entire commencement crowd.Tough break.

It might not be real life, but we'll take it. So what if Usher never DJed our high school radio station or our classmates never made Greco-Roman mythological style bets about our makeover skills? That's what makes it so entertaining. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get a professionally-trained dance crew together. I think I just heard the opening beat of "Rockafella Skank."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The 80s' and 90s' Oldest High Schoolers: Giving New Meaning to the Term "Senior"

When I get confused on a daily basis for a high school student, I don't let it faze me. Instead, I simply remind myself that I am probably younger than the average actor who plays a high school student in the movies or on TV. People think high schoolers look like 25 year olds because 25 year olds populate most of the high school roles: it's as simple as that. In contemporary shows like Glee, some of the actors playing the students (namely Cory Monteith and Mark Saling, both 27) are only four years younger than the actor playing their teacher (Matthew Morrison, 31). It's no wonder our perceptions are skewed; in Hollywood, it seems, one truly can stay 16 forever.

The problem with a movie franchise featuring a high-school age lead character is simple: that actor is going to age a lot faster than you can churn out those movies. So while the "...To be continued" might allegedly pick up the day after the original action, in reality the actors are a few years older. It's the same problem they're bound to have with those Twilight films. Unless Robert Pattinson really is a vampire and thus immortal (and based on his skin tone, I wouldn't automatically rule it out), he's probably going to stop looking 17 at some point.

The practice of casting 20-something actors as teens is a fairly common one. After all, it's far easier to deal with adult than a minor when casting actors. On the other hand, there's only so far you can push the age range and still reside comfortably in believable territory. Maybe some of you had 30-year old classmates in high school, but in my experience most of these actors would have garnered some questionable looks from their alleged peers if they showed up at the homecoming game.

The 80s and 90s had a lot of gross offenders, but the group listed here is among the most grievous:

Alan Ruck as Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Cameron's age: 18
Ruck's age when the movie was released in 1986: 29

I'm not much of a math person, but even I can figure this one out pretty easily. Alan Ruck was born in 1956, making him practically the same age as my parents. I was born in 1985, and I'm pretty sure my parents weren't high school seniors at the time. It just doesn't add up.

It's not whether or not we can appreciate his performance in Ferris Bueller; personally, I thought he was great. It's more that he was twice the age of some real-life high school students while playing one himself. To be fair, Matthew Broderick was in his 20s when he filmed the movies, but Mia Sara (Sloane) was actually 19. When you've got an actress 10 years younger than you giving you life advice onscreen as your peer, we've got a slight problem.

Gabrielle Carteris as Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills, 90210

Andrea's age at the outset of 90210: 17
Carteris's age at the outset of 90210 in 1990: 29

It's one thing to play a part 10-plus years your junior for a one-time gig, but it's another entirely to commit to a long-running project under these pretenses. Carteris was 29 when she started on 90210, meaning that by the time of her departure in the fifth season she was probably old enough to have a high school son or daughter of her own. She was only 6 years younger than James Eckhouse, the actor who played Brenda and Brandon's dad. Then again, on a show where character's willfully name their children cutesily matchy names like Brenda and Brandon, perhaps hiring a 29 year old actor isn't your biggest problem.

Shannon Elizabeth as Nadia in American Pie

Nadia's age in American Pie: 18
Elizabeth's age when American Pie was released in 1999: 26

Thank goodness for Shannon Elizabeth's terrible fake European accent or else her age would have been the least believable aspect of her character in American Pie. Actually, I should take that back. Her boobs probably win that prize.

Michael J Fox as Marty McFly in Back to the Future III

Marty's age: 17
Fox's age when the movie was released in 1990: 29

Here's another case of an actor aging out of their original character in a franchise while preserving the illusion that they haven't changed a bit. In a movie that defines time travel so laxly, you'd think they could have written in a few extra years of life for Marty in between installments, but they all just kept picking up where the last one left off. I always liked this one better than Part II, though, so maybe I was a tad more willing to suspend my disbelief.

Meredith Monroe as Andie McPhee on Dawson's Creek

Andies's age when she first appeared on Dawson's Creek: 15
Monroe's age when he first appeared on Dawson's Creek in 1998: 30

Dawson's Creek made Monroe's extreme age discrepancy from her character a bit more stomachable by casting Kerr Smith as Andie's fraternal twin, Jack. Smith was no fresh-faced kid himself, debuting on the show at age 26. I'm not sure if any of you have ever seen a high school sophomore, but I'll give you a hint: they look much closer to 12 than 30. Of course, they are much closer to 12 than 30, but that's really beside the point.

To her credit, Monroe did have a pretty youthful appearance, but when she appeared in the series finale at age 36 the show may muddled its credibility. Suddenly, storylines like Pacey hooking up with a teacher don't seem so scandalous. It would probably been equally troubling if he'd just gotten together with one of his senior castmates.

Judd Nelson as John Bender in The Breakfast Club

John's age in The Breakfast Club: 18
Nelson's age when The Breakfast Club came out in 1986: 25

25 is still young compared to some of the others rounding out this list, but both Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall were actually high school-aged when The Breakfast Club premiered in 1986. I'll concede that co-stars Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy were both 22, but still. Either you cast a bunch of teenagers or you cast a bunch of 20-somethings, but mixing the two only highlights the differences in age.

Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Cordelia's age when Buffy premiered: 16
Carpenter's age when Buffy premiered: 27

Carpenter had originally intended to audition for the show's title role and Sarah Michelle Gellar for the role of Cordelia, but the two got switched somewhere along the audition process. I don't care what they dressed her in: there was no way this girl would ever pass for 16. She might not even have gotten carded at the club. Carpenter is, however, gorgeous, which means many viewers were in it more for the eye candy than the believability.

Stacey Dash as Dionne Davenport in Clueless

Dionne's age in Clueless: 16
Dash's age when Clueless came out in 1995: 29

When I first saw the movie, I'd never have guessed that Dash was almost 11 years older than her costar Alicia Silverstone. Actually, if you've seen any recent photos of Stacey Dash, it's pretty obvious she's still got it. Dash went on to reprise her role for the Clueless TV show, continuing to play her high-school aged character well into her 30s. Aside from posing for Playboy in 2006, Dash's career probably peaked in her postmature high school days, so it's for the best she milked her perceived youth for as long as humanly possible.

Most of us would balk at the offer to experience high school all over again, but some of these actors have made pretty lucrative careers out of living their adult lives in reverse. It just goes to show that there doesn't need to be such a thing as aging gracefully. Who would pick that option when you could choose not to age at all?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cheesy Made for TV Movies. Alternate Title: Our Favorite 90s Teen Stars Sell Out

Cheesy made-for-TV movies: are there any other kind? The whole idea behind a Movie of the Week is that it probably didn't pass muster to warrant a big-budget, big-screen premiere and thus was beamed straight to your television instead. Lucky for you, you get to watch it in the comfort of your own home rather than being ridiculed at the ticket counter.

As someone whose mother only tunes the TV to three channels (for the record: Lifetime, Hallmark, and Lifetime Movie Network), I am well-versed in the art of the made-for-TV movie. They're not hard to miss. You can usually identify them in the TV listings by title alone. I'll give you a hint: Article Adjective Noun/Verb: The ________ _________ Story. Popular variations of adages ("Too Little, Too Late" "For the Love of a Woman") made good titles, as did vague, overgeneralized cliches ("A Mother's Love" "A Daughter Scorned"). It wasn't exactly rocket science.

The 90s brought us some particularly cheesy TV movies featuring some of our favorite teen stars desperate to be taken seriously as actors. I'll give you a hint: a movie of the week isn't going to cut it. For the most part, viewers just couldn't get over the idea that Zach Morris raped DJ Tanner or that the pink Power Ranger was an anorexic gymnast. I'm still struggling with the idea that Rebecca from Life Goes On killed Donna Martin.

Here are just a few of the many, many made-for-TV movies starring out favorite teen sellouts:

No One Would Tell (Candace Cameron, Fred Savage)

Kevin Arnold, how could you? This one came as a real shock to me. In 1996's No One Would Tell, Fred Savage played high school BMOC Bobby Tennison. He begins dating the eager Stacy (Cameron) and wins her over with all sorts of romantic gestures. In Lifetime movie world, that's actually an ominous sign. Actually, if you're male and you're in a Lifetime movie, it's almost guaranteed you're going to have to rape, kill, or at least abuse somewhere. I think there's a clause in the actors' contract.

Predictably, Bobby grows more and more jealous, and his behavior eventually descends into abuse. Blinded by her love, Stacy refuses to leave, despite experience with her mother's abusive relationships. Bobby ends up slitting her throat and throwing her in the river, and Sally Jessy Raphael shows up as a judge to give us the requisite talking-to: "You have a responsibility to the people you care about. If you see them hurting or you see them in trouble, you step in and you TELL someone, so that this does not happen again." It's not the most subtle of messages, but at least it's a good one.

Fifteen and Pregnant (Kirsten Dunst)

Will they ever stop playing this movie? My guess is no, considering I've probably seen it around thirty times since it premiered in 1998. Kirsten Dunst stars as Tina, who is (you guessed it!) both fifteen and pregnant. Someone in their movie naming department really deserves a medal for this one.

This is pretty much the quintessential impregnated teenage girl movie, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It has it's moments, though like all Lifetime movies it tends to be a bit melodramatic and overwrought. It's not a bad movie overall, though it pales in comparison to MTV's 16 and Pregnant. It's probably not quite as scripted as the MTV reality show.

Without Consent: Trapped and Deceived (Jennie Garth)

Jennie Garth did a lot of these made-for-TV movie projects over the years, but this one may have taken the take for theatrical dramatics. She starred as Laura, a wild teenager who gets into a drunk driving accident. Her parents send her to a psychiatric facility in lieu of disciplining her themselves. The asylum, it turns out, abuses and drugs its patients. The doctors try to hold her down with tranquilizers, but she escapes and tells her parents the sordid tale of her experience there. They don't believe her, she goes back, they do believe her, they try to get her out. It may be based on a true story, but it's an old and tired one.

A Friend to Die For (Kellie Martin, Tori Spelling)

Yeah, yeah, I know, in the 90s we were supposed to buy that Tori Spelling was the popular girl because she got a nose job and a dye job and her dad was Aaron Spelling, but I secretly always thought she was more convincing as a nerd on Saved by the Bell. Regardless, here she was in a 1994 Move of the Week playing The Most Popular Girl in School, bitchy cheerleader Stacy. Life Goes On's Kellie Martin stars as Angela, the Girl with Low Self Esteem for whom we should all feel sorry until she stabs someone.

Like many made-for-TV movies, A Friend to Die For is based on a true story, and a juicy one at that. Angela is desperate to fit in and joins the Larks, a club to which many of her more popular classmates belong. Angela idolizes rich cheerleader Stacy, who couldn't want less to do with her. Angela vies for Stacy's attention and eventually gets her alone and confesses her admiration for her. Stacy is justifiably freaked out, and tells Angela she's going to tell everyone at school what a weirdo she is. What's a girl to do? Why, stab Stacy to death, of course. Oh, and blame a less popular goth girl. Eventually the truth comes out about Angela, but the whole thing serves as a sort of cautionary tale against cliques. Ignore a less popular girl and face uncertain homocide. Something like that.

A Burning Passion: The Margaret Mitchell Story (Shannen Doherty)

Biopic made-for-TV movies can be dangerous territory, particularly if the lead actor isn't quite capable of carrying the project. Such was the case of Shannen Doherty in her portrayal of Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, who couldn't even be bothered to read the book (though she did see the movie!). The whole thing reeked of a cross-promotional ploy to promote Scarlett, CBS's miniseries based on the sequel to Gone With the Wind. Doherty's Southern accent was truly, truly awful, and her performance was rightfully ripped apart by critics. Frankly, Shannen, we just didn't give a damn.

She Cried No (Candace Cameron, Mark-Paul Gosselaar)

Candace Cameron just can't catch a break in these, can she? It seems she's always pitted up against some teen superstar as helpless victim. Why they always have to cast the most wholesome TV guys in these awful male antagonist roles is beyond me. I get it if they're looking for an image change, but I just don't know if abusive boyfriend of frat boy rapist is the direction they should be going.

Like all made-for-TV movies that deal with the theme of drinking in college, the message is that it's always, always bad, and you will inevitably end up getting yourself into terrible situations. Cameron plays Melissa, a sweer underage co-ed who has too much to drink at a fraternity party and is date raped by Scott (Gosselaar). Melissa eventually stands up for herself and takes action against Scott, which is great, but I can't let go of the idea that Zack Morris could be so cruel to DJ Tanner. It just doesn't add up.

Perfect Body (Amy Jo Johnson)

Amy Jo Johnson (the pink ranger and Felicity's friend) plays Andie, a rising gymnastics star who develops an eating disorder. She eventually turns to bulimia upon the suggestion of a friend and ends up passing out at competitions. It's all very The Best Little Girl in the World, but overall it's not bad for a cautionary tale. It highlights the pressure young girls (and particularly athletes) to be thin. Still, I just couldn't stop thinking of Johnson as the pink Ranger. You can take the girl out of the superhero outfit, but you can't take the superhero outfit out of the girl.

It seems the formula still holds true: if all else fails for a former teen star, they can always make a buck or two in a tearjerker Movie of the Week. Artistic integrity is always second place to a steady paycheck. Considering Tori Spelling received a whopping one hundred thou for her participation in A Friend to Die For, it's probably the actors who get the last laugh.

Monday, November 9, 2009

80s and 90s Spontaneous Movie Group Dance Scenes Where Everyone Knows Exactly What to Do

Photo: LA Times

All movies require a certain degree of suspended disbelief. We know and understand that these words and images do not constitute real life, nor should they. If we wanted real life, we'd go out and live it. If we want a brief period of escapism, we shell out ten bucks to watch other people lead more exciting lives.

Despite this understanding that movies should not be taken as real life, there are some scenes that make it more difficult than others. In real life, very few of us are trained dancers who have spent grueling hours under the guidance of professional choreographers and stage blockers. In movies, though, we're just supposed to ignore the fact that the cast has put in hours of dance rehearsals (or better yet, have body doubles) and just assume that there lives are just so exciting and carefree that it's impossible to not spontaneously break into well-organized group dancing. It's awfully convenient when someone spontaneously breaks out into dance and their costars know all the complex prechoreographed steps, but we just accept it as movie truth.

This trick was especially prominent in 80s and 90s movies, with directors throwing in a spontaneous eruption of dance whenever things seemed to be getting a little slow. Nothing like a foray into the art of dance to get things moving again. Except, you know, some plot twists and character developments. Honestly, though, that would probably be asking too much from these films. It's almost better to just take their cop-out flashy spontaneous dance distractions for what they are.

Regardless of their plot-thickening merit, these scenes are pure fun. They're almost enough to make us wish our current coworkers would toss aside their desk chairs and assemble into formation for a grandiose musical number. Until that happens, though, you'll have to rely on these clips to hold you over for your spontaneous dance fix:

She's All That

Let's start strong here with the classic 90s teen movie example, She's All That. This movie is not exactly grounded in high school reality, so it's not wonder they were able to pull off this spontaneous eruption of choreographed prom dancing. Depending on your definition of "pulling off", of course. The scheming prom attendees got down to the Rockerfeller Skank by Fatboy Slim, proving that a movie doesn't need a wealth of substance to crank out a spontaneous dance number. Well played, She's All That.

Encino Man

I'm not embarrassed to admit my boyfriend and I watched this entire movie in full this weekend. Okay, I lied, I'm incredibly embarrassed. What I thought was a hilarious caveman comedy is actually possibly the worst movie ever made, though this glaring fact won't stop me from loving it unconditionally. This ending dance scene was indeed the inspiration for this entire post, so I refuse to concede that I wasted 88 minutes of my life engrossed in this glaringly awful piece of 90s cinematic ridiculousness. The entire movie is so hokey and nonsensical, this dance number almost seems like a shot of realism.

Austin Powers

As a parody, Austin Powers was a prime candidate for a group dance number. It was already mocking everything these movies stood for, so why not throw in some groovy swinging moves well-timed to catchy theme music? It was a dance that spurned a thousand imitators, each more annoying than the last, but you must admit the original was pretty entertaining.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

I've never been in a marching band so I can't say for sure, but I imagine it's not the kind of thing you can just orchestrate with a snap of your fingers. Unless you're Ferris Bueller, that is, in which case the world is your parade float. Like I said, though, I'm not expert in this arena, so it's possible my inexperience as a marching band member is throwing off my judgment a bit.

In this now-classic scene, Ferris performs a spur-of-the-moment show-stopping version of "Twist and Shout" atop a parade float at the Von Steuben Day Parade in Chicago. Everyone joins in on the dancing, from his Oktoberfest costume-clad floatmates to scaffolding-bound construction workers. It's classic John Hughes: totally over the top, yet almost believable in the moment.


This one isn't quite a stretch considering the whole movie hinges on a dancing equals social freedom plot line, but the dancing is great nonetheless. You've got to admit, these kids seem incredibly at ease with their moves for people who've never danced a step in their lives. Just saying.

Breakfast Club

Breakfast Club Dance from Brandon McGhee on Vimeo.

I still can't watch this clip without yearning for Molly Ringwald's awesomely 80s dance moves. This scene embodies the movie because it pounds each character's two-dimensional stereotype into our heads with their personality-specific dance moves. The wild one is going crazy, the nerd's nerding out, the weird one is going nuts. We get it, they're all different. I'm not sure if I could have grasped at that conclusion without the help of this handy dance scene.

Teen Wolf

Do the wolf, man. Or is the Wolfman? We may never know for sure. Either way, it's cheesy 80s school dancing at its finest.


I admit, with its 1980 release date it's pretty unlikely many of us children of the 90s grew up with this one, but the scene is just such a classic example of the spontaneous group dance I would be depriving you by leaving it out. At least in this case, most of the group in question is actually made of trained dancers, so it fits in well. Plus, it's just a really catchy song. I'm pretty sure if someone started singing it while I was on the street, I'd bust a move or two also. Probably two.

Reality Bites

This movie was meant to be the defining Generation X film, so it's fair enough that this group doesn't go for the all-out choreography. They're far too cynical and angsty for something that mainstream. No, they're content with their makeshift moves certain to humiliate Ethan Hawke's character. Can you blame him, really? I'm not saying the gas station attendant is there to judge, but if I were him I certainly would be. If nothing else, I'd be judging the hell out of Janeane Garafalo's bangs. What is up with those?

These movies may not be especially reflective of real life, but they're entertaining enough to almost make us believe that a crowd could instinctively just feel the moment was right for breaking into some serious dance moves. Our everyday lives may not contain copious amounts of extemporaneous group choreography, but that just makes it all the more fun to watch.

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