Now here’s a category where my Gen. Y status will undoubtedly help rather than hinder–having seen none of these movies when they first came out, I can determine (subjectively, of course) whether these classics have held up well with age or deflated like so many high, scrunchy-wrapped ponytails.
I’ve never seen a movie that better encapsulates the slow, steady death of self that happens daily in fluorescent-lit cubicles and oatmeal-colored office buildings scattered all across America. Office Space re-affirms what pains millions of people every day: the tug-of-war between dreams and reality, the occupation of that uncomfortable but safe place where we can all cling to the paycheck and put off becoming architects and inventors and novelists for just one more day.
But, and this is my only criticism of Office Space, I think the current dearth of jobs has grown so critical that it’s hard to feel bad for lovable slackers whose main complaint is that they aren’t “fulfilled” and want a chance to “do nothing.” I thought this was awesome when I saw it two years ago, at which time I was working as a somewhat put-upon legal secretary, but now? It comes across as naÃ¯ve.
I’ll always love Jennifer Aniston for this, though:
It probably seems hypocritical of me to praise Clerks, having just bagged on Office Space, but here goes: Clerks is essentially about the same malaise that Office Space chronicles, but its protagonist, gas station employee Dante (cuz he’s in hell, get it??), lives on a far lower economic plane than the IT boys in Office Space.
And there’s a major difference between minimum-wage, customer service malaise and midlevel-management, IT malaise. The former is more universal because most of us have had that type of job, at least once, and we were treated worse than the dirty floor beneath the doughnut crumbs beneath the spilled, sticky Slurpee. You never forget feeling like that.
Plus, Clerks represents modern relationships as they really are (maybe as they always have been), as evidenced by Dante freaking out over his girlfriend Veronica’s sexual past, then idolizing an ex-girlfriend who was never that great to him in the first place.
Silent Bob’s words about choosing the one who loves you vs. the beautiful phantom are pretty wise for a guy that never talks: “There’s lots of fine looking women out there Dante, but they don’t all bring you lasagna… Most of them just cheat on you.”
Hey, is it weird to have a crush on Silent Bob? I’d show you a clip of him and Jay, but all of those feature extreme amounts of profanity, so let’s just stick with the best discussion about the ethical implications of blowing up the Death Star of all time:
Now this one’s a bit more difficult to parse out. I don’t remember when this came out, so I missed all the hysteria and the Academy Awards sweep and the comparisons to Hitchcock, but it feels like American Beauty‘s always been in the back of my mind as one of those films–the ones people rattle off with their all-time favorites, those movies that you just have to see because, well, you have to. And those films make me feel all skeptical and cynical and jaded.
Then I finally saw it and I loved it. Critics can debate all day whether the characters are overly parodized or whether the film is essentially immoral, but I wouldn’t care if it was: I enjoyed American Beauty because the score was awesome, every shot was carefully framed and every scene was full of saturated colors and obviously intentional, creative uses of light. Sure, Mena Suvari covered in rose petals is hokey, but it looked beautiful.
Now don’t say that makes me the equivalent of Ricky! His character really creeped me out, and everyone should feel free to pile on the laughable “There’s so much beauty in the world so I filmed this plastic bag for 15 minutes LOL” scene:
People are always talking about Heathers being the precursor to Mean Girls, but you know what? I think Heathers is far and away the better film, even if it doesn’t quite have the same comedic weight (though “Dear diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count” is a serious contender for Best High School Comedy One-Liner Ever).
One thing I appreciate about teen movies from the 80s/90s (I’m thinking The Craft, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Ghost World, Cruel Intentions, even Pretty in Pink) is that they are significantly darker and address more serious themes than most of what gets made today. Older teen films treat the kids they depict as fairly mature adults with moral agency, and show casual sex, substance use, and general rebellion without trivializing those acts or attaching automatic, negative consequences to them.
For example, in Heathers, Veronica and JD have sex on a lawn when they barely know one another, but that’s not why their relationship sours–things go bad when JD reveals that he’s a murderous psychopath with a God complex. That contrasts pretty starkly with modern fare like Superbad, where the two main (male) characters obsess about opportunities to have sex and illegally purchase alcohol for the entire movie–so much time is spend in the pursuit of “bad” things, that there’s no time to analyze motivation or fall-out.
And Mean Girls, while allowing the Plastics to wield a certain amount of power in the school, ultimately ends with everyone learning their lesson and virtually no permanent damage done. In the Heathers universe, people don’t get off that easily just because they’re teenagers.
“What a waste! Oh the humanity!” That is my reaction to those boxy jackets:
So which 80s and 90s movies do you think have aged particularly well or poorly? Anything in general that was done better by/for Gen. X-ers than the current generation? Here’s a few I’d love to hear about because I’ve never seen them: Reality Bites, Singles, Risky Business, and Fast Times at Ridgmont High.