Talking Movies

September 10, 2019

From the Archives: Top 10 College Movies

Another deep dive into the pre-Talking Movies archives dredges this up editorially requested piece from September 2007.

10 Chariots of Fire

People forget the importance of Cambridge in this film where future Olympian Harold Abrahams first silences anti-Semitic prejudice by doing the impossible; hurtling around the tight corners of the Trinity Quad in a 60 second sprint, as judged by the pealing of the clock tower.

9 Revenge of the Nerds

A key 1980s college movie Revenge of the Nerds had a joyously simple premise. Nerds go to college. Jocks kick nerds out of their house. Nerds fight back. Hilarity ensues.

8 Love Story

For any of you starting college as hopeless romantics it’s time to get real. The only relationship this preposterously successful 1970 Harvard romance will have to your experience is as perfect ironic viewing for a DVD night. All together now, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

7 Wonder Boys

Wonderfully offbeat whimsy about a Pittsburgh English Professor (Michael Douglas) who, for various reasons, is forced to deal with three different romantic entanglements, a dead dog and a depressed student (Tobey Maguire) who may be faking his woes just to have an excuse to hang out with him…

6 Starter for Ten

This far more realistic 2006 bittersweet British comedy sees awkward student James McAvoy torn between an upper class hottie and a working class activist in Thatcher’s Britain and trying to impress both by, of all things, getting a place on Bristol University’s team for University Challenge.

5 Old School

The film that finally made Will Ferrell a star sees Ferrell, Vince Vaughan and Luke Wilson start an off-campus frat house in an attempt to recapture their youth. Will Ferrell’s ‘perfect response’ in a debate they must win to avoid being evicted is a thing of genius.

4 Back to School

The film Old School wants to be sees millionaire Rodney Dangerfield start college to help out his flunking son. Watch out for the hilarious continuity humour of the celebrated diving scene where a sexagenarian Dangerfield (and a muscle bound stunt double) perform the Triple Lindy move.

3 Real Genius

Val Kilmer headlines a group of students studying physics in the pressure cooker environment of a college that is not MIT (tedious legal reasons…). The scene where Kilmer uses slices of frozen nitrogen as change for vending machines should be shown in Irish schools to promote chemistry.

2 Animal House

Nevermind the ‘plot’, just know that this film was the best cinematic showcase for John Belushi’s great comedic talent. If you are in college and you haven’t seen this madcap comedy then there is something wrong with you. Three words best describe Animal House: Toga! Toga! Toga!

1 Rules of Attraction

Over a semester at fictional Camden College an impossibly pretty bisexual love triangle plays out between James Van Deer Beek (Sean Bateman), Shannyn Sossamon (Lauren) and Ian Somerhalder (Paul) as the shadow of AIDS looms over the general debauchery. Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary adapts Bret Easton Ellis’ nihilistic novel about Patrick Bateman’s brother to be shocking, romantic and hilarious.

Best Teacher

Donald Sutherland in Animal House. Who can resist his response to the utter boredom of his English class especially the indignant howl of the last two lines: “Don’t write this down, but I find Milton probably as boring as you find Milton. Mrs. Milton found him boring too. He’s a little bit long-winded, he doesn’t translate very well into our generation, and his jokes are terrible. [Bell rings, students leave] But that doesn’t relieve you of your responsibility for this material. Now I’m waiting for reports from some of you… Listen, I’m not joking. This is my job!”.

Best Preparation for College

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris is just helping out Cameron: “He has a lot of issues to work thru before he finishes High School. He can’t go to college wound this tight. His roommate will kill him!”

Best College

Barnett College. Don’t remember it? It’s where Indiana Jones taught archaeology in The Last Crusade. Now that’s a faculty and a half.

How Not to Apply to College

Orange County. This 2002 cult comedy sees Colin Hanks embark on a quest to convince Orange County University to admit him after his school accidentally sends the wrong transcripts.

June 10, 2018

They’re young, they’re in love, and they kill people

The IFI presents a Killer Couples season for the month of June. Extremely notable by its absence is Bonnie & Clyde, which one would have thought essential. In its place there is a grab-bag of noirs, B-movies, black comedies, latter-day B-movies, and art-house drama, ranging from the 1940s to the 1990s, and Hollywood to New Zealand via the Nouvelle Vague.

Double Indemnity

Wednesday 6th June 18:20

Neil Brand claims for Miklos Rozsa’s opening chords the origin of the classic uneasy dissonance of high film noir music. One might note that the writing credits are equally seminal: the knowing dialogue of Raymond Chandler, the cynical plotting of James M Cain, and the chilly irony of director Billy Wilder. Nice guy Fred MacMurray is cast wonderfully against type as an insurance salesman who begins an affair with the wife of a client, Barbara Stanwyck’s definitive femme fatale.

Compulsion

Sunday 10th June 15:45

Orson Welles cameos as a thinly disguised Clarence Darrow pleading, at some length, for mercy for the upstanding rich young psychopaths he’s defending (Braford Dillman and Dean Stockwell). Based on the same infamous Leopold & Loeb murder case of 1924 that inspired Hitchcock’s Rope, director Richard Fleischer, in less fantastical territory than usual for him, chillingly depicts the students outwitting their elders with Nietzschean aphorisms before their abrogation of morality comes a cropper over a (providentially?) misplaced pair of glasses.

The Getaway

Wednesday 13th June 18:20

Cool character Steve McQueen is a hardened criminal in hard-man director Sam Peckinpah’s tough-minded version of hard-boiled novelist Jim Thompson’s brutal pulp novel, adapted by the thinking man’s hard man auteur Walter Hill. Yeah, there was a lot of competing machismo on the development and production of this 1972 movie. Poor Love Story star Ali McGraw got dog’s abuse for her poor acting from a perpetually drunk Peckinpah even as smitten co-star McQueen began a scandalous affair with her.

 

Ascenseur pour l’echafaud

Sunday 17th June 15:30

Louis Malle somehow convinced jazz great Miles Davis to simply improvise a score while watching footage of his 1957 directorial debut. Not technically a Nouvelle Vague film but it seems churlish to deny Malle’s kinship with them on account of two years’ chronology. Jeanne Moreau enigmatically wanders the streets of Paris at night waiting for her lover (Maurice Ronet), after their perfect murder of her husband goes predictably sideways, while a sub-plot sees two younger lovers cause chaos.

 

Pretty Poison

Wednesday 20th June 18:30

Psycho star Anthony Perkins is released from a mental institution under strict conditions but immediately runs into the murderous arms of manipulative teenager Tuesday Weld in this bizarre black comedy. A haze of insane conspiracies, mayhem, and bloodshed ensue, with an RD Laing zeitgeist-surfing vibe that the sane people are the ones in the asylum – the truly crazy people are the ones running around outside in the dramatically disintegrating America of 1968. Who wouldn’t prefer being safely locked up?

 

The Honeymoon Killers

Saturday 23rd June 15:30

French Connection and Jesus of Nazareth actor Tony Lo Bianco stars in Leonard Kastle’s blackly comic thriller as a con man who offers love and marriage to lonely women via lonely hearts newspaper classifieds but has something very different in mind, aided and abetted by his partner Shirley Stoler. A few scenes directed by Martin Scorsese still remain in the picture; astonishingly the exuberant motor-mouth was fired after 4 days because he was working too … slowly. Yep.

 

Natural Born Killers

Sunday 24th June 15:30

I think the IFI rather enjoys showing Oliver Stone’s 1994 throw-every-film-format-and-editing-style-there-is-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks media satire/fiasco just to remind everyone how they were prevented from doing so by the boo-hiss censor back in 1994. Now showing in 35mm, this may be your last chance to enjoy this as an original piece of madness before Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind is finally released (soon, allegedly) and we can see the footage that Stone was shown privately pre-JFK and NBK

Gun Crazy

Thursday 28th June 18:30

Rope star John Dall is a naive young man who meets and marries (unhinged) carnival sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Irish actress Peggy Cummins) only to fall into a world of trouble due to her criminal proclivities. Dalton Trumbo co-wrote this while blacklisted, and there is some showy single-take and fixed-position direction by Joseph Lewis. Recent contributor hereabouts Friedrich Bagel somehow fell asleep during a screen 2 showing of this B-movie classic in the IFI some years ago, for shame!

Heavenly Creatures

Saturday 30th June 18:20

Before the unexpected transition to epic fantasy with The Lord of the Rings and after Meet the Freebles was Peter Jackson’s equally unexpected gothic drama based on a real life cause celebre in 1950s New Zealand. Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey both made their impressive screen debuts as the teenagers whose obsessive bond and shared fantasy world led to a very savage murder in the here and now. Legendary Weta was formed by Jackson to create that fantasy world.

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