Fast Times at Ridgemont High
By Connie Chung, 18, Gabrielino HS (San Gabriel)
Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll. As epitomized by Fast Times at Ridgemont High, high school life just doesn’t get any better than that.
Combining the powers of writer Cameron Crowe, who did undercover research at a San Diego high school, and Amy Heckerling, who would go on to direct Clueless, the movie portrays Valley teen life at its all-time high.
The film is set in the early 80s (you’ll laugh at the feathered hair, leg warmers and polyester) and filled with hot jocks, drama queens, nerds, class clowns and outcast stoners. The characters’ lives intersect at the city’s mall (filmed at the old Sherman Oaks Galleria). From being served pizza by the hot waiter or playing tonsil-hockey during a movie with your long-time high school crush, the Valley mall is where the party’s at.
The movie has great music with late-70s California rock like the Eagles and the more fun-loving, poppy beats of The Go-Gos. At-the-time hip, young actors and actresses like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates and Forest Whitaker give the movie a fresh and genuine adolescent experience.
In the midst of pool parties, bad boy crushes and high school hook-ups, nothing tops Sean Penn’s killer role as the pot-smoking surfer, Jeff Spicoli, who can’t get to school on time and yet still has the nerve to have pizza delivered to him during class.
Thanks to Fast Times, Los Angeles is infamous for its surfer dudes and Valley girls (who apparently have nothing better to do than tan at the beach and spend Daddy’s money at the mall). Despite the glitz and glamour of teenage living, the movie gives a glimpse of teens facing the consequences of reckless living. For example, one female character gets pregnant and deals with telling her parents and boyfriend, and ultimately choosing to have an abortion.
All in all, with style, humor and good tunes, this movie is entertaining and worth watching for light-hearted laughs that leave you thinking … sweet!
By Andrea Domanick, 17, Harvard-Westlake School (North Hollywood)
"What you doin’?"
"I’m calling my partner in Toluca Lake."
"Where’s Toluca Lake?"
"It’s just over the hill here over by Burbank Studios. If Jimmie’s a– ain’t home, I don’t know what the f— we’re going to do, man. ‘Cause I ain’t got no other partner in 8-1-8 …"
I’ve often found myself having the same frustrated conversation while navigating the Valley. Well, almost. I’m not usually desperately searching for a place to dump the body of a man I just accidentally shot in the face.
The dark and twisted adventures of Pulp Fiction’s characters—Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson)—are what define Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. The film cleverly weaves together characters connected via the powerful crime lord Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). From scenes bemoaning the disconnectedness of L.A.’s many communities to rants about gourmet coffee, the film’s subplots are subtly rooted in Los Angeles culture.
Pulp Fiction’s urban crudeness could take place in any major city, but none would give it the sinister, paradoxical tinge of Los Angeles. Tarantino illustrates the trite idol-worship of "classic" Hollywood with the themed diner, Jack Rabbit Slim’s, which Vega calls "a wax museum with a pulse." Waitresses dress up as dead celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and nostalgia is sold in $5 milkshakes. But in typical Tarantino fashion, no scene goes untainted. Uma Thurman (playing a failed actress) delivers the classic line, "I’m going to go powder my nose," as she goes to the restroom to snort cocaine. Nearly every scene is set against the backdrop of a faded pawn shop/strip mall/apartment complex, each the shrine to some gruesome deed or scathing dialogue (often both) while the California sun smiles down.
The film’s brilliant script and gratuitous violence will have you caught between throes of laughter and horror. But what really makes Pulp Fiction so quintessentially L.A. is the ironic coexistence of callousness, corruption and death in our city of Hollywood dreams—our City of Angels.
Boyz N the Hood
By Katherine Trujillo, 16, Notre Dame Academy (Los Angeles)
"They want us to kill ourselves." You are immersed in darkness with only the chilling sounds of sirens, gunshots and a woman’s cries telling you that someone has just been shot. John Singleton’s directorial debut, Boyz N the Hood, reveals the crazy gang world of three boys unable to escape the cycle of drugs, violence and death in their South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. This film shows another side of L.A.—the people affected by gang warfare and poverty—that Hollywood often prefers to keep out of movies.
The hot-headed main character Tré Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is sent to live with his father, "Furious," to learn "how to be a man." Not wanting Tré to follow in the path of hundreds of dying gang members, Furious constantly challenges him to take responsibility for his actions.
Unfortunately, Tré’s best friends Ricky (Morris Chestnut) and Doughboy (Ice Cube) don’t have a father figure to keep them out of trouble, so they end up dealing drugs and joining gangs. They’re frustrated being stuck in a poor neighborhood with nothing to look forward to but the next shootout. Doughboy starts selling drugs and Ricky gets a girl pregnant. Tré constantly badgers Brandi, his girlfriend, to have sex with him.
They are far from perfect, but they are real. I connected to Tré, Ricky and Doughboy because they suffer so much yet at times they joke around and have fun just like me and my friends, making me root for them. Even though it’s graphic, the story candidly represents a racially charged L.A. in the early 90s and it serves as a wake-up call for people living behind the walls in gated communities oblivious to the violence and poverty in the heart of our city. Ultimately, Boyz N the Hood is a viciously bittersweet and essential testament to life in South Central.
By Danna Friedberg, 18, Hamilton HS (Los Angeles)
"Are any of you currently in high school in BH, or did any of you graduate from high school in BH? If so, is it anything like it is in the movie Clueless? Like do people dress like that, talk like that, and such, or is it all just stereotypes? I live in southern Canada, so I have no idea, thank you."
One curious fan, who isn’t privileged to live in Southern California like you and me, asks this on the Internet Movie Database. Well, curious southern Canadian fan, the answer is yes. Here in Southern California we are another race. More specifically, people in Beverly Hills have their own DNA that is injected into all infant baby girls so that when they grow up they become 5’10" rich, blonde, spoiled, dumb teenagers. So what do you think about that Canadian fan, eh?
Since Day One movies have usually portrayed Los Angeles in a glorified way. Everyone is gorgeous, financially stable, happy and tan. Perhaps the best example is Amy Heckerling’s 1995 hit Clueless. An updated version of Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, Clueless revolves around the rich, popular, gorgeous 15-year-old Cher Horowitz (played by the perfectly cast Alicia Silverstone). Between shopping trips to the galleria and failing driving tests, Cher makes a career out of giving friends makeovers, playing cupid and looking for love in the 90210.
Shot on location in some of Beverly Hills’ poshest neighborhoods, Clueless offers a funny, fly-on-the-wall view of the rich and privileged life.
It also portrays rich Beverly Hills teens as ignorant. And as ethnically diverse as Los Angeles is, we still tend to stereotype. Nothing expresses this better than my favorite exchange among Cher, her Latino housekeeper and dowdy ex-stepbrother.
Cher: Lucy, the fire department called again. They said we need to clear out that bush. You said you’d talk to Jose about it.
Lucy: He’s your gardener, I don’t know why you no tell him.
Cher: Lucy, you know I don’t speak Mexican.
Lucy: I NOT A MEXICAN.
Cher: Great, what was that all about?
Josh: Lucy’s from El Salvador.
Josh: So, it’s an entirely different country.
Cher: What does that matter?
Josh: You get mad if anyone thinks you live below Sunset.
So to those who are less-privileged, and unable to live here: we may not be smart, down-to-earth or friendly, but in the words of Cher, "we fully intend to brake for animals, wouldn’t skin a collie for a backpack and, in no way suffer from shoppers’ remorse." That counts for something, right?