Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Who knows about college life better than a 45-year-old writer in Hollywood, right? Before you embark on your many higher-ed adventures, make sure you've checked out Hollywood's best college films. I'll forego even talking about "Animal House;" it has made far too many of these lists already. See it. The same goes for "Old School," the best movie the Frat Pack has put out to date. Unfortunately, in the world of college movies, for every Will Ferrell butt-scene, there are 14 crap-fests like "Van Wilder." Here are some good ones you and your new friends might have missed but that will never fail to inspire some conversation and endearing inside jokes.
"Dude, Where's My Car?" (2000) "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004)
I lump them together, because, hell, they're not all that much different: a stoned, homoerotic duo goes in search of car/food, encountering any number of misadventures along the way—from battling llamas ("Dude") to having a tripping Neil Patrick Harris dry-hump their car seat ("White Castle"). Give them a chance, and you'll find that both have a special manic energy and absurdity that make them infinitely watchable.
For an added challenge, you and your new friends can try the "Dude, Where's My Car?" drinking game, knocking one back every time you hear the words, "dude," "sweet" or "shibby."
"Rules of Attraction" (2002)
Sure, it's disturbing, a tad silly and has some gags that don't really work, but this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' nihilistic novel of college depravity is a good way of testing your new friends' comfort boundaries. The story centers on odd love connections and hopes: Drug-dealer Sean (James Van Der Beek of "Dawson's Creek") is in love with Lauren (Shannyn Sossamon) who used to date Paul (Ian Somerhalder), who's in love with Sean. Got that? "Rules" utilizes post-"Pulp Fiction" style to create one hell of a mood. This one's worth watching, if just for a breath-taking ecstacy-inspired sequence involving one character's semester in Europe. The bizarre DVD commentary by Carrot Top isn't shabby, either.
"Wonder Boys" (2000)
If you're looking for something slightly more literate than "Dude, Where's My Car?" or "Rules of Attraction," you should check out Michael Douglas in the 2000 adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel "Wonder Boys." Douglas stars as Grady Tripp, a depressed, pot-loving English professor at a Pittsburgh university. He's a renowned writer as well, but it's been almost 10 years since his last book; rumors abound that he's "blocked." Enter Tobey Maguire as a prodigious, but-slightly-insane young writer and Robert Downey, Jr. as a bisexual Manhattan book editor, and you have an exceptionally thoughtful film that does for college what "Dead Poets Society" did for prep school. If you'd rather read a book, Chabon's debut novel "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" is a great take on the possibilities of that last summer before college, and all the sex, drugs and self-realization that come along with it.
"The Big Lebowski" (1998)
Of course, the best and most quotable college movie isn't about college at all. In the six years since its original release, the Cohen brothers' "Lebowski" has grown into quite the cult classic. Jeff Bridges stars as The Dude, a simple, bowling-loving stoner who, against his will, teams up with his affected Vietnam-vet friend Walter (John Goodman) and goes out in search of the hooligans who pissed on his living-room rug. Their quest takes them through a bowling tournament, a parking lot fight with a pack of nihilists and a hysterical musical number set to "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." If you're man (or woman) enough, or if you can't stomach sitting through the "Dude, Where's My Car?" drinking game, try taking a swig every time The Dude or Walter drop the f-bomb. Bet you can't.
Also of note: The first season of the MTV cartoon series "Undergrads" (given a second life, sort of, late nights on Comedy Central) has been released on DVD. The show follows four childhood friends as they head off to separate colleges. Funny stuff.
Joel Moore recently decided to skip out on a fancy-pants Yankee law school in favor of returning to Oxford to edit a book, hang out with friends and see lots of cool concerts.