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Fast Times Movie Poster

Your March 2007 Random Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: Fast Cars, Fast Girls, Fast Carrots...Fast Carrots?

Preshow Entertainment: YOU'RE UGLY rap video, Movietone News 1930


The first thing we watched was an oddity that may indeed be a rarity...though someone would have to care to make it so. It's a rap video by persons unknown of a song called YOU'RE UGLY. And in the video, the young and not yet famous model named Veronica Webb.

Now, Veronica was a member of the videostore I worked at in the '80s, and somehow this little curiosity fell from the beauty's hands into the geek's. I looked all over the web for info on this song and found none. I have zero idea who the act is. Anyone with information is asked to call me immediately. All calls will be kept confidential.

R101 Airship
Next up, footage from newsreels of 1930. Lots of stuff about the Depression, how to bounce back (spend money, you tightwad!), and Roosevelt as Governor of N.Y. There was also some footage never shown in theaters, as it was deemed too incendiary (a protest). But the best footage for me was the wreck of England's R101 airship, along with footage of it flying in all its majesty. At the time, it was the largest airship in the world.

In case you haven't guessed, the random movie we screened was FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, my vote for the best teen comedy ever made. Yes, better than PREPPIES, HOLLYWOOD HOT TUBS, and HARDBODIES (and its sequel), FAST TIMES actually addresses high school issues dead on and coats it with a shell of sharp characters, dialogue and...moments. Don't let the fact that it's a "teen comedy" fool you into thinking its PORKY'S (though some ads would indeed exploit this). Underneath the comedy is reality and characters so real, it's like watching a yearbook come alive. And there's a reason for that. Writer Cameron Crowe (ALMOST FAMOUS, SAY ANYTHING..., and the much better than the entire world said it was ELIZABETHTOWN) went undercover at a high school to get these stories, and the movie (which he wrote) is based on his book.

To the viewer, not a lot happens plot-wise. But to the characters, not a lot is their whole world. For in high school the rules are different, and we are there to observe the characters' victories and defeats.

A cast of, at the time, unknowns (it was a very low budget movie) FAST TIMES was glued together by perpetual stoner surf-dude Spicoli (Sean Penn), as memorable a movie character as Kane or Kong. There's not a wasted (no pun intended) breath in Penn's performance. Even his ad libs are righteous and totally awesome ("Hey, I know that dude.")
Rat & Damone
There's shy and sensitive Mark Ratner (Brian Backer), who is played with that perfectly awkward lack of confidence prevalent in boys that age (I think I was a Ratner). Next is Damone (Richard Robert Romanus), the confident, cocky ticket scalper who takes Rat under his wing.
Stacy & Mr. Hand
Jennifer Jason Leigh plays 15 year old Stacy, who just wants a relationship, be it with a stereo salesman or the usher at the theater in the mall she works at. And her friend and co-worker Linda (Phoebe Cates), who knows it all (not really) because she is dating an older man. Judge Reinhold plays Brad, Stacy's older brother and king of fast food worker hell. This is the ensemble that make FAST TIMES rock. Sure, there are others teens out there eating American pies and having breakfasts at the club, but the FAST TIMES crew is untouchable. FAST TIMES could have been pitched as "teen Robert Altman film."

Also in the cast is history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston). What can I say? His lines are so famous that 25 years later they're MP3 files. This was also Forest Whitaker's first movie. Small parts went to Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz and...Oh! Nic Cage is in it! Yes, Rich finally likes a movie with Nic Cage. Could it be because he barely has a blip of screen time?

This was a shining moment for much of the cast. Some became stars, and others just fell off the map, never to be seen again. But isn't that just like high school?

To list the wonderful moments of the movie, well, I may as well just give you a link to the script. That said, I'll give you just a few now: Spicoli having a pizza delivered to class (the delivery guy, Taylor Negron, is in the credits as "himself"). The blowjob/carrot lesson. Stacy looking up at the graffiti in the dugout as she loses her virginity - it's the farthest from romance she can be.
And the most famous - Brad's fantasy of Linda coming out of the pool, undoing her bikini top as she walks to him in slo-mo, then kisses him passionately. Of course the fantasy is interrupted by Linda actually walking in on Brad masturbating. "Aloha Mr. Hand" indeed. It's pretty safe to say this scene is iconic (over 20 years later it was mimicked in Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom" video). And I'm sure there are many boys out there whose VHS picture fluttered from wear at the 52 minute mark. More on Phoebe in a moment.

This is one of those films where, I believe, credit goes to no one in particular, but to all involved. Director Amy (CLUELESS) Heckerling did a wonderful job. Writer Crowe captured high school in a bottle. The actors were spot-on inside their characters. Heckerling has admitted how much all the actors brought to their roles, especially Penn (it's still hard for me to believe that the guy who played Spicoli is the same guy who, a year later, played a really brutal bad boy in BAD BOYS - no, not that BAD BOYS, the good BAD BOYS). Penn's first two high profile movies and we already knew - he was something special. And Jennifer Jason Leigh, terrific in nearly everything she does (and I've seen 23 of her films), is just so good here. Right down to the clumsy way she moves her hands and arms. Like a teenager.

Five months shy of its 25th anniversary and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH is still fresh. Sure, there's some dated stuff (video games, Pat Benatar references, smelling the ditto paper), but the situations have not changed. As long as there is high school, there will be love, heartbreak, infatuations, awkwardness, stoner dudes, wiseasses, jocks, trend followers, helpless teachers, and betrayals. And that means FAST TIMES will always work. So remember not to stuff FAST TIMES into the "teen comedy" locker. It's really much smarter than that. A scene like the one where Rat, defending Stacy, confronts Damone...that is as real as life gets, with honest actions and reactions. It's played so perfectly it could have been caught by any school's security cameras.

Back in the '80s, at the previously mentioned video store I worked in, Bridget Fonda was a regular customer. She was friends with Phoebe Cates, and I asked if she'd bring her in one day. Well, I worked every Monday night. One Monday, I decided to switch with someone just to see what a Monday felt like in the real world (you see where this is going, right?). I went to see the movie HOUSEKEEPING, and when I got back, there was a message on my machine from Bridget. Yep, she brought Phoebe in to meet me, and I wasn't there. But that's not the saddest part of the story. The real crime here is how Phoebe had to settle for some Kevin guy instead of me. Poor, poor girl.

FTARH is close to my hood (filmed at Sherman Oaks Galleria and Van Nuys High School) and heart. Never has a comedy captured high school so well. Those actors weren't really acting at all, were they? I mean, go into any high school now and I'm pretty sure you'll find Stacy and Linda and Brad and Rat and Damone and Spicoli. And a few Mr. Hands.

There's an edited for TV version which is actually longer (some stuff is cut, but more is added) in the RMC library. So who knows? We may get to see this movie again someday. Actually, Ridgemont is one high school I wouldn't mind going back to.

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