By Kate Bobby
The American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria will host a two-week retrospective, “Restless and Rebellious:Teen Movies: Then and Now,” from Nov. 27-Dec. 5.
“The largest share of the movie market belongs to a younger and younger audience, and therefore some of the most interesting, most adventurous films of the past decade were intended first and foremost for teen audiences,” said David Schwartz, curator and film and video and host of the series.
“With the next two weekends, we wanted to showcase some of the best and most interesting teen films, most of which hold up particularly well,” said Schwartz, who begins the series Saturday at 2 p.m. with the groundbreaking teen film of perhaps all time, “Rebel Without a Cause.”
Directed in 1955 by Nicholas Ray (who gave us 1953's “Johnny Guitar,” among others), “Rebel” was the second of Dean's three films and with its release, it forever changed Hollywood's take – and America's – on what goes on in the mind of a teen.
“It's a classic and it definitely stands up as a work of art today,” said Schwartz.
Saturday, November 27, at 2 p.m.:
In “Rebel,” Dean as Jim Stark is hardly the first moody young man of the movies, but he is one of its most memorable. Stark, making a new start in a new town, finds that his best intentions soon come to naught even with the love of his life at his side. Whether flashing a cryptic smile or wracked with teen grief and angst, Dean's effortless acting style blazed a trail followed countless actors who have studied his style: Johnny Depp can brood; Leonardo DiCaprio tries to look mischievous; and Brad Pitt can certainly be said to have a smile. But Dean has it all. If you haven't seen “Rebel,” now is the time. It also stands up well with repeat viewings.
At 4 p.m. it's “Go” (1999), starring a stand-out Sarah Polley as Ronna Martin, a jaded cashier doesn't hesitate to co-opt a co-worker's drug sale in an attempt to make her rent. And, of course, things go wrong, wrong, wrong. It's quick, it's slick and witty with solid ensemble acting and a great soundtrack.
Sunday, November 28, 2 p.m.
Amy Heckerling's “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) launched the careers of its many stars, including Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Penn, who walks away with the movie as a surfer with dead wood between his ears.
“Fast Times” is still funny when you watch it today,” said Schwartz, who also included it in the series because it was one of a scant few teen genre films directed by a woman.
At 4 p.m., the museum will host “A Pinewood Dialogue” with Collette Burson, director of the new film, “Coming Soon” (1999), “an audacious inversion” of the stereotypical Hollywood teen comedy. Starring Gaby Hoffman and Mia Farrow, “Coming Soon” focuses on a group of Manhattan prep school girls seeking sexual satisfaction.
At 4 p.m., the museum hosts a screening of director Eugene Martin's 1998 film, “Edge City,” a hip hop opera set in Philadelphia.
Saturday, December 4, 2 p.m.
The museum screens “Seventeen” a 1982 documentary about a group of high school students at a sexually integrated school in the Midwest. Note: it was banned from the PBS mini-series for which it was intended.
Sunday, December 5, 2 p.m.
The museum screens director Alexander Payne's critically acclaimed comedy, “Election.” Starring Reese Whitherspoon as the class president from hell and Matthew Broderick as a teacher who has been to bear (doesn't read???) malignant ill-will toward the graceless front runner. If you do not like your humor dark, sick and twisted, it is best to stay away. But if you prefer a teen film like no other, seek “Election” which Schwartz dubs the best written film of the series.
At 4:30 p.m., enjoy Richard Linklater's “Dazed and Confused (1993), a fitting precursor to theme-free slice-of-life films such as the well-reviewed comedies “Clerks” and “Slackers.” Its organizing principle: the last day of school in a suburb, the year 1976. The rest is completely up to you. Highlight: the 70s soundtrack.
Schwartz said the selection process for the two weekend series was difficult, having started with a list of about 50 possible selections. Earlier shortlist considerations included a few from the John Hughes teen film canon, including “Sixteen Candles” as well as more recent films such as Todd Solonz's disturbing satire, “Welcome to the Dollhouse.”
Upcoming series at the museum, include: “The Future Is Now (Dec. 11-Jan. 2); a critics' roundup of the best films of the '90s with top critics presenting their picks; “Mental Hygiene,” a retrospective of educational films from the 1950s and 1960s.
The American Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Avenue at 36th Street in Astoria, is open Tuesday through Friday noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, call 784-0077.