I’ll be honest here. I really wanted to devote this week’s column to James Woods films that are longer than 160 minutes in duration. Seriously. However, my editor thought it would be more appropriate to discuss films that revolve around a freshman’s experience at college even though she “already did that last year.”
So, I know it’s kind of an obvious topic and every other video guru in the galaxy is probably doing the same thing, but bear with me. Perhaps ol’ Biff’s got a trick or two up his ironic t-shirt sleeve.
Perhaps some of these oft-forgotten gems might lend some advice on how to deal with the “freshman experience” and also remind non-freshman what it was like for them. With all the disclaimers aside, let’s talk turkey.
Upon learning of my assigned task I immediately thought of “Real Genius.” This 1985 film contains so many classic scenes and lines, I don’t know where to begin.
Val Kilmer is the star of the film but the story follows the character of Mitch, played by Gabriel Jarret, who is too smart for his age and is sent to college when he’s still just a wee lad. This poor kid gets picked on by the intellectual bully, Kenneth, gets stuck with a crazy roommate, Kilmer, has a guy named Lazlo living in his closet, calls home crying to his parents about how he wants to go home and even falls in love for the first time.
No stone is left unturned here.
Oh, and it’s also about lasers and braces and military bases and popcorn and stuff but you get the point. This movie is awesome.
Now how can we discuss college freshman movies without bringing up “PCU”? That’s right, that zany 1994 attack on political correctness on college campi everywhere that simultaneously serves as an important artifact of the early ’90s grunge culture/fashion.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, what about “Singles”? Mark my words, 100 years from now, “PCU” will be in all the museums. If museums still exist.
Anyway, “PCU” follows a freshman recruit named Tom through his weekend college tour where he gets to know every single stereotype group you could possibly think of.
Jon Favreau, David Spade and Jeremy “I’ll do anything I’m offered” Piven make the movie enjoyable as does the scene where someone is instructed to not wear the band shirt to the band’s concert. This is the best advice I’ve ever heard in any film. Don’t ever forget this important rule. Don’t be that guy, especially if you just bought the shirt at the show. That is much, much worse.
An interesting side note: one can easily view this film in between classes given its running time of 79 minutes. That means it’s real good! I digress.
Did you ever wonder what happened to the guy that directed “Better Off Dead” and “One Crazy Summer”? Well, Savage Steve Holland did direct another film, his third and last, 1989’s “How I Got Into College.” While I would like to tell you this film is an overlooked comedic masterpiece right on par with Holland’s first two efforts, it really isn’t.
Instead it’s kind of funny, kind of boring, kind of serious and is really more entertaining because of the many actors you will recognize. “ER”‘s Anthony Edwards as an admissions advisor, “Saturday Night Live” alums Phil Hartman and Nora Dunn play SAT tutors, Lara Flynn Boyle is the stuck-up love interest (does she ever play anything else?), and one of my favorites, Tom Kenny, who plays Binky in “Shakes the Clown,” plays this weird character who lives inside the main kid’s head. It’s really not as bad as it sounds.
Honestly though, check this one out just to see how awful they make the college process seem. Do they even have those college fairs in high school gyms anymore? SATs, is that made up? Whatever.
All I know is getting into college was not that hard. That’s what makes this kind of silly, I guess. Oh, this one is also just shy of the 90-minute mark, clocking in at a sparse 86.
If you want some other looks at college life through the eyes of a freshman, try the Corey Haim features “Life 101” or “Dream Machine.” I think Corey Feldman is a freshman in the horror movie “Voodoo,” or maybe he’s just the new kid. His fraternity brothers try to kill him for some odd reason, I forget.
If you want something with a serious tone, give “Higher Learning” a look. It’s got both Ice Cube and Michael Rapaport before their careers got cancelled and it deals with people’s need to fit in, no matter what the consequences. Serious stuff, indeed.
This list could go on and on, but I think that “Real Genius,” “PCU,” and “How I Got Into College” really capture the whole back to school thing. Can I just say how proud I am I made it through this article without mentioning “Animal House” or “Back to School”?
Alright, I’ll leave you with this advice, courtesy of Droz from “PCU” to freshmen everywhere: “Here’s all you need to know: Classes? Nothing before eleven. Beer? It’s your best friend. You drink a lot. Women? You’re a freshman so it’s pretty much out of the question. Will you have a car? Someone on your floor will. Find them and make friends with them on the first day.”
Oh, and Biff’s advice? Lots and lots of coffee.