Movie Reflection Papers
Please watch 2 movies you choose out of the following list. Write a 1-2 pages reflection paper for each.
(dir. Nanette Burstein, 2008, 95 minutes)
This documentary follows a group of small-town Indiana adolescents through their lives in high school and their social relationships.
High School Confidential
(dir. Jack Arnold, 1958, 85 minutes)
An excellent film to use as an example of stereotypes of adolescence in the 1950s. The story revolves around a narcotics officer’s attempt to bust “hopheads” in a tough high school. Funny but revealing in terms of issues of adult perceptions of youth culture.
(dir. George Lucas, 1973, 110 minutes)
This film is about the coming-of-age of a group of high school students in northern California. Issues of moving from adolescence to emerging adulthood are highlighted in a context of 1960s culture.
50 Ways of Saying Fabulous
(dir. Stewart Main, 2005, 90 minutes)
This is the story of 12-year-old Billy, who is about to discover that growing up is a lot more confusing than he could have ever imagined. He is a farmer’s only son who is out of step with the other boys at his school. As he learns about his sexuality, everything he knows is called into question, including his lifelong loyalty to his best friend, tomboy Louise.
(dir. Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi, 2007, 96 minutes)
This movie is a poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution. Marjane Satrapi grew up wearing sneakers and beating up boys. She wanted to grow up to be a saint. When she was 10 years old, her world changed overnight. Girls and boys had to use different doors to enter the school. She had to cover herself with a long dark robe.
The Year My Voice Broke
(dir. John Duigan, 1988, 103 minutes)
A likeable Australian coming-of-age drama with echoes of “The Last Picture Show” and the novels of S.E. Hinton. Though the film market has been saturated with adolescent dramas since 1962, this movie’s refreshing honesty makes it a welcome addition to the genre.
Dead Poets Society
(dir. Peter Weir, 1989, 124 minutes)
Robin Williams, as an impressive, unorthodox English teacher, inspires a love of poetry and intellectual freedom in his students at a strict, upscale New England prep school. Issues of multiple intelligences and cognitive development are highlighted as well as motivation in school.
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen
(dir. Sara Sugarman, 1991, 89 minutes)
A teenage girl is convinced that her home city revolves around her until her family packs up and moves to the suburbs, where she finds herself competing for attention.
Searching for Bobby Fischer
(dir. Steven Zaillian, 1993, 107 minutes)
This film is about prodigy Josh Waitzkian, a seven-year-old boy whose understanding of chess puts him in the running to be “the next Bobby Fischer.” This praise could easily be a curse; Fischer devoted his life to the game and then became a recluse after becoming a world champion. This thought-provoking commentary explores how success in America is often emphasized over decency.
Bend It Like Beckham
(dir. Gurinder Chadha, 2002, 112 minutes)
An English girl of Indian descent has a passionate interest in soccer, but she has to indulge it on the sly for fear of upsetting her conservative, tradition-bound parents. Fine performances and a gentle, compassionate point of view towards all its characters make this a real charmer.
(dir. Chris Eyre, 1998, 89 minutes)
This film is a tale of two Native American youths on a trip to Arizona. Highlights cultural aspects of identity, family relationships, peer relationships…a poignant coming-of-age flick.
(dir. Niki Caro, 2002, 101 minutes)
Tradition, good and bad, is at the heart of New Zealand director-scripter Niki Caro’s wonderful little drama, sensitively adapted from the 1986 novel by Witi Ihimaera, itself a contemporary interpretation of a 1,000 year old legend belonging to a Maori subtribe residing in a coastal village of New Zealand. The central characters are very much affected by modern society, and yet equally aware of the need to preserve their heritage. The story, about a girl determined to prove that “she matters” to her stubborn grandfather, celebrates and cherishes individual spirit while speaking to the heart of the parent-child dynamic. This is a stirring saga of female empowerment and the strength of love and courage.
(dir. Danny Boyle, 2008, 120 min)
A Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” He is arrested under suspicion of cheating, and while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown which explain why he knows the answers.
Boys Don’t Cry
(dir. Kimberly Pierce, 1999, 114 minutes)
Fascinating, compelling, and ultimately horrifying: the study of a remarkably brave young woman determined to “pass” as a boy in rural Nebraska. Interpretation of a modern tragic heroine or hero – depending on one’s point of view.
(dir. Karyn Kusama, 2000, 113 minutes)
Brooklyn high school girl literally boxes her way from juvenile head case to empowered young woman. This teenage love story about confronting external obstacles and internal demons is set among the blood, sweat, and tears of the ring; the squalor of inner city streets; and the emotional litter of a dysfunctional home.
Ma Vie en Rose
(dir. Alain Berliner, 1987, 86 minutes)
A French boy is convinced that when he grows up he will be a girl and marry the son of his father’s boss; in the meantime, his innocent certainty causes confusion and perplexity among his family and their suburban middle-class neighbors.
(dir. Alain Berliner, 1940, 90 minutes)
Superb performances from a top-flight cast add zest to this well-done adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play about life in a small town. (It contains some good material to discuss “traditional” gender roles and stereotypes.)
She’s the Man
(dir. Andy Fickman, 2006, 105 minutes)
When her brother decides to ditch for a couple weeks in London, Viola heads over to his elite boarding school, disguises herself as him, and proceeds to fall for one of her soccer teammates. Little does she realize she’s not the only one with romantic troubles, as she, as he, gets in the middle of a series of intermingled love affairs.
(dir. Terry Zwigoff, 2001, 111 minutes)
An alienated teen responds to a personal ad as a prank, but when she gets to know the lonely 35ish geek who placed it, she finds him a kindred spirit. What starts as a sort of female “Catcher in the Rye” evolves into something surprisingly touching and bittersweet, with fine acting.
Rebel Without a Cause
(dir. Nicholas Ray, 1955, 111 minutes)
It is undoubtedly the classic film about juvenile delinquency. Relationships in adolescence and emerging adulthood are highlighted with the framework of nostalgic counter-culture and adolescent egocentrism.
(dir. Ryan Fleck, 2006, 107 minutes)
Emerging adult and adolescent identities intersect in this drama about a friendship between an inner city student and her teacher. The teacher, who inspires his students to think for themselves, has a drug problem and the student faces issues of poverty and a broken home. The film is not sugar-coated and presents authentic portrayals of issues and relationships.
(dir. Jason Reitman, 2007, 96 minutes)
Juno is a whip-smart teen confronting an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate Bleeker. With the help of her hot best friend Leah, Juno finds her unborn child a “perfect” set of parents: an affluent suburban couple, Mark and Vanessa, longing to adopt. Luckily, Juno has the total support of her parents as she faces some tough decisions, flirts with adulthood, and ultimately figures out where she belongs.
(dir. Garry Marshall, 2007, 113 minutes)
Rachel comes to stay with her Grandmother Georgia for the summer leaving some obvious problems behind at home. Her alcoholic mother doesn’t even stay the night before rushing back out to California to be with her husband. Rachel, a beautiful girl in the boring Mormon country, shakes up the town. Then she reveals her deepest secret to one of her new friends, and her mother comes rushing back to find out if it’s true. In the midst of this crisis, the three women become closer than ever and start to understand each other more.
(dir. Stephen Daldry, 2000, 110 minutes)
This charming British entry, set in a coal-mining community in 1984 Northern England, concerns a young lad who embarrasses his gruff father and older brother by abandoning boxing lessons for ballet. Julie Walters shines as the chain-smoking dance instructor who sees potential in the boy, and scripter Lee Hall shades his familiar material with such fresh enthusiasm that you cannot help being captivated. Highlights issues of family and resilience.
He Got Game
(dir. Spike Lee, 1998, 137 minutes)
The drama is about ethnic pride, urban survival, and the corruption of American sports. This film centers on the shaky relationship of father and son. Tells the story of Jesus Shuttlesworth, the most sought after high school basketball prospect in the nation. Jesus and his dream to make it to the big ranks in professional basketball are overshadowed by his father, Jake, who is spending his life in prison for killing Jesus’s mother.
The Ice Storm
(dir. Ang Lee, 1997, 113 minutes)
This film is based on Rick Moody’s novel about Thanksgiving 1973 in a middleclass New England family, with adolescent children fumbling with puberty while their parents flounder in the backwash of the sexual revolution.
(dir. Scott Rosenfelt, 1991, 109 minutes)
Poignant coming-of-age drama introduces a 13-year-old trying to make sense of his life. When his parents start questioning their marriage, he must discard youth for adulthood. In the process he learns some valuable lessons, especially from his eccentric aunt.
(dir. Peter Chelsom, 1998, 100 minutes)
Great “small” film in which two young boys, both considered outcasts, find new strength in their friendship. Highlights issues of school peer contexts and learning disabilities.
(dir. Mark Waters, 2004, 97 minutes)
A 16-year-old girl who’s been homeschooled all her life enters public school for the first time and grapples with the cutthroat world of teenage cliques.
Welcome to the Dollhouse
(dir. Todd Solondz, 1996, 87 minutes)
An awkward, unattractive, New Jersey, 11-year-old is degraded at school and dismissed at home by her parents, who like her siblings better. Highlights issues of adolescent peer relations, bullying, and body image.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
(dir. Amy Heckerling, 1982, 92 minutes)
Cameron Crowe went back to high school to discover what “today’s” teens [in the 1980s] are up to and wrote about his experiences. A satirical look at youth culture in the school setting raises many issues of stereotypes around adolescent sexuality and relationships.
High School Musical
(dir. Kenny Ortega, 2006, 98 minutes)
Troy and Gabriella, teenagers from very different worlds, enter a karaoke contest. They meet and find that they have something in common, their love of music.
(dir. Bruce Beresford, 1981, 85 minutes)
This film takes a frank look at the coming-of-age of two teenagers as they grow up on the beaches of Australia. The two girls become temporary victims of peer group pressure that involves drugs, alcohol, and sex. Unlike many other teenage films, Puberty Blues offers interesting insights into the rite of passage as seen from a female point of view.
(dir. Rose Troche, 1994, 85 minutes)
A low-budget amateur film about courtship and love in Chicago’s lesbian community. Shot on weekends over most of a year, the film is lighthearted and playful. The life period of emerging adulthood is highlighted.
About Last Night
(dir. Edward Zwick, 1986, 113 minutes)
A slick adaptation of David Mamet’s play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Demi Moore and Rob Lowe meet for a one-night stand and then realize they like each other.
(dir. Wes Anderson, 1998, 93 minutes)
This parable concerns what might happen if a precocious 15-year-old geek had the talent and resources to bring his every whim to life. Max Fischer is a tenth grader at prestigious Rushmore Academy, a preppy private school where he excels at extracurricular activities – while neglecting his “real” studies. Things get more complicated when Max meets and develops a crush on a first-grade teacher, and one of the school’s primary benefactors also falls in love with the same teacher. What follows is a small treasure: funny, poignant, raw, and at times as clumsy as its protagonist, but no less adorable.
Stand and Deliver
(dir. Ramon Menendez, 1988, 105 minutes)
A Rockyesque interpretation of high school math teacher Jaime Escalante’s true life exploits. Edward James Olmos stars as Escalante, a man who gave up a high-paying job in electronics to make a contribution to society. Recognizing that his inner-city students need motivation to keep them from a lifetime of menial labor, he sets them a challenge: preparation for the state Advanced Placement Test in calculus.
(dir. Alexander Payne, 1999, 103 minutes)
Tracy (Reese Witherspoon) is guaranteed to win the school election for class president until her teacher, Mr. McAlister (Matthew Broderick), finds her some worthy opposition. Little does he know how badly Tracy wants to win, and the high school soon turns into a war zone with Mr. McAlister getting himself in deeper than he ever expected. The excellent cast, witty script, and insightful direction make this dark comedy an absolute delight.
(dir. Charles Chaplin, 1936, 89 minutes)
Charlie Chaplin must have had a crystal ball when he created Modern Times. His satire of life in an industrial society has more relevance today than when it was made. Primarily it is still pure Chaplin, with his perfect timing and edited sight gags. The story finds the Little Tramp confronting all the dehumanizing inventions of a futuristic manufacturing plant.
Roger and Me
(dir. Michael Moore, 1989, 106 minutes)
Michael Moore’s controversial documentary about the growing despair, homelessness, and crime in Flint, Michigan, where more than 30,000 autoworkers were left unemployed by the closing of General Motors plants. Scathingly funny and ultimately sobering.
(dir. Stephen Frears, 2000, 107 minutes)
…both a primer on the agonies of modern love and a keenly observed examination of “music geeks” and their universe….Rarely has a late-entry approach to adulthood been portrayed so engagingly and convincingly. Issues of extended adolescence and work opportunities are highlighted.
(dir. Michael Mann, 1999, 157 minutes)
When the 60 Minutes producer gets a tobacco-industry scientist to reveal the darkest secrets of his employers on camera, it seems CBS News has the story of the decade; however, executives at the network are not thrilled with the big scoop and attempt to use their power to influence the news department not to run the story, thus endangering the life of the scientist and his family. Highlights issues around the tobacco industry and advertising campaigns.
(dir. Billy Ray, 2003, 103 minutes)
This film tells the true story of fraudulent Washington, D.C. journalist Stephen Glass (Christensen), who rose to meteoric heights as a young writer in his 20s, becoming a staff writer at “The New Republic” for three years (1995–1998), where 27 of his 41 published stories were either partially or completely made up.
This Is Spinal Tap
(dir. Rob Reiner, 1984, 82 minutes)
This is one of the funniest movies ever made about rock ‘n’ roll. This is a satire of rock documentaries that tells the story of Spinal Tap, an over-the-hill British heavy metal band. Highlights issues of adults’ fascination with youth culture and subcultures.
Super Size Me
(dir. Morgan Spurlock, 2004, 98 minutes)
New York filmmaker Morgan Spurlock crisscrosses the country to examine the dietary and economic imprints the fast-food industry has chiseled into our daily lives. He spends an entire month eating only from the menu at McDonald’s in this somewhat amateurish video diary that unearths numerous nutritional issues as Spurlock very nearly eats himself to death.
(dir. Tim Hunter, 1987, 99 minutes)
This is a deeply disturbing film based on a real-life murder case. The teenage murderer in River’s Edge takes his friends to see the corpse of his classmate victim. The death becomes a secret bond among them until two decent kids decide to do something about it.
(dir. James Mangold, 1999, 125 minutes)
This adaptation of Susanne Kaysen’s memoir deals with issues of institutionalization, mental illness, gender, and adolescence. For a more in-depth treatment of the topic, read the autobiographical novel, Girl, Interrupted by Susan Kaysen.
(dir. Catherine Hardwicke, 2003, 100 minutes)
A teenage girl (Evan Rachel Wood) is led astray by raging hormones and a debauched, amoral classmate (Nikki Reed). Reed co-wrote the script with director Hardwicke, reportedly as therapy for her own troubled life, and therein lies both its strength and weakness: there’s the harrowing ring of truth, but also a pervasive aura of self-pity. Performances are excellent, especially Holly Hunter as Wood’s clueless mother.
Bowling for Columbine
(dir. Michael Moore, 2002)
Documentary filmmaker and social gadfly Michael Moore probably never fancied himself a national ombudsman, but he has inherited that mantle by default, and because he’s so good at it. This intriguing, maddening, hilarious, and frightening analysis of American gun culture explores and explodes all sorts of theories and myths en route to a rather nasty conclusion: that our own media may be to blame