Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Back to School

Back to School
seen on TV @ AMC
3.7.14

College was a fine experience for me overall, even though I didn't go through it the way many young adults do. I went to a local school - School of Visual Arts - and so I didn't live in a new and unfamiliar city. I commuted to class, just like I did for high school. I didn't need to stay at a dorm, and wasn't privy to any wild parties. There was a school in Rhode Island that I was accepted to, but the tuition was pretty steep - not that SVA was that cheaper, but I least I got a partial scholarship - so staying home really was the best choice for me.

And it turned out alright, all things considered. There were all sorts of people I met, directly or indirectly, who made quite a difference in my life while I was at SVA. My favorite teacher was this woman named Julie who encouraged me to think outside the box when it came to my art, and I experimented more, in different media, as a result. 



I had life-drawing classes that taught me different ways of seeing, which had a profound impact on the way I draw. My decision to study comics illustration was a direct result of being around peers who were getting work in the industry, as well as studying under leading figures from that industry, and that led to a decade's worth of self-published material that took me around the country.


Only in the movies could a chick like Sally Kellerman fall for a dude like Rodney.

I also studied acting and playwriting. I developed a yen for classic literature. I was a DJ at our college radio station for a semester. I experienced anti-war protests for the first time. Most of all, I got the opportunity to study art in a foreign country for one summer, where I met, among many other people, Vija, who has been and is one of the best friends I've ever had. That alone made going to SVA worth it.

All that said, however, a part of me wishes I had been able to experience the stereotypical college life: living in a dorm, partying every night, living in a different city, that sort of thing. The year I spent living in Columbus was close, except my roommate wasn't exactly what you'd call a party animal. Still, that occurred much later in life. There's something to be said for going through those kinds of things as a young person, when the world still feels new and you've got a taste of freedom for the first time.


BEHOLD RDJ IN ALL HIS NEW WAVE 80S GLORY

I don't recall struggling academically. The only class I had a really hard time with was an Astronomy class I had to take to fulfill a requirement for a science-based class. I've talked about that class here before. Oh sure, I had my late-night cram sessions, like many college students go through, but overall I did alright. Don't recall what my GPA was, but I hardly ever think about that stuff anymore.

I made my share of friends, though honestly, I think the friends I had in high school and even junior high school were better. I felt closer to them - not that my college friends were bad. I remember my freshman class felt somewhat cliquish, and I never belonged to one, unlike in high school. I had regular friends over time, but after graduation I rarely kept in touch with them, for various reasons. Just one of those things. But like I said, overall, I can't complain about my time in college.


"Say it! SAAAAAAAAAAY IIIIIIIIIITT!!!!"

Which brings us to Back to School, a movie I had time to watch during the activity of the Queens World Film Festival last week. I hadn't seen it in a long time and I had forgotten not only how funny it is, but how utterly Eighties it is, and I mean that in the most loving way possible. It's essentially a star vehicle for Rodney Dangerfield, but it's got an all-star cast! 

Check it: you've got Robert Downey Jr. IN FULL 80S NEW WAVE MODE, looking like he just came off the set of a John Hughes movie, two-tone hair, punky outfit and all. You got a pre-Deep Space Nine Terry Farrell, looking not unlike Brooke Shields. You got SAM KINISON, a total guilty pleasure of mine from back in the day (I still miss him). Plus, there's Adrienne Barbeau (in only one scene, sadly), Sally Kellerman (looking so gorgeous), Burt Young, Ned Beatty, Edie McClurg, M. Emmet Walsh, William "Sweep The Leg, Johnny" Zabka, a pre-Voyager Robert Picardo (lotsa Trek connections here), and DANNY ELFMAN PERFORMING WITH OINGO BOINGO!!!!!!


LOL Jadzia Dax needs help with her Astronomy.

Plus - and this is a rather unusual bit of trivia - Back to School came out the same week as Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The latter actually beat the former by two days. In both movies, the lead characters either sing (Rodney, if you can call it singing) or lip-sync (Ferris) to the song "Twist and Shout." Obviously the Ferris version is more iconic, but I remember Rodney's version being released as a single and hearing it on the radio, back when novelty songs were much more common. 



And that wasn't even his first single.

What can I say? The Eighties were a different time.


He's a dick, but we love him.

And to top it all off, this was co-written by the late Harold Ramis. Much has been written about Ramis in the weeks since his death; let me just say here that like many of you, I completely love his movies. Their place in film history is secure. In all the obituaries on Ramis, no one mentioned this film, but part of what I like about it is that it's a sweet father-son story. Rodney's character adores his son, and even if he goes a little overboard in expressing it, that love gives what would normally be just a raunchy comedy a heart (not that there's anything wrong with raunchy comedies), and if Ramis contributed in any way to making that so, then he's to be commended for that, too.

So seriously, if you've never seen this before, give it a watch. I really think you'll like it, even if you didn't grow up in the Eighties.

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