Movies + TV

Eyes on This

Have you figured out yet that our reviews are based not on release dates but on our monthly theme? Probably. If not: these things, new and old, are about beginnings!

Heavenly Creatures (1994)
HOW did I live before I’d seen Heavenly Creatures? WHY is it not a staple of the Holy Coven of Tumblr Girls obsessed with The Virgin Suicides and random screencaps from movies made in the ’70s about toddler witches? These are the thoughts that ran through my mind as I watched it for the first time this summer, along with “DEAR GOD HOLD ME.” Heavenly Creatures is based on the true story of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, two teenage girls living in New Zealand in the 1950s who created a bizarre fantasy world together and whose possibly lesbian relationship threatened their parents. Juliet and Pauline came to see Pauline’s mother as an obstacle to preserving the world they’d created, so they killed her. Kate Winslet is beautiful and impossibly charismatic and Melanie Lynskey has the best scowl ever. Where was she in Lula issue 9? Put her with your Darias, Enids, Lydias, Margots, and Wednesdays! Right now! If I am gonna have the self-esteem to say I think there is one movie all teenage girls need to see, it’s this one. It’s beautiful and scary and wonderful. —Tavi

5 Girls (2001)
In the opening sequence of 5 Girls, Haibinh, a sophomore at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School who came to the U.S. from Vietnam when she was 10, says, “I used to think if I was good, if I just be good, then everything would work out the way that people want them to work out … I get older and I realize … that even if I get straight A’s and never do anything wrong, people would still get hurt.” And so begins this incredible documentary by Maria Finitzo, who has said that movies about young girls often show “how they are failing. But this is a film about five girls who face the challenges of adolescence with strength and resilience.” The best thing about 5 Girls is that it takes seriously all the trials and tribulations its teenage subjects face: sexuality, parental expectations, friendships, shopping, prom, poverty, violence, loneliness. This is the movie for you if don’t mind spending two hours with five teens who show us how glorious and painful it truly is to be a girl in this world. You can stream 5 Girls for free here. —Jenny

Flirting (1991)
Unassuming Danny (Noah Taylor) and spirited Thandiwe (Thandie Newton) attend boarding schools that stand on opposite sides of a lake, staring at each other, as Danny puts it, “like brooding volcanoes.” Set in 1965, Flirting tracks the sweet progression of Danny and Thandiwe’s romance. Few movies depict teenage longing and the precious beginnings of infatuation with so much charm and subtlety. The often-overlooked nuances of first love are celebrated here: glances and stolen moments carry so much weight. The writing, cinematography, and performances delivered by Taylor and Newton are all so delicate that something as simple as Danny’s commenting on Thandiwe’s beauty will make you—no joke—burst into tears. This Australian coming-of-age drama is tailor-made for those dreamy, introspective weekend afternoons that seem to call for something that is both understated and thoroughly romantic. —Amber

Bring It On (2000)
Though it’s ridiculous enough to be a perfect fit for those times when all you want to do is watch something silly and giggle, Bring It On is also a pretty clever film. It mixes social commentary with kick-ass athleticism, evolving and devolving friendships, self-discovery, a goofy love story, spirit-stick lore, and a million cheers that will stick in your head forever. —Pixie

Little Darlings (1980)
Prim, wealthy Ferris (Tatum O’Neal) and working-class tomboy Angel (Kristy McNichol), rivals from the moment they meet on the bus to summer camp, compete to see who will be the first to lose her virginity. Ferris sets her sights on a much older camp counselor; Angel chooses the fittingly named Randy (a fresh-faced Matt Dillon). Little Darlings is one of those light, rompy, quintessentially ’80s summer-camp movies; and while the story is ostensibly about sex, which tends to be a defining characteristic of the genre, the subject is presented with uncommon tenderness. Yes, the movie is kind of about kooky camp shenanigans—at one point the girls steal a bus, head into town, and then proceed to hijack a condom machine from a public restroom—but it’s also about how easy it is to rush into certain rites of passage, either because, like Ferris, we’ve filled our heads with romantic notions and expectations or because, like Angel, we underestimate their importance. Touching but without schmaltzy sentimentality, Little Darlings a great way to satisfy your summer nostalgia. —Amber

Raising Victor Vargas (2002)
Peter Sollett’s debut film takes place during a sweltering New York summer, and follows the attempts of the young male characters to woo their reluctant female counterparts. Their romantic attempts fail to impress at first, but as they continue to persist, they begin to find out much more about the female gender than they could have ever imagined, and in turn, the young women begin to discover more about themselves as well as about the young men that are pursuing them. It is a sweet tale of the end of innocence and the beginnings of adulthood that deserves to be watched on a cool early-fall evening, when you feel like you a deserve a happy, but not cheesy, ending. —Cynthia

Kids (1995)
I would recommend that any parents who do not want their kids to have sex show them this movie. It is the best abstinence-only education I ever got. Seriously. It’s terrifying. BUT, it would be unfair of me to boil it down to just that, when really, it is an interesting account of the way a certain teen subculture treats (or, in 1995, treated) sex and drugs. Parts will elicit some kind of laughter (usually the nervous kind), and Chloë Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, and Leo Fitzpatrick are really, really great and convincing and make you forget it’s not a documentary. Just make sure you don’t watch it with anyone it could be awkward with, and that you turn the volume down if other people are home. —Tavi

Awkward. (2011)
Not gonna hate; shallow teen melodramas about the privileged definitely have their charms. Sometimes, though, it’s cool to be reminded that teen-centric television can be as witty and relatable as Awkward. Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards), the self-effacing heroine of MTV’s latest scripted comedy, feels invisible; that invisibility quickly morphs into full-blown notoriety when an accident misconstrued as a suicide attempt makes her the starlet of the high school rumor mill. Rather than retreat back into obscurity, Jenna decides to embrace her new reputation, treating it as an opportunity to redefine herself by taking risks. Awkward., like My So-Called Life, is one of those shows that will still be relevant years from now. The writing is smart and sincere, deadpan Rickards is perfectly cast, and the show’s message is an important one: social disaster doesn’t have to be the end of the world. If you’re willing to be a little bit awkward it can actually be the beginning. —Amber

The Education of Shelby Knox (2005)
Determined to bring comprehensive sex education to the abstinence-only public schools of Lubbock, Texas, 15-year-old Shelby Knox faces challenges from authority figures, peers, and even herself as she attempts to reconcile her conservative upbringing with her own more liberal political views. In this documentary, Knox handles her fight for external changes (which include gay rights and comprehensive sex ed), as well as her internal changes, with honesty, determination and a steadfast refusal to let anyone tell her who she is or who she should be. The film is an inspirational look at a young woman who is fighting for what she believes in, constantly questioning the world around her, and blazing her own path—a path that has led to Knox’s current work as a feminist activist, which you can follow on Twitter and on her blog. —Pixie

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
Do people who aren’t in high school anymore remember the idle hours, the “understanding” teachers, the best friend you outgrew but couldn’t tell, the way you couldn’t get the guy you wanted so you dated his dopey friend instead, DODGEBALL, your weird nerdy friends that secretly mortify you, grilled cheese and hours of TV every afternoon until your mom got home, how it feels when you first realize that you are a waiting, watchful sort of person, and your sneaking suspicion that you might be doomed to a life of misery for it? Freaks and Geeks is a rare thing, a show about high school with its heart firmly located under the bleachers, with the weird kids who would have been a lesson in an after-school special or a bully in a John Hughes movie. It’s funny and touching and dead-on, plus James Franco runs around all angsty in a cute leather jacket the whole time, and you get to watch Bill dance. In other words, it’s perfect. —Leeann

25 Comments

  • annagracie September 29th, 2011 11:17 PM

    Freaks and Geeks is the best!

  • CariStereo September 29th, 2011 11:35 PM

    Little Darlings! It’s so good. It has heart. Matt Dillon is so hot. Cynthia Nixon is so goofy. LOVE. Great list.

  • stephanie4786 September 29th, 2011 11:42 PM

    just perfect. i am obessed with all these movies/tv shows and i agree with everything….although i find awkard to be a little tedious, i still enjoy the show

  • andreaq September 29th, 2011 11:44 PM

    I love Heavenly Creatures – not just because the film was largely shot in my hometown. It really taps into the kind of Southern Gothic that this part of the country has become known for in terms of its art. Also, there is much more to both NZ and Peter Jackson than LOTR!

  • Cerise September 29th, 2011 11:45 PM

    That’s funny. I heard about Little Darlings just yesterday, and here it is again. I need to update my movie list…

  • Yasemin September 29th, 2011 11:48 PM

    Thank you for featuring Awkward! I didn’t think it’d be that great, but I actually love that show!

    Not to mention, Beau Mirchoff (Matty) is quite adorable :)

  • Paolina of Calur Villade September 30th, 2011 12:24 AM

    AWWWKKKKWWWAARRDD. i have not realted to a teen show so much in the past five years. I love it, and the season finale was so cute. terribly cliche, but i think thats the real charm of the show

    Paolina
    calurvillade.blogspot.com

  • TessAnnesley September 30th, 2011 12:52 AM

    The whole Tumblr-girl-mysteriousness thing? EXACTLY my thoughts about Heavenly Creatures, omg

  • PussyGalore September 30th, 2011 7:34 AM

    I love Noah Taylor! And I love when Australian things are mentioned in places other than Australia!

  • Elizabethcynde September 30th, 2011 8:22 AM

    Yes! These are great picks – esp Flirting & Freaks & Geeks. I idolized Thandie Newton & had a huge crush on Noah Taylor as a teenager.

  • AuntBeth September 30th, 2011 9:38 AM

    a) Great list!

    b) Flirting is the follow-up film to The Year My Voice Broke in which Danny tries to woo his unrequited love (and best friend) in their tiny Australian town. I was in love with it when it first came out and have wanted to re-watch it for the last 15 or more years. It’s now available (or was very recently) to stream on Netflix, for those who want to check it out. Now I need to re-watch Flirting!

  • erin September 30th, 2011 10:11 AM

    I have to watch these shows! Other than Freaks and Geeks, which I watch sometimes. It’s a way good show… and I swear I don’t think so just because of James Franco’s attractiveness!

  • Pashupati September 30th, 2011 2:13 PM

    Heavenly Creatures is just wonderful, excellent.
    I had an obsession with it three years ago or more, as I found it in a book called something like Enneagram for (Movie) Writers (or similar), I just thought it’d be nice inspiration for that story I wanted to write then… Some people would say it’s not a great movie to watch if you’re currently bad in your school or family life, but it really helped me, sort of an inversed catharsis, to be obsessed with it for a while.
    Also, the aesthetic, and all.

  • Pashupati September 30th, 2011 3:10 PM

    I am also happy some people like Freaks & Geeks, plus for a similar reason as mine.
    Here, most people just seems to see the G word in the title.
    I like this show for its true quirkiness, and the hint of kitsch, and the reality of the characters. I can relate, even if I wouldn’t have befriended the characters had I been in school with them.
    (also, the disco thing reminds me of the punk/rock thing in Whiz Kids, which is a whole different story)

  • jessejames September 30th, 2011 3:14 PM

    Where can I find ‘Little Darlings’, cos it looks awesome.

  • Liv September 30th, 2011 3:43 PM

    Ah, Flirting! Such a good movie. Every time I watch it I wish I went to boarding school.

  • loanna September 30th, 2011 4:25 PM

    watched Flirting immediately after I read this. Noah Taylor is so cayooot!

  • AineFey September 30th, 2011 9:16 PM

    The only thing I’ve seen off this list is Freaks and Geeks. I love it! It recently started airing somewhere, and it really takes me back. It was being made when I was in high school.

    Definitely going to check some of these others out. Thanks!

  • ichewmylips September 30th, 2011 9:36 PM

    Heavenly Creatures is an AMAZING MOVIE!

  • Kathryn September 30th, 2011 10:50 PM

    I read about Heavenly Creatures in The Bathroom Reader!

  • cj575 September 30th, 2011 11:13 PM

    omg you mentioned heavenly creatures!! Its waaay too underrated! I only saw it because it was filmed in New Zealand, where I live and was pleasantly surprised!!

  • Audrey October 1st, 2011 1:51 AM

    i <3 Freaks and Geeks.

  • kookaburra October 2nd, 2011 2:55 AM

    Ok, Kids is seriously THE most terrifying movie ever. I am never having sex ever…

  • L October 3rd, 2011 11:58 PM

    It is so unbelievably cool that you have Heavenly Creatures, Flirting and Little Darlings on the list, along with classics like Freaks and Geeks and Kids. I was kind of addicted to IFC and the foreign section of Blockbuster when I was in high school, and would watch weird and awesome stuff at like, 3 am by myself all the time. And Little Darlings was a childhood staple. Also, a little tip for buying cool movies on the cheap, you know those big bins in grocery stores that say like, movies 4 bucks? If you sift through the straight to DVD shitty rejects, you can find some awesome harder to find stuff. Like they, can’t afford A list movies so they tend to have really bizarre selections. I got my copy of Flirting in one of those.

  • Figdreams October 4th, 2011 2:46 PM

    You should add The Craft to this list…. :)