Personal Views

nyc prepNYC Prep (2009, Bravo)
This reality show had only one glorious season, but in my opinion it’s among the most important televised documents of the American high school experience. It follows the lives of six very rich teens who attend super-elite private schools in Manhattan. They balance issues a lot of us can relate to—friendships, dating, schoolwork, trying to get into college—with experiences that very, very few of us can relate to, such as sitting in the front row at fashion shows, throwing parties in hotel rooms, casually shopping at expensive boutiques, and various other activities that accompany having endless amounts of money. Theoretically, I might envy them, but their shenanigans are so over the top (particularly those of Peter Cary “PC” Peterson, the most extravagant 18-year-old I have ever seen) that I’m as relieved that I am NOT them as I am transfixed. Also, the episodes were filmed before smartphones took over all our lives, so there are only a few clips of the characters glued to their phones (Blackberries!). They fight in person instead of via text, making for more entertaining TV for you and me. Watch this on Netflix immediately! —Julianne

as-told-by-gingerAs Told by Ginger (2000–2006, Nickelodeon)
Middle school is tough, and the animated series As Told by Ginger grapples with the pain that goes with it. Ginger Foutley tries to make it through those trying years the best she can, with the help of her friends (and no help from her enemies). But the low-key greatness of this show can be attributed to Ginger’s diary entries: Through writing, she inspires viewers (like yours truly) to find their own ways of expressing themselves—whether by keeping a journal or through activities like painting or sports. There’s a self-care aspect to the show that resonates—cultivating oneself is such an important part of girls’ lives, especially when there are outside forces saying we’re not cool or worthy enough. It’s nice to have someone like Ginger on our side. —Chanel

Temple GrandinTemple Grandin (2010, HBO)
In this made-for-TV movie, Claire Danes plays Temple Grandin, a real-life autistic woman who earned a PhD in animal science, revolutionized the livestock industry, and became a best-selling author and university professor. Temple faced a lot of obstacles: She was diagnosed with autism in the ’60s, when not as much was known about it as is known now. The movie depicts her heightened sensitivity to sights and sounds, as well as her difficulties as a woman working in the super-masculine world of cattle ranching, as she tried (successfully, in the end) to improve the way livestock is treated. It’s a thorough, smart, and funny story of a strong, fierce, and world-changing woman. It doesn’t dilute or minimize her developmental disorder, either. Temple Grandin (in reality and onscreen) has worked hard to overcome her fear of the world, and used what she knows to help animals. She’s super cool. Just look at how stoked she was when Claire Danes won a Golden Globe for playing her! —Brodie

transparentTransparent (2014–, Amazon Studios)
With actors including Jeffrey Tambor, Gaby Hoffman, Carrie Brownstein, and Rookie’s very own Petra (in a cameo role!), what’s not to love about Transparent? It follows Maura Pfefferman, played by Tambor, as she leaves behind her old life as Mort and comes out as transgender to her adult children. The characters manage to be relatable and incomprehensible at once. Transparent shows, and hopefully helps viewers understand, many sides of gender and sexual expression. It pushes boundaries, challenges cultural norms, and gets uncomfortably close to the truth. It is so, so good! —Mads

March of the PenguinsMarch of the Penguins (2005)
This National Geographic documentary, narrated wonderfully by Morgan Freeman, follows Antarctica’s emperor penguins as they march across the ice to their breeding ground and mate. After the female penguins lay eggs, the males keep the eggs warm while their partners journey back to the sea for food. This movie is filled with adorable, heartwarming moments of penguins belly-sliding across the ice, and penguin-parents nestling together, delicately passing their eggs back and forth. There are equally heartbreaking ones, too, like when the birds are chased and hunted by leopard seals, or when eggs crack or penguin chicks are lost to the elements. I generally cry the whole way through this movie—hell, the trailer alone gets me choked up—but those tears are usually of joy and delight at the magic happening in the natural world. —Stephanie

peppermintaPepperminta (2009)
This psychedelic movie, by the Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist, follows Pepperminta, a self-proclaimed “anarchist of the imagination,” on her outlandish adventures with an unlikely group of pals. Her friends include Werwen, a sheltered man who falls in love with Pepperminta, and Edna, a gender-bending woman infatuated with tulips. As a trio, they liven up the boring world around them by exhibiting a series of strange behaviors, including pressing door buzzers with their tongues, flapping car doors like wings, and spreading happiness through hypnosis. Before the movie is over, though, the bizarre becomes mundane. It seems totally normal that they have strawberries as pets and colors as friends. Pepperminta also disrupts ideas of traditional womanhood—and boldly supports female sexuality—by reworking, reframing, and reclaiming women’s expressions of pleasure. It is so fun to watch! Please seek it out. It’s one of the strangest and most thrilling movies I’ve ever seen. —Mads

lizziemcguireLizzie McGuire (2001–2004, Disney Channel)
Lizzie McGuire is a gem because of its golden depiction of awkward tween moments, with running commentary from a sassy, animated version of the title character. It’s kinda strange that cartoon-Lizzie doesn’t even have the same hairstyle as IRL-Lizzie, but the illustrated inner-goddess pinpoints the intimate and raw feelings (well, as raw as the Disney Channel gets) that girls deal with during puberty. Watching Lizzie McGuire made me feel like someone on TV truly understood what a struggle it could be to hardcore crush on someone, go bra shopping with a parent, or grow up in general. —Chanel

children underground croppedChildren Underground (2001)
Children Underground follows five Romanian children living in a subway station in Bucharest: 16-year-old Cristina; 14-year-old Violeta (or “Macarena”); 12-year-old Mihai; 10-year-old Ana; and Ana’s eight-year-old brother, Marian. Cristina and Macarena both ran away from the same orphanage—they keep their hair super short, and dress and act like boys because it keeps them “safer.” Many of the street kids huff chrome paint, and Macarena is addicted. It streaks her face and hands silver and causes her to cough horribly and hallucinate. Ana and Marian come from a family that Ana describes as loving, but they are so poor that she is convinced that life on the streets is better. When this documentary was filmed, there were an estimated 30,000 homeless children in Romania; birth control and abortion were banned and thousands of children were born to poor families who couldn’t take care of them. Orphaned, unwanted, and impoverished kids had nowhere to go but the streets. This was a crisis I knew nothing about until I saw Children Underground. It’s a very painful film to watch, but it gives children like Cristina, Macarena, Mihai, Ana, Marian a voice. —Stephanie ♦

Fun and Games

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)
This national treasure was created by Joss Whedon, his brothers Jed and Zack, and Jed’s wife, Maurissa Tancharoen, during the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike, which brought the TV/film biz to a grinding halt. So these fine writers teamed up to bring us one of the most entertaining things to ever hit the internet, a three-part musical about Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris, perfect as always), a sentimental megalomaniac bent on joining an elite group of supervillains, taking over the world, and winning the heart of Penny (Felicia Day), an earnest do-gooder he meets at the laundromat. Nathan Fillion plays Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible’s nemesis, who happens to be super strong and super asshole-y and pretty dreamy, too. I love this miniseries because it combines some of my favorite things—superhero/mad-scientist nerdery, Joss Whedon’s writing, musicals, and general silliness—but what makes it truly awesome is its smart spin on hero/villain roles. Well, and the songs (especially “Everyone’s a Hero”), which automatically brighten my mood every time I listen to them. Dr. Horrible was shown for free on the internet when it came out, and it had its TV premiere on the CW earlier this month; now it’s available on iTunes. I can’t wait for the sequel! —Stephanie

Teen Wolf (1985)
This movie (not to be confused with the MTV show of the same name) rolls up all of Rookie’s October obsessions—monsters, sports, and hilarity—into one delightful package. It’s probably fifth or sixth on the list of most ridiculous movies ever made, and I love every second of it. Michael J. Fox stars as a sort of dweeby high school student who turns into a werewolf. Don’t worry—it’s genetic. Teen Wolf is a funny take on the “just be yourself” trope, and includes lots of shots of Michael J. Fox and his stunt double playing basketball in a full-on fur suit. It also gets extra points for including a girl named Boof and a boy named Stiles, who I still have the hots for, lo these many years later. —Emma S.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
I’m not generally a fan of sports movies (or sports in general). But this movie actually got me interested in soccer (er, football—it’s set in the U.K. and Europe, after all) for 112 minutes. It stars Parminder Nagra as Jess, a British child of Sikh immigrants trying to find a balance between her two cultures. She falls in love with football—and a football coach—and befriends a teammate named Jules, played by Keira Knightley. Jess’s orthodox family has issues with her nontraditional choices, and drama ensues. The choice she faces—between her family and her passion—and how she deals with it make for some really dramatic showdowns (on and off the field.) —Rachael

Journey to Fearless (2011)
This movie opens with a scene of Taylor Swift onstage in a majorette uniform decorated with glitter, which she proceeds to rip off, revealing a silver glitter dress—and I was hooked from that moment. This girl LOVES glitter. “I love costume changes. I love sparkles. I love glitter,” she says onscreen, proving my point. Before I watched Journey to Fearless I had never heard a Swift song (I know), but the movie runs through her life, from her preadolescent musical aspirations to her first world tour at the age of 20, so now I feel like I’ve heard them all. Sure, there are lots of heart hands throughout the film, but there’s nothing twee about Swift’s commitment to her career and her fans—she’s involved in almost every part of her live show, from the set to the choreography, and she is really endearingly excited about all of it. The movie’s mostly concert footage mixed with personal stories about the loneliness Taylor felt as a kid and how she finally found her place in the world. It’s worth it just to hear her badass response when she’s asked why she writes songs about ex-boyfriends, or see the pure joy she brings to legions of girls everywhere. Perfect for a calm night in with a giant pizza, a journal, and your feeeeeeelings. —Danielle

The Adventures of Pete & Pete
1993-1996, Nickelodeon

If you only watch one ’90s-era Nickelodeon sitcom, it should be this smart, quirky, and often surreal show about two brothers with the same name. Big Pete is the insightful, levelheaded narrator who philosophizes about the ups and downs of suburban adolescence. He’s prone to using simple but beautiful similes like “I wondered if I’d ever find a girl who’d send my heart spinning like a broken compass.” Little Pete has a tattoo named Petunia, and his best friend is the local superhero Artie (“the strongest man…in the world”). The Wrigley brothers struggle through family road trips; they’re hassled by jerks with awesome names like Endless Mike and Open-Face (who, naturally, eats only open-face sandwiches); and their town, Wellsville, is almost entirely populated by celebrities (Steve Buscemi plays the school’s guidance counselor, David Johansen is a park ranger, Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry are their neighbors, Janeane Garofalo is an English teacher). So yeah, this is a kids’ show, but I probably watch it more often now than I did when I was growing up. It’s funny and cute and has a lovely, offbeat, Wes Anderson-y lyricism that I just can’t get enough of. —Amber

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
Movie adaptations of books are tricky. A bad adaptation can ruin the magic of a beloved book, but a good one can enhance your reading experience, or give a story an interesting new twist, or introduce you to a writer you’d never heard of. I saw this movie before I read the short story (by the same name) that it’s based on, and I can’t say which I like better—they’re two versions of the same story that compliment each other perfectly. It might help that the guy who wrote the shor story, Allan Sillitoe, also wrote the screenplay, and that he and director Tony Richardson shared a devotion to social issues and both became known as “Angry Young Men.” The Angry Young Men were a group of English artists—writers, dramatists, and directors—who rebelled against social inequality in the 1950s. Happily, Sillitoe’s and Richardon’s righteous indignation didn’t result in one-dimensional “working-class heroes” or any moralizing from the screen. The movie’s protagonist, Colin Smith could be described as a lazy thief and a dodger, but in the end he proves his rebellion is about something more than teenage angst (which is, as we all know, pretty serious itself), and the final scene is one of the most confusing and stirring I’ve ever seen. Prepare yourself for rushing emotions—The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, besides being a really catchy title and probably a good metaphor for something (like LIFE), is also a movie about sports and their impact on human beings. The tension between freedom and discipline, victory and loss, is translated perfectly from the pages of a book to the grainy black-and-white of the screen. —Emma D.

Dirty Dancing (1987)
I generally enjoy what are known as “great movies.” Black-and-white classics. Art-house indies. Films in languages I don’t understand. But I’m not afraid to say that I love Dirty Dancing! It’s about a teenage girl named Frances Houseman (but everyone calls her “Baby”) who’s dragged on a vacation with her parents to a resort in the Catskill Mountains in New York. She’s bored and frustrated…until she connects with the resort’s suave dance teacher, Johnny Castle, who shows her some moves, and things get steamy! How can you not love a movie about a girl finding love and discovering herself that also involves DANCING? And that is also staunchly pro-choice (a major plot point involves an illegal abortion that almost kills a girl). “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” says Johnny, and he’s right. Baby is amazing, and the film ends with an explosive dance sequence. WATCH IT SHAMELESSLY, WATCH IT NOW. —Tara

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
I first saw this movie when I was a kid, as did most of you, probably, and something about it really stuck with me and made it an enduring favorite. The film—about a bunch of children who score a tour of the titular factory and a chance to win a lifetime supply of chocolate—is quite dark, despite being set in a wonderland made of candy, and aside from its whole “blessed are the meek” message with regard to the main kid, Charlie, and the miracle that happens to him (which I guess I won’t spoil, but there are other spoilers ahead). I can’t shake the trippy insanity of the boat-trip scene, nor how terrifying Arthur Slugworth, a rival candy maker who tries to bribe children into stealing Wonka’s secrets, is (when it’s revealed that he’s actually employed by Wonka to test the morality of the children, I’m horrified by the Biblical devil vision of it all). Most of the kids disqualify for the grand prize because of some character flaw—laziness, greed, bad behavior, excessive TV watching (yeah)—and their comeuppances are disturbingly violent. I root against them because they are awful, but then I find sympathy in their youth and want to give them a break. It’s very conflicting. And Willy Wonka himself is a very flawed person, whose behavior can be bizarre and confounding. So yeah, I don’t find this movie very heartwarming. But I keep watching it, and it keeps making me feel empty and then filled up again. It’s strange and rich, and its awe-inspiring visuals have indelibly influenced my own artistic fantasy visions. I’m fascinated for life, and will always keep coming back to visit this strange factory to be inspired, confused, and transported. —Dylan

Slap Shot (1977)
Slap Shot is a movie about hockey starring Paul Newman, so you really don’t need to know more than that, right? The story involves a failing local economy, standing up to rich fat cats, and what it’s like to be part of a losing team that no one respects; but what makes this movie a cult classic are the awesome jokes, one-liners, and brawls. It’s super fun to watch with a group of your rowdiest friends—and you’ll leave with at least 45 new insults to hurl at anyone who bothers you. —Danielle

Big (1988)
When all of the lame aspects of kid-dom (sharing a room with a baby sister, having to take out the trash, not being tall enough to ride a rollercoaster) start to weigh on 12-year-old Josh Baskin, he turns to a “Zoltar Speaks” fortunetelling machine at a carnival and wishes that he were big. The next morning he wakes up an older, taller, Tom Hanks-ier version of himself. His mother sees him and (understandably) freaks out, thinking that this grown man has kidnapped her son, so Josh has to live on his own until he can track down the Zoltar machine and take back his wish. The scene that sticks out in the minds of almost anyone who has watched (or possibly even just heard of) Big: Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia (who plays his boss) hopping around on the giant floor piano at FAO Schwarz, playing “Heart and Soul” and “Chopsticks.” Because of this movie, I don’t think that there will ever be a time in my life when I don’t want to do that. But what I really love about Big is Tom Hanks. His performance as a kid trapped in an adult body is both hilariously nuanced (the way he runs across the street is brilliant) and touching (he cries on his first night away from his parents). Big is about cherishing the present—things will happen when they’re supposed to happen! It might seem like a trite message, but it’s delivered here in a way that is adorable, eloquent, and fun. —Amber

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2011)
Chronologically I’m a grown woman, but inside me beats the heart of a teenage girl. I love New Kids on the Block, I love Justin Timberlake, I love Britney Spears, and goddamn it if I don’t love the Biebs. This “documentary”/concert film/105-minute commercial could have been really boring and cheesy, but it isn’t. It’s a vivid and entertaining look into the very busy life of a very busy teenager. The filmmakers show you the home footage necessary to make you believe that JB has always had chops, but they also show him goofing off and being annoying to his manager, Scooter Braun. Never Say Never turned me into an unapologetic Belieber—even if I would probably put the kid in a headlock if given the chance, just because. —Emma S.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Watching this Halloween TV special has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember. I’ve always identified with Linus because I had a blankie that I clung to late into childhood (OK, sometimes even now) and since I love Halloween even more than Christmas, I wanted desperately to believe in the Great Pumpkin, whose arrival Linus eagerly awaits in the pumpkin patch each year while his friends go trick-or-treating and bob for apples. I’m also a huge Snoopy fan, and his fighter-pilot scene is the best. Even after I felt too old to dress up and go to door to door, I could get into Halloween spirit by sitting in a room lit by flickering candles inside jack-o-lanterns, eating the candy that was supposed to be for the trick-or-treaters, and watching poor Charlie Brown mope about getting a rock in his bag. In the States it’s on ABC, Halloween night at 8 PM EST/7 PM Central. (It’s also available on DVD, or you can download it from the internet.) Watch it with me and renew your belief in the Great Pumpkin. —Stephanie

Pee-wee’s Playhouse
1986-1990, CBS

When I was five years old, I wanted to marry Pee-wee Herman. He had his own robot, he was friends with a pterodactyl, he collected aluminum foil—basically, he was the perfect guy. So obviously back then my life revolved around Pee-wee’s Playhouse—an insane children’s program with a title that I’m somehow just now realizing sounds super sexual. Pee-wee, portrayed by the comedian Paul Reubens, was the show’s manically cheerful man-child host, and within the multicolored walls of his enviably kitschy playhouse there were puppets galore, a ton of cool doohickeys, and marvelously weird characters like a talking armchair with eyes and teeth (Chairy), a jazz combo (Cool Cat, Chicky Baby, and Dirty Dog), a genie who granted one wish per day by saying “Mekka Lekka Hi, Mekka Hiney Ho” (Jambi), and a globe with a face and a French accent (Globey). Pee-wee’s human friends, like makeover-happy Miss Yvonne, Cowboy Curtis (played by Laurence Fishburne), and Reba the Mail Lady would drop by and they’d all have a pajama party or maybe play “library,” and it was SO MUCH FUN. Pee-wee’s Playhouse is a celebration of wackiness and childlike enthusiasm and it reminds me how great it is to just run around the house screaming and using my imagination. —Amber

Hocus Pocus (1993)
If you took all the best parts of Halloween—the spooky costumes, creepy decorations, and bags full of candy—and made them into a movie, you’d have Hocus Pocus. It’s the story of two teenagers, an adorable young Thora Birch, and a talking black cat trying to save their town’s children from three witches (Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker!) who just woke up from a 300-year sleep. My love for this movie is probably colored by childhood nostalgia, but it’s simply FUN and endlessly hilarious. A few unexpectedly catchy musical numbers don’t hurt. And the ending will probably leave you a little teary-eyed. —Rachael

Ghostbusters (1984)
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis play parapsychology professors who open their own ghost-extermination business after they’re fired from their teaching jobs. They all look so baby-faced and adorable that you will die, and Sigourney Weaver is amazing and makes a great match for Bill Murray, a man who has no match (especially not in my heart). Bill Murray is in one of his best Bill Murray modes: the charming, sarcastic asshole—the kind who’s fun to be friends with because he can dissect anyone’s personality with laser accuracy in like two seconds until you are dying of laughter. The villain is a giant anthropomorphic marshmallow—actually scary. —Anaheed

The Mighty Ducks (1992)
Haunted by childhood memories of a missed championship hockey shot (followed closely by the death of his father), Gordon Bombay battles his demons by becoming a ruthless lawyer, obsessed with winning. He also has a bit of a drinking-and-driving problem, apparently, and when he’s caught, he’s sentenced to coach a peewee hockey team, which is a totally absurd premise (“Hey! You just drove drunk. Go teach these kids sports! Now!”), but whatever, it works. The team, naturally, is a disaster. They’re underfunded, undercoached, and mocked by the elite squads they play—including Gordon’s old team, the Hawks, whose demented coach says things like “It’s not worth winning if you can’t win big!” He ruined Gordon’s childhood, and once Gordon realizes this, he becomes determined to defeat his old coach, and eventually (and predictably) rediscovers his love for the game (with the help of a magical old friend named Hans, who owns a hockey store that looks like it may, in fact, be made of gingerbread) and shares it with his team. Through a series of unlikely events (adding a figure-skating brother/sister duo, swiping the Hawks’ greatest player on a technicality, perfecting such Duck-worthy moves as the Flying V) the Ducks get better and better, and eventually face the Hawks in the championship game. It is the best, crew. Totally corny and silly, but one of those movies you memorize as a kid, quacking incessantly around the house until your parents can’t take it anymore. —Pixie

D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994)
Long before 2 Fast 2 Furious upped the ante in the sequel-that-kind-of-sounds-like-the-title-of-a-Prince-song game, the weirdly-titled D2: The Mighty Ducks arrived in theaters. This time around, the Ducks are inexplicably representing Team USA in the Junior Goodwill Games. Most of the cast from the first movie is back, along with a few newcomers, including a young Kenan Thompson as Russ Tyler, famous for his “knucklepuck.” The formula doesn’t stray too far from the first film’s—the Ducks have a clear enemy (last time: the Hawks; this time: Team Iceland) and have to learn to work together and believe in themselves, and, once again, a wise old man (last time: Hans; this time: Jan) has to remind Coach Gordon Bombay to stop being such a self-involved jackass and concentrate on his true love: peewee hockey. Is it kind of dumb? Yes. Is it formulaic? Totally. Is it the best? Of course it is. Ducks fly together, man! —Pixie ♦