St. Elmo’s Fire
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Written by Joel Schumacher and Carl Kurlander
Starring Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, etc.
110 minutes, Columbia Pictures, 1985.

***

Here’s a shit-show where everyone is loathsome, young, priveliged, and without any entertaining qualities. This is a significant movie for the way it is shoddily chopped together from lazy cinematography, rife with plot elements that are unpredictable because they are so completely out-of-place and unreasonable, supporting characters whom are introduced clumsily and then abandoned without any real reason except to advance a zany plot idea, and starring loathsome actors whose impressions feel like they left MDMA-sized holes in your brain. I think St. Elmo’s Fire refers to the rapidly spreading rash they all contract from sleeping with each other.

Today’s film equivalent, the canon of Sofia Coppola or the CV of Michael Cera, is considered brilliant (by the idiocracy) because such films frame this substance-less or meandering, melancholy-lite narrative within a well-produced project. As an early progenitor of this style, St. Elmo’s Fire seems to have no redeeming qualities, much like earlier flick, The Big Chill.

The Big Chill is worth mentioning because it was the first stupid, nostalgic, commercially-successful friendship movie I can think of that has no real resonance for anyone except people who are similarly vanilla flavored. The first “those were the days/we were young/fondness for youth” types of things. I agree, there is something ephemeral and seemingly magically touching about getting old. Kind of like how good techno or house music has an endearing melancholy to it (because it makes you think of casual sex!). But these movies really can’t capture that at all. They end up looking like a re-enactment of someone else’s lame Facebook photos.

There is a supreme irony to the nostalgia flavor in these movies, given how self-centered the characters are: to celebrate their nostalgia goes beyond distaste. St. Elmo’s Fire is a very similar movie to The Big Chill, simply made about 10 years later, and geared toward an accelerated, more saturated commercial market (I have no facts to back this up but it sounds good to me!). If you made the same movie today it would just be a Youtube video of your Facebook photo albums, with pop music that has been ravaged by the merciless audio-mastering standards of the modern audio industry.

Part of the reason common movies CULTURE suck(s) so much now is ‘coz it’s ALL nostalgia. It’s all hipster-consumerism (which looks like it could be an anagram for hippie-communism, right?! but naw…). People fondly remember shit they liked when they were younger, which amounted to things. People no longer yearn for their homeland in the same way as people in classic stories, because in ages past there wasn’t the same intense commercialism driving everyone’s memories. If you think about it, that is a business’ grand slam: to embed itself into your fond emotional memories. Hence we have a generation of boring businessmen and women stuffing the pop culture of the 60s/70s/80s/90s down our throats because they are nostalgic for it or can find emotionally needy customers who are.

By the way, this movie is supposed to take place in Georgetown (Washington, DC) but it is worth noting that there are no significant shots indicating this is in fact the city they are in. I would actually wager they filmed this in Boston or Philadelphia or some such place. And also, Rob Lowe is an intolerable little shit.

High School Musical 3
Directed by Kenny Ortega
Written by Peter Barsocchini
Starring Zac Efron, Vannesa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, etc.
2008, Walt Disney Studios/Productions; 112 minutes.

***

VIVE LA NEPOTISMEDisney’s magnum opus. A masterful culmination of modern pop-culture, revealing its true face. Unfortunately, behind the mask, pop-culture is looking pretty busted.

Disney’s reputation was intially built on high-quality, hand-drawn, animated features. But in the past 20+ years they’ve ditched the association with cartoons to become a powerful pan-media conglomerate: a Pixar production firm, a Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli butcher-shop (check out Ponyo to hear Miley Cyrus’ little sister and Jonas Brother X’s voice-acting debuts), a tween-pop stable for breeding child actors into adulthood — whose financial souls are, early on, signed away for the rest of their lives (note the pink Mickey Mouse ears that always surround the Jonas Brothers’ official logo).

As you might have surmised from your own detective work, this movie caters to teenage girls. The film snares its audience with blatant emotional appeals of high-strung romance — not unlike the Disney interpretations of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, but contextualized within a modern high-school setting that looks like it could be real (if you’re super-duper rich, white, straight, and good-looking) but is not at all possible within the social laws of the universe. So we have this weird fantasy imposed upon the most confusing social environment most of us ever had to navigate, with the novelty of being a pop-song musical.

It seems to be a continuation of the way traditional Disney movies always venerated the white princess fantasy: the love story is only about ditzy, straight, white people — the ubermenschen whom the inferior folk respect and serve because they’re the only beautiful creatures who deserve to be happy. Black, gay or nerdy characters in this high school are like Sebastien the crab and Flounder the fish in The Little Mermaid — sidekicks to be abandoned once the goal of human metamorphosis is achieved (are you following me here?). Love conquers all because it grinds all other relationships into the mud.

To cater this film to the basest insecure female high-school fantasy is logical, because it’s nailing two birds with one rock. As we all know, most young guys compromise their personality and interests in order to appeal to attractive girls and get in their pants. Thus going to see High School Musical 3 in the movie theater is a mandatory activity for any boy catering to a teen girl’s interests. It’s something no teenage boys are going to disagree with attending; it’s a necessary base to round on the way towards a jailbait home-run. Who can disagree with that logic? No one can even if they want to, because it’s science.*

On the other hand, this movie markets shitty fake high school so much, I figured it must be some kind of intentional self-parody or else it would be openly inviting violent outbursts from all the miserable grade-school students it alienates (if any of them still have a soul after seeing this). I’d say more on the subject, but South Park already isolated that point in a funny episode, so my super-heroic social polemics have already been taken care of.

However, I was non-ironically entertained throughout the film, though I felt afterwards like I had just eaten a bag of candy.

@ Amazon
@ IMDb