While working on getting everything in order for Cinema Center’s premiere of the documentary “Teenage” tonight, I thought a lot about how important of a role films played in my life during those formative years. It was the first time I looked at filmmaking as a process that I could possibly learn, the behind-the-scenes commentary and documentaries were new special features on many DVDs, and I have to admit I learned almost as much from listening and watching those as I did the whole time I studied film in college.
The following films, all available on Netflix streaming, are not necessarily the best films of the era, but they are the films that opened my eyes the widest to the possibilities of film. After catching “Teenage” at Cinema Center this weekend, I strongly recommend going back to some of the favorite films of your adolescence. Here are mine:
More than any movie from the 1990s independent film explosion, “Clerks” made me believe I could pick up a camera and make a feature-length film. Kevin Smith’s debut film about a day in the life of foul-mouthed convenience store clerks Dante and Randal was hilarious, as well as a call to action to filmmakers everywhere. The film showed that with the right characters in the right script, deficiencies in things like lighting, sound, and even camera movements could all be forgiven as long as the audience was entertained.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Before it was cool to be nerdy, it was really not cool to be a film geek. That all changed when director Quentin Tarantino burst onto the independent film scene with his genre classic “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992, and suddenly movies were cool. However, it was Tarantino’s follow-up, “Pulp Fiction,” that I first saw a few years after it was released, when it felt like I was watching films from a master filmmaker. I watched “Pulp Fiction” pretty much on repeat for a summer, trying to understand all the intricate knots the story tied. For probably a decade after its release, its impact was felt with every edgy, crime film Hollywood released, but none came close to its ability to humanize, and offer possible redemption, to very bad men. In recent years, its influence has started to wane, but that will change as teens across the globe watch it for the first time and spend summers studying just what makes it so good.
When I was a teenager, I suffered from pretty severe headaches, and to a certain extent I still do. As a weird kid who stayed inside most days watching movies, I didn't really connect with anyone else who had this problem, but when I first watched “Pi,” I was convinced Darren Aronofsky understood it completely. His debut film is a story about a mathematician who just may have used numbers to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Shot in a gritty black and whites, the film is paranoid, a bit hallucinogenic, bizarre, a lot of fun, and in my opinion, Aronofsky’s best film.
Jonah Crismore is Executive Director of Cinema Center and after looking back, thinks he had pretty good taste for a sixteen year old.
“Teenager” opens on Friday, April 25th at 6:30.