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The Official SOMB Best Films of 2008 voting thread


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#141 theremin

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Posted 23 January 2009 - 11:42 PM

This guy's column is now a yearly tradition:

http://www.firstshow...nt-see-in-2008/


Beyond the typical mentions of underrated films on here, big thumbs up on the young people fucking recommendation. Pretty good flick.

Can't say I agree even the slightest with TAKEN. That was horrible.

#142 MattDrufke

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 08:49 AM

In Bruges just showed up on Netflix, so I will wait to make my list until I see it.

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#143 SmashNapCrash

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 07:22 PM

My List Top 10 Films of 2008 10. Let the Right One In 9. Dark Knight 8. The Wrestler 7. Iron Man 6. Burn After Reading 5. Slumdog Millionaires 4. Gran Turino 3. Vicky Christina Barcelona 2. Milk 1. Doubt

#144 Elemeno P.T.

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 09:18 PM

Here's a link for a good version of Baghead. I suspect the first 6 minutes is funny/compelling enough to interest most of you to watch the whole movie.

Baghead
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#145 caley

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 09:43 PM

Here's a link for a good version of Baghead. I suspect the first 6 minutes is funny/compelling enough to interest most of you to watch the whole movie.

Baghead

Edit- Link isn't working...p.m. me if interested and I'll send you the link.

Fixed your link.

EDIT: And I'll probably check this out tonight, as your endorsement has me interested even though the synopsis does not. I'll watch a few and decide whether or not I should rent it.

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#146 Asher Ford

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 09:51 PM

My List

Top 10 Films of 2008

10. Let the Right One In
9. Dark Knight
8. The Wrestler
7. Iron Man
6. Burn After Reading
5. Slumdog Millionaires
4. Gran Turino
3. Vicky Christina Barcelona
2. Milk
1. Doubt


What's sad about this list and most of the others so far, is that they consist entirely of films I've seen & films not yet available on DVD. It's killing me.

#147 Elemeno P.T.

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 11:01 PM

Here's a link for a good version of Baghead. I suspect the first 6 minutes is funny/compelling enough to interest most of you to watch the whole movie.

Baghead

Edit- Link isn't working...p.m. me if interested and I'll send you the link.

Fixed your link.

EDIT: And I'll probably check this out tonight, as your endorsement has me interested even though the synopsis does not. I'll watch a few and decide whether or not I should rent it.

This link is good enough and the content such that seeing it on a computer screen does it justice, just fine...look forward to your review.
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#148 Slackmo

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 03:09 AM

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TEXT MESSAGE: I don't think we should see each other anymore. I still want to be friends.

American Teen: I kind of hated every one of these kids. It purports to be this look into senior year for real students, but is quite obviously staged with some pretty glaring continuity errors, and, it's just rather artlessly made. There are parts where the kids are talking about very real emotions, and, instead of keeping the camera on their faces, so we can see them as they vent, the camera cuts away to these terrible animations that add nothing to the story. As a look at the American teenager, it also really fails because it's obvious certain kids are lying through their teeth for the camera, and offers no real insights one couldn't get from sitting at a food court for an afternoon. Also, I hate to be that guy but it seems really short-sighted to have a movie like this and not have one kids be a minority of some sort. Screw Ben Lyons, take a pass on this.


Caley largely on the money, as ever. A more detailed exploration to follow.
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#149 Elemeno P.T.

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 10:05 AM

Posted Image
TEXT MESSAGE: I don't think we should see each other anymore. I still want to be friends.

American Teen: I kind of hated every one of these kids. It purports to be this look into senior year for real students, but is quite obviously staged with some pretty glaring continuity errors, and, it's just rather artlessly made. There are parts where the kids are talking about very real emotions, and, instead of keeping the camera on their faces, so we can see them as they vent, the camera cuts away to these terrible animations that add nothing to the story. As a look at the American teenager, it also really fails because it's obvious certain kids are lying through their teeth for the camera, and offers no real insights one couldn't get from sitting at a food court for an afternoon. Also, I hate to be that guy but it seems really short-sighted to have a movie like this and not have one kids be a minority of some sort. Screw Ben Lyons, take a pass on this.


Caley largely on the money, as ever. A more detailed exploration to follow.

Would have said I'm not surprised that you didn't see this as I did, to be one of the most compelling portrayals of white suburban teen-agers ever put on screen...but then I saw on my Facebook movie compatibility quiz that of 50 or so Friends that did the test, you were the one with whom I was most compatible. Go Figure. My review of this is long overdue so I'll get this out this morning. I've never disagreed with Caley more about a film, which is fine...but it's the points he made that have me scratching my head- were we watching the same movie?
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#150 nole.kennedy

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 03:18 PM

Wow, never been to the Et Cetera part of the board... I'm liking it. Here are my top 10 of 2008: 1. Gran Torino 2. The Visitor 3. WALL-E 4. Happy-Go-Lucky 5. Slumdog Millionaire 6. Frost/Nixon 7. The Dark Knight 8. Boy A 9. Fuel 10. In Bruges
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#151 Rajexico

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 04:22 PM

Here's a link for a good version of Baghead. I suspect the first 6 minutes is funny/compelling enough to interest most of you to watch the whole movie.

Baghead

Eh but what about the middle hour of the movie where nothing happens?

OK movie with an interesting premise in pitching between genres, but I don't think they knew exactly what they wanted to make.

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#152 Rajexico

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 04:23 PM

Slumdog is going to be right up behind Dark Knight and Wall-E, isn't it? I can write off the hype on the latter two because it's mostly deserved, but Slumdog is getting a pretty generous free pass to the top for a three-star movie.

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#153 Elemeno P.T.

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 04:30 PM

More time for reviews tomorrow on why these will be in my top 10- both are on DVD- plenty of time to see them.

American Teen

Baghead


Geeked to hear that Baghead is good. I'll jump on that.

But man, you are going to have to write one hell of an American Teen review. Damn near everyone I've heard from on that says it's excruciatingly bad.

I was just about to say I'd be interested in that review for American Teen. I thought it was just...not so good.

Did I read from you earlier that your problem with it was that of credibility, that it seemed staged? I could certainly understand why one would question this...but even the best critics who found fault due to this, still gave the film at least 3 stars. There's a good reason why this took the best director prize at Sundance. I'll give a thorough review tomorrow.

To me, the fact that it was a documentary purporting to be a "real" look at teenagers, the fact that I found it seemed staged, makes it a fatal flaw, and enough for me to discount it.

And maybe that was the biggest problem I had with the entire film, that I never felt like I got to know any of the four kids the film focused on. The popular girl was just a bitch and when they tried to give some reason for her bitchiness, it wasn't believable (
Spoiler
); the jock tried to shoot too much to get noticed by scouts and neglected his teammates, but you never learn anything else about him except that his dad impersonates Elvis; the only one you get to know at all is the geek, and he's not really that much of a geek, just kind of depressing. Like I said in my write-up of the film in the NP thread, I just found like the film wasn't any more illuminating on the plight of being a teenager in modern times than an afternoon hanging out in the mall food court, eavesdropping on conversations.

Also, as I said before, I hate to be that guy, but I think it's really short-sighted to purport to be a movie about teenage life and not included any minorities whatsoever.

If it comes off as bragging, thatís too bad, but thereís no way I can completely filter out what I do for about 50 hours a week from how I post here, especially when what Iím posting about has such relevance as does a movie like American Teen. The fact that roughly 75% of the counseling Iíve done over the past 12 years has been with adolescents and their families should lend me some credibility in determining the verisimilitude of this movieÖ(though I wonít hold my breath for validation).
One of the main problems some critics, and caley and slackmo, had with Teen is that some of the scenes seemed stagedÖI can accept that as a reason for finding fault with the film, as there is no way of knowing for sure that it wasnít, though the filmís most vilified student, Megan, was interviewed recently and vehemently denied that she was influenced in any way to do some of the nasty things she does in this movie. True, the degree to which the material has been shaped and manipulated to tell linear stories is too obvious at times - Jake's acne keeps magically appearing and disappearing from shot to shot. But is it not possible that with over 1,000 hours of footage filmed and a approach by director Nanette Burstein to build a relationship of trust with the four principal students, that she could create a realistic world that exists somewhere between the conventions of drama and the unvarnished revelations of cinema verite?


Whatís difficult for me to understand is how you could come away from this movie ďhating every one of the studentsĒ ( Really?) or having ďno insight that you couldnít gain from an afternoon at the food court: (sorry man, but thatís an awfully empty perspective). I seriously admire the majority of your film critiques, caley, and I somewhat agree with your comments about the animated sequences, which were kind of unnecessaryÖbut Iím baffled by your take on some of these people. For example, you feel that Megan, because her and her sister were not close,
Spoiler
say much more about her mentally unhealthy parents (particularly her father) and how that, in turn has poisoned the family to where we might even conjure up some empathy for the girl, even while disliking her?
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#154 caley

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 05:02 PM

For example, you feel that Megan, because her and her sister were not close,

Spoiler
say much more about her mentally unhealthy parents (particularly her father) and how that, in turn has poisoned the family to where we might even conjure up some empathy for the girl, even while disliking her?

It's an interesting perspective, about the unhealthy parenting being poisonous, but I felt they could've gone a lot further with it. I think the attempt at making the film a documentary version of The Breakfast Club (Right on down to its advertising) lessened the amount we learned about each of the teens. I mean, really, what do we learn about the two boys: one is a jock whose dad is pushing him to excel because he can't afford college, and the other is a video-game playing nerd who has no luck with girls (Not because girls don't like him, but because he always goes after the girls that are clearly out of his league) All I got from Megan was that she was spoiled and bitchy. When she phoned her friend to apologize for being bitchy because it was her sister's birthday, it didn't ring as true to me, at all, it sounded like "Jeez I was bitchy, better come up with an excuse!" Your explanation of the mentally unheatlhy parents is an interesting one, but, ultimately, there was nearly enough done to illuminate it. I think they could have gotten way more into what made her the way she was, but they couldn't because with four subjects, there just isn't the time without making it a four hour movie. My suggestion would have been to drop the two guys, stop worrying about making it Docu-Breakfast Club, and follow the two girls: one from the in-crowd, one from the out, and see what makes them tick. Ultimately, I just felt American Teen never did more than scratch the surface.

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#155 Agrimorfee

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 05:06 PM

Wow, never been to the Et Cetera part of the board... I'm liking it.


just wait... :rolleyes:



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#156 Slackmo

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 05:27 PM

Posted Image
TEXT MESSAGE: I don't think we should see each other anymore. I still want to be friends.

American Teen: I kind of hated every one of these kids. It purports to be this look into senior year for real students, but is quite obviously staged with some pretty glaring continuity errors, and, it's just rather artlessly made. There are parts where the kids are talking about very real emotions, and, instead of keeping the camera on their faces, so we can see them as they vent, the camera cuts away to these terrible animations that add nothing to the story. As a look at the American teenager, it also really fails because it's obvious certain kids are lying through their teeth for the camera, and offers no real insights one couldn't get from sitting at a food court for an afternoon. Also, I hate to be that guy but it seems really short-sighted to have a movie like this and not have one kids be a minority of some sort. Screw Ben Lyons, take a pass on this.


YO--THIS POST IS RIFE WITH AMERICAN TEEN SPOILERS

Re-reading Caley's American Teen post, I realize that I was left with a very similar end take--that this is a fundamentally flawed and slight movie--but for markedly different reasons.

For instance, I didn't hate "every one of these kids." I only hated one of them, and then pretty much every adult in the movie--especially the director. Most of that can be covered by considering each of the kids in turn:

The kids: Every one of these kids seemed singled out for their adherence to some prescribed cliche of a role in school/life, a la The Breakfast Club--the insidious trailer (http://www.youtube.c...h?v=ZqDG4UDeFoQ) slots them into BC roles: THE JOCK/THE GEEK/THE REBEL/THE PRINCESS/THE HEARTTHROB:WHO WERE YOU?--and they each get a surface-skimming edit that makes sure they fall into their Playdoh Fun-Factory assigned shapes. I can't complain that the filmmakers didn't do the Obligatory PC Diversity Dance in semi-rural Indiana, but their choices have each been edited down to their least interesting portraits.

THE JOCK: This poor bastard suffers from not only the longest chin i've ever seen, but having to appear in a half-assed high school basketball player segment in the wake of Hoop Dreams. What the movie told us: generic will he/won't he scholarship story from every teen sports drama ever. What I wanted to know but never found out: Were his grades all legitimate? What was his relationship like with his coach, and why wasn't his coach helping to solicit/field scholarship offers? Why did he have a hard time with girls if he was so popular? And, if nothing else, how the fuck did an 8-11 team wind up in anything that could be loosely referred to as a "sectional championship?" Were there just two teams in the section?

THE GEEK: What the movie told us: He's in the marching band. He has acne. He wants a girlfriend. He plays video games. Thank god we eventually got to his brother, who shows him a good time and reminds him of the one girl in the continental US who might go to prom with him. I mean, fucking A people, this is hardly an in-depth look at a troubled kid. What I wanted to know but never found out: Who was this kid? Was he a decent student? (That's really more a criticism of the entire film, which glazes over the academic part of the high school experience for all these kids--even a glimmer of which might have told us more in short strokes about what they're going through than the skim-fest ever could.) Mostly, how the hell did he convince a girl to come halfway across the country to go to prom with him? That would've been fascinating.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure the answer to that question probably involves some variation of the elephant in the room: because she wanted to be in the movie. Not once during the entirety of the movie do any of these kids get to address the impact being filmed for a documentary has had on their lives, especially in the way their friends and family treat them differently, or how they relate to one another. I mean, how could the main four not have bonded even a little over their shared quasi-celebrity?

THE HEARTTHROB: I think this kid got lumped in the five about halfway through the school year, when he dabbled with getting more screen time by toying with the troubled girl's heart. So I was wrong, I hated two of these kids. What the movie told us: He might be sensitive. He might be a callous dick. We'll never know. What I wanted to know but never found out: Did he deliberately worm his way into the movie? Did he and THE REBEL ever even kiss? They yada-yada'ed pretty much that entire relationship.

THE REBEL: This girl was kind of sweet, but I felt like the school, the filmmakers and her parental figures really threw her to the dogs. I mean, they edited her down to every gotta-get-out-of-this-small-town platitude, and she seemed bright enough that i'm sure she had more to say. Then the breakup happens, and everyone around lets her stay at home moping for fourteen days over it. WTF? It was surreal to get the impression that no one was looking out for her. What the film told us: One boy broke her heart, another boy broke her heart, she got out of dodge. What I wanted to know but never found out: What relationship (if any) did she have with her teachers, especially in the arts? Why didn't any of them come to see why she'd been absent for so long? And holy hell, the question of the movie: what was up with her pal in the picture above? Was he in love with her? Was he gay? He had potentially the most interesting story line in the movie, and he was used as a prop.

THE PRINCESS: Here's the reason that they eschewed "the criminal" from the Breakfast Club parallel: because this little twerp was evidently all five of the characters. What the film told us: She wanted to get into Notre Dame, for no other reason that her brothers and sisters did. She's casually cruel. She's a lousy friend. She petty and mean and was only too happy to tag some kid's house with a penis drawing and the word "FAG" because she didn't like his choice of prom theme. Her older sister didn't get into Notre Dame and committed suicide a couple years earlier. She eventually got into Notre Dame and drove herself off to school in a Mercedes Benz SUV. What I wanted to know but never found out: Why the fuck was this girl popular? Was she the valedictorian? Holy hell, that would've made the Notre Dame speculation a lot less dramatic if we had known what kind of student she was. How the hell did she not get suspended for the vandalism? Was it because of the movie? Or her family's influence in the community? How did Notre Dame keep her on after seeing what she did? When her best friends hook up and she freaks out: Why? Jealousy? Of which person? Was she a closeted lesbian? (It's a reach, but she's never seen with an overt beau.) Was she too busy studying to have a boyfriend? Did her stoic father prohibit it? Is that why she was so mean to everyone? I hated this girl beyond measure, though I'll allow the film didn't get after one iota (okay, two iotas, the sister's suicide must've impacted her somehow) of what made her tick. Wasn't that supposed to be the point of the whole thankless exercise?

My usual litmus test for a documentary is this: would a 12-minute feature on 60 Minutes have been just as effective? For American Teen, we'll at least put this in the right context: would each of these kids' stories been more compelling as a half-hour episode of Made? And I believe the answer is yes, freaking MTV would've given us more context and pathos for each kid's individual story, and not just reduced them to their lowest common denominators.

Things I liked about American Teen:

The music. Glad to see Michael Penn working.

The opening title animation:

Posted Image

The dream sequences, painful though they were, showed a certain spark of imagination. Maybe the only spark in the whole movie.

Those kids deserved better. We deserve better. The teens of America deserved much, much better.
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#157 nole.kennedy

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 05:30 PM

Also, I'd like to do a blup or two for any of my top ten films if you'd like. Thanks.
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#158 Slackmo

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 06:02 PM

Ha, Caley, now that I've caught up on the exchange between you and PT that took place while i was writing my unabomber manifesto, I see that we were much more in lockstep than I thought.
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#159 Elemeno P.T.

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 07:54 PM

For example, you feel that Megan, because her and her sister were not close,

Spoiler
say much more about her mentally unhealthy parents (particularly her father) and how that, in turn has poisoned the family to where we might even conjure up some empathy for the girl, even while disliking her?

It's an interesting perspective, about the unhealthy parenting being poisonous, but I felt they could've gone a lot further with it. I think the attempt at making the film a documentary version of The Breakfast Club (Right on down to its advertising) lessened the amount we learned about each of the teens. I mean, really, what do we learn about the two boys: one is a jock whose dad is pushing him to excel because he can't afford college, and the other is a video-game playing nerd who has no luck with girls (Not because girls don't like him, but because he always goes after the girls that are clearly out of his league) All I got from Megan was that she was spoiled and bitchy. When she phoned her friend to apologize for being bitchy because it was her sister's birthday, it didn't ring as true to me, at all, it sounded like "Jeez I was bitchy, better come up with an excuse!" Your explanation of the mentally unheatlhy parents is an interesting one, but, ultimately, there was nearly enough done to illuminate it. I think they could have gotten way more into what made her the way she was, but they couldn't because with four subjects, there just isn't the time without making it a four hour movie. My suggestion would have been to drop the two guys, stop worrying about making it Docu-Breakfast Club, and follow the two girls: one from the in-crowd, one from the out, and see what makes them tick. Ultimately, I just felt American Teen never did more than scratch the surface.

I don't know man...I guess I work so much with poisonous families that there was enough here for me to see how these kids, like so many teens are adversely affected...how is it that anyone could see that Hannah was the one character here that more so than any other managed to be unique, yet we get that heartbreaking moment where her mother says to her- "You're not special."
Just from that one sentence, we can infer depths of pain that give profound meaning to Hannah's struggles throughout her senior year. And there are so many other moments in this film (Jake's "chili incident" being another. Seems as if you'd prefered if it when into detail about the dysfunctions of the families...I didn't think that was necessary in the slightest. (FWIW- I appreciate the thought you put into your arguments, and the lack of defensiveness that clearly shines through your posts.) I do agree that the jock was the least interesting character, though clearly some serious dysfunction with his father made his story still interesting.
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#160 Elemeno P.T.

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 08:04 PM

Posted Image
TEXT MESSAGE: I don't think we should see each other anymore. I still want to be friends.

American Teen: I kind of hated every one of these kids. It purports to be this look into senior year for real students, but is quite obviously staged with some pretty glaring continuity errors, and, it's just rather artlessly made. There are parts where the kids are talking about very real emotions, and, instead of keeping the camera on their faces, so we can see them as they vent, the camera cuts away to these terrible animations that add nothing to the story. As a look at the American teenager, it also really fails because it's obvious certain kids are lying through their teeth for the camera, and offers no real insights one couldn't get from sitting at a food court for an afternoon. Also, I hate to be that guy but it seems really short-sighted to have a movie like this and not have one kids be a minority of some sort. Screw Ben Lyons, take a pass on this.


YO--THIS POST IS RIFE WITH AMERICAN TEEN SPOILERS

Re-reading Caley's American Teen post, I realize that I was left with a very similar end take--that this is a fundamentally flawed and slight movie--but for markedly different reasons.

For instance, I didn't hate "every one of these kids." I only hated one of them, and then pretty much every adult in the movie--especially the director. Most of that can be covered by considering each of the kids in turn:

The kids: Every one of these kids seemed singled out for their adherence to some prescribed cliche of a role in school/life, a la The Breakfast Club--the insidious trailer (http://www.youtube.c...h?v=ZqDG4UDeFoQ) slots them into BC roles: THE JOCK/THE GEEK/THE REBEL/THE PRINCESS/THE HEARTTHROB:WHO WERE YOU?--and they each get a surface-skimming edit that makes sure they fall into their Playdoh Fun-Factory assigned shapes. I can't complain that the filmmakers didn't do the Obligatory PC Diversity Dance in semi-rural Indiana, but their choices have each been edited down to their least interesting portraits.

THE JOCK: This poor bastard suffers from not only the longest chin i've ever seen, but having to appear in a half-assed high school basketball player segment in the wake of Hoop Dreams. What the movie told us: generic will he/won't he scholarship story from every teen sports drama ever. What I wanted to know but never found out: Were his grades all legitimate? What was his relationship like with his coach, and why wasn't his coach helping to solicit/field scholarship offers? Why did he have a hard time with girls if he was so popular? And, if nothing else, how the fuck did an 8-11 team wind up in anything that could be loosely referred to as a "sectional championship?" Were there just two teams in the section?

THE GEEK: What the movie told us: He's in the marching band. He has acne. He wants a girlfriend. He plays video games. Thank god we eventually got to his brother, who shows him a good time and reminds him of the one girl in the continental US who might go to prom with him. I mean, fucking A people, this is hardly an in-depth look at a troubled kid. What I wanted to know but never found out: Who was this kid? Was he a decent student? (That's really more a criticism of the entire film, which glazes over the academic part of the high school experience for all these kids--even a glimmer of which might have told us more in short strokes about what they're going through than the skim-fest ever could.) Mostly, how the hell did he convince a girl to come halfway across the country to go to prom with him? That would've been fascinating.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure the answer to that question probably involves some variation of the elephant in the room: because she wanted to be in the movie. Not once during the entirety of the movie do any of these kids get to address the impact being filmed for a documentary has had on their lives, especially in the way their friends and family treat them differently, or how they relate to one another. I mean, how could the main four not have bonded even a little over their shared quasi-celebrity?

THE HEARTTHROB: I think this kid got lumped in the five about halfway through the school year, when he dabbled with getting more screen time by toying with the troubled girl's heart. So I was wrong, I hated two of these kids. What the movie told us: He might be sensitive. He might be a callous dick. We'll never know. What I wanted to know but never found out: Did he deliberately worm his way into the movie? Did he and THE REBEL ever even kiss? They yada-yada'ed pretty much that entire relationship.

THE REBEL: This girl was kind of sweet, but I felt like the school, the filmmakers and her parental figures really threw her to the dogs. I mean, they edited her down to every gotta-get-out-of-this-small-town platitude, and she seemed bright enough that i'm sure she had more to say. Then the breakup happens, and everyone around lets her stay at home moping for fourteen days over it. WTF? It was surreal to get the impression that no one was looking out for her. What the film told us: One boy broke her heart, another boy broke her heart, she got out of dodge. What I wanted to know but never found out: What relationship (if any) did she have with her teachers, especially in the arts? Why didn't any of them come to see why she'd been absent for so long? And holy hell, the question of the movie: what was up with her pal in the picture above? Was he in love with her? Was he gay? He had potentially the most interesting story line in the movie, and he was used as a prop.

THE PRINCESS: Here's the reason that they eschewed "the criminal" from the Breakfast Club parallel: because this little twerp was evidently all five of the characters. What the film told us: She wanted to get into Notre Dame, for no other reason that her brothers and sisters did. She's casually cruel. She's a lousy friend. She petty and mean and was only too happy to tag some kid's house with a penis drawing and the word "FAG" because she didn't like his choice of prom theme. Her older sister didn't get into Notre Dame and committed suicide a couple years earlier. She eventually got into Notre Dame and drove herself off to school in a Mercedes Benz SUV. What I wanted to know but never found out: Why the fuck was this girl popular? Was she the valedictorian? Holy hell, that would've made the Notre Dame speculation a lot less dramatic if we had known what kind of student she was. How the hell did she not get suspended for the vandalism? Was it because of the movie? Or her family's influence in the community? How did Notre Dame keep her on after seeing what she did? When her best friends hook up and she freaks out: Why? Jealousy? Of which person? Was she a closeted lesbian? (It's a reach, but she's never seen with an overt beau.) Was she too busy studying to have a boyfriend? Did her stoic father prohibit it? Is that why she was so mean to everyone? I hated this girl beyond measure, though I'll allow the film didn't get after one iota (okay, two iotas, the sister's suicide must've impacted her somehow) of what made her tick. Wasn't that supposed to be the point of the whole thankless exercise?

My usual litmus test for a documentary is this: would a 12-minute feature on 60 Minutes have been just as effective? For American Teen, we'll at least put this in the right context: would each of these kids' stories been more compelling as a half-hour episode of Made? And I believe the answer is yes, freaking MTV would've given us more context and pathos for each kid's individual story, and not just reduced them to their lowest common denominators.

Things I liked about American Teen:

The music. Glad to see Michael Penn working.

The opening title animation:

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The dream sequences, painful though they were, showed a certain spark of imagination. Maybe the only spark in the whole movie.

Those kids deserved better. We deserve better. The teens of America deserved much, much better.

For narrative purposes is the one answer that best fits most of your questions...otherwise the movie would be longer than Roots.
If only life (or the movies) were so simple as to answer all those questions. My job would certainly be so much easier. Fact is it's as messy as trying to figure out the answers on your own...or simply stop thinking that intellectual answers are so important and simply (or maybe not so simply) feel for people and understand that their pain does not have to be seen in clear constructs in order to be understood.
Oskar, Oskar Oskar!