In 1699, at the age of 32, Jonathan Swift wrote a list of resolutions for himself that he titled “When I come to be old.” The first of these was, “Not to marry a young Woman.” Improbably, reading this Swiftian direction set me compiling a list of movies in which men and women disregard his advice. I can’t say it’s in any way particularly timely, or suited to the season – unless nothing says “summer” to you like a nymphet in a bikini and heart-shaped sunglasses or Dustin Hoffman in full diving gear at the bottom of a pool.The GraduateManhattan – oh, beauty and the beast: Mariel Hemingway in bed with Woody Allen. A great movie, and a beautiful movie (even if you find WA occasionally repulsive).Kubrick’s Lolita (1962)Lolita (1997) The Kubrick Lolita goes in more for the “humor” of Nabokov’s novel – a lot of slap-stick-y scenes with Peter Sellars as Clare Quilty. I prefer the remake because it goes in more for the tragedy. Jeremy Irons walks the monstrous/charming line superbly and Dominique Swain is more convincing that Sue Lyon as Lolita.Pretty Baby – Louis Malle’s beautiful and creepy film about the daughter of a prostitute in a New Orleans whore house. A too young Brooke Shields, with Keith Carradine and Susan Sarandon.The Professional – remember Natalie Portman singing “Like a Virgin” to a flabbergasted Jean Reno?Beautiful Girls – Portman again, reprising her “old-soul” girl-woman vibe from The Professional opposite Timothy Hutton. (not that surprising that Portman was offered the Lolita role for 1997 remake)Lawn Dogs – highly recommended: Young Sam Rockwell and very young Mischa Barton. The solace and dangers of friendship in a deeply creepy suburbia.Harold and Maud – for the series of staged suicide scenes and Cat Stevens soundtrack alone, this is worth a watch, but there’s so much more…Venus – The great Peter O’Toole playing, as far as I can tell, himself. And he is charming. Plus the enormously fat actor now of Harry Potter/Uncle Vernon fame (once of Withnail/Uncle Monty fame) as one of O’Toole’s pals (Richard Griffiths).Last Tango In Paris – Really old Marlon Brando and really young French hottie: borderline porn – kinda gross (not recommended to the faint of heart, or really anyone at all)Shopgirl – Steve Martin, Clare Danes, Jason Schwartzman, and Pete Sampras’ babe wifeLost in Translation – another former goofball (Bill Murray) makes good as a serious leading man opposite Scarlett JohanssonY Tu Mama Tambien – not the rollicking good time the previews suggested it to be: brace yourself.Notes on a Scandal – Judy Dench and Cate Blanchett at their finest.American Pie – the movie that brought us “milf”The Good Girl – Jennifer Aniston playing a downtrodden housewife and Jake Gyllenhall (whose character renames himself Holden Caulfield) as her co-worker paramour at the Retail Rodeo.Laurel Canyon – Francis McDormand and Alessandro Nivola are the May-December pair, ably supported by Kate Beckinsale, Christian Bale, and Natasha McElhone. A good movie for repressed graduate students.
Continuing in the vein of the unwritten parrot dissertation, I share with you another great unwritten (even less written and conceived than Parrots, Pirates, and Prostheses): my screenplay about grad school life in the humanities. Well, about grad students in an English department, to be exact, because that’s all I know. For the masses of high-school movies and TV shows (10 Things I Hate About You, Bring It On, Get Over It, Heathers, Sugar and Spice, The History Boys, American Pie, Virgin Suicides, My So-Called Life, Dead Poets’ Society, School Ties, Freaks and Geeks, Aliens in America, Napoleon Dynamite, Pretty Persuasion, The O.C…), there are fewer about college (The Harvard Man, Legally Blonde, With Honors, Aubergine Espagnol, Rules of Attraction, Undeclared, Love Story, Brideshead Revisited, Old School, The Dreamers, Animal House, Sorority Boys), and virtually none about graduate school. In fact, the only one I can think of is Laurel Canyon, which concerns a grad student (Kate Beckinsale) and her medical resident husband (Christian Bale) once they have left the groves of academe. It’s quite good but it deals more with the grad student as a genre of (repressed) person rather than exploring such creatures in their native habitat. The Emma Thompson movie Wit has a few grad school flashbacks and gets more at the tone I’d be going for, but it is hardly a movie about grad school. So, unless I am very much mistaken, the graduate student is a species that has been under-represented in cinema.Thus far in my efforts to amend this cultural oversight, I have, alas, only made up a long-list for the soundtrack. But the beauty of this list is that it can also serve as a primer or litmus test for those contemplating a Ph.D.: Ask yourself, “Do I want this to be the soundtrack of my life?” (Oh, I kid you not.)Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Muddy WatersOxford Comma, Vampire WeekendAsk Me Anything, The Strokes (“I’ve got nothing to say…”)Where Is My Mind?, The PixiesGet Me Away from Here, I’m Dying, Belle & SebastianVenus In Furs, The Velvet Underground (“taste the whip,” indeed: What would graduate school be – and who would go – without masochism?) Hate, Cat Power (“But the ones who didn’t make it/The ones who couldn’t take it/So glad they made it out alive…”)Poems, Tricky/Nearly GodGood Things, Sleater-Kinney (“Will it make me sick today?”)I Am A Rock, Simon & GarfunkelElephant Gun, Beirut (“If I was young I’d flee this town…”)Jack-Ass, BeckOffend In Every Way, The White StripesYou’re No Good, Bob DylanCruel, CalexicoThere Is A Light That Never Goes Out, The Smiths (oh, the longing for socialization)Dumb, Nirvana (a heavy-handed choice, however, imposter syndrome is not to be underestimated: “I’m not like them, but I can pretend…”)You’re Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl), The White Stripes (lest you think the boys club vibe has been banished from the academy)History Song, The Good, The Bad, and The Queen (“If you don’t know it now, then you will do…”)Las Cruces Jail, Two Gallants (“…born to fail/Nobody come for to go my bail…”)Campus, Vampire Weekend (this not-so-desolating one will be used in some sort of pastoral idyll scene)Furnace Room Lullaby, Neko Case (For the anxiety of influence: “I twisted you under and under to break you, I just couldn’t breathe with your throne on my chest”)We’ve Been Had, The WalkmenStop Whispering, Radiohead (“And the feeling is, that there’s something wrong/ Cause you can’t find the words, and I can’t find the song”)If I Could Talk I’d Tell You, The LemonheadsHelp Save the Youth of America, Billy BraggTime Bomb, RancidThe Racing Rats, The EditorsThis Job is Killing Me, The WalkmenUnder My Thumb, The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger is your principal adviser; you are “the squirming dog who’s just had her day”)Shoot You Down, The Stone Roses (advisors again)The Other Way, Weezer (and again)The Boy With The Thorn in His Side, The SmithsA Million Ways, OK Go (ah, klonopin and cruelty!)Closer to Fine, Indigo Girls (“spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper and I was free” …only four years?)The Greatest, Cat PowerHolland, 1945, Neutral Milk HotelFuzzy, Grant Lee BuffaloLost Cause, BeckSave Me, Aimee MannSound good?