For his documentary Beyond Clueless, a thematic walk through teen films during an era that ranged from Clueless (1995) to Mean Girls (2004), director Charlie Lyne had to watch “over 300” films. More teen films were produced in that particular era than before or since, he argues, and an entire generation grew up on them — their nostalgia now fuels revivals and reunions galore. (And those are just the ones you remember.) Along with the Jawbreakers and the She’s All Thats, there are a slew of interesting and “forgotten” titles from those years. Here are a few of Lyne’s favorites.
Black and White (2000)
Notorious sleazeball director James Toback has always had a fascination with teenagers (both onscreen and off, if you believe the Gawker articles), but his only true teen movie is Black and White, or at least the parts of Black and White that aren’t just a love letter to a post-rape-conviction Mike Tyson. The film’s best scenes see Elijah Wood, Gaby Hoffman, Bijou Phillips, and Eddie Kaye Thomas explaining the difference between “niggers” and “niggaz” to a condescending documentary film crew led by Brooke Shields.
Streamable? You can rent it on Amazon.
Home Room (2003)
Post-Columbine high school massacre movies run the gamut from poignantly subtle (Elephant) to strikingly candid (Zero Day) to irritatingly didactic (Bang Bang You’re Dead), but — given the subject matter — they’re rarely insipid. Step forward Home Room, a two-hour-and-thirteen-minute (!) talkathon in which Erika Christensen and Busy Philipps overcome their goth girl and head cheerleader differences as fellow survivors of a deadly high school shooting. You’ll wish the death count had been higher.
Streamable? On Hulu Plus.
The Curve (or Dead Man’s Curve) (1998)
Matthew Lillard’s very first star vehicle helped popularize the myth of the “pass by catastrophe” with its story of two college roommates who scheme to get a third to commit suicide so that they’ll be granted automatic 4.0 GPAs. The film had the misfortune of sharing a release year with the almost identical Dead Man on Campus, and while it’s very much the Deep Impact to that film’s Armageddon (i.e., loads better), it’s been mostly forgotten in the years since.
Streamable? You can rent it on iTunes.
Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby (1999)
The original Freeway was only recognized as the masterpiece it clearly is many years later, so when director Matthew Bright came to make this 1999 pseudo-sequel (starring Natasha Lyonne as a bulimic prostitute who goes on the lam and finds herself holed up in a Tijuana mission house with a lascivious nun played by Vincent Gallo), he was free to make it as gloriously unrelated to its predecessor as he desired.
Don’s Plum (2001)
This A-list slacker movie (featuring such teen movie luminaries as Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire) was withdrawn from release in the United States after its stars alleged that the film had been pitched to them as an exercise in improvisation, never intended for release. It’s no wonder they wanted to keep the film quiet: watching DiCaprio improvise the line “I’ll take my shoe and shove it in your mouth, you fucking squatty piece-of-shit hippie cunt” really brings to life the tabloid stories of his hedonistic “Pussy Posse” days.
Ken Park (2002)
Harmony Korine and Larry Clark reunited seven years after Kids for Ken Park, a compilation of seemingly disconnected subplots that see a whole new gang of wayward teens engage in incest, autoerotic asphyxiation, and other unseemly delights. The film was never widely seen in the U.S. thanks to copyright complications, while its U.K. release was scrapped after Clark broke the nose of the film’s British distributor. Your best bet nowadays is to order yourself a copy of KEH ЛAPK from Russia.
*Guess you’ll just have to find another way …