Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

02 May 2008

Starter for 10, dir. Tom Vaughan (2006)

NIKKI says:
The print ads I'd seen for this prior to its coming out on DVD didn't at all inspire in me a desire to watch it. It looked like one of those annoying British comedies like that speed dating movie that just came out. Didn't care at all.

And then I found out it was about a guy who dreams of being on University Challenge and I needed to see it right away. TV quiz shows, after all, are my favourite things after chocolate and boy bands. And it's set in 1985, and modelled on John Hughes -- so it just about has every ingredient necessary for masterpiece-dom.

It lived up to all that, too. The movie was really enjoyable. It's about a guy from the dead end of town who goes off to college and begins this great adventure, meeting girls, learning stuff, basically, as he puts it, he's "making something of himself". Along the way, though, his mistakes mount. He's so blinded by ideals that he screws up a great relationship, alienates his best friend from back home, and even botches his chances on the quiz show.

But it's all about lessons learned, right? And that's basically the gist here. The kid's learning. It's a smart, funny movie. James McAvoy is really entertaining, too. I really liked it, and I loved the Cure-heavy soundtrack.


STEVE says:
Something about this movie felt very familiar to me. Cheeky teens, 80s fashions, Brit-rock soundtrack. Yes, it smacked of mid-80s John Hughes which, apart from 60% of Ferris Bueller's Day Off and bits and pieces here and there of Sixteen Candles, I loathe. When Nikki told me it was actually written like a John Hughes film on purpose, it made me cringe.

But I did not loathe Starter for 10, largely because it wasn't a massive love-letter to the 80s as most Hughes films tend to be. It's like screenwriter David Nicholls filtered all the cheesy stuff out of Pretty in Pink (or, as Nikki pointed out, more likely Some Kind of Wonderful which, though directed by Howard Deutch, was written by Hughes), leaving only realistic, likable characters and a solid story.

Here’s my problem with Hughes: Of the myriad responsibilities unjustly thrust upon film makers, one of the least challenging is that they represent reality in such a way that, no matter how incredible the premise of their film — murderous doll tries to kill a nine year old kid; strange arctic discovery, marketed as a dessert, takes control of people’s minds; Julia Roberts finds Dermott Mulroney attractive — the rest must be absolutely believable. Hughes fails in this by creating a version of the ‘80s which never existed, throwing the level of believability right off.

Consider: The ‘80s were a very fluid decade, one fad replacing the next within fifteen minutes of its introduction. Consider, also: The production of a big studio film takes roughly two years, from conception to release. With these two things in mind, there’s no way a Hughes movie could even hope to be anywhere near an accurate portrayal! It’s pre-retro, to the point of being almost nostalgic.
He takes the minority and makes it the majority. Some kid wearing those Back to the Future style sunglasses? Then all kids in his films must wear them! Jelly bracelets and a Swatch? The same for one and all!

That’s fine for a movie like The Wedding Singer or 200 Cigarettes, movies set in that period for no other reason, really, than the soundtrack revenues. But Hughes’s movies are period pieces made in the period! And, except for the occasional Oingo Boingo or Simple Minds song, the soundtracks generally blow.

Starter for 10, though it takes place in the 80s, doesn’t cram that fact down your throat. It realizes that the story is the most important part, and doesn’t waste time reminding you about fashion.

Though it did have a kick-ass soundtrack.


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