Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Top 7 school movies

School is starting, and so I had to write an article about the top 7, or should I say my top 7, education related movies of all time. This list is made with the caveat that I am a lawyer who is obsessed with the music and movies of the 1980s. I have tried to be broader than my obsession in my picks.

7. ​“Dead Poets Society” (1989)
Boarding school can be a lonely, but also uplifting place and you just might find yourself and how to live life to the fullest with the help of Walt Whitman and a wise professor played by Robin Williams (along with a stunning cast of young actors including a young Ethan Hawke). Heartfelt sentimentality combined with an artful handle of tragedy makes this a top pick. Carpe Diem my friends.
(Another great movie in the same vein is “School Ties” from 1992 which deserves an honorable mention)

6. ​“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)
Ferris Bueller is the ultimate rebellious teenager ditching school after asking himself, “How could I possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?” Ferris goes to any lengths to avoid the principal and his pissed off sister played by Jennifer Grey.  What is essentially a buddy movie, morphs into something for the ages with a star making role by Matthew Broderick under the amazing direction of John Hughes. And who could ever forget the line, “Bueller Bueller”?
(War Games (1983) is another treat from the 1980s starring Matthew Broderick about a high school student that who hacks into the wrong database and almost causes WW III).

5.​“The Paper Chase” (1973)
How could a lawyer ignore what is perhaps the greatest law school movie of all time? Starring Timothy Bottoms as the 1L law student, the epic Academy Award winning John Houseman as a stern law professor and Lindsey Wagner (later the Bionic Woman) as his daughter, the movie is part romance, part law school quest and ultimately, a treatise on how to abuse the law school Socratic method.
(The movie is based on the 1971 novel by the same name written by John Jay Osborn, Jr. and for a double treat see the book IL by Scott Turrow.)

4. ​“Grease” (1978)
The ultimate 1950s movie starring the unforgettable John Travolta as Danny Zuco and Oliva Newton John as Sandy (and who can forget Stockard Channing as Rizzo). This is the ultimate stage to screen version of a high school romance complete with a fabulous soundtrack. As a kid, I had the 8 track soundtrack of this movie which I would play in my dad’s pickup truck over and over. The Pink Ladies and The Thunderbirds were forever captured on the silver screen in this gem and no one will ever forget the tunes or the story of Sandy’s metamorphosis from goody two shoes to pink lady in leather. A wap bam boom!
​(For fun, watch Grease I and then Grease II. Sometimes, depending on my mood, I prefer the cheesiness of the sequel which stars a young Michelle Pfeiffer.)

3. ​Rudy (1993)
One of the most uplifting movies ever made. Rudy tells the story of a steel worker’s son who wants to attend college and play football at Notre Dame. The movie is all about achieving one’s aspirations, despite the odds, and stars Sean Astin as a young man who will achieve his dreams no matter how poor or how small he is. The movie is a textbook quest movie, but its heart lies in the portrait of Rudy’s family, friends and teammates. Based on a true story, my favorite part of the movie is not the triumphant ending, but where, after years of junior college, Rudy finds out he did indeed get into Notre Dame.
(The movie also stars a young Jon Favreau as Rudy’s tutor and best friend in college)

2. ​Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
A young and burgeoning writer named Cameron Crowe wrote the screenplay for this movie after going undercover at a high school in San Diego. This 1980s classic stars Sean Penn as the ultimate surfer stereotype Jeff Spicoli, Judge Reinhold as Brad, a hardworking high school student, and his sister Stacey, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh who is looking for love in all the wrong places along with her best friend Linda played by Phoebe Cates. The classic sex, drugs and rock and roll storyline along with the strong ensemble cast showed just what it was like to be a high school student in Southern California in the 1980s. And don’t forget Ray Walston as Mr. Hand.
(Another honorable mention must go to another Southern California classic high school movie, Valley Girl, from 1983 starring a young and punk Nicolas Cage.)


1. Breakfast Club (1985)
Who can forget the ultimate high school movie starring Brat Packers Ally Sheedy as the misfit, Molly Ringwald as the beautiful popular girl, Emilio Estevez as the jock, Michael Anthony Hall as the nerd and Judd Nelson as the delinquent. The group comes together for a Saturday school detention and what results in a coming of age story times five. It puts the common high school stereotypes up to the light and shows that everyone has their own trials and tribulations no matter where they fit within the social hierarchy of high school.

(Personally, I would also put Pretty in Pink and 16 Candles in my top 7, but they were not included here due to the fact that they are all from director John Hughes and two John Hughes movies are enough in a set of 7. That said, for me, 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink comprise the holy trinity of high school movies from the 1980s.)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The old grey mare

This morning I woke up, like clockwork, at five in the morning. The older I get, the more I go to bed early and wake up early. Last night I went to bed at 8 pm, not because I wanted to but because I didn't have a choice. My eyes started closing of their own accord.

My chronic pain issues don't help. There are nights I just want to sleep to escape the pain. Surgery in December will hopefully help.

After my morning ritual of making my shih tzu Frodo take his medicine and feeding the dogs, I picked up a magazine on the counter. It was my mother in law's Elle. I flipped through the fashion magazine marveling at the beautiful faces and fit (sometimes too thin) bodies and their unlined faces and foreheads. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror at my lined forehead and face.

Fashion magazines may be the fountain of youth for the old. The magazine made me remember what it felt like to be young in a short dress and high shoes. It made me forget my health issues and pain, at least for a moment. It reminded me of how little I appreciated my own youth and beauty when I was living it. I was always fat, even when I was thin, or my face was too round, or my hair too frizzy for my own taste. No one told me I was inadequate. I told myself. Yet, when I look back at pictures from my teens and twenties, I marvel at how fantastic I look.

I wonder if some day I will look back at myself now and marvel at how good I look. Pictures are an illusion and so from now on, I will perpetuate the illusion by taking flattering pictures of myself that will appease my older self. Wrinkles and forehead lines be dammed.

This old grey mare is what she used to be.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writing life

I've been working on my memoir for more than ten years. I started writing again in my thirties, while working as a big law lawyer in Houston, Texas. Law school had sucked creativity out of me. They taught me to write in legal form. But, in the process, USC Law failed to remind that you can always be creative.

Depression and late nights as a big firm litigator brought my creativity back. Always a better writer when sad rather than happy, I would stare out my high rise window and poems would come pouring out of me. I would collect them on and read them, wondering what the hell I was doing with my life.

Life had went a place I never expected. For the first time in my life, I had plenty of money. Yet, I was desperately unhappy. I was all by myself in Texas. Yes, I had friends. Making friends had never been a problem for me. But, my boyfriend of ten years (who later became my husband) had stayed behind in Southern California to finish his last semester at Cal Poly and apply to dental school. And, my crazy dysfunctional family was now thousands of miles away. I missed them.

In my apartment, I had little furniture except Leopold Bloom, a black cat I had named after the protagonist in James Joyce's Ulysses, and my books.

The poems I wrote out there in Texas started out a bit melodramatic with echos of Dickinson and Plath, my poetic heroines. Eventually, I turned to prose and memoir.

Those first poems paved a path for me, however, to rediscover myself. And years later, while in San Francisco with my boyfriend turned fiancé who was attending dental school at UCSF, my dad died suddenly three weeks after Christmas and his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

His death forever changed me. Within a couple of years, I would change jobs to become a deputy public defender and be attending writing workshops at VONA at USF and UC Berkeley. The stories, many of which comprise the opening chapters of my memoir, would come pouring out like water that had long been bottled up. All those memories turned into stories. Stories I am proud of.

The problem with memoir is that you must pick an end point. And now, that is where I stand, looking at it all with a furrowed brow. In some ways, I am no longer the burgeoning writer who wrote those first stories, but in other ways I am. Maybe, after the last ten years and my struggles with fertility and anxiety, I don't know who I am anymore.

Ultimately, I may just have to find myself to finish this damn book.