Split Decision: College Movies

Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!

This week’s question:

In honor of Life of the Party, what is your favorite movie set at a college?

While it’s tempting to say Animal House again, I’ll go with Wonder Boys.-Gary M. Kramer

The obvious answer is Animal House, and while I do love John Landis’ seminal classic, it doesn’t accurately speak to the experience I had as a college aged male. Much closer to reality, and therefore, my heart, is Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some! Touted as a spiritual sequel to his high school ensemble flick, Dazed and Confused, this story of a baseball frat did something that feels bold in our current era: it reclaimed the “bro” sensibility from the clutches of creeps. It celebrated the connections that young men, all on the precipice of true adulthood, can share, while showing that masculinity doesn’t have to exist at the expense of others. Furthermore, Everybody Wants Some! explores the universal struggle of defining oneself both as a part of a group and as an independent entity. It’s also one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen in my whole life.
I also want to give a shout out to The Social Network, because I can. Dan Scully

I think that both of the Neighbors movies are instant college classics- because rather than simply glorify the debauchery of college, it laughs at just how obnoxious and annoying college kids really are. In casting Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as the titular thirty something neighbors to an off campus fraternity, they are also about how it feels to look at college kids when you are an adult with responsibilities- as an older viewer you can’t help but put yourself in their shoes and judge the shit out of these kids- which also means you can feel jealous of how carefree their lives seem. Both movies are pretty much non stop laugh riots, and Zac Efron is kind of a comic genius.–Andy Elijah

I hate when people say that “the book is always better” when discussing filmic adaptations. It’s inherently problematic when you judge two separate (and wildly different) mediums. I could go on and on when it comes to this topic, but I’ll spare you. This is a long-winded way of building up to the fact that I think Roger Avery’s 2002 film The Rules of Attraction(based on the 1987 Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name) is an incredible example of an adaptation that certainly makes many departures from the book, but does so in a way that ultimately captures, if not elevates, the themes and overall tone of the novel. I’ve written about this movie a couple of times in the past, both for its amazing self-contained sequence and for its haunting bathroom scene. In typical Bret Easton Ellis fashion, the college students of Rules are privileged, pretentious, and all facing unrequited love. And as a fun bonus, it’s in the same universe as American Psycho (Ellis’s 1991 novel). James Van Der Beek plays Sean Bateman, Patrick Bateman’s younger brother. This movie certainly isn’t for everyone. Its vapid characters and occasionally frenetic camera work can throw a lot of people off, but I truly believe it’s a great accomplishment, both as a standalone piece of work, and as an adaptation. Not many directors could pull off a story filled with unlikable characters, constant narrative shifts, a myriad of aesthetic styles, and a story that starts and ends mid-sentence.– Catherine Haas

Does Whiplash count?  If so, Whiplash.  What an brilliant, propulsive debut for writer/director Damien Chazelle.  Not since PTA’s Boogie Nights* has a writer/director burst on the scene with such a confident voice that it leaves you with no choice but to sit up in your chair and pay attention. Plus, it features the utterly captivating, incendiary performance of J.K. Simmons.  You never know where Simmons is going to go; at one moment, he’s a hilarious, prickish teacher that is challenging his students from the trenches himself.  At other times, he explodes into violence or unadulterated bullying that is truly unhinged and genuinely scary to behold.  Ultimately, Chazelle offers no clear answers for the cost of excellence, and that is what I love about Whiplash.  I actually hold it in higher regard than La La Land (blasphemy, I know).

If Whiplash does not qualify, then I’ll go with The Social Network, not to be atypical, but because damn does that movie still hold up.  Bravo, David Fincher.
*Yes, I’m not counting Sidney/Hard Eight, as it was not a wide release like Boogie Nights.  Though I do love that flick.* —

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but The Social Network sticks out to me as an interesting college movie. Rather than depicting the college experience as fun specifically because it’s debaucherous, it depicts that debauchery as a symptom of male entitlement and toxicity. The story blows this up to an epic proportion where a sad and lonely man who believes he’s owed something stops at nothing to get it, and succeeds. And it’s all rooted in his desire to believe he’s not a bad person in the eyes of a former lover he doesn’t even really like, but requires validation from regardless. It’s a pretty scorching satire of the College movie, even if I don’t think that’s actually what it sets out to do at all. But by concerning itself with the motivations of this college student who becomes a billionaire seemingly as the result of a break-up, it has to address the fundamental attitudes of the men, who upon entering the adult world, immediately begin conspiring to bend it to their will.

Also it has two Armie Hammers, and the only thing better than a movie with Armie Hammer is a movie with Armie Hammers to spare! —

I knew of Good Will Hunting  long before I actually saw it, thanks to Kevin Smith’s relationship with Affleck, and when I finally did see it (thanks, Jill), I couldn’t believe how good it was. Yes, college is more of a background setting for this film, and it does not indulge at all in the cliches built on the foundation of Animal House, but for me (and I suspect many others), college is where I started to actually feel closer to an actual version of myself. And Good Will Hunting is one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen about living with emotional baggage, self-sabotage and how we need to live up to our own potential because we all deserve that. Excuse me while I go have a good cry just from writing about this one.

Also, I just figured out that the title is a pun and now I feel even worse.–Ryan Silberstein

Legally Blonde. Do I need to explain why? —Jenna Kuerzi

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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