Scenes We Love

Uncle-Buck-Scenes

Maybe it’s because the anniversary fell on the weekend, but it’s shocking how few tributes there are to Uncle Buck turning 25. I know, it’s only John Hughes‘s second-highest-grossing movie as a director (out of eight), and only currently (according to Rotten Tomatoes) the ninth best-reviewed of his movies in any creative capacity (out of 31). I understand that it’s a fairly insignificant comedy without a lot of cultural or historical relevance. It’s just Mr. Mom (scripted by Hughes) without the social contexts of the recession and the rise of women in the workforce that makes that movie an important piece of American cinema. It’s a sitcom that didn’t even translate well to television. A saccharine family film that’s actually not that appropriate for children — and that’s after a cut was made to the theatrical version due to parent complaints (the drunk clown scene was apparently more profane). Uncle Buck might suffer for being sort of sandwiched between two more popular movies: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which may have inspired John Candy‘s role here, and Home Alone, which is said to have been inspired by a scene with Macaulay Culkin in this movie. Yet speaking of Culkin, he’s one of the reasons that Uncle Buck deserves more recognition. While the movie is primarily a vehicle for Candy and his sloven, ignorant and occasionally violent childcare shtick, it’s most notable for its youngest players, namely Culkin and Gaby Hoffmann, who own every scene they’re in, with or without their large co-star. Their performances are mainly limited to reaction shots, […]

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Peter MacNicol in Ghostbusters 2

A lot of people went to see Ghostbusters II on its opening weekend 25 years ago, enough to break a box office record (that would be surpassed a week later with the release of Batman). Of course it was hugely anticipated. Ghostbusters was already a classic after only five years, and thanks in part to a Saturday morning cartoon spin-off and toys and other merchandising, kids especially couldn’t wait to see Peter, Ray, Egon, Winston and, of course, Slimer back on the big screen. But it was a huge disappointment for most fans. The plot was too much of a repeat of the original, the cast didn’t give it their all and worst of all it wasn’t very funny, so said — and still say — its biggest critics. Well, I was only 12 at the time and sufficiently satisfied. Already obsessed then by how New York City is represented in cinema, I especially enjoyed the pink slime causing the Big Apple’s notorious reputation for being a mean-spirited metropolis. I even appreciated the corny use of the Statue of Liberty as the antithesis of that negative distinction. But it was enough to see the gang reunited with their proton packs, as well as the return of Rick Moranis, who would have stolen the whole movie if he weren’t beaten at his own game by Peter MacNicol. Some might think of Dr. Janosz Poha as the Jar Jar Binks of the Ghostbusters franchise. For me, he’s still the sequel’s greatest component.

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Dancer in the Dark

If there’s anything about Lars von Trier‘s Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 that’s shocking, it’s not the graphic, non-simulated intercourse nor the detailed story of a sex addict who we first meet nearly beaten to death and left in the street. It’s how goofy the movie is. It’s all the metaphorical parallels between nymphomania and fly fishing and all the mathematical elements, especially including those that take literal form with numbers on screen. I read nothing about the film going in and had presumed it would be darker, even depressing. Maybe some black humor as only the maniacal mind of von Trier would devise, but nothing as funny as this is. It’s more The Boss of It All than any of his other recent movies. When I mentioned the tone to someone who is only slightly familiar with von Trier’s work, she expressed surprise, admitting that she thought all of his movies were depressing. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’ve actually never found him to be depressing at all. Antichrist and Melancholia were definitely the products of someone who was experiencing a bout with depression, and Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark surely evoke a lot of tears at their ends, but they’re not depressing. Serious is more like it, though there’s also something happy in the silly final shot of the former. Anyway, the conversation and the movie inspired me to look for happy moments in von Trier’s oeuvre, where clips are available at least. Most are, understandably, located in […]

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BlazingSaddles02

Blazing Saddles could be the most difficult movie to celebrate with a Scenes We Love feature. Not only is it a laugh-a-minute comedy with too many classic moments to narrow down from, but more importantly it is such a politically incorrect work that it’s hard to showcase excerpts that don’t play too offensively out of context of the whole picture. I realized this long ago while listening to shock jock radio and hearing many of the most hilarious quotes from the movie turned into uncomfortable soundbites. Yet this movie, which turned 40 years old this month, is a masterpiece of satire, slapstick and silliness. It’s one of the most important American comedies ever made, not to mention possibly the funniest in the last half century. Like another classic that recently celebrated an anniversary — Dr. Strangelove, which also features Slim Pickens — it played the nation’s fears and flaws for laughs. With Blazing Saddles, co-writer/director/co-star Mel Brooks lampoons historical and contemporary intolerance, among many other things, as well as the Western genre. And it remains as relevant as any of the countless movies that have been influenced by it, from near-rip-off comedies like Three Amigos! to fellow subversive takes on systemic racism in 19th century America like Django Unchained. I invite further discussion of Blazing Saddles after this look at a number of my favorite bits, and I welcome mention of any additional scenes you love that I didn’t have room to include.

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the burbs femur

Joe Dante‘s The ‘burbs, which turns 25 tomorrow, was a nice way to end a decade filled with a nostalgia for the simple 1950s idea of suburbia as well as a trend towards uncovering terrible things amidst the modern ideal of perfection of the new suburbia of tract house developments. In the latter camp, there’s Poltergeist and Gremlins, both produced by Steven Spielberg (whose own E.T. nearly fits) with the latter helmed by Dante (who’d go on to make another suburbia tale almost 10 years later with Small Soldiers). The ‘burbs is, more than its ’80s brethren, a satirical leveling of the former camp, particularly the early TV sitcoms re-introduced to a new generation through Nick at Nite and update spin-offs like Still the Beaver/The New Leave It to Beaver. The movie, fittingly, was shot on the same cul-de-sac neighborhood lot at Universal Studios as that Leave It to Beaver sitcom sequel and co-stars Corey Feldman, who’d played the Beaver’s son in the pilot TV movie of Still the Beaver. The ‘burbs also features TV sitcom staple Gale Gordon, a regular fixture in Lucille Ball series including The Lucy Show (there are photos of him and Ball in the movie) and a main cast member on Dennis the Menace as the second Mr. Wilson. That the movie’s plot revolves around Gordon’s character going missing, seemingly murdered by the new neighbors, is a great metaphor for the loss, again, of that era. At the hands of the unknown strangeness of the Klopeks, […]

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bill_and_teds_excellent_scenes

This month, the brilliant time travel slacker comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure turns 25. While all the other responsible guys out there might be trying to choose a Nicholas Sparks movie to watch with their beloved, I will always lean towards this endearing classic. (As I learned then from my 1989 girlfriend, this was not an ideal choice for a Valentine’s Day movie.) Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure managed to help define the ’80s in film, even though it came out in the last year of the decade. Even more miraculous, the film had nothing to do with John Hughes, who seemed to almost single-handedly build the ’80s cinema playlist. It also helped make Keanu Reeves a household name before The Matrix galvanized him as an action star 10 years later. With rumors of a possible Bill & Ted 3 continuously swirling around the interwebs, it’s a great time to look back at the time travel exploits of these two metalheads. Even with all the elements that seem to date it in the past (like pudding cups from a tin can, tape recorders, CDs from the future and phone booths), it’s still a watchable film with some seriously excellent moments in it, as we highlight below. Party on, dudes!

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Clerks_1

This Friday at Midnight, Kevin Smith‘s Clerks will return to Park City for a commemorative screening. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival 20 years ago, showing for the first time at the Holiday Village Cinema on January 22, 1994, at 10pm. Two more screenings were held the following week in the same theater, with a fourth and final appearance at the Egyptian. The festival guide entry, written by Bob Hawk (who would go on to be a producer on Chasing Amy), called it “the film equivalent of a garage band” and “an essentially serious work that refuses to take itself seriously.” According to John Pierson’s book Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes, the film was already in play ahead of the premiere, with an advance screening set up for Miramax in December. Although they would end up distributing Clerks, apparently Harvey Weinstein walked out after 15 minutes, allegedly because of the anti-smoking sequence. He later gave it another shot at the Egyptian following a build up of strong word of mouth and some very positive reviews, and was heard laughing this time. A deal was made quickly, and by the end of the fest Clerks also received the Filmmakers Trophy for the dramatic competition, sharing the award with Fresh. Smith’s career was born, and the rest is history. That history has had its ups and downs, of course, but whatever you think of the filmmaker and any of his works from the two decades since (especially this film’s terrible […]

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glenn shadix heathers

Did you know that Heathers screened in competition at Sundance? Even I wasn’t aware of this (or I’d forgotten), and I swear I’m one of the movie’s biggest fans. It’s not a fact revealed on the DVD commentary, apparently. It’s not even listed among the release dates on IMDb or Wikipedia, both of which tend to include major film festival appearances. The dark teen movie classic didn’t premiere in Park City, but following its debut in Milan, Italy, at the MIFED film market in October 1988, it went on to Sundance (then still known as the U.S. Film Festival) in January 1989, where it faced such features as Steven Soderbergh’s sex, lies and videotape (winner of the inaugural audience award), Martin Donovan’s Apartment Zero and Nancy Savoca’s barely remembered True Love, which won the dramatic jury prize (nice going 1989 jury member Jodie Foster!). According to Peter Biskind’s book Down and Dirty Pictures, Heathers had the highest budget of the program at $3M, making it a “questionable” choice given that it was too Hollywood for the event at that time. You can see the original guide entry for Heathers on the Sundance website, where the original festival program director, Tony Safford, describes the film as a mix of River’s Edge and Something Wild while also championing the performance of U.S. Film Festival vet Winona Ryder (she was there previously with 1987’s Salt Lake City opening night selection, Square Dance). I find no record of what date Heathers first screened at the fest, […]

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extrait_the-curious-case-of-benjamin-button_5

It’s now been five years since The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was released. Maybe I’m alone, but it hasn’t felt like five years. That’s fitting for a movie that deals with the power, or curiosity, of time. Upon its 2008 release David Fincher‘s epic was a modest success. The pricey drama was a hit with audiences, but it wasn’t exactly a universally loved film. Some Fincher fans considered it one of his lesser works and, as they were ever so fond of calling it, “Forrest Gump 2.” If The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one of his lesser works, which it is not, then this Fincher guy sure is talented. It is also no Forrest Gump 2, because Fincher’s film is far more thoughtful, moving and honest than Gump. That’s not to say the movie isn’t without its problems. Eric Roth‘s script is often a tad on the nose  — “you never know what’s coming for ya”  and the hummingbird — but, more often than not, this F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation is deceptively dark. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is about living life to the fullest, but this is a movie where death is a constant reminder. Nothing lasts forever, not even New Orleans. With that said, Fincher still shows his softer side, and that sincerity opens itself up to easy criticisms, both fair and unfair. What we can all agree on is it’s an extraordinary vision following an unextraordinary man. Benjamin’s a normal man dealing with even more normal problems, despite his disease, and […]

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its-a-wonderful-life 1

It’s a Wonderful Life is a far bleaker entry than many of the other beloved films in the Christmas cinema canon. A Christmas Story is all about familial quirks, painted in Norman Rockwell hues. Even Die Hard never sees its everyman hero losing hope that he’ll save the day. But Frank Capra’s inspiring masterpiece puts us — and its protagonist George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) — through an emotional wringer and to the very brink of death before delivering a happy ending. Before we are shown the reason we must hang on to hope, even when life seems far from wonderful, we follow George through a fierce storm of emotional upswings and free falls. Through melodrama, Capra’s film communicates the intensity of our inner passions in a way that always rings true. Being something of a softie, it’s no surprise most of my favorite scenes in It’s a Wonderful Life are the ones that celebrate love. Here are six of the best.

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youve-got-mail-end

The rom-com pairing of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks is the stuff of fluffy dreams — we dare you to name another pairing that is even remotely close to usurping their royal hold over the genre, at least within a modern context — and it’s one that has spawned three charming features. The duo has, quite memorably, starred together in a fizzy romance trifecta: 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano, 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle and 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, and while it’s the second title that often gets all the big buzz and affection, we’ve got a big soft spot for the unrelenting sweetness and strange humor of Nora Ephron’s other Ryan/Hanks feature. You’ve Got Mail is celebrating its 15th anniversary this week (yes, 15th, also, you’re old, I’m old, we’re all old, but nothing is as old as that dial-up buzzing we hear about 20 times within the film itself). It is stylized as a modern take on the Miklos Laszlo play Pafumerie, which was also the inspiration for the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner. It’s “modern” because it involves the Internet or, more specifically, AOL chat rooms, early email and the then-wacky possibility that someone could fall in love with a stranger over the net. Ephron, Ryan, and Hanks had previously explored a similar idea with Sleepless — that two strangers could be so destined to be together that they could fall in love via various types of correspondence — but You’ve Got Mail dove right into the burgeoning […]

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naked gun nothing to see

This week was the third anniversary of Leslie Nielsen‘s death, which also marked the definite end of the most brilliant eras in movie spoof history. The period didn’t begin with his induction into the genre, and he certainly helped usher in a wave of weak entries (he even starred in the first movie written by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer), but he is still the actor most associated with these kinds of comedies, mainly due to his collaborations with the trio of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. Following his scene-stealing work in their classic Airplane!, they cast him as the lead on a short-lived TV series called Police Squad!. After it was quickly canceled, Nielsen spent time with serious parts in films and TV series before being brought back for the movie spin-off, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the movie’s theatrical release, when it opened at #1 before going on to be among the top-ten grossers that debuted in 1988 (about half its take came following the new year). The success of this action movie parody led to sequels of diminishing quality, but the brand is in its entirety still one of the more celebrated comedy franchises. And this initial installment is still considered one of the top three favorite spoof movies of all time. To adequately honor all its hilarity would be difficult here, as the gags and jokes in The Naked Gun are so abundant, not […]

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scrooged anne ramsey

It’s not even Thanksgiving yet and we’re already devoting a second Scenes We Love list to a Christmas movie. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Scrooged, so how could we not? Did you know this modernization of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol had the fourth best opening of 1988? And of those four, it debuted in a significantly fewer amount of theaters, giving it the second-best per-screen average among them. It also opened on a Wednesday, like three of those films, and of those three it had the second-best five-day opening. People clearly loved this movie, right? Not quite, but they really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay at or near the top for very long. By the big holiday weekend, it was in 9th place, behind stuff like Tequila Sunrise, The Naked Gun and Oliver and Company. But at least it was doing better than Ernest Saves Christmas. Scrooged received a fair amount of negative reviews when it came out, and maybe the audiences then were disappointed, especially if they were hoping for something as entertaining and funny and spectacular as Ghostbusters, since this was both Bill Murray‘s first comedic starring vehicle since then and it was also marketed to that film’s fans. In the decades since, many of us have warmed to it, probably through countless TV airings, where it does seem kind of appropriate. Back then perhaps audiences weren’t happy with how unlikable Murray’s character is for much of the movie, even though that’s part of […]

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i like the tin man

Is it too early for Christmas movies? Not if this weekend’s box office is any indication, with The Best Man Holiday giving Thor: The Dark World a run for its money. Also, it was pretty much this weekend 30 years ago that a little classic called A Christmas Story debuted in movie theaters nationwide. Today, Bob Clark’s beloved adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s autobiographical stories is a staple of the season. Back when it opened on November 18, 1983, however, it bowed in third place behind fellow newbie Amityville 3D and the ongoing hit The Big Chill. But it rose to first place in the following week, only to fall back down and eventually way out of the top ten by the very holiday in its title. More people saw Yentl on Christmas weekend that year than A Christmas Story. As is the case with most holiday movie favorites, this one really gained popularity and became canon through cable television airings. Now, of course, it’s run on repeat in marathon form every December 24-25. Last year, the Library of Congress added it to the National Film Registry, where it joined It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Like those movies, this is now almost as big a part of the holiday as visiting Santa and decorating the tree. For some people, it’s probably even inspired new annual traditions. I bet there are fans out there who have duck for Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant in honor of the movie. […]

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they-live-scenes

When John Carpenter‘s They Live opened in theaters 25 years ago this week, it had the honor of knocking Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers out of the #1 slot. That’s just too perfect, and also it’s also kind of weird to realize that They Live indeed opened at the top spot on the box office chart for the weekend of November 4, 1988. Maybe even weirder than the fact that a U2 concert film debuted just below it at #2. That was a different time for moviegoing, one where a great start like that meant little at the end of the day when your movie still winds up only the 75th highest-grossing of the year. Although the sci-fi film came and went with little widespread notoriety at the time, They Live did go on to become a cult classic of varying levels, the kind revered by movie geeks for being just enough “cheesy” mixed with just enough “awesome,” recognized by academics for being a very direct social commentary on the Reagan years (and the best horror movie satirizing consumerism since Dawn of the Dead a decade earlier) and continually ignored by the mainstream for looking like a cheap, dated B movie. But it’s also a film that has become even more relevant in recent years (and was therefore prescient, as we’ve covered before) due to how it involves a disappearing middle class while the rich and poor grow on opposite sides of the economy, in wealth and population […]

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The Wiz World Trade Center

35 years ago this week, two very different movies had their theatrical premieres. One is Halloween, a movie you all know and love and which surprisingly has very few clips available to view online. The other is The Wiz, a movie you may have never seen, heard is terrible and which fortunately has a number of scenes uploaded in order that I might illustrate and defend its worth. I might be the only one who likes The Wiz more than Halloween and very likely the only one who finds one particular scene in the all-black version of The Wizard of Oz scarier than anything in John Carpenter’s slasher classic. But I can’t be the only person with an appreciation for The Wiz. One thing about the movie that’s rarely celebrated is the fact it’s directed by Sidney Lumet. NYC’s Film Forum didn’t even include the musical in its otherwise exhaustive retrospective of his work a few years back. It is weird a white filmmaker was at the helm for this, though his relevance as a very New York-centric director makes some sense (who else should have done it? Scorsese? Woody Allen? Hmm, maybe Gordon Parks?). The Wiz is indeed a New York movie, featuring the most fantastical representations of the city’s landmarks since the 1933 King Kong. That’s a big part of why I love it so much. Join me below as I highlight some of the best of these location-transforming scenes.

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badlands

As I noted in a Scenes We Love post on True Romance last month, Terrence Malick‘s Badlands is among my top five favorite films. It might even be my very favorite, which is interesting because I don’t love any of the director’s other works (I do like some, hate one…). Now I get to showcase the film itself, because today marks the 40th anniversary of its premiere as the closing night selection of the 11th New York Film Festival. The trouble is, how do you select specific scenes from a film you love so much and find so brilliant that there’s not one worthless second let alone scene in the whole thing? Badlands is a perfect specimen of cinema to me, so few things stand out above others. Fortunately, I don’t get to do too much choosing since there aren’t too many clips actually available online. So, as Kit (Martin Sheen) would do, let’s mark our memories with what we can find (if these were rocks, it’d also be what we can carry). And as Holly (Sissy Spacek) would do, I’ll offer some commentary that is subjectively selective, not completely descriptive and, since I’ve never wanted to know too much about the production of the film, probably rather naive. Don’t judge me for not being as poetic, though; I won’t even try. And don’t judge the video quality of the clips, which may still be better than the time I went to finally see Badlands on the big screen and it turned […]

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Rumble Fish Scenes

Francis Ford Coppola‘s Rumble Fish is turning 30 years old this Monday. While its theatrical release was October 21, 1983, the film made its debut at the New York Film Festival earlier in the month, on the 7th. Since then, it has taken on more of a cult status rather than joining the classic ranks of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. That’s a pity, because it’s arguably as good as Coppola’s most well-respected hits. The teen angst picture stars Matt Dillon as a kid trying to live up to the reputation of his brother, “The Motorcycle Boy” (Mickey Rourke). And it has always been a favorite of mine. In fact, the sole poster framed in my apartment is a one-sheet from the film. It’s just that great. At the time, it was Coppola’s most experimental movie. It’s a bizarre trip into this hellish place where everything is soaked in dread and smoke. The only place a man can find some calm is a diner run by Tom Waits. When you have to find refuge with Tom Waits, then you know you’re in trouble. It’s a rough picture, especially compared to Coppola’s other, more sentimental (and in color, more accessible) S.E. Hinton adaptation about troubled kids from the same year: The Outsiders. Out of the two, the slightly earlier film is the one that garnered more accolades, but in my book Rumble Fish is the superior movie. Narrowing the film down to six scenes was tough, because every scene in the film is enjoyable in its own right. Diane Lane, Chris Penn, Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, […]

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talladega nights 16

With Rush out in theaters, we wanted to revisit another racing classic of two bitter rivals whose competition drove them to not only be better drivers but also better people. That’s right, we are talking about Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which sees the title character (Will Ferrell) face many obstacles on his quest to prove he is the best race car driver in NASCAR all while being pitted against his polar opposite, French driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Coehn). Where Ricky is sponsored by Wonder Bread, Jean is sponsored by Perrier. Ricky is married to “stone cold fox” Carley (Leslie Bibb) while Jean is married to world-class German Shepherd trainer Gregory (Andy Richter). But the major difference between these two drivers is Ricky truly loves to race whereas Jean is starting to find himself drawn to other pursuits — you know, things like training Komodo dragons in Sri Lanka and teaching them to perform Hamlet. Talladega Nights is classic Ferrell taking on a caricature of not only NASCAR drivers but also the world that, uh, drives this sport. Neither Ricky Bobby nor Talladega Nights ever hesitate to dive head first into stereotypes, but it also immediately takes the wind out of those ideas without coming across as preaching. Ferrell leads the charge, but the entire cast is hilarious and prove that no one in the film is just there as set dressing. Everyone has a punch line to deliver. Join us as we look at ten of our favorite scenes from the movie below.

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jack_black_17651

It’s hard to image that it’s already been a decade since Jack Black stormed into our hearts and that classroom in Richard Linklater’s School of Rock as Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star who steals a substitute teaching gig meant for his roommate when he gets booted from his band and threatened with eviction in the same day. And though he may not have known a single damn thing about teaching “the boring subjects,” he certainly knew a thing or two about the important things in life: rock music and sticking it to anyone who thinks they’re better than you. Though ten years have passed, and those children are all about 20 years old now, the best songs and moments from the film still hold up as strong as ever. For those about to rock, we salute you.

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