09 February 2009

2009 Fabulous Films for Young Adults

Here's a link to an article I came across in the American Libraries Direct newsletter, about YALSA's 2009 choices for great coming-of-age films for young adults.


I'd like to conduct an informal class poll & see how many of us have seen these films & agree with the committee's assessment of them as "fabulous"! I'll reproduce the basic list here, along with my critical 2 cents on the ones I've seen. I hope other class members will weigh in!

10 Things I Hate About You--Julia Stiles is a spirited "shrew" and the late Heath Ledger her nemesis/love interest. Were I still in high school, I'd find this updated (and somewhat less sexist) version of the Bard's tale infinitely preferable to the original play.

Bend It Like Beckham--Funny, inspiring and thoughtful. Though nominally about a teen girl's desire to play soccer against the wishes of her strict Indian family, I thought the film was also keenly observant on sexual politics, female rivalry and issues of race and class.

Juno--Did anyone NOT see this? I saw it multiple times with my then-18 year old daughter. Sometimes the dialogue was just too wittily arch for me, but the underlying sweetness of the story won me over. I especially like the fact that Juno's dad and stepmom are not made out to be ogres, and that the prospective adoptive couple isn't as yuppily perfect as they seem.

Love*Com--I have not seen it, but now I want to!

Miyazaki’s Spirited Away--Wonderful, as are all of Miyazaki's films (Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Porco Rosso--among others). A humane underlying spirit with interesting heroines/heroes and fanciful storylines. The images are gorgeous as well!

Osama--I have not seen this.

Superbad--Okay, I admit to being one of those parents who lets her teens watch pretty much anything; in my defense, they are 19 and 14, though! They loved this movie; I thought it was pretty dumb, though I could see the appeal. Beyond the idiotic subplot with McLovin and the moronic police officers (talk about arrested development) and the tortuous attempts of the boys to obtain both booze and sex, the "bromance" between the main characters was actually interesting and quite touching. Transitioning from high school to college is huge, and things will never be the same. On that note, the film succeeded. For the rest, in my opinion, it was Porky's revisited.

Whale Rider--I thought this was another wonderful film, with an absolutely luminous female lead (who since seems to have disappeared completely). Another film, like Bend It Like Beckham, with strong female characters and thoughtful explorations of race, class and tradition.

As Real as Your Life; The Boys of Baraka; Devil’s Playground; Dogtown and Z-Boys; The Heart of the Game; Invisible Children: Rough Cut; Persepolis; Shadya

Well, I'm embarrassed to say the only non-fiction film I've seen on this list is Persepolis; but it was excellent. The film was a faithful rendering of Satrapi's original drawings with her graphic style used to great effect. I also thought the voice acting was wonderful; one of my favorite moments is a punked-out Marjane squawking out "The Eye of the Tiger". The graphic novels are also excellent & taught me much that I didn't know about the Iranian Revolution and its horrendous effects on the citizenry.


  1. I've only seen the first three (10 Things, Bend it Like Beckham, Juno) movies. But I lived on 10 Things during high school--I would fall asleep to it pretty much every night, and I think I could recite the whole movie to you. Obviously, I had a love affair with this movie, and I think it was because I wanted to be Kat. She's strong, stubborn, smart, and not afraid to be different and stick up for what she believes in AND she's still capable of falling in love. Yep, I wanted to be her.

    As for Bend it Like Beckham, I had to watch this for a sociology class in undergrad, so I've only seen it that one time. I enjoyed it because we rarely ever get to see the cultural clashes between immigrant families and their first-generation offspring. It's hard to be bi-cultural, especially when your family can be anti-American at times. Coming from an immigrant family myself, I could identify with the main character, even though we're from very different places, and I think this could be true for many young people, especially if we think about culture between the generations as well.

    And Juno--well, what can I say? I can't imagine another Juno, another teen girl who would handle her pregnancy with such calmness and practicality. She's a superteen, emotional and confused and times, but for the most part, as level-headed as an almost teen parent can be. I loved the movie, loved how witty she was, but find it hard to believe.

  2. I thought this was a very interesting and diverse list. That being said, unfortunately I've only seen two of them: 10 Things I Hate About You and Juno. Looks like I need to expand my horizons a tad...

    10 Things I Hate About You had pretty much the same effect on me as it did you, Natalie! I LOVED this movie as a teen. I thought Julia Stiles played a very strong character who was not quick to trust just anyone. I loved how independent she was. She portrayed a very rebellious character who had her own dreams and goals, despite the vision her dad had in his head for her. On the other hand, her sister portrayed a "sweeter" version of a young teen, but also a teen who was more caught up in what was "cool" and how the ideal high school experience should be. I think that these are the two most common "types" of teens. There are the ones who hate high and school and want nothing to do with it...and then there are the ones who love it and want to be very involved. Obviously there are those in between, but this movie shows some very real characters which teens can relate to. I also wanted to be Kat. I think it's because in real like I was more like her sister. I embraced high school, but Kat's character intrigued me with her independence. And of course, I was in love with Heath Ledger.

    Juno was another film I loved, but as Natalie mentioned, I think it is somewhat unbelievable. Who can just pick up a newspaper/flyer and find the perfect parents to adopt a baby? While I do think that Juno was a great example of a confused teen dealing with a very difficult issue in a mature way, I think the movie itself is more for entertainment than a movie that teens can relate to. Although, the "real" parts like when her boyfriend is going over to another girls house and they talk about how it smells like soup...those are real moments. Moments of weakness that any teen can relate to.

  3. I was also a fan of 10 Things, but my reasoning was a bit different. I liked Larissa Oleynick, the sister, because she was in Secret World of Alex Mack. And then there was the Heath Ledger aspect…personally, I’ve never been a fan of long hair on boys, but I had no choice but to love him at least a little bit (I’m a bigger fan of Joseph Gordon Levitte). I need to address the Heath Ledger factor a bit more, though.

    My fiancĂ© has a small film company, and he and his business partners were DEVESTATED when Heath Ledger died. Not only are they huge Dark Knight fans (they were actually in the movie), but they think Ledger was the greatest thing since sliced bread. After his untimely demise, a lot of boys who were also obsessed with Heath started revisiting his other work: A Knight’s Tale, Ten Things I Hate About You, Brokeback Mountain, Casanova, etc. Ten Things was decidedly the most tolerable teen movie Heath starred in.

    I think it’s cool that guys who didn’t watch Ten Things when it came out have given it a chance now, but it saddens me that it took one of the actors dying to make it happen. Ten Things feels like a “girl” movie to me, even though it stars famous boy-actors, too. I’m trying to think of other movies where this is the case, but I’m drawing a blank. Any ideas?

    I think Juno was a more gender neutral movie despite the subject matter for a few reasons: Michael Cera and Jason Bateman were big draws for guys (and girls) who had been fans of Arrested Development (we were also devastated when this was canceled. Tears were involved). Ellen Page wasn’t a very well-known star before the movie came out, but she’s also….gruff. Rumors about her sexuality off-screen have gone sort-of unanswered, but her tom-boyishness probably helped not to scare boys off with overt girlyness. I agree that the writing in Juno was a bit contrived/overly witty at times. It felt like Diablo Cody said, “Let’s see how many pop culture references I can butcher in a five-minute scene”. Thank God teens aren’t really like that. It was like the fast-paced wit of Rory Gilmore and the snarkiness of a VH1 reality show host had a mutant baby!

    I saw Superbad, and while I liked it more than Juno, I agree that it was just sort of a gross-out comedy. However, I think the highschool characters are much more realistic (despite the fact that Jonah Hill is in his mid-twenties). I could have done with 40% less McLovin, but Michael Cera’s bumbling nature and the awkward scene in the basement after the boys’ sleepover made me giggle like a (high)school girl. Even though I didn’t think it was an Oscar contender, I will say that imitation is the best form of flattery: how many teens did you see/hear quoting Superbad or Juno? Other media that I hear teens quoting are: Family Guy, Simpsons, Anchorman, and really any other Judd Apatow movie. But I don’t really think of those as “teen” movies or shows. Maybe it’s because that media doesn’t have teen main characters? Could that really be the only reason?

  4. After I posted this, I saw Osama. It's an amazing film but so very, very sad. A young girl (Osama) is living in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban with her mother and grandmother. Because women cannot leave the house if unescorted by a male, the mother and grandmother decide to cut Osama's hair and dress her as a boy--this way she can get a job and the mother, too, can work; otherwise the family will starve. The ruse seems to work until Osama is scooped up by the Taliban for one of their military training schools. I won't reveal any more in case someone wants to see the film. Fair warning: don't watch it if you're already depressed.

  5. I love "Ten things about you" for the same reasons as mentioned above. "Spirited away" is good, but it doesn't really scream YA to me since I generally would think of it more as a children's film. "Juno" was okay, but I think I generally feel really (to quote Lisa Simpson) "meh. M-E-H. meh" about these kind of films. It was overwritten and unrealistic and that is okay, but I didn't find it to be all that funny or relatable. "Shadya" on the other hand is an excellent film. I loved it. I've never seen "Devil's Playground" but I have the book. I'm really disappointed that the list is so short.