dirty bucks, blue argyle socks


On one of the lesser HBOs, I just finished watching the last 2/3rds of one of my favorite movies: How I Got Into College, which, along with “Heathers” in 1989, was probably the last innocent gasp of films made for my specific generation just getting out of high school. Featuring a staggeringly-pretty Lara Flynn Boyle with actual baby fat on her cheeks and Anthony Edwards desperately trying not to lose his hair, you may remember this one as having the “Man A” and “Man B” stoner dudes inside people’s mailboxes solving SAT questions.

This movie was directed by Savage Steve Holland, who gave you the transcendent “Better Off Dead” and the execrable “One Crazy Summer” (and was also the voice of the Whammy on “Press Your Luck”), and even has Nora Dunn and Phil Hartman as college-entrant specialists. I’m not sure why this movie appeals to me so much, as it has none of the wicked darkness of “Heathers,” the off-taste brilliance of “Revenge of the Nerds,” or the existential fuck-you of “The Last American Virgin” – perhaps it fills a niche just by being very sweet. And Diane Franklin-esque, for that matter.

Anthony Edwards is slumming here, much as he was in the “Nerds” movies, but he manages to polish turd with the best of them. And Lara Flynn Boyle – god, before she starved herself rotten, she was so unthinkably cute. When Corey Parker (the forgotten “third Corey”) gets his first kiss from LFB, it is a paroxysm of innocent ecstasy.

Also, getting into college is such a fabulous (or tragic) rite of passage that I’m amazed more movies never addressed the experience directly. When each character gets their acceptance letter, I teared up, remembering the precise moment when my dad called me at school and told me that I’d been accepted into the University of North Carolina as an out-of-state student. I walked on air with a weightlessness that lasted weeks, and like Frost said, it made all the difference.

HIGIC was shot in 1989, which, along with 1986, I consider my favorite year of post-adolescence. There was a crispness to 1989, a bright shock of lacquered hair sticking straight up and being noticed. When Corey and Lara speed down the highway in order to get her college essay in before the deadline, I looked at the 1989 trees and felt like I remembered them that way, cold and upright, en route to an unforgettable spring.

Enough time has passed since 1989 that it has now gone past short-term memory, slipped even past some long-term thoughts, and become something harder, unbendable and staring across the expanse of sixteen years with the longing stare that “this time has truly passed.” They say the human body regenerates every cell every seven years, and so as I watch the blue sky in “How I Got Into College” and remember exactly how it felt, I see it with eyes that have been replaced twice over.

0 thoughts on “dirty bucks, blue argyle socks

  1. ken

    Never seen it but LFB was an old childhood friend (kissed her once) and any film with both Phillip Baker Hall and Robert Ridgeley has to be good.

  2. scruggs

    Just tell me, Is it fat or skinny?! Fat or skinny!!!!!
    I love that movie, though no one I knew at the time had ever watched it, I have probably seen it 50 times. I bought it on VHS to pass around. It came out around the start of my senior year in high school, so it was perfect timing. It plays up the stereotypes so well (change out those UMich clothes to a Light Blue, and you may capture most of us Carolina ‘rents in 10-20 years!). If you overlook the bad plaid outfits and 80’s music, it could be released today and still be an accurate depiction of the process.
    I had to laugh when HBO all of a sudden started showing it last month. My husband had never seen it, the horror! That has since changed.
    By the way, a second movie I loved loved loved back in the 80’s that never got very popular…Tuff Turf. James Spader. I wonder if that is even on DVD…will have to check.

  3. Jordi

    ONE CRAZY SUMMER is wonderful. To wit, the following snippet of dialogue, which was masterfully delivered by Bobcat Goldthwait and the guy who played Booger in REVENGE OF THE NERDS:
    Egg Stork: Ack Ack, let me tell you a little story. A story about a little fat kid who everybody made fun of, and nobody liked and he had a twin brother, and everybody said he never looked like his twin brother, but he wanted to…
    Ack Ack Raymond: Egg, where you that little boy?
    Egg Stork: No! No! But I used to beat the shit out him! “Why are you so fat? Why are so ugly?” Aaagghh!

  4. Caren

    I recently saw Heathers again, and I didn’t like it as much as I did when it came out…but so many things in it have become cliches since then, I guess.
    But I also watched the 1985 flick “Gotcha,” and was surprised that it stood the test of time. And it still retained that innocence. “Jonathan went to Europe to score. He ended up being the target.”

  5. kaz

    ian, what a treat of an entry. your writing, when passionately recalling things like this, just brings it home. and i have a similar soft spot for movies of that era…ahhh, those were the days. of too much hairspray and stone-washed jeans.

  6. k

    YESSS. I didn’t know anyone else loved that movie . So many times I’ve wanted to reference the “IS IT FAT OR SKINNY?!” envelope question, but no one seems to have seen it.
    Maybe you or someone else will know the answer to this question: was there a show in the early 80s where there was a woman who had lived as a flapper in the 20s but then got hit by a trolley and was time-transported to be a housekeeper for a family in the 80s? Too many people have told me I dreamt this…but perhaps you recall it also?

  7. caveman

    Nice Diane Franklin pull. Last American Virgin definitely had an, er, ummm, “impact” on my youth. Diane Franklin may just edge out Sarah Holcomb for all-time worst fake accent in a supporting role:
    Diane Franklin – Monique in Better off Dead
    “ze brooklyn dodgairs”
    Sarah Holcomb – Maggie O’Hooligan in Caddyshack
    “ohh yeaah….well tanks fur nuttin'”

  8. Emily

    I really like all the Better Off Dead comments.. it’s my favorite movie of ALL TIME.
    In fact, the DVD is sitting about 3 feet away from me right now (just under my Say Anything poster), begging me to forget about homework and throw it in.
    Yes, Monique’s accent is terrible, parts of it make no sense, and the skiing stunt-doubles are obvious – but these are endearing qualities to a hardcore 1980’s-era John Cusack fan!

  9. Matt

    I agree with Kaz. These are the kind of entries that keep me coming back for more. There are a million bloggers, but few who write as well as Ian.


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