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The Laramie Project (2002)
A Moving Film
It took me a long time until I finally rented the DVD version of this. I live in Laramie, I go to the University. I didn't arrive here until 2000, but I was, and always have been, a Wyoming resident. Part of me was curious, especially with the actors involved, but another part realized how close to home this was. How close? My drama teacher Lou Anne Wright played Matthew Shepards mother (albeit uncredited).
When I first started watching this I was really confused. If they were taking a documentary approach, why in the hell would they then use real actors? As I sat and thought about it more, though, it made a bit more sense. The interviews were recorded only audibly at the time of the incident for the play version. You could sit down and reshoot it with the original citizens, but it would no longer feel natural. Plus I doubt they would've gotten all the people to consent to being filmed. Remember this is a small town and anonymity can go a long ways.
Aside from the acted documentary, I really felt they did a good job of trying to bring Laramie to life. Yes, they did focus a bit too much on the train tracks which are more or less out of town. I've only even seen them a few times in my 3 years here. They seperate Laramie from West Laramie. Not East Laramie from West Laramie, but Laramie from West Laramie, which should tell you something. Aside from that, it felt surreal to watch this. When I stepped outside my dorm afterwards to return it, I was staring right in the face of the hotel sign that at the time of filming read "Hate is Not a Laramie Value." I drove down third street and saw Laramie Lumber, I drove back on 4th and saw the antiquated Spic & Span Laundry. When they talk about how they drove past Walmart when they went out to kill him, I knew that road. I've driven home on that road many a time.
The characters were also extremely well-acted. For every character I saw portrayed on screen, I've known at least one Wyoming resident that was exactly like them. While some of the performances may have seemed extreme and hokey to some, I felt they had it down pat. I laughed to myself when Buscemi's character spelled out H-O-P-E for emphasis...I've heard the same silly thing done the same way by the same sort of people. Aside from "Live and Let Live" which I can honestly say I've never heard here in 20 years of WY residence (yet was emphasized over and over in the film), I've heard many of the same statements said almost verbatim by people I know.
The story, of course, is touching, but the route they went of making it the story of Laramie vs. the story of Matthew Shepard made it more than just a movie-of-the-week style thing. You can feel the emotions seeping through the screen. At the angel protest, I felt like jumping up and shouting down the bigoted guy leading the anti-gay side.
For its authenticity and heart-felt storytelling, I can't help but give this one a strong recommendation.
Enough with the teen-bashing
I didn't realize that the mere presence of teenagers in a film could drive so many people insane. Some people have some serious issues.
First off, I'd like to clear up that this is not a "teen movie". I'm actually a big fan of the genre, however cheesy it may be at times. The mere presence of teenagers does not make for a "dumb teen movie".
I won't deny the Fatal Attraction rip-off syndrome at work here, though. I know those were the only words that went through my head when I saw the trailers for the first time and it definitely mimics it's plotline. Personally I'd say this rip-off did better than the original. Maybe it's because I'm not too far removed from my teens that got me so thoroughly wrapped up in this one. My bet's on the fact that it a well-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller....and that's really all it should be considered as. The age of the cast should not require an extra hyphenated "teen movie" condition. This one stands on its own.
Not Another Teen Movie (2001)
Surprisingly funny movie
I must say I was impressed with a movie I'd originally considered boycotting. Before I'd seen it, I had three problems with the movie: 1) The advertising looked so much like Scary Movie's that it felt like a ripoff (a ripoff of a parody, that's interesting); 2) I'm a hardcore "teen movie" fan and was too sensitive to the criticism; and 3) The trailers didn't look all that funny. I relented, though, partially because I really wanted to see a movie or two this weekend and partially because I realized that if I loved both Scary Movie and Scream, why can't I love Not Another Teen Movie (of course I did go into Scary Movie with anticipation because I wanted the other "scary movies" to be parodied to death, but still). Also I heard about the gratuitous amount of nudity in the film, and that clinched it (I'm sounding more and more like a cliche'd teen movie fan by the minute).
Anyway, it was a very funny movie throughout (I coulda gone without the toilet scene, but other than that) and really seemed to be made by people who were actually fans of the genre as weird as that sounds. And not just the recent teen movies, but dating all the way back to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Risky Business, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Grease and the John Hughes Brat Pack movies. There was a scary level of attention to detail with little things like the names of buildings (the students go to John Hughes High and eat in the Anthony Michael Dinining Hall) to the constant use of music from the movies (off the top of my head, I'm thinking about the frequent use of Don't You (Forget About Me) from the Breakfast Club and the cover of Somebody's Baby from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (I started laughing my ass off as soon as I heard that one coming on)). There was also quite a few people from those teen movies on hand, whether in obscure roles (Ferris Bueller's dad shows up briefly as a dad and the teacher who ran the detention (and lead villain) in the Breakfast Club reprised his role for that scene, "Bogey Lowenstein" from 10 Things I hate about You played the "Slow Clap" guy) to more important roles like "Billy Bob" from Varsity Blues playing the same character only stupider as "Reggie Ray" or Molly Ringwald (teen queen of each and every John Huges film from Sixteen Candles to Breakfast Club to Pretty in Pink) showing up in a pivotal role at the end of the movie. Oh, and I should mention, the movie was funny as hell. Really funny parodies and some unique little twists (who would've expected Mr. T to show up in a movie parodying teen flicks (as an aside, though, I don't know if "Rudy", is really a teen flick). Very funny movie.