11.4.19

Growing Pains: An Introduction

I suspect that many of you reading this on the first day of the site being up know me and are familiar with my fascination for and love of teen and coming of age cinema. For the rest of you... perhaps I should explain. 
10 Things I Hate About You
From the time I started secondary school, aged 11, I was the movie kid. I always liked movies, but became an obsessive fan when I was in hospital, recovering from two liver transplants when I was 10 years old. For weeks I was in an isolation cubicle because of the risk of getting an infection. That was when, with nothing else to do, I got my mother to join the video shop closest to the hospital and I began to consume the appropriately certificated stock. I never looked back.

By the time I was 16, I was well used to friends asking me to recommend films to them, so I sent out a few emails with suggestions and reviews of what I had seen lately. That led on, when I went to college and we were given an assignment to build a website, to my first Geocities page of criticism. 

1999 was a pivotal year. I was 18, getting ready to attend college, and broadening my taste in film... and yet, the two films I most vividly remember seeing that year weren't art films, they weren't the classics I expected to be looking at in my film studies classes or the foreign language films I was digging in to at the video shop. They were teen movies, specifically 10 Things I Hate About You and American Pie. The first opened in June, and would have been one of the last films I saw with our neighbour Pete, who was also a movie buff and had for a few years been lending me videos and recording me films for Sky Movies to broaden my tastes. His tastes definitely ran more to the arthouse and to older films, he'd introduced me to a lot of foreign cinema, notably Francois Ozon, but he still came to see (and as I recall enjoyed) this teen movie with me. By October, when American Pie came out, I was at college, away from home, and went to see that film with a friend my own age and again, I remember us both enjoying the film, though perhaps in less different ways than Pete and I had appreciated 10 Things I Hate About You.

Those two screenings, looking back, feel emblematic of something I've long believed about teen and coming of age movies and why I still find them fascinating and relevant, as well as simply enjoying them as entertainment, as I approach age 38. Coming of age cinema is the cinema of universal experience. It could be argued that there is nothing else we dramatise that happens to every one of us. We don't all chase down serial killers, we don't all have a license to kill and an alcohol problem and we don't all fight space wars against giant alien bugs (I did, but that's another story). We do though all - some arguably more than others - grow up. We all navigate the complex social politics of school, we all go through a series of firsts: our first love, first heartbreak, first kiss, first loss. We all have to figure out who we are and who we want to be. This is what coming of age cinema is about.
American Pie
Personally, I've always had quite easy access to the feelings of that time in my life, perhaps because the transplant and other circumstances made me feel like I missed a few steps along the way, and I believe that's why teen movies and coming of age movies still speak to me. While the broad experiences and context are universal, the specifics are completely individual. There are as many coming of age stories to tell as there are people and they vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the person; their economic strata, their family situation, where in the world they're from, whether they are gay or straight, their gender identity. All of these things have come into play in coming of age movies and will come into play as I look at as wide a variety of the genre as I can manage for this site. The great critic Roger Ebert called film the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. For me that's always been one of the major reasons I love and am interested in cinema: the chance to find myself in someone else's experience for a few hours at a time. That's never more true and I seldom feel more present in that moment than in coming of age cinema, because when you come right down to it, we all start from the same place.

With this site, I'll have reviews of teen and coming of age films new and old from all over the world. I particularly want to seek out films that haven't had a US or UK release. I also want to seek out short films, new filmmakers and particularly filmmakers who are young, to see how writers and directors going through these experiences translate them on to film. I'll cover news on exciting upcoming projects and I'll seek out filmmakers for interviews. I hope I'll also be able to draw ideas provoked by them together into some essay pieces (the first one, a three parter on a pivotal year in American teen movies, is on the way) as I build what I hope will become THE destination for people who love and are fascinated by this genre. 

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