What2Watch: Caps, gowns and movies

Congratulations to all of the graduates! I’ve managed to be in the right area for three different university graduations over the past month and for all of the local high school graduations over the past weekend. Seeing so many caps and gowns out and about, I can’t help but reminisce on the multitude of graduations I’ve attended. In a day and age that feels divisive, I love graduations, high school in particular, and the way they show us a connection. The one I’m talking about is not just between the graduates being celebrated, but all those that came before them as well. This branches out even further than the alma matter nature of the institute they graduated from and permeates to an overall American feeling of graduating high school and the unknown that lies beyond. In an attempt to show I’m not too crazy, I’ll turn, as I often do, to movies. This week, I’m highlighting two in particular:

MOVIE: Can’t Hardly Wait (1998, PG-13, 100 min, watch on: DVD)

Taking place primarily at one central party for the graduates of Huntington Hillside High, this movie follows a large cast of characters with stories tied together by common threads and stellar editing. Preston was a student on the periphery who wants to tell his secret crush of four years, Amanda, he loves her. It just so happens Mike, Amanda’s popular jock boyfriend, decided to break up with Amanda before the party thinking college is no time to be held back by a girlfriend. William, meanwhile, was bullied by Mike for years and plots how he can get his revenge at the party. Kenny thinks losing his virginity is the necessary next step in keeping his cool kid credentials. Denise is glad to be done with high school but gets dragged to the party by Preston, and now she feels unknown at the party and is seeking anyone who can confirm she actually existed over the past four years. By the end of the night, Amanda is wondering who she will be after high school, Preston is worried he’s misplaced his faith in fate, Mike is worried he’s already peaked in high school, and William is thinking people are more than they seemed to be. All their stories collide in unexpected and often hilarious ways to an iconic 90s soundtrack.

MOVIE: American Graffiti (1973, PG, 112 min, watch on: DVD, Netflix)

Taking place throughout the streets of Modesto, California during one eventful night. Curt is unsure if he really wants to leave what he knows for college but his whole outlook is altered when he sees a blond drive by and possibly mouth, “I love you.” From there, he is transfixed on finding out who she is and if fate has brought them together. Steve is leaving for college in the morning and tells his girlfriend, who is younger and still in high school, that they should see other people. Her frustration at the idea mounts throughout the night and alters Steve’s perspective on his whole future. John is the town hotshot who has never been beaten in a drag race, but newcomer Bob Falfa is revving his engine and taunting John into another race. Worried he’ll be beaten after all, John starts wondering if he’s already peaked and what his identity will be going into the future. Terry feels like he can’t do anything right, but a night where he is trusted with Steve’s fancy car turns everything around for him… until he loses the car. All their stories collide in unexpected and often hilarious ways to an iconic 60s soundtrack.

The settings of these two movies take place 36 years apart. Still, if you look at the core storyline between the two, they have so much in common which is hopefully noticeable when reading through their descriptions. Time marches on and many things certainly change. If you watch these two movies back-to-back, it is evident that music, clothes, clothing, hair styles, slang and senses of humor are drastically different. And yet, experiences remain strikingly similar at the core. Put in either of these movies for a recent high school graduate to watch and they may feel they’re both outdated, I’d wager there are still characters in the movies they could point to as a personification of someone they know. While we all have our “when I was that age” story to tell, taking a step back and looking at things from a larger perspective may show us how much we still have in common.

So, trying to decide What2Watch? Both movies are time capsules, capturing life from their respective decades in a movie. “American Graffiti” leans heavily on nostalgia and “Can’t Hardly Wait” definitely goes for humor, often teetering on irreverent. Either one can be summed up as fun!

Kent Kraft, a high school graduate in 1998, is someone who has attended more than 20 graduations as a high school and college educator. He again extends his heartfelt congratulations to all those who were able to secure a diploma this Spring. Job well done!


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today