1999 was one of the movies’ best years. If you never realized that The Matrix, Office Space, Toy Story 2, Being John Malkovich, The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, American Beauty, American Pie, Star Wars Episode 1, and a whole mess of other now-famous films came out in one loaded 12-month period, join me as I blog my way through The ’99 Experience. Maybe we can learn how to make more great movie years.
Any movie that comes out early in the year is kind of doomed. All the really great movies have been released the previous fall so they can pick up Oscar buzz before the end-of-the-year deadline. The summer movie boom won’t start till April or May (though it seems to start earlier and earlier lately). Winter turns into a lame duck period, a dumping ground where studios release the stuff they’re not that proud of and have no hopes of getting any Oscar attention for.
And so Varsity Blues becomes the first stop on our tour of 1999. From the look of it, this year didn’t start out any more promising than any other year. Just to catch you up in case you haven’t, or have no plans to, see this movie, Varsity Blues tells the story of second-stringer John “Mox” Moxon (James Van Der Beek), who would rather study to get into college than play football, until the day he’s thrust into the role of star quarterback for his small Texas town’s high school team. He gets all famous and adored by everyone, his dad finally becomes proud of him, girls throw themselves at him, and in the end he tells off the psychotic and tyrannical Coach Kilmer (Jon Voight) and wins the big game, all the while receiving a full ride to his college of choice.
Obviously, it’s a gritty tale of real human struggle.
And I’ll fess up. There are plenty of snobby reasons why I shouldn’t like this movie. First and most obviously, I’m not a sports guy, much less a football guy (the fact that Super Bowl falls on or near my birthday every year, forcing me to have a combined Birthday/Super Bowl party just so people will show up, is pretty aggravating).
I don’t think I’ve seen more than five to ten minutes total of Dawson’s Creek, so I don’t have any attachment to the Beek. And the movie proudly waves the flags of several tired stereotypes, from traditional jock and cheerleader types, to the overbearing sports dad, the token black guy who needs the white hero to stand up for him, the token fat guy who everybody loves ‘cause he’s so full of fun, and the token non-blonde girl who’s kind of an outsider, just to name a few.
No, the real truth is that Varsity Blues just isn’t very good. Continue reading