Friday Favorites 12/7/2012

breaking awayLooking back from the age of sixty-eight, I will tell you that I had the kind of childhood that would make a good coming-of-age movie.  That is to say, at the age of sixty-eight, I can look back and see that it was hardly perfect but that the imperfections … and what I learned from those imperfections … shaped who I am today, and I hope I can say without sounding too vain that I kinda like the way I turned out.  Isn’t that what coming-of-age stories are about?  If you want a glimpse of my childhood, rent the 1986 film, Stand By Me.  Although the details don’t match those of my youth, I would be Gordie, the young writer who, at the end of the film, we discover is telling the story.  That film ends with one of the great closing lines: as the writer finishes the story on his computer, he types, I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.   Jesus, does anyone?  My answer, by the way, would be, Yes, in my sixties.

I have a weakness for coming-of-age films.  I can watch American Graffiti or Dead Poets Society any time of day or night.   My fondness for Steven Spielberg films is, in part, because of the way he embeds coming-of-age themes in his plots.  But perhaps my favorite film of the genre is the 1979 film, Breaking Away.   Breaking Away tells the story of four recent high school graduates, Dave, Mike, Cyril and Moocher in the town of Bloomington, Indiana.  They are what the University of Indiana students call cutters, a term that refers to the fact that at one time almost all of the towns residents were stone cutters.   The boys share a lack of motivation to do anything and general lack of interests with one exception … Dave has trained himself into a world class cyclist.   Dave’s father is an old fashioned hardworking man, a former cutter who now sells used cars to support his family.  The antagonism between the boys and the University students, who look down on cutters, as well as the conflict between Dave’s lazy idealism and his father’s disappointment with life are two themes that drive the story.   The plot eventually centers on the Little 500 Bike race, which allows Dave, Mike, Cyril and Moocher to enter as a cutter team for the first time in the race’s history, which had been previously just for University students.  This trailer provides a glimpse of the humor of the film.

Breaking Away was directed by Peter Yates, who passed away last year. Although it was produced with a small budget and released with very little hype, it received excellent reviews and won the Golden Globe for Best Picture and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.  Dennis Christopher, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley, and a very young Dennis Quaid are excellent as the cutters with Paul Dooley and Barbara Barrie both touching and hysterical as Dave’s parents.  And, by the way, Dave’s training ride through the Indiana countryside to the tune of  Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony is one of my favorite film sequences, bar none. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor rent it this weekend.  If you’ve already seen it, watch it again to remember what a special little film this was.

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4 Comments on “Friday Favorites 12/7/2012”

  1. Not sure how I missed this movie…. but it sounds marvelous! Thanks for the great post.

  2. At 75 I can of age before the sexual revolution that contraception made possible. A very different time. I did not marry until I was in my thirties so some say my coming of age was long delayed. And new friends are as good as silver haired friends. Grateful for both and for the internet for allowing me to connect with more. As I tell myself stay strong.

  3. Oh yes, I love Dead Poets Society it’s on my top 20 list of favorite movies.

    I’ve never seen or heard of Breaking Away – but now I am adding it to my Must See List!

  4. cherperz Says:

    I, too, like a lot of the coming of age movies. None of them are anything like my own life witch is part of the appeal. Seeing how others might of lived. Our backgrounds are all so varied. I liked the Dead Poets Society but I tend to favor the coming of age stories dealing with girls coming into their own. Circle of Friends, Now and Then, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. for example

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