A Panoply of Offerings

A festival for high schoolers, The Breakfast Club, Paddington 2 and The Phantom Thread comprise this month’s choices.

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Around Town

Catch ’em young – that’s the best way to develop a love of film in people. Oklahoma City University is doing its part by hosting the High School Film Festival on Jan. 12 at The Venue in OKC. Students from Oklahoma and surrounding states may enter films of 10 minutes or less into the competition, with the winners receiving scholarships to the university. This should be an extremely fun event; the films might not be polished, but they should be full of energy and invention, and a great way to support young talent.

At Home

The Breakfast Club has reached the point in its cultural life cycle where it is almost impossible to evaluate it on its own merits. It has become a touchstone, a byword for Gen-Xers and others who strongly identify with its depiction of life in high school. Its status as an ’80s classic means it shares many warts of that decade’s dominant mainstream film style, but it also stands out as an example par excellence of a smart comedy with heart.

An almost too well-balanced cast of characters – the jock, the nerd, the bad girl, the good girl and the clownish bad boy – gathers in a scenario only made possible by the vagaries of public school: a Saturday morning detention. They grate on each other at first, but the characters gradually learn to appreciate each other’s differences as they cut through the surface and reach their shared humanity underneath. Yes, it’s a little silly and didactic, but the plot speaks powerfully to the experience of a typical American teenager – the insecurity, the desire and the capacity for goodness.

Writer-director John Hughes gets the most out of his young cast, especially from Judd Nelson. And don’t forget about the earworm of a theme song.

In Theaters

Two vastly different recommendations come this month … one for adults, one for kids.

Its final release was jeopardized by the exposure of Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior, but Paddington 2 was rescued from purgatory by Warner Bros., which has taken over American distribution of this sequel. The original film was far better than it had any right to be with its whimsy and abundance of comically inventive set pieces. Sequels are rarely as good, but a strong returning cast and excellent newcomers (Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson) promise to make Paddington 2 a winning enough family affair.

A good bet to be the best film of the year, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Phantom Thread technically came out Christmas Day, but it likely won’t make its way to Oklahoma until January. The mid-century London fashion scene might seem like a strange setting for Anderson, who specializes in characters of extreme passion and obsession, but he always produces stellar work, and his last effort with star Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood, is arguably the best film of the century. Thread is purportedly Day-Lewis’ last work before retirement, so there’s even more reason to check it out in theaters.

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