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December 08, 2016 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
the b-side
Thursday, December 8, 2016 — 3B


Nicolas Cage about to ghost ride the whip.

I love Shakespeare adaptation

films that were clearly conceived
by producers who never read more
than the Sparknotes in high school
— movies set in modern times with
tangled romantic subplots that just
barely seem to echo the old stories
of the Bard.

There’s “O,” (2001), which

turned Othello into a basketball
player; “10 Things I Hate About
You,” (1999), a classic, more-or-

adaptation of “Taming of the
Shrew”; “My Own Private Idaho,”
(1991), in which Gus Van Sant sticks
scenes from “Henry IV” into the
streets of the Pacific Northwest;

underrated “Get Over It” (2001),
featuring a high school’s musical
adaptation of “Midsummer Night’s
Dream” (please watch “Get Over
It” soon).

These films all take the skeletons

of time-tested, classic stories and
give them new personalities, new
details and updated jokes. They
work because they play with the
formula yet still give audiences

wanted — love, betrayal and
slapstick comedy.

But before any of these movies,

there was Martha Coolidge’s 1983
low-budget rom-com “Valley Girl,”
which is like “Romeo and Juliet”
only in the sense that two people
who are different fall in love and
one’s friends don’t really approve.
Nobody even dies, man.

More than just one in a long

list of “R&J” retreads, though,
“Valley Girl” is one of the greatest

history. Coolidge was given a
mere $350,000 to make the film,
with the stipulation that there be
multiple scenes with bare breasts,
and somehow, she turned in a
commercial smash and work of art
that’s still worth watching today.

The plot is one of the oldest

stories ever told. Boy meets
girl. Boy and girl fall in love.
Contrivances break boy and girl
apart. Boy wins back girl. In this
case, the boy is Randy (Nicolas
Cage, believe it or not), and the girl
is Julie (Deborah Foreman, best
known for roles in some minor,
cult-ish ’80s flicks). Randy is a
punk from Hollywood. Julie is an
OG Valley Girl. Julie’s friends don’t
like Randy, which means she has to
choose between him and them.



best-ever college-prankster film
outside of “Animal House,” has a
special knack for working within
limitations of both genre and
budget without succumbing to
cheap gimmicks or tired clichés.
Of course, we know the entire
plot of “Valley Girl” the moment
Randy and Julie lock eyes for the
first time, but the world of these
characters is portrayed in such
a thrillingly engrossing way that
plot doesn’t matter.

The entire first act, for instance,

is reminiscent of a Richard
Linklater film —even though
“Valley Girl” was released over
half a decade before “Slacker”
hit screens. The opening scene
with Julie and her friends at the
mall is entirely in “Valleyspeak,”
with characters throwing back
and forth recently popularized
phrases like “to the max,” “far
out” and “gag me!” with authentic
inflection. Immediately, we’re let
into these girls’ lives in a way that

feels as natural as a movie can be.

We then move to a party, which

is where Randy and Julie first talk,
but special care is taken to ensure
that we’re at least a small part of

even if they’re inessential to the
main story. And when Randy
gets thrown out of the party and
has to sneak back in, he doesn’t
immediately reunite with Julie.
Instead, we’re treated to a long
sequence of Cage looking bored in
a shower as he listens to the other
couples flirt and get high. Maybe
these scenes were all shot just
because they were cheaper than
anything with action, but they give
“Valley Girl” a unique, lived-in,
almost cinéma vérité style.

Randy proceeds to take Julie on

a beautiful tour of downtown L.A.,
where their perfect chemistry
doesn’t fizzle out, even in the face
of unfamiliar, intimidating (for
Julie) sights. The shots of their
driving tour of the city at night
are stunning, with landmarks like
the Chinese Theater captured
alongside burlesque clubs, diners
and a guy getting pulled over by a
cop. It’s not often that a rom-com
has a strong sense of geography
— most of them take place in
New York or just any generic
city — but “Valley Girl” owns
Los Angeles, making any viewer
who has never been still feel like
a local. (Meanwhile, Cage keeps
hilariously yelling nonsense out
the car at random people on the
street: “Rico! Nah, you didn’t do

And when I saw Linklater’s

“Everybody Wants Some!!” this
year, the scene that most stood
out to me was early on, when five
baseball teammates were simply
driving and rapping along to the
The Sugarhill Gang. It’s perfectly
sweet, and no other director, I
thought, would linger that long on
kids just listening to a song.

But Coolidge takes care to show

her characters just hanging out, and
that includes Julie and her friends

“Girls Like Me.” It’s a fraction
of the length of the Linklater
sequence, but that moment kicks
off one of the strongest scenes of
the film — a simple slumber party
where the girls talk about eating,
boys and little siblings, with rapid-
fire dialogue that somehow avoids
being too smart or overwritten
while also remaining engaging. It’s
so intimate that I almost feel guilty
watching it — like I’m violating the
characters’ privacy.


films of the next decade, Coolidge
approaches her subjects like a
sociologist — studying what they
do while not forcing them into any
contrived problems. The conflict
of “Valley Girl” is just the same
conflict every high school junior
has: “Who am I?” The director
understands teenagers in a way
few artists do. They don’t have
clear motives; they’re not always
consistent personalities. They’re
just trying to learn and do what
feels right.

Coolidge’s tremendous empathy

for all of her characters is perhaps
best exemplified by the roles
of Julie’s parents. In most any
other teen movie, parents are
antagonists, whether they’re well
meaning or not. They ground the
kid or force them to do homework
or forbid them to attend the party,
and it’s up to the protagonist to
work around the obstacles they
lay down. However, in “Valley
Girl,” Julie’s parents are fully
developed people — members of

the Woodstock generation who
run a health food restaurant and
try to give their daughter as much
space and freedom as possible.

Her dad in particular steals his

scenes, both as a solid advice-giver
and, more comically, a guy who has
to retreat to the bathroom to smoke
a joint when it really hits him
that his daughter is growing up.
Together, amid all the hormones
and confusion of the younger
characters, Julie’s parents remind
us that growing up and figuring
out the world is a process we never
completely finish.

Also notable in “Valley Girl”

is a decided lack of cruelty. As
Roger Ebert noted in his review
at the time, “This is one of the
rare Teenager Movies that doesn’t
try to get laughs by insulting and
embarrassing teenage girls.” It’s
clear that Coolidge sees how to
make the best possible versions
of what could be painfully awful
movies, and she challenges herself
to go above and beyond what’s
expected of a micro-budgeted
exploitation movie called “Valley

The soundtrack is unbelievable,

filled with classic ’80s songs
before they got tired out and some
weird, exciting deep cuts. First
of all, the rich kids’ party is filled
with this weird, seemingly Joy

that everyone loves to dance to in
the dorkiest ways. If that scene
is true to life, I’m super jealous.
Beyond that, the prom is played
by Josie Cotton, who sings the
minor new-wave hit “Johnny, Are
You Queer?” I don’t know about
you, but I didn’t hear anything
that provocative at my prom (well,
maybe “Get Low”).

And most memorably, there is a

literal three-minute falling-in-love
montage set to Modern English’s
then-new “I Melt with You,”
which, coupled with cute moments
of Randy and Julie around town, is
earnest and endearing enough to
improbably give that song new life
for me.

Of course, there are still flaws in

this movie. Cage, while charmingly
goofy and bright-eyed with love,
plays his “punk” character more
like The Fonz than anyone who
would truly seem dangerous, and
when the plot wheels actually
do spin they feel unnatural and
rushed. But even so, I want to put
“Valley Girl” in the lineage of films
that brilliantly capture young
people trying to figure out love,
identity and what they want for
the future — from “Boyhood” to
“Mean Girls” to “Clueless,” all the
way back to when “The Graduate”
practically reinvented cinema.

The last shot of the film is, in

fact, a direct invocation of “The
Graduate” ’s famous ending, in
which Hoffman and his bride
are beaming in the back of the
bus post-wedding. Like any other
high school movie, “Valley Girl”
climaxes with a prom scene, one
that Randy disrupts in order to get
Julie back, setting off a hilariously
overdramatic fistfight and then

Busting out of the gym, the

couple hops in a limo and leaves
for a hotel. They sit in the back
seat, exhausted and high on
endorphins. More than likely,
this is a moment they’ll look

nostalgia, after they’ve had
other relationships and made
more mistakes. But right now,
this is the most thrilling night
of their lives, and we’re right
there with them.

Overlooked ‘Valley Girl’
earnest and endearing

Managing Arts Editor

Vintage coming-of-age film a naturalistic look at youth


When the acid hits.
RPG ‘Knuckle Sandwich’ developer
talks indie gaming and roleplaying

Andrew Brophy reveals creative process behind his inventive new RPG

Over the past several weeks,

motivated by hyperactive fandom
and a selfish desire to learn about
the inside world of making video
games, I’ve set forth on a journey
to discover the best and brightest
projects active in the independent
role-playing game scene.

First, I interviewed a team

from Shanghai, a developer from
Canada and a local student who
dreamed of success in game
development. Then, I spoke to
a crew of undergrads at DePaul


the process, I was tipped off to
possibly the most fascinating
and promising project you’ve
never heard of — Andy Brophy’s
“Knuckle Sandwich.”

To put it simply, “Knuckle

Sandwich” looks fucking rad. I
would highly encourage you to
check out the BATTLE SYSTEM

uploaded to YouTube — if your
taste is anything like mine, you’ll
be immediately struck by the
saturated and colorful art style.
Andy draws the graphics himself,
but you wouldn’t know it just by
looking at it. The look is unique:
retro-inspired but not cloyingly so.

Next, you’ll chuckle at the clever


and the absolutely slappin’ battle
music. Damn, that song. I don’t
even know how to describe


digital funk? Regardless, calling
it foot-tappingly orgasmic is an

Finally, you’ll see the brilliant

innovations in the game’s combat.
Some of the attacks go beyond
the standard “press the button
at the right time to do extra
damage” and involve small-scale

bouncing out of the screen and into
a manic arena where the player is
forced to confront a reflex-based
challenge. I’ve never seen a game
do something like this before.

I had to track down Andy’s email

and hit him up for an interview.
In an emailed response he was
gracious and accommodating, but
still a little cryptic — the perfect
combination for an artist who
knows he has something great in
the works.

First the generic stuff — I’d

love to hear about you, your
history as a gamer and your

history as a developer.

To be honest, it’s a pretty

regular origin story! I used to buy
a bunch of video game magazines
as a kid and often they’d include
free games and software with each
issue … I happened to find this neat
little program called GameMaker
when I was 11 and I just went
from there. A year or so later, I got
amongst a few maker communities
online and I guess now I’m here?

You’re based in Australia,

right? What part of it? Is there an
indie development scene there?


Melbourne, which has probably
the biggest game development
scene in the country. Last week,
we literally had our International
Games Week, which encompasses
PAX, Unite and a few other
conferences. It’s ridiculous how
far the scene has grown here in the
last few years — I started getting
involved about five years ago and
it was this nice and cosy group
of people … Now we have these
major events that attract many big
international guests. It’s very cool.

Lots of people are comparing

“Knuckle Sandwich” to the
MOTHER series. Is that fair?
Can you tell me about the games
and people you’ve been inspired
by as you’ve began developing
“Knuckle Sandwich?”

It’s pretty fair! I’ve personally

only played Mother 3, but that
series ooze so much style that I feel
they influence many of my other
inspirations. Outside of games,
I’m really inspired by American
Psycho … but that should probably
be a secret, heh.


effects and sprite work in
“Knuckle Sandwich” are rad.
I read somewhere that it’s a
GameMaker game, is that true?
If so, how are you managing
to accomplish such a visual

You’ll find that being “good” at

GameMaker usually means you
know your way around its quirks.
Honestly, it’s mostly black magic
that makes it work.

Are you the only one working

on the game? What about the
game’s music? It’s insanely
awesome, by the way.

I’m working with some very

cool musicians on the game,
including Captain Beard, Barch
and Gyms. Other than that, I’m
doing all the design, code, writing,
art and marketing for the game!
It’s exhausting, but it’s 100% worth


things you love about making
independent games? What are
some of the challenges?

I totally think the creative

freedom is pretty sweet. I’m just
making a game that’s comprised of
things I like, so it’s really lovely to
see that resonate with many other
people. I also love the vibrant
community … I’ve made so many
close friends through making
games, and that’s really my
favourite take away from doing it.

Like I said before though, it

is exhausting, especially in my
situation where I’m doing the
bulk of the work on the game.
It’s very easy to feel burned out.
Fortunately, I’ve gotten myself to
a good place where I’m good at
avoiding that!

Some aspects of the game’s

combat seem to be inspired by

featured in Mario Party and
WarioWare. Can you tell me
more about them? Where did
that idea come from?

I hate puzzles in RPGs! I find

they waste the player’s time more
often than not. Minigames are
more entertaining to me because
they can be a completely fresh
experience. With the tone of KS,
it also means I can do something
100% unexpected, yet it won’t feel
out of place.

It appears that there was

a coordinated attack on one

coming from 4chan. Was that
disheartening to receive so
much hate? What keeps you
going through the process of
creating the game?

If 4chan don’t like you, you’re

doing something right … right?
If the response to the game was

probably be very down about
working on it. Fortunately, for
every person who doesn’t like it,
there’s ten people who super dig it.
It’s very lovely.

I know a lot of it’s probably

under wraps, but I’d love to
know more about the plot of

what are some of the emotional
and moral themes of the game?
Is there a particular aspect
of humanity you’re hoping to

I can’t reveal the major plot

points, but I can say that a huge
part of the story is about how
people cope with loss, as well as
how people’s ambitions can affect
others. Is that cryptic enough?

Senior Arts Editor

Now let’s get this out of
the way: Kylie Lotz, formally
known under the name Petal,
is one of the best damn artists
making music today. Her
lyrics are sharply
poetic, her voice is
achingly soft and her
melodies bemoan of
heartache. Over a
year after releasing
her incredible debut
album Shame, Lotz
has put out a video
for one of the more melancholy
songs on the album titled
“Chandelier Thief,” showcasing
much of what makes her music
so enticing.
It’s a dark and often bare
video, with shots of Lotz
singing softly in different
locations while staring
longingly at the camera.
Lotz is found walking around

in alleys at night, or in almost
entirely dark rooms except for
her glowing frame. The song
slowly builds on itself, with
nothing except Lotz’s tender

voice and a gentle
electric guitar until
over a minute and
a half into the
song, when Lotz
sings, “I never
asked you to watch
me in my sleep.”
The rest of the

band kicks in as shots of
Lotz with expressions
from bemusement to
understanding cut across the
screen — her scenery never
changes, but her emotions
are symmetric to the song’s
The video does a fantastic
job reflecting the emotions of
becoming distanced from an

old lover or friend. Usually
this transition is healthy,
despite the harsh realization
that change is rarely easy.
As fireworks go off behind
her, Lotz smiles and sings “No
matter how much distance we
put between / can’t guarantee
we wouldn’t touch our feet,”
granting resolution in the hope
of making amends that were
broken in the past.




“Chandelier Thief”




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