Projectionist Tony Bandiera was recently showing That Was Then... This is Now—which first hit screens in 1985 as the latest in a string of movies from that decade based on S.E. Hinton novels (Tex, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish)—when it occurred to him how similar its themes were to two other films, each from different decades.
"Having already seen Beautiful Thing and The Chumscrubber, this connection was made," Bandiera said. "All are dealing with issues of growing up and different kinds of angst and the trials young people face. They are all connected by the use of drugs."
He parlayed those commonalities into "Disaffected Youth: A Triad of Teen Angst," a three-part series at UCI's Film and Video Center (FVC) that begins Thursday, Feb. 15, with director Christopher Cain's That Was Then... This is Now. Hattie MacDonald's Beautiful Thing screens Saturday, and Arie Posen's The Chumscrubber closes things out Thursday, Feb. 22.
In That Was Then..., Craig Sheffer plays Brian, who gets a job, a girlfriend (Kim Delaney) and all the responsibility that comes with growing up—which causes him to drift away from his reckless best friend Mark (Emilio Estevez). Beautiful Thing (1996) is the story of young love triumphing against the odds—the twist being the lovers (Glen Berry and Scott Neal) are teen boys and neighbors in the not-exactly tolerant lower middle class flats of London. The Chumscrubber (2005)—which gets star power from supporting players Glenn Close, Ralph Fiennes, Rita Wilson and Allison Janney—takes a bitingly satirical look at picture-perfect California suburbia, where misfit Dean (Jamie Bell) finds his drug-dealing best friend has hung himself.
So which is the curator's favorite?
"Uh, wow, that's a good question," Bandiera said. "It's real close between Beautiful Thing and Chumscrubber. Beautiful Thing looks at the issue of homosexuality without using tired Hollywood clichés, and there is not a happy Hollywood ending. A boy being attracted to a teenage neighbor is realistically portrayed. It's very well-written.
"The Chumscrubber is a movie that is fresh every time you see it. Arie Posen has come up with a film that is so provocative, there are so many underlying messages. . . . And Arie's direction is very tight. It flows well. It is not boring in any sense."
Bandiera then felt duty bound to explain his inclusion of That Was Then..., admittedly the weakest of the trio.
"What struck me the most was the cinematography," he said. "Juan Ruiz Anchía has a very interesting style that I'd describe as low key and natural."
Bandiera, who has been the FVC's projectionist since it opened in 1997, had no trouble selling the center's director, Kyung Hyun Kim, on including Disaffected Youth this quarter.
"Professor Kim is very open to new ideas," Bandiera said. "When I mentioned what their common thread is and that we should present it as a look at growing up, he thought it was fantastic and would make a great series."
That Bandiera offered to curate for free also probably helped; the FVC is perennially cash-strapped.
"Like everyone else here, we dedicate a lot of time and energy to the program," he said. "I thought maybe in some way I can give something back."
But he must break a cardinal rule of projectionists.
"I am not supposed to be seen or heard, but in this particular series I will put myself out there. I will introduce each film to the audience and then run up the stairs to the projection room. This time I will be a conspicuous showman. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a lot of fun."
DISAFFECTED YOUTH: A TRIAD OF TEEN ANGST SCREENS AT UCI, HUMANITIES INSTRUCTIONAL BUILDING 100, IRVINE, (949) 824-7418; WWW.FILMANDVIDEOCENTER.COM. THURS., FEB. 15: THAT WAS THEN... THIS IS NOW. SAT.: BEAUTIFUL THING. THURS., FEB. 22: THE CHUMSCRUBBER. ALL SCREENINGS, 7 P.M. (6:30 P.M. RECEPTION WITH THE CHUMSCRUBBER DIRECTOR ARIE POSEN AND PRODUCER BONNIE CURTIS.) $3-$5 PER FILM.