Forget all your cares

Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you: There are movie shows

Gabriel Shapiro

We’ve all seen them, the mumbling, drooling, blank-faced weirdoes wandering campus (and no, we don’t mean after bar-time on a Friday or following hockey riots), but those people who seem to have lost a key component of their minds and are doomed to a life of furtive mumbling in the Burger King bathroom. How does this happen? Test stress. It’s an avoidable but serious condition resulting from the inability to know when to say “enough is enough.” It is a scientific fact (or at least widely accepted anecdotal evidence) that there is a limit to what the human brain can take in a given period of time, and any attempt to exceed that results in a meltdown and in severe cases, the descent into a permanent vegetative state. Early symptoms are:

1. Delusional behavior (e.g., believing that despite skipping an entire semester of class one can “ingest” the entirety of a course in three and a half hours)

2. Lack of ability to forge/maintain relationships (e.g., the last date you had involved your mom dropping you off and picking you up, and since then you’ve been busy studying)

3. Generalized paralysis (e.g. you have so much to do in the next three weeks that you can only stand in the shower crying and eating puffed corn cereal out of the box because adding milk would take too long)

4. Severe odor/hygiene issues (e.g., somebody remarks that there are no showers in the library and you reply “so?” and continue scraping the massive flakes of dry skin off your face)

5. Severe confusion (e.g., you find yourself saying things like “Wow … Finals?” or “Hey, did you remember me signing up for ‘Studies in Some Media Whoosy-Whatsy?’ “)

Fear not, little bookworms and blutarskies, we’ve got advice that works well for everyone: Before your brain goes on strike or you drink your liver into retirement, why not unwind with a funny movie?

These selections might not qualify as “cinematic excellence.” In fact, some barely qualify as complete movies, but they’re damn funny, and at this point you don’t want any more to think about anyway, now do ya? So in no particular order, here is our list of the all-time great decompression movies, mainly movies about people studying (or not) as hard as you and the zany wackiness that ensues:

Revenge of the Nerds”

In the pantheon of college-related movies, this gem looms huge over the other comedies. Our parents’ generation had “Animal House” (see below), but for identifying with the now generation, “Revenge” has an upper hand. Replete with an all-out war between the cliques that made most of our high-school years hellish, this is a timeless tale of the underdogs finding their “specialness” and triumphing over adversity because of it. Dig the oddballs on the soundtrack, they’re pretty tight, and although “Thriller” and “We Are the Champions” are the best-known selections, hidden gems like “Don’t Talk” by Ya-Ya and “Are You Ready for the Sex Girls” by the Gleaming Spires can score some super-duty mix tape points. Watch out for hidden philosophical inquiries such as “would you rather live in the ascendancy of a culture or in its decline?” which could get you thinking.

“Real Genius”

Zowie! Val Kilmer as a super science genius guy! How freakin’ cool is this? This isn’t “I’m-working-with-Oliver-Stone-as-a-bloated-rocker” era Kilmer, oh no, this is his all-too-brief silly blonde California surfer period. Other outstanding examples from this era included “Top Secret” and, well, that’s it really, but you could arguably include “Top Gun,” though it is not nearly as cool as the other two, and should not be used in cases of severe decompression, as Kelly McGillis is way too serious. This is an all out dork-a-thon in which it’s good dorks versus bad dorks in a battle royale featuring lasers and spaceships. Everything a growing dweeb needs, even a bit of awkward geek romance.

“Animal House”

This is to college comedies what “Citizen Kane” is to American cinema or “The Bicycle Thief” is to Italian neo-realism, or even in some sense what “Metropolis” is to German expressionism or … er … I mean, woo-hoo! Toga! Toga! Pass the keg or whatever and hunker down for a classic. This movie has been officially recognized by the United Nations as some kind of cultural heritage thing. It features John Belushi’s zit impression, Kevin Bacon when he sucked slightly less, the dude from that Twisted Sister video and a whole bunch of other people acting crazy. This movie showed me how college was supposed to be, all parties and crazy pranks that the whole town was supposed to get nominally angry about, but really found endearing in some way. I still haven’t gotten over my disappointment. Stupid college.

Any movie by funny “SNL” stars

Mainly Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler (only prior to “Billy Madison”), Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers. The SNL badge doesn’t guarantee funny, but it can in some cases. With the exception of “Wayne’s World,” you will always be in trouble if a character from a short sketch is the basis for the movie (“Stuart Smalley,” “It’s Pat” and “Superstar” are all examples of these cinematic car crashes). These are typically silly and light and include hits such as “Black Sheep,” “Tommy Boy” (same movie) “Happy Gilmore” and “Three Amigos.” For best results, those over 21 might wish to partake of a beverage of vinous, spirituous or malt liquor while watching.

Any movie made based on unfunny “SNL” skits

This recommendation is for those of you who are pretty sure that no matter what you do, you’re going to fail that exam. Watch any of these movies and realize that, no matter what, life could be worse, in that you could have been in some way involved with the making of this movie. These are funny in that way that they aren’t really supposed to be funny – they sort of combine being embarrassed for the actors with laughing at the terrible writing and bombed jokes. See above warning, and look chiefly for anything with Molly Shannon, Norm Macdonald or Dana Carvey.

Anything with Bill Murray in it

In a better world Bill Murray would be worshipped as a god by a cult of supremely enlightened and happy people. Highlights include “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Rushmore” (both are a bit headier than the rest, you know), “The Man Who Knew Too Little,” “Scrooged” (better for winter exams), “Kingpin,” “Groundhog Day” (also a cure for insomnia), “Ghostbusters,” “Stripes,” “Meatballs” and “Caddyshack.” If you watch these and don’t laugh, it’s probably too late for you and it might be time to consider moving someplace where people frown on humor. Like Utah.

Gabriel Shapiro welcomes comments at [email protected]