Whit Stillman would love Sweet Valley High.

I’ve purposely tried to stay away from posting about current films and movies, because once I open that can of worms, I’ll post everyday about some sci fi stuff I want you to watch. However, I am rejoicing because The Last Days of Disco is finally being released on dvd! Hallelujah! This was in the theaters for about five seconds in 1998. It’s the third film by Whit Stillman, who makes movies about rich white hip people that love to hear themselves talk. It’s like Bret Easton Ellis without the extreme violence. And it is fucking fantastic! I think folks here would love it because he captures the 80s so well!

I don’t know why his films captivate me so much. They have no morals, not much plot, and involve people that incredibly self-absorbed. It’s what Sweet Valley High COULD be if the ghostwriters were competent. You’ll either love or hate the characters. If anything, you will love the 80s fashion! Chloe totally rocks the sequin tube top.

TLDOD (as us superfans call it) is his third film. The one before this is Barcelona, which was enjoyable, but not quite as super fucking fantastic as his first film, Metropolitan; A kid from the Upper East Side home on break from college accidentally gets swept into the world of New York Socialites. I’m pretty sure Cecily Vonwhatevs ripped off Metropolitan when  she wrote Gossip Girl.

Dying to Belong: What do you get when Zach Morris, Becky Connor, The Next Karate Kid and Six go to college together?

Answer: awesomeness. And guest blogger Jennifer is kind enough to tell the story. And be sure to check her blog.

Oooooh, look! the "n" is wanky! Scary fonts!

I don’t know if I have a special bias toward this movie because I actually saw it when it first aired, or what, but seriously, this one is a must-see. It owes a lot, I think, to performances by Hilary Swank, who was, at the time, The Next Karate Kid, Sarah Chalke, and Six from Blossom. There’s nothing quite like talented actors cast in bad movies, adding weight and sincerity to all that beautiful cheese.

Anyway, the premise is simple. Hilary Swank starts her freshman year at Anders University, hoping to join the newspaper, but her fast-talking career gal mom has other ideas, and urges her to pledge a sorority. Mom is a legacy in some house – I forget the fake configuration of letters they came up with, but the women refer to themselves as “Pi Gams.” Which I kept hearing as “Pie Gams.” Disgusting.

Our heroine, because she is our heroine, is totally unqualified to join the paper but talks her way on anyway, capturing the attention of one Steven Tyler, (not to be confused with the guy from Aerosmith) played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar. He and H-Swank pretty much have normal, unromantic conversations throughout the movie, but we know he’s her love interest because almost every time he’s on screen, “Damn, I Wish I was Your Lover” is playing in the background. At least, it is in the TV version I saw.

Zack Morris wears glasses and asks HS out to a Carl Bernstein lecture. As much as like for these things to turn trashy, for a TV movie boyfriend, Steven Tyler is kind of hot and awesome. I think the thing that I found really gross about their relationship was when they went for ice cream after the Carl Bernstein lecture, and Hilary Swank orders something called “chocolate ritz.” Is there any way not to imagine that being chocolate ice cream with crackers crumbled throughout? I think not. And it seems like they have sex on a couch at some point, but I’m no prude, so whatever.

Also in the first five minutes of the movie: A flashback of some coeds kidnapping a pledge and almost running her over when the bitch is too dumb to realize it’s all a prank. Lots of robed figures prick their fingers and drip blood on white roses. H-Swank shares a sandwich with Six, and they become BFFs on the spot. Six moves into H-Swank’s dorm room, kicking out her original rommate who has been found guilty of the crime of having blue hair. Now that we have established what warm, wholesome, nonjudgemental young women H. and Six are, it’s time for sorority rush!

Sorority rush is a total snoozefest, but, even though it sucks, Hilary is a legacy, and Six really, really wants to be liked, so they try REAL HARD. To gain acceptance, they have to do a bunch of stupid crap like race through the snow, which apparently makes its first appearance on the Anders campus by the second week of classes. Not surprisingly, both HS and Six get a bid, and the Pi Gams dress up like that guy who tormented Mozart in Amadeus to invite them to hell week activities.

The crazy hazing that follows is really the best part of the movie. The pledge class (a whopping 3 people!) have to sign a guestbook, complete with bloody fingerprint, eat broken eggshells they *think* are broken glass, and parade around in two pieces while their drunken big sisters write mean stuff on their bodies with magic markers and give them awesome nicknames like “Baby Breasts” and “Thunder Thighs.” Thunder Thighs… is that like Pie Gams? Of course, Hilary Swank, who is lean as a gazelle in her two-piece, refuses to subject herself to this humiliation, and hides behind a tree somewhere. Which causes her to miss the crown jewel of all sorority tragedies – the Pi Gams climb up a scary, ominous-looking clock tower and peer pressure Six into hanging a banner over a railing. Which causes her to fall to her death. Possibly aided by the weight of her thunderous thighs.

The story kind of goes downhill from there, as Hilary Swank decides she hates the Pi Gams, and is going to get to the bottom of Six’s death. The Pi Gams claim over and over that the whole thing was an accident, which only makes it seems more as if something hinky went on. With the help of Zack Morris, Ace Reporter, Hilary tracks down the aforementioned mousy chick from the flashback, who didn’t die, but did have a nervous breakdown from all the sorority hazing, and accepted a large settlement from Anders to keep quiet about the whole thing.

All of which leads Hilary Swank to somehow have a miraculous vision of Six’s death – in which she is peer pressured into hanging a sign, and accidentally falls from the tower. Much like we’ve already established.

This kind of bugged me, because I had hoped for a really twisted, you know, twist, involving somebody pushing Six over the railing. Or even, like, dangling a sorority pin over the railing, causing her to fall. But the explanation for her death is that Six was afraid of heights, which makes no sense to me. I have a slight fear of heights, too, but that has never caused me to fall a great distance to my death. I promise.

But like I said, the main reason for seeing this movie is all the crazy, cultish, sorority ritual. Pi-Gamma-whatever makes Skull and Bones look like the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and all that adds up to some first-class trash. Another good reason to see it is because you can. I may have caught it on Lifetime Movie Network, but some evil genius released Dying to Belong on DVD, which means it’s on Netflix. It also appears to have been posted, in its entirety, on YouTube. Here’s a clip, to give you a taste of its trashtasticness.

And, here we have a future Oscar-winning actress: