Near the end of Rock’n’Roll High School, as the forces of law and order lay siege to the occupied school building, Johnny Ramone (as himself) tells perky high-school rebel Riff Randell (P.J. Soles) that “we’re gonna make you an honorary Ramone.” Joey Ramone (as himself) places a leather jacket over her shoulders, while Marky Ramone (as himself) leads Riff’s fellow students in applause. Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone (as himself) then hoist their instruments over Riff’s head, forming a half-assed triumphal arch. Exactly like the celebration scene at the end of Breaking Away (also from 1979), the blocking is shambolic — the point being that losers don’t have the faintest idea how to behave triumphantly when they win. Which is why they’re loveable. Having just witnessed Joey leading a crowd in a “Gabba Gabba Hey!” chant, a few scenes earlier, those of us who have seen the Tod Browning movie that inspired the song “Pinhead” are in a unique position to grok this dramatic tableau. The anti-anti-utopian message of this movie, produced at the apex of the Seventies [1974–83], in which brainiacs, burnouts, and cheerleaders dance to punk rock and blow up their school, is that everyone is — or ought to become — a freak.
An occasional series analyzing some of the author’s favorite moments in the positioning or movement of actors in a movie.
THIRTIES (1934–43): It Happened One Night (1934) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) | The Guv’nor (1935) | The 39 Steps (1935) | Young and Innocent (1937) | The Lady Vanishes (1938) | Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) | The Big Sleep (1939) | The Little Princess (1939) | Gone With the Wind (1939) | His Girl Friday (1940)
FORTIES (1944–53): The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) | The Asphalt Jungle (1950) | The African Queen (1951)
FIFTIES (1954–63): A Bucket of Blood (1959) | Beach Party (1963)
SIXTIES (1964–73): For Those Who Think Young (1964) | Thunderball (1965) | Clambake (1967) | Bonnie and Clyde (1967) | Madigan (1968) | Wild in the Streets (1968) | Barbarella (1968) | Harold and Maude (1971) | The Mack (1973) | The Long Goodbye (1973)
SEVENTIES (1974–83): Les Valseuses (1974) | Eraserhead (1976) | The Bad News Bears (1976) | Breaking Away (1979) | Rock’n’Roll High School (1979) | Escape from Alcatraz (1979) | Apocalypse Now (1979) | Caddyshack (1980) | Stripes (1981) | Blade Runner (1982) | Tender Mercies (1983) | Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
EIGHTIES (1984–93): Repo Man (1984) | Buckaroo Banzai (1984) | Raising Arizona (1987) | RoboCop (1987) | Goodfellas (1990) | Candyman (1992) | Dazed and Confused (1993) |
NINETIES (1994–2003): Pulp Fiction (1994) | The Fifth Element (1997)
OUGHTS (2004–13): Nacho Libre (2006) | District 9 (2009)
Joshua Glenn’s books include UNBORED: THE ESSENTIAL FIELD GUIDE TO SERIOUS FUN (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen); and SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS: 100 EXTRAORDINARY STORIES ABOUT ORDINARY THINGS (with Rob Walker).