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The Ampersand’s Q&A series is where we answer pop culture-related questions based on our sometimes exquisite, mostly embarrassing personal preference and experiences.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Regina: 10 Things is a witty modern reimagining of William Shakespeare’s 16th-century comedy, Taming of the Shrew. (Fun fact: the movie was written by the same lady geniuses behind Legally Blonde). Julia Stiles plays Kat Stratford, a perpetually scowling high school senior who loves “Thai food, feminist prose, and angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion”. Kat’s younger sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) loves pearls, Prada, and being adored. Heath Ledger is the brooding bad boy Patrick Verona, who accepts a bribe to date Kat Stratford—setting in motion the entire movie. There’s doe-eyed baby Joseph Gordon Levitt who plays Cameron, who is basically also the baby version of another JGL character, Tom Hansen from 500 Days of Summer (more on that later).
Despite its recycled plot—boy deceives girl, boy and girl fall in love, girl finds out the truth, boy and girl fight, boy and girl kiss and make up—there’s still a lot to love in this charming, classic teen movie: Julia Stiles drunk dancing, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 141 as a rap, and most importantly Heath Ledger’s version of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (aka the grand gesture by which ALL grand gestures must be measured).
I was 10 when I first watched this movie, so it goes without saying that Heath Ledger is my first true cinematic love (I miss him). But looking back, I now realize that this movie is also my first introduction to feminist ideals. Julia Stiles was my idea of the ultimate cool girl, and Kat Stratford was everything 10-year-old me wanted to be. I mean, the background music of her very first scene was Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation. She smiles triumphantly at being called a “heinous bitch”. She calls out Hemingway for being an “alcoholic abusive misogynist”. She reads Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beavouir, and Betty Friedan. I was intrigued and captivated. Because of Kat, I wanted to read literature while listening to Bikini Kill. I wanted to have my own opinions. I wanted to be smart and funny and confident.
I wanted to be serenaded on an open field by a marching band.
If you think about it too much, 10 Things can be quite problematic. There’s the whole “deception turns into love” shenanigans. Some sexist remarks and creepy dude behaviors here and there. Then there’s Cameron, a guy who is much like Tom Hansen (another hopeless romantic JGL character) who puts women on a pedestal and then gets mad at them for not liking him back. There’s also the lack of intersectionality in Kat’s feminism, which the movie self-awarely critiques through Kat’s English teacher who says, “I know how difficult it must be for you to overcome all these years of upper middle class suburban oppression. It must be tough.” But come on, it was 1999 and a girl has to start somewhere.
Even so, 10 Things is still my happy movie. It’s filled with witty one-liners, Letters to Cleo songs, and references to literature. And that final scene where Patrick and Kat share a kiss while I Want You to Want Me plays in the background will always have a special place in my heart—whether I’m 10 or 29.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Patriz: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, is a three-hour (or more! If you watch the extended edition) adventure-fantasy film that successfully captures the beauty and charm of its source material, one of the most influential epic stories of the fantasy genre, the first book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy.
Now, it may sound pretentious that my pick-me-up movie is almost four hours long but hear me out.
Many reviews will tell you that the eight-minute prologue of the film is weak and feels like a cheap The Lord of the Rings for Dummies video, but for the eight-year-old me: it was everything. It introduced me to different creatures beyond witches and wizards, princesses, and fairies. The lore, the fireworks, the iconic dialog, and the scenic shire were all so amazing for a child like me.
While LOTR fascinated my younger self, it grew as my go-to film(s) whenever I’m sad or even bored. When I quit my job, the first thing I did on my first day of unemployment was watch the trilogy. When the results of the 2019 elections left me feeling despondent, I searched for that one scene where Sam reminds a wavering Frodo to keep moving forward. That scene was my way of reminding myself that there was hope.
To be honest, if we were more like the characters of this epic, the world would be a much much better place.
I mean, just read this exchange between Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) midway into Fellowship.
Frodo: It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill Gollum when he had the chance.
Gandalf: Pity? It’s a pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play in it, for good or evil, before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.
Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.
Fellowship is not the best LOTR film of the series, this part I’m sure. The best battle scene on screen happened on Two Towers
(Game of Thrones could never) and the last installment, The Return of the King won more Academy Awards than all my fingers can count. However, Fellowship remains to be my pick-me-up movie for one very stupid, shallow reason: it’s the only movie I’m sure I can finish every time I start my almost 11-hour LOTR movie marathon.
But in all seriousness, Fellowship is a joy to watch. Apart from its great special effects (for its time) and cinematic location, it exudes the youthful curiosity, courage, and occasional frivolities of our teenage years. While the film is rich with scenes that show the characters fight for their lives and desperately keep possession of the ring, it is for me a film largely about friendship. The camaraderie that is formed and continues to evolve between Frodo and his friends: the ever loyal and kind Sam (Sean Astin) and the pair of troublemakers Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) is heartwarming to watch especially because it’s filled with playful and relatable one-liners.
But the biggest reason why Lord of the Rings is my pick-me-up movie is this: it has the most beautiful fictional character of all time. Sometimes you don’t need many good reasons to feel inspired or hopeful. Sometimes you just really need a nice beautiful face to look at.
Honorable Mention: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Patriz: Thor is the mightiest Avenger.
Regina: You mean meatiest?
Regina: Thor: Ragnarok can just follow Valkyrie’s adventures and I would watch the hell out of it, MCU timeline be damned.
Patriz: This gif is incomplete. But the entire Led Zep sequence in Thor: Ragnarok is the most badass thing ever.
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Patriz Biliran and Regina Peñarroyo co-run The Ampersand and write blog articles in their free time.