The Summer of ’82: Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Fante’s Inferno revisits the Summer of 1982, considered the greatest movie summer for fantasy and sci-fi fans.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Release Date: August 13, 1982

Directed by Amy Heckerling; Screenplay by Cameron Crowe

Starring: Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, Judge Reinhold, Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Ray Walston

How could I have forgotten that Fast Times At Ridgemont High was released thirty years ago this summer?

Since I started this retrospective on the Summer of ’82, I’ve concentrated entirely on fantasy and sci-fi films and completely (and inadvertently) ignored one of the most memorable films of the 80’s.  I’m sure none of you will fault me for including a film that doesn’t fit into the fantasy or sci-fi genre because it’s as enjoyable as any other film during the Summer of ’82.  I was obviously too young to see Fast Times in the theater when it was released, although I’m sure there was a failed attempt or two to sneak in.  However, what I missed in the theater in 1982 I gladly watched many times over on cable TV.  Going into my freshman year of high school in 1986, I had seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High at least ten times.

This is a great film and it was a launching pad for many talented people.  Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli was the poster child for stoner-dom.  Judge Reinhold reminds us of our first job, our first heartbreak, and the car that got us there.  Ray Walston was that one teacher that we couldn’t stand.  Phoebe Cates gave us one of the most iconic shots of 80’s cinema.

Director Amy Heckerling took Cameron Crowe’s script, a young, but very talented cast, and a cool soundtrack and wove Fast Times at Ridgemont High into THE definitive high school film for those of us who grew up in the 80s.  Contemporary high school films don’t have the depth of Fast Times, and they sure as hell don’t have the caliber of actors.  Consider the number of awards earned by nine members of the cast and screenwriter Cameron Crowe over the subsequent course of their careers:

13 Academy Award nominations; 7 wins
18 Golden Globe nominations; 4 wins
13 Emmy Award Nominations; 4 wins
1 Grammy Award

Of all of the films I’ve re-watched from the Summer of ’82, this one made me the most nostalgic.  It came out a few years before I started high school, but it reminded me of the days of hanging out at the video arcade (yes, we actually left the house to play video games), driving around in a friend’s beat up car, and enduring four years that most of us probably wouldn’t want to repeat.  There were quite a few teachers from high school that I wouldn’t want to cross paths with again.  But one thing that surprised me the most when I watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High again this week is the fact that I started to empathize with  Mr. Hand (played perfectly by Ray Walston).  Wow, I must be getting old.

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