Goodbye my friend

Need help leaving your past behind? These films and songs should help.

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"Breaking Away"

Dir. Peter Yates

1979

If there were ever a movie to cure the graduation blues, look no further than Peter Yates' 1979 film "Breaking Away."

It truly has everything a film about moving on should. It's about growing up, being an underdog, reconciling with disappointed parents and much more.

We follow Dave, a lanky, blond-haired Italophile who's so devoted to bicycling that he sings "Figaro!" at the top of his lungs while shaving his legs in the bathroom. "He's turned into an Iti!" exclaims Dave's disapproving father before heading off to work at his used-car business.

In a year filled with movies the likes of "Apocalypse Now" and Woody Allen's "Manhattan," "Breaking Away" managed to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay - and rightly so. We see Dave abandon his dream of winning a major race, thanks to some cheating Italian bicyclists, and then overcome everything in a thrilling competition at the end. The story is so rewarding and uplifting that it feels like Dave is family to us.

-Max Siegel

"Ghost World"

Dir. Terry Zwigoff

2001

When it comes to the anxieties of graduation, an indispensable touchstone is Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes' "Ghost World." The 2001 film adaptation of Clowes' '90s comics is a bitter but sentimental little thing. It focuses on Enid (Thora Birch), a recent high-school grad who grows apart from her best friend as they both react to the challenges of the real world. Enid's inability to get her shit together might seem attractively defiant at first, but her growing fixation on Seymour (Steve Buscemi) - an older, lonely obsessive - suggests she's looking for an excuse to avoid contact with reality.

With its precisely detailed characters, the film isn't exactly a generalized cautionary tale; Enid's better-adjusted best buddy Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) turns out all right, after all, and as college grads, we have juicier prospects than Enid. But for the more aimless among us, it may feel like a startling (if frequently hilarious) gaze through the looking glass into an uncertain future. "Ghost World" is not purely a misanthropic prophecy of doom, though - its open ending is neither happy nor sad, but cleansing.

-Sam Stander

"The Graduate"

Dir. Mike Nichols

1967

About a year ago, I wrote another blurb that was sort of about "The Graduate." It was for the Daily Cal's graduation issue last year, and I was writing about how everyone should sit in what is called "The Graduate Seat" at Caffe Mediterraneum before graduation. It is a seat at a table from which Dustin Hoffman looks out at Telegraph Avenue at Moe's. I have sat there, and it is worth it.

But this blurb is just about the movie. Surprisingly, everything I wrote about it last year has gotten even more true. Is that even possible?

Well, I think it is. Because the protagonist's situation hits even closer to home for me as a senior. He graduates, then loafs around joblessly for a while, much like I will probably do.

Also, the fact that he is banging his actual love interest's mom is more relatable now: Boredom and existential angst can make a person do crazy things. It's a good thing the economy is picking up.

Also, it's not a blurb about "The Graduate" without this: plastics.

-Jill Cowan

"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"

Elton John

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

Maybe you think that Elton John's music is too saccharine to be emotionally resonant. That's completely understandable, and considering the quality of some the man's output, it wouldn't be surprising if you were never fond of him at all.

Still, it's hard to not feel the power of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," off his 1973 album of the same name, when you are about to leave something behind forever. John's vocals are partially regretful, melancholic and wistful, and the background vocals enhance the emotions. It also helps that the song features stellar lyrics from Bernie Taupin that show its protagonist longing for the simpler life he once led, one without frivolous fantasies and fame.

More than anything else about the song, it's the final line of the chorus that really gets to you: "I've finally decided my future lies / Beyond the yellow brick road." After chasing after an idealized version of reality, the protagonist decides that when all is said and done, the life he wants to lead is a simple, happy one. And perhaps at graduation, that is all we should really hope for in our futures.

-Rajesh Srinivasan

"In My Life"

The Beatles

Rubber Soul (1965)

Let me put it to you this way: Is "In My Life" used as a graduation song so often that it is now a borderline cliche? Yes. Is it infinity million billion times better and more multi-functional than Vitamin C's "Graduation?" Yes. Is it a "Canon in D" cover? No, thank God.

Basically, "In My Life," says everything you'd want to say to anyone you've ever cared about at a turning point in your life.

"In My Life" is not just a song about reflecting on past experience - it's a song about enduring love. It's a song about the things that are left after you forget about all of life's quotidian trivialities. You may have a lot of memories, but eventually as the song says, "all these memories lose their meaning." All that's left is "you." And you decide who your "you" is. Plus, it includes the only harpsichord solo in rock 'n' roll history recognizable to the average human being, which makes it extra timeless.

One more question: Have I been avoiding actually listening to "In My Life" even though I'm writing the blurb about it because I know it will make me start to sob uncontrollably? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin, you betcha. It is just that potent.

-Jill Cowan

Tags: GRADUATION


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