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Fast Times at Ridgemont High

(Universal City Studios)

One of the few instantly resonant films of the 1980s, Fast Times at Ridgemont High quickly became a fondly quoted basic-cable favorite; the shock that it’s been 25 years since it premiered is rivaled only by the fact that it’s held up so well over all this time. Starring Sean Penn (who likely won’t be one of the special guest speakers at the American Cinematheque’s special anniversary screening); Phoebe Cates, the crucial ’80s Erdgeist (before Jennifer Connelly assumed that particular role); Jennifer Jason Leigh, the girl with Vic Morrow’s eyes who would follow this role with 1983’s equally brilliant Easy Money; Robert Romanus, who would never again look so young, as Damone, the consummate wheeler-dealer; and Judge Reinhold, a comedian grossly underutilized in the subsequent years since this film. Launching a staggering number of brilliant careers — from Forest Whittaker’s to Penn’s to writer Cameron Crowe’s (who adapted his own nonfiction book) — the film centers on freshman Leigh’s quest to lose her maidenhood and Cates as the outwardly worldly best friend who shepherds her adolescent life. But not, however, before she performs for Leigh’s older brother — played by Reinhold — one of the most perfectly arranged stripteases in film history, to the tune of the Cars’ “Moving in Stereo” (strangely, a song not on the original soundtrack LP). Amid it all there’s Penn as ur-stoner Jeff Spicoli; the late Ray Walston as Mr. Hand; Pat Benatar fashion devotees; Reinhold serving no fries before their time and promising to kick 100 percent of one customer’s ass; the late Vincent Schiavelli as biology teacher Mr. Vargas; and, as Mrs. Vargas, the even later Lana Clarkson. The only thing stopping this screening from being deathlessly perfect is that it’s not happening at the Sherman Oaks Galleria 4 with an after party at All-American Burger. (American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre; Thurs., July 26, 7:30 p.m. www.americancinematheque.com.)

—David Cotner


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