Publicity photo of Sunny Suljic in a knit hat at a skateboard park, from the film mid90s.

Jonah and the Whale: ‘Mid90s’ Tangents

Peter Benson is an associate professor of anthropology and the director of the American Culture Studies program. In this pastiche piece, Benson imagines his alter ego as a commentator at an on-campus forum discussing Jonah Hill’s new film, mid90s, with the filmmaker himself. Playing with screenwriting conventions and quoting heavily from the music, films and books of the era, Benson answers the question, “What did you think of the film?”

          Thanks for coming out tonight. You could’ve been anywhere in the world. But you’re here with us, I appreciate that.1 It’s so nice to see such a large turnout.2 We’re gonna get started at 10 past the hour, Wash U. time. If you’ll please take your seats and fill out these cards for us.3 Questions for our tag team. An exciting conversation between the Director and an up-and-coming director. Well, a superstar, really. So a couple of stars. This is, wow, really exciting. The main event of the year. Sit tight for an intimate discussion. We’ll start with introductions. Let’s begin with you, Pete. Slide.

          We tell ourselves stories.      

          Sure. Briefly. And then name, affiliation.

          I’ll tell you about this friend of mine that you don’t know.4 Here goes. Sometimes before the weekly meeting at the synagogue he stops at a nearby Taco Bell for dinner. Rough neighborhood. Four spicy potato soft tacos. Extra-large Diet Coke. “We have Diet Pepsi,” she says, resting on the drive-thru window.      

          So we’ll have plenty of time for stories. Let’s start with what you’re working on.

          He assumes and desires that he’s the only white customer today. He wants to say, “Everybody’s got a thing.”5 He wants to show his card. “I choose, choose to send my kids to public schools. Teach, write critical race studies. Director of the Program. Both Coates and West. The New Jim Crow. Hip-hop.” And she says, “Oh, you like to listen? That’s what the fucking problem is. Y’all listen. No, no, no, you’re supposed to hear it. There’s a difference between hearing and listening to it. You see, white people, y’all can’t hear. Y’all listen.”6

          Let’s not get off track. Introductions and then an intimate discussion.

          “Okay, Diet Pepsi, whatever,” he says, and he turns the dial back up. Sometimes a Pearl Jam disc from the mid ’90s. Sometimes NPR. He’s headed to temple and she asks about sauce and he mumbles and she throws in some mild. He binges in the bleak parking lot. Then. Make it go away. Craves the intense high and stinging acid pain of an intentional vomit, an agonizing privation and discretion that leaves him moving on. But it’s been years since he’s done that. And a family’s coming out. And people are out and about. And the Prius sticks out. And the revenue-generators are on the lookout. And the restaurant bathroom is locked, on account. Getting in requires asking her for the key. And, besides. Long time and inflamed eyes say shame and shot up. And he’s definitely not going to heave in the house of god. “Hi, I’m Pete, and I just fingered myself in the sanctuary bathroom.”

          Great, thanks for sharing. Important, interesting stuff. Now let’s introduce so we can get to the movies.      

          One day at a reception on campus, he mentions to a colleague the difficulties getting to the gym. Teaching. Writing. Busy weekends. Family guy. The elliptical machines all facing televisions programmed to display Jesus-Christ-make-it-stop-who-cares like in the airport. An undergrad says, “I do yoga five or six times a week, so, yeah, I might still go to medical school because I think that doctors do great things.”

          Wonderful. Thank you. Let’s just situate ourselves and then move on. Name, affiliation.

          Fumo plus Czel on one side. Catholic-cum-Christian after Attila the mom married a WASP from an anti-Semitic closed community on the other side of Norwalk.

          Tu vuò fà l’americano?

          There were middle-school-soft-body-hairless-balls-penis-size-overweight-mom-says-they’re-jealous jokes. She laid out Eddie Bauer outdoors-prep. He won best dressed. In high-school the social capital shrunk. Apathetic, indiscernible, near grunge. Hitting puberty late didn’t help. And there were state-instigated fuck feelings in the gym class physical performance standards regimented by Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness for Poppy Bush. He had to do 7 pull-ups and run a mile in under 7 minutes and 11 seconds. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. “That’s it, Benson. Time’s up. Come on in.”      

          This is a public event. You realize that, right? Colleagues, deans. The internets. To keep things moving. Name, affiliation, maybe something about your new book project.

          We tell ourselves stories. I just know that I’ve been stuck here. Yeah. I’ll be stuck here forever. I don’t know when it was I recognized I had this disease.8 

(DREAM SEQUENCE – INT. LECTURE HALL – NIGHT. We ZOOM slowly toward PETER as he thinks about the loneliness of the road. He closes his eyes. His POV: The event’s awkwardness gives way to a fluid grace, and “ST. LOUIS BLUES” FADES into dreamy, hypnotic MUSIC. He is suddenly alone in the stands, spellbound ... and we SMASH CUT TO: INT. BENSON HOUSE – LIVING ROOM – NIGHT.9)      

          Yeah, look at the pictures of Daddy when he was little. And there’s Papa.      

          I need a little more insulin before we go trick-or-treating.      

          I need to hug Papa. I need one more sip. I need this. I need that.      

          And called it macaroni.      

          I mean, not really, Ma. Come on, whaddya? I go to a synagogue every week.      

          I know. It’s sad. Life’s hard.      

          Hun, is my insulin up there?      

          Yes, I’ll bring it down, we’re coming down for dinner.      

          One. Jordan. Two. LeBron.      


          Three. Magic.      


          Four. Kareem.      

          Lou Alcindor.

          Fucking. Shoot your insulin. I needed you, you didn’t need me.10 Emoji.      

(When Peter opens his eyes, he is still on stage. END SEQUENCE.11)

          Maybe we should help. I don’t know.12      

          Who me?      

          Yes, you.      

          Okay, yes. Stay on target. I copy, Gold Leader.13 Movies. Sometimes everything seems just like a dream. It’s not my dream, but I have to participate in it.14 White tabs, prick-marked red spots, on the counter for us to pick up. “Yuck,” they say, half-smiling, chuckling about in-laws, lazy craisins, hot tamales, jelly hearts, juju coins, these breadcrumbs. This is a great dinner! This is delicious! How did you cook this steak? These potatoes are so crispy! I’m on vacation. No carbs starting on Monday. The leftovers are gonna be great for sandwiches! An ungodly race, a meal begun without a grace. Kedron goes at her own pace. Loses. She grew up in a different family.      

          We have a lot to get to. Maybe stop for a little second and think about it. Will you do that for me?15 Do you want to just introduce? Let’s just situate ourselves, name, something about your research interests maybe.        

          Hi, I’m Pete. I’m a drug addict.      

          No, go back. He’s not done. Stay on that slide.      

          I’d been using for a long time. I was fucking exhausted. It was all I did. Drive to meet my dealer. Then the couch. Then. Start over, again.16 My therapist told me about this meeting. I’m not Jewish. And everybody said, “That’s okay, it doesn’t matter.” We tell ourselves stories. To stay sober and sorta present and contend with undertows, inundating difficulties of dailiness. Take care of kids. Eke out errands. Return phone calls. Maintain some degree of capacity. Carry that weight. We tell ourselves stories in order to live.17 Sometimes I arrive early-ish. Gonna sip soda and laptop. There’s a buzzer for the synagogue’s securitized door. “Can I help you?” One time, the receptionist didn’t recognize me. “Here for the meeting,” I said. Another admin in the front office vouched. The custodian vouched. I remember when Charleston happened. I only had a few months. Still doing out-patient. The campaigns. Fuck feelings. I couldn’t take it. Needed a meeting. That night. Website works. Martin Luther King Drive in North City. All the way in the back of a church. Buzz cut. Brownish, reddish, scruffy beard. Dark green sweats. Black canvas jacket. Everything-ish. Blessings and curses.18 Seemed too like what’s and worries. I said, “meeting.” They said, “right place.”      

          Terrific. Let’s move on by welcoming our guest. A big catch. An intimate discussion. Slide. He grew up with the children of the stars. In the Hollywood Hills and the boulevard. Big parties. Everyone was there.19 He hung out with Dustin Hoffman’s kids.      

          Them’s the breaks.      

          Came up in goofy comedies, this kind of like curly-haired, overweight kid.20 After seeing his status ascend following his role in Superbad, many fans probably thought they could map out the trajectory of Jonah Hill’s career. Since the days of W.C. Fields and Lou Costello, the careers of funny big men have had a similar shape. A long list of plus-sized actors, always game to play the chaotic sidekick or the goofy best friend. However, Jonah Hill has rejected the playbook and built a career unlike any actor Hollywood has ever seen. While Hill has continued to work with his comedy cohort on projects like Sausage Party and This Is the End, it just so happened that he was in Mexico doing publicity for 21 Jump Street while Leonardo DiCaprio was laying on a beach. Hill made sure to plead his case and even offered to take a pay cut to be in the same room as Martin Scorsese, making just $60,000 for half a year of shooting.21 Along with the life-changing experience of recent dramatic roles, Hill’s slimmed down his overweight physique, jokes about his newly girlish figure. During an appearance on The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart told Hill he looked as if he had taken handsome pills.22 

          I was embarrassed, even though I knew it was a compliment. Jon Stewart thinks I’m handsome. That’s nice.23      

          You say your physical metamorphosis reflects the personal makeover within.24      

          Yeah. Distinctly grown up, or at least moving fast in that direction. I’m like, I can see the feet. They’re in, like, these little socks. They’re really cute. I’m dying to have kids one day. I think I’ve been put on this earth more to be a dad than an actor.25      

          A journey that has involved threesomes, bathroom sex and smuggling contraband in a bodily orifice onto an airplane. But even back then, Hill was fiercely ambitious and looking to expand his repertoire. He recently finished building in Los Angeles. It’s a universe away from the frat-boy apartment he moved into when Seth Rogan moved out. Those were the days when a bong was practically affixed to the dining room table.26      

          It just feels like all of a sudden, people are letting me out of this box that they’ve been putting me in since I was a kid.27        

          Oh, whatever, Jonah. Excuse me while I break my own heart.28      

          Hold on, we’ll come back to you.      

          Can’t even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I’m an average nobody.29 I’m hitting up one of the best zoos in the Midwest. This motherfucker’s inspirational click-bait talking textural. Indied out making a film about my decade. Popping corks with Leo. I’m making mixtapes for a harvest moon.      

          There are a lot. So let’s see. Here’s one. Great one. “Every human being in every age stands in the middle.”30 Jonah, do you wanna take this one?      

          I hate nostalgia porn. I didn’t want it to be “That ’90s Movie.” To me, the idea was if you took it out of the ’90s, it just would work anyway. Nothing was overt. Kind of really just need to make it textural. I was searching for hope of what a good future would look like.31 The idea was that, if at the last minute we decided to put it in the present day, that it would still be a valid story.32      

          Oh, come on, how corny, man.33      

          Nobody panic. Please everyone, stay in your seat.34      

          Mere mise-en-scène, Jonah? Make me forget all that hurts me. Let me understand your plan.35 Layered and looped longs and shorts and all sorts of longings, a palimpsest of a chronotope, stitchings of spacetime relations, orientations, and fixations, mere mise-en-scène? I went into a restaurant. The menu said, “Breakfast anytime.” So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.36      

          I want you to stay in your seats and try to remain calm. We’re gonna get through this. That’s a promise.37        

          Look, everybody, I’ve got movies, too, some home movies, a flash drive. Can we dim the lights? The projector? A time capsule called the moody blues crashing the world party. Attitudes and threads from a cooler climate. Oh well whatever neverminds,38 yeah rights, eye rolls, shrugs, slackerism, moping, sincerity longing, littleness sentimentality, irony, angst, whim, disillusionment, irreverence, reality bites, downbeat realisms, upsetness, backwardness, depressiveness, mood rings, melancholia, mellon collie, the infinite sadness.39 The immersions of my life. The low I love.40 Critical alternative framework-resources for the overwhelm, for the up and up optimism success society. For the fantastical hope of what a good future would look like. For stuckness.      

          If everybody will stay in your seats and remain calm we should be able to defuse the problem, so hang in there.41      

          I’m not done. Staying with the trouble.42 Considering, heeding formative encumbrances, hindrances, irreversibilities, inheritances, and responsibilities. Carry that weight a long time. And in the middle of the celebrations, I break down.43 A game of vestiges. A moving situation. Right now one can tumble into total hopelessness — all the definitions, everything, it’s all been done. What can one do? What can one become? I don’t know. To reach a point where one can live with what is left.44

          Everything’s under control. Situation normal. Everything’s perfectly all right. We’re fine. We’re all fine here.45 Let’s continue, let’s keep on the sunny side.46 It’s not every day that an A-list celebrity. A movie about the golden era. So what’s the deal?47      

          It was everything. I skated every day. It was like the bad kid island in Pinocchio. It was illegal to skate there, you’d run from cops, it was exhilarating. Just living life.48

          Oh yeah, Jonah. I never heard this one before.49      

          It’s the inspiration for my movie. We were exposed to things probably a little too early on, but it felt like paradise, it felt dangerous, and it felt great.50 A big reason I made the film is because hip-hop, like skateboarding, is always misused in film. To me, it’s the emotional backbone of my growing up. So, I needed to make a film that could elegantly portray what A Tribe Called Quest is to me. To actually make a film that shows even fancy people that this is a real art form. This is real art.51

          Fascinating. Slide. So this movie’s getting tons of press. You’re doing all of the shows. And some are saying. Some are saying scripted and trite. The dirty talk and epithets casually tossed around in the name of realism, the grating profundities. Aiming for authenticity.52      

          I was well aware of that going into it. It’s like, great, another skate movie, made by the kid from Superbad.53 The issue with movies that involve skateboarding is they are so overt and you really need to make it textural.54 Skate movies are always done incorrectly.55      

          Yeah right, Jonah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.56          

(DREAM SEQUENCE. CLOSE on PETER’s bewildered face. He closes his eyes again.57)      

          One. Paranoid Park. Two. Kids.      

          Baseball. Fucking. I can’t get you out of my head.58      

          Three. Dogtown and Z-Boys.      


          Four. Gleaming the Cube.      

          The Civil War.        

          Five. Thrashin’.      

          Maybe you’d sneak into the top ten, but there’s no place for you in the top five. Sorry. Those places are reserved for the kind of humiliations and heartbreaks that you’re just not capable of delivering.59      

(When Peter opens his eyes, he is still on stage. SEQUENCE ENDS.)      

          Hang in there everyone. We’ll open up the discussion in a moment.      

          Oh no.      

          Yes, what is it now?      

          Oh no, I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough.60 My dad doesn’t know that I’m just a kid. He thinks I’m a threat.61      

          Settle in, folks. We’ve got. Fantastic. Here’s another one. “Just as a tangent touches a circle lightly and at but one point, a translation touches the original lightly and only at the infinitely small point of the sense.”62 What do we think? Jonah, you wanna? Okay, Pete, you have a comment on this one?      

          To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.63 Neil Young in Pearl Jam. The Who in just about everything. Just about everything in Beck and Radiohead. In R.E.M., the Byrds. Monopoly, twenty-one, checkers, and chess. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.64 Your battleship is sunk.65 Mise-en-scène. Material world. The verve. Backgrounded, elaborated, plotted, contoured, toned reminiscence and anchorage for there-being, being years-old, marking time, holding on, nearing ends, fits and starts. The food court at the Danbury Fair Mall. School ages, study time, cushions, couches, carpets, closed doors, sleepovers, late-night video games, bedtime books, hook ups. Picnic tables. The rivers, hills, and forests. The abundance and saturated color of the towering trees. The deep, dappled shade. The stone walls enclosing fields gone to goldenrod.66 Plots of pine, hemlock and oak.        

          Great movie, The Ice Storm. From the mid ’90s, right?      

          Yeah. Totally. I grew up right there, right near New Canaan. Eighteenth-century stonewalls. Heavy Vietnam era olive drab military gear bought at an Army surplus store in Danbury. Maybe Bethel. Thickets. Traipses. Playing war. Leaf piles for pretend protection. The lichen-dappled old gravestones. The town greens. The Congregational churches with their white-clapboard siding.67 The country and the city.68 How you burden my soul. How you hold all my dreams captive.69 The Metro-North commuter rail. Washington Square Park. The Beacon Theater. The Allman Brothers Band’s annual fifteen-show run. In the ’96 Yanks black-and-white footage and stills of the greats. The country and the city. How you play with my mind. How my heart goes bad, suffocating on the pines.70 We’re trying to get things under control.71      

          Ya motherfucker! Picsa segg. I got a bone to pick.72 You superbad freaks-and-geeks merry-go-round Judd Apatow James Franco Evan Goldberg Seth Rogan Paul Rudd Jason Segel Martin Starr frat pack school daze jump street drug war nostalgias just such a sweet awesome sausage party party time excellent! make stoner great again moneyball made late-Scorsese you.73 Gregarious wannabe gen X, X games wannabe get him to the greek wannabe Groucho Marx Mel Brooks Garry Shandling dude where’s my car? culture dude.      

          We’re trying to get things under control. In order to do that. Just keep calm.74

          I’ll tell you about this friend of mine that you don’t know. Metaphysical professor.75 Wannabe Bob Dylan. Someone just a little more funky.76 Desert island collection. Embarrassment of shelves. Everything in its right place.77 Peter Pan. Kicking and screaming.78 What’s my age again?79 Couchlock. Goo goo stuck moving. Jammed. Takua. Ain’t going nowhere.80 Hey jealousy.81 The angry boy a bit too insane.82 Crazy in a way that is a little too non-metaphorical.83 Not slimmed down. Not almost famous.84 No handsome pills. Not handsome. Not chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool.85 Not cool. Not a director. No publicist. No tacos on demand. No get that coffee down here again.86 No valid story. Not setting any records or anything. No pull-ups, not ever. Why am I soft in the middle? The rest of my life is so hard.87 A star is born. You star in This Is the End. Me, bad art writing about escape pods for always and never endings. Stack of Norman Mailer on the nightstand. You don’t understand. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody.88      

          I’m under construction like we all are. You know what I mean, Pete? We’re all just trying to figure it out. I think everybody has a version of themselves. I call it, like, a snapshot, at some point in your life, of the person you are. Even if you get success or you grow up or you become good-looking or whatever, you carry some part of that with you.89      

          Jonah, don’t speak. I know just what you’re saying.90 I’m not fat, I’m big boned.91 Family guy. A Seth MacFarlane character. Seth, why’d you have to name him Peter?

          And, yeah, Pete, I was like this 14-year-old kid, being overweight, wanting to fit in with these skaters and hip-hop kids and just feeling lonely and maybe not understanding my own worth.92 This is a transformation in my career and my life. This period is me becoming an adult, becoming a man. I look completely different. I’ve matured. I’m not just that funny kid you know me as from my early movies.93

          I can’t believe we made it, Jonah.94 Here we are tonight, you and me together, the storm outside.95 You’re six degrees of Linklater. And Kevin Bacon. I’m a pound of maplewood smoked bacon at the butcher counter at Schnucks. I’m heaps of bacon shrapnel stuff at the salad bar in the business school. I’m pork schnitzel at Reed’s American Table in Maplewood. Date night. Humboldt Fog has herbaceous notes and floral overtones. Diet Coke, salad, schnitzel. We start with the cheese plate. A few years ago Humboldt fog was a wad of twenty twenties for a full deck. Through U. City back up to Kingsland.96 That’s Nelly. I used to buy in the Mi Ranchito parking lot. Now I’m on the lookout for a high-chair and we’re already into chips and salsa at 4:45 for the kids. As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.97      

          Please stay in your seats until we’re done. And of course some of the cast members are here. An intimate discussion. Slide. There’s the well-off skater nicknamed Fuckshit whose refrain is, “all that try-hard shit, that shit’s corny.”98 And there’s Stevie, that’s, this is Sunny. Slide. A pipsqueak outcast who is initiated into a mixed-race group of older boys who bond over skating tricks and 40-ounce malt liquor.99 Go ahead, Sunny.      

          I definitely see the difference between how vulgar the ’90s was and from how it is now, and I think Jonah made it very obvious how disgusting and cruel it was at that time period. There was a lot of homophobic and racist slurs, and how they would just go all out.100

          To that point. This movie’s getting a lot of play in the media. It seems to be a have seen it or hate it movie. Slide. One NPR reviewer called it “an astroturf movie,” said it was spackled to feel like the real thing.101 And another NPR critic said and I quote, “It felt like a salute to how toxic masculinity makes boys feel included. Which is true! But not sweet, as Hill seems to find it.”102 As the director, how do you respond to that?

          I just disagree. Where someone views the toxic masculinity or the homophobia as me thinking that’s funny has been heartbreaking. At the end of the film, they still are there for one another. I found that it was connective tissue. These people were there for each other, even though they had a lot of behavior I don’t think is cool.103

          You heard it. A story of friendship. Coming of age. Getting away with things. And we’re about out of time.

          We tell ourselves stories.

          Okay, Benson. Make it quick.

          The sea was angry that day, my friends.104 The men rowed hard to bring the ship to the land. But they could not. For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. They cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. They took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea. And the sea ceased from her raging.105      

          The crowd must have gone wild!106

          The great fish. It was ten stories high if it was a foot.107 Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly. Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas. And the floods compassed me about. All thy billows and thy waves passed over me. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul. The depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.108      

          This has never happened before. I’d like to apologize to the cosponsors. Before you join us for the reception, some important.      

          Yes, Bon Appétit. Crude d’état. Varieties of salami and pickles, pickles and jams. Humboldt Fog.      

          Yes, wine, of course. Do you even have to ask? But before that we have important information. Stay in your seats. Let’s put up the data from the campus survey. Slide. The average Washington University professor sees half a movie per year. Don’t move. Don’t move. Please hang on. So we’re gonna. This figure. We really need to. At our peer institutions it’s more like two-thirds of a movie.      

          We don’t exactly know.

          Yes, exactly. The coasts. Premiers. Runs. Show times. More IMAX and 3D. Healthier and more diverse concession options. I’m. I’m just being honest.109 So we’ll be working with farmers’ markets, craft breweries, architects, developers, theaters. And, wait for it. Implementing a new, paid temporary leave policy for all faculty. 

          That’s right. Full-time faculty only.

          Like a night out, yes.

          Tickets. Twizzlers.

          Yes, parking, of course.

          Right. To see more movies. Or at least trailers. Think one-night sabbatical. Little leaves. Microdosing.

          Yes, babysitters. This is all part of family-friendly benefits.

          Look. We know. We’re in the middle of the midterm elections. Everyone’s super excited. You have a choice in politics. So we’re gonna be distributing similar materials to help you decide about movies. 

          Just a moment everyone. As the Director, I want the last word. To quote Herman Melville, who has one fewer Nobel Prize than Bob Dylan, I refer to “the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned,” it’s “the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.”110 This has been a whale of a time. Jonah, thanks for having your people work with us to make this event possible. Thanks for making a movie. It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.111 It’s like a long short list. Can we cue up the slides?      

          About a Boy set in the mid ’90s.

          Boyhood set in the ’90s.

          My Own Private Idaho set in the mid ’90s, farther down the Pacific Coast, and without the brilliant flashes of Fassbinder.

          Dazed and Confused set in the ’90s and made by a really confused director.

          An unsubtle, aggressive, macho version of Paranoid Park set in the ’90s and in a different skate park farther down the Pacific Coast. And in Sunny Suljic, Gabe Nevins. And nicknamed Sunburn, Sunny’s character’s apparently colorblind, said to not recognize or yet know about skin and race. And with rampant, pointless, walk-out worthy, uncomfortable misogyny. Cringy stereotypes of blackness and homelessness. A some would say racist appropriation of Herbie Hancock’s legendary funk version of “Watermelon Man” from Head Hunters, the background track for a multiracial, wildly decontextualizing, innocuous dance and drugs party in which a bouncy, boozy Fuckshit supplies and Sunny blossoms. And blah, uninteresting, celebratory, cliché depictions of innocent, carefree, hapless whatevs bliss, preteen-ish sex, and adolescent substance abuse. And in a sunny LA adventurescape, the white characters are poorer than the people of color, black youth victimize and threaten white youth, everyone is equally brutalized by the cops, and, ultimately, spoiler alert, everyone gets along in the end.

          An athleticized version of Elephant set slightly less than a decade earlier, and not really about an elephant in the room.

          Like La Haine in being set squarely in the mid ’90s, except the director’s American, it’s set in America, it’s Americana, and it’s not profoundly about hatred. Maybe not anything.

          Springbreakers set slightly less than two decades earlier and similarly cartoonish, but not a cartoonishness satire and without the critical postmodern sex and candy farce and porno simulations.

          Unlike other skate and surf movies, it’s not a war movie or an antiwar movie.

          A slightly more interracial Kids on the West Coast, apparently detachable from a milieu of vacuities, harshness, abandon, and ruins, and simply not controversial, not, as it might want, art house import and edge.

          Set two decades after the classic genre forerunner, Five Summer Stories, and with smaller boards that have wheels, are made of different materials, and are meant for pavement, a landlubber hot peace mise-en-scène.

          Point Break, although, again, pavement-placed, directed by a guy, set a few years later, not an ironical special teams gangster flick, and without a commentary on longReagan.

          A motley crew version of Bling Ring directed by a guy and set slightly more than a decade earlier.      

          Fish Tank set in a declassed ’90s America with guys, and directed by a guy.

          Rumble Fish, except in color, set in the ’90s, supposedly not nostalgic, and without without causes rebels reflexivities.

          Superbad without overweight characters.

          In Sunny Suljic, Jean-Pierre Léaud. The 400 Blows, except, um, sh’yeah.

          Moonlight, except, um, sh’yeah.      

          Next time won’t you sing with me? Think Link plus VS plus Harmony plus Copps plus Auto-Tune. You, you. One of a kind. You’ll laugh. Once. You’ll cry. Long afterwards. We’re all self-conscious. I’m not the first to admit it.112 Takes. Outtakes. Samples. Subs. Surround sound. Analogs. Everything is everything.113 There’s nothing new under the sun.114 It’s all good. 


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7 Renato Carosone. 1956. “Tu Vuò Fà L’americano.” Casa Ricordi.
8 Gus Van Sant. 1991. My Own Private Idaho. Fine Line Features.
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13 George Lucas. 1977. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. 20th Century Fox.
14 Ingmar Bergman. 1968. Shame. Lopert Pictures Corporation.
15 David Lynch. 2001. Mullholland Drive. Universal Pictures.
16 Outkast, featuring Khujo and Cee-Lo. 2003. “Reset.” Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Arista Records.
17 Joan Didion. 1979. The White Album. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 11.
18 Alphonso Lingis. 2000. Dangerous Emotions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 67.
19 Shawn Mullins. 1998. “Lullaby.” Soul’s Core. Sony Records.
20 Erin Crabtree. 2018. “Jonah Hill Talks About Learning to Love Himself After Struggling with His Weight: I’m ‘Under Construction.’” Us Weekly, October 19.
21 Brendan Gallagher. 2018. “What All Creatives Can Learn from Jonah Hill’s Unlikely Career.”, May 14.
22 Naomi Pfefferman. 2012. “Jonah Hill: ‘Moneyball’s’ Super-Talented, Super-Nice Jewish Boy.” Jewish Journal, January 11.
23 Ibid.
24 Ibid.
25 Ibid.
26 Ibid.
27 Ibid.
28 Whiskeytown. 1997. “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight.” Strangers Almanac. Geffen Records.
29 Martin Scorsese. 1990. Goodfellas. Warner Brothers.
30 Johann Gottfried Herder. 2002 [1766]. “On the Change of Taste.” In: Herder: Philosophical Writings, pp. 247-56. Michael N. Forster, trans. and ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 254.
31 Brad Gullickson. 2018. “Jonah Hill and the Cast of ‘Mid90s’ on Embracing Authenticity and Avoiding Nostalgia-Porn.” Film School Rejects, October 18.
32 Matt Stieb. 2018. “Video Days: How Jonah Hill Got Skateboard Culture Right in ‘Mid90s.’” The Ringer, October 18.
33 Gus Van Sant. 1991. My Own Private Idaho. Fine Line Features.
34 Mark Frost and David Lynch. 1991. “Wounds and Scars.” In Twin Peaks. Season 2. CBS Television Distribution.
35 Arrested Development. 1992. “Tennessee.” 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of … Chrysalis Records.
36 Steven Wright, quoted in: Chris Offutt. 2018. “Lard Have Mercy.” Oxford American, September 4.
37 Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. 2013. This Is the End. Columbia Pictures; John Woo. 2000. Mission: Impossible 2. Paramount Pictures; Jan de Bont. 1994. Speed. 20th Century Fox; Jack Smight. 1974. Airport 1975. Universal Pictures.
38 Nirvana. 1991. “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Nevermind. DGC Records.
39 Heather Love. 2007. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; The Smashing Pumpkins. 1995. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Virgin Records; Alisa Perren. 2008. “From Cynicism to Sentimentality: The Rise of the Quirky Indie.” Flow: A Critical Forum on Media and Culture, February 27. Ben Stiller. 1994. Reality Bites. Universal Pictures.
40 Thomas L. Dumm. 1999. A Politics of the Ordinary. New York, NY: New York University Press, 8.
41 Jan de Bont. 1994. Speed. 20the Century Fox; John McTiernan. 1988. Die Hard. 20th Century Fox.
42 Donna Haraway. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
43 The Beatles. 1969. “Carry That Weight.” Abbey Road. Apple Records.
44 Jean Baudrillard. 1993 [1984]. “Game with Vestiges: Interview with Salvatore Mele and Mark Titmarsh.” In: Baudrillard Live: Selected Interviews, pp. 81-95. Mike Gane, ed. London: Routledge, 95.
45 George Lucas. 1977. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. 20th Century Fox.
46 The Whites. 2000. “Keep on the Sunny Side.” O Brother, Where Art Thou? Lost Highway Records.
47 Larry Lanza. 2018. “A Jenky Investigation into Jonah Hill’s Skate Past.” Jenkem, September 12.
48 Matt Stieb. 2018. “Video Days: How Jonah Hill Got Skateboard Culture Right in ‘Mid90s.’” The Ringer, October 18.
49 Gus Van Sant. 1991. My Own Private Idaho. Fine Line Features.
50 Matt Stieb. 2018. “Video Days: How Jonah Hill Got Skateboard Culture Right in ‘Mid90s.’” The Ringer, October 18.
51 Eddie Fu. 2018. “Jonah Hill Talks His Movie ‘Mid90s,’ Old School Hip-Hop, & His Top 5 Rappers of All Time On ‘For The Record.”, October 17.
52 David Sims. 2018. “Jonah Hill Strives for Authenticity with Mid90s.” The Atlantic, October 17.
53 Matt Stieb. 2018. “Video Days: How Jonah Hill Got Skateboard Culture Right in ‘Mid90s.’” The Ringer, October 18.
54 Brad Gullickson. 2018. “Jonah Hill and the Cast of ‘Mid90s’ on Embracing Authenticity and Avoiding Nostalgia-Porn.” Film School Rejects, October 18.
55 Matt Stieb. 2018. “Video Days: How Jonah Hill Got Skateboard Culture Right in ‘Mid90s.’” The Ringer, October 18.
56 Penelope Spheeris. 1992. Wayne’s World. Paramount Pictures.
57 Gus Van Sant. 1989. My Own Private Idaho, A Screenplay. Electronic document, retrieved on November 18, 2018, from
58 Kylie Minogue. 2001. “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” Fever. Parlophone Records.
59 Stephen Frears. 2000. High Fidelity. Buena Vista Pictures.
60 R.E.M. 1991. “Losing My Religion.” Out of Time. Warner Brothers Records.
61 Gus Van Sant. 1991. My Own Private Idaho. Fine Line Features.
62 Walter Benjamin. 1968 [1923]. “The Task of the Translator.” In: Illuminations, pp. 69-82. Hannah Arendt, ed. Harry Zohn, trans. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 80.
63 Ecclesiastes 3:1.
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65 Outkast. 2004. “GhettoMusick.” Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Arista Records.
66 Richard Conniff. 2016. “Is Connecticut Really New England?” Yankee Magazine, June 13.
67 Ibid.
68 Raymond Williams. 1973. The City and the County. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
69 Ryan Adams & The Cardinals. 2005. “The End.” Jacksonville City Nights. Lost Highway Records.
70 Ibid.
71 Irvin Yeaworth and Russell Doughten. 1958. The Blob. Paramount Pictures.
72 Kendrick Lamar. 2015. “King Kunta.” To Pimp a Butterfly. Aftermath Records.
73 Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. 1992. “Wayne’s World Theme (Extended Version).” Music from the Motion Picture Wayne’s World. Reprise Records.
74 Irvin Yeaworth. 1958. The Blob. Paramount Pictures.
75 Herman Melville. 2018 [1851]. Moby Dick. Hershel Parker, ed. Third Edition. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 19.
76 Counting Crows. 1993. “Mr. Jones.” August and Everything After. Geffen Records.
77 Radiohead. 2000. “Everything in Its Right Place.” Kid A. Parlophone Records.
78 Noah Baumbach. 1995. Kicking and Screaming. Trimark Pictures Inc.
79 blink-182. 1999. “What’s My Age Again?” Enema of the State. MCA Records.
80 Bob Dylan. 1971. “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II. Columbia Records.
81 Gin Blossoms. 1989. “Hey Jealousy.” New Miserable Experience. A&M Records.
82 Third Eye Blind. 1997. “Jumper.” Third Eye Blind. Elektra Records.
83 Lauren Berlant. 2017. “Big Man.” Social Text, January 19.
84 Cameron Crowe. 2000. Almost Famous. DreamWorks Pictures
85 DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. 1998 [1992]. “Yo Home to Bel-Air,” aka “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Theme).” Greatest Hits. Jive Records.
86 Brad Gullickson. 2018. “Jonah Hill and the Cast of ‘Mid90s’ on Embracing Authenticity and Avoiding Nostalgia-Porn.” Film School Rejects, October 18.
87 Paul Simon. 1985. “You Can Call Me Al.” Graceland. Warner Brothers Records.
88 Elia Kazan. 1954. On the Waterfront. Columbia Pictures.
89 Erin Crabtree. 2018. “Jonah Hill Talks About Learning to Love Himself After Struggling with His Weight: I’m ‘Under Construction.’” Us Weekly, October 19.
90 No Doubt. 1996. “Don’t Speak.” Tragic Kingdom. Interscope Records
91 Trey Parker. 2011. “T.M.I.” South Park. Season 15. Comedy Central.
92 Erin Crabtree. 2018. “Jonah Hill Talks About Learning to Love Himself After Struggling with His Weight: I’m ‘Under Construction.’” Us Weekly, October 19.
93 Naomi Pfefferman. 2012. “Jonah Hill: ‘Moneyball’s’ Super-Talented, Super-Nice Jewish Boy.” Jewish Journal, January 11.
94 The Carters. 2018. “Apeshit.” Everything Is Love. Roc Nation.
95 Dave Matthews Band. 1996. “Say Goodbye.” Crash. RCA Records.
96 Nelly. 2000. “Country Grammar (Hot Shit).” Country Grammar. Universal Records.
97 Martin Scorsese. 1990. Goodfellas. Warner Brothers.
98 David Sims. 2018. “Jonah Hill Strives for Authenticity with Mid90s.” The Atlantic, October 17.
99 Kerry Lengel. 2018. “‘Mid90s’ Actors Grapple with ‘Toxic Masculinity’ of Jonah Hill’s SoCal Coming-of-Age Story.” Arizona Republic, October 27.
100 Ibid.
101 Scott Tobias. 2018. “In ‘Mid90s’ Jonah Hill Looks at Skater Culture Through a Lens, Blankly.”, October 18.
102 Rachel Martin. 2018. “It Wasn’t Cool to Care in The ‘Mid90s’ — But Jonah Hill Does.”, October 17.
103 Ibid.
104 Ron Hauge and Charlie Rubin. 1994. “The Marine Biologist.” Seinfeld. Season 5. National Broadcasting Company.
105 Jonah 1:15.
106 Ron Hauge and Charlie Rubin. 1994. “The Marine Biologist.” Seinfeld. Season 5. National Broadcasting Company.
107 Ibid.
108 Jonah 2:10.
109 Outkast. 2003. “Hey Ya!” Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Arista Records.
110 Herman Melville. 2018 [1851]. Moby Dick. Hershel Parker, ed. Third Edition. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 20.
111 Alanis Morissette. 1996. “Ironic.” Jagged Little Pill. Maverick Records.
112 Kanye West, featuring Syleena Johnson. 2004. “All Falls Down.” The College Dropout. Roc-A-Fella Records.
113 Lauryn Hill. 1999. “Everything Is Everything.” The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Ruffhouse Records.
114 Ecclesiastes 1:9.