O.C. & Stiggs—A brief defense

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Robert Altman’s worst movie? Well, that just makes it really interesting and weird. Here’s my part of this A.V. Club Q&A about my cinematic hero’s least-heralded movie. Which I have watched about 11 times. (Same goes for my pal Regan, who is a very smart lady.)

When Robert Altman died in 2006, the now compulsory list-making began, with the director’s oeuvre pulled apart, ranked, and re-ranked, until something like consensus was reached—or at least until everyone agreed to disagree over the relative merits of Nashville, The Player, The Long Goodbye, and Mash (even though the correct answer is McCabe & Mrs. Miller). What was less contentious was the bottom spot of most lists, which (misfires like Health or Quintet aside) invariably went to 1985’s O.C. And Stiggs, Altman’s even-more-ramshackle-than-usual entry in the ’80s teen comedy genre. Based on a (mostly discarded) series of stories fromNational Lampoon, the film was ignored, then panned, with even Altman admitting that it didn’t work, even as he praised the improv skills of his typically eclectic cast. But I’ve always found O.C. And Stiggs to be a deceptively smart and funny satire of the genre, with lively, nimble leads in Daniel Jenkins and Neill Barry as a pair of bored, rebellious teens dedicated to slyly mocking the suburban hypocrisy all around them. Whether pranking rich, racist neighbor Paul Dooley, scoring booze and girls (including a young, bright Cynthia Nixon), or setting up a riotous country club invasion scored to the live performance of King Sunny Adé, O.C. And Stiggs are Altman’s undercover agents in the world of mindless teen sex comedies. In a dry patch in his career, Altman could have served up the commercial flick the studio wanted—I’m always tickled how he just couldn’t help himself.

Read the whole list here—everyone else’s picks are good, too, I guess.

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