Thursday, August 13, 2009

Changing of the Guard


Alright, so this blog is definitely late, and there is no good excuse for it.  Last week, when I heard that John Hughes had died, I was suddenly shocked again.  There have been more than the fair share of summer surprises, the standout being Michael Jackson, but even those didn't seem to bother me as much as this one.  And the funny thing is that the bothering has happened so gradually that, at most points, I thought I'd forgotten.  But here it is, a week later, and I still feel sad about the passing of John Hughes.

According to his IMDB page (which can be found here) interest in his work is up 237,300% from last week;   as is always the case, great work is usually only recognized when death is involved. I'm sure most people were as surprised as me to see his full body of work for the first time in a while.  I won't recount all of them here, but suffice it to say that pretty much everything he wrote or directed (or both) turned to 1980s pure gold.  Unlike the rest of the 80s, though Hughes' work was anything but cheesy and opulent.  In fact it was the opposite.  It was thoughtful and real and emotional and it had that rare ability to define a generation.  

I feel sorry for anyone my age (26) who has managed to make it this far in life and not see one of his movies.  That's unfathomable to me.  If you've managed to become an adult without the influence of John Hughes, then it's easy to disregard his influence on film and culture.  For me, though, he was a huge part of my formative years.  I thought I pretty much was Molly Ringwald, until I graduated high school and had neither a Blane nor a Duckie, but at least I managed to escape without wearing that hideous prom dress.  I can't lie, there were times I wished that we had a Saturday detention, not because I actually would have skipped class to go shopping, or done anything against school conduct, but because deep down I would have hoped that Saturday would have ended like Ally Sheedy's, with a stolen varsity letter from the hottest jock in school.  I know this all sounds ridiculous now, I mean coming from someone who has a job and a car and an apartment and is generally a well adjusted member of society.  But in all honesty, a part of me thinks John Hughes invented, and helped me to define, what "teenager" meant.  The Breakfast Club was the first movie I ever memorized almost every line to.  Watch it with me today, if you dare, and I'll prove it.

He managed to be the voice of a generation while speaking softly and carrying a big notebook.  He was cool for the geeks and the weirdos and the basketcases, without judging the popular kids and the jocks.  He managed to define categories without pigeon holing his characters and never, ever would you step away from one of his films without feeling like a happier person for having seen it.  

Directors of most teen or generational films will cite Hughes as an influence, but none have ever and none will ever be able to replace what's been lost.  I think that's mostly because I don't know that heart counts as much these days in Hollywood.  I'm not even sure John Hughes' films would be made today.  There was too much truth and too much dialogue for most studios to handle these days.  I mean essentially, The Breakfast Club is one long brainstorming session.  There aren't any robots blowing things up, no CGI effects, no hip-hop cross-cutting montage (although there is that rockin' dance sequence)  but nothing to make it standout as THE BEST anything movie.  Except that if you're 15 and watching it for the first time, you probably got it.  You were one of those people, or all of those people, and if nothing else, you came out of it knowing that you weren't ever the only one to feel like that or to think those thoughts.  

Whatever it was about John Hughes, I'll miss that now.  He wasn't perfect and his films weren't all inclusive, but, selfishly perhaps, they spoke to me.  I'm tempted to go through his entire filmography one by one, just to hear those great lines and remember how adorable Michael Schoeffling was (there will never be another character to compare to Jake Ryan, no matter what anyone says), or to remember when John Cusack was that guy that was The Geek's friend, but mostly to remember what a talent and what a wit has left us this summer.  Clearly if John Hughes was a religion, I would be one of his disciples, but that's just because I was a teenage girl once too.  So I've babbled enough, but as always, it's good to know I'm not the only one out there who feels this way.  Below are links to Roger Ebert's rememberance and the trailer for a film that may or may not be released in theaters, but I'd love to see anyway, about searching for the elusive Mr. Hughes.  Towards the end he may have always been something of a question, but maybe that's because he had already given us most of the answers.  So thank you John Hughes, for making those years of my life a little bit more bearable.  

Roger Ebert's "In Memory"

Searching for...Documentary

and finally, a note from my teen alter-ego, Molly Ringwald on what Hughes meant to her, can be found HERE





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