How can one person make so many great movies?
That sums up film wunderkind John Hughes if you ask me. The same person who induced smirks for two hours during “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off,” also made us smile in “Home Alone” and even cry in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”
I remember a night when I felt personally touched by his work. A few months after I was in a serious car accident, I was experiencing a particularly long night and my back was killing me and I couldn’t sleep. I wrote my tail off that evening and in spite of being exhausted, I couldn’t close my eyes and shut down for the night. It was almost as if my mind needed some sort of closure before I could get the rest and relaxation I needed.
Growing somewhat depressed, intellectually starved and socially bored as the night went on, I finally opened up a copy of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” my cousin let me borrow a few days before. By the end of the film, I felt so fortunate to be alive and loved by my friends and family that I fell asleep about 15 minutes later and woke up the next day refreshed and ready for whatever came my way. Since then, the film has always been a personal favorite of mine.
Most movies aren’t capable of doing that.
Because of that, Hughes, in my mind, is an icon.
-Patrick Hickey Jr.
The merit of an artist is said to be based on his ability to capture life. As a painter sees the truth in a summer’s breeze, a composer must hear life’s call in a strangely arranged cacophony, organizing those seemingly irregular sounds to produce something that the rest of us would see as beautiful. An ordinary conversation between two souls becomes a metaphor for strife and perseverance in the capable hands of the novelist, silently watching their seemingly mundane, trifling exchange.
In the case of John Hughes, the teenagers of ’80s American suburbia took the stage and their angst-ridden daily toils became his palette. Hughes had a remarkable ability to accurately characterize these temporally lost souls, between two concrete milestones in their lives, when hormones reigned fearsomely over the lowly kingdoms of logic and wisdom.
Yet, he was able to do this with a touch of humor and sophistication. “The Breakfast Club” characterized our internal insecurities and woes of classification, while the festive romp, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” celebrated the crusade of the sly slacker. Providing ample influence that extended past the media, Ferris’ advice on clammy hands helped scores of teenagers skip boring class lectures and paved the way for the likes of Zack Morris while he was still carousing in his preppy diapers.
His creation of the Brat Pack not only created Hollywood icons of a handful of typical teenage actors, but solidified the “prissy, wacky, coming-of-age” genre as a mainstream staple of American cinema.
This influence will remain long after his corporeal detention.
Among all of the people we have lost this year in the entertainment world, Hughes is a tough one to swallow. He had a lengthy and prolific career as a writer/director that helped to shape a generation of youth trying to define itself in an era that couldn’t see its uniqueness until it had already come and gone. Hughes’ films were at once quintessentially American, but universally themed.
Films such as “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink” typified the pop culture of the 1980’s in America, but have themes any generation of youth can relate to and have fun with. Hughes’ greatest attribute as a filmmaker was to get across the feelings that all youth experience, but do it with lightness, humor and cheekiness. His films also evoke memories of a time gone by, when things were simpler and humor can be appreciated for what it implies, not necessarily for what it spells out. Almost everyone of that generation who was coming of age can think of one Hughes film, quote the lines and have a laugh with their friends about it, bringing up memories of that time in their life.
The films of Hughes have given us laughter and entertainment that will surely be enjoyed for generations to come.
“ Death, the one appointment we must keep, and for which no time is set ”
– Charlie Chan, fictional Chinese-American detective.
For those of us who consider the 1980s as the decade that shaped our view of the world, the sudden deaths of both John Hughes and Michael Jackson within weeks of each other, brings about the realization that we might be witnessing the sad but slow demise of our childhood.
Hughes, the multi-talented writer, director and producer had quite an influence in portraying the ‘80s American teenager to the outside world in all their angst and warts, not to mention their sense of fashion and music or lack thereof.
He certainly was responsible for the likes of Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Matthew Broderick and other Brat Pack members becoming major stars after working in his many hit films. Films like “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty In Pink,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Planes, Trains And Automobiles” and “Home Alone” would not have been the same without his considerable human touch.
Though it would be disingenuous to compare him with William Shakespeare, the legacy of Hughes just might be that like the English bard of the 16th century, this American bard of our times, will continue to inspire future generations of storytellers whom the likes of Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow have openly cited as an influence.
“ Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Written, directed and produced by John Hughes, “The Breakfast Club” has become a part of pop culture with references in shows such as “Family Guy” and “Futurama”. Five people who meet under mundane circumstances come to understand that they share more in common than just happening to be in the same place at the same time. Hughes’ Breakfast Club solidified Molly Ringwald as the teen movie queen of the 80’s and added to the Brat Pack mythos.
However, what made this film great is when the characters explain why they are in detention on a Saturday in the first place. When Emilio Estevez gives the description of taping a teammate’s butt cheeks together, you see that although he knows that he shouldn’t do it, but, he has to in order to fulfill his role. He’s the jock and in order to be accepted, he must do the stereotypical jock thing,which in this case is to dehumanize another person. Judd Nelson’s part is the most traumatic. As the bad-boy outsider who gets the girl for one day, Nelson gives the performance of his career.
Then there are Anthony Michael Hall as the geek and Ally Sheedy as the strange one who barely talks and is transformed by Ringwald for this one day into a normal girl. Hughes took this simple plot and brought it to life with a sense of ease that I have not encountered as a movie fan. What could have been a boring film riddled with stereotypes instead became a legend filled with iconic scenes, memorable lines and a song that perfectly fit the mood of the film.
I’m going to miss Hughes, but he left me with the knowledge that people are more than stereotypes. We are more than what you see, we are more than the brain, athlete, basket-case, princess and criminal. Thank you John Hughes.