Thursday, August 13, 2009

John Hughes: My Teen Savior. Ferris Bueller's Day Off

{Sorry, I forgot to post this yesterday}

Welcome to part IV of my homage to filmmaker, John Hughes, who passed away last Thursday, August 6th:

Ferris Bueller's Day OffI was already in love with Matthew Broderick long before his excellent performance as Ferris Beuller. I first fell for him in 'Max Dugan Returns', then 'Wargames' and best of all, Ladyhawke. Oh, man, did I have a crush on him, and it just got worse with Ferris Bueller.

Ferris is a smart and creative high school senior who really doesn't want to go to school today. So, he cooks up this elaborate scheme to fool his parents and the suspicious Dean of Students, Ed Rooney (masterfully played by Jeffrey Jones) into thinking he's incredibly sick and will stay in bed all day.

Ferris' best friend, Cameron (Alan Ruck), who actually is home sick (implied to be psychosomatic?) has finally been persuaded by Ferris to come enjoy the day with him. They then hatch a plan to get Ferris' girlfriend, Sloane (Mia Sara), out of class so she, too, can join them. (Do I even have to mention Ben Stein here? "Bueller? Bueller?")

Ferris is a charmer. And, I could definitely relate to his sister Jeanie's (Jennifer Grey before Dirty Dancing fame), to put it lightly, "frustration" with her brother, yet again, pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. I have a charmer of a brother, too, who I always felt got away with murder. But, yeah, in the end, I guess I would also defend him against the evil Dean of Students if I had too. "Family before school officials", that's what I always say.

When Ferris and Cameron succeed in springing Sloane from the school, the three of them set off for a whirlwind day of adventure, which started with "borrowing" Cameron's father's pristine vintage ferrari and just gets better from there.

I love how Ferris actually talks to the us, the audience, throughout the film:

Ferris: [to the camera, after tricking his parents into believing he's sick] Incredible, one of the worst performances of my career and they never doubted it for a second. [opens blinds to reveal a beautiful spring day]

Ferris: How can I possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this? [begins fiddling with electronics to fake his voice]

Ferris: This is my ninth sick day this semester. It's pretty tough coming up with new illnesses. If I go for ten, I'm probably going to have to barf up a lung, so I better make this one count.

This movie is just fun, fun, fun. Sure, I could get serious and thoughtful about "Cameron's" (Alan Ruck) emotional maturation at the end of the movie and how he learned to stand up for himself against his (never seen) overbearing father, but I don't really want to. I just want this to be a movie about a day in the life of three kids. A day that, if it happened to me, would be something I would look back on for the rest of my life as a magical moment in time. I have a few days (and nights) of (mostly) innocent mischief from my past that I look back on fondly, too. It's good to have days like that. We play by the rules most of our lives, so it's good to play hooky from our responsibilities once in a while.

And, really, when you watch this movie, how can you not get a little vicarious joy out of watching a kid take over a parade to lip sync to "Danke Schoen" and The Beatles' "Twist & Shout" while everyone within a 1 mile radius breaks out in dance? How can that not make you feel warm and fuzzy?

Oh! And who could forget the Yello song "Oh Yeah". I believe this was the first instance of this song being used on a movie soundtrack. According to it's wiki page, it was subsequently used in The Secret of My Succe$s, Teen Wolf, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, She's Out of Control, and K-9, among others.

I still have a 45 (that would be a record, as in vinyl) from a promotion for the movie with two songs from the movie, "Beat City" by The Flowerpot Men and "I'm Afraid" by Blue Room. I'm pretty sure it came with some other ephemera, but I don't think I have that anymore. [If I do, it's probably sandwiched somewhere in the pages of my high school yearbook.]

Here are some favorite quotes:

Grace, played by Edie McClurg, speaking to her boss Ed Rooney:

Grace : Oh, he's very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude.


Ferris: Hey, Cameron. You realize if we played by the rules right now we'd be in gym?

Ferris: Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you'd have a diamond.

Ferris: Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. 

Ultimately, I believe Ferris' actions stem from the fact that:
Ferris: I asked for a car, I got a computer. How's that for being born under a bad sign?

...and again speaking to the audience:
Ferris: I do have a test today, that wasn't bullshit. It's on European socialism. I mean, really, what's the point? I'm not European. I don't plan on being European. So who gives a crap if they're socialists? They could be fascist anarchists, it still doesn't change the fact that I don't own a car.

Ferris: Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me." Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off people.

Come back tomorrow for Part V: "Some Kind of Wonderful"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

John Hughes: My Teen Savior. Pretty In Pink

This is part III of my homage to filmmaker, John Hughes, who passed away Thursday, August 6th:

Pretty In PinkThe ultimate revenge is to live a happy life...

....and to get the rich guy and piss off all his a-hole rich kid friends, right?

Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) does just that in "Pretty In Pink".

New Wave girl, Andie is not a "richie" and doesn't care to fit in with the popular kids who ridicule her on a daily basis. Just like the rest of the kids on the outer rim, Andie just wants to be accepted for who she is. Unfortunately, she is also ashamed of her family situation. Her mother skipped town and her father is jobless and depressed, leaving Andie to take over as "woman of the house" and sole bread winner. She's dealing with adult issues when she should really only be worrying about homework and boys. Two boys in particular. Duckie her best friend, who secretly loves her, and Blane, the "richie" she's got a crush on. And that, my friends, is where the drama starts.

First, let's talk about the fashion of Andie. Oh, how I loved her style, for which I'm certain Ringwald had plenty of input. I so wanted to be Andie. I loved her pink shabby chic (was that term even invented yet?) bedroom, her clothes, her pink car, and even the hip record store, Trax, where she worked. I mean, this girl was so very cool to me and, I'm sure, millions of teens around the world. How could James Spader's preppie bad-boy character, Steff, NOT want her? She's a smart girl with self respect who doesn't fall for his lines or his fancy car. Of course, this is probably what makes Andie all the more desirable to a privileged guy like Steff. For teenage girls around the world it was an inspiration to watch. If anything, it taught us to have respect for ourselves and hold out for a good guy like Blane.

Yes, I know Blane (Andrew McCarthy) was the rich kid with a heart of gold. He really liked Andie as she was. He wasn't like his friend, Steff, who only wanted Andie so he could add another notch to his belt. I know all this, but to this day, I think Blane was too much of a wimp. There was really nothing there to explain why Andie would have a crush on him. And really, I don't remember any boys in my high school dressing up like Don Johnson in Miami Vice, but if they did, I wouldn't have given them a second look. Definitely not my style.

Now, Jon Cryer's character, Duckie? I can't say enough about Duckie. He was a stand out character that changed the face of teen movies for me. Probably the first time I realized that geek guys were cool. He had awesome quirky style. He was witty. He was funny. He was smart. And, he worshipped the ground Andie walked on. How could she not end up with him in the end? Yes, that's right. Did you know the original ending had Andie end up with Duckie? Seems that test audiences didn't like that so they changed it. When I think about it, this might explain my ho-hum feelings about Blane. See, I knew in my gut that she was supposed to end up with Duckie. I don't know about you, but I would love to see it as originally intended. Maybe it's on the DVD.* I'll have to check this out further.

For now, I'll just have to be happy that Andie made it to the prom and showed those "richies" who's boss.

Come back tomorrow for part IV: Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

*No, I don't have any of these films on DVD. I do, however, have my very own original VHS recordings I made oh-so-many years ago. You remember don't you? Back then we would set the VCR to EP (extended play) in order to cram three movies onto one VHS tape? Yeah, I thought you would. Well, I still have all those tapes from my youth. Yes, that means I still have a VCR, too.

Monday, August 10, 2009

John Hughes Tribute That You Must Read. If You Have A Heart.

I was going to wait until I completed my own homage, but I couldn't hold out any longer.

Saturday morning, when I started getting my thoughts together for my homage to John Hughes, I saw that one of my favorite bloggers, writer Ken Levine(M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier, among others), had just posted a new blog entry titled My Tribute To John Hughes (by someone else).

Of course, I had to stop what I was doing and take a look.

Allow me to quote Mr. Levine:

"I'm sure you've seen and read a gazillion tributes by now. So I want to share something different. This is a blog post by a fan who wrote Hughes a letter and became a pen pal. In this touching account of that relationship you'll hear his own words and see his actual handwriting."

I clicked over to the post he was referring to and started reading the account of Alison Byrne Fields. The first thing I thought was, "What a pushy kid she was?". Well, I'm glad I kept reading. It just reassured me that I wasn't being silly for doing my own homage to John Hughes. He really was a special man.

You can read that tribute here: Sincerely, John Hughes

photo property of We'll Know When We Get There
You can listen to Alison Byrne Fields being interviewed on NPR.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

John Hughes: My Teen Savior. The Breakfast Club

I'm continuing my personal homage to the films of John Hughes, who passed away Thursday, August 6th.

The Breakfast ClubThis is, for me, the best of Hughes' teen films. He had me from the opening with the following screen caption:

"And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds;are immune to your consultations, they are quite aware of what they are going through." -David Bowie

Five high school kids have Saturday detention, and from the start, each character's perspective is revealed to us as their not-so-happy parents drop them off. Well, except for John Bender (Judd Nelson), who arrives alone, fittingly, by foot.

The setting, in the school's library, where most of the action takes place, is just closed off enough to remind one of the isolation each teen feels in their own worlds. The only other characters they interact with through the rest of the movie being Mr. Vernon the detention teacher, played by Paul Gleason, and Carl the janitor, played by John Kapelos.

I loved every word uttered in this film. Every scene was played with truth by each actor. Even Paul Gleason was on the money with his characterization of the vile Mr. Vernon. I hated him from the depths of my being the moment he stepped onto the screen and pitied his small mind by the end.

Of all John Hughes' characters, in all his films, Ally Sheedy's character, Allison, ("the basket case") is the one I most identify with. The funny thing is I never realized it until years later. No, I wasn't a klepto or a pathological liar, and my parents never neglected me. BUT, I did hide my face behind my hair, wore big, baggy clothes/dresses that hid my figure, and most importantly, didn't care if I was different from everyone else or if I stood out like a sore thumb. I actually relished being different, even odd. I'm kind of proud of that now. I never wanted to look or act like everyone else. I never had the desire to "fit in".

I must admit, though, that when Allison blossoms with the help of Claire (Molly Ringwald), and attracts the attention of Andrew (Emilio Estevez), my teenage heart melted. I felt a ray of hope that the same thing might actually happen to me. Though, I would have much rather gained the attention of misunderstood bad-boy, John Bender (Judd Nelson).

John Hughes wrote some of the best dialogue that millions of fans find themselves quoting to this day. Most of the best lines, I think, are given to bad-boy Bender, of course.

Here are just a few that I love:

Bender comparing brainy Brian's academic clubs to what Claire describes as her more "social" clubs:
Bender: So it's sort of social. Demented and sad, but social, right?
Bender to Mr. Vernon:
Bender: How come Andrew gets to get up? If he gets up, we'll all get up, IT'LL BE ANARCHY!

Bender to Brian:
Bender: But face it, you're a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.

After Brian laments his "F" in shop class:
Bender: Why'd you think it'd be easy?
Brian: Have you seen some of the dopes that take shop?
Bender: I take shop. You must be a f*ckin' idiot!
Brian: I'm a f*ckin' idiot because I can't make a lamp?
Bender: No, you're a genius because you can't make a lamp.
Brian: What do you know about Trigonometry?
Bender: I could care less about Trigonometry.
Brian: Bender, did you know without Trigonometry there'd be no engineering?
Bender: Without lamps, there'd be no light.

Allison, just being Allison:
Allison: You wanna know what I did to get in here? Nothing; I didn't have anything better to do.

Oh, man, I could go on and on with this. Every line in this film is quotable.

It's such a touching portrait of each kid. It was comforting to watch these kids open themselves up to each other. To find that, no matter your family background or which high school clique you belonged to (or didn't belong to), we all have our own issues. All of us. No one comes out of life unscathed, especially from our teen years. Everyone has their own unique back-story. These five kids were brought together and were able, for one afternoon, to see past the stereotypes.

And of course, at the end, we have the required essay to Mr. Vernon, written by Brian on behalf of them all:

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is...
...a brain...(Brian Johnson)
...and an athlete...(Andrew Clark)
...and a basket case...(Allison Reynolds)
...a princess...(Claire Standish)
...and a criminal...(John Bender)
Does that answer your question?... Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

Come back tomorrow for Part III: Pretty In Pink.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

John Hughes: My Teen Savior. Sixteen Candles

As I'm sure you all know, writer/director John Hughes passed away Thursday. I don't have much to say except to acknowledge how this man's films got me through my teen years.

Let's just take a look back at some of my favorite John Hughes films:

Sixteen Candles
Sam (Molly Ringwald) is excited about her sweet 16 until she realizes her family has completely forgotten her birthday in all the frenzy over her older sister's wedding, which is taking place the following day.

Life is dramatic enough to a teenager. Here, all those hilarious and embarrassing little moments are perfectly illustrated in Sam's interactions with her family. If that isn't enough, things aren't any easier at school, where Sam's day snowballs from one humiliating event to another.

Fortunately, my family never forgot my birthday and I never got felt up by my grandmother, but the rest of Sam's teen angst I could completely relate to and empathize with.

How John Hughes got into the minds of millions of teenaged girls, I don't know, but he nailed it.

The quotes for this movie are endless, as usual for a John Hughes film, so I'll just leave you with this one, which kind of encapsulates the whole movie:

The Geek: [Farmer Ted is in Jake's dad car. Jake just saw he and Caroline kissing] I'm dead.
[the phone rings and he answers it]
The Geek: Hello?
Cliff: Ted, you never called us back. What happened?
The Geek: Look, wheez, I told you not to call me here.
Cliff: Ted, we're dying, what happened?
The Geek: You wanna know what happened? Buy the book! 

Yeah, you wanna know what happens? Watch the movie!

Come back tomorrow for Part II: The Breakfast Club. DESCRIPTION
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