John Hughes, the poet laureate of teen angst, died today. He had not directed a film in twelve years, nor one with any real impact in nearly twenty years. Still, his passing saddens me more than other recent celebrity deaths. I can easily forgive Hughes for the Home Alone films and dismal John Candy vehicles because he gave my generation some remarkable touchstones. Starting with Sixteen Candles, Hughes made a string of films that captured the mindset of Gen X better than any other films of the time. The films were so good, so popular, that they almost seemed to be reflecting the culture and creating it at the same time. Alas, I'm not much of a star-****er, so instead of droning on about how Hughes enriched my soul or some nonsense, I'll just comment on the Hughes films everyone should watch in his memory.
Sixteen Candles--Molly Ringwald was so damned adorable as Sam Baker that it was nearly impossible not to feel for her as the events of the film unfolded. The film hits very predictable buttons as the cool, smart girl is pushed to the background because attention is focused on her pretty, popular sister. Still, every note is nearly perfect, and the image of Sam and Jake kissing over her lit birthday cake is one of the 80s most iconic.
The Breakfast Club--watch this one for the wonderful perfomances by the entire cast (some perhaps a bit broad, but still endearing) and for some of the best integration of pop music in cinema history. Also, nothing says more about the way the masculine image was beginning to change than Bender removing his earing and giving it to Claire.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off--okay, tough call here. Ferris Bueler's Day Off is not nearly as good or as impactful as the first two films. In fact, in my experience, viewers without nostalgia for the film or at least the period don't enjoy the it very much. It has certainly dated worse than the two films above. Ferris is far less likeable than we thought he was back then. He's basically a smart ass who thinks he has all the answers and nearly ruins his best friend's life. Still, in a lot of ways, he was the kid all of us wanted to be. He was smooth, rebellious, and dating Mia Sara. Most of all, the film should be watched for brilliant comedic performances from the supporting cast and the lovingly crafted tour of one of America's great cities.
So there it is, my little John Hughes Film festival. If instead you end up watching Home Alone, Career Opportunities and Uncle Buck, don't blame me.