Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Blaine? His name is Blaine? That's not a name it's a major appliance!"

To those of you out there who recognize this as one of Duckie's lines from Pretty In Pink, today is a sad day. John Hughes, responsible for Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and others, passed away today while taking a morning walk in Manhattan. He was only 59.

When I read the Twitter post saying he'd died, my mind immediately flooded with flashes from his movies, like a montage on a highlight reel. Looking back, his movies definitely impacted me and most of my friends. (One of my college roommates would constantly get her hair cut to whatever Molly Ringwald's current style was.) The thing that I recall most vividly was how he managed to capture our angst and awkwardness. I imagine most grown-ups back then thought these movies were just drivel, but to those of us in our teens, they made us feel less alone, less like we were the only ones who had to deal with the indignities of high school and growing up.

To my mind, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Great Outdoors are two of Hughes' funniest works. There's nothing that I can say about Ferris that hasn't been (or won't soon be) said by myriad others in their tributes to Hughes. I'll only say that going to college in Chicago we'd make pilgrimages to some of the key scene locations in the film and recite the lines. John Hughes loved Chicago and that region was always an additional character in each film.

The Great Outdoors is for me almost as funny as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (which never fails to make me laugh till I practically cry). John Candy was such a good physical comic and the relationship between Candy and Dan Ackroyd is quite funny, too. I'd best most families have an uncle/brother-in-law like Ackroyd's 'Roman' character. You know, the one who puts on airs and is generally a jackass until some sort of revelation is made causing a cathartic change. Every family has one :) This movie is silly, and silly is good sometimes. Obviously it's not great art or anything, but it's a good honest laugh and we all need those now and then. My favorite scene features the raccoons scavenging through the garbage and repeating Dan Ackroyd's comment about what hot dogs are made of. I'm happy to say that this description is still in use today in the PaperTyger mother likes the occasional hot dog and even at my advanced age I love teasing her and calling them 'lips and assholes.'

As I said up the page a bit, one of my college roommates was a diehard Molly Ringwald fan so Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club were required watching on the Sony Betamax I took to school with me. Yes, a Betamax. (Haven't seen that reference in print for a while, have you??) What young girl didn't want Jake (from Sixteen Candles) waiting for them? And who didn't want a boyfriend like Andrew McCarthy's 'Blaine' (Blaine at the end, not in the middle of the movie when he was a total coward) who totally cut the snobby James Spader's 'Stef' down to size with his line..."You couldn't buy her, though, that's what's killing you, isn't it? Stef? That's it, Stef. She thinks you're shit. And deep down, you know she's right." Bam, take that Stef!! (Is it just me or is Spader's character an eerie precursor to most of the Gossip Girl male cast???) And then there's the heartbreaker, the scene where Andie (Molly Ringwald) and Duckie (the hilarious Jon Cryer) have a confrontation over Blaine. Duckie says what most of us fantasize about saying to someone we feel has misused our feelings, "Well, that's very nice. I'm glad. Well here's... here's the point, Andie. I'm not particularly concerned with whether or not you like me, because I live to like you and... and I can't like you anymore. So... so when you're feeling real low and... and dirty, and your heart is splattered all over hell, don't look to me to pump you back up 'cause... 'cause... 'cause maybe for the first time in your life I WON'T BE THERE!" Enough said.

I guess at the end of the day I look back and feel like Hughes' movies were a real part of my growing up. To those of us of a certain vintage, his films were major milestones on the coming-of-age road. The characters had the same problems as most of us had--from not being one of the "haves" in high school, to a pretty interesting and often accurate portrayal of the various cliques. We recognized our friends, and ourselves, in the characters and casts.

And the music? Absolutely the soundtrack of a section of my life. Echo and The Bunnymen, OMD, The Smiths, Simple Minds, so much great music. I can't hear If You Leave or Don't You Forget About Me, to this day, without thinking of the last few minutes of Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club. It's wonderful to have his movies to look back on and revisit some part of our youth. Reveling in the days when a boy not liking us or playing hooky from school were our biggest worries; the salad teenage days of being concerned by cliques and fitting in.

Like Ferris said, and it is as sound now--advice wise--as it was then, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Thank you, John Hughes, for the memorable lines, beloved characters, and soundtracks that imprinted upon my 1980s formative years and beyond. Requiescat in pacem, John Hughes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post about a great filmmaker. Fallen hero. Awesome quotes regarding Ducky. Did you see the Teenage Wasteland video montage? Breaks my heart.