Friday, August 7, 2009

John Hughes

Between Michael Jackson and Hughes, a whole lot of the 80’s died this summer.

I can’t help but feel a little hypocritical writing a tribute to John Hughes. While I’ve never actively disliked Hughes, I can’t say I ever really cared about him either. He’s like the Aerosmith of film directors. Not bad, but never anywhere near transcendent, with some embarrassing steps in their later careers that make you have second thoughts about just what it was you liked about them in the first place.

Still there’s no way to deny that Hughes death came as a shock to me. Hughes was truly ubiquitous in American pop culture in a way that very few directors ever have. He joins that small list of filmmakers like Spielberg and Capra, who truly have their name above the title. One of the few who anybody, no matter how little they cared or knew about movies knew who he was and what a film by him meant.

Most of the obits point to Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as Hughes enduring work, but my favorite has always been Sixteen Candles, his loosest and funniest piece. While I admire both as quality pieces of Hollywood craftsmanship neither ever really broke the skin with me. Which in all fairness is part of the Hughes appeal, just how easy this stuff goes down, complaining about how Hughes goes down smooth is like complaining that Coke does, or course it does, that's why everybody likes it. Despite it’s iconic feel The Club always felt a bit too calculated to me (again, duh) and for all the charms of Ms. Sheedy in that film, I still can’t help but kind of shake my head at the films “big” moments like Judd Nelson’s dance of anger, which even at thirteen struck me as profoundly silly.

I’ve always found the more grey shaded Pretty In Pink, just as I prefer the looser more manic Sixteen Candles to the calculated Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The problem with pointing out these kind of flaws in a Hughes movie, is that their faults are too tightly intertwined in their pleasures. Are they contrived, simplistic, calculated, yeah but who the fuck cares. As Woody Allen said in Annie Hall art is often just there to potray how life should be. And John Hughes potrayed the way life should be to a whole lot of people. You can’t discount that.

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