Friday, August 7, 2009

Don't You Forget About Me: A JOHN HUGHES Tribute, and More!

Sweet, a very much-needed weekend is about to commence. This was a long week, to be sure. I feel like I haven't even had a real moment yet to just relax and catch up from my San Digeo trip and other recent adventures. This past week, there was, well, a lot going on. For one thing, there is the ongoing drama of if/when/how my brother Matt will be moving to LA from the east coast. I won't go into the details suffice it to say the whole thing is a bit of a cluster. Meanwhile, I went to the doctor's office on Monday where I was told I might have a torn ligament in my ankle. So today I went to an imaging lab for the MRI, which honestly was really nothing. I didn't really know what to expect, so I was probably expecting the worse, but really it was just lying there for twenty minutes with my foot in a brace. Kind of relaxing, actually. But yeah, Monday or Tuesday I should know the results of the MRI, so, yeah, to be continued. Add in an LA visit from some east-coast cousins on Thursday night, and as you can see it was a jam-packed week. But, I now feel like I've gotten over the hump, so to speak, and am ready to get back on track. Not that I've been off-track, per se, but I may just be specifically thinking of my apartment, which has looked like a disaster area this entire week due to neglect and lack of cleaning on my part.

Okay, I'm really starting to ramble now.

So let's focus for a second and talk about the movies. Like I said recently on the ol' blog, this August is ridiculously packed with unusually promising late-summer releases. District 9, Inglorious Basterds, and GI JOE, which man, I have to admit, I am pretty darn psyched to see tonight. My brother saw an early screening yesterday and reported back that the movie was bad and yet awesome, which is basically what I've been hoping for. I feel like it will have those super-cheesy yet super-cool moments that will make my inner ten year old feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Plus, I actually was a pretty big GI JOE fan as a kid. I used to watch the cartoon every weekend and thrilled to the adventures of Duke, Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, and Destro. Seeing a live-action Snake Eyes alone (played by Ray Park, no less), is guaranteed geek-out material.

In other movie news, I do want to talk about something slightly more serious, for a second ...


- I was completely saddened to hear about the news of John Hughes' passing yesterday afternoon. It was one of those news items that instantly hit me hard to the point where it was difficult to continue with work for awhile after reading some of the tributes and obituaries. John Hughes was, certainly, one of *the* absolute great writers and directors of comedy movies. More than that, his movies were so unmatched and so influential that I don't know if there's any other director who is so continually sighted as a chief creative influence. There's a direct lineage from Hughes to Judd Apatow, to Kevin Smith. In fact, practically every teen movie that's come out in a post-Hughes world owes him a direct debt of gratitude. And yet, so many teen movies today fail to live up to the high standards set by Hughes. But those that do - like this year's Adventureland, for example - take heed of the example set by the great teen movies of the 80's - The Breakfast Club, Feris Bueller, Sixteen Candles, and so many others that Hughes had a hand in. Those movies aren't just slapstick comedies - they are, in their own right, epic adventures. To me, The Breakfast Club is and may always be *the* seminal teen movie of all time, because it so memorably treated high school as the dangerous jungle that it is. This was not the shiny and happy high school of Grease - The Breakfast Club was a place where the humor was awkward, the stakes high, the characters not what they seemed. High school has its caste system, and yet every single teenager can relate the characters in The Breakfast Club, because every teen wants to be more than just a "type." Hughes' magnum opus deconstructed the old high school stereotypes and accomplished a remarkable feat - you related to ALL of the characters - whether you yourself were the nerd, the jock, or the freak. Hughes' ear for dialogue, his brilliant sense of humor, to me it set the standard for everything from Freaks & Geeks to Mean Girls to Superbad.

Personally, I know that a lot of my creative endeavors have been heavily influenced by Hughes. I think part of what I love about his movies is how easily they combine humor with real drama and pathos. As a writer, sometimes you want to do something that's funny but that also has some real poignancy behind the laughs. Something that feels real and authentic despite the humor. To me, Hughes trademarked that combination - few others since have ever been able to match it. Because even though we now tend to think of teen comedies as some of the most Hollywood-ish, written-by-committee films out there, Hughes had such a distinct voice as a writer, such a knack for characters, and such an authentic-seeming vision, that his best movies all pretty much seem like the work of a true auteur.

But hey, Hughes didn't just make great teen comedies. He wrote one of the funniest family movies ever in National Lampoon's Vacation - a movie that will be quoted and referenced from now until the end of time. And then there is Home Alone. When I was a kid - and I think this is true for many of my generation - this was my absolute favorite movie ever made. I watched it over and over and over again and it cracked me up everytime. It was one of the few movies I owned on VHS tape. I mean, sure, it's cheesy, but it's definitely a modern-day kids n' family classic. And again, that was Hughes.

Hughes had been retired and out of the spotlight for some time, but at age 59, he was still taken far too early. You always thought that the guy had a couple of more great movies still in him somewhere, and that it was only a matter of time until a comeback of sorts took place. But Hughes is one of those filmmakers who was so singular and so influential that he will be talked about and referenced for as long as people are telling stories about teenagers and teenaged wastelands. Because, man, he create the template. The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and Pretty in Pink - basically four of the all-time quintissential 80's teen movies, forever associated with 80's Brat Pack nostalgia. Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Hughes' great teen hero character will forever be an icon. National Lampoon's Vacation - a bonafide Chevy Chase Classic. Home Alone - who doesn't love this movie? And those are just a few of the highlights.

So thank you John Hughes. I have a feeling there will be many a movie-marathon this weekend in your honor.

- Annnnd with that, let the weekend commence. Stay tuned for a GI JOE review, and much more.

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