Friday, August 7, 2009

John Hughes: Talkin' bout my generation

PhotobucketRaise a glass to John Hughes, who crafted the movies that defined the 1980s for many of us and died suddenly today at just 59. For those of us of a certain age, he was kind of our Coppola or Kubrick, lofty as it might sound. "Sixteen Candles," The Breakfast Club," "Pretty In Pink," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" -- it is hard to imagine surviving being a teenager in the 1980s without Hughes' warm and kind of comforting films, which reassured us that being a teenager was often silly and comic and strange, but ultimately survivable. We were all a bit of geek Anthony Michael Hall, jock Emilio Estevez, freak Ally Sheedy, princess Molly Ringwald, stoner Judd Nelson.

The movies are all kind of old-fashioned and hokey -- in a really good way. They felt genuine, even if they really weren't -- Hughes characters were the way we wanted to be, in the 1980s, smart and funny and ironic and always getting the girl (or boy) in the end. He gave John Candy his best role in the buddy pic "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," and I honestly don't think Matthew Broderick has ever topped "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." And "Pretty In Pink" stands out as one of the first movies I ever saw with an actual (gulp) girl, and I can't listen to songs like "If You Leave" without having that lovelorn 15-year-old geek in me clench up the heartstrings a bit.

Hughes wasn't a master filmmaker - I loathe the gimmicky "Home Alone" movies he did - but he managed to tap into the zeitgeist, I think. Hughes just sort of faded away by the 1990s, more or less retiring and becoming a bit of a recluse with only a handful of movies like the mediocre "Flubber" and "Drillbit Taylor" to his credit; the last movie he actually directed was 1991's lame "Curly Sue." His very best films were the ones he was a director as well as a writer on, so it's a shame he never really returned to the game. But maybe he said all he had to say with his run of a half-dozen comedies in the 1980s.

Either way, RIP, Mr. Hughes -- your movies helped shape an awful lot of our lives in the ages of acid-wash jeans, hair spray and cassingles. It's a terrible cliche, but we won't forget about you.

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