Friday, August 7, 2009

MMM Remembers John Hughes

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Anytime a 59-year-old man dies, it's a tragedy. And so first and foremost, on that basic human level, I was very saddened to hear of John Hughes's death yesterday. But beyond that, as a film fan, a writer, a journalist (more or less), I've been trying to weigh out what exactly Hughes meant to me as an artist.

There a plenty of people who have expressed their unequivocal love for Hughes's oeuvre as a writer and director (I defer to Drew McWeeny at Hitfix and Massawyrm at AICN), especially those that fall into what can only be described as "A John Hughes film", not only to denote his involvement as a director, writer or producer, but to suggest a tone and setting.

Shermer, Illinois and the pubescent turmoil of high school. The films teeter between adolescent wish-fulfillment (Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and the slightly more melodramatic tales of misunderstood teenagers (the "trilogy", Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink).

I can't claim to hands down, absolutely adore any one of these films. I'm not sure I completely agree with the numerous assertions that Hughes completely nailed what it is to be a teenager, because let's face it - the aforementioned films are of there time, and therefore, give a tidier reconstruction of adolescence.

Yet, at the same time, there's no denying that these films have affected me - as a writer, a consumer of film and probably as a teenager to some degree. Because all these Hughes films were basically required viewing by the time you were 12-years-old, they inevitably impacted my generation's expectations (for better or worse) of those high school years.

If I'm not falling over in praise for Hughes's work, I'm not condemning it either. In the evolution of the American teen film mythos -- something I've tried to work out for term papers and in my own writing -- Hughes is an essential piece in the puzzle.

Never mind that his films stand above any of the garbage that gets filed under teen film today, or that he was outdone in his own time by Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a film that gives a more realistic, R-rated portrayal of high school (because life, as Judd Apatow once asserted, is R-rated). A "John Hughes film" has become nearly synonymous with those formative years (and also, the 1980s in whole), and whether we agree with it or not, these movies are a part of our cultural language.

Just listen to M83. Or watch Dazed and Confused or Adventureland. Hughes film made his mark. And given everything I've said about not being the biggest fan of any one of his movies, it's rare I'll turn off any one of them when flipping channels.

Blame it on nostalgia for youth or something like that.

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