Wednesday, August 12, 2009

John Hughes 1950-2009

I became a teenager in the early 1980s and the teen comedy/drama may have hit its apex in that decade thanks to John Hughes. Teen marketed films released now pale mightily from what he did in terms of wit, charm, humor, romance and idealized realism. If you were alive and young in the 1980s, you were taken into the world of Hughes no matter your cultural leanings. His impact on what my friends and I watched was unavoidable as he unleashed film after film that made us laugh, made us feel connected to other teens, made us have serious crushes and entertained us. It's with great sadness that I write this as Hughes recently died of a heart attack.

Hughes' fingerprints are all over numerous classic films from 1983 to 1990 as a writer or director (sometimes both): Mr. Mom, Vacation, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, European Vacation, Weird Science, Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful, Planes Trains & Automobiles, She's Having A Baby, The Great Outdoors, Uncle Buck, Christmas Vacation and Home Alone. All of those films in only eight years. Eight years!

Go over that list of films again and let it sink in. Hughes started to lose me toward the end of the list but nine out of the first ten are undeniable comedic benchmarks for the time (European Vacation is the lone exception). That's nine out of ten films (some might say ten out of ten) where Hughes just nailed it. Nine. Try doing anything nine times out of ten, it's a hard percentage to maintain with something small, now imagine nine out of ten when involved in massive creative endeavors. And to think this is the fickle, unpredictable world of Hollywood that Hughes accomplished this in? That makes it all the more amazing.

Even a couple of his later decade films I've always loved simply because Hughes put one of my favorites, John Candy, in a lead role. While Planes, Trains & Automobiles is worth watching repeatedly, lesser films like The Great Outdoors and Uncle Buck aren't considered "classic" like some of the earlier films, yet I think they are worth seeing as part of the Hughes/Candy trilogy of the period. Actually, I really like Uncle Buck a lot now that I think about it. Hughes also helped create the brat pack group in the '80s by casting a revolving group of young actors for his films. Most of their careers hit the skids the second he stopped writing material for them as they got older.

The John Hughes of my youth has long since gone as once the 1990s came he stopped writing/ directing films that entertained me or got to me. But, in the 1980s, particularly the early to mid 1980s--John Hughes owned me as much as any mainstream filmmaker could.


Anonymous said...

well-written, friend - sd

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

I'm thinking of breaking out some of these for SJ's Must See list as she's seen very few of them. Sixteen Candles at least.

Anonymous said...

Great idea! Is she too young for them? Wow!