Tuesday, May 31, 2011

John Hughes In-Depth: A Sneak Peak

Probably the most appealing thing about John Hughes's teen movies (with the exception of 1985's Weird Science) is that they're not just teen movies for their own sake. These are films that feature real characters with real problems. And they are stories that transcend the genre and make said films believable.

Sixteen Candles

For instance, Sixteen Candles (1984) deals with the contrast between expectations and disappointments (not to mention familial embarrassments), in addition to romantic idealism (i.e., Jake Ryan) and relationships. In The Breakfast Club (1985), there are differences as well, only in the form of high school cliques (the brain, the jock, the princess, the rebel, the recluse). Along with said differences are characters' pressures from different angles, within family and within society. The film also challenges its viewers in standing up for friendships and committing to them.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Like Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) is played for laughs, but it regards one's notion of freedom and, more specifically, making the most of life instead of missing out on it. It could be debated about the intention of this message and whether or not we should empathize with the title character (that's just my opinion). Even so, it presents an insight into how one develops courage and willingness (in this case, Cameron) to "take a stand" against the very things that are weighing on him (e.g., Cameron's dad's pressure and neglect on him and his mother).

Lastly, there's Pretty and Pink (1986) and Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)--two films that are similar in plot, but reversed in terms of gender, social, and sexual identity. Both films also deal with the notion of teen romance and idealism, such as the way Molly Ringwald's Andie views Andrew McCarthy's Blaine (Pink) and the way Eric Stoltz's Keith views Lea Thompson's Amanda (Wonderful). On the other side of each triangle is the outcast that has a hidden admiration for the central character--in Pink's case, it's Jon Cryer's Duckie, and in Wonderful's case, it's Mary Stuart Masterson's Watts.

Each film, in many ways, is the same. On the other hand, they arguably deal with different themes, such as social class, sexual identity (i.e., the way Watts dresses and acts), and choices in life (i.e., Keith's decision to hold off on college). With these ideas in mind, Pink and Wonderful could be viewed as John Hughes's most dramatic and thematic pieces (alongside The Breakfast Club). They also stand as landmarks in an era where such stories carried an exceptional quality that allowed intended viewers (teenagers) to identify with their characters and each took their subject matter seriously. It is also one of the many reasons John Hughes's legacy and influence lives.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Necessity (and Discernment) of Criticism

I used to think movie critics were just snobs, that they didn't really care about movies, and more specifically those that people loved. When I watched or listened to reviews by Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper in high school, I would either hope their views or opinions on certain movies would go along with my own, or I would boo either critic (or bother) that snubbed a film they hated and I liked, or I would applaud either critic (or both) for a film they (and myself) thought was equally great.

In retrospect (and to paraphrase writer Jeffrey Overstreet), I have come to understand that film critics (and critics in general) actually serve many purposes and levels of significance in our culture and in our world. And although we may not always agree with critics for different or specific reasons, it’s interesting to hear their perspectives and opinions. It is also a good way to practice defending our own views, discerning which views to follow or support, and so forth.

It also recalls the difference between what is “popular” and what is considered, quite appropriately and honestly, “good”. Look at the box office, for instance. What kinds of films make the top of these lists? What does that tell you? Does said list make these films worth seeing?

What about films that are good for many, many appropriate reasons? Look at Pixar, for example. In the last fifteen to twenty years, perhaps no other studio has achieved the kind of success and has maintained and progressed on a legacy that began with the Disney Studio (from with many of the original Pixar animators started out). Looking back at their 80s animated shorts (Luxo Jr., 1986; Tin Toy, 1988), their first feature film (Toy Story, 1995), and more specifically their last four films (2007’s Ratatouille to last year’s record-breaking Toy Story 3), Pixar has sustained a rare quality that has garnered universal appeal and praise from both audiences and critics with great characters and stories that always managed to give them their money’s worth.

Overall, don’t believe everything you hear from critics. On the other hand, you can still learn from them, as well as practice defending or supporting your own views. And remember to be wise and discerning when it comes to such.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Updates, and John Hughes

I'll be honest, when I'm on the computer and feel some interest in blogging/writting about recent things, I tend to surf the Internet more than write about what I read on the Internet. And it should come as no surprise, on the same note, that the Internet sidetracks me (as it sidetracks all of us from time to time). Like tonight, for instance: I typed a few sentences and paragraphs/sections from Susannah Gora's 2010 biography text, titled "You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried." This book talks about influential teen movies from the 1980s, specifically the films of the late John Hughes. For the last few weeks, I have focused part of my attention and research on Mr. Hughes's work and biography. Within that time, I've watched just about every teen movie he's ever made--from Sixteen Candles (1984) to Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)--and just about every film he's directed--minus 1987's Planes, Trains & Automobiles (which is one of the next films on my list, along with Home Alone [1990] and a few of the family comedies Hughes wrote and produced in the 90s). Anyway, after I typed some notes from said text, I ended up surfing You Tube and watching trailer and videos for some of the latter films. And believe me, I can certainly overwhelm myself with such surfing and mental digesting.

However, this is not to say that I am not careful about what I watch, listen to, or look at online. I have become a very discerning person over the last two year, in all honesty! At the same time, some people may question my motives, regarding recent films I've reviewed on Facebook, or a recent song I've heard on the radio, for instance. But being the film buff and (now-growing) intellectual person I'm becoming, I remind myself at times to prepare myself for discussing something with somebody (even though I;ve only had very few opportunies with friends and relatives, and not with people I haven't met and such).

Furthermore, I am generally not for absolutes--that is, things done for thier own sake, such as swearing or "mindless" entertainment. I want to be able to talk about things and discuss them with people. This is especially essential for movies, on my part.

(l to r) Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy,
Molly Ringwald, and Anthony Michael Hall
in The Breakfast Club

In the case of John Hughes, his teen movies are not just teen movies for their own sake. His portrayals of young people growing up into new phases of life remains influential. I am inspired by the honesty and sincerity he brought to his original stories and characters--their emotions, their angst, their conflicts, their hearts. Even more, the depth and realism he gave his characters are part of the reason his films are exceptional. The Breakfast Club (1985), in my opinion, is his best work, because of the way the characters talk, the way they dress, the music they listen to, where they come from, who they are, and where their hearts are at. This is not to say that John Hughes's films are wholesome; they do have their problems when it comes to certain content such as occassional language, sexual-related issues/themes, teen-angst, and specific conflicts. Those elements notwithstanding, a majority of Hughes's teen films present authentic and honest portraits of American teens in the 80s.