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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." — Ferris Bueller

I first heard about the passing of John Hughes today in a "tweet." It's the same way that I heard about Michael Jackson. It's funny to think about how far we've come since the eighties. I imagine a Breakfast Club of detentionees nowadays would remain isolated from one another if left alone in the library -- still linked to their respective cliques via small, easy-to-hide mobile devices.
The "groundbreaking" soul-baring discussion among the brain, the athlete, the princess, the criminal, and the basket-case might never have occurred. We might never have seen how we are truly one and the same.
That is what John Hughes movies did. Apart from entertaining us and giving us some of the most quotable lines ever ("Could you describe the ruckus, sir?"), the John Hughes movie (and its many copycats) leveled the playing field.
Amid the slapstick and wisecracks and occasional gross-out humor (tame by today's standards), John Hughes showed us the humanity that existed under all of the other crap. In a world where we constantly try to define ourselves by how we are not like this person or that person, Hughes manages -- usually in the last fifteen minutes of the movie -- to say, "Guess again."
Most John Hughes films usually end up on a movie buff's "guilty pleasure" list, but, if we look past the iconic clothing and pop music -- always there for a reason -- these are really some of the best stories to have made it to film. What adversity teaches us about ourselves and our place in the world is a central theme of Home Alone, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, National Lampoon's Vacation, and Sixteen Candles.
As a stage director, I am always looking for the "heart" of the story I'm telling, whether it's a silly spoof, heavy drama, light musical, or something else entirely. I learned this from, of all places, Uncle Buck. While we all may remember from that movie things like "the mole scene", or "the clown scene", or "the golf club scene", what makes that movie a favorite among millions (whether we admit it or not) is its heart.
Spielberg brought us aliens, Scorsese brought us gangsters, but John Hughes brought us something that was ever more fantastic for us to see on-screen. He brought us ourselves.
Thank you, Mr. Hughes.

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