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Friday, August 7, 2009

Don't You Forget About Him: Our Favorite Films By John Hughes

Oddly this is Channel Surfing's 700th post -- which isn't really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but serves as a nice round number for a much-needed tribute to John Hughes. Even though a recent slew of celebrity deaths would appear to have made us immune to sudden shock and loss, Hughes' death on Thursday is pretty significant in our pop culture bubble.

Bloggers Sara Boyd, Malavika Jagannathan and Thomas Rozwadowski definitely feel a little bit older today having rummaged through an archive of childhood memories tied to Hughes writing, directing or producing so many fantastic films. Here are some of their favorites.

"Sixteen Candles," 1984

I still have a giant crush on Jake Ryan. I think I will for the rest of my life. While most movies in the '80s feature "studs" that are in no way studly today (no offense, Andrew McCarthy), "Sixteen Candles" featured one of the best high school crushes of all time.

But that's only one reason I love this famed Hughes movie. Beyond featuring the extremely relatable and lovable Molly Ringwald and uber-dork Anthony Michael Hall (pre-"Breakfast Clubbing"), the movie gave teenage girls something to yearn for and our first taste of "Hey, maybe all guys aren't just into bimbo blondes." The movie was spot on from the note passing gone awry to the scene where Sam gets felt up by her grandma, wondering how things are "developing."

And then there's the endless awesomeness of Long Duk Dong. What starts out as a simple concept of a family who has forgotten their child's 16th birthday quickly develops into a statement about the struggles of the teenage years -- no doubt a subject Hughes was a genius in portraying.

Favorite quotes:

"Donger's here for five hours and he's got somebody. I live here my whole life, and I'm like a disease."


"Yes, mawwied!"

"Relax, would you? We have seventy dollars and a pair of girls underpants. We're safe as kittens."

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off," 1986

The fact that to this day when someone doesn't answer you, the typical response is "Bueller? ... Bueller?" should say something about the magnificent presence of this classic '80s film. It should also be noted that I include this gem in my all-time favorite movies list. No matter what Matthew Broderick does, I will always think of him as Ferris Bueller. And I think that's quite the compliment.

Hughes again had such a genius way of taking the most simple concept -- a slacker senior decides to skip school -- and turn it into something so meaningful and spectacular. If you're going to skip school, this is truly the way to do it -- go big, or go home. The characters in this story are possibly my favorite of all Hughes' casts. You have Alan Ruck playing Cameron Frye, the loyal yet sometimes socially inept straight arrow (who's actually taking a legit sick day), Jennifer Grey (pre-nose job) playing the "life's not fair" younger sibling, and Jeffrey Jones as the best-reason-to-skip-school-ever creepy principal Ed Rooney. It seems like a strange concept today, but the element of Ferris talking to the audience adds so much, and in my opinion, has never been successfully done since. I could watch this film over and over again. Truly unforgettable.

Favorite quotes:

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

"You wear too much eye makeup. My sister wears too much. People think she's a whore." -- Awesome Charlie Sheen cameo, aka: dude at the police station

"You fake a stomach cramp, and when you're bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It's a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school."

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," 1989

Every year at Thanksgiving, my family has a tradition of watching "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." We do it every single year -- and we always, always laugh. We could probably recite the movie line-for-line and yet it still draws a chuckle from us like we are watching it for the first time. Perhaps that's because the Griswold family is much like our own -- dysfunctional, yet lovable.

For me, hands down this is the best "National Lampoon's" movie. It's not even close. No one can come close to the grotesque and oh-so-hickish Cousin Eddie. And sweet Aunt Bethany always cracks me up. It's such a perfect portrait of what can go wrong if half your family should have been locked in a loony bin. And oddly enough, nothing can put me in the holiday spirit quite like "Christmas Vacation." In fact, just thinking about hilarious scenes already has me looking forward to Thanksgiving.

Favorite quotes:

"Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?"

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America ... " -- Aunt Bethany's Christmas prayer

"Curly Sue," 1991

Even though Jim Belushi has ruined his career telling the world about his life "According to Jim," I will always have a special place for him because of his role in "Curly Sue." As Bill, a homeless man raising young Curly Sue, he was completely lovable, even through swindling the rich and scamming the upper class.

"Curly Sue" was one of my early all-time favorite movies. The story had heart, lots of it, and yet kept things light and not too serious. You never feel bad for Bill and Curly Sue, even though they're about as down on their luck as two people could be. Instead, you find yourself feeling bad for the rich, like Grey Ellison, who has all the money in the world but not a fraction of the joy and laughter that Bill and Curly Sue share. It's a super sweet movie that surprises you and gives you a fresh perspective on life -- and what defines true riches.

Favorite quotes:

"Look, no swearing, no gambling, no spitting, no punching, and no kicking, all right?"

"Put a sock in it, I know what I'm doing."

"The harder you hit me the more I'll know you love me."

-- Sara Boyd,

"Planes, Trains and Automobiles," 1987

Eminently quotable – if only for its wonderful Casio watch reference – “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is one of my favorite comedies of all-time. An anti-buddy flick until its heartwarming end, the film matched a surly Steve Martin with the jolly-as-always John Candy when both were in their comedy primes. The basic plot finds humorless Neal Page (Martin as straight man) trying to make it home to Chicago on Thanksgiving, only to encounter one hurdle after another because of a blizzard.

Much to Page’s chagrin, the biggest roadblock proves to be oversized shower ring salesman Del Griffith (Candy) and the giant trunk he lugs around. A more mismatched traveling pair than Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann, Griffith is good-natured and harmless, but drives Page literally to the point of no return thanks to a memorable version of Ray Charles’ “Mess Around” causing their rental car to start on fire.

Other classic scenes include Page ripping a chirpy car clerk to shreds (with 18 f-bombs in just over a minute), Page comparing Griffith’s incessant blather to that of a Chatty Cathy doll with a broken string, and an unexpected spooning session that leads to the immortal line, “Those aren’t pillows!” A departure from his ‘80s high school fare, “Planes” showed that Hughes could pull of an adult comedy with the best of them.

Favorite quotes:

“If I wanted a joke, I'd follow you into the john and watch you take a leak. Now are you gonna help me or are you gonna stand there like a slab of meat with mittens?”

“You're going the wrong way! You're going to kill somebody!”

“I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They'd say, ‘How can you stand it?’ I'd say, ‘Cause I've been with Del Griffith. I can take ANYTHING.’”

“You want the brownie? He won't give you the brownie. He's got a sweet tooth.”

"National Lampoon’s Vacation," 1983

If you’ve been at a summer barbecue and never used the line “Real tomato ketchup, Eddie?” as someone squeezes a Heinz bottle – seriously, shame on you. However, one scene says it all in “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” or the film that should have made Chevy Chase his generation’s biggest comedy star until Bill Murray stole the title. When the Griswold’s finally arrive at the mother of all amusement parks, Walley World, Clark (Chase) parks the car in the far distance and begins a fun loving race with his son Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) to the entrance doors. “Chariots of Fire” plays in the background as Clark strides with so much glee, you’d think the man had just been touched by the hand of God.

It’s a wonderful scene that defines everything beautiful about this comedy. Or how something so pure and simple as wanting to enjoy a family vacation at Walley World can crumble before a man’s eyes due to cruel twists of fate – and of course, eventually drive a well-meaning father to such drastic and disastrous ends.

Memorable cameos include a smoking hot Christie Brinkley and a super-young Jane Krakowski of “30 Rock” as Cousin Eddie’s (Randy Quaid) delinquent daughter who – brace for it – is really good at French kissing because her daddy tells her so.

Favorite quotes:

“I don't know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper. It does just fine by itself, huh? I like it better than Tuna Helper myself, don't you, Clark?”

“She breathed on me! A dead person breathed on me!”

We can't close our eyes to the plight of the cities. Kids, are you noticing all this plight?”

"Don't TOUCH!"

"Weird Science," 1985

Much like another ‘80s gem, “Stripes,” one half of “Weird Science” clearly trumps the other. So while a dud ending keeps the teen sex comedy from being a true classic, it’s important in the director’s canon because EVERY high school virgin who stumbles on a cable rerun will wonder how they ever lived without it. The film follows the dream scenario that every horny geek-boy fantasizes about – being able to create the perfect woman out of thin air. And Kelly LeBrock – before she ruined my image of her for life by appearing on “Celebrity Fit Club” – is just that.

There’s a kissing scene. There’s a shower scene. Let’s just say LeBrock had a lot to do with the development of adolescent boys everywhere (and no, we’re not talking about a newfound interest in computer science.) Anthony Michael Hall is particularly brilliant as jive-talking Gary, and supporting roles by Bill Paxton (as militant brother Chet) and Robert Downey Jr. (as a Slushie-dumping bully) also add high comedy value.

Favorite quotes:

“Stop hitting people with your Rex Harrison hat!”

“How 'bout a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?”

"I'm gonna get to the bottom of this ASAFP, but first I'd like to butter your muffin."

"The Breakfast Club," 1985

If there was only one film title you could etch on John Hughes' gravestone, it'd probably be "The Breakfast Club." Largely regarded as the best high school movie of all time -- and possibly the best '80s film, as well -- there isn't much that hasn't already been written about Hughes' masterpiece starring principal members of the Brat Pack.

Set in fictional Shermer High School, five students from disparate teen social cliques converge for Saturday detention under the watchful eye of ball-busting overlord Richard "Dick" Vernon (Paul Gleason). Together, the five find commonality in sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking fashion, all while doing their best to maintain the essence of who everyone thinks they're supposed to be until the very end. (Well, except Brian, the big ol' honor roll nerd who doesn't really know how to be image-conscious.) There's also a ridiculous impromptu dancing scene -- including a Billy Idol mid-air wrist swivel by Anthony Michael Hall and Emilio Estevez roid rage outburst-- that will probably be mimicked by every generation moving forward.

Now, if you didn't watch this film as a teen and relate to one of the characters in some meaningful capacity, well, you're either a compulsive liar like Allison or a neo-maxi zoom dweebie who consciously tries to be above pop culture perfection. Though Principal Vernon and hardcore rebel Judd Nelson had all the best lines, the true essence of this film's fixation on unfair stereotypes comes from custodian Carl and his immortal quip, "I am the eyes and ears of this institution, my friends." John Bender, you just got played, son!

Truly, the impact of "The Breakfast Club" cannot be overstated. It's a movie you HAVE to watch before you turn 18. And if you care to challenge that claim, well, don't mess with the bull, 'cuz you're gonna get the horns.

Favorite quotes:

"That's seven including when we first came in and you asked Mr. Vernon whether Barry Manilow knew that he raided his closet."

"Do you know how popular I am? I am so popular. Everybody loves me so much at this school."

"So it's sorta social. Demented and sad, but social. Right?"

"Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place."

"Are you guys like boyfriend-girlfriend? Steady dates? Lovers? Come on, sporto, level with me. Do you slip her the hot beef injection?"

"What did you wanna be when you were young?" -- Vernon

"When I was a kid, I wanted to be John Lennon." -- Carl

"Carl, don't be a goof. I'm making a serious point here." -- Vernon

"Uh, Dick? Excuse me - ‘Rich’ - will milk be made available to us?"

"Well, Brian’s trying to tell me that in addition to a number of girls in the Niagara Falls area, that presently you and he are riding the hobby horse."

"The next time I have to come in here, I’m cracking skulls!"

"Two hits. Me hitting you. You hitting the floor."

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off," 1986

It's a little lame to admit, but Ferris Bueller was the reason I skipped school for the first time ever (that and the promise of a delicious Sonic cherry limeade in the middle of a dull school day). Unlike, Ferris, though, I got caught and served a most un-"Breakfast Club" Saturday detention.

On its face, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is a movie about the greatest day off, but like any John Hughes movie, there's a simpler, deeper message about appreciating life that still sticks with me. It's also hands down the most quotable Hughes movie in his repertoire ("Niiiiiine times," "Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?" "A. You can never go too far. B. If I'm going to get busted, it is not going to be by a guy like that!" The list is endless). Toss in the red Ferrari, the various samplings of Chicago landmarks like the Sears Tower, the Art Institute and Wrigley Field, and a delightful side-plot about Asst. Principal Ed Rooney (before actor Jeffrey Jones' notoriety as a sex offender), and you've got a classic I could watch on repeat.

For a movie about a bad case of senior-itis, "Ferris" is pretty inspirational on many levels. After you see him sing "Twist and Shout" on the parade float, you start imagining what you'd do on a day off from school/work, too.

Favorite quotes:

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might just miss it."

"When Cameron was in Egypt land ... 'let my Cameron go.'"

"You wear too much eye makeup. My sister wears too much. People think she's a whore."

"Some Kind of Wonderful," 1987

Boy loves popular girl. Tomboy best friend loves boy. Boy spends movie chasing popular girl, but finally realizes it's the tomboy best friend he loves. You probably recognize this formula, right?

At the hands of a less-skilled writer, this would be a crappy romantic comedy starring Katherine Heigl and Matthew McConaughey. Thank God that Hughes wrote it and "Pretty in Pink" director Howard Deutch directed it. Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz) spends much of the movie trying to woo popular Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson -- ie. the mom from "Back to the Future") while bff Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) pines away for him in between practicing the drums.

Like "Pretty in Pink," there's an undertone of a class struggle between the haves and the have-nots that's a huge part of the plot. Watts and Keith are both working class, holding down jobs while in high school, while Jones and her dickish ex-boyfriend Hardy Jenns (Craig Sheffer) ride around in sports cars. There's plenty of angst, awkwardness and anger, not to mention some great one-liners, and all-in-all, this is a much more sophisticated take on "Pretty in Pink" that is sadly forgotten.

Favorite quotes:

"Well, I like art, I work in a gas station, my best friend is a tomboy. These things don't fly too well in the American high school."

"Don't go mistaking paradise for a pair of long legs."

"Pretty in Pink," 1986

I will admit that this was a John Hughes movie that had to grow on me. For one, it's got a too-perfect ending with rich guy Blane (Andrew McCarthy) changing his whole life perspective for Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald), the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, when he's pretty much spent most of the movie being a giant turd to her.

But after a more recent viewing, I realized that the "too perfect" ending actually works. Despite my fantasy that Andie would end up with her best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer), especially after he rescues her from having to go to the prom all alone in her hideous pink outfit (Blane ditches Andie, so she decides to go the prom alone, but Duckie's there waiting to escort her inside the ballroom... just thinking about it gives me the girly sniffles). Still, Blane does have a change of heart and you gotta give it up to a guy who's willing to admit he's wrong and tell off his best friend (James Spader in a deliciously vile role). It's a ballsy move. Plus, Duckie gets to dance with Kristy Swanson and try to get it on with Annie Potts, so it's all good, right?

"Pretty in Pink" did have a lot of things you didn't normally see in a teen movie -- a depressed unemployed father, Andie's embarrassment in showing Blane where she lives and her willingness to go to prom alone -- and for that, it stands out as a timeless classic. It's not the most quotable movie (although I do have a few favorite quotes from it), but it's definitely one that I've grown to love.

Favorite quote:

"Andie, hon. Listen, it's after 7. Don't waste good lip gloss."

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

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Nice post guys. Ferris Bueller wins hands down for me. One of the most re-watchable movies ever. Love it.

By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 10, 2009 at 12:18 PM  

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