Thank You, John Hughes

I’m pretty much at a loss for words about yesterday’s sad news.  John Hughes left a long and memorable imprint on popular cinema in a way that few filmmakers ever have or will, and his passing is a reminder of that indelible mark; nevertheless, because we all remember his movies and how they matter to us in very different ways, it seems foolish to wax nostalgic about his body of work so broadly.  Yes, John Hughes made movies that were broad in their appeal, but they were smart and sincere and–like any great piece of pop culture–capable of making you feel like they spoke straight to your own experience.  As such, I feel it apropos to share a few personal reflections on his work, and I encourage you to do the same in the comments.

My first significant experience with John Hughes as ’80s teen movie master was the sci-fi/teen-comedy masterpiece Weird Science.  I saw it in the mid ’90s, back when USA ran the comedy series of the same name and premise.  Most of the film’s humor indubitably went over my head, but even then I could appreciate Kelly LeBrock’s bawdy fierceness as she asks the lingerie saleswoman for something in barbed wire, and sweet mercy will I always love the Oingo Boingo theme song:

When you think about it, it was only natural for me to love a movie that’s essentially about two teenage boys who recreate The Bride of Frankenstein and end up creating the ultimate British dream fag hag.  Whoops, I mean girlfriend.

Anyways, a few years later, I stumbled upon The Breakfast Club on Saturday afternoon.  At the time, I only caught the scene where the cast sits and simply talks to each other, but it hit me like freight train.  I was still in middle school, so the angst of high school had yet to hit me, but there was a rawness and realness to that scene struck me like nothing I’d seen before.  I’d never before seen a movie find such drama and eloquence is just have five people sit and talk.  I occasionally suspect that it’ll be years before I do again.

Curiously, though, what will always matter most to me in the John Hughes oeuvre is one of the movies he never even directed:

home alone

Without Home Alone, I would never have the family tradition of sitting in my parents’ bedroom and watching Catherine O’Hara scream “KEVIN!!!” every Thanksgiving evening.  The world would never have the single greatest noir scene that never actually was:

An, most importantly, we’d be without one of the greatest lines of pure, snobbish bitchery the world has ever know: “You’re what the French call “les incompetents.”

So thank you, John Hughes.    Thank you for the squirrel in the Christmas tree, a houseful of inspired booby traps, and for Ducky’s dance.  Thank you for the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal; and thank you for making this song part of a generation’s soundtrack: 

John Hughes was the rare filmmaker to truly appreciate and respect youth and pop culture, for that–more than anything else–he will be missed.

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