Monday, February 3, 2014

Guest Post: John Hughes Minithon

And now a guest post from the most important person in the world, my wife, Elizabeth!

I am sick. I have strep throat. It is stupid. What should I do to feel better? Well aside from a round of antibiotics, I decided to have a John Hughes minithon! I call it a minithon because it is only three films, but oh what films! Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

I began with Sixteen Candles (1984). Why, you ask? Because when given a sex quiz that asks if I could do it with anyone (other than my husband), the answer would be Jake Ryan. And I went in chronological order. Sixteen Candles is my favorite John Hughes film. It could almost be said that is it one of my favorite films, period. I watched this quite often on TBS as a kid. Needless to say as an adult, I was a little surprised at the amount of cursing and the brief nudity. Surprised, but not bothered. Many a times has Brad had to listen to me say “Au-to-mo-bile!” and “Oh sexy girlfriend!” in my very best Long Duk Dong voice.

The film revolves around the life of Samantha (Molly Ringwald) and the events surrounding her 16th birthday. Her older sister is getting married the next day and everyone forgets Sam's birthday altogether. Sam also has a mad crush on school hunk Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) who she believes doesn't know she exists. Sam is also plagued by the presence of everynerd, Ted (Anthony Michael Hall). School dances are attended, parties are held, and weddings commence. Things go awry but everything works out in the end with kisses and cake. 

Why do I love this film? It's such a simplistic premise and yet it fills me with that hopeful, romantic feeling that I probably should have given up ages ago. What's not to love? It's the kind of film that makes you believe in miracles. If you've ever been in high school, you will know that the hot, popular senior falling for a slightly awkward yet potentially cool sophomore is practically a miracle. It's not a particularly deep film, but I think it paved the way for the next two Hughes films I will cover. It still has a sense of the have and the have-nots, nerds and sophomores versus prom queens and seniors. It is exploring some of the same themes of the others films just not quite so head on. All in all, this film is funny, heartwarming, and fun, and to me, perfectly wonderful.

Next up in my minithon was The Breakfast Club (1985). It is angsty and awesome. The film's premise is that five very different students have to spend an entire Saturday in the school library as a form of detention for various transgressions they have committed. As the day progresses, the teenagers learn more and more about why each one is in detention and subsequently, learn more and more about the way they view each other and themselves.  Each kid has his or her own set of problems, but in the end, they realize that their problems unite them and that they are more than just the labels high school society has pinned on them (The Athlete (Emilio Estevez), The Brain (Anthony Michael Hall), The Basket Case (Ally Sheedy), The Princess (Molly Ringwald), and The Criminal (Judd Nelson)). 

I thoroughly enjoy films that are set in one location. This definitely has that going for it. They do move from the library to the halls a few times and we do see the street in front of the high school when their parents pick them up and drop them off, but I still consider this a one location film. I love seeing how a film evolves when characters are confined to one location. It leads to a more focused study of the characters and their dilemmas which is exactly why it works for a film such as this. We feel cooped up just like the teens knowing that we can't leave until the end of the film. We feel the tension build as they examine their lives at school and at home, and we feel the bonds form as they realize their similarities despite their differences.

This film goes even further into the themes that were merely touched upon in Sixteen Candles. It very clearly separates five types of high school personalities. The difference between each person is continually shown through every single action in the film. Even lunchtime becomes a character study as each teen has a lunch that speaks to exactly what kind of person they are supposed to be. I think this film speaks of friendship but not about friends. None of these kids are friends, and they admit that they may not be friends when the day is over. They don't build friendships so much as they build alliances based on mutual understanding of what makes them similar. It is a film that speaks about finding common ground among those around you, and it has the song “Don't You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds; therefore, it rocks.

Last in the minithon, Pretty In Pink (1986). This movie I have not seen nearly as many times as the other two, but that does not make it any less awesome. The plot goes something like this. Pretty but poor Andie (Molly Ringwald) and her best poor friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) are outcasts at their richie-rich person high school. Lucky for Andie, richie-rich guy Blane (Andrew McCarthy) likes her and is nice (unlike all the other richie-riches who are a bunch of nasty, horrible jerks). Andie falls for Blane who then has a crisis of identity brought on by the leader of the horrible jerks, Steff (James Spader). Despite losing her rich boyfriend and being made fun of incessantly, Andie is able to man up and go to the prom where Blane realizes he’s an idiot and that even though poor, Andie is perfect.

This film takes the idea of differences and focuses on one specific difference, economic status. It is truly about the haves and have-nots. The message in the end is that money shouldn’t matter because love is greater than material wealth.  Hopefully most people going into this film already know this lesson, but the film does a nice job of showcasing it. We feel for Blane as the only decent person in a sea of slimeballs, and we definitely root for him to overcome his fears and get back with Andie. We feel for Andie as well as she endures taunts and teases about her looks, her clothes, and her friends all of which are too poor for the rich girls to ignore.

The other theme I think this film highlights is friendship. Andie and Duckie are best friends. This film highlights close friendships in a way the other films do not. Andie is also very close with her boss, Iona (Annie Potts) and her father, Jack (Harry Dean Stanton).  Neither of the other films focus on a close support system for the main character. In Sixteen Candles, Sam is isolated from her family and only has one friend who is not really a main part of the story.  In The Breakfast Club, each main character is purposefully isolated from all the other students as well as their families. Pretty In Pink, however, shows how a tight-knit group of friends and family can help a person through the tough times and come out on top.

Now, some random thoughts.
1)      Pretty In Pink has the best kissing scenes of all the films.  Way to go Andrew McCarthy!
2)      James Spader in Pretty In Pink has the best hair of any male characters in all three films.  It is beachy blond and feathered juuuust right.  Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club comes in second.

Why yes, James, you can stare into my soul any time you like.
 3)      Molly Ringwald’s hair goes from best to worst in this order: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink. In Pretty In Pink when her hair is down she looks like old Carol Burnett. It’s unsettling.

Bad, Molly, bad!
4)      My favorite leading male character is Jake Ryan.  Did I mention that already?
5)      Anthony Michael Hall is perfect as Ted the Geek in Sixteen Candles. He has an exuberance and confidence mixed with nervousness that jumps off the screen. I think he won an Oscar for that role. (Just kidding!)
6)      Harry Dean Stanton is awesome.  He makes Pretty In Pink even better.

Well friends, in summation, I believe these films perfectly dramatize how people can feel during the high school time of life and that is why they remain popular. Though reminiscent of a different era of fashion and music (man, I miss the 80s), they still capture those feelings of teenage angst, anger, loneliness, love, pressure, politics, and friendship that are eternal. These feelings transcend decades and reside in the high school setting ad infinitum. Thank you, John Hughes.  You made having strep throat somewhat more bearable, and you made high school movies immensely more amazing.