Sunday, August 9, 2009

John Hughes: Full of bits of humanity

This has been the summer of celebrity deaths. My friend Mike has a theory (he calls it the "Celebrity Death Trifecta") that celebrity deaths happen in threes. Sure, there's that old adage that things happen in threes but Mike likes to specifically assign this to celebrity deaths. Clearly this theory has been blown out of the water. Although calling Billy Mays a 'celebrity' was certainly pushing the use of that term. I can yell really loudly, too, damnit. By the way, a recent toxicology report from Mays' autopsy indicated that his body had elevated levels of cocaine in his system when he died. This should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody.

One of my passions, of which I have many, is movies. Going to the movies, seeing movies, watching and re-watching and re-re-watching Fletch on a Sunday morning. All of it. I don't know the first thing about film making but I imagine I would rather enjoy it. I was thinking about reading a book about it.

Recently, John Hughes died. Sure, some of his later work (Maid in Manhattan, I'm looking at you) was less than stellar and sure, once the 80's left him he wasn't what he used to be. He took everything that so many teenagers loved and loathed about being teenagers and presented them humorously and heartbreakingly in a way that only celluloid can deliver. [SPOILER ALERT] Remember the end of Planes, Tranes, and Automobiles when Steve Martin's Neal Page realizes that John Candy's Del Griffith really is just a semi-homeless traveling salesman looking for a friend? Neal sees these dozens upon dozens of stickers on Del's traveling trunk and realizes that he is doing to him what so many others beforehand had done. There's a slight smirk of self-realization that washes over Neal's face when he realizes that he could be the change in someone's life that he needs to be. His films were never heavy handed but were full of moments just like the one that I tried to describe above; full of bits of humanity. I can't tell you how many times I've watched that movie. I have it on VHS and I'm sure the tape is getting pretty close to worn out by now. Maybe it's because I'm a cinephile. Maybe it's because I always thought that John Candy's character would be the worst travel companion of all time. Maybe, though, it's because full of those bits of humanity... Like so many of his films were.

My favorite John Hughes related film (take a look at his credits on his page and you'll see just how prolific he really was) is unabashedly, unequivocally Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Ferris embodied everything that every teenager wanted to be: Smooth, had an amazingly hot girlfriend, made vests look cool... You name it, he could do it. Paradoxically, Ferris also characterized everything that made teenagers of, well, every age, teenagers:
*Painfully uncool -- Don't tell me that you don't still sing into the shower head with your hair in a shampoo mohawk.
*Being more than slightly amused at the bodily sounds patch on your keyboard.
*Failing at something EPICALLY and following it up with a feigned confidence of "Never had one lesson!" I've said that line more times than I can count.

And that's how his films ran. Full of anti-heroes. Full of heart. Full of Simple Minds songs. Full of bits of humanity.

John Hughes wasn't controversial. Neither were any of his films. Well, Home Alone 3 may have been just because it was that bad but that's another story altogether. He was able to tap into something in his writing that so many of us (no matter what age we are or were at the time) were able to relate to: that we all were and are painfully uncool. And that's why his films work.

Over the past several years, I have given up on trying to be cool. I don't want to sit down and listen to some hip new band because I've heard nothing but hype about them and upon hearing said band that AP or Kerrang! has just named its "Next Big Nothing". I don't care that much. I don't want to go out and seek new trends on how to market oneself. I don't care about building a brand or an image. I realize that all of that seems incredibly counter intuitive to having a blog. But the simple fact remains that I am painfully uncool. I wear camouflage cargo shorts just in case you needed some icing on the cake. As a matter of fact, I am wearing them right now. That, and nothing else.

Turned on yet? Thought so.

The older that I get (I'm pushing 30 here, folks) the more I realize that Ferris was cool because he cared about his best girl and his best friend. That's all it took. That and some bits of humanity.

Thanks, John Hughes. The world will miss your films. I know I will.

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