Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A 3-Part Memorial to John Hughes

This article originally appeared on Pegleg Spinners, 8/17/09.

John Hughes 01

Okay, I know filmmaker John Hughes' passing is somewhat old news at this point, but I have a few things to say about the man's work that I haven't yet gotten around to posting (partly because I was on vacation for the past week), so bear with me.

1. God damn it. Another one?

About a month ago, after the loss of cultural luminaries including Michael Jackson, Edward Downes and Walter Cronkite, I called this season "a good summer for death." Now John Hughes is gone as well. (And so is Les Paul!) I think I speak for everone when I say that THIS IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS. Seriously, God, cut us some slack here. I feel like I'm watching the ending of The Departed in slow motion.

2. Ferris Bueller grew up and went into politics.

"This country is on the road to socialism, and that still doesn't change the fact that I don't own a car."
"This country is on the road to socialism, and that still doesn't change the fact that I don't own a car."

I'm kind of glad that I waited until now to write about Hughes, since if I had written earlier I wouldn't have been able to comment on this Washington Post op-ed piece. Titled "A Mirror Up To the Original Ferris Bueller," the article was written by one Edward McNally, who claims to have been a boyhood friend of Hughes and to have partially served as the inspiration for the character of Ferris. McNally details several anecdotes involving sick notes and expensive cars, but the part of the article that I found the most interesting came at the very end. I quote:

"Edward McNally, 53, a trial lawyer in private practice in New York and Washington, was a presidential speechwriter from 1989 to 1991, and was senior associate counsel to the president from 2001 to 2005."

There's something very appropriate about Ferris Bueller growing up to work in the Bush administration. That's all I'm going to say.

3. Even when he was bad, he was good.


Sure, everyone knows The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Home Alone, but how many of you have seen Career Opportunities?

Not many, I'd guess. It's a 1991 comedy written (but not directed) by Hughes, starring Frank Whaley (perhaps best remembered as one of the debtor drug dealers in Pulp Fiction) as Jim, a shiftless college-age janitor who gets locked in a Target overnight with beautiful rich girl Josie, who's played by Jennifer Connelly. (John Candy has a cameo as the store's manager.) For years, this movie has been one of my favorite bad movies, partly because so many parts of it are inexplicably corny and nonsensical. Jim kills time in the store by roller-skating in his boxers and a bridal veil. There's a completely pointless subplot about Jim's father eating leftovers. The oddness kicks into high gear when Jim and Josie get taken hostage by two of the most over-acted burglars I've ever seen onscreen.

Still, I'd be lying if I said that I only enjoy this movie for its flaws. Despite the rampant cheesiness, there's something very appealing about Hughes' script, both in its Home Alone-like concept and its likable (if cartoonish) characters. Hughes had a knack for making mundane day-to-day routines seem like adventures, and it's that gift for which he'll rightly be remembered.

RIP. (You too, Les Paul.)

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