Home / MUSIC-NEWS / John Hughes: The Frank Capra of the Eighties

John Hughes: The Frank Capra of the Eighties

John Hughes captured the eighties perfectly with its teen
existentialistic angst, neon, and new wave. If you were a teenager in
the mid-eighties (and I was), it was a great place to be. Reagan was
president, MTV was in its wonder years, and Bono was just becoming a
socially conscious rockstar. The atmosphere of the American high
school was snapshotted perfectly by Hughes. He wrote about the
cool kids you wanted to know and the assholes that you wish you
didn’t. Here are a few of my favorites.

Sixteen Candles:

Samantha/Molly Ringwald is the quirky (no surprise there) and
differently pretty sixteen year old who has a crush on
Jake/Michael Schoeffling. Jake is the all American boy that every girl
wanted just one crack at. Ted/Anthony Michael Hall is the geek. He’s
got it bad, so bad he’s hot for Sammy. Of course the boy that wants
her the most is the one she wants the least. She’s actually kind of an
asshole to him. But, in the end Ted gets a one nighter with a female
Jake and Sam gets to kiss Jake while the Thompson Twins play” If You
Were Here”.  I wish I could say that I watched dreamily as
Sam and Jake kissed over 16 lit candles, but I  was still
crushing on Ted’s best friend, Bryce/John Cusack . Still am.

The Breakfast Club:

Basically one person from every “clique” in high school gets a
Saturday school on the same weekend. Claire/Molly Ringwald is the
sushi eating rich bitch, Andrew/Emilio Estevez the roid raging school
athlete, Brian/Anthony Michael Hall the geek…again, Bender/ Judd
Nelson the 80’s answer to James Dean with a sexy ass chip on his
shoulder, Allsion/Ally Sheedy the artist (although in the movie she’s
just perceived as crazy), Dick/Paul Gleason the assistant
principal ,and Carl Reed/John Kapelos the school janitor who has the
CIA on everyone’s life. At the beginning of the movie everyone just
does their own thing and then something happens. They all realize how
much they hate Dick and how little they have in common but a little
bit, is better than nothing. Hughes shows us the surface of each
character and then shows us the truth. In one of the most touching
scenes, Brian starts talking about what it feels like to be invisible.
And I must say that Anthony Michael Hall is a damn believable
cryer. Bender starts feeling a little bit of empathy for
Brian but shuts that shit down with a quickness by making fun of
him. Andy jumps in and calls Bender on his shit and in the second most
touching moment, we see Bender break a little too. He does an
impersonation of his father and gives us a glimpse of life with a
violent alcoholic. We now understand why Bender has that
chip.  There are a million reasons why people love this
movie…from the joint smoking scene, to the scene where for one
minute we believe that Claire and Bender might have sex and by doing
so, topple the whole damn high school hierarchy. But the reason
this movie is a classic is because Hughes shows us why we are who we
are.  He makes us see the imperfections in what we percieve as
perfect. And in high school perfect is Claire and Andy. For one
minute he makes us hate the cheerleaders a little less and love our
individuality a little more. He was genius like that.

Some Kind of Wonderful:

My favorite John Hughes movie because I was Watts without the drum
sticks. Watts//Mary Stuart Masterson is in love with her best friend
Keith/Eric Stoltz who’s in love with Amanda/Lea Thompson. First of
all, I made my best friend watch this movie with me because I was in
love with him and I thought if he saw this he would catch on and be
like…”I love you too now lets get married. You can write and I will
paint and we will live in a warehouse etc etc etc.” But that never
happened. I did however get my hair cut like Watts, bought a cycling
hat, and a pair of round shades. I was in a full tilt identity crisis
after watching this film. In Hughes style, he shows us that things
aren’t always as they appear. Amanda isn’t rich but guilt by
association makes everyone think that she is, Keith is doing what his
parents want him to do and he resents it, and Watts is the most
beautiful girl in school…although no one sees that yet. My favorite
part of the movie is when Keith meets Duncan/Elias Koteas in
detention.  Duncan is my crush in this film. He had me at shaved
head, combat boots, and a  knife…which he used to create art on
school desks. He and Keith become friends and he sneaks Keith and
Amanda into the art museum after hours where Keith has a painting of
Amanda hanging on the wall. Here’s what I said in my head during that
scene. “What a fucking waste. She can’t possibly understand. He should
have painted Watts. She would have got it. Amanda can’t appreciate any
of this!” But the kicker is that Watts is chauffeuring Keith and
Amanda on their date. There is this great scene where Watts hits the
brakes at the moment when Amanda is putting on lipstick. Classic.
But in the end Amanda knows that she can’t appreciate Keith and that
deep down he loves Watts, so Amanda gives the diamond earrings back
(that Keith bought by pawning college), and tells him to run to the
one who will be what he needs. The movie ends with Keith kissing Watts
and me looking at my best friend to see if he got any of this.

John Hughes took a camcorder to the best and worst years of my
life and gave it a soundtrack right out of my record collection. He
had an understanding of how hard it is to be a teenager and how
sometimes, it is just mere survival. He was a movie alchemist.
His films were the perfect measure of wit, music, and heart. I once
said that Kevin Smith was the John Hughes of the nineties. I hope
Kevin sees the significance and honor in that statement.

P.S. There isn’t one John Hughes film that I didn’t love. Thank you
John Hughes for leaving yourself with us. Cinema misses you.

About Ara Harris

Ara Harris
Music junkie, Atari 2600 bringer backer, word maker upper, loves to photograph and write about suburban decay. Ara grew up on a corner lot in small town Ohio. She began escaping the micro minds of the Midwest by listening to music, watching b films, and touring the cities in her mind. She wrote poetry on the back of algebra tests and asked Lou Reed to take her to prom. Two decades later she self published a full collection of poetry that one reader described as “a Tom Verlaine riff in every synapse”. She believes that we all have a gift, we just have to find it.

Check Also

In or Out: My Trouble with the Sex Positive/Sex Negative Feminist Dichotomy

Recently, I read an article in Salon penned by Mish Way, front woman for the …

%d bloggers like this: