Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Greatness of John Hughes, Revisited

I've been enjoying reading a book called Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the films of John Hughes.  Its a collection of essays where different writers describe the effect that John Hughes movies have had on them as teens. Very often this effect is quite strong, and ground-breaking, causing an effect on the consciousness of those observers.

I, too, have found the teen films of the '80s to have had a significant and important effect on society, much more so than would be acknowledged by those who would casually dismiss them.  One such essay described an experience the writer had which shows this effect.  In the essay "A Slut or a Prude: The Breakfast Club as Feminist Primer," writer Juliana Baggott wrote about the following incident which happened after watching that seminal Hughes movie.

 A few days after I saw the movie, I was in the cafeteria with my people- a group of field hockey girls, a few with eating disorders. Some idiotic football players were spitting spitballs at some band geeks. But they weren't just football players and band geeks, not after The Breakfast Club. We were all trapped in the same ugly, dying organism: high school.

I walked over to the football players and said,”C'mon, knock it off.”

One said,”Knock what off.”

“The spitballs. Just grow up a little.”

“Don't I look grown up to you, little girl.” He had me by a hundred pounds and more than a half foot in height.

“Listen, asshole, just stop it with the spitballs.”

“Oh, she's angry now.” He put his arm around me, rubbed my back. “Isn't she cute when she's angry?”

“Cute” was my trigger word- often true for short people. “Don't call me cute again.”

“What's wrong cutie. You're so cute!”

“I mean it. Call me cutie again and I swear it won't be pretty. . . ”

He paused and looked at me deeply in the eyes. “You're so cute.”

I slapped him. He had a big head and a thick rubbery cheek. He was fair, and the skin went red fast. Friends told me later that my small handprint was on his cheek for the rest of the day.

The long term result was astonishing. All of the boys at that table seemed to fall in love with me and treated me with enormous respect. They addressed me politely in the halls. I'd feel someone watching me, and when I turned around, it would be one of them- all agaze.

It made no sense. It only encouraged me. To what? Refuse to accept a definition – a prude, a slut, a . I knew that definitions wouldn't work for me, that I was volatile, unwieldy, and that was the only way I'd survive.

This wonderful movie by John Hughes caused a typical American teenager to feel closer to the other teens in her school, to literally stand up for other teens who were different than herself, to confront a blustering bully, and to see her own self in a different light.  Thank you, John Hughes, or your remarkable work.  I use this account as a preface to a re-posting of my previous tribute to John Hughes, which appears below.

Thank You, John Hughes

(first posted on September 20, 2011)

Some of my most pleasant memories of being a teen in the '80s came from some of the better teen movies which flourished at that time. Foremost among the creators of this genre of moviemaking was the great John Hughes whose work during the '80s was known for treating the minds and feelings of teenagers, and the situations that teens found themselves in, with seriousness and respect.

Hughes created such teen classics as Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Pretty In Pink, movies which were big in their day, and have since become cult classics, and the source of much imitation in the form of subsequent teen oriented flicks. Hughes also went beyond the teen movie genre to make such films as the holiday classic Home Alone and the comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  But Hughes' creation which, for many of us, still resonates most strongly was the teen classic The Breakfast Club.

An account of several teens from very different cliques bonding with one another during their stay in detention, The Breakfast Club served for many of us as a protest against the walls that separated us from our fellow teens. It also had an unusual depth for a teen flick, allowing its characters to express the complexity which lay behind the facades of various teen stereotypes. Kids who were as different as a nerd, a stoner, an arty outsider, a jock and a preppie suddenly seemed more than just one dimensional. I remember getting great pleasure out of the way this movie made you think, as you chewed on the dialogue going on between the characters on the screen.

But the thing that made The Breakfast Club, and all of Hughe's movies, so wonderful for a teen loner like me, is that Hughes had a particular soft spot for the outsiders, the individualists, and the misfits, and he had a great way of exposing their dilemma through his movies, and ultimately empowering them in the process.

For example, there is this scene in the Breakfast Club, where the jock character, played by Emilio Estevez, tells about an awful thing, a pitiless prank that he played on this nerdy kid. He had done it to impress his fellow jock friends, but in the movie, he was expressing how bad he felt over his part in such a cruel prank, and how awful he must have made that hapless boy feel. At the conclusion of the jock's account, the nerd character, played by Anthony Michael Hall, quietly mentions that the boy who was the target of the prank was one of his friends. The scene is powerful, and there is this painful awareness as the nerd and the jock realize how close this awful prank struck each of them.

Thank you, John Hughes, for moments like that, which exposed the pain of being an outsider, and brought home just how much we had in common as teens from different backgrounds.

John Wilden Hughes (1950-2009)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Thanks, Weird Al

In the midst of a dismal election season, a ray of hope...

Good ole Weird Al Yankovic turned the last debate into a music video.

Thanks! We needed this! 

Good line:

 "We have so many adversaries overseas
Can we all agree to be frenemies?"

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Thompson Twins, "Lies"

Heres the '80s in full MTV color, on the the Thomspon Twin's memorable video for "Lies."   What made th '80s so wonderful and fun: oddball, gender-bending, multi-hued, "be yourself" expression.  

The group would be come famous in America for hits like "Hold Me Now," "Doctor Doctor," and "Lay Your Hands On Me."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Nena: "99 Red Balloons" and Visit to America

Check it out. 

Back in 1983, as the Cold War was in full swing, the German singer-songwriter Nena released a timely protest song that raised the concerns so many had about the threat of nuclear war. It became one of the most memorable and iconic '80s songs, and a reminder of one of the more scary aspects of living in the '80s. 
The Cool video illustrates the point.

Nena became one of a few German new wave artists that had hits in the United States, along with Falco ("Rock Me Amadeus") and Peter Schilling ("Major Tom").

Now, Nena's visiting the U.S. for several concerts starting in late September. 

Welcome Nena!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

To Those Who Gave All

Deep respect and honor to those whose lives were taken on 9-11, including those who died in the towers, on the aircraft that were taken as weapons, in the skies over Pennsylvania, in the Pentagon, and among those first responders who were trying to save people and lost their own lives in the process.

Thank you to all first responders who risked all to do good on that tragic day, and every day.

Above, Sir Paul McCartney's simple, uncomplicated, but heartfelt tribute.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Us Festivals (1982 and 1983)

Early on in the '80s, just as MTV was starting to take off, Apple Computer mogul Steve Wozniak sought to put together a concert festival that combined the biggest bands with the latest technology. 

The result were the Us Festivals.  So named to encourage community in the dawning decade of the '80s, in contrast to the "Me Generation" of the '70s. 

The first Us Festival was held over the course of three days, during the Labor Day weekend of 1982. This first festival included such cutting edge musicians as Pat Benatar, the Talking Heads, Oingo Boingo, and the B-52s, along with classic acts such as the Grateful Dead and Jimmy Buffet.  Above is Pat Benatar rocking the Us Festival with her very '80s style.

A second Us Festival was held the following year, during Memorial Day holiday of 1983. This time, the festival was a total of four nights, with each night devoted to a particular category of music: New Wave, Heavy Metal, Rock, and Country.  Here's some footage from the Us '83, including Missing Persons performing the very, very new wave '80s song "Walking In L.A."

Sunday, August 28, 2016

'80s Summer Songs: "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A."

Here's a great '80s song which would be suitable at any time of year, but it sounds like a great song to blast from your car radio on a good summer roadtrip.  Back in the '80s, nostalgia for the '60s was all over the place and this 1985 song highlights that.  Just as Mellencamp says that he was glad to have grown up in such a unique era as the '60s, I too am glad to have grown up in the awesome '80s.  Here's two in one: a fun '80s song about the '60s.