Friday, August 9, 2019

Thank You, John Hughes (a Re-Post)


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 ScienceSixteen CandlesFerris Bueller's Day Offand 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)



A Follow Up To The Above:


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. 


Friday, July 26, 2019

When Crue Were Glam (Re-post)



The 1980s was a great time for music, in part because there was just so much of it. So much variety... music of all kinds, and usually with a quirky and fun twist: New Wave, classic rock, Springsteen and Mellencamp roots rock, dance music, synth-pop, ballads, etc. etc. 

Heavy Metal was one of the main aspects of '80s music, a kind-of mutant genre that created loud, aggressive, rebellious music. At a time when boundaries of all sorts had already been broken, and audiences had already been thrown everything except the kitchen sink, '80s metal groups were there to break that final barrier and throw you that kitchen sink. 


Motley Crue first broke into '80s popularity with a gruesome leather-clad appearance, and an album with a black cover and an ominous theme, Shout at the Devil (1983). Although a case could be made that the concept was as much as anything against the devil (after all, the albums' intro exhorted its listeners to "rise up . . . and shout at the devil"), Motley Crue were at the time the group that parents and censors loved to hate.
Then, in 1985, a change. At the time, Crue adopted a more glam (but I'm sure they would tell you, a still rockin) image, with their album Theatre of Pain (1985). Crue during this time were among a growing number of spandex clad, makeup wearing groups into what was known as glam metal, a genre that adopted the colorful, eye-popping glitter/glam rock styles which hearkened back to the early '70s, but added the ear-bursting heavy metal of the '80s.

It was during this time that Motley Crue's audience grew to include teens that may not have gotten what they were about during their earlier period. And they were capable of adding a soft ballad alongside their heavy rock. 

Glam Metal spread far and wide... I always thought it fit well with the fun-loving, color-filled atmosphere of the '80s. 


Heres Poison, another of '80s big glam metal bands.

It shows how interesting a decade the '80s were, that such an overtly "macho" style as metal adopted such clearly androgynous styles without anyone even commenting. It was macho with makeup and eyeshadow. And it was perfectly and un-ironically accepted as such.


And, of course, this metal ball would not be complete without another big glam metal group, Cinderella.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Duran Duran Celebrates Apollo 11

https://oblivionfoodcourt.tumblr.com/post/186422954040/john-taylor-daily-duran-duran-introthe


Check out the Duran Duran concert at the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Apollo 11 moon landing at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Posted on my new blog project Oblivion Foodcourt.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Apollo 11

https://oblivionfoodcourt.tumblr.com/post/186396521445




In honor of the Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary, I re-posted some moon landing photo montages onto my other blog, Oblivion Foodcourt

Stop by and visit for '80s, Vaporware, and '80s mall content.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

My New Project: "Oblivion Foodcourt"

I
I've developed an interest in Vaporwave, a 2010's music and cultural genre which is inspired by the styles of the 1980s and a sense of retro nostalgia. 

I recently put together a Vaporwave inspired blog entitled Oblivion Foodcourt, and invite my readers to check it out.  Here are a few samples of the new blog's content:

https://oblivionfoodcourt.tumblr.com/post/185599165360/juiceboxkids-blog-the-older-ones-looked-way


https://oblivionfoodcourt.tumblr.com/post/185692064320/retroetic-grace-jones-by-jean-paul-goude-for-a

Friday, June 7, 2019

Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Repost)

This is a re-post of a post which originally appeared September 29, 2011.


When I was a teen, growing up in the '80s, one of my most comforting memories was of the opening credits to the popular TV show Cheers. Although I sometimes watched the show, and enjoyed it, I was never as big a Cheers fanatic as so many other people.  

But the opening credits were always a must see for me. The theme song itself was part of the attraction. It begins by noting the taxing nature of modern life (in the '80s), which "takes everything you've got," and then segues into the catchy refrain about wanting to be "where everybody knows your name."


But just as appealing were the montage of images which appeared along with the song, a series of pictures of people seemingly enjoying the pleasures of being at a pub, with its drinks and social life. The pictures all have a historical quality to them, lending the sense that such activity has occurred through time, and continues to the time of the program . . . the '80s and early '90s.

There is one photo, for example, which has people in a bar with drinks, with one man holding up a newspaper which reads "WE WIN" in all captal letters. Growing up, I had thought that the headline referred to the end of World war II, but it in fact refers to the end of Prohibition. In restrospect, this seems all the more appropriate given that the show takes place in a drinking establishment. 


Another photo shows a group of young males of another era, perhaps college kids, all trying to look dapper and sophisticated.

I always thought that the combination of words and music put forth the idea that time passes, but certain things remain the same. That so many things have come and gone through time and history, and that here we were, in the '80s, taking our place in time. Yet, some things were constant, through it all. Through it all, don't we all really want to sometimes go to a place "where everybody knows your name."

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

Friday, May 3, 2019

St. Elmo's Fire & Friends (Repost)


One of my most enjoyable movies from the '80s is St. Elmo's Fire, the 1984 brat-pack ensemble account of relationships among disparate friends. The movie has sometimes been criticized as being indulgent, and highly unrealistic. . . and truthfully, at times it is. However, I still get a lot of '80s retro pleasure out of watching this movie. Its one of those films I can put on and just let it run, knowing exactly what the next scene is, and what most of the dialogue will be.

I guess two things that I find so appealing about it are: First, that it is so very '80s, and '80s in a rather appealing way. The cinematography is actually quite beautiful at times, making use of the natural colors and beauty of the scenery of the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.  And secondly, the positive and hopeful way that it presents post-college age youth. 

Of course, there are some highly unrealistic aspects of the movie. For example, just how did the Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy characters, supposedly recent college grads, afford such a spacious apartment? But at its best, St. Elmo's Fire resembled a hazy '80s dream of friendship, inhabited by quirky '80s personalities, soundtracked by catchy '80s music, and colored with vivid '80s colors.  


The '90s had its own version of the "group of cool friends" scenario, in the '90s TV show Friends. I've enjoyed watching Friends in part because it seemed to so resemble St. Elmo's Fire, and because Friends came along at just the exact time that I myself was going through the experience of being in my post-undergrad college years. It was good to see (again, however unrealistically) my own generation being portrayed as cool and hip.

 I must admit that, being the loner that I have often been, the notion of having such a close knit group of cool friends has been more of an ideal for me than reality. (I mean, don't get me wrong... I've had friends, but not many as close as these characters are portrayed to be.) But I still found it enjoyable to buy into the concept of being young, and hip, and able to come up with witty one liners during animated conversations at a college coffee shop.