Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reboot, reflect, review (Don't You Forget about Me)

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives - and the first day of a new life on this blog.

Upon personal reflection, I've decided to change my approach here. I will still review movies, on the big and small screens. I will still opine on movie-related matters as the mood strikes me. But the manner in which I will do so changes, starting with this post.

I've decided to get away from posts like my wrap-ups of the DVD releases and of the theatrical movies coming out every week. Creating those posts had begun to feel like a chore. I was writing them because I felt I had to - not because I really wanted to.  If anyone wants to know about a particular theatrical or DVD release, or wants to know my thoughts on a particular issue du cinema, you can always ask me, either via comments or email.

My blog audience is very small - about 20-30 readers a day, if I'm lucky, and that's OK. It's mainly friends, family and associates. One of the benefits of having a forum like this is the personal freedom it gives me. And that makes me feel comfortable in taking this blog to a more personal place.

I'm going to treat this blog more as a journal - a movie diary. Some posts will be long, others will be brief. Longer than a tweet, but shorter than a novel. Either way, I'm going to write more often, and more thoughtfully about the movies I see and why I see them. It will do my soul some good, I think, and I hope to continue to give you food for thought too. More to the point, I hope you like what I serve.

So with that in mind ....

Browsing around the movies available for "Instant Viewing" on Netflix, I made an interesting find this week - a movie called Don't You Forget About Me. If those very words conjure up a warm aural bath of synthesiszers and "hey hey hey heys," you've probably surmised the movie has something to do with the late John Hughes. You would be right.

The doc, which is mostly very well done, follows a group of filmmakers as they attempted to track down Hughes and get him to talk on camera about his legacy and why he became something akin to the JD Salinger of cinema. (Obviously, the documentary was made  before Hughes' sudden death in 2009).

While I understood the need to give the movie a narrative "hook," the "looking for John Hughes" segments of the doc are its least interesting. The filmmakers' attempts to find Hughes are well-intentioned but come across as creepy and stalker-ish. It's almost as if someone made the pitch "Hey! Let's trespass on the private property of the most reclusive filmmaker since Greta Garbo, and film ourselves doing it!"

Much more successful are the various interviews. The crew managed to talk to many of Hughes' collaborators like Ally Sheedy, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Judd Nelson and director Howard Deutch, who made Pretty in Pink and its gender-reversed counterpart, Some Kind of Wonderful. No, they're not exactly Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald, but that was OK - I liked hearing the viewpoints of the lesser-known Brat Packers.

Impressively, the filmmakers also scored sit-downs with Kevin Smith (who calls his flicks "raunchy John Hughes films"), Ebert and Roeper, Up in the Air director Jason Reitman (prescience!), and even Jim Kerr, the lead singer of Simple Minds. Most striking of all are interviews with contemporary teens who are big Hughes fans and say that today's teens movies hardly represent them at all. ("Who has sex with a pie?" one wonders.)

And then something strange happened to me. Watching the clips, I found they hit me harder personally than they once did.

Why is that? A little background is in order. When Hughes'  films originally came out, I really wasn't that much into them. With the possible exception of Ferris Bueller, I don't think I saw a single one of them upon their original theatrical release. I caught most of them on VHS later, and liked most of them but did not love them.  I remember giving The Breakfast Club points because it was cool enough to mention John Lennon.

But that was part of why Hughes' films didn't resonate with me as much as they did my contemporaries. In a subconscious attempt to forge an identity as something other than "the kid with cerebral palsy," I cast myself as "the kid who likes the Beatles." It wasn't very cool to like the Beatles in the mid-80s, so I didn't see myself as the kind of angsty teen that populated Hughes' movies. I  prided myself on being off the beaten track and was comfortable in my own skin.

But as I watched Don't You Forget About Me, I found those scenes from Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, et al, resonating me more than they did when I was a teenager. I think that's because in the intervening years, I became more of the angsty lost soul than I used to be.

In large part, this stems from my lack of success in finding a significant other, especially since just last week, I was dealt a bad hand in the dating game. That pill is bitter enough to swallow under any circumstance, but when you're pushing 40, you just about choke on it. Suddenly, all that loneliness and alienation in Hughes' films hit me  where I have come to live. Talk about being a late bloomer.

What does all this mean? Well, I don't expect Hughes' films to shine a bright light and quote Lennon with to an uplifting sing-along of "Love is the answer, and you know that for sure." But seeing that documentary made me realize that Hughes wasn't just speaking to teens - he was speaking to everybody.

Not everybody listened, but I'm starting to do so.   After all, I will always be grateful to Hughes for helping turn the Fabs' "Twist and Shout" into a top 40 hit again via Bueller. For one brief, shining moment in the 80s, everybody knew what I was talking about. Who's to say something like that can't happen again?

Movie grade: B+
Available on Netflix streaming.

1 comment:

HollyGoKimsy said...

Very nice new direction. I'm interested to see where your cinematic journey takes you, which I'm sure will be somewhere you cannot even fathom right now.