Culture Notes: 1969 Again; John Hughes

1969: The Encyclopedia Britannica blog is turning loose author/professor Raymond Benson on a gradually-unfolding ten best list for 1969. Maybe because I am doing my own ten-best project (including 1969), the Britannica people invited me to leave comments about Benson’s choices, which could lead to much debate if Mr. Benson’s 1968 list is any clue (The Lion in Winter at #4?). The Britannica series intro is here, and new entries appears daily beginning Monday 8/10.

sixteen2John Hughes: The generation born around 1969 is mourning Hughes – not that plenty of other people didn’t enjoy his movies, but his high-school pictures came along at just the right moment for that particular graduating class. I liked his films, generally, and when Sixteen Candles came out it seemed like the revelation of a delightful new comic talent. As it turned out, he only hit that level once again, with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which was kind of a teen version of a James L. Brooks movie, but faster and poppier (except for Hughes’ gifts for snappy one-liners and caricature, The Breakfast Club always struck me as a great idea for a movie rather than a great movie). Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a hilarious formula for comedy, even if its turn toward sentimentality feels like the stuff of a long-form TV commercial.

That superficial advertising-man talent kept emerging, rounding things off neatly so that Ally Sheedy got cleaned up at the end of The Breakfast Club and Jon Cryer got left out at the end of Pretty in Pink. Hughes always put the genie back in the bottle he had himself uncorked, as though he wanted to be Ferris Bueller but had to pull back at the last minute. Maybe the fact that he could walk away from movies indicates his level of commitment to them. Still (and I think I reviewed just about every movie he had a credit on), he brightened my job back in the often dreary moviegoing of the 1980s, so for that I’m grateful.