Monday, June 26, 2017

7 Days in May | John Hughes and Tom Cruise

Mr. Mom (1983)

Started a John Hughes marathon this week. Should've included Vacation as well, but we'll have to go back and pick that one up later. My memory - probably tainted by the sequels (including Christmas Vacation, which I don't like as much as most of my friends) - is that it's overrated, but still funny. I should see it again and make up my mind.

But this is about Mr. Mom, which is also very funny. Michael Keaton is really charming and I always love Terri Garr, too. And the way it deals with gender issues holds up surprisingly well. Sure, the premise is supposed to be funny because stay-at-home dads... that's a disaster waiting to happen, right? But the movie never shames either spouse or suggests that they're better off in their traditional roles. It upholds both business career and homemaking as important, vital work, regardless of the gender of the person doing it. Not all of Hughes' writing stays this fresh, so I was really pleased.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Here's one that doesn't hold up as well. Anthony Michael Hall is really funny as Farmer Ted and Molly Ringwald is very effective as the awkward Samantha, but I don't ever root for her to end up with Michael Schoeffling's Jake. That's partly Schoeffling's fault, but it's also the script's for the way it introduces him. It suggests that he's noticed Sam before, but doesn't do anything about it until he steals a private note revealing that she wants to have sex with him. Creepy.

I'm not as creeped out by Ted's ending up with Jake's girlfriend, Caroline. I've heard people describe that as date rape, but the movie makes it pretty clear that both characters were drunk and that Ted remembers even less of it than Caroline does. It's not a part of the movie that I cheer about, but I don't find it as problematic as a lot of folks claim.

But then there's Gedde Watanabe's character, who is super troublesome. And the whole theme of the movie seems to be about how graceless teenage life is. And it is, which is why Sixteen Candles resonated with a lot of kids in its day, but as an adult it's kind of hard to watch.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

I don't have the words for how much I love this movie. It is to my teenage years what Star Wars was to my childhood. I don't know how many times I've seen it, but it feels like hundreds. For years, I could quote the whole thing.

The themes in it are profound and I've failed for 30 years to make up my mind about what happened on Monday. A tiny part of me has wanted a sequel to give me the official answer, but I know that's not what I really want. I appreciate being able to waffle back and forth about who stayed friends and who ignored whom. I love thinking about it and changing my mind and I don't want that locked in.

Far and Away (1992)

The Mummy has put us on a bit of a Tom Cruise kick. Not because it was great, but because I want to relive (and share with David) some of the Cruise movies that were great.

Far and Away is one of those. It's a giant, sweeping epic held together by the charisma of its two leads and a beautiful score by John Williams.

Things to Come (1936)

I'd always heard about the wonderful visuals - both in design and effects - of Things to Come, so I wanted to see it for myself. And it sure is cool to look at. But it's barely a story and I certainly don't care about any of the characters it shoots past me at light speed. I'm glad to have checked it off my list, but can't imagine revisiting it.

Stage Fright (1950)

Stage Fright, on the other hand, is amazing. Last year I finally sought out some Marlene Dietrich movies, because I'd never seen any. I feel pretty confident about my handle on her oeuvre now, so I'm not being a completist about it, but Stage Fright was a straggler still on the pile because it's directed by Alfred Hitchcock. I love Alfred Hitchcock, but not every movie, so I'm never 100% confident that one I haven't seen will be a winner. This one is though.

It begins JJ Abrams-style in the middle of the action with Jane Wyman and Richard Todd on the run from the cops. We quickly learn that Todd's the one the cops are after and that he's just enlisted Wyman's help, so after a brief flashback to catch her and us up on what happened, the plot is off and running. Basically, Todd is wanted for the murder of his lover's (Dietrich) husband. He believes that the blame has been shifted onto him because of bad luck and some bad decision-making on his part, but Wyman suspects that it may have been an intentional framing by Dietrich.

After Wyman puts Todd into hiding with her dad (wonderfully played by Alastair Sim, who's becoming one of my favorite actors), Wyman sets out to get a confession from Dietrich and prove Todd's innocence. But what's so cool is that things never unfold the way I expected them to. The story's just similar enough to others I've seen that I think I know how it's going to go, but then someone makes a weird (but always plausible) decision or reveals some new information that takes the story in a new direction. It kept me guessing - and hooked in - every step of the way.

Fire Down Below (1957)

This is another movie that defied my expectations for it. It starts off with Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon as co-owners of a boat that they charter to rich people in the Caribbean. When they're paid to help passportless Rita Hayworth escape the authorities by taking her to another island, both are immediately attracted to her and the movie sets itself up as a romantic triangle. But it's not actually about who Hayworth is going to end up with.

I don't even want to reveal what it's really about, because finding that out was such a cool journey, but it's safe to describe Fire Down Below as a fascinating character study of all three leads and that the lead it's most concerned with isn't the one I thought it would be.

Zorro (1957-61)

I quickly jammed through the rest of Season 2 and I'm glad I did it that way. Parceling it out was turning it into kind of a slog, but binge-watching it meant that mediocre episodes were immediately followed by more exciting ones. And there were a few storylines that I enjoyed quite a bit.

The series never did return to the 13-episode arcs of the first season, but there were several multi-part storylines. One of the best starred Annette Funicello, who was given the role as a 16th Birthday present by Walt Disney. She plays a young woman who's come to Los Angeles to meet her estranged father. She's convinced that he lives there and she's even received letters from him postmarked Los Angeles, but no one has heard of the man. It's a cool mystery and Funicello brings a lot of conviction and spunk to her role.

There's still sort of a Season 3 left, so I'm not done with the show, but "Season 3" is only four episodes, so I'm almost there.

Jam of the Week: "Green & Gold" by Lianne La Havas

A great, funky, sultry groove that reminds me of Sade.

1 comment:

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I would have loved to join your John Hughes marathon had I known. As a teenager I got into "classic movies" from the 40s and 50s and didn't experience "coming of age" films when I was at that age. To hear you and others talk about Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller the way that you do makes me believe I missed something truly special and unique.

One thing that certainly is dated is the length of these tag lines. I think Sixteen Candles has a full paragraph on text on that poster.


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