No one knows exactly how he did it, or more pointedly how he did it so well, but John Hughes really had a way of speaking to America’s youth. Watching his films as a young person made you immediately question how he knew exactly what was going on in your mind and what you experienced. Of course, some of the credit has to also go with the young stars he cast in these important roles, and tonight, this group, once known as the Brat Pack, reunited on the Oscar stage to honor their friend, filmmaker John Hughes, following his death this past year.
As a writer, I love nothing more than a good story, told the right way. Hughes just had a way of telling that story in a way that no one else could. There have been many movies out there about teenagers and young adults, but no one else has had the same knack of storytelling. A documentary, Don’t You Forget About Me, was begun before Hughes’ death, but released just after. It includes interviews with his stars, as well as young people. Even people that are young now, a quarter century after some of these movies were filmed, mentioned that these movies speak more to them than the ones that are currently filmed. I don’t know who Hughes was in his own teenage years, but I’m guessing he didn’t have it all going on, as he somehow seemed to know how to tell us we’re not alone in that feeling.
Tonight on the Academy Awards, instead of having Hughes’ name and picture be unceremoniously added to a list of those who have passed in the last year, the stars that he made famous, including Jon Cryer, Anthony Michael-Hall, Matthew Broderick, Judd Nelson, Macaulay Culkin, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy, paid tribute to the man that made them stars. To see them onstage together made you realize how far they have come. They were just kids back in the 80s, but now some of them have become big stars.
Cryer noted that “John” created characters that were painfully ordinary, but at the same time transcendent and iconic. Hall said John gave us all the gift of laughter and understanding. Nelson explained John had a gift for treating young people not as children, but as developing adults. Sheedy noted John’s ironic words written for her character in the Breakfast Club, that when you get older, your heart dies. Culkin was appreciative of John treating even the 9-year-old version of himself with dignity and respect. RIngwald noted that John’s genius was taking the pain of growing up and relating it to everyone. Broderick introduced John’s family and thanked them for coming, and told John, “Danke Schoen.”
This was the best way to to pay homage to a man that wasn’t only influential on these people honoring him tonight, but on most of us as well. There honestly aren’t many days that I’m not quoting at least one John Hughes’ film or another. He knew we all wanted to belong, and because of him, we knew it was okay not to.
I wanted to add a video here, but unfortunately, the embedding has been disabled. That’s okay, though, as it’s the words that are most important anyway. The ending scene of The Breakfast Club:
Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us … In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.