Friday, July 24, 2009

sixteen candles [1984]

it's hard to remember summer even when in its midst. like tonight, i left work very late in the evening. it was a long, long day and when i left the office i forgot about the sunshine, the air, the way light refracts thru the glass cladding on the buildings downtown. there was a breeze. there is still a breeze, the delta breeze, as it moves west to east from the pacific thru the confluences of the sacramento and american rivers, cooling down the valley, nature's air conditioner. it was, in other words, a perfect summer evening.

there was a band playing in cesar chavez plaza. the streets were choked with hipsters and non-hipsters alike. it felt good to be alive even after an enervating day. when i passed the band i remembered it was summer still even if those lazy days of summer are as far gone as my youth. it is summer and summer to me means a certain type of movie, the kind that can be watched with only one eye toward the screen and the other on your girl or boy. the kind of film i'm talking about is redolent of the carefree and zaniness that we recall of our summers past.

who doesn't love the films of john hughes? be honest, now. hughes was the best purveyor of teen comedies in the '80s as perhaps howard hawkes and preston sturges were of screwball comedies in the '30s and '40s. hughes had an ear for dialogue, a crispness of editing, the right actors, and a great ear for the soundtrack. hughes' choices for songs always rocked. he picked the most appropriate, fantastic alt/emo/modern rock assembled for teen comedies back then.

asked to pick a favorite film by hughes i'd have to choose this one. i consider it to be hughes' masterpiece. it may not be his best movie, breakfast club [1985] i think wins the hearts of most of hughes' fans, but this flick sings with perfect pitch. ostensibly about a girl, sam played by then uber-hot and ultra-in-demand molly ringwald, who turns sixteen and everyone, including her parents who are deeply wrapped up in sam's older sister's pending nuptials, forgets her birthday. sam is also, like all or most 16-year-olds who wear their hearts on their sleeves, deeply in love with the hot but grossly out of her league guy, jake played by the hot michael shoeffling.

what's not to love, indeed. jake really does want sam for all the right reasons, not just to bone but to romance, but for some lame-headed reasons is too shy to approach the girl. enter anthony michael hall who portrays the geek that only wants to bed the lovely sam and you get comedic heaven. add to the supporting cast john and joan cusack and gedde watanabe as long duk dong [get it!] the foreign exchange student and there you have a great comedy.

if all that sounds rather silly and lightweight, it is. which is what a good summer movie is all about. hughes' genius resides in his ability to expertly cast his films with game young actors and a killer soundtrack and craft a screenplay that reaches back toward screwball comedy while it remains firmly in teen angst. sam, as you all probably recall, finds her love in jake and the last image of sam and jake kissing in candlelight above a sweet sixteen birthday cake as the thompson twins' song 'if you were here' melts the heart of boy, girl, man, woman and even the grinch whose heart is two sizes too small. it is movie magic.


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