It’s not uncommon for viewers of any given Academy Awards ceremony to ask themselves, “What the hell was that all about?” Everything from misguided fashion choices to befuddling speeches goes under our own personal WFT-o-scope.
Last night’s ceremony provided countless moments from which to hang our sarcastic hats on, but none hit the mark for me like the John Hughes tribute.
John Hughes’ sudden death last year shook many of us of a certain age to our former teenage core. While generations who followed also found a kinship in the marginal rebellion and pimply angst of Hughes’ colossal run of ‘80s comedies, those of us who lived it tried to convince ourselves and others on Facebook and Twitter that the films were somehow a reflection of our own lives. And maybe in some small way that’s exactly what they were.
It made sense to feature a tribute to Hughes at last night’s Oscars, and the montage which opened the proceedings did a fine job of condensing some of our favorite moments from some of our favorite films, some of which may even have stood the test of time.
But then it all crashed to a terrifying halt. Out stepped a rogues’ gallery of actors from some of Hughes’ most successful films. Only two - Matthew Broderick and John Cryer - looked comfortable at all, the former having spent much of his career on the stage, and the latter still reveling in his career resurgence as a television sitcom actor. But the rest of them, that was something altogether less endearing.
We all knew Anthony Michael Hall was no longer the skinny kid from those early flicks, the transformation having begun when he was struck with Martin Lawrenceitis (an actor who made his name on playing a lovable doofus, then decided it was time to be the cool guy with less convincing results) right around the time of Johnny Be Good.
There was Macaulay Culkin, who’d spent his entire adult life trying to escape having been that irritating kid in the first two Home Alone movies acting like Mick Jagger on the Ed Sullivan Show when they made him switch the then-provocative lyrics to “Let’s Spend the Night Together”.
Molly Ringwald’s choice to wear a Pete Burns costume was an odd one, but compared to Judd Nelson’s sweaty, twitchy delivery and futuristic zoot suit outfit, it was pretty tame stuff. Ally Sheedy came off okay by comparison, but she was pursing her lips so tight, I thought my television was going to crack.
With 4/5 of the cast of The Breakfast Club making the scene, it was also hard to wonder why Emilio Estevez took a pass. Was he even asked? Did he realize it would turn into an ugly debacle? Furthermore, would it have been more of a tribute to speak to some of these actors on film instead of parading them out on stage and making the current crop of young go-getters in the audience like Tyler Lautner and Kristen Stewart wonder what their own lives might one day become (that moment comes at 3:50 in the attached YouTube video)?
Hughes deserved a tribute, and he got at least half of one worthy of his role in American cinema. If you weren’t a fan, perhaps you feel the latter half told the story better than the montage. But if you loved Hughes’ films, you’ll have to work hard to forget the second half before ever trying to watch one again.
// Notes from the Road
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