Two Posts For The Price Of One

A few days back, I was writing a memorial piece on the late director John Hughes. In the middle of said piece, the computer pulled a Sarah Palin on me and quit.

So now to make up for that, here’s another post on a friend’s machine (thanks Heather and Erik).

John Hughes passed away at the age of 59 in New York City. The writer and director is best known as the definitive voice of the 1980’s teenager. He wrote a myriad of popular films, including the National Lampoon’s Vacation series, Home Alone, and, ummm, Flubber.

OK maybe not every movie was genius, but at least he had the sense to use a pen name for the really atrocious ones, like Beethoven’s 5th and Home Alone 4 and any other direct to DVD money scheme the studios would throw at him.

But it was that fabulous decade, the 80’s, where Hughes made his mark, not only as a writer but a director. I was surprised to see that he only directed 8 features. His presence and influence is felt so widely in the films of that time, it is easy to think he did them all. Yet, the ones he directed are some of the most beloved coming of age, growing up and discovering the world films of that or ANY time.

Plus, he directed Uncle Buck. And Uncle Buck is cool. Do not deny it. You love Uncle Buck. Love it.

Last thought on Hughes. Can anyone think think of a movie from the last ten or twenty years about teenagers, in the way Hughes thought about being a teenager, that didn’t involve pie violations? I’m trying to come up with similar films, coming of age for the teen set, that held as much humor and depth as Hughes’ films. Basically I can’t. It seems today, our growing up movies all involve stoned out twenty somethings who already live on their own, albeit unsuccessfully. The genre will just never be the same.

Movies like Superbad attempt that kind of story, but they get too bogged up with the whole losing virginity thing. When did that become the big deal it is today? Breakfast Club is a veritable Catcher in the Rye of misguided angst, disregard for authority and teenage rebellion. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the exclamation point on the you’ll-only-be-young-once-so-try-to-enjoy-it theme of the entire decade. I’d even say FBDO is the quintessential movie of the 80’s, encapsulating everything great about that time in one film. Especially that chk-chk-cha-ka music. Ohh yeaaa!

Rushmore is probably the best movie to deal with the awkwardness and confusion of being fifteen since John Hughes. Wes Anderson gave us complex and dynamic characters that transcend the stereotypical in every way. Good job Rushmore. Any other contenders? Help me out here.

And now for something completely different…

The Brothers Bloom

I finally saw this film last week. I had been looking forward to it simply because the writer/director is Rian Johnson. He is the man responsible for Brick, the second best movie of 2007. Amazingly, Brick was Johnson’s debut feature, a taught and sharp take on the hard boiled noir films of the past. Our hero, investigating the drug related murder of his ex girlfriend, comes across a variety of dangerous and cunning players in this dramatic and intense crime drama. Only it’s set in High School.

Well, shit, now that I think of it, Brick belongs right up there with the Hughes post. It’s got all the factors, it just plays them for chills rather than laughs. If you have not seen brick, DO IT. You won’t be disappointed.

But, I’m trying to talk about the Brothers Bloom. This was also an entertaining and smart film, only it couldn’t really be more different from Johnson’s previous work if he tried.The titular brothers, Steve (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody), are con men. Excuse me, con artists. They pull huge and incredibly detailed cons around the world, and their last job is their most intricate masterpiece yet.

The film is a romp, a con  film in every sense. Hell, it’s even narrated by Ricky Jay at the beginning, the magician and actor best known for his work in Mamet’s great con films. It also stars Rachel Weisz as the all too eager and dangerously ingenious mark, Penelope Stamp, Rinko Kikuchi (who you last saw in Babel) as the brother’s right hand and explosives expert Bang Bang-love her by the way- and Robbie Coltrane, who I’m just happy to see anywhere outside of Hogwarts anymore.

From the beginning the film is a fast paced and exciting chase across the globe. There are double crosses, there are mysteries, there is love. We watch people whose lives are more interesting than ours will ever be. And really isn’t that sort of the point of going to the movies sometimes? When Bloom tells Penelope that this isn’t an adventure story, she giddily replies, “It totally is!”And it’s fun to be a part of that story if only for an hour and a half.

I really enjoyed Brothers Bloom. It has Johnson’s incredible ear for dialogue and really great eye for scenery. The shots of Prague, of Mexico, of Bloom riding a Schwinn down a hill or stealing an apple, all of it looks fantastic. It has some of the best performances of the year, especially Ruffalo, who I usually don’t really like, and Brody, who I always love. All in all, a good flick. Nothing too game changing, but enjoyable through and through. And not G I Joe enjoyable, I mean that people with an IQ over 80 will also enjoy it. (Take that G I Joe!)

-Charlie

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