Friday, August 07, 2009

Farewell to Chicago's Director

"Love is not a big enough word."

Over the past 24 hours, I've been sharing a youtube clip with friends. It's the last scene of Planes, Trains & Automobiles, in which Steve Martin's character is riding the Chicago El, finally going home for Thanksgiving. He's remembering his previous two days and the looking forward to the family that awaits him over a perfectly 80s' score of soft synth rhythms. It's a brilliant montage, through which John Hughes poignantly shows us the very definition of emotional cinema. It's visual nostalgia. And proof of John Hughes' talent and legend.

I don't usually care that much when a celebrity dies. You'll notice I didn't make posts about Michael Jackson or Heath Ledger. So why John Hughes? Why the director of those teenager movies from the 80s? Simply put, John Hughes' movies moved me.

Did you watch that ending? Don't tell me you weren't moved too. It was beautiful.

I grew up with this movie about "getting back home to Chicago." Our family watches Planes, Trains & Automobiles every Thanksgiving after dinner. We all sit in the living room of my Aunt's house in Des Plaines, full from an evening of eating, yelling, laughing and blabbing. My family becomes an extension of the tone Hughes' sets in the movie. When the scene comes up in which Steve Martin is dropping F-bombs at the car rental desk, we have to mute it for the younger kids.

"I want a [MUTE] car, right [MUTE] now."

Today I mourn the loss of our family's favorite hometown director. He was so "Chicago" it was sick. And I loved him for it.

A parade through the loop and the Art Institute in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, "Run Run Rudolph" through O'hare in Home Alone, and making every sports fan in his movie a Bears fan. Chicago is a proud town, and Hughes always reminded us why. He made movies about friends and family. He wasn't artsy, but his style was subtly gorgeous. His movies movies helped us appreciate our own blessings as we related to his characters and the adventures they trudged through.

A family vacation across the country? We've all been there, and Hughes helped us laugh off the bad memories in Vacation (Hughes wrote the script). High school angst. Is there a film more fitting than The Breakfast Club? Even the life-altering moment of parenthood, Hughes nailed it in She's Having a Baby. He found those life moments that we all experience and put them on the screen.

But my favorite Hughes film has been and always will be Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Of course I love that it's a movie about getting home to Chicago, but more importanly, it's about getting home to family. Even more beautiful, it's about making new family on the way. Family is always growing, we just have to keep our hearts open for more love.

Hughes was a son of Chicago. He was one of us. Even though I never met him, I feel so utterly thankful for his work. I always feel like I'm in one of his movies when I walk down Michigan Avenue on a December night. There's even more deja vu whenever I steal a Ferrari for a joyride or create a hot, virtual woman on my computer. It's like I'm living out one of his scenes!

I was just talking with a friend about John Hughes a couple nights ago. We were sitting in my living room, enjoying some brews and going off on Stop Smiling Magazine. I have my reservations about some of that publication's associations, but I can't deny the Hughes' name.

I guess it always feels better when you know that the last word you said about someone before they died was something about how much you appreciate them.

But it's a sad day. Our beloved neighbor has passed on. We'll always have his nostalgia though. Hell, we had it the day each film came out in the theatre. Hughes' created timeless works of cinema. Their style is thoroughly 80s', but the themes always transcend time. He told us stories about love. About the strength that we can attain through our community, be that friends or family. And he made us laugh about it too.

Thank you for your life Mr. Hughes.

"Potato Chips... they're everywhere!"

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