[Abby’s Road] From the Ridiculous to a Little Less Ridiculous III: The Final Chapter

Or: Films I took Seriously Back in the Day – a new AR series. This is the third and final installment. See the first two here.

Writing about the movies of my youth has been a good time. From the beginning I knew the series would conclude with film #3. But which one? This was harder than I thought. There are just SO MANY gems to consider:

John Cusack’s duo of critically questionable material, One Crazy Summer and Better Off Dead, could not be reviewed separately; kind of like celebrating one fraternal twins birthday without the other, so they were eliminated immediately. Sid “What about the farewell druuuuuuugs?!?” and Nancy also topped the list. One of Oldman’s greatest character transformations if I do say so myself. All things considered, I knew what I had to do. The late, the great and disturbingly infatuated by teen redheads, John Hughes – and his catalog – won out, leaving me the task of selecting only one of his masterpieces. Without further ado, I give you Pretty In Pink. You knew it was coming…

Now, one can argue that the majority of Hughes’ Teen Dramas are one in the same, so why does it matter which one I dissect. Misunderstood girl or boy or boy/girl combo/group, jocks vs. punks vs. nerds, gigantic parties of rich suburban kids drinking martinis and smoking Cuban cigars who never EVER get busted while their poorer peers remain outside in swaddling clothes, never daring to actually enter…you catch my drift here. These films are super fantastic and never truly depicted my (anyone’s?) high school career. Maybe a little, but looking back now, like most of the 80s, the fictional cliques, scenes and fashion were over the top and freakishly exaggerated.

Perhaps Hughes had a premonition of American Apparel needing a barometer for future collections and ad campaigns? Did he backhandedly and unknowingly invent the hipster? Before I get off track completely, even while wearing my veil of nostalgia, the scenes are more than a bit silly. The songs selected by Hughes for this particular film, however, set my musical mode selector for the future in stone. It isn’t so much the story, which is terribly sappy. 80s bullytown reality would never realistically end with Jon Cryer (“Duckie”) getting anything more than a bloodied lip and a shiner. Of this I am 98.9% positive. Unlike Pump Up the Volume, this one is about the music.

I could talk about all of the bands on the soundtrack, and have, but I will stick to the one that left the biggest mark on my life – New Order. Bernard and crew appear once on the soundtrack but twice in the film. To this day I can’t wrap my head around why Hughes (or the powers that be) selected “Shell Shock” over “Thieves Like Us,” which is clearly the superior tune, for the soundtrack. Point is, after seeing the film for the first time, I went straight out and purchased a half-dozen cassettes, including NO’s Power, Corruption and Lies and history was made. My first ever “favorite band” found a home in my ears, brain and heart. They had a good run and remained in first place until 1991 when they fell a notch, second only (even today) to Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine. A good run indeed.

So, thank you Mr. Hughes. Thank you for creepily understanding what kids wanted to hear before they knew themselves. Thank you for taking a hint from the UK singles charts and selecting music by British bands little known by much of American youth for your films. Lastly, thank you for suffering what most certainly had to be a miserable adolescence, otherwise where on earth would you have gotten the material for at least 3 of the films that I watched repeatedly from 1984 on? Rest in peace, good sir. Thirty-Somethings across the land have taken Jim Kerr’s words to heart. Few of us will ever forget about you…or your work.

Happy weekend.

[Abby’s Road is a Knox Road feature published every other Friday.]

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