Saturday, November 22, 2014

1. The Breakfast Club (1985)

Code-name: Sporto

Writer/Director: John Hughes (RIP 2009)
Type: Brat Pack High School dramedy

John "The Criminal" Bender- Judd Nelson
Claire "The Princess" Standish- Molly Ringwald
Brian "The Brain" Johnson- Anthony Michael Hall
Andrew "The Athlete" Clark- Emilio Estavez
Allison "The Basketcase" Reynolds- Ally Sheedy
Vice Principal Richard Vernon- Paul Gleason (RIP 2006)
Carl the Janitor- John Kapelos
[Honorable Mentions]
Brian's mom and sister played by Anthony Michael Hall's family members
John Hughes as Brian's father (at the end of the movie)

Really IMDB? 7.9 out of 10?
While I believe there's no such thing as a perfect movie, it deserves at least a 9 on that scale.

Once upon a time, a long time ago [so long ago I cannot remember what year it was], my dad introduced me to this movie when it was on cable. Said it was a really good 80's movie. And eventually I fell in love with it.

Years later (I'd guess between 3-5), he got me the DVD for Christmas. To this day, it's still my favorite "surprise" present [something I didn't put on my list but the fact he bought it because he knew I'd like it... that's priceless]

The Story
[I'll include my trademark SPOILER ALERT, but I'm just gonna say now... if you hadn't seen this movie, shame on you. If you've seen it and didn't like it, well, we might need to talk about seeing other people]

It was Saturday, March 24, 1984. Five kids were doing detention at the Shermer High School library. All came from a different clique system and had different reasons for being punished. During which time, they're under the watchful eye of Richard Vernon, the authoritative vice principal.
At first, they react to one another as you'd expect. The popular kids has a kinship. The discipline case is making things difficult. The nerd is the only one interested in doing the assigned 1,000 word essay. And the quiet one doesn't say a word for the first half hour of the movie.

But as they start to spend time together, they realize they have more in common than originally thought. They have issues with their parents. They have issues with peer pressure within their clique and we, the audience, learn what brought each of them to this very room.

The Characters and Actors

I'd since seen Molly Ringwald in "Sixteen Candles," "Pretty in Pink," and (more recently), "The Pick-up Artist" (not one of RDJ's best movies). I also watched the first few episodes of "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" to see what she was like grown up.
This still remains my favorite role of hers because she played the "rich girl" so well.
Claire cut class to go shopping and, naturally, believes that she's above getting thrown into detention. She also claims that her parents use her to get back at each other.

Growing up on the "other side of the tracks," John Bender focuses a lot of his energy on her in particular. But he eventually gets around to everyone in the room (with the exception of Allison, whom he defends a couple times). Clearly, this isn't his first rodeo. He pulled a fire alarm to get in here and his smart mouth winds up earning him 2 more months.

After he elaborates about his home life, an exchange naturally laced with sarcasm, his continual lashing out makes a little more sense.
Judd Nelson did this role so well that John Hughes didn't realize he was staying in character between takes. I'd since seen him in "St. Elmo's Fire" (where he is actually a pleasant good looking guy, shockingly) and in a few random cameos.

Also saw Emilo Estavez in "St. Elmo's Fire" where he spent the movie pursing Andie MacDowell... but Andrew will always be the character I'll identify him with (plus the fact he'd done his share of directing in recent years. Gotta love it when actors branch out behind the camera).
He's the jock. In this case, a wrestler. He comes to Claire's defense multiple times, but his posturing doesn't shake John Bender. Andrew got into detention for assaulting someone ("I taped Larry Lester's buns together") on his team. He believed his father was disappointed in him for never "cutting loose" on someone, but after this incident, he gets a lecture... since something like this could blow his scholarship.

Anthony Michael Hall, like Molly Ringwald, was part of the 80's "John Hughes" experience because they starred in multiple movies of his. Both were the only teens on set playing teenagers. The biggest difference: Anthony Michael Hall made the decision to escape typecasting sooner. He'd since played more adult roles. Ironically, he became the type of characters that beat him up in his "former life" ["Edward Scissorhands" is a prime example- totally unrecognizable after that growth spirit]
Unlike his character in "Sixteen Candles," Brian Johnson lacks the confidence and has more to him than just being the "weird kid." He's the nerd who prefers to color in between the lines than risk the destruction of his permanent record. He got detention for bringing a flare gun to school that went off prematurely.

Which leaves Ally Sheedy, who plays Allison. [Interestingly, she and Judd Nelson are a couple in "St. Elmo's Fire" that later breaks apart... their characters in this movie have much more in common]
For the first half hour of the movie, she doesn't say a word. Then when she starts talking, it becomes clear that she's a compulsive liar whose home life is unsatisfying. Of the group, she's probably the biggest oddball [probably the biggest reason she's my dad's favorite character]. Which makes it funnier when all of them run off to smoke pot and she's the only one not participating.
Judd Nelson appeared on "Psych" once. Ally Sheedy appeared a couple times as a pretty twisted villain that Shawn Spencer tangled with-- almost always on a season finale.

As for why Allison is in detention... the reason's so hilarious that I'm not even gonna say it. That's for everyone to find out or (those who'd seen the movie) to have a real LaughOutLoud moment while I continue.

Paul Gleason played a pretty good dirt bag in "Trading Places," but this was my first encounter with him. THE defining role. Definitely has a no-BS, take-no-prisoners attitude, and is chock full of good quotes.
Two good ones:
"don't mess with the bull, you'll get the horns"
and "when I get older, these kids are going to take care of me" [to which the janitor adds "I wouldn't count on it"]

Carl is such a small character, but he still makes his mark. Primarily as the person who serves as the listening ear for our aggrieved vice principal. And how he presents himself to the students... a little creepy.

Talking about how he looks into lockers, reads notes and listens in on their conversations.
Yeah, Big Brother is watching and he has a career in the custodial arts.

Let's Get Psychological
I touched on this in my "Ferris Bueller" review, but with "The Breakfast Club," there's more to the story.
It's always cool when you get to watch movies in class, especially ones that aren't educational on the surface, but you see them a different way afterwards.
We were covering Eric Erikson's personality theories in Psychology class. The last one was "Identity vs. Isolation," which was extremely relevant to us since it was a good high school theme.
While watching, we paid attention to the reasons why each of the teens got detention. And also noted that each have their own roles based on their upbringing and who their friends are. The principle goes that if you don't find who you are between the ages of 12-18, you might have trouble later in life.

Everyone experiences pressure from somebody.
Andrew gets pressure from his dad (evident to the point where Allison considers his "inability to think for himself" is his biggest flaw).
Claire gets pressure from her friends to go along with what they say. She also suffers from the off dynamic of her parents. When her mom tells her not to do something, she does it anyway because her dad says it's okay.

Brian gets pressure from his parents about his grades... something that ultimately leads to his getting detention.
John Bender comes from an abusive household. His dad burns him with cigars for spilling paint in the garage and gets him a carton of cigarettes for Christmas. Which explains why he lashes out at pretty much everyone who presents a challenge.
With Allison... things are different... she claims that she doesn't have any friends and her parents ignore her... to this day, she remains the most mysterious member of the quintet.

And where does that leave me?
I like to think of myself as a combination of Allison and Brian. I felt like a weirdo who didn't really belong to a clique. I was in concert choir, auditioned for every play and musical, but never got a role. Not even a call-back.
I only had a couple friends, but with some of them, I always felt like I was on the outside of their social circles.

But regarding back story, I had the most in common with Brian. I don't always like myself, especially in high school.I felt so much pressure with my grades. I went through bouts of depression my freshman and junior years of high school when I was getting C's instead of A's and B's in certain classes. [Goddam honors courses!]

The Music

It's the 80's... my favorite musical decade/decade of pop culture in general... so obviously, the music is good.
But to my memory, only two compositions stand out. [Once I post this entry, I'll need to change that ASAP]

The first: "We are not alone" by Karla DeVito

This plays during the scene towards the end after the half hour long "therapy" session where they all cut loose and dance.
(And actually, when I listen to "I want you to want me," I think about this scene, especially how Claire kicks it up in those cute boots)

The second...
it kinda speaks for itself, but I'll go into anyway.

I can pick a #1 movie, but I'm such a connoisseur of music that it's literally impossible for me to pick "the best song ever"...
but "(Don't you) Forget About Me" is definitely top shelf.

You hear the song and you automatically think about this movie.
Simple Minds is a band synonymous with 80's music (and for whatever reason, I haven't checked into any of their other music). I find it hard to believe that people (Billy Idol among them) turned this song down, but then it wouldn't be as iconic without the voices of this Brit synth pop band (excuse me, Scottish new wave).

It would be several years until I heard the whole song. I only heard the parts we see/hear in the beginning and end of this movie.

My love for this song has also extended to other movies.

The moment in my "Easy A" review where I didn't elaborate on the awesomeness of the final scene...
What made that amazing movie one of my favorites...
Olive's wrapping up the end of her podcast and suddenly, this song kicks in and I was practically cheering in the theater :P if I remember right, it was just my mom and me.

"Pitch Perfect," I found to be a really badly written movie. Between all the vomit and the fact the acapella heiress has the Bellas literally singing the same songs at every competition.
After the 3rd or 4th time I heard the beginning of "I saw the sign," I wanted to smack her... "Glee" never pulled that idiotic crap
Anna Kendrick can sing really well and I loved her "Cups" audition.

Skylar Astin talking about "The Breakfast Club," Anna Kendrick crying at the end of the movie (the first time she saw any movie in its entirety), and the Bellas incorporating "(Don't you) Forget about me" in their final mash-up number... that saved the movie for me. I had to get the soundtrack just for that and I've since watched the movie a bunch more times...
just learned to look away during the vomit scenes (REALLY hope they didn't continue into the sequel).
I saw an IMDB message board question under ""Pitch Perfect" asking if people in the 20's even like The Breakfast Club. Frankly, I find that insulting... that's a big fact YES for me, clearly

And apparently it was nominated for AFI's top 100 movie songs :facepalm:
and also for their top 100 movies of all time...

Thank you, John Hughes, for your amazing writing!
As far as John Hughes movies go...

Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, Some Kind of Wonderful...
...all have their moments, but they aren't at this particular caliber
but what makes "The Breakfast Club" outrank "Ferris Bueller"... it simply comes down to the script and the quotability.

With a few exceptions, I know "The Breakfast Club" backwards and forwards. I also incorporate more quotes from this movie into my everyday life than any other movie.
Most of which, my family (who loves this movie as well) knows and uses themselves.

One favorite: "Could you describe the ruckus?" which we say every time the word "ruckus" is uttered in dialogue. It's also the automatic response we use when one of us uses the word "ruckus"

Once or twice, my dad has used "Answer the question!" in the same tone the characters used when they were prodding Claire about her virginity

["No! I never did it!"... Allison- "I never did it either. I'm not a nymphomaniac. I'm a compulsive liar"]

My favorite: "I think your old man and my old man should get together and go bowling"
...I adapt this quote accordingly when I see two people who look like they've have a lot in common.

Other favorites include:
*"So it's social. Demented, and sad, but social"
*"I have such a deep admiration for guys who roll around the floor with other guys" (I once used this for a journalism assignment on wrestling)
*"I think I'm gonna try for a scholarship" (but gotta say 'scholarship' the way Judd Nelson did)
*"Well, Brian, this is a very nutritious lunch. All the food groups are represented. Did your mom marry Mr. Rodgers?" (when the situation calls for it, I do use the "food groups" line)
*John Bender's entire dialogue on "Life at 'Big Bry's house'" (I parodied this when Joe took over for Steve on "Blue's Clues")

Why is this my #1 favorite movie of all-time?

Where to even begin? And I spent nearly 3 years leading up to this point.

For starters, I'll focus on the movie itself.
It's one of those "perfect" movies where I would not change a thing about it.
The writing is solid. There's a perfect blend of drama and comedy. In fact, I think this is considered a "drama" but there's enough breaks in between to break the tension.
The pacing is solid, never too slow for too long. The scene that drags the most is the "circle therapy session" that lasts for a good chunk of the 3rd act, but even then, there are moments of relief in between to keep things interesting.

The acting is so good and the actors are so good in their roles...I wouldn't trade anyone for anybody. Change even one person, no matter how good the alternatives are, the whole dynamic would be thrown.

And it also has the best movie theme song EVER (...well, "Purple Rain" might still win out, but "(Don't you) Forget about me" is easier to put on the radio and fit into other movies).

As for beyond the movie... the overall impact it's had on me and my life... that's something worth celebrating with this "pristine" honor.

Thanks to a recorded VHS full of MTV music videos circa 1987 (thanks, dad!), I was a fan of 80's music at an early age.
"The Breakfast Club" cemented my love of 80's MOVIES when I was a teenager (maybe even earlier). Heck, it was one of my first adult movies (probably my first R-rated movie... other than the language and pot use, it could pass for PG13). Making the transition from cartoons to live action was hard for me, so this helped me realize that there is fun to be had with live action movies as well.

It introduced me to John Hughes... I still miss the guy terribly whenever I watch his movies... None really had this degree of *impact*, but the familiar faces made things easy.
Molly Ringwald especially. "Sixteen Candles" has its moments as does "Pretty in Pink."
Anthony Michael Hall might have even saved "Sixteen Candles" for me on a couple occasions. He kept things interesting ;)
The same can't exactly be said for "Weird Science." RDJ was the only reason I revisited it after the first time (going back at least 5 years previous). It's not bad once you accept that the "science" aspect can't be fully explained.

Perhaps more importantly, it introduced me to the concept of the Brat Pack.
The 50's had the Rat Pack (Frank Sintara, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Joey Bishop, etc)
Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Will Ferrell and the Wilson brothers have the Frat Pack.
The 80's have the Rat Pack, which extends mostly to anyone who's been in a John Hughes movie.

St. Elmo's Fire, I once watched years ago cuz I thought it was a John Hughes movie...
It has 3 members of The Breakfast Club, but he had no involvement in it.
Andrew McCarthy was in Pretty in Pink, so that helped foster that illusion.

And if you want to extend beyond those first couple degrees, The Breakfast Club did eventually lead me to Less Than Zero.
The initial spark of interest came from The Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter" movie video, but the gaze of curiosity was widened by the involvement of Andrew McCarthy (who I had enjoyed in "Pretty in Pink") and RDJ (who I briefly glimpsed as part of the cast list, one of maybe 3 names I recognized)...
(at this point, I really should make that my next blog entry just so I can stop talking about it every other entry :P)...

I'm currently watching the pilot of "Glee"... first time I'm seeing it since the first time all those years ago... feels only right to revisit it since the final season starts next year...
I think I owe my love of "Glee" to this movie as well, but then, that's another entry altogether.

The End
And so my 101 favorite movies have all been accounted for...
and it's been a heck of a ride discussing them. In the case of some, revisiting them for the first time in years and others, getting to know them better after only one or two goes.

From this point forward, I hope to do one blog entry a week as I have been doing...
and what they're about, most likely, will not be predetermined.
Everything from discussing new movies I saw (either in theaters or on HBO), covering award shows (Golden Globes and Oscars), to discussing the people involved in their making. Whatever piques my interest.

And I will also take requests... within reason. Meaning I'm not going to invest in a Neftlix account just to review a certain movie. ;)

Until next time...


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