Friday, August 7, 2009

RIP Edmond Dantès

John Hughes was the 1980’s guy behind the guy. He died of a heart attack yesterday in Manhattan at the age of 59, according to AP. There were faces that were pop culture staples during that epoch. There were also famous words. Hughes’ face is not recognizable – he kind of looks like Wilson from Home Improvement or your high school principal (for a more complete picture of a face). Maybe even my orthodontist.

The last American teenager who arguably contributed to the homogenization of almost all teen content that decade also set the standard of quality for it. But don’t pigeonhole him as the writer and occasional director who pioneered the Brat Pack scene and “hasn’t done anything good lately.” Yes, he ducked from media attention since he moved back to his native Illinois home in the mid ‘90s, where he subsequently hid under phunny pseudonym Edmond Dantès. But's he not a mere neo-Luddite recluse.

Aside from authoring the Molly Ringwald trilogy, he commandeered two significant genres: the R-rated comedy that didn’t depend on raunch, and the family comedy. Two personal favorites – Planes, Trains and Automobiles (he wrote and directed) and National Lampoon’s Vacation (he wrote) – were possibly the two best comedies of the ‘80s. Zoning in on the comedic strengths of Steve Martin, John Candy and Chevy Chase, he brought out some of the best acting and zingy delivery. He gave us that enormous pancake in Uncle Buck, a clip of the greatest fake gangster movies in the two Home Alone films and … Beethoven… Ok, I’m not going to vouch for Beethoven. Or Flubber. Regardless, he created rich, memorable characters like Ferris Bueller who broke the fourth wall even after the credits were over and Clark Griswold, the food additives researcher with the best intentions for the ideal summertime family sabbatical. Check out some good stuff below.

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