Guest Post: Still Learning Lessons From Ferris Bueller

Happy Monday all!

As you’re reading this, I’m likely hanging out in downtown Chicago with my best friend, enjoying the hot and sticky Summer day in the Windy City. So what’s more appropriate than a post from a movie set in that exact spot? Special thanks to Nick from Cinema Romantico for his awesome contribution!

I moved to Chicago seven years ago this month and spent my first few weeks surfing on my friend’s couch, checking out my new north side neighborhood and availing myself of the seemingly endless sites downtown (and seeing movies). Only one conclusion could be reached: ‘tis a beautiful city and I was in love with it. Even when I re-started working 40 hours a week I was still in the midst of my affair and vividly remember telling my friend that I even enjoyed the packed, sweaty train rides home because I felt like all us passengers were one family united in our joyous relief of surviving another work day. My friend’s cold reply: “Yeah. You’ll get over that.” And I did. Quickly. I also vividly recall the first time I left my office on Michigan Avenue and no longer gave a flip that I was on Michigan Avenue. Even now when I walk to the train from my new office in the West Loop I consistently forget and only occasionally remember to remind myself of the fact that I’m passing 333 Wacker Drive – that is, the comely curved building where Ferris Bueller’s dad was employed.

The most common charge leveled against John Hughes’ 1985 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is that its title character is static, as in he undergoes no type of discernible change, that he is exactly the same person at the end that he is at the beginning. And this is entirely fair and totally accurate. In fact, the mantra he recites very near the start are the same lines he uses to close the film – “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop once in awhile and look around, you might miss it.” Which is to say his worldview is not altered. Therefore this often leads directly to the argument that Ferris’s best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) is ACTUALLY the main character because he is the one character who undergoes a true transformation, morphing from the scaredy cat under the covers with emotional health problems manifesting themselves as the flu to the supreme dissident (he wears a Detroit Red Wings jersey in downtown Chicago) taking a stand by kicking in the fender of his father’s car and sending it off into the symbolic ether.

But what if – to quote Al Pacino in The Insider – we look through the looking glass the other way? What if Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is as much an Instructional Video as it is a piece of fiction? What if Cameron Frye is the audience surrogate, what if he is us, and Ferris Bueller is the anthem on the car radio prodding us to sing along? And that, of course, brings us right along to perhaps the film’s most famed sequence, the Twist and Shout sing along in the midst of the German-American Parade on Dearborn.

How do we get to this scene? Well, it starts earlier in the cab that un-fortuitously winds up right next to the cab containing Ferris’s dad. In those moments before this tense showdown Cameron expresses his disappointment in this whole day off leading Ferris to demand “Cameron, what have you seen today?” leading Cameron to dismissively declare “Nothing good.” Thus, when Ferris up and vanishes during the parade only to appear on the float what does he say? “Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to play a little tune for you. I dedicate it to a man who doesn’t think he’s seen anything good today. Cameron Frye,” he announces, “this one’s for you.” But, of course, it’s for us too. All of us, because we are all too often guilty at half-glancing at all the wonders around us and shrugging and sighing and thinking it’s nothing good.

One of the favorite pastimes of Chicago journalists is attempting to see if they can achieve going to every single place Ferris, Cameron and Sloane go to in a single afternoon as the film would have us believe. They fail every time. But this does not prove the film’s implausibility – no, it rather demonstrates these journalists are missing the film’s point. The Day Off is an ideal. Ferris himself is an ideal. And it and he are working together to show Cameron and us that “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop once in awhile and look around, you might miss it.” And there those journalists zipping all over Chicago (in a “fast” manner, one might say) are, failing to stop and look around and thereby missing the inherent beauty in everything they are seeing.

Which reminds me that today when I walk to the train I just need to stop for a second and gawk at 333 Wacker Drive.

Thoughts on this movie? What lesson(s) have YOU learned from Ferris Bueller?

The Flix List: 10 movie scenes to celebrate back-to-school season

Hi folks, welcome to September! Well, to some of you, the Fall season means ‘back to school’ season. It’s been a while since my college graduation (I’m not gonna tell you how many years it’s been, ahah), sometimes I miss those fun college days. So, whether it’s you or your kids who are heading back to school/college, I thought I’d pick ten memorable scenes that get me all nostalgic about academic life. Please keep in mind this is not a ‘best of’ list as I’m sure I haven’t seen a whole bunch of movies that deserve to be on this list, the idea is to hopefully prompt you to think of other scenes that make you nostalgic about ‘back to school.’ As you can see, I have lots of 80s movies on my list 😀

Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)

I heart this movie! It’s perhaps my favorite high-school movie ever and it’s because of the chemistry between Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. I’ve dedicated a post for this movie before, and I included a scene of Heath singing ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ which is one of my fave scenes from the movie. But I also love this one when Julia’s character is reading a poem (which is actually a really good one) out loud in front of her class. It’s such a genuine scene and Heath’s expression in the end is just priceless. I so miss this guy!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Yes, it’s utterly predictable of me to include a scene of HP with Alan Rickman in it, ahah. But I actually was trying to find a good classroom scene and find this one quite whimsical. Man, what I would give to have a teacher like Snape (ok, preferably without all the wizardry), but just to listen to him lecture for a full hour… I’d either end up being extremely good on the subject or utterly useless at it as I won’t be paying attention to what he’s saying at all. Anyway, I like this scene as it’s the first time we see the HP kids growing up and fussing over the homecoming dance. There is also that first hint of ‘spark’ between Hermione and Ron.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

I saw this movie ages ago, but it’s perhaps one of the most memorable movies I’ve seen back in high school. I remember being so affected by it and if you’ve seen this movie, you probably know why. This is one of my favorite work from the great Peter Weir and perhaps one of my fave Robin Williams roles who’s perfect as Prof. John Keating. I spent parts of my early years in a boarding school (not, not at all as posh as this one in New England, not even close), but I can relate to the camaraderie and being really affected by a caring and charismatic teacher. I wonder whatever happened to Robert Sean Leonard as he was really memorable here (as well as in Swing Kids), I’d think he’d have as decent a career as Ethan Hawke.

Class (1983)

Ok so it’s not as rowdy or raunchy as Old School, but Class paints a pretty fun and rambunctious picture of college life in an expensive prep school. The teen-heartthrobs of their day, Andrew McCarthy and Rob Lowe played roommates Jonathan and Skip, one a country boy and the other a rich and suave playboy. Things get um, complicated (and funny!) when Jonathan somehow ends up sleeping with Skip’s mother, played by the alluring Jacqueline Bisset. Yes, it’s silly at times, but what 80s movies aren’t? 😀

[I can’t find an exact scene I want to feature, so here’s the trailer instead]

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Ok, who hasn’t had a crush on a teacher before, right? I mean, especially if the teacher looks like Indiana Jones! I love this rare scene of Dr. Jones teaching in class, and definitely one of the most memorable. Jones’ expression as he tried to read what’s written on the female student’s eyelid is a hoot. Man, no wonder Indy is everyone’s favorite Harrison Ford role, he just captures the archaeology-geekiness down pat!

With Honors (1994)

Brendan Fraser starred in quite a few school-related movies in the 90s (he was also in School Ties and Glory Daze). I remember quite liking this one where he played a straitlaced Harvard student whose thesis paper is somehow being held hostage by a homeless man and of course, it ends up being the best thing that ever happened to him. Joe Pesci played the homeless guy and y’know it’s perhaps one of the more um, sympathetic roles he’s played. The classroom speech scene here is one of the highlights of the movie. Yes, it’s a bit over-idealistic and syrupy, but overall it’s got a moving and uplifting message.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

As someone growing up in the 80s, a back-to-school movie list just won’t be complete without a John Hughes movie. I didn’t go to high school in the US so I’m always fascinated by it. American high schoolers just look soooo much cooler, but there also seems to be a whole lot more pressure to fit in. The story about five very different students bonding and baring their souls to each other in detention is brilliantly directed by Hughes, starring members of the Brat Pack. This whistling scene is pretty funny, just one of the many memorable scenes from this John Hughes classic. If detention were this much fun, who wants to be in class??

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Yet another crush-worthy college professor scene… starting to see a theme here? He..he.. actually, it’s not intentional, trust me. I just happen to think this ‘heat vs. noise’ scene is quite memorable for the palpable chemistry between Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe, even without as much as touching or even being near each other. Connelly uses not only her logic but also her feminine wiles to solve the problem at hand… “As you’ll find in a multi-variable Calculus there’s often a… number of solutions to any given problem,” he quipped … and boy, Crowe really should smile more often 🙂

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

I have a real soft spot for this Howard Deutch movie, which is also written by John Hughes. I’ve featured this in this post to commemorate Hughes’ passing back in 2009. It focuses on the quintessential teen angst and dealing with that big first crush and suffering from unrequited love… the best stuff about high school right? We’ve all been there before and I can certainly relate to what Watts is going through, though unfortunately I never became good friends with any of my crushes in high school, so Watts certainly is luckier than she thinks 🙂 This is by far my favorite scene from the movie… Eric Stoltz wasn’t really my type but I couldn’t help having a major crush on him on this movie!

Spider-Man (2002)

Well, as a self-professed superhero geek, I can’t possibly not have a movie from that genre on the list. I think the first of Sam Raimi’s Spider-man has a lot of great high school scenes and capture the whole teen angst perfectly. Puberty is tough enough without having some weird, um condition like Peter Parker does and this scene in the cafeteria is funny and cool at the same time, going from pure euphoria to utter humiliation to total awesomeness seeing the nerdy kid give the cocky jock what deserved! Tobey Maguire with his melancholy puppy dog eyes was perfectly cast as the awkward teen with a heart of gold.

Well, that’s my list. Now your turn, please share your own favorite back-to-school movies and/or scenes in the comments!

Some Kind of Wonderful – my fave John Hughes movie

SKOW80s iconic director John Hughes died Thursday of a heart attack whilst taking a walk in New York City. He was only 59. I can’t help feeling nostalgic as growing up in the 80s, I watched a lot of his films: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink. He was a visionary who has an uncanny ability to appeal to teens, offering a slice of that tumultuous years of our lives. His wasn’t 90210 or Gossip Girl kind of high school, it was a realistic and riveting portrayal with real teen angst and awkwardness.  Yet he made the awkward and the outcasts ‘cool’ and endearing, and threw the ‘Norman Rockwell’ style of a perfect family that was prevalent at the time out the window. He made quite an impact in the span of a decade, not only did he pretty much invented his own genre of teen malaise, he also made stars out of his actors—The Brat Pack: Molly Ringwald, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson and Andrew McCarthy were all household names to his credit. His tremendous success with that specific genre still have an impact on how movies are marketed today, with the film industry targeting specific age groups in their campaigns.

But out of all of his movies I’ve seen, the one that made a lasting impression on me is Some Kind of Wonderful, which was written by him but directed by Howard Deutch. I must have seen this gazillion times, but I’d turn to mush every time I watch it. As I didn’t go to an American high school, this movie gave me a glimpse of how it’s like living it, whether it was accurate or not is beside the point. The story of a tomboy who secretly has a crush on her own BFF Keith. Now who hasn’t felt that in high school, college or any other time in life? It’s a classic love dilemma all of us can relate. But of course, the boy in question has a crush in someone else, and not just anyone, she’s the prettiest, most popular girl in school, complete with her dirtbag rich boyfriend. The story of unrequited love always appeals to the hopeless-romantic side of me, especially when it’s your first. Eric Stoltz as the destitute but charming boy Keith made me wish I had a best friend like him (which was kind of impossible since I went to an all-girl school) and I could see the appeal he had on Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson).

The kiss training scene is arguably the best scene of the whole film. Watts’ been helping Keith land the date of his dreams with his crush, even though she secretly despised it. As the date looms, she offers to ‘train’ him on how to properly woo his date. It’s such a funny and toe-curling-ly moving scene, funny how clueless guys often are even when the signs are smack dab in front of them, and how resourceful some of us can be when it comes to love. I love Watt’s line, “Lesson’s over. You’re cool,” to which Keith reply, “You’re blushing… that was very nice, you’re pretty.” Ha.. ha! I absolutely adore this scene!

Of course, the second best part is the ending — “You look good wearing my future.” Hughes has a gift for one liners, and this one gets me every time. See this if you haven’t already, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

RIP Mr. Hughes. Thanks for the memories.