Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Ferris Bueller, you're my hero."

Through hours and hours of countless film watching, there have been very few that have stuck with me.  John Hughes’ “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is high on that list, as I grew up watching it and know the script verbatim.  Impacting my mindset during my time in high school and college, it has taught me to live life to its fullest, even if it means breaking a few rules.  

For those of you unfamiliar with this cult classic, shame on you.  It is one of the most brilliant, sophisticated teen movies out there.  Go rent it after you read this article.  

Almost 30 years old, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” follows slacker Ferris (Matthew Broderick) as he takes a personal day with his tense best friend (Alan Ruck) and beautiful girlfriend (Mia Sara).  His delightful romp through Chicago is one for the books, as he checks out the Sears Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, and rides a float during the German Day Parade.  

I even went the distance of penning my SAT essay about why we should break the rules and cut school every now and again, citing Ferris as my muse for why it is healthy.  Needless to say, the College Board didn’t agree with my fantastical quipping, and my SAT scores were awful.

Nonetheless, the film has everything, as John Hughes epitomizes being a teenager in his work.  Comedy, romance, an awesome 80s soundtrack, and even a cameo of Charlie Sheen playing a drug addict (oh, the irony).  Most importantly, it is full of life lessons that shouldn’t be taken for granted.   

It is, in fact, healthy to cut school.  Not making a regular habit, of course.  An escape from reality is crucial to the human mind when things seem to be closing in, especially during the tumultuous parts of our journey into adulthood.  Between classes, exams, holding down a job or two, and experiencing “the feels” of pursuing a romantic partner, life gets hectic.  Fast.  So much is happening so fast, and our thoughts are popcorn kernels in a movie theatre popper, as until we open a door to allow some stress out, it gets chaotic, and fast.

Whether it is bumming around your place in pjs watching movies or going downtown and frollicking through Central Park and several museums, we should all take Ferris’s lead and escape.  

Some people go to the movies as a form of escapism.  Others take an intense amount of drugs and drink away their problems.  However, the true adventurers are those who take off from school to pursue a learning experience outside of the classroom.  You won’t be in high school-or college-forever.  So, perhaps, it is in your best interest to take a day off from your resident institution and find adventure elsewhere.  

Nonetheless, only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.

Ferris Bueller is a hero.  Not necessarily one in a cape and colorful tights, but one who just wants to have fun.  Ferris is a symbol of gratuitous pomp, under the circumstances.   He also sees how profound reality is, and fearless enough to test the fates with a romp through Chicago that fine spring day.  Ferris breaks the fourth wall, giving us his commentary about all that unfolds.  The monologue about life in the first scene of the film is full of quotable quotes.  He is candid, sharp, and self-centered (“it still wouldn’t change the fact that I don’t own a car”).  But we love it!  
Matthew Broderick’s character has become such an icon.  At one point or another, your professor HAD to take attendance and say, “Bueller...Bueller…Bueller…” paying homage to the glorified slacker.  

Psychoanalysts have been trying to push theories onto him, saying his pathological lying,  a grandiose sense of self-worth, and his emotionless reactions to the tragic things around him are reasons to hate him as much as Ed Rooney, the dean of students, does.  This narcissistic id is simply blown out of proportion; what kind of teenager DOESN’T think they know everything? Seriously?

Although his selfish ways and his mischievous lifestyle are all innocent fun, he still gets the backlash of being a psychopath.  If he really is that crazy, though, who’s to say we don’t need him?

Take his best friend, the insufferable Cameron Frye.  He grew up in a broken home, with a father in love with cars and out of love with his mother.  “ A man with priorities so far out of whack doesn't deserve such a fine automobile.”  His cold childhood makes him such a nervous wreck that falling ill actually makes him feel better than normal.  Someone as existential as Cameron needs someone as boisterous as Ferris in their life.  His friendship with Ferris is a vacation day in itself, as the care-free attitude Ferris offers eases Cam’s tension.

Cameron and Ferris’ bromance is undeniable.  Their psychological pairing behooves their respective lifestyles.  No matter how many times Ferris does throw Cam into the crossfire, he does redeem his soul by singing for him on a parade float, or taking him to the top of the Sears Tower, as  “Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”  A meal encompassed with pancreas is even offered to the poor soul.  The question isn't "what are we going to do," the question is "what aren't we going to do?"

And his love life?  Ferris Bueller insists he will marry Sloane, his gal pal.  Even though he seems passive about the decision, it’s a strong thing to say and then pass off so lightly so soon.  An open mind about the confusing feelings high school relationships foster is admirable.  Instead of becoming heartbroken of her reluctant decline, he doesn’t let it get to him.  Even when he once more breaks the fourth wall and tells us that he will indeed marry Sloane, he is sincere, and passionate, as any young hopeless romantic would be.  

Ferris is fearless.  He encompasses traits that every kid wants: getting away with everything, being care-free, the works.  He’s someone we should all look up to, even if we can’t be him.  His actions are brazen, yes, and he challenges authority too regularly.  But Ferris’ constant putting himself at risk is something we should appreciate, and take a risk every now and then.  Isn’t that what experience is all about, anyway?  If we don’t take chances now and learn from them, we will be stuck on a piece of wood floating in an ocean full of missed opportunities.

The most important thing we learn from Ferris throughout Hughes’ film?  Not that teen angst sucks, or driving in reverse won’t take miles off of a Ferrari.  “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Best Biographical Films

“The Aviator” (2004).  Or, as I like to call it, one of the Oscars that got away.  Oh, Leo.  Mr. DiCaprio stars in this film as Howard Hughes, movie mogul and aviation master.  He is successful, specific and always gets his job done.  The film spans over 20 years of his life, as OCD invades his career and relationships with some of Hollywood’s finest (Ava Gardner, Katherine Hepburn, just to name a few).  The bright costumes, music and layers of WTF will haunt audiences and make them want to order their own copy off Amazon.

“Lincoln” (2012).  So brilliant that you forget that it’s really Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln” follows the president during the Civil War.  One of my favorite biopics, Spielberg thoroughly researched  Lincoln’s life and even included some personal assets of the president in the film.  A stellar cast encompasses the screen, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tommy Lee Jones.  The essence of difficulty is definitely there, as Congress struggles to pass the vote to free all the slaves in the Confederate states.  Spoiler alert: Lincoln still gets shot.

“My Week With Marilyn” (2011).  Michelle Williams takes on the titular role, and audiences get a snippet of her life.  Based on a memoir of the same name, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) becomes an assistant onset while Monroe and Sir Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) are in the process of shooting “The Prince and the Showgirl.” At the time, she was married to playwright Arthur Miller.  The film documents so candidly, yet so perfectly, what it was like to be Marilyn.  Her sex appeal and vulnerability shine, and we see the dazed and confused side of the bombshell cameras seldom saw before her sudden death.  No wonder why Williams and Branagh were both nominated Oscars for their performances.   

“Dallas Buyers Club” (2013).  This film garnered Matthew McConaughey an Oscar, and after losing 47 pounds anyone deserves one for such commitment.  Due to a lack of hygiene and awareness about STDs, Donald Woodroof (McConaughey) is diagnosed with HIV.  In pursuit of a cure, he illegally smuggles drugs into the US.  With the help of a transgender woman, Rayon (Jared Leto), the two create the Dallas Buyers Club.  Woodroof’s efforts to help others in his position and find a cure (even if illegal and risky) were heroic.  

“Wolf of Wall Street” (2013).  The rambunctious world of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is documented in this film.  Based on the memoir of the same name, viewers are taken on a roller coaster of drugs, sex, and piles of cash.  Belfort’s penny stocks scheme makes him millions instantly.  Though much of his activity is legal, all are overcome with envy of his excessive lifestyle.  DiCaprio as the unreliable narrator is dynamic, and we cannot help but wonder to what degree did everything happen, as he was doing enough drugs “to sedate Manhattan.”  The antiheroic Belfort may not be the best narrator, but regardless, the film is a wild romp through a world of endless wealth.  

“Amadeus” (1984).  An adaptation from the play of the same name, the story of musical prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is told through the bitter eyes of Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham).  Tom Hulce stars as the composer, as he impressed the Austrian court with his talent.  Salieri lets jealousy consume him, and goes to great measures to extinguish him from the royal court of Vienna. You won’t soon forget the elaborate film, from the costumes to the set design and music, or course.  Or, the eight Oscars, including Best Picture.  And even if you do, Mozart’s haunting laugh will remind you soon enough.

“Walk the Line” (2005).  As though Joaquin Phoenix wasn’t talented enough already, he can sing too!  He stars in the film about Johnny Cash’s rise to fame.  From humble beginnings on a farm in Kansas to recording with big names like Elvis, Phoenix wows audiences with his incredible voice! Co-stars include Reese witherspoon as June Carter and Ginnifer Goodwin as Vivian Cash.  Phoenix received an Oscar nod for this role, and Witherspoon took home the Best Actress award.

“La Vie en Rose” (2007). Even if you dropped out of your third period French class in the tenth grade, don’t let the language barrier deter you from checking out this film.  “La Vie en Rose” follows the life of Edith Piaf, portrayed by Marion Cotillard.  Though the film doesn't take place in chronological order, its flashback nature effectively displays the tumultuous nature of her rise to fame.  Perhaps Piaf’s iconic song, the haunting “Non, je ne regrette rien” is reflective of her life.  Loss, love and music encompass the film that scored Cotillard an Oscar for her performance.

“Beyond the Sea” (2004).  Kevin Spacey can sing! Well!  This film is about Bobby Darin, the man whose voice immortalizes “Beyond the Sea.” A true rags-to-riches story, Darin had no father and learned about the world of entertainment from his mom.  The film focuses on his relationship with the beautiful Sandra Dee (not the gal from “Grease”; sorry to disappoint; portrayed by Kate Bosworth).  As a singer, dancer, and actor, he balanced his career with his health, marriage and family life, proving it to be difficult at times.  This biopic is especially different.  Through the employment of a younger Bobby Darin accompanying him onscreen (William Ullrich), the older version gets a sense of perspective to what happened to him.  

“The Fighter” (2010).  This film takes place in the world of boxing, as Micky Ward’s (Mark Wahlberg) rise to fame under the guidance of his brother, Dickie (Christian Bale).  In the late 1980s, Dickie’s career is going downward as he struggles with a crack addiction.  He attempts to guide Micky in the right direction to box, but Micky may have other plans.  The movie was filmed as a reflection, as Micky and Dickie sit on a couch in the opening and final scene, reminiscing on the highs and lows of both of their careers.  Director David O’Russell, known for character pieces, creates a dynamic film that makes you root for everyone, really, as their good intentions are more prominent than their flaws.  “The Fighter” managed to win two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo).