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May 2021 Poll: 4 Movies, 100 Thrills

Thanks to everyone who voted in April’s poll. And the winner is…

IT’S ANOTHER TIE! “Groundhog Day” and “Rushmore”.

Looks like I’ll be having a Bill Murray marathon (a Murray-thon, if you will. I’ll show myself out).

But now for this month’s poll. June 2021 is the 20th anniversary of AFI’s list of the 100 most thrilling movies. I’ve covered more than half of them already for this blog, but some of them could use a revision. Which movie should I revisit in June? Sci-fi staple “The Day the Earth Stood Still”? Horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby”? Political thriller “All the President’s Men”? Or should I go back in time and change my “Terminator” post?

This poll is open until May 31st, and the winning post will be published in June.

#564) The Crowd (1928)

#564) The Crowd (1928)

OR “The Wages of Sims”

Directed by King Vidor

Written by Vidor & John V.A. Weaver. Titles by Joe Farnham.

Class of 1989 

The Plot: John Sims (James Murray) arrives in New York with the dream of becoming someone important. While working a desk job for an insurance company, John meets Mary (Eleanor Boardman) on a double date. The two immediately fall for each other and are soon married. Like any marriage, theirs has ups and downs, along with the arrival of two children (Freddie Burke Frederick and Alice Mildred Puter). When tragedy strikes the Sims family, John realizes that his dream won’t make itself happen, and that in order to truly be important he has to stand out from the rest of…the population.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises the “inventive and visceral” cinematography of Henry Sharp, the “highly emotional” screenplay, and the “naturalistic performances” of the leads.

But Does It Really?: Of the first 25 films to make the National Film Registry, I would probably rank this at number 25. “The Crowd” is a well-made piece of melodrama with good cinematography, but it doesn’t deliver on the same level as the other 24 films on the original list. By itself, “The Crowd” is worth a watch and deserving of its NFR standing (somewhere between “historical” and “aesthetic” significance), but it’s a B+ effort lost on the initial list of A+ movies.

Everybody Gets One: To help with the film’s everyman aesthetic, King Vidor insisted on casting unknowns for the leads. Although he had a few speaking roles to his credit, James Murray was working as an extra when Vidor saw him on the MGM lot and thought he looked right for the part of John. Eleanor Boardman’s casting journey as Mary was a little simpler: she was married to King Vidor at the time.

Wow, That’s Dated: This movie has many of the dated elements we associate with ’20s-’30s big city living, such as having a Murphy bed, going to Niagara Falls on your honeymoon, and expectant fathers waiting outside the delivery room.

Title Track: As one character relates to John when he arrives in New York, “You gotta be good in that town if you want to beat the crowd.”

Seriously, Oscars?: “The Crowd” opened in the spring of 1928, making it eligible for the 1st annual Academy Awards in 1929. The film received two nominations: Best Director for King Vidor (losing to Frank Borzage for “7th Heaven“) and Best Unique and Artistic Picture (losing to “Sunrise“). King Vidor would have to wait another 50 years before receiving an Oscar; a lifetime achievement award in 1979.

Other notes 

  • Following a run of successful pictures for MGM in the ’20s (including “The Big Parade”), King Vidor wanted his next film to be less commercial and more experimental. While Louis B. Mayer was against the idea, Irving Thalberg understood Vidor’s vision and gave the film the go ahead.
  • Vidor was inspired by the expressionism of F.W. Murnau to attempt more artsy cinematography. This is more than evident in one of the film’s opening shots. The camera glides into the office building, over endless rows of pencil pushers, and arrives at John’s desk for a closeup. No doubt a revelation in its day, and the shot that shows up in plenty of your Chuck Workman clip packages.
  • To achieve a realistic depiction of New York City, King Vidor and Henry Sharp filmed the real streets with hidden cameras. In one shot of a traffic cop telling cars to move along, that’s an actual cop speaking directly to Vidor behind the camera.
  • John, Mary, Bert, Jane: Everyone in this movie has the blandest names. Where’s Spike Lee?
  • This movie gives us the hot take that clowns are neither amusing nor scary, they’re just doing a job.
  • This is the fourth movie I’ve covered from circa 1928 where the main characters go to Coney Island/a Coney Island type beachside amusement park. Was that all there was to do in the ’20s? Doesn’t anyone go to the movies?
  • Wow, a pre-Code movie with implications of sex. Quelle scandale.
  • And another movie for my “Die Hard” Not Christmas list. I’ve really got to get around to covering “Die Hard”.
  • Mary’s brothers Jim & Dick are the Patty & Selma of this movie: the older siblings who consistently disapprove of their sister’s husband. In one of the brother’s case, Dick is aptly named.
  • In addition to the film’s visual storytelling, there is also significantly less intertitles than the usual silent movie. When Mary tells John she is pregnant, the entire scene is done without intertitles, but you always know what’s happening.
  • Mary, to John shortly after giving birth: “I’m sorry you suffered so.” HE suffered? Who wrote this?
  • Today’s movie inflation: the $8 raise John gets is about $122 today, and his $500 bonus is about $7600.
  • This movie uses such obscure phraseology as “crab” (an informal verb, meaning “to grumble”) and “darn” (as in to mend an article of clothing).
  • Well, things got super depressing real fast. I’m getting very tired of the 1920s’ fondness for tragic melodrama.
  • “The crowd laughs with you always, but it will cry with you for only a day.” Ain’t that the truth.
  • More Murnau influence as we get images superimposed over John’s head as he struggles to work: his daughter, the cars, spinning numbers. It all works.
  • Also dated: the profession of door-to-door vacuum salesman. At least he doesn’t have to hawk bibles.
  • It just occurred to me that neither of John and Mary’s kids have names. Their son is credited only as “Junior” (presumably John Jr.) while the daughter is credited as “Daughter”. Did they run out of generic names?
  • The film’s final shot is a reverse of the office shot, as the camera pans out from John and Mary enjoying the show to the entire theater packed with audience members. Once again, John and Mary becomes anonymous figures in…this group of people.

Legacy 

  • “The Crowd” was completed in 1927, but Louis B. Mayer hated the film and held its release for almost a year. New, more upbeat endings were filmed and tested, but everyone kept coming back to Vidor’s original ending.
  • “The Crowd” was a modest success with audiences, some of whom were turned away by the film’s stark realism and opted for more escapist fantasy. The film would not get a more positive reappraisal until after WWII.
  • Neither of the film’s leads made the leap to superstardom. Eleanor Boardman divorced King Vidor and left Hollywood in the early ’30s. James Murray’s bout with alcoholism cost him his acting career, and King Vidor found him panhandling on the streets. Murray drowned in the Hudson River in 1936 at age 35. King Vidor wrote a screenplay based on Murray’s life called “The Actor”, but the film was never made.
  • The characters of John and Mary Sims would return in 1934’s “Our Daily Bread”, easily the most obscure sequel to make it onto the NFR.
  • Many filmmakers have cited “The Crowd” as an influence, from Jean-Luc Goddard to Billy Wilder, the latter whom copied the office shots for “The Apartment“.

#563) A Clockwork Orange (1971)

#563) A Clockwork Orange (1971)

OR “Say No to Droogs”

Directed & Written by Stanley Kubrick. Based on the novel by Anthony Burgess.

Class of 2020

The Plot: In a dystopian future where England is overrun with teenage crime, Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) and his gang (Warren Clarke, James Marcus, Michael Tarn) spend their nights engaging in “ultra-violence”. After a botched attempt to assault an older woman (Miriam Karlin), Alex is arrested and sentenced to prison. Two years into his sentence, Alex gets an opportunity to participate in an experimental aversion therapy that will completely cure him of his criminal behavior in two weeks. The treatment goes well, except that in addition to crime and violence, Alex now has an aversion to his favorite piece of music; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Will Alex become a respectable member of society? Or will his past misdeeds come back to haunt him? Burgess’ mediation on human behavior meets its match with the dark, twisted imagination of Stanley Kubrick.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises the work of Kubrick and McDowell (misspelled as “MacDowell”), and states that the film “remains as it always was: disturbing, controversial and startling unsettling.”

But Does It Really?: I’m putting “Clockwork Orange” on the “Taxi Driver” list of great movies: Riveting, iconic, but whose problematic subject matter may jeopardize its future as a classic. “Clockwork” is a visceral experience, with the kind of fantastic visuals and engaging moments you expect from Stanley Kubrick. The question is: how much longer will we revere a movie with such intense scenes of violence and assault? Ultimately, the film doesn’t condone this behavior, but it still makes me watch it. “A Clockwork Orange” deserves to be on the NFR, but I’m curious to what degree future film fans will hold it in esteem.

Shout Outs: Alex sings “Singin’ in the Rain” during the infamous rape sequence, and the Gene Kelly version plays over the end credits (Side Note: Kelly was not a fan of this). Kubrick also references his previous films: “2001” and “Dr. Strangelove“.

Everybody Gets One: Malcolm McDowell began his acting career as an extra in the Royal Shakespeare Company. His performance in the 1969 film “If…” caught the eye of Stanley Kubrick, who cast him as Alex. Although Kubrick praised his performance (even stating publicly that he wouldn’t have made the movie if McDowell had been unavailable), Kubrick never spoke to Malcolm after the film was released, which surprised and saddened the actor.

Title Track: Anthony Burgess claimed he heard the phrase “as queer as a clockwork orange” in a London pub in 1945, and it stuck with him. Further research shows no evidence of the phrase’s existence prior to the publication of Burgess’ novel. Regardless, a “clockwork orange” is used in the novel to describe Alex after he is “cured”: natural on the outside, mechanical on the inside.

Seriously, Oscars?: Despite mixed critical reception and an X rating (which Kubrick successfully bumped down to an R for the film’s re-release), “A Clockwork Orange” was a box office smash. At the 1972 Oscars, “Clockwork” received four big Oscar nominations: Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Editing, losing all of them to “The French Connection“. Rumor has it that many Hollywood stars turned down the opportunity to present Best Picture for fear of this film pulling off a win. Two-time nominee Jack Nicholson ultimately did the honors.

Other notes 

  • Upon the release of the novel in 1962, the film rights for “A Clockwork Orange” were bought by Mick Jagger, who intended to star in an adaptation with his Rolling Stones bandmates. A few years later, “Strangelove” screenwriter Terry Southern recommended the novel to Kubrick. In the early ’70s, Kubrick’s long-gestating Napoleon film lost its backers, and his wife Christiane suggested he finally get around to reading “Clockwork”. Kubrick loved the novel, snatched up the film rights (which had exchanged hands a few times at this point), and wrote a surprisingly faithful adaptation.
  • This is your reminder that “A Clockwork Orange”, frequently listed among the greatest films ever made and a cultural touchstone for 50 years, was added to the National Film Registry in 2020, despite being eligible since the Registry’s inception in 1989.
  • This movie grabs you from the start. The titles are on a bright red screen, there are no opening credits (unheard of in 1971), and the first shot lingers on Alex staring down the camera while creepy synthesizer music plays. It’s unsettling, and also great.
  • While the rape scene is still difficult to watch, it stands out as the first real gut-punch of Hollywood’s post-Code era. During filming, Kubrick felt that the scene was too conventional, and asked Malcolm McDowell if he knew any songs. McDowell improvised “Singin’ in the Rain” on the next take, and Kubrick loved the choice so much he immediately sought the rights to use the song. I guess MGM really needed the money.
  • So in the future, cassettes make a comeback? At least they correctly predicted the return of vinyl.
  • Kubrick loves messing with the speed of this movie. A fast-paced sex scene is immediately followed by a slow-motion fight between Alex and his gang. I’m sure there’s some symbolism to this that I’m not getting, but it looks great.
  • Despite the dark subject matter, this movie is surprisingly funny. Michael Bates is perfectly over-the-top as Chief Guard Barnes, who apparently can only yell all his dialogue. It’s hilarious, and supports the claim that this was intended to be a dark comedy all along.
  • The violence and raping make me squirm, but the toughest scene for me to watch is always the therapy scene in the screening room where Alex’s eyes are forced to stay open. As someone who used to put contacts on every morning, this scene is beyond disturbing.
  • For those of you wondering what Darth Vader looks like without his helmet: Frank Alexander’s assistant Julian is played by bodybuilder David Prowse, just a few years away from being permanently dubbed by James Earl Jones.
  • Gotta love those Kubrick steadicam shots. It’s like the crew is on roller skates.
  • Part of Alex’s rehabilitation in the hospital is the thematic apperception test, or as it’s known today, The New Yorker caption contest. “Christ, what an asshole.
  • The final chapter of the novel involved Alex, now a bit older, finally maturing and giving up his criminal past. This chapter was omitted from the novel’s American release because the American editor felt it didn’t mesh with the rest of the book. Kubrick’s screenplay was based on the American edition, and he was only made aware of the final chapter after he had finished writing. In Kubrick’s defense, “I was cured alright” is a great curtain line.

Legacy 

  • “A Clockwork Orange” was one of the biggest hits of 1971, but unfortunately its controversy expanded beyond a few damning reviews. Shortly after the film’s release in England, “Clockwork” was connected to several copycat crimes involving teens, including a rape in which the assailants sang “Singin’ in the Rain”. At Kubrick’s request, “A Clockwork Orange” was removed from British cinemas, and the film would not be seen again in England until after Kubrick’s death in 1999.
  • Stanley Kubrick’s next film was the far more conventional (and far less controversial) “Barry Lyndon”.
  • Anthony Burgess had mixed feelings about the movie. He enjoyed Malcolm McDowell’s performance and the “brilliant” music selection, but was equally disappointed that the film overshadowed the book, as well as the rest of his bibliography.
  • Although Malcolm McDowell would never have another film role that could match Alex DeLarge, he has been working steadily for the last 50 years, usually as the bad guy in every sci-fi franchise and lackluster comedy.
  • The aesthetic and dialogue of “A Clockwork Orange” appear in pop culture so often, the references have their own Wikipedia page. For god’s sake, Alex and his gang are in the new “Space Jam” movie!
I’m not kidding, see for yourself.

Further Viewing: “Vinyl”, Andy Warhol’s loose adaptation of “A Clockwork Orange”. Hopefully this Warhol movie is the real one, and not a fan remake that I don’t recognize until after I’ve posted an entire write-up about it.

Listen to This: “Lovely Ludwig Van” Beethoven gets represented a couple of times in the National Recording Registry. Among his selections: all 32 of his piano sonatas as performed by Arthur Schnabel, the first such recording in history.

#562) She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

#562) She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

OR “Four’s Company”

Directed & Written by Spike Lee

Class of 2019 

The Plot: Brooklyn artist Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) meets handsome young Jamie Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks), and the two begin a relationship. Jamie soon learns that he is one of three men that Nola is dating, along with smug model Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell) and funny, talkative Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee). When the three men finally meet, they give Nola an ultimatum to date only one of them. But Nola prefers to keep dating each of them; their different attributes satisfying Nola more than only one partner could. The romantic comedy is turned on its head in the very first Spike Lee joint.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises the “distinct voice and cinematic talent of Spike Lee” and states that the film is “a harbinger of Lee’s enduring and visionary career”.

But Does It Really?: “She’s Gotta Have It” is one notch above the kind of “stepping stone” movies that show up on this list. Yes, it’s primarily here for putting Spike Lee on the map, but it holds up as an engaging, funny look at relationships. Here is a director writing what he knows, and telling his truth in a fresh, exciting way. And as always, Spike Lee shows us a diversity of African-American characters that are living, breathing, dimensional people. I’m glad that the NFR had to have “She’s Gotta Have It” on the list.

Shout Outs: Jamie references “The Wizard of Oz” when presenting Nola with her birthday present, which then segues into a perfect “Oz”-esque transition from black and white to color. Well done, Spike.

Everybody Gets One: Most of the main cast, including S. Epatha Merkerson making her film debut as a sex addiction doctor. Lovely to see Anita/Reba on the list.

Wow, That’s Dated: While still quite progressive, “She’s Gotta Have It” has started to show its age regarding its binary view of gender politics. Plus, this movie harkens back to when making a booty call involved making an actual phone call. Simpler times.

Title Track: Jamie says the title exactly once. Given what we’ve covered so far in this post, I think you can deduce what “it” is.

Seriously, Oscars?: No Oscar love for “She’s Gotta Have It”, but the film got its share of critics awards, and won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature (beating out, among others, “Hoosiers“).

Other notes 

  • A recent graduate of NYU in the early ’80s, Spike Lee planned on making a film called “Messenger” about, appropriately enough, a bike messenger. When he couldn’t secure funding, he wrote a new script that could be filmed on a quicker schedule and tighter budget. With grants totaling just under $30,000, Spike Lee filmed “She’s Gotta Have It” in 12 days in the summer of 1985. When he ran out of money, Lee screened a rough cut at NYU, and was able to secure funds for post-production. The film’s final cost was $175,000 (about $422,000 today).
  • It’s no secret that most male screenwriters don’t know how to write strong female characters. How did Spike Lee overcome this? He did research. Before making “She’s Gotta Have It”, Lee and Spellman College student Tracey Willard surveyed thirty-five women on campus, asking such questions as “Do you feel all men are basically dogs?” and “Does penis size matter?” The results gave us Nola.
  • The film opens with a quote from the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by author and future NFR filmmaker Zora Neale Hurston.
  • Tracy Camilla Johns brings the perfect balance of charm and cryptic distance to Nola. Also I’m pretty sure everyone in the ’80s had her haircut at some point.
  • After watching so many Code-era movies for this list, any nudity or sex scenes stick out quite a bit for me. The sex scenes here are done tastefully; more as artistic compositions of character than exploitation of skin. That being said, several cuts were made to prevent the film from getting an X rating, though Spike Lee theorized at the time that the MPAA had a double-standard regarding sex scenes with Black actors.
  • Mainly I’m just bowled over by this movie’s content. I cannot imagine a movie about a woman, her multiple boyfriends, and her fluid sexuality being made by a major studio today, let alone 35 years ago.
  • Nola Darling, Opal Gilstrap, Greer Childs: every character in this movie has the best name.
  • That’s Spike’s father Bill Lee playing Nola’s father. Bill Lee was also the film’s composer, and is one of many members of the Lee family who helped make/fund this movie.
  • I laughed the most at the scene in which Greer and Nola are about to have sex, and Greer takes forever carefully folding each article of clothing as he takes them off. This attention to detail, aided with cutaway reactions shots from Nola, is comedy gold.
  • But seriously, that transition to the film’s one color scene? [Chef’s kiss]. I almost made a comment about how odd it is to see Spike Lee direct a dance number, but then I remembered this is a man with several music videos under his belt, plus the opening of “Do the Right Thing”.
  • Spike Lee cast himself as Mars because it was cheaper than hiring another actor. He’s a better actor than most people give him credit for, but it helps that he knows how to cast himself in the right part. Also, does Mars have to repeat everything that is said to him? He sounds like one of the mobsters from “Goodfellas”.
  • Hicks, Terrell, and Lee are all great as Nola’s boyfriends, and the scene where they get together for Thanksgiving is the icing on the cake. Each of these characters is so well-defined at this point, it’s a blast watching them interact and fail to connect.
  • Another “Wow, That’s Dated”: a conversation about Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign.
  • Easily the most uncomfortable scene in the movie is when Jamie, angry at Nola’s indecisiveness, rapes her. It’s brief, but quite distressing. Recently, Spike Lee has called his handling of this scene “immature” and one of the few scenes in his filmography he would “do-over” if given the chance.
  • The film’s creativity continues into the end credits. Each of the main cast members gets a “curtain call” by stating their name and slating the film’s clapperboard. The end credits conclude with a statement that “This film contains no Jerri curls!!! And no drugs!!!” A funny comment, but also an important reminder of what happens when you let Black filmmakers tell their own stories.

Legacy 

  • “She’s Gotta Have It” was a surprise hit, earning $7 million at a time when low-budget indies barely broke even. Spike Lee has spent the last 35 years enriching our movie landscape with such fellow NFR entries as “Do the Right Thing“, “Malcolm X”, and “4 Little Girls“.
  • Spike Lee reprised his role of Mars Blackmon for a series of Air Jordan commercials in the ’90s with Michael Jordan. The ads were so successful, the Jordan Mars 270 shoe is named in the character’s honor.
  • With the times finally catching up to this movie’s take on relationships, “She’s Gotta Have It” became a TV series in 2017. Netflix ran the show for two seasons, maintaining the film’s premise, but updating everything to the 2010s.

#110) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

#110) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

OR “Hooky of the Year”

Directed & Written by John Hughes

Class of 2014

This is a revised and expanded version of my original “Ferris Bueller” post, which you can read here.

The Plot: On the verge of graduating high school, Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) fakes an illness to have a day off with his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara). Their whirlwind day in downtown Chicago is in constant danger of being thwarted either by Dean of Students Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), or Ferris’ jealous sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey). It’s a story of teenagers in Chicago who are way smarter than every one-dimensional adult, with a great soundtrack and frank discussions of teenage angst that…bingo! I got John Hughes Bingo!

Why It Matters: The NFR calls the film a “career highpoint” for John Hughes, and cites “the ‘everyman’ appeal” of Matthew Broderick.

But Does It Really?: How can you hate “Ferris Bueller”? Most movies are a relic of their time, and while “Ferris Bueller” embraces its ’80s-ness, it still succeeds as a fun teen escapist comedy, aided by a never-better Matthew Broderick and a plethora of iconic/quotable moments. I’m glad the NFR found a spot on the list for “Ferris Bueller”.

Shout Outs: Quick references to “Dirty Harry“, “Star Wars“, “Alien” and previous Hughes film “The Breakfast Club”.

Everybody Gets One: Cast members Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Edie McClurg, Ben Stein, and most surprisingly, Jennifer Grey. Where’s “Dirty Dancing”? This list loves ’80s nonsense. Also, blink and you’ll miss Louie Anderson as a flower deliveryman. Truly, everybody gets one.

Wow, That’s Dated: Among the film’s ’80s-ness: pay-phones in school, and a shoutout to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. Also, while the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower) was the tallest building in the world in 1986, that record was beaten by Malaysia’s Petronas Towers in 1998.

Seriously, Oscars?: No Oscar love for Ferris Bueller (or any of John Hughes’ movies), but Matthew Broderick did receive a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, losing to Paul Hogan for “Crocodile Dundee”.

Other notes 

  • When John Hughes pitched the idea of “Ferris Bueller” to Paramount Studios, they liked it, but were worried about an impending picket from the Writers Guild of America. As a result, Hughes wrote the entire screenplay for “Ferris Bueller” in six days.
  • Shoutout to Matthew Broderick, whom Hughes wrote the role of Ferris Bueller for. In the hands of any other actor, Ferris Bueller would be a manipulative jerk, but Broderick’s charm (along with his excellent chemistry with Ruck and Sara) makes you go along with his whole scheme.
  • That being said, Ferris Bueller benefits from the fact that his parents are incredibly gullible and apparently lack any peripheral vision.
  • As always, fuck you Jeffrey Jones. If you don’t know about Mr. Jones’ criminal record, let’s just say he’s on another national registry. While this information makes it difficult to fully appreciate Jones’ performance as Ed Rooney, it does, however, make it way more fun watching the character get his comeuppance again and again.
  • Rooney’s early scenes are nicely balanced by Edie McClurg as his secretary Grace. There are few things funnier than a Minnesotan accent saying the phrase “righteous dude”.
  • As pointed out in the movie, Cameron’s car (the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder) is one of only 100 ever made. A real Ferrari was used for insert shots, and replicas were made for the more dangerous driving shots.
  • I’m with Cameron: I don’t know if I would trust my car with the guy from “Stranger Than Paradise“.
  • The appeal of “Ferris Bueller” is similar to a James Bond movie: you know he’s going to get away with this, but you don’t know how. John Hughes was always good at getting his characters in over their head, and then getting out of it by either good luck or a clever callback.
  • Did the real Abe Froman ever show up for his lunch?
  • I’ve always liked Mia Sara in this movie, and I’m willing to admit she was an early childhood crush for me. That being said, she freaked me out in “Legend”. What a weird movie.
  • You have to wonder how much easier Ferris could have orchestrated this whole day using digital technology. Heck, just having one of those doorbell camera apps would have saved him some trouble.
  • I appreciate the film’s detour into the Art Institute of Chicago, apparently a safe-haven for John Hughes during his childhood. If nothing else, Cameron comes out of it with a finer appreciation for pointillism.
  • As I’ve said before “Ferris Bueller” is the finest Von Steuben Day movie ever made. Ferris’ performance of “Danke Schoen” is a highlight, but is quickly overshadowed by the infectious cover of “Twist and Shout”. I love this scene so much I don’t even mind it’s low-key ripping off the “Shake a Tail Feather” number in “The Blues Brothers”.
  • Ah, Charlie Sheen. I was going to make a “Tiger’s blood/winning” joke here, but then I remembered that all happened ten years ago. I really have to update my references.
  • It’s not a John Hughes movie until every teen character faces some sort of existential crisis. It’s these heartfelt moments that separate John Hughes’ teen comedies from others of the era, and here it gives Alan Ruck his moment to really shine. This is also your reminder that Alan Ruck was 29 when he played Cameron!
  • Is anyone else bothered that no one believes Jeanie when she calls the police about an intruder?
  • Where does “Ferris Bueller” sit in the history of mid/post-credits sequences? I know it wasn’t the first (“Airplane!” maybe?), but I suspect it was the first to get it right.

Legacy 

  • While “Ferris Bueller” was one of John Hughes’ last teen comedies of the ’80s, his next movie is just as revered among movie lovers: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. While his directing career more or less ended, John Hughes would go on to write “Home Alone”, among many others family comedies.
  • Everyone’s career got a boost thanks to the success of “Ferris Bueller”, most surprisingly Ben Stein, a political speech writer whose monotone reading of “Bueller?” gave him a second career as a character actor.
  • “Ferris Bueller” still holds a strong place in pop culture, with various elements and dialogue from the movie still getting referenced 35 years later. Bonus points as always for getting an original cast member involved, so here’s that Super Bowl commercial Matthew Broderick did some years back.
  • The TV spin-off series “Ferris Bueller” aired in late 1990, and had little to do with the actual movie it was based on. Oddly enough, rip-off series “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” fared better, running for three seasons on Fox.
  • After meeting on the set, Bueller parent actors Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward married shortly after filming, and were married for six years. In a similar vein, Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Grey briefly dated in the mid-80s. So that’s how it is in their family.
  • The cast of “Ferris Bueller” was one of many to reunite virtually during the 2020 COVID shutdown. In an episode of “Reunited Apart”, the cast (minus Jeffrey Jones) share anecdotes, quote lines, and basically confirm items on this movie’s IMDb trivia page.
  • “Ferris Bueller” has had an interesting impact on the music scene. Two different rock bands are named after elements from the movie: Rooney and Save Ferris.
  • And last, but far from least, this movie is the reason the band Yello is still performing to this day. Oh yeah.

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