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Episode 152 - The Breakfast Club (w/ Christy Lemire)


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Poll: Episode 152 - The Breakfast Club (w/ Christy Lemire) (44 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "The Breakfast Club" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (32 votes [72.73%])

    Percentage of vote: 72.73%

  2. No (12 votes [27.27%])

    Percentage of vote: 27.27%

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#21 gloriacassidy1999

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 04:53 AM

I think Amy and the marvelous co-host Ms. Lemire said just about everything that crossed my mind watching it. I considered voting yes on this as it's a good deal better than some of the films that have been discussed and really is culturally relevant, and even though I ultimately went "no" I'll be good when it wins since there are some decent performances and a number of entertaining passages. I think I've decided that The Canon should be about cinematic excellence with the occasional Yea for something truly foundational. While The Breakfast Club is a big deal, still it didn't spawn a whole genre or anything. Maybe because it's a teen take on a moldy stage genre--it's like a group therapy version of Eugene O'Neill's The Ice Man Cometh. Judd Nelson has been given the unplayable role of a device, a character whose purpose is to strip everyone down to who they really are, only John Hughes isn't as original and perverse as O'Neill was. O"Neill turned the device inside out so you laughed in horror at what this creature turned out to really be, while Hughes just works it so that Nelson's phony antagonism actually gives the kids a kind of spiritual colonic. Because what Nelson is made to do is empty his performance seems busy, affected, almost effete. Though I'm not sure any actor could pull this guy off, perhaps a gutsier actor like Sean Penn or a hotter one such as Matt Dillion might have made the dynamics between this character and Molly Ringwald's sexier. I'd find it sexier anyway.

The movie doesn't really hang together and I think it's because Hughes didn't know what he was trying to get at. The proof is in the epigraph from Bowie's "Changes": "And these children that you spit on as they try to change their world. They're immune to your consultations. They're quite aware of what they're going through..." This suggests that some sort of counter cultural awakening among the characters is in the offing, but really all the kids in this movie want is acceptance from their peers, popularity. They're not going to opt out of the system. It's a shallow film about breaking out of shallowness.

Another thing that mars everything is that the movie begins in a basically realistic mode but Hughes almost immediately begins to heighten and stylize the comic effects. There's an odd electric resonance added to Nelson's screaming "Fuck You!" at the teacher through the library's door, which he magically doesn't hear. Emilio Estevez breaks a window by shouting. No one acts the way they would if they were really high. The various music montages are staged like passages from Scooby Doo, Nelson's falling through the ceiling has no consequences physical or otherwise, etc.,etc.. I wondered if this was meant to keep us from taking a lot of what happens too seriously, but it kept throwing me out of the movie. At the end I was thinking these kids are going to be in a lot of trouble when the teacher discovers all the mess and damage, broken glass, torn up books, screwed card catalogue, food and garbage everywhere; not to mention only one paper got written, and it wasn't even long enough! I feel certain that these dorky teens' triumph is not going to last to the end of the day.

BTW, I find the characterization of the teacher played by Paul Gleason to be far more disturbing in its relentless humiliating nastiness than Nelson's harassment of Ringwald. After all lots women have gotten into messes with one or two boys they let go too far. The thing with the teacher isn't based on anything. It's just vile.

#22 uh_tom

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 10:01 AM

No to the Canon, but just a soft no. Then again sure why not, yes it’s in, well hold on, maybe not, but only just. Yeah, its good enough to revisit emotionally and intellectually. Ok yes. Screw it, I’ll be a good sport. No, no, it’s a soft no.

This was how I felt while thinking about including The Breakfast Club in the Canon.

I find a lot of TBC wildly problematic by current standards, but that’s not what I hold against it. I was a child when it came out, so I never saw it until much later when I was into my thirties and I began to seek out touchstone movies. I think this is a touchstone movie, as an accidental avatar for the 1980s as a cultural era. Hughes generally wrote/directed movies about American youth when there was still basically one American perspective. There was no BLM or #timesup, nor a Columbine or Sandy Hook. Diversity and inclusion were unheard terms. People still called others gay or retarded and it didn’t offend anyone. I think TBC inadvertently captures the time in which it was made, speaks to societal values at that time and about the America in which our Gen-X friends were raised.

If I set aside all the ways my modern sensibilities are offended by those times I am ready to see the breakfast club for what it was without the baggage; a pretty good movie about kids trying to get along. TBC speaks to the alienation in the lives of broad swaths of teenage society, which is well shown and which I enjoy watching for the most part. I readily acknowledge the cultural influence. I think that is the strongest argument for its inclusion into the canon.

Mostly, my reservation is that I don’t get invested enough in some of the characters. To make an audience care about each character is one of the hardest things for ensemble films to tackle and here it’s really an admirable job, but I would have preferred a focus on Claire (or really any of the characters) entirely. It’s already almost there. It’s likely that an excellent movie already exists for each of the types in this ensemble. There isn’t really a shortage of movies about teenagers that adroitly handle teenage angst and questions of identity. I find it difficult, as a person without TBC nostalgia to say I love the movie. I just don't think it's a great movie. There, decision made.

#23 DrEricFritz

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 05:09 PM

The best thing in this movie are the actors. They are so freakin' good. Everyone knocks a home-run. Even the critique that the women are underdeveloped is valid, but the actors give 110%. On top of that, it is a movie, as was discussed in the podcast, from the vantage of the teenagers, but also the teachers, if briefly. Another point strongly going for this movie. That is such a strong asset, kids hating adults, adults realizing that they've become adults, is really powerful. And the soundtrack! Eat my shorts! Paul Gleason! But at the end of the day, it's a movie for white suburban people. While it might be called a cultural moment: it is a cultural moment for white suburban folks. I think saying that is important and should be kept in mind when discussing the movie.

Still, I voted yes.

#24 DrEricFritz

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Posted 02 May 2018 - 06:37 PM

PS: It's good to be back. I had to take a hiatus to focus on my comps. I've missed listening to the podcast and reading the smart comments you all post.

#25 Chet Roivas

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Posted 03 May 2018 - 12:02 AM


I first saw this film during a particularly bad year in my very early teens, and it felt like a lifeline. I’d never seen growing pains (growing pains that feel more inconsequential the older you get) captured so well and taken so seriously,




What makes it such a perfect and quintessential teen movie is that it only truly speaks to that demographic exclusively. Watching it as an adult, I was depressed by its militantly pro-conformity message, by female characters who too often felt peripheral, and the fact that the big dramatic scene constitutes everyone realising that everything bad in their lives is the fault of their parents. That’s Chekov when you’re twelve, but the adult me just wanted to give them all a clip round the ear and demand that they stop whining. That is why John Hughes’ gifts should never be undervalued. Being addressed by someone who wasn’t a disinterested adult or attempting to sell something meant everything in that wank decade.




I have no plans to watch The Breakfast Club again for as long as I live, but it’s a hard yes.


#26 mrm1138

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Posted 03 May 2018 - 03:27 PM

I must somewhat ashamedly admit that I have never seen The Breakfast Club, so I shall abstain from voting. What I will say, though, is that, watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off as an adult, I realized just what a goddamned sociopath the title character is.

#27 jjulius

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Posted 03 May 2018 - 04:14 PM

Yes.

I don't love The Breakfast Club (for many of the reasons Amy mentions), but I think it's too iconic and too unique not to go in.

It's so associated with typical 80s pop culture that we tend to forget just how unique it is. What else is like The Breakfast Club? John Hughes' other teen movies are comedies. The Breakfast Club has funny moments, but I wouldn't call it a comedy. It's a character driven drama about people getting to know each other that's set mostly in one location; it's the closest thing we have to a teenage version of My Dinner with Andre. (It would make for a good double bill: start with Breakfast, finish with Dinner. You'll know all about reaction shots by the end.)

The fact that its politics are so dated is part of what makes it worth preserving. Nowadays, it's hard to imagine someone making a movie about five very different kids who learn that they're not so different after all, and make them all white kids, most of whom enter a heterosexual relationship. And then there's all the uncomfortable ideas about gender. But it's good to remember just how different the world was back then, and look at (and celebrate) the changes we've made; a classic piece of pop culture is often a great history lesson.

#28 A.V.

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Posted 04 May 2018 - 03:55 PM

loved the idea for this epp. i read ringwald's piece in the new yorker when it came out and found it so thoughtful.

rewatching hughes gets tougher and tougher as time goes on. i totally get being able to judge art (mostly) according to the norms and thinking available to its creators at the time the art was made but still... even in 1984 a gong to intro long duck dong? blech.

what we can do though is check our feelings as we rewatch to see just what has changed and by how much. and that's where hughes is so useful. especially if you grew up with these movies — i was a sophomore when breakfast club came out and i remember my typing teacher (yeah typing... on a selectric with, like, paper) started class one monday after she'd seen it to talk about it with us. and breakfast club makes me very uncomfortable now. not just because of the assaulty inappropriateness, but because the resolution is so facile, just identifiable stereotypes clunking against each other, albeit in mostly fun and funny scenes led by great acting (AMH FTW), and all of the sudden they're coupled off. yeah, let's see how long they last together the following monday.

so i'm struggling. i want hughes in the canon, somehow. those movies went right to my heart at one point. and i still put them on from time to time. but i have no clear way to pick one; none are perfect (maybe bueller, but i'll get to that in a sec). it'd have to be for some cultural merit rather than the movie in and of itself.

16 candles, well, the gong, the handing off of the girlfriend from one guy to another, plus the probable date rape.

breakfast club has all the shortcomings already mentioned in the pod.

pretty in pink, i used to love. but as i age, i find duckie an asshole. (also, that my real soulmate in the movie is iona. never saw that coming...) then again, i loved ringwald's point in the new yorker article when she mentioned that duckie is based on her real-life best friend, who turned out to be gay, and hadn't come out yet at the time of filming. maybe through that lens, duckie is redeemable. ...here comes another rewatch.

(can't speak to some kind of wonderful ATM because it's been forever. maybe that one has a clear trajectory? even with that ending...)

then bueller. ok, funny movie. i'll give it that. but i FUCKING HATE ferris. it's like, the whole movie is a rich white male privilege how-to or something. and there's no arc. just, keep being a dick ferris, you'll never face consequences.

so, maybe a hot take here, but... is weird science the most socially redeemable of the bunch? yeah, the premise is sexist. but once lisa is on the scene, she has all the power. the two boys do have a learning arc to sort of earn their coming of age. and chet, well, you know what happens to chet. (ok, we may have to bracket the bar scene, because i'm not sure if the boys are talking like that because they are drunk or because they think they are on a par with the black old timers.)

and that's it, right? (of the teen angst hughes, anyway. i'm not getting into the john candy stuff here.)

bottom line for me, no on breakfast club. will have to watch weird science to see if there's any unsavoriness i forgot. and if i absolutely have to, will lean toward sixteen candles even through the really blatant issues, just because it was the ground breaker that allowed the rest of them. though maybe it wasn't hughes's credit so much as the utter charm of ringwald and michael hall.

#29 Susan*

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Posted 04 May 2018 - 06:03 PM

I came to this with a certain amount of dread. I understand that the concept of the canon is that it's not about whether a movie is good, but so many movies I dislike get in. I really dislike this movie. I listened carefully to the podcast, and I thought I had an open mind, but what I heard was the guest cataloging many bad things about the movie that coincide with my opinion, and talking with love about a movie that I do not like and never have liked.

I'd say that I was a little too old for this movie when it came out -- except that's not true. I guess it was r-rated, but it seems like it should have resonated more with younger kids because the characters were so poorly drawn -- more like what people who haven't been to high school think high school is like? Except that's not true in my memory. I went to a sold out showing at a suburban theater on opening night. I hated it, but my best friend's older brother loved it, and it seemed like the audience did too. The audience appeared to be in the older teens, young 20s. So maybe I've always been the odd one. I strongly feel that this is a bad, bad movie. Random thoughts (just to get it out of my system):

I understand the argument that a brat pack movie should be in the canon, but why not the terrible St. Elmo's Fire? That's the penultimate brat pack movie.

As for Hughes, I loved 16 Candles when it came out, but I can't champion that now for reasons others have touched on. I was never a Ferris Bueller fan, but it had a big impact, in style, and inside references you use later in life like Abe Froman. For my money, Home Alone is far and away the best Hughes movie, but I understand wanting to tie him to the subpar high school movies instead.

If you're younger, then you need to understand that Molly Ringwald was a big huge deal. She got press coverage at every level, in every kind of publication. As a serious actress with interesting personal history, for leading major movies that did well, for getting movies made, and for trying to expand to more interesting roles that ultimately didn't work for reasons that weren't her fault. And she dated Adam Horovitz! And she was always articulate and came across as smart, even in the puff pieces. I still have a soft spot for her even though I don't have a soft spot for any of her movies.

Simple Minds was a solid band. I appreciated how the video for Don't You (Forget About Me) minimized the film footage so you barely noticed it and the song could live outside the movie. And Alive and Kicking is another memorable video for them.

#30 Susan*

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Posted 04 May 2018 - 06:09 PM

Why do movies about teenagers have such poorly drawn characters? Breakfast Club uses the easiest stereotypes.

Sheedy and Broderick had better teenager roles in War Games.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High had characters that more closely resembled the kids at my high school (though Freaks and Geeks came even closer). When I went to my 20th high school reunion, it turned out that the smartass who sold me scalper tickets to concerts had become a career army guy.

#31 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 05 May 2018 - 09:31 AM

View PostSusan*, on 04 May 2018 - 06:09 PM, said:

Fast Times at Ridgemont High had characters that more closely resembled the kids at my high school (though Freaks and Geeks came even closer). When I went to my 20th high school reunion, it turned out that the smartass who sold me scalper tickets to concerts had become a career army guy.


If this were a "vs." episode I would probably take Fast Times over Breakfast Club.

#32 davidpatricklowery

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Posted 06 May 2018 - 04:04 PM

In regards to Hughes' mean streak - having just rewatched both Home Alone movies, I'd say the first one is harmless slapstick, but goddamn is the second one brutal. I feel bad for dragging my parents to see that multiple times. It has a gonzo level of violence in it (e.g. the electrocution scene) that makes me wonder if, like Spielberg and Lucas on Temple Of Doom, its creators might have been working through some issues