- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

Some movie-going generations are luckier than others. My father spent his youth watching icons like Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in theaters in his native Bronx, N.Y.

Me? I spent the 1980s stuck with the three S’s — Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Seagal breaking heads at any one of Long Island’s soulless megatheaters.

Life isn’t fair.

But one way I lived larger than my father, cinematically speaking, was through teen movies.

Sure, I suffered along with the “Nerd” films and did my best to avoid the “Porky’s” trilogy. But writer-director John Hughes of (“Pretty in Pink” fame) more than made up for it.

My father watched the sugarcoated tales told by Mickey Rooney and friends.

I’ll take Ducky and Ferris over Andy Hardy any day.

Mr. Hughes’ run of perceptive teen flicks during the “Me” decade remains unsurpassed. They weren’t all home runs, though. “Weird Science” gets a pass only because the test tubes gave us Kelly LeBrock. And 1985’s “European Vacation” remains a painful bridge between the better “Vacation” flicks.

It’s the hits we remember and can watch over and again.

Mr. Hughes’ oeuvre came to mind while reading the new paperback “Don’t You Forget About Me.” It’s a collection of essays by writers who, just like me, maneuvered through puberty during Mr. Hughes’ heyday.

The writer-director, who has all but dropped out of the movie scene in recent years, knew how ‘80s teens talked and treated each other. He could pick at our wounds without apology, but he also let us indulge in the small triumphs that made those years tolerable.

Several “Don’t You” writers identified with “Sixteen Candles’ ” heroine.

I saw myself as the buttoned up Cameron from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Deep down, I wanted to be Ferris.

I still do.

The book’s writers took the films a little closer to heart than I did, judging by their raw treatises.

No matter. Everyone attaches different qualities to the movies.

I can track “Ferris” down to several periods in my life. I remember sketching the film’s poster to hang in the video store where I worked. That job also let me watch the film over and over during business lulls.

Years later, I watched the movie with my then-girlfriend and her two daughters. I hadn’t seen it in a decade, and viewing it with more mature eyes was a revelation.

I couldn’t believe star Matthew Broderick could be so impishly charming, that Cameron’s plight still touched me.

My girlfriend’s daughters, both under 10, didn’t get it. I was too dazzled to care.

Ferris got away with anything he darn well pleased, while Cameron (played by Alan Ruck) couldn’t enjoy any of it without feeling some measure of guilt or suspicion. I still feel my inner Cameron knit his eyebrows when I pick the wobbly supermarket cart or some jerk takes the parking spot I’d been waiting on. Don’t we all need a Ferris moment to salvage a bad day?

I didn’t always march in lockstep with Mr. Hughes’ characters. While every male in “Some Kind of Wonderful” pined for the lovely Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), I picked Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) long before Keith (Eric Stoltz) came to his senses.

Still, I understood the allure, the power that Amanda wielded in the world of high school politics.

I recently bought “The Breakfast Club” on DVD and can’t wait to watch it with a new sense of perspective. The pain won’t feel so personal, but I bet it hasn’t lost much of its dramatic heft.

Maybe it won’t move me, or make me laugh, as much as it once did, but I’m forever grateful it was there, like the rest of Mr. Hughes’ movies, when I needed them.

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