Foreplay: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Gen X moviegoers have an ongoing debate over which film is the best John Hughes teen movie or who is the most identifiable Hughes movie character. But Ferris Bueller always comes out on top. The story of a whip-smart high school student playing hooky behind the backs of his suburban Chicago parents strikes an irresistible chord of rebellion in everyone who beholds his antics. Hughes kept the sarcasm coming, along with the rebellious sneaks’ fear of being found-out. Above all, Hughes celebrated the All-American thrill of FREEDOM—those carefree opportunities to do whatever you pleased before the soul-deadening obligations of adulthood reared their stop signs. Let eggheads boast about J.D. Salinger preventing Hollywood from ever filming Catcher in the Rye. Fueller Bueller would kick Holden Caulfield butt, then bounce from backyard to backyard like in John Cheever’s classic short story “The Swimmer.” Plus, it’s the greatest role of Matthew Broderick’s career.
Press Play: Gentlemens Agreement (1947)
Is this 1947 Best Picture Oscar winner merely a solemn lecture on the inhumanity of ethnic prejudice? No, it’s also one of the most elegant, sly and subtly sexy melodramas in Hollywood history. Gregory Peck plays a crusading journalist pretending to be Jewish in order to expose bigotry in high place. He falls in love with a tradition-bound Wasp aristocrat (Dorothy Maguire) while he is pursued by a chic urban career woman (Celeste Holm). John Garfield plays Peck’s Jewish best friend. Romantic tension only intensifies the moral issues. This is the quietest movie that the legendary Elia Kazan ever directed. Kazan and his cast knew how to underplay for maximum effect. (Peck and Maguire have a knock-down drag-out fight while whispering!) Everyone who watches this groundbreaking film comes away wanting to be glamorous and open-minded, too.
Playtime: Patton (1970)
This is the vehicle that won George C. Scott the Best Actor Oscar that he famously refused. (Goldie Hawn was the flabbergasted presenter.) The film could also be called “Irascible” which fits the character Scott portrayed: General George S. Patton commanded the U.S. Seventh Army during World War II, defying his superiors yet winning the war of weapons and wills. The unforgettable opening scene shows Patton giving a lecture to troops (to us). He is an icon of indomitable, profane American heroism and, harsh as he is, he’s funny and likable–talking tough in front of the largest America flag ever to stretch from one side of the silver screen to the other. That image—along with Scott’s gruff, macho delivery—is unforgettable. Director Franklin Schaffner scales the rest of the movie BIG. It’s to match Patton and Scott’s egos.