The Kids Haven’t Changed, You Have

When I think about the formative influences on how I watch and think about cinema, it doesn’t take long to get to John Hughes. His teen movies – The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful as well as, to a lesser extent, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science, and his teen-movie coda about twenty-somethings, She’s Having a Baby – are baked into my DNA. Hughes comes before everything, for me, a near-inarticulable kind of deep-down fundamental. John Hughes’s movies are a key part of a largely unwritten pre-history of how the part of my brain that watches films was formed, and – much later – thinking and reading about them was part of the slowly-and-then-all-at-once of my figuring out that all I really wanted to do was write about movies. Before Hadley Freeman decided to devote herself to full-time transphobia, she wrote a book about 1980s movies including Hughes’s called Life Moves Pretty Fast, and it’s barely an exaggeration to say I’m not sure if I would be the person I am now without reading it. Even when I wrote about the formative role The Social Network played in my development as a film critic – literally calling it the movie that made me love movies – I exalted it in part by citing its John Hughes influence. To say they’re good films feels like a tautology – they’re such a basic part of what I understand the words “good film” to even mean.

A lot of things I loved as a teenager, I return to them with a worry in my chest about having grown out of whatever it is. That’ll it seem hollow and superficial to my adult eyes and ears. But I never worry that about Hughes’s teen movies. The opposite is true: whenever I revisit these films, they reveal new depths, new pleasures, new wits, new layers of emotional complexity.

Hughes has, I think, become reasonably well-respected – as well as being beloved of beloved filmmakers like Sofia Coppola or Greta Gerwig, his work has endured in a way you couldn’t ignore if you tried – but a part of me will always think of him as misunderstood. John Hughes gets used as a shorthand for teen movie clichés in a way that seems disconnected from the work itself. It’s been years since I read this quote from Richard Linklater about wanting Dazed and Confused to be the inverse of a John Hughes film, and I still get annoyed about it regularly:

The drama is so low-key in [Dazed and Confused]. I don’t remember teenage being that dramatic. I remember just trying to go with the flow, socialize, fit in and be cool. The stakes were really low. To get Aerosmith tickets or not? That’s a big thing. It was really rare when the star-crossed lovers from the opposite side of the tracks and the girl gets pregnant and there’s a car crash and somebody dies. That didn’t really happen much. But riding around and trying to look for something to do with the music cranked up, now that happened a lot!

But John Hughes didn’t make films about teen pregnancy and car crashes and dying. Sure, Pretty in Pink is about a rich boy and a girl from the wrong side of the tracks falling in love, but it spins that story with a grounded realism that’s quietly devastating. If you want a teen movie where the drama is low-key and the stakes are really low, John Hughes is your guy. After all, his best films are about getting detention and skipping school. The stakes are – from an adult point of view – rock bottom. Hughes’s genius, in part, is that they don’t feel that way.

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The Road Not Taken: Revisiting Stanley Donen’s Two for the Road

2022 has been a year of rom-com milestones. There’s Annie Hall (forty-five years), Moonstruck (thirty-five years), and My Best Friend’s Wedding (twenty-five years), just to name a few. This year also marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of a film about love, which for various reasons, didn’t receive the same level of attention as the more formulaic rom coms of its time. But it’s more than likely the world just wasn’t ready for it yet. 

In 1967 Stanley Donen, the director behind Singin’ in the Rain and Funny Face, took a risk and released Two for the Road to a mainstream film audience. Borrowing from the French New Wave style of the time, it tells a non-linear story of a couple, Joanna and Mark Wallace (played by Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney) and their long term relationship. The film’s style freely moves back and forth between various timelines as it follows their ups and downs. The transitions appear seamless as it uses the same location to tie the narrative together (it all takes place on holiday in the French Riviera at different points throughout the years). This was (and still is) completely different to other rom coms in its way of telling a love story in film. It focuses on the entire relationship, not just the exciting parts of love, like the meet-cute or the courtship. But what really set it apart in a market chock-full of sickly-sweet romance was its honesty about human behavior.

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The Fast and The February: A Film Diary

This February, I watched all the Fast & Furious movies for the first time.1 It felt like a big hole in my pop cultural lexicon, right up there with my general James Bond ignorance and never having seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So I bought a boxset of films one to seven from CEX2 and borrowed the rest from the library,3 and got to work.


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2021 in Film(s That Didn’t Come Out in 2021)

Check out previous installments here, here, here and here.


2021 was, I’m sure we can all agree, the most recent year in the Gregorian calendar. Though, that being said, Ciara now exclusively understands the passage of time through self-programmed film seasons (e.g. Soviet June-ion, Silent September, Shane Black Christmas) and Dean has lost track of linear time altogether. It was a year of surprises in film: Zack Snyder finally got to finish his four-hour superhero epic and Sylvester Stallone, for better or worse, finally got to cut the robot from Rocky IV. We started a podcast, The Sundae Presents, where we take turns showing each other favourite films of ours the other hasn’t seen (catch up now!). We published lots of good pieces, including the first guest contribution to our pop punk series. Ciara finished watching all the Nightmares on Elm Street (except the remake, obviously) and Dean watched every Gus Van Sant film, then immediately got super into pirate movies for some reason. 

We’ll be looking back at our favourite films released in 2021 on Oscars weekend, which we guess is in March this year? This is a look back at some of the best films from other years that we watched for the first time, spanning eighty years of cinema from the earliest days of animation to the earliest days of Paul Verhoeven’s post-Hollywood career. At the risk of repeating ourselves, one of the few upsides to a year where staying inside was, at the very least, highly recommended was a lot of time to watch movies, and these represent less than five percent of them, so you know they come highly recommended. We’ve got Arthurian myth and silent romance and four films from the seventies, because we can’t pretend we don’t have a period bias. Check them out and stay tuned to The Sundae for more cold takes and fresh pods in 2022!

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Westerns, Part 3

“I can name for you every western I’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t even be hard.” – 2018

“There’s something just better about westerns, I can’t explain it. A great western is a special thing.” – 2019

“… nobody wants to be the crotchety old man saying things were much better in the good old days. But then you sit down and actually watch a 1940s western and it melts your face clean off.” – 2020

There probably wasn’t an exact moment when I went from “getting into westerns” to just “being a big westerns guy,” but if I had to pick, it would probably be around the time I started watching the Friday western on TG4. TG4 is an Irish public broadcast TV station that mostly shows Irish language programming, but every Friday night, they show a western. I’m not sure why, but I’m glad. “An western”: Irish for “the western”, with the word western untranslated, the way you wouldn’t translate noir or giallo into English. The films they show range from established classics to obscure gems to stuff that really isn’t very good at all, but usually in an interesting way. I don’t always watch the western on Friday, but I’m always happy I did. There are some things in this world that are so purely joyful, so satisfying, that they make your heart feel like it will burst. They’re precious, and I try to hold onto them where I can. A great western is one of those. The particular pleasures great westerns offer make me fall in love with films all over again.  

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The Best of The Sundae #5

Self-congratulation is gauche, but as long as we’re doing it anyway: it’s pretty unbelievable we managed to stick so rigidly to our “no hot takes” policy in a year that featured the most consistently hot topic of our lifetimes. Amazon literally released a show about a pandemic caused by a bat virus jumping to humans, seemingly as a result of a vast conspiracy by liberal elites, and we just had to be like, nah, not gonna write about that. Expect our frigid coronavirus takes circa 2030.

Instead, we wrote what we’ve always written: deep dives into movies and shows that stick in our brains for months or years, screeds against the state of the entertainment industry and essays about the way we understand and misunderstand art. We also published great pieces from guest contributors and started our very own podcast, The Sundae Presents, where we take turns showing each other favourite films of ours the other hasn’t seen.

For long-time readers, this is our year in review. For newer readers, this is our sizzle reel. And if you’re here for the first time, this is a pretty good look at what we’re all about, as are the previous four times we’ve done this, so check them out.

Here’s the best of The Sundae so far since last so far.

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Double Features #8: The Whole of the Moon

This article is part of the Double Features series, which pairs great films that go great together. Check out previous installments here.


One of my pet peeves is complaints that a film isn’t basically a totally different film. Why doesn’t The Deer Hunter deal with American war crimes instead of being an extremely beautiful, sad film about three working-class Russian-Americans’ experience of Vietnam? Why doesn’t Michael Moore make documentaries that drily recite the facts instead of comedic leftist polemics? Why won’t Aaron Sorkin stop writing in the style of Aaron Sorkin?

Films don’t need to be about all things to all people, and probably shouldn’t be. I like when films are about something specific and small, and I love a lot of my favourite films because of their attention to granular detail, not for speed-running through everything they can fit in.

But there is something nice about feeling like you’re getting a panoramic view. Like you’re seeing a bunch of sides to something all at once. These double features are each made up of two opposite halves that make up something approximating a whole. Whether that’s taking on similar material from opposite directions or using the same approach to deal with apparent opposites, you won’t come out of any of these pairings asking why they didn’t address blah blah blah.

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