Yello

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30 years ago, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off came out. If you build a time machine and go back to 1986, you might just enjoy that movie.

I wasn’t very confident in junior high, so seeing Matthew Broderick play a student literally worshiped by everyone was inspiring. Movies like FBDO gave me the unrealistic idea that you just “had a girlfriend”, no matter how weird or stupid you were. Since I was alone, I felt broken and inadequate. Really, all those 80s teen flicks where even the most retarded guy had a girl; I’m glad they’re generally considered garbage.

I admired Alan Ruck’s Cameron Frye, because even though he was angry and depressed, his friends still gave a shit about his feelings. Even the willful destruction of Mr. Frye’s Ferrari turns out to be an act of healthy growth. Cameron was morose, which only made his buddies Ferris and Sloane try harder to cheer him up.

Maybe it’s because the movie takes place in Illinois, where I’ve never been, but I hear the people are nice (outside of the metro Chicago area). In reality, if you act like Cameron, your friends ditch you for peppier pastures. Especially in high school, are you kidding? What’s the general reaction when a kid kills themselves? WOW GEE WHO KNEW.

Broderick’s performance as the glib, mercurial Ferris was a lot more enjoyable before the incident in Northern Ireland, 1987, when his car crossed into the wrong lane and killed two people. You can look at him in movies after this, and he’s never been the same. The joyful spontaneity is all gone, replaced with a careful, bowed quietness. He continues to turn in good performances, but with a guilty sadness just behind the eyes. He settled down with Sarah Jessica Parker, at the time a glammed-down hot tomato from a sitcom called “Square Pegs”, and Broderick’s gal-pal Jennifer Grey went on to become so unrecognizable after plastic surgery, it became a show. Jesus, that’s like a Pat Conroy novel in its anguish and heartache.

Jennifer Grey was Ferris’ sister Jeannie, who encounters a delinquent played by Martin Sheen’s son Charlie.

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He cracks his knuckles in a manner that impressed me so much at 13, I still do it. I can crack 22 knuckles. My hands are not very ladylike.

Charlie Sheen utilized some rather inadvisable methods of dealing with contract issues in 2012, including prostitutes and mountains of cocaine, and is currently HIV positive. I don’t know, man, now that I look at it, it all seems perfectly in character with the delinquent pictured above. That’s serious dedication. Am I wrong?

Is it not hard to separate the characters from FBDO from the players? Jeannie Bueller was so utterly mortified by her brother’s shenanigans, she changed her face. Ferris himself continued on the path of the libertine, with disastrous consequences. Grace, the secretary to the dean of students, went back to partying with Cheech and Chong.

I will go to my grave defending Edie McClurg.

I will go to my grave defending Edie McClurg.

The dean of students was a man named Edward R. Rooney, the foil of young Ferris Bueller. Even though Rooney is right, and knows Ferris is truant, he is humiliated, attacked by a dog, and given a warm gummi bear on a school bus as reward for doing his job. The strain was too much for Rooney, and he became a creep.

Jeffrey Jones was one of my favorite actors, so I prefer to think of him as Criswell in Ed Wood, or the Dark Overlord from Howard The Duck. You think the talking duck was terrifying to behold?

Much like Roots, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off gave generations a totally inaccurate portrayal of average white people. The Buellers are assayed by Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett, and they live in a cavernous, fully-decorated house. This is what black people think of when they hate on white people. Because of course we all grew up in a mansion with perfect parents who met our every need. Holy fuck, as an adult, I goddamn hate this movie.

John Hughes wrote the script in under a week, and directed the film in less than three months. This was the only film of his I really appreciated, back in school; I hated The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink, and I liked Sixteen Candles and Weird Science for the wrong reasons. I transcribed FBDO dialogue so I could perform it in drama class. Folks; this is why no one wants to watch children perform. There is no wisdom present, and wisdom is as crucial to a good actor as a face. Otherwise it’s just recitation, and that’s all kids can do, unless they’ve seen some shady shit from an early age, and it’s not polite to bring that up anymore.

Move along. Forget you saw this. Just be grateful for the existence of Jodie Foster, as we all are.

Move along. Forget you saw this. Just be grateful for the existence of Jodie Foster, as we all are.

To be honest, what makes Ferris Bueller’s Day Off endure is the soundtrack. That’s where I discovered the English Beat, and their spectacular “March Of The Swivelheads”. This is one of my top five favorite ska tunes of all time.

Everything I love about ska (excepting female harmonies) is present on that track. Its placement in FBDO is pure synergy; the sequence was clearly edited to fit the music. Whatever issues I have with the film, Ferris running home ahead of his parents is incredibly fun.

As Ferris prepares for his day off, we hear Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s “Love Missile F1-11”. On its own this is kind of a redundant listen, but in the movie it fits just right, even though we have to hear platitudes from a teenage boy in the shower.

As dance music, it’s very decent. It’s got the same 80s synth-pep as Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road”*, or DEVO’s (actually awful) “Doctor Detroit”. It’s a lot easier to appreciate now that it isn’t in everything. 

(*Used at the end of National Lampoon’s Vacation, also written by Hughes. Look, I’m not putting the man down, okay? His oeuvre was indeed laudable.)

Speaking of ubiquitous; after Ferris Bueller, it was very easy to become sick of Yello’s “Oh Yeah”.

That conversation from panel two is real. Remember; you could not hear the song unless you watched the movie. You couldn’t get Yello’s albums in your local record store; they were “foreign”. When I finally found One Second in Tower Records in 1989, I bought it immediately, despite its hideous cover. That same cover urged me to hock it in 1996.

It's like a Stones album painted by an eighth-grader.

It’s like a Stones album painted by a prudish eighth-grader.

Once you had the ability to spin “Oh Yeah” whenever you desired, you were forced to examine your motives for doing so. You’re just a goof listening to Swiss dance music, not a truant teen having adventures with his friends in Chicago. It’s ludicrous when you look at it.

In fact, “Oh Yeah” became a punchline, but in a good way. On The Simpsons, it precedes the entrance of beer mascot Duffman. One of the best episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia uses it multiple times, to indicate descent into hysteria (and reference The Secret Of My Success, another film that featured the song).

Until that show, I thought it was “dur” instead of “day”. Again; the chief method of hearing the song was through TV speakers, on a VHS tape of a movie. On headphones, it’s kind of like guys burping in your ears. You could turn the volume on a TV up, and it would increase in presence; soap operas used to be unbearable when loud. It was around the mid-80s when movies were “simulcast”, which meant you put the movie on TV, turned the sound off, and tuned in a radio station. The audio was “simulcast” with the video, and if you had a nice stereo setup like my dad did, it increased the enjoyment of particular movies exponentially.

Some movies, it was the only reason we saw them. (Copyright Lucasfilm.)

Some movies, it was the only reason we saw them. (Copyright Lucasfilm.)

Yello is comprised of Dieter Meier and Boris Blank, neither of whom are Mike Myers characters, ironically. They are still active today. The name “Dieter” is indistinguishable in English from one who is on a diet.

So you can understand the mocking interpretation, this is what “Gold Rush” sounds like.

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