Why ”Sixteen Candles” tops ”Pretty in Pink”
People are crazy. Evidently, one of those people is my wife. You see, I have had a series of encounters lately that have disturbed me greatly. I mean, right down to my core. It started with an argument with a coworker (who shall remain nameless to protect her from the embarrassment of being so obviously wrong). She insisted that Pretty in Pink was the ultimate John Hughes teen movie of the 1980s. I went on to mock her wrongness, explaining how everybody knows that Sixteen Candles holds the crown of that kingdom. She wouldn’t budge on her position, but I figured, hey, there’s no accounting for taste in some people.
The story should have ended there…but it didn’t. A few other women also started piping up in favor of PIP, and the situation truly boiled over the other night when I caught my wife watching the movie for approximately the 8,237th time on cable. I tested my theory out on her.
”You know Sixteen Candles is a much better movie, right?”
”I mean, Pretty in Pink is great, don’t get me wrong, but Sixteen Candles is maybe the funniest teen movie ever made.”
”Is this a chick thing? All these women are going on and on about Pretty in Pink? Do women have a worse sense of humor than men? Is that it?”
”You want me to shut up so you can watch the movie, don’t you?”
I don’t honestly believe it is merely a gender thing; that was just to get my wife’s goat (although I do want to poll all you readers at the end, so please submit you gender and vote there). But I am ready to lay out all the ways in that Sixteen Candles is superior to Pretty in Pink. (And you Breakfast Club and Weird Science fans can stop right there — both fine films, but this is only a two horse race.)
? First off, it should be noted that Hughes wrote and directed Sixteen Candles, while Pretty in Pink was actually directed by Howard Deutch (who also brought us PIP clone Some Kind of Wonderful), so already Candles gets extra points for “Hughesness” right there.
? Farmer Ted vs. Duckie
Okay, I get it, Duckie is cute when he pretends to be Otis Redding, and you can’t help but shed a tear when he’s sitting there depressed in the rain all by himself to the sweet, sorrowful sounds of the Smiths. But people, guess who is he imitating for that entire movie? That’s right — Anthony Michael Hall! Hall is flat-out genius in Sixteen Candles playing the self-proclaimed ”King of the Dipshits.” He’s responsible for no less than a hundred classic moments: from charging admission to see Molly Ringwald’s underwear, to making a post-party cocktail in Jake’s kitchen, to getting his dorky friends to take a picture of him and a passed out hottie in the Rolls Royce. Honestly, it is no contest.
? Jake Ryan vs. Blane
I can’t tell you how many women I know who have embarrassingly admitted to having a crush on Andrew McCarthy after Pretty in Pink came out. You know what? They should be embarrassed! His supposedly dreamboat character of Blane has no backbone, dresses lame, and has an even lamer haircut. In fact, the only thing he’s pretty much good for is hitting on girls on library computers. Seriously, what is the appeal? Now, Jake Ryan on the other hand is a certified stud. Hell, even I have a bit of a man crush on the dude. Again, how anyone could chose Blane over Jake is beyond me. Unless they are looking for a physically non-threatening wussy who likes to be told what to do because he can’t seem to make up his mind. (Actually, that kind of sounds a bit like me. Whoops!)
? Thompson Twins vs. OMD
Okay, as if the fact that Molly Ringwald chases after McCarthy isn’t lame enough, she has to do it to a synthpop one hit wonder. Perhaps OMD should have changed the words to ”If you leave…that’s fine because I’ll just go make out with Duckie who I was supposed to be with anyway before test audiences made the studio tack on this cheesy ending.” Make no mistake, I’m no huge Thompson Twins fan — they wore funny hats and had ponytails in weird places — but I’ll take ”If You Were Here” over ”If You Leave” any day. And having Samantha and Jake sit on the table blowing out her birthday candles before leaning in for a kiss is a lot more original than simply sucking face in a parking lot next to you new loser boyfriend’s BMW.
? Paul Dooley vs. Harry Dean Stanton
Ooooh, this is a toughie. Dooley is really good at bringing the funny (especially in the masterpiece that is Strange Brew), and as Ringwald’s dad in Sixteen Candles he clocks in with his usual A-game, but Harry Dean Stanton gets some nice bonding scenes with daughter Ringwald in PIP. I score this one a hotly contested draw.
? Just another list of things that Candles has going for it: Joan Cusack trying to drink from the water fountain, John Cusack performing what can only be described as the best air bass guitar ever, topless women (not that I am into that or anything), that freaky dwarf lady from Poltergeist, the Donger (even if his character was mildly offensive), and finally, Molly Ringwald getting felt up by her grandmother.
Of course, there is one thing that Pretty in Pink clearly has in its favor, and that thing is the genius of James Spader as white-suit-sporting, cigarette-dangling, feathered hair-rocking Steff. Spader gives a sleazeball performance of the ages, and it really served as a template for 1980s bad boy blond yuppie a-holes in training. (His quote ”That girl was, is, and always will be nada!” pretty much sums up ’80s lingo in a nutshell.) I suppose the closest thing Candles has to such a character is Haviland Morris’ Caroline, but even with her topless scene (again, not like I was into that…really, honey) she doesn’t really come close. Plus, she sleeps with Farmer Ted. How bad can she really be?
So I’ll give you Spader, but otherwise, for me, it’s Sixteen Candles all the way. But we need to find out if this is merely a gender thing — boys going for the goofier, sillier Sixteen Candles, girls going for the more romantic Pretty in Pink. Write in at the end of this column, give your gender and pick of better film along with quick reason for the pick. We’ll go over the results next week and see what’s what.
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