Last week the world lost a true icon. It was announced on 16th August that Aretha Franklin had died due to pancreatic cancer. Franklin was an undeniably sensational singer but she was so much more than that. She was the true Queen of Soul and defined soul in the Sixties. She was also an influential and powerful figure in history. Her songs became anthems for social change as women and African-Americans adopted them for their own. Just look at what she did to Otis Redding’s ‘Respect”: she made that song her own and gave women a rousing call for themselves. She was incredible. And I could easily go on and on talking about the massive impact that the singer made upon the world. I won’t, however, as there are bound to be better people out there doing just that right now. All I really know is, I loved Aretha Franklin. I think the first song I heard her sing was ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ and I adored it. She made it seem so effortless but, no matter how hard I tried (and believe me I tried) I could never replicate her skills. I just couldn’t believe how fantastic and powerful a singer she was. Everything else I heard just got better. But, no matter how much I love listening to her sing, there is one part of her career that sticks with me more than anything: her performances in the two Blues Brothers films.
I first saw this film during the peak of my Dan Aykroyd obsession. I’d been slowly making my way through his greatest hits and I stumbled across this on TV late one night. I sat down to watch it for a few minutes and almost made my way through the entire thing. As in love with Aykroyd as I was at the time, I decided to hunt down the DVD and get the whole experience. I can’t say it landed anywhere near my top 5 of his performances. So much so that I got rid of the DVD a few years ago and thought nothing of it. In fact, so little had I thought about this film since then that I didn’t even put it as an option for TBT film jar. I hadn’t bothered to suggest it as a film that also celebrates its 30th birthday this year. Perhaps this say something about my underlying thoughts on the film but I don’t remember hating it. And why would I? Aykroyd aside, I adore Walter Matthau. I hope someday to be Max from Grumpy Old Men but, you know, not a man. So I decided it was time to revisit the film. Just to make sure. And to appease that soft spot I have for late 80s Dan Aykroyd’s face… and talent I guess.
John Hughes wrote a shitload of films. A hell of a lot more than I’ve ever really appreciated. Looking at his filmography has shown me just how much of an influence he had over my childhood and teenage years without me ever realising. Obviously, films like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles are classic 80s teen films that everyone knows about. Then there’s kid friendly things like Home Alone and Uncle Buck both of which I’ve loved for years. But, as it turns out, there’s absolutely loads of films I’ve always enjoyed that were written by him too. After all, what kid really pays any attention to who writes a film? I mean if I had £1 for every time my sister and I watched the 1994 film Dennis the Menace I’d had a fuckload of pound coins right now. It was only thanks to Wikipedia today that I realised it was written by non other than John Hughes. Miracle on 34th Street is one of my top 10 Christmas films without me ever realising that it was another Hughes film. So, all set with the knowledge that John Hughes is probably single-handedly responsible for my cinematic awakening, I set out to watch another of his films that I’d never seen before. Would it be another classic or another Mr Mom?
We all have those relationships with certain actors that means we’re willing to put up with a lot of shit films. Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy both spring to mind as people I adore but who tend to star in absolute drivel. Now I’m sure I’ve discussed it numerous times over the years, but I have a deep love for Dan Aykroyd. Or at least Dan Aykroyd in the 80s. I’ve had a huge crush on Elwood Blues since I first watched Blues Brothers. I have an equally strong lust for Ray in Ghostbusters and, to a lesser extent, Ghostbusters II. I’m kind of over it by the start of the 90s. No offense but My Girl Dan does nothing for me. And don’t even get me started on Driving Miss Daisy. Still, I have enough of a love for the actor to have watched a lot of terrible films in my time. Yes, there have been plenty of good ones and some mediocre ones but he’s hardly had what you’d call a consistent career. Although there is one big flop from the 1980s that I’ve yet to see. My Stepmother is an Alien always seemed one step too far. I kind of felt that watching that would be putting the final nail into my coffin of obsession. Until I picked it out of my TBT jar. I guess there’s no going back.