Arrow Video examines the Not-So-PC complexities of “Sixteen Candles”

Updated: Jul 31


BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS

Molly Ringwald plays sophomore Samantha 'Sam' Baker who still rides the school bus home and Anthony Michael Hall as the annoying freshman Farmer Ted "The Geek."



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“SIXTEEN CANDLES”

Blu-ray, 1984, PG for language and brief nudity; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube

Best extra: The featurette “Casting Sixteen Candles with Jackie Burch











FOR GEN-XERS, watching “Sixteen Candles” again in today’s world brings a mixed bag of emotions. Nostalgia runs rampant watching Molly Ringwald (Samantha ‘Sam’ Baker), Anthony Michael Hall (Farmer Ted), Michael Schoeffling (Jake Ryan), Gedde Watanabe (Long Duk Dong) and even Joan and John Cusack ( in their minor roles).

Then there’s the realization that the 1980’s weren’t politically correct, and the jokes that “Sixteen Candles’” writer/director John Hughes used throughout could be considered by today’s standards as homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic and plain insensitive. In fact, the movie has been vetted by many 21st century professors, critics, students and others – including star Ringwald - for those reasons and others.

Regardless of where you stand on the antics of ‘80s’ teens in “Sixteen Candles,” you cannot deny that Hughes not only wrapped his brain around a generation but that he was able to turn his creations into flesh and blood on the big screen and help angst-ridden young people know they weren’t alone.


(1&2) During the opening credits, the geeks ride the school bus, and Niles East High School in Skokie, Ill was used for exterior and interior scenes. (3) The Baker family rushes off to school and work. (4) Sam tells her best friend Randy (Liane Curtis) that her family forgot her 16th birthday.






Hughes touched a sentimental vein with the story of Sam and her 16th birthday, which her entire family forgets because of her pretty, older sister’s impending nuptials. On top of that blow, Sam has to thwart off the advances of the high school nerd (Farmer Ted) all while longing for a senior who she thinks is way out of her league.

VIDEO

Arrow Video along with Universal Pictures has fully restored “Sixteen Candles” scanning the original 35mm camera negative in 4K, which is a major step in the right direction. The only thing missing is the 4K release with HDR toning.

Still the colors and textures are striking on this Blu-ray presentation, which reveals a good dose of natural film grain. Just look at the clarity of the floral wreath in Sam’s hair outside the church where her sister has just gotten married, and her Prince Charming comes to pick her up in a red Porsche.

The previous Blu-ray doesn’t compare. Jake’s eyes twinkle, Samantha’s expressions dazzle and Farmer Ted’s thin teenage body evokes real laughter.

EXTRAS

Arrow includes the original theatrical cut and extended cut that’s 90-seconds longer with a scene in the high school cafeteria with Jake. Overall the new edition compiles a decent amount of new features, which shouldn’t disappoint, well, maybe a little.

The biggest disappointment is Ringwald and Schoeffling are absent again. They both were MIA for the 2012 release. Even though Ringwald has talked about her issues with some of the movie’s content, her absence from the bonus material probably doesn’t have anything to do with that. She has said in the past, she often doesn’t revisit the movies she’s been in. Maybe one day we will finally see a featurette about a Samantha and Jake reunion.


(1) Michael Schoeffling was 24 when he played senior Jake Ryan. (2) Can you spot brother and sister John and Joan Cusack in the bus full of extras? (3) Grandparents Howard (Edward Andrews) and Dorothy (Billie Bird) arrive for Ginny's wedding and take over Sam's attic room.




Arrow does give us the good, the bad and the hysterical as the movie celebrates 36 years since its release and, as people on social media howled or lamented, Jake (Schoeffling) turns 60 in December.

Settle in to not only watch these bonuses but to read a couple extras in a booklet that comes with the one-disc set with new cover art. The 35-page booklet contains some stock photos and an essay, “Bittersweet Sixteen: John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles and the Uncomfortable Truths of Adolescence,” by Nikki Baughan, a contributing editor at Screen International. If you’re wondering what some of the modern-day issues are with the movie, Baughan’s essay is a must-read.

“There is, however, no avoiding the fact that viewing “Sixteen Candles” through a modern lens raises serious concerns about its treatment of gender and race, with some scenes being dated at best, offensive at worst,” Baughan writes.

She goes on to write: “What Sixteen Candles gets right is its depiction of this no-man’s land between childhood and adulthood” – a place that still exists for teens today.

The other essay by Bryan Reesman, a New York-based entertainment journalist. Reesman, in “Shaping the Sounds of Sixteen Candles,” takes a shot at explaining the importance of the movie’s music and Hughes’ influence on exposing new songs to the mainstream population.

“Music was not something to be casually streamed or played as background sound; it was spun on vinyl through real stereos and piped through Walkmans taken to school. Listening to new album releases was a sacred ritual to many, and kids (as today) tied specific songs to very poignant moments in their lives.”



(1) Sam's oldest sister Ginny (Blanche Baker) is getting married the next day. (2) Bryce (John Cusack), The Geek (Anthony Michael Hall), and Cliff (Darren Harris) check the girls out during the school dance. (3) Jake and his girlfriend Caroline (Haviland Morris) enjoy the slow-dance. (4) Sam and The Geek both end up in the auto mechanic shop during the dance and she confesses her dream guy is Jake Ryan. (5) Sam loans her panties to The Geek to fulfill a wager, which becomes a $1 admission peepshow in the boy's bathroom.





“Back in the 1980s, before the era of smart phones, the Internet, and video game overload, music was a central component of a majority of teenagers’ lives.” Reesman writes. “No other filmmaker of the time understood this better than John Hughes, who directed, wrote and produced several teen pictures throughout that decade, with Sixteen Candles being the first.” (Others followed including “The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and “Pretty in Pink.”)

Reesman goes on to explain how the original soundtrack got gutted on VHS and DVD releases because, according to an interview with Hughes in 2007, the studio didn’t want to pay the royalties. Songs like David Bowie’s “Young Americans” were excised while others were replaced with generic versions.

The 2012 Blu-ray essentially restored the original score and Arrow’s disc didn’t miss a beat. It also features the alternate “home video” soundtrack prepared for VHS and laserdisc. Compare the two and see why Hughes was furious over the omission or deletion of various tunes due to the licensing issues.

The new bonus extras include a new interview with casting director Jackie You get a plethora of new information including that Viggo Mortensen read for the role of Jake and that she didn’t cast Anthony Michael Hall in Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” until after she saw his takes from “Sixteen Candles.”

“When Gedde Met Deborah” is a great extra for those who wonder if Watanabe feels differently about his role as a stereotypical Chinese exchange student. He still stands by the performance. He and Deborah Pollack, who played his “Sexy American Girlfriend,” have a great time looking back at the roles, their auditioned and a scene – which was cut of them in bed together with Jake Ryan’s Spanish-speaking maid.

Join John Kapelos in another bonus as he speaks about his role as “Rudy the Bohunk.” He talks about adlibbing at the altar with Brian Doyle Murray, who played the priest who marries Rudy and Ginny (Sam’s older sister played by Blanche Baker). Kapelos also talks about his time at Chicago’s Second City with the like’s Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.

Remember one of Farmer Ted’s coolest, yet nerdiest friends in the film – the kid with the new wave glasses – like Geordi La Forge wore later in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” – well that is writer/director/producer Adam Rifkin. In “The New Wave Nerd,” Rifkin talks about how Hughes let him shadow him on the set because he told the first-time director that he wanted to be a director someday. He ended as the writer/director for the late ‘90s comedy “Detroit Rock City,” and he owed a lot to Hughes.


(1) Sam and her mother, Brenda Baker (Carlin Glynn), share a moment on the day of Ginny's wedding when Brenda apologizes for forgetting Sam's 16th birthday. (2) The Geek and Caroline share a morning-after kiss in across the street from Caroline's church - in Jake's dad's Rolls Royce. (3) Ginny took one too many muscle relaxers before her wedding and now Rudy the Bohunk has to help her down the church stairs and into the limo, but not before she takes off her slip and hoop skirt and dances around on the sidewalk.




“The In-Between,” camera operator Gary Kibbe talks about his big break, and trying to keep energetic Anthony Michael Hall in frame – since he was always in-motion. He also says the only way to shot a comedy is with a wide-angle lens.

Ira Newborn talks about “Music for Geeks” in this featurette. Hughes wanted themes from the “Twilight Zone” and “Dragnet” to be used for comical effect. Newborn was with Hughes all the way. Newborn also, though, talks about when music wasn’t needed, for example, when Sam is in the hallway alone at her high school during the dance figuring out what she would say to Jake if/when she runs into him. The acting was perfect, the scene poignant, so there was no need for music in the background, Newborn said.

Arrow also provides all of the 2012 extras in one spot, and the best is

“Celebrating Sixteen Candles,” which you get nearly 40-minutes of behind the scene footage and interviews from filming in Shermer, Ill., to the political incorrectness of some of the jokes. A good number of the cast are included: Hall, Watanabe, Baker, Kapelos, Justin Henry (Mike Baker), Haviland Morris (Caroline), and Paul Dooley (Jim Baker). There are also guest interviews with director Michael Lehmann (“Heathers”) and writer Diablo Cody (“Juno”).

Finally, coming full circle, “A Very Eighties Fairytale” is an actual video essay written and narrated by Soraya Roberts, a Toronto-based writer, who looks at the film from a contemporary, feminist perspective.


For those who wonder what Ringwald had to say about the film, you can read an essay she wrote in “The New Yorker” in April 2018 as the #MeToo movement escalated.

“John’s movies convey the anger and fear of isolation that adolescents feel, and seeing that others might feel the same way is a balm for the trauma that teen-agers experience. Whether that’s enough to make up for the impropriety of the films is hard to say—even criticizing them makes me feel like I’m divesting a generation of some of its fondest memories, or being ungrateful since they helped to establish my career. And yet embracing them entirely feels hypocritical.” – Molly Ringwald

Ringwald tries to put the modern dichotomy of this flick into perspective: “How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”

- Toni Guagenti


Finally, Jake and Sam talk face-to-face - before heading off to enjoy a birthday cake and a smooch.









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