John Hughes' film message is simple: The kids are all right.
His young heroes were certainly confused, frustrated and angry, but they ultimately proved steely enough to triumph over the often cruel peer pressure and stifling confinement of suburban life. That ethos animated the Oscars on Sunday during a poignant tribute to Hughes, who died in August at age 59 and whose body of work as a writer and director is credited with humorously capturing the teen angst of the '80s generation.
The salute to the reclusive Chicagoan, who kept a distance from Hollywood, featured clips from Hughes' popular teen comedies such as "Sixteen Candles," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "The Breakfast Club." The occasion brought together many stars of Hughes' films, including Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy.
His later films, such as "She's Having a Baby" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," which ventured away from the high school campus, were also celebrated. Hughes wrote and produced dozens of movies but directed only eight films -- his last one "Curly Sue" in 1991.
Ringwald, who became part of a stable of young stars known as the Brat Pack, thanks to Hughes and films like "Sixteen Candles," called the director a "brilliant writer, director and friend who saw something in me at age 16 that I didn't even see in myself. . . . His genius was taking the pain of growing up and relating it to everyone."
Matthew Broderick, who starred in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," about a mischievous teen who persuades his friends to play hooky from high school, spoke to the enduring popularity of that 1986 film.
"For the past 25 years, nearly every day someone comes up to me, taps me on the shoulder and says, 'Hey, Ferris, is this your day off?' "
The tribute also featured clips of Hughes talking about his desire to show "the pressure of learning how to belong" during adolescence. Hughes' wife and children were in the audience.
Macaulay Culkin, who starred in "Home Alone," said Hughes "always treated me with dignity -- even a 9-year-old version of myself."