Wrap-Up: The Hughes Brothers Project

When I chose The Hughes Brothers for the site I knew it wouldn’t be an easy project, but nobody ever said that writing about movies in my underwear from the warm embrace of deeply comfy chair would be easy. Now that the hardship is at an end, however, I’m left with the belief that this project has been absolutely vital to accomplishing the mission of this site. What good does yet another movie website do anybody by clinging to the accepted classics? Anybody can do Stanley Kubrick (and I did!) but film is about so much more than the winners and the gods.

I’ve often said that if I were to teach film history I would open the class with a showing of James Isaac’s Jason X, because I think that movie tells you everything you need to know about why you should love film. Jason X is a terrible film, natch, but even the least film is like a time capsule telling us about when it was made, why it was made, and about the people who made it (Jason X also has moments of sincere, intentional hilarity). Jason X may fail as a horror film, but it fails upward. The film is a prime example of an entire decade of horror—the 90s and its post-Scream, post-Buffy self-reference—and it lampoons a horror icon that had lost his edge in much the same way Universal once combined its fading, classic monsters into a duet with Abbot and Costello. You can tie a thread through decades of movie history down into that one movie, which, you know, fascinates the holy hell out of me. Jason X, in a way, represents why I love cinema.

Likewise, The Hughes Brothers represent why I love studying filmmakers, and for similar reasons. They’ve never made a film as shoddy as Jason X, and their links to the past are less clear (although Scorsese is a huge influence on their work, and Scorsese’s influence was everything else), but there they are, living on the margins, no longer the celebrated newcomers they once were but cresting with talent and producing deeply personal films for broad audiences. They don’t make masterpieces, but every one of their movies is worthy of discussion and analysis, and with every film, they contribute to the present culture and lay a little pavestone pointing the way to the future. There are only a handful of accomplished film masters in the world, and every one of them is standing on the backs of a dozen gifted, anonymous artists producing the bulk of the medium’s best work, the films that keep tickets ripping while the pantheon wander into the wilderness to find inspiration.

In a time where genre film has been consumed by the marketers and all goods are pre-packaged and cross-promoted, The Hughes Brothers (at least for now) resist. They deliver original material that has something new to say, and there’s just not enough of that going around these days. As I’ve said, I don’t really love any of their films, but I’m definitely excited to see what both Albert and Allen come up with next.

The Hughes Brothers Project

1. American Pimp (1999)

2. Menace II Society (1993)

3. The Book of Eli (2010)

4. From Hell (2001)

5. Dead Presidents (1995)

Special: Women in the Film of the Hughes Brothers

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