Monday, March 29, 2010
The Movies that Made Me: Ten Films that Shaped My Life Part One
Recently I've posed a challenge to a lot of other bloggers around the ol' blog-o-sphere. I've asked for people to list the top ten movies that have shaped their lives as movie fans, art lovers, artists, people, and whatever else. Tent-pole films of your life, if you will. I figured that it was only fair that I did it myself. So, here are the first five of my top ten movies that shaped me - in chronological order. And, remember, if you'd like to participate in this, by all means go ahead and do so. Feel free to grab the banner from here and use it on your own site.
10. Jaws - I swear to you that I have this vague, fuzzy memory of being two years old and watching Steven Spielberg's Jaws on our living room television set while I lay on the floor entranced by the disturbing images on the screen. I can only remember one scene from it at that time, but it involved one of Brody's kids, and it affected me on a deep level. It was the first movie that I ever saw that picture children in harm's way. That really freaked me out - and it made me aware of how film could really evoke emotion from the viewer, particularly fear. For anyone that claims Jaws is not a horror movie, I say "pffft". I'm not sure how deeply this film scarred my psyche, but I am still scared of deep bodies of water to some degree. If that doesn't count as "shaping me" as a person then I don't know what does.
9. Star Wars - As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Jedi. I mean that, when I was little my brother had all of the old Kenner Star Wars toys. He had Taun-Tauns, The Rancor Monster, the Hoth Playset, I mean everything. My first exposure to the Star Wars universe came from these toys, stuffed animals, and bed sheets. The business of Star Wars was so large and booming that the movies might as well have been commercials to sell the toys, but I'll be damned if they weren't fantastic commercials. I still remember watching our VHS copy (which I still have, complete with receipt - $50!) of A New Hope and being absolutely floored by the incredible daring and action that took place on the screen. It was and still is something to be hold, some of the better fantasy mythos that I've encountered. Through the years, I grew even fonder of Star Wars. I was the kid in middle school and high school that wore the Star Wars t-shirt with the Japanese script on it, and carried an original Boba Fett toy in my backpack.
8. Halloween - Another very early horror flick for me, Halloween shaped me at two different times in my life. Firstly, when I was a kid it scared the beejezus out of me. I can remember watching it one Halloween night with my older siblings and some of their friends. We were eating popcorn and watching it in my brother and my room. Even though it was the television edit, I was still terrified of THE SHAPE. Throughout the years, I kept watching scare shows and it ended up being Jason that really stuck with me and became my favorite slasher villain. That is, up until I was about twenty years old or so. At that point, I was really starting to appreciate film. I went back and took at look at Carpenter's early work, including Halloween. For the first time the whole package really struck me as amazing. The atmosphere, the POV shots, the ambiance of the soundtrack. I saw the film with new eyes, trying to dis-remember the sequels and forget about Laurie Strode being Michael's sister and really focusing on it as a stand-alone film. It's a remarkable piece of cinema, and I will always love it.
7. Back to the Future - I doubt that I ever actually understood the awesomeness of Back to the Future when I was a kid, even upon the many rewatches that eventually wore out my VHS tape. At least not the way I do now. What I did know was that I really enjoyed the film, Michael J. Fox, and the concept of travelling through time. I like to think on some level that I did understand that this actually pretty fine film-making, but that may be giving my 6 year old self too much credit. Back to the Future did help a lot in shaping my sense of humor, and my idea of cool. I thought that Marty McFly was the coolest guy in the world - he was suave, charming, had hunnies all over him, and was quietly funny. I do remember that first time travel scene really disturbing me, when Doc Brown is shot down by the terrorists - I was always really happy when Marty found Doc in the past alive and healthy.
6. The Usual Suspects - This is probably the biggest tent pole film for me, in terms of film appreciation. I watched The Usual Suspects when I was in high school. I don't remember the exact age, but probably around 14. I had no real pretense about the film, no expectations, but after I watched this movie I found myself in love with film for the first time, not merely as a spectator but as an active participant in the world of film. Now, I don't mean that I became a film-maker (though, I would go on to make a couple of shorts), what I mean is that I became aware of film-making elements that had never occurred to me before. I became, slowly of course, someone that felt the need to participate in film - to engross myself in it, learn about it, actively seek exciting films, I subscribed to auteur theory without even knowing what it was. I didn't know who Bryan Singer was, but I knew that I was all in on him. I felt that I was witnessing the birth of an exciting young talent, that I could grow with and follow. I still get that same feeling sometimes. It's great to find diamonds in the rough that you can watch the progression of. I love it baseball, music, film, you name it. It was really an exciting time in my film watching experience and one that really shaped me not just as a film lover, but as a person to better understand things like art and craftsmanship - completely enriching my life. Watching the film today, I'm not as enamored with it. Don't get me wrong, I still think it's one of the best pictures of the nineties, but I am more satisfied with what the movie did for me as a person than with the actual picture itself.