Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why I Love The Movies...



I've tried for years to pinpoint the time in my life where I fell in love with the movies, but I can't quite find that singular moment. Because I was too young when I fell headlong into film, too young to remember now, at 33. There are flashes in my memory about certain pictures from my youth, but no patient zero. I'm almost certain there was an earlier time in my life, but the earliest moment I can remember falling head over heels in love, and I do mean in love, with the movies, was watching Superman II in my grandmother's sunroom in Texas. I was five.

My grandmother had taught me to read at a very early age, in that very same sunroom. I don't think for a moment she realized sitting me down in front of a VHS tape of Superman II would resonate more than sounding out sentences in her lap. But it did, and it has, because it is where I always begin when I map out my love affair with cinema. I found myself amazed as I watched Christopher Reeve fly through the air, terrified as General Zod took over "the Planet Houston." I felt genuine emotion when Clark Kent was beaten to a pulp in that diner, and there was definitely exhilaration in my heart when he finally bested his enemies in his fortress of solitude. Of course I had no idea what I was watching, or the quality (or lack thereof) of Superman II. But I did, and I do, remember those feelings.

The rest of my single digit years is a bit of a blur, as it is for everyone, but I do know most of it was spent talking my way into seeing certain movies, and watching movies like Star Wars, Harry and The Hendersons, and The Neverending Story as many times as I could. Once I gained control of my own memory, and those images have since remained, I have collected the memories of film in the encyclopedia of my imagination. And I always waned to know who was responsible for what I was seeing. I knew these magical images didn't just appear, because I paid attention to the credits and wanted to figure out who made this film, and another film, and so on...

I have always earmarked points in time based on movies I have seen. I remember seeing Snow White in its theatrical re-release in the 80s, in a theater in Garland, Texas. And I remember going with my other grandmother. My mother, who arrived late, tried to get in but the screening was sold out. I remember seeing EdTV on my sixteenth birthday in Mesquite, Texas, with a group of friends who surprised me. I remember being 16 and trying to sneak in to see Scream 2. We were caught and asked to leave (and we had bought tickets to Home Alone 3, a dead giveaway). I remember going every Saturday in high school to see the latest movie with my mom, who was up for just about anything. She did make us leave in the middle of Natural Born Killers, and for that I don't blame her. I remember seeing The Departed twice in two different theaters while I lived in Oklahoma City, I remember staggering out of the theater in Fayetteville, Arkansas after seeing 12 Years A Slave.

And I remember, most of all, when I saw Carlito's Way.

My family knew from an early age that I was able to separate the reality of the world from the imagination of the movies. I watched movies that most kids my age would never be able to see. One of those films is Carlito's Way, which I saw with my grandmother (who also loved movies) at a mall theater in Dallas. But, as I have been able to pinpoint times in my life with movies I have seen, Carlito's Way will always stick with me for what happened that night, when I got home and my mother told me she had a brain tumor.

My grandmother, my mother's mother, the one who taught me to read and showed me Superman II, had died from a brain tumor two years earlier, and the news that my mother had this same affliction completely destroyed my world. I still remember my dad crying in the background, and the universe disappearing as I sobbed in my mother's arms. She would beat the cancer, and she is still living today and is staying busy with her three grandchildren. And Carlito's Way would forever be linked to my life. That is what people often overlook, the way films can add a signature to moments in their own personal history. There are important things that happen in our life, and if we all think hard, we can remember what movies were out at the time.

I went with the satus quo in high school, seeing movies like 10 things I Hate About You so I could keep up with the girls. But I would regularly go home with my Blockbuster rental of Dog Day Afternoon or Amadeus and absorb myself into the art. I became the movie nerd in high school, the movie buff in college, and the "movie guy" in life that all of my friends and acquaintances come to when they need a trivia question answered. "Who played that guy in that thing?" I got ya.

That is what is so crucial about film, the way it can take you back to an important part in your life like a song or a smell. But the power of film in my memory goes beyond most people. The movies pull emotions out of you, and some of the most important films can push you from one feeling to another. Some movies like Reservoir Dogs can throw you headlong into an anxiety-laden story. Rocky can swell your heart with pride. The fact that Cast Away was able to make me sob over the loss of a volleyball speaks volumes to the power of film. Sometimes, movies can take you from laughter, to fear, to anxiety, to sadness, and the range of emotion is what is so powerful. You can feel all of these things, and then walk out of the theater and leave those emotions behind, regardless of what they are.

I love the history of films, and I love what it takes to get a single film released. I love that there is something universal in moviemaking in every aspect, and I love the way movies have dogeared the story of my life. Without movies, I might be lost in this world.

I love when a movie makes me laugh and cry and hang on to my seat, all in the span of two hours. I love when a new movie star emerges. I love finding out about new directors. I love the biggest films (if they are made well) and the smallest films (for the fact that they were made at all). I love the perfect line in the best scene in the smallest movie, and the best scene in the right spot of the biggest movie. I love the explosion at the right time, the twist, the horror, and the comedy. I love when a film challenges me to the ends of my imagination, to the ends of my mind. And I love when a film realizes its there simply to make me laugh or make me shake my head at the absurdity of it all.

And I love that I will be able to show my son all of the movies I can think of, that he is an empty slate right now and I will be able to see his eyes when they widen at the sight of Darth Vader for the first time.

I love the movies.