Here’s the deal – I absolutely love movies. Everything about them. I love great movies. I love bad movies because they’re equally as fun to talk about. I love talking about actors and the choices they make. I love talking about directors and the arc of their careers. I love talking about box office numbers and predicting which movies will do well and which won’t. I love guessing which movies and actors will get nominated for Academy Awards (they’ll be a lot of that on this blog, I suspect). I love finding some old 70s horror flick on Netflix I’d never heard of and deciding on a whim to watch it. And to this day, after seeing hundreds and hundreds of movies in the theater, I love when the trailers end, the movie chain promo is shown, and the lights go way down. I still get a smile on my face every time that happens. I am about to see something new. It may be good or may be bad. Every time, however, there’s the possibility. The possibility of seeing something great. Something that will stick with you and be the subject of future conversations with friends, families, co-workers, and complete strangers. Movies unite people. They divide people. Not like politics or religion, though, where people will get mad if you don’t agree with them. Disagreeing with people about whether Prometheus was good or bad is fun. It’s not emotional.
So how did I come to love movies so much? The simple answer is, I don’t know. Growing up, my movie watching habits were a lot like other kids, I suspect. The Disney animated movie here and there. The silly comedy. My parents weren’t particularly big movie watchers and still aren’t. My siblings are ten and seven years older than me, so the movies a little kid wanted to see probably weren’t what they wanted to see. What I remember about watching movies before about 10-11 years old isn’t very clear. Then around 5th grade (11 years old), my movie watching habits changed.
At a certain point in your life, your critical thinking skills come into effect. Approximately 5th grade was my time. I didn’t realize it fully then, but looking back, I went from simply watching a movie to actually thinking about it afterwards too. Around that time, I started to differentiate between saying, “That was really good!” to “That sucked!”
And then, for whatever reason, I became obsessed with movie reviews. Obsessed with the idea of reading what other people thought about movies. I watched Siskel&Ebert every week. I bought the Leonard Maltin Movie Guide, which is updated every year and provides short capsule reviews of literally every theatrical movie ever released. At that time, I was honestly more interested in reading reviews of movies than movies themselves. (Not normal-I know).
By the time I was 12, all that constant reading about movies and the ones that were supposed to be the “important ones” led me to actually watching a whole lot of them. I think my parents got the idea that it’s what I loved and I probably got away with watching a lot of movies most 12 years old weren’t watching (and most weren’t interested in too, I would guess).
At this time, I started writing my own movie reviews. Everything I’d watch, I’d write a review. I’d give it a grade on a “A” to “F” scale. Why? Because Entertainment Weekly did it that way and I preferred that to the four star system.
By the time I was 13, my reviews were being published in my hometown newspaper, The Fremont News-Messenger (as you all know, this newspaper is the pinnacle of serious entertainment criticism). Once a week, I’d go the movies – either in Fremont, Sandusky, or Toledo, watch that week’s big new release, and on Thursday, my review was in the paper. Hell, they even paid for me and a friend to go! My first review was The Sandlot and I gave it a “B”. It’s become a pretty major cult classic since then, but I’ve yet to see it again.
During that time period from about 11-14, I watched a LOT of movies. Not just through the newspaper gig, but on home video. I got introduced to Hitchcock, Scorsese, and Kubrick. I tried to watch The Exorcist at age 13 and couldn’t make it through it (crucifix stabbing scene). As a young teenager, I thought I understood these films on the level that my heroes like Roger Ebert and Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly did. Of course, I didn’t, but you couldn’t have told me that at that time.
Eventually, my love of movie critiquing waned. I haven’t been obsessed with reading movie reviews for a long, long time. In fact, I try to avoid it now. I like to walk into a film fresh now (for the most part). To be fair, I have a general idea of what the reviews are saying (RottenTomatoes has made that easy). I know that Argo is supposed to be great. I know Taken 2 is supposed to be a mediocre retread of the original.
I enjoy talking about movies. I enjoy hearing other peoples opinions. I enjoy ANTICIPATING movies. A classic example for me is when I saw Reservoir Dogs when it came out on home video in the spring of 1993. I knew very little about it, other than it had gotten good reviews. I absolutely fell in love with the movie the first time I saw it. I forced my cousin and my best friend to watch it immediately. They loved it too. This was right at the time I was writing reviews for everything I saw. I remember the last line of my (“A”) review: “I can’t wait to see what first-time director Quentin Tarantino does next.”
Of course, that movie was 1994’s Pulp Fiction. I’d never anticipated a movie so much in my life. And I haven’t since then, though there’s been others that have come close that I’ll talk about some day. The first time I saw Pulp, I went with my brother and my best friend. Opening weekend – October 1994 in Sandusky. After the brilliant opening scene in the coffee shop with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, the title credits started. “Misirlou” by surf God guitarist Dick Dale. In its bold and big yellow font, the title PULP FICTION came rising from the bottom of the movie screen.
I was in movie heaven, smiling from ear to ear. That movie holds a special place in my heart and always will. I normally list it behind only the first two Godfathers as my favorite movie.
Movies have that ability to take us into other worlds. To teach us. To shock us. Horrify us. Surprise us. Make us fall on the theater floor laughing (as I did when Jeff Daniels nails Lauren Holly with the snowball in Dumb and Dumber). Make us cry. Make us happy. Make us sad. Make us remember our past relationships. Make us appreciate the people we have in our lives. Movies can make us appreciate a cold winter day when the roads are practically shut down and we have nothing to do but put on that old favorite movie that we depend on to make us smile.
A final note for this first blog post that has gone MUCH longer than I thought it would. If you don’t love movies the way I do, you probably won’t like this blog (and you might not anyway, but that’s OK). I have certainly learned that, for many people, movies are simply a pleasant diversion from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. But if you do love movies, I hope you enjoy this blog I decided to start on a whim.