Monday, June 14, 2010

My Life in Film

Because the news today is not worth mentioning (did Sarah get breast implants? Seriously? That's news?), too disturbing to comment on (Have you seen Rick Barber's ad for Alabama's 2nd Congressional district?) or just plain sad (insert the latest news on the BP spill), I'm going in a different direction.

Once upon a time, I was a film major. For all of a semester and a half. Technically, it was RTF (Radio-Television-Film) but I was aiming for the film part.  Also, technically it never happened because I was a freshman and couldn't declare a major.

Any way. Film is a big part of my life. I am definitely a film buff, maybe even a film junkie. My parents weren't much into going to the movies so I didn't really start seriously watching movies until I was almost a teenager but once I did, I was hooked.

One of the first movies I remember going to see was The Towering Inferno. I was ten. For some reason, I went with my sister and her boyfriend (now husband). We saw it at the Alabama Theater in Houston. The Alabama was one of those old classic theaters with a balcony and was a Houston landmark for many years.

The next movie that stands out for me was, of course, Star Wars. It wasn't until I visited my cousin in Helena, Montana the summer of 1977 I saw it. It was shown with an intermission, if you can believe it. (Right before the final battle, if memory serves.) Needless to say I was completely enamored. I stood in line with my sister and husband to see The Empire Strike Back for what felt like hours. By Return of the Jedi, I was in college and saw it with my eventual husband.

By that time, I'd been a "film major" for my semester and a half and been thoroughly bitten. I got to see all sorts of movies as part of the introductory film class at UT, including one that is my personal most-hated film of all time. Generally speaking, I pay my money and I sit through the film. Rarely do I even consider leaving. The one time I would have, I couldn't. Had to watch it for the damn class. The worst movie ever made - Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls. UT had the capability of showing the film the way Warhol intended - on three screens simultaneously. but with only a single soundtrack - and it didn't help. I know there are folks out there that think this is a masterpiece. It's not. (The second worst film I ever saw was Leonard, Part 6; the film Bill Cosby likes to forget he ever made).

One good outcome of the film class was an appreciation for older movies, one I've managed to share with my girls. At first they were thoroughly modern kids - with no interest in black and white films - but then I got them to sit through Harvey and they were hooked.

Being a general fan of science fiction, I've seen my share of sci-fi classics and neoclassics.  One of the things a sci-fi film buff watches a movie for is the special effects. We get to be serious critics and aficionados. In this day of CGI marvels, stop motion animation is a lost art and almost laughable when viewed against modern standards. Still, there is something endlessly charming about a Ray Harryhausen film like The Golden Voyage of Sinbad or The First Men in the Moon and of course, The Clash of the Titans. So when we went to see Jurassic Park, we were expecting something better than stop action but something still obviously fake. So much so that we took our children, ages 3 and 5 with us to see it. Imagine our surprise. (Youngest spent the entire film clinging to me like a monkey with her head in the crook of my neck)  If you are under 30, it's hard to really appreciate the quantum leap forward that this film represents.

I am such a sci-fi film fan that I'll watch just about anything that comes on SyFy on Saturday. (why, oh why did they change their name to that bastardization?) My family lets out a collective groan when I find one. Sometimes, they are just too horrible to sit through, but mostly they're just funny as hell. Speaking of funny as hell sci-fi movies, you need to bone up on your Cold War classics - The Thing (1951), The Day The Earth Stood Still, When Worlds Collide, The War of the Worlds (1953), Them!, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Fly (1958), The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and Destination Moon. Funny in their paranoia, mostly, but those are classic science fiction films. In some of them the science is weak, at best, but mostly they're great theater.

Film for me is bit like candy. It's almost all good. It's rare that I pay money to see something and feel like I've wasted my money. This isn't to say I am indiscriminate in my tastes. I don't much care for horror movies - blood and gore and meaningless frights aren't my cup of tea. I'd much rather watch Alien than Halloween, for instance. I have no desire to see any of the Saw films but I'm one of the few people who liked Cloverfield. Action, romance, science fiction and fantasy, psychological thrillers. Those I will see and generally be satisfied that I haven't wasted my money. Most animated films these days fit the bill. I mean, who didn't like Up or The Robinsons?

I could go on and on and on, as you can see. There are plenty of films I haven't mentioned that are personal favorites and don't get me started on the Oscars. But when all is said and done, American cinema is perhaps the one thing this country has made that deserves to be preserved for all time. It's certainly one of our most influential exports, for better or worse.

Leave me a note and share you're favorite films or ones that are especially memorable. Fire up your DVD and don't forget the popcorn.

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