Saturday, January 16, 2010

Coming Full Circle. Films I forced my folks to watch over and over as a kid.

My two-year old just watched Finding Nemo yesterday morning... for the second time in three days. Despite never having seen the movie, she has known who Nemo is and what he looks like for the last few months. Considering that her mother drags us to Disneyland at every possible opportunity (thank you, financially-reasonable season pass), it's no surprise that Allison already has a working knowledge of the Disney universe. Of course, that also means it's time to start introducing her to Looney Tunes, as no child of mine is going to grow up preferring Mickey Mouse over Bugs Bunny (preferring Donald to Daffy is... acceptable). So, pardon the digression, we were out and about and decided to buy a stuffed Nemo plush toy from the Disney Store (Allison got the Nemo, Wendy got her Ham plush), so we decided to see if Allison would sit through the full-length movie at home. The good news is that Allison loved it, eagerly watching and following the narrative ("Where's Nemo's mommy?", Allison annoyingly asked after the mass-murder prologue). The bad news is that she wanted to watch it again yesterday morning.

On one hand, I love the idea of her actually sitting with me (or in her high-chair, which she now likes to climb into by herself) and watching a movie. But, while I knew that kids eventually reached an age where they wanted to watch the same movies over and over again, I thought I had a little time before reaching that lovely milestone. Still, I have no right to complain. Like any kid, there are a number of movies that I forced my parents to play for me over and over again when I was a wee child. Heck, I was so film-obsessed at a young age that I forced my parents and brother to watch the same 'SpecterVision' previews that played in our hotel room while we were away, which is something I can probably never atone for. Although, to be fair, much of that time was spent away because I was being dragged around to my brother's tennis tournaments (he played in the Jr USTA until high school until a back injury forced him to take up golf instead), so I suppose I forgive myself for that. Regardless, in honor of Allison's newest annoying milestone, I shall run off a list of the movies that I forced my parents to endure on a near-endless loop during my formative years.

The Star Wars trilogy - Duh. Arguably the least painful repeat viewings for the folks, as we were definitely a Star Wars family. Oddly, our pirated Betamax copy of Return of the Jedi was actually letterboxed, so I was introduced to the glories of widescreen long before it was commonplace. Speaking of piracy, we actually had a decent Beta copy of ET: The Extra Terrestrial years before the film's 1989 VHS release. Although I'm guessing the statute of limitations has long run out, the source of said pirated movies will remain anonymous (cough-Mike-cough).

Rocky IV - Oddly enough, this is the film that turned me into a movie geek. I distinctly remember looking forward to the Friday newspapers, so I could spread them out on my floor and gaze and the giant movie ads, and the poster for this one caught my eye. For some reason, I became genuinely interested in this fourth chapter in a series that I knew nothing about. I saw the cartoonish US vs. Soviets chapter and loved it, so when it came out on video, I continued to watch it again and again. I also bought the soundtrack, so I still know most of the words to such ridiculous Survivor tunes such as "Burning Heart" and "No Easy Way Out". While some kids learn about cinematic death through the shooting of Bambi's mom, I learned the nitty-gritty details of death from watching Carl Weathers being beaten to a pulp by a steroid-infused Dolph Lundgren. I also learned that loud, scary noises weren't nearly as loud and scary on VHS as they were in theaters. Sad to say, this was my first favorite film.

The Karate Kid part II - I'm slightly less embarrassed about this one than I am about Rocky IV, mainly because this sequel is in many ways a better movie than the original. It opens up the narrative and gives extra depth to Pat Morita's Mr. Kesuke Miyagi. Still, when I was six years old, it was all about the climactic duel, the spinning-drum instrument, that cool red jacket that Macchio wore at the end, the Japanese locales, and that still-catchy Peter Cetera tune, "Glory of Love" (admit it, you still know most of the words).

The Dark Crystal/Labyrinth - I grew up in a family with a healthy respect for Jim Henson (unlike say, Jim Henson), so being forced to watch these groundbreaking fantasy films couldn't have been too painful. I was always a little creeped out by The Dark Crystal, but I kinda liked that about the movie. When you're young, you're more likely to like a film that is scarier, more violent, or darker than what might be considered age-appropriate entertainment. Labyrinth was just silly fun for me, and it remains silly fun to this day. The Dark Crystal is the superior film, but it's slow pace and morose mood makes it a tougher sit these days. Labyrinth may be less intelligent and more family-friendly, but it's also just plain more fun. It will also make a perfect film for our family, as Allison can enjoy the visuals and fairy-tale mythology, I can lust after a 16 year-old Jenifer Connelly (which is OK, because she pretty much looks the same at 39), and my wife can lust after David Bowie (which OK, since he still looks like something that crashed in Roswell at 63). The challenge is trying to figure out what the hell Bowie's talking about during his final ballad.

Batman - What a shock, I know. When a movie becomes your all-time favorite film at the tender age of nine, you tend to watch the VHS copy of said movie a lot. And I did.

If Looks Could Kill - This criminally under-appreciated James Bond spoof is actually better than at least a third of the 007 catalog. It still holds up as a funny satire (high-schooler Richard Greico goes on a class trip to France and is mistaken for a murdered spy) and a genuinely thrilling action-adventure picture. Since the comedy is mainly of the fish out of water variety, the rest of the film basically plays for keeps with life and death stakes, over-the-top violence galore, and two of the very best arch villains in super spy cinema history. You can have your Auric Goldfinger and your Dr. Evil. I'll take my bets on Augustus Steranko (a superbly cool and aristocratic Roger Rees) and Ilsa Grunt (a murderous, whip-wielding Linda Hunt).

There were certainly other movies that I watched many times (Flight of the Navigator, Clue, Spaceballs, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? come to mind), but on the whole I became a movie buff so quickly that I was trying to watch different movies at a relatively young age. Ironically, since I grew up during the end of Disney's two-decade slump, I didn't even get into Disney cartoons until I was a teenager. I distinctly remember any number of repeat viewings of the TV-edited versions of Nightmare on Elm Street, Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Lethal Weapon, Robocop, and Darkman. Among more family-friendly fare, I remember repeatedly watching LA Story, Beetlejuice, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the Indiana Jones trilogy. I'm sure I'm missing a few, but since my parents do read this blog, perhaps they can add a couple that I've neglected.

Scott Mendelson


Anonymous said...

Ahh...the Batman VHS...i abused that VHS so much, to this day I can still remember the Alfred Coke commercial and the Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes ad trying to sell Warner Bros merchandise (hats, shirts, etc) before the movie started! (i sorta wish they would have been included in the 2005 box set, hehe)


Chris said...

WOW Brandon thanks for reminding me of that! haven't watched that VHS in so long but can now remember that whole bit vividly


Related Posts with Thumbnails