As the year draws slowly to a close and I find myself waking up earlier and earlier in some sort of sick perverted cycle I am helpless to stop, my mind turns to the films of yore that have made impressions upon my psyche as indelible as they are probably useless in terms of actual life survival.
Let us have a random list I wrote while waiting for it to be time to leave for work!
The First Movie That Actually Really Scared Me
My dad was a film critic, and as such I grew up with absolutely no censorship in terms of what movies I was allowed to watch. It was the 80’s, too, so people generally censored their kids less in all areas, thus I also read the entire canon of Stephen King books by the time I was 11 years old (famously writing a book review of “It” in 5th grade, which my dad published in his newspaper, in which I referred to the book as “garbage”). These, however, did not give me nightmares, for some reason, not even The Shining, and not even the film version of The Shining, which I saw at such an early age that I literally can’t even remember the first time I saw it, it’s like trying to remember the first PB&J you ever ate.
The first movie that actually really scared me is Charles Laughton’s tremendous magnum opus (can it be your magnum opus if it’s the only film you ever actually made? I think so. I think we could call Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell’s magnum opus, even though she never wrote another book. Also didn’t Harper Lee only write one book? Damn, those are some badass writing careers) NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, which I’ve written so much about and talked so much about that my collected utterances upon this film could fill every volume on the earth ever in history. It is truly the greatest movie that will ever be seen by mankind. Possibly that’s hyperbole but honestly I’M NOT SURE
Coming in a close second in this category is, oddly enough, Das Boot, which I watched at the same age and which haunted me with dreams of being buried alive. Still one of my favorite movies. “All you need is good people.”
This movie is also the first time I remember thinking about point-of-view in film, as it took me like seven weeks to comprehend that the film was about Germans, who had been “our enemies” in some massive war before I was born. How could the protagonists of the film, who I was rooting so hard for, be my enemies? I have hazy memories of many probably-hilarious conversations with my dad about this issue. “But why were they speaking German” etc.
The First Movie That Made Me Sob With Tears
The first movie I remember crying in was ET: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL (this is the first time I’ve ever realized how funny that title is). Obviously this is easily the most generic answer a person of roughly my age could possibly give, but I am nothing if not a truth-teller (not true). I saw this in the theater and caused such a ruckus that my mother had to take me home before the movie ended. I have a really powerful memory of clinging to her like a monkey, facing backward in the theater, SCREAMING, which was not my usual M.O., and there were these two guys sitting behind us who looked really appalled. I am surprised by this memory, because obviously this was 1982 and I was barely 5 years old. Cinema trauma! We are the first generation to experience it! Unless you count turn-of-the-century people who were trapped in theaters after the old-timey nitrate film stock exploded and caught the building on fire.
I think this same year we saw a movie in a theater and it was called “Smokey the Cow-Horse,” which doesn’t seem possible, and there is a scene in the movie of a man beating a screaming horse with a chain, which, what the fuck was this movie and why did my parents take me to see it? And I cried so hard I collapsed on the stairs at our house, which were carpeted in this insane thick lime-green shag, and I lay there sobbing while my mom tried to explain why a man would beat a horse with a chain (“he was an unhappy person”). Obviously this is why I am now vegetarian.
Oddly enough I remember being pretty unimpressed by the famously-traumatic mother-murder scene in Bambi. Post age five the next movie I remember sobbing during was Gallipoli. This was probably only like 2 or 3 years after seeing ET. What a weird juxtaposition. “BUT WHY DID THEY SHOOT HIM? WHYYYYYYYYYY” “Because that’s what war is honey” “BUT WHY”
Still a good question!
The First Movie That Gave Me A Boner
It’s hard to say why, frankly, kind of.
I wasn’t even one of those insane Dirty Dancing fans. But something about Roadhouse really intrigued me. This is probably why today I am attracted only to incredibly muscular sweaty men with lustrous mullets. And why I love road houses so much.
The First Movie That Prompted An Awkwardly Philosophical Conversation About Sex With One Of My Parents
I had one of those moms who loved talking about sexual issues, to the point of embarrassing us when she would tell people that our horse had cancer “on his penis.” This, while true, was humiliating to middle school-aged kids and we begged her to stop saying it. “But it’s true!” she would protest, which was true. She also went through this weird period of talking about the gestational cycle of a cat, I guess prompted by our cat being pregnant. But it was like, okay, mom, we get it. The cat’s pregnant.
But the first time I remember an awkward convo with my dad was:
Cool Hand Luke, The Car Washing Scene!
“Why is she getting her dress all wet like that on purpose”
“Well, she’s tormenting the guys on the chain gang.”
“What do you mean”
“Well, she knows they haven’t seen a woman in a long time, and she knows they can’t do anything to her, so it excites her to show off for them like that.”
“What do you mean, ‘excites.'”
The First Comedy I Ever Felt Proprietary About, Like I Was The First Person To Really ‘Get’ Why It Was So Funny, And It Was Thus My Job To Tell Everyone I Met All About It In Great Detail
The First Movie That Allowed Me To See That My Parents Could Actually Just Be Normal People With Their Own Complexes And Fears, Instead Of Weird Perfect Robots Who Knew Everything
Just an all-American family viewing of “Jaws” when I was 8 and my brother was 6. My mother famously kicked over the popcorn bowl in terror, and I knew then that I would die one day