Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Movie That Defined a Youth Part II

Here's introduction and part I...

7.  "Gremlins"... When I first saw this film, it gave me the creeps.  I mean, I was like, 8?  9?  when it came out, and it scared me that there might be things wandering around apartment 320, where we lived in Austin, but it became a special movie to me. 

Its in a protective sheet, in a box upstairs.
A little worse for the wear, but I have it.
When I saw the Gremlins parody in MAD Magazine in 1984, I asked my dad for three dollars, so I could go to the 7-Eleven and buy it.  He did, and I did, and it was my first MAD Magazine ever (I bought about two or three dozen over the years, and still have that same one.)

Never good figure out, though, at one point can you feed the Mogwais?  I know not after midnight, but like, is midnight to 1am the bad time?  When its 4am, is it okay?  Do you start with light crackers and maybe some ginger ale around 5am, gradually moving up to some fluffy eggs and maybe a piece of toast around 7am?  Full sandwiches at lunch? 

6.  "Full Metal Jacket"... Hollywood studios are notorious for doing the whole "Hey, that studio is making a movie about this random subject, we'll do it, and we'll do it better!"   Case in point, "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon", or "Dante's Peak" and "Volcano" or even "Wyatt Earp" and "Tombstone" (the latter of each of those films are the superior of the two). 

So, back in 1987 and '88, the Vietnam War had been technically over for 12 years... and not only did we have two Vietnam films, we had several... first, "Platoon", which won the Academy Award for Best Picture but I think is a bit overrated, followed by "Hamburger Hill", the aforementioned "Good Morning Vietnam" and finally, "Full Metal Jacket" (the listing here is no indication of when they were released).  And to me, the last film on this list if by far and away the most brilliant of all.

Its a film in two parts, with the first hour taking place in basic training, watching the mental and physical breakdown of a Vietnam bound recruit at the hands of his overbearing, somewhat crazy drill sergeant (introducing us to the fantastic R. Lee Ermey), and the second hour taking us to Vietnam.  Matthew Modine's Pvt Joker played a supporting role in the first half, but leads the second, showing the rigors and violence and even the inhumanity of that war, and maybe war in general.

It was my first taste of a true war film, and I'm not sure there have many better since, and thats covering any war. 

5.  "Poltergeist"... There are some things a 7 year old should never experience.  And one of those is Poltergeist.  Oh, in this world of torture porn like "Saw" and "Hostel" and zombie flicks and supernatural frightfests like "Paranormal Activity" and "Drag Me To Hell", something like a simple ghost story would seem just that--simple.

But "Poltergeist" is exactly that. A ghost story.  A creepy, scary, frightening ghost story with ghosts that live in the walls and skeletons that pop out of unfinished pools and chairs that slide across the floor on their own power and trees that come alive, oh dear goodness, that tree that reaches in and grabs that kid and... wow.

Watching it now, that effects look a little dated.  The ghosts seem a bit cheap, and the face-peeling scene looks extremely fake.  But the story stands up, and is solid. 

I don't know how I ended up watching "Poltergeist" for the first time, I just remember being 7 and at my sister's house.  The movie was on the TV, and as I was wont to do, I saw something cool on television and sat down to watch.  At the mercy of someone else for a ride, because not only did I not have a car, I was SEVEN, I watched the whole thing. 

See, there's this scene where the kid is a little scared of this clown doll that is sitting on a chair across his bedroom.  Before he goes to bed, he has a stare-down with clown, and even attempts to throw a jacket over that clown so it will quit watching him so it will quit watching me I throw the jacket and it misses, it just grazes the clown and it falls away and that clown is still staring at me and I'm going to go sleep now because its just a clown it just a stupid toy a stupid old toy and tomorrow I'm going throw that clown away go to sleep time to sleep....

  This is one of the, if not the, most frightening scene in all of moviedom (except for that scene in "Lucas" where Lucas tries to kiss Maggie, but thats another story).  There is a scene with a chick in her underthings, but she's being assaulted by a ghost, so trust me, there is no "she's hot" moment in this. 

And then awakened by something some movement some noise awakened where's the clown I'm going to glance up at the clown and see the clown in the chair and it will scare me but its okay, its a clown a stupid toy clown right and it will still be there and I look and the clown isn't there... its not there... its supposed to be there it was right there but its not there did it move did it fall off the chair did my jacket toss make it almost fall off and it fell off while I was asleep no it moved I know it moved I know it got up and moved and where could it be right now where could that scary horrible clown be where (the bed) where could it (under) where could it be (under the) could it be (bed) and what if... its... under the bed...

So he looks.  And we know how this turns out.  And you'd better believe when I got home, I made sure not a single finger or toe stuck out not even a fraction of an inch over the side of that bed.  From the time I was 7 to about age 14 or beyond, I would not dare even glance under the bed. I still get the heebs when I do it now. 

Its a brilliant film, though.  Just not for seven years old.

"Don't nobody leave this stage without singing the blues"
4.  "Adventures in Babysitting"... Amongst my boyhood crushes of Hollywood, you'll find the likes of Nancy McKeon (you never forget your first), Alyssa Milano, Debbie Gibson, Tracey Gold and of course, a young Elisabeth Shue.  Already made famous by her turn in "Karate Kid" as the cutie patootie Allie, she comes out as 80s hotness in "Adventures in Babysitting".  You know how some movies just make you happy and make you watch over and over?  This one was like this.

The plot is ludicrous, really, with Chris (Shue) being stood up by her date... seriously, who stands up someone that looks like Chris?  Colin Firth Club Member Bradley Whitford, that's who!  So, Chris agrees to babysit a teenager who's in love with her, his little sister and randomly, his friend that just won't go away... and when Chris gets a call that her own friend Brenda has run away, but is stranded downtown and needs help, the ensuing hilarity and hijinks ensues.  And makes for a fun little film.

3.  "The Princess Bride"... When I saw this movie for the first time in the late 80s, thanks again to HBO, it had not built the cult-like status it enjoys today.  When I saw this movie for the first time in the late 80s, it was a tiny little, modestly successful, but mostly forgotten the moment it left theaters kind of film starring a bunch of no-names like Carey Elwes and Robin Wright.   When I saw this movie for the first time in the late 80s, I was in love.  Not with Robin Wright, mind you, and only maybe with Andre the Giant (but that had to do more with WrestleMania III than his portrayal of Fezzik), but with the movie as a whole.

It appealed to me in every way.  Action, a love story, it was funny, it was well written, it was well acted, it was imaginative and it was wonderful.  I watched it every time it came on, and put it on one of my VCR tapes.  And when I could afford to do so, I bought the videotape. 

This film actually stayed at the #1 position of The Dave100 for about 15 years before falling a few spots, though it still comes in quite strong. 

2.  "The Empire Strikes Back"... This holds the distinction of being the the very first exposure to the Star Wars Universe I ever had.  Being 5, I barely understood most of what was happening, but I did understand one thing:  My movie life had changed.  My very young, somewhat limited movie life that contained the aforementioned "The Shining", "Every Which Way You Can" and of course "Poltergeist", but still, it would be different.

Maybe at the time I didn't know it... no, I'm sure if it... at the time I didn't know it.  Looking back, though, I can still see that movie screen.  Low quality projection, obviously, as HD was a long way off and a glimmer in George Lucas' imagination.  It opened up with those words:

This music boomed, the words "STAR WARS" blasted onto the screen, then was followed by the yellow scroll that said "EPISODE IV THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK".  Pan down to this snow filled world of Hoth and... what is that?  That thing?  A Tauntaun?  I was mesmorized.

And when it comes on, I still am, this the finest and most powerful of all six Star Wars films.

1.  "Star Wars"... I was the Star Wars generation.  When it was released, I was only 2 years old, so I didn't see it in the theaters when it was initially released.  Though I was able to see The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 in theaters, I had to wait three long years to finally see "Star Wars". 

HBO used to--and maybe they still do--release this small magazine broadcasting all their movies, with the entire month's schedule.  I remember seeing an announcement in the magazine that said "COMING IN THREE MONTHS... STAR WARS".  And I got jittery.  And the next month, "COMING IN TWO MONTHS... STAR WARS" and finally, "COMING NEXT MONTH... STAR WARS".   

I could barely stand it... if it was anything like "The Empire Strikes Back", I knew, even at barely 8 years old, I was about to see the most greatest bestest most coolest greatest awesomest movie I ever did saw.  And when it premiered on a Saturday night in July of 1983... well, I cannot prove this, but I would be willing to bet that I didn't blink for the entire two plus hours running time.  And that last scene, the Death Star battle scene?  I might have peed myself.

I would even ask my mum and pops to wake me up late at night, just so I could see the last scene of the movie, promising to go right back to sleep after the medals were awarded (they never woke me up). 

I remember watching it every time it came on, scouring that little HBO magazine for show times, and no matter what point in the movie it was in, I would start from there.  Vader boarding the rebel ship, or Luke on his landspeeder racing home to see Uncle Ben and Aunt Beru all dead and stuff, or Han Solo saying, "Great job kid!  Don't get cocky!".

So there is.  Fifteen movies that made an impact on my childhood, be it good (or bad)...


  1. I think I saw poltergeist at the same time. Was that @ betty's?

  2. yep. it was a bettys house. im sure i was more scared than you were ... i just remember that guy peeling his face off, and those corpses popping up out of the ground, and me not being able to sleep a wink that night...


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