Friday, March 7, 2008

The Movies

On p. 33 of ON WRITING, Stephen King says:

"What I cared about most between 1958 and 1966 was movies."

While I can't relate to the timeframe, it can't be overstated how much of an impact film has had upon who I have become. Heck, I work at a film archive after having gone to a school that specialized in film preservation. But it's more than that.

One of my earliest clear and persistent memories is that of going to see STAR WARS. It was at a drive-in, in Greece, NY if memory serves me right, and it was the front half of a double-feature with ORCA: THE KILLER WHALE. This would have put it in July or August of 1977. We weren't allowed to stay and watch the second film because I was 6 and the film started out with them cutting open a whale. I couldn't go to sleep after STAR WARS had blown my mind, so we went home instead.

As kids do, I latched onto this piece of entertainment (it wasn't hard to do, with the merchandising being everywhere) and it started to infect my everyday life. My dad had a company car that had a bench seat in the front (God, remember those?) that I could lean over to see the dashboard. I pointed to a button with a tiny light on it, excited to find out this new car had a rear deflector, only to be disappointed to be told it was a rear defroster.

But this was typical of how I functioned. I would relate things happening in real life to what I saw in the movies, and later on TV. And even though I held a love for STAR WARS through April of 2002, I moved on to what I learned that I truly enjoyed, the more mystery- and adventure-based entertainment, such as STAR TREK, THE WILD WILD WEST, MAGNUM PI.

I first started to see these things with a critical eye in 1984, when I saw IRRECONILABLE DIFFERENCES, with Drew Barrymore. I loved ET, and she was good in it, and this film looked like a fun comedy for the whole family. Well, it wasn't. It was about a little girl suing her parents for a divorce because she feels like she's been neglected. Hi-frickin-larious. I never watched a trailer or TV spot for a film with complete trust from that point on.

It only grew from there. I got into more serious cinema, and more serious critique. I started following awards and Top 10 lists. I gobbled up AMC and my PBS station looking for older films.

When I started writing, it was usually for or about film. Two from the early 80s come to mind, when I was writing the sequel to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, called RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK II, where Indy and Marian discover not the Ark of the Covenant, but Noah's Ark. Then there was a one-act play that took place on Dagobah after the events of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. This we performed with myself, my sister, and two kids that were visiting from our old neighborhood, neither of whom could remember their lines. I remember actually getting into a fist fight with the older boy.

When I got to college, I doubled in Journalism and Film History, looking toward film criticism, but it wasn't until I discovered The L. Jeffrey Seznick School of Film Presrvation and the George Eastman House that I knew I had found my niche.

Even now, when I'm writing, I take a lot of inspiration from film. My current project is heavily indebted to film, and I can see projects in the future that touch on it as well.

I don't get to go to the theater as much as I used to. The home theater is nice, but certainly not the same. The little ones prevent me from going out too much, but I've started to take the older one to the movies. He looks forward to it now. And so do I.


danzaland said...

Reading the first part of this post about Star Wars, all I could envision was Eric from That 70's show and the episode when he first saw it. I too think I first saw Star Wars at a drive-in.

Jared said...

I never got into 70s Show too much, but I've seen enough to know that it was likely pretty hilarious. I wonder how many of us actually saw it at a drive-in?