Movies. My absolute favorite thing in this world. I don’t remember the first movie I ever saw but I do remember the first movie that changed my life. It wasn’t The Outsiders or The Breakfast Club or To Kill A Mockingbird like most people think. It was Harriet The Spy. Because a movie turned me on to what I wanted to do for a career: write. Harriet wrote down everything she witnessed in life. Sometimes it got her in trouble but it kept her sane (much like all writers). The very first journal I have is a teddy bear journal with a lock on it and on the first page I wrote, “I am a spy.” I haven’t stopped writing since. Harriet gave me a career choice at a very young age and without me even realizing it. I used to credit wanting to be a writer to S.E. Hinton but the honest answer is, it was Harriet.
Movies have changed my life constantly over the years. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Departed gave me an increasingly freakish interest in the mob both Italian and Irish. Not to mention, those movies introduced me to a world of moral ambiguity. This man is a villain, he’s a murder and yet he’s charming and a family man and you forgive him of all his sins. Why? I have theories on it, in fact I presented an entire paper on it to strangers. It’s because of the writing, whether it was a script writer or an author. Someone used all the crimes society tells us are wrong and handed them to the most charming yet terrifying characters ever created.
The Outsiders, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Pretty in Pink. They taught me: I am not alone in this world. "Things were rough all over, but it was better that way. That way you could tell the other guy was human too." They taught me it’s okay to be smart or a loner or a tomboy or a goof ball. These are not traits to be condemned, they are traits to be commended because you are different and you have to embrace the difference. Otherwise, you’ll fall into conformity. And being one of the many is a fate worse than death, in my opinion.
Mulan taught me I never have to hide who I really am. It’s okay if I don’t want to be a bride or a mother. No one is perfect and everyone has a different path in life, we just have to find it. The Fox and the Hound taught me no one can tell you who you’re going to be friends with in this world. It’s your choice. Friendship is incredibly delicate but it also takes very hard work to maintain. Never let someone else tell you who to talk to, who not to talk to, who to hang out with; this was an especially big lesson for me in high school.
Sleepers, A Bronx Tale, Catch Me if You Can, and This Boy’s Life are all based on real people and their stories. To know what other people live through gives me a chance to appreciate what I have and to also learn to sympathize and empathize with other human beings. These movies teach you to be compassionate because you never have any idea what someone else is going through in their life.
I could pick one movie and discuss it for hours. The characters, the setting, the plot then the behind the scenes things. The trivia, the goofs, the continuity errors. These are the things that consume my “Mind Palace” (as BBC Sherlock Holmes would call it). I can access them at any moment in time. Someone can throw a quote out there and I can place it almost instantly. I’m not sure if there’s a name for my type of memory, it’s not photographic or eidetic, it’s something different. I can hear a song on the radio and tell you the exact scene from a movie it was in. I can quote things perfectly after only having heard them once or twice. I can hear a commercial and know immediately who is doing the voiceover. John Corbett is Walgreens and Applebees and Lisa Kudrow is Yoplait yogurt. These are the things my brain absorbs and holds dear. Facts, titles, quotes, names, voices, faces and scenes. Half the books I’ve read in life, I’ve read because they were movies too. The Help, Silver Linings Playbook, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Rumble Fish, That was Then, This is Now. All books, all movies. All in my head.
Finding someone else to talk about these things with is difficult. Sure everyone wants to have this conversation:
“Oh you saw it? How was it?”
“It was GREAT. It was like…”
“Oh cool, I’ll have to see it.”
And that’s it. Even after they see the movie, most people say it was great or it sucked. No one wants to talk about WHY it was great and WHAT made it great. No one wants to talk about the connections, the dialogue, the mannerisms an actor chose for one specific character. Breaks my heart because this is what my mind does. I break down movies, I look for facts, I read everything I can get my hands on about the movie, the actors, the director, the script. And yet, no one wants to hear anything more than “it’s good”. So I entertain myself. I sit in my apartment and I watch movies. I suggest movies to other people hoping it’ll spark some sort of conversation out of them.
Going to the movies is my form of Church. People get mad when I say that but I don’t care. It’s where I worship the writers, actors, producers, directors who are important to me. At least those people are real and tangible unlike “God”. Nothing gives me more pleasure than going to the movies, sitting in the darkened theater and being taken away. Being anyone and anywhere different from my actual life. Whether it’s the past, the present, or the future, it has to be better than what’s waiting for me outside those movie house doors.
The characters of movies are my best friends. The settings are all places I’ve traveled. The plots are a thousand lives I am allowed to live. The movies will always be my home.