I’ve been thinking a lot about stories. Well that’s nothing new. But it took me on a tangent where I thought about my favourite movies, and I realized something: the reason why a movie is one of my favourites has nothing to do with how good it is (although all my favourite movies are unquestionably amazing films) but is all about the experience I had watching it and how it has affected me since then.
Let’s go back in time to the days before VCRs and such. The only chance you got to see a movie was in the the theatre or years later when it eventually showed on TV. Primitive, I now, but that was the 20th century for you.
Logan’s Run always seemed to play on New Year’s Eve on some channel, and we always seemed to end up watching it during the family’s big end of year party. That and playing Spoons. That movie will always be near and dear to me and I honestly hope the remake never actually happens.
It’s hard to say how it has affected me and my taste, but I know one thing: I’d rather be a Sandman than a normal citizen, probably because my siblings and cousins always made me be the runner as they chased me around with a hair dryer.
“Run runner!” is a phrase that will always give me an adrenaline shock to this very day.
It’s shocking how much of my limited memory of childhood is filled with such younger-sibling trauma.
Then there’s Thunderball. If I have to pick a single James Bond film to put on the list, it has to be the 1965 classic. Keep in mind I love all Bond movies, even the really really really fucking bad ones. But this one’s really very good. Honest.
Not only does this movie have everything, it’s pretty much the cliche factory for the genre. Cutting edge tech — the jetpack. Cool car — the Aston Martin DB5 makes an appearance. Thrilling location — Nassau, Bahamas. Hot women: Domino the good girl and Fiona the bad girl, plus Patricia the massage therapist he seduces with caviar and champagne and the disposable cheesecake field agent in Bahamas who drives him around and gets killed. The ultimate Spectre plot: steal nukes and blackmail the world. But stealing nukes from a Vulcan bomber adds class to the deal, for sure. The first sign of Blofeld, the mysterious leader with the white cat. The amazing evil meeting room with the chairs that’ll kill you if you piss off Blofeld. The too cool for school villain Largo and his awesome yacht. Wicked underwater scenes with sharks and a battle between the Marines and the henchmen. Seriously, this movie is the stuff.
And it has the lovely memory of being the movie we watched instead of the series finale of Little House on the Prairie where they blew up Walnut Grove. Man my sister was so pissed about missing that. For years she never forgave us. Probably still hasn’t.
Can’t forget Blade Runner. This one I went to see with my dad in the theatre, and I can still remember leaving in a state of utter shock. I can probably trace my obsession with cyberpunk and bleak futures to this experience. This one left a lasting mark on my psyche.
I need to fill some space here do the graphic lines up, so I’ll insert a Logan’s Run anecdote. I once went to Paris for a conference at the Cité des Sciences, and was giddy for much of the time because I felt like I was in the city from the movie. There’s even this outdoor instillation, or there was, where there’s this set of speakers hidden around you that play in sequence this do-do-do-do sound that’s really close to that bit of score in the soundtrack whenever it’s a wide shot of a city scene — if you know the movie you know the one. You can stand in the middle and moving around you is that do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do sound. Or do yourself a favour: clicky this, and listen for yourself. (It links to a .ram file download from Screen Archives — you can get clips of the whole soundtrack if you like.)
Back to Blade Runner, I don’t what else to say, really: it’s not like a have to justify this one like maybe I did the previous two.
Next we have to include Conan the Barbarian. The orignal. The Arnie one. Now as a kid I collected one comic book and only one (it wasn’t until university that went crazy for comics.) It was Savage Sword of Conan.
Putting aside the fact that two of my most influential fictional figures were also two of the most misogynist pricks in literature, I was right into Conan, and movie did not disappoint.
It occurs to me now that three of these four movies so far parallel another of my lifelong obsessions: role playing. Conan fits right in there with D&D, the gateway drug. Blade Runner feeds my Shadowrun phase. I was also big into the James Bond RPG back in high school, too. The only one missing is the DC Heroes connection, but as much as I’ve enjoyed a lot of superhero movies, none would ever make it into my favourite films list. One could argue that Conan was a comic and there’s a connection there, but it’s not the same.
Anyway, Conan. Yeah. The soundtrack. The storytelling that is almost entirely visual, except when it couldn’t be. And if you have to put a chunk of exposition in there, who better to deliver than Max von Sydow. I mean honestly.
Aliens. I was this in the theatre with my dad and sister. She sat between us with her knees in front of her own eyes and arms thrust out either side with her hands in front of our eyes. The first movie I was every scared all the way through, in the very best way. One of only two movies I ever left the theatre with my shirt clinging to me with nervous/excited sweat (the other comes later in this list.)
Aliens is kind of a perfect movie. Another one I need not justify, or if I do then you just don’t know me very well. Space Marines. Tentacly aliens. Evil megacorp. Non-stop thrills. Endlessly quotable lines.
Perfection on film.
Raiders of the Lost Ark. Damn, how I loved this movie. And there is absolutely no need to rationalize this. Ever.
As a matter of fact, it’s so clear to me that this movie changed my life I won’t even bother filling the space to make the graphic fit.
There. Good. That oughta do it.
I think I’ll do one more.
Back in 1999 I went to a lot of movies. Single, working, you know how it is. Disposable income, disposable time. Much of the time not going to see a specific film, just going and seeing whatever’s playing.
One Friday night I went with friends to see a movie. Opening night of some movie I’d never heard of, but my friends said it was sci fi so I was in.
I left with my shirt clinging to me in excitement sweat. I grinned and bounced through the whole thing. I saw it in the theatre nine times, for pity’s sake. I really loved it.
Ah, The Matrix. It was like they looked deep into my heart and made a movie just for me.
Pity they never made any sequels, but ah well — it’s really a story that stands alone anyway. Any sequel would probably really suck anyway.
I wonder whatever happened to those Wachowsi bros, and if they ever made any more movies? Probably not. After The Matrix, anything else would probably suck too.
So there. A compact list of some of my favourite movies, all of which have had an inordinate impact on shaping me, my tastes, and my storytelling style.
And interestingly, the memory of my experience seeing them is as important to me as the movies themselves. Hmmm.