Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Movies That Made The Man

I love movies. I believe my taste in movies truly reflects my identity, and that movies have helped shape my identity. When people complain that entertainment is influencing the youth, it is much more complicated than simply "see violence on tv, cause violence in real life." I think movies have  an effect on your personality and your outlook on life, rather than any direct effect on your actions. For me, seeing violence on the screen was always really cool, but it also taught me that I wanted no part of it in real life. When I saw someone smoking crack in a movie, I wanted no part of it in real life. But it was really interesting to see those things and learn about people who do those sorts of things. Watching a variety of movies with a variety of characters taught me that there are many different ways of living and different ways of seeing the world. Movies taught me about personal relationships. Even trashy movies with no morality whatsoever taught me things; they showed me the dark side of life so I didn't have to experience it personally (even though I sometimes did).

I also had positive role models and concerned parents, so I wasn't relying solely on movies for my life lessons, something too many kids are left to do.

Movies are important to me. I can be picky, but I can also enjoy every genre; as long as the movie is done well, I can find pleasure in watching it. On the other hand, I can also enjoy a movie if it's horribly executed (i.e., the last decade of Nic Cage's career). Movies are such a big part of my personality that I judge other people by their movie tastes. I can always make exceptions for a few bad movies or a weird movie fetish (i.e., the last decade of Nic Cage's career) but if you have consistently bad taste, I can't respect you as a person. 

There are also a few movies that are deal breakers. If you don't like certain movies, or the opposite, if you do like certain movies, I have no use for you. For example, I went on a date several years ago and five minutes in, she said she hated American Beauty. I ended the date as soon as possible and never called her again. For another example, if you like anything with Jason Sudeikis in it, you should stop breathing for a while.

"I have to shit. Oooh, film it and let's call it my next movie."

Movies can leave lasting impressions on your identity. From simple things like quotes you use with your friends, to bigger things like how you view the world. Hell, some people base their whole lifestyles around certain movies. 

Not that I'm complaining.

Although I've never been one to base my entire personality and world view on one particular movie (I'm not joining the Dudeists no matter how much I like The Big Lebowksi) movies have definitely helped shape my sense of humor and my way of looking at certain situations, relationships, and life in general. In fact, they have helped me get through life. I can't imagine college without movies. Or high school. Or my childhood for that matter.

Movies can define an era in your life. The stage of your life in which you watch a movie can also affect your perception of that movie. If I watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas during middle school, I'd have no idea what was going on (it was hard enough to figure it out in college). It would have been one of those forgettable movies that have zero impact on your life, like every Judd Apatow film.

The best movies illustrate the complexities of living life as a human being; some try to offer answers and solutions, others ask you to come up with your own solutions, and some just make you laugh until you realize the absurdity of it all.

Dumb and Dumber: responsible for a bigger part of my identity than seems reasonable for any human being.

Below, I have listed a few different stages of my life and the movies that had the most impact during those times. "Childhood" is the most broad category, and many of the movies listed may have been watched more as a teen or a college student, but I feel they made the most impact during my childhood years.

Some categories overlap. For example, my early teen years are essentially my "childhood" too, and I was in college for my last 2 years as a teen. Also, I included my years as a graduate student in the "college" category. This isn't an exact friggin' science here, people, give me a break.

Some movies are listed twice because they made a separate and distinct, but equally powerful, impact on more than one stage of my life.

Within each category, movies are listed in no particular order.

An American Tale
A Land Before Time
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
The Neverending Story
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Star Wars Episode IV: The New Hope
The Empire Strikes Back 
The Return of the Jedi
National Lampoon's Vacation
National Lampoon's European Vacation
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The Karate Kid
The Goonies
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The Naked Gun
The Naked Gun 2 and 1/2
Beverly Hills Cop
Nightmare on Elm Street
Friday the 13th Part 3: Dream Warriors
Back to the Future
Back to the Future 2
Stand By Me
The Dead Poets Society
Die Hard
A Christmas Story
The Untouchables
The Running Man
Coming to America
Muppets Take Manhattan
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
Rocky IV
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Stand By Me
Weekend At Bernie's
Stephen King's IT
Edward Scissorhands
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

The Mask
Dumb and Dumber
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
The Naked Gun 33 and 1/3
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Groundhog Day
Usual Suspects
Pulp Fiction
Reservoir Dogs
The Shining
The Shawshnak Redemption
Raging Bull
Taxi Driver
Full Metal Jacket
Mississippi Burning
Good Will Hunting
The Crying Game (I did not enjoy this film or even want to see it, but my parents dragged me and my brother...I think we were all equally traumatized)
Do the Right Thing
Eddie Murphy: Raw
Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip
The Exorcist
The Godfather
The Godfather Part 2
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Forrest Gump
Silence of the Lambs
Leaving Las Vegas
True Romance
Natural Born Killers
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

College Freshman (I'm including this as a separate category because my freshman year, especially my first semester, was a lot different than the rest of my time in college. My roommate was barely around, I didn't have a grasp on the college scene yet, and I still hadn't realized the amount of school work I needed to do to succeed; so instead of partying or studying-the two activities that later defined my college career-I watched a lot of movies by myself in my dorm room on a 10 inch tv/vcr combo. I only owned a few movies, and I didn't have a lot of money to rent movies, so there were a handful that I watched over and over. Not all of them would be considered "classics" by any stretch of the imagination, but they will forever hold a special place in my heart)

City of Industry
Lost in Space (with Joey from Friends)

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Rocky (what up Skinzz!)
Doc Hollywood (what up Skinnahhhhhh!)
Half Baked
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Blazing Saddles
Usual Suspects
American Beauty
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Monty Python and The Holy Grail
Monty Python's Life Of Brian
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Clockwork Orange
2001: A Space Odyssey
Tango and Cash
Wizard of Oz (with Dark Side of the Moon)
Bowling for Columbine
Man on the Moon
Fight Club
The Matrix
Girl, Interrupted (Shut up. This is when I fell in love with Angelina Jolie...and it's a good movie)
Lost in Translation (When I fell in love with Scarlett Johansson. And Bill Murray, all over again)
The Blair Witch Project
South Park: The Movie
There's Something About Mary
The Big Lebowski
Being John Malkovich
American History X
Pulp Fiction
Reservoir Dogs
Jackie Brown
Boondock Saints
City of God
Almost Famous
Requiem for a Dream
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

There are many great movies I watched after college, some of which I consider my favorites, but I can't say they had the same impact on me as movies did in college or in my childhood. I'm not saying movies are not as good as they used to be (there's a lot more crap, but there was always crap) I'm just saying they just don't strike me the same way they did before. Maybe real world responsibilities have lessened the influence of movies on my life, maybe those responsibilities give me less time to focus on and enjoy movies, maybe Youtube and HBO has lessened the significance of the big screen, or maybe I'm just more stuck in my ways as I've gotten older and I've become harder to influence. I guess that's normal. We're like sponges as young people and like rocks as adults. Whatever the reason, there aren't many movies that have truly made an impact on me in a long time.

Except maybe Avatar. That shit was incredible (despite the corny dialogue). Nowadays, the pure talent of the movie-makers is what strikes me rather than the actual content, whether it's visual effects (Avatar/Inception), performance (Lincoln/There Will Be Blood), or story-telling (Inglourious Basterds/Django). I still appreciate and enjoy great movies, they just don't have the same impact as they used to.

Damn I'm getting old.

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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