My Life on the Big Screen
My next movie memory was seeing Rocky III in theaters. I remember my parents and I going - I don't think my little sister went because she would have been under 6, but it's possible - and I remember as we were walking towards the entrance my father asking if I wanted to see E.T. instead, and me going 'no way!' I stayed away for all of Rocky III and when I left the theater, I was ready to fight and big black guy with a mohawk that got in my way. Yeah, I was a pretty tough kid back then, especially hopped up on Coke and a boxing movie. I did see E.T. at a drive-in later that year. A friend of mine from school invited me to go and it was him, me and another kid. This other kid was, let's say, not the most popular kid in school so I had my doubts about going. I mean, what if someone saw us together? I was a gangly kid at that age and one of only two Indians at my elementary school, so add in my less-than-ordinary name, and I stood out like a sore thumb. Being seen with the least popular kid in school wouldn't have helped matters much. But what could I do? I didn't know he was coming along until the car came to pick me up, and my lying skills hadn't come along at that point. Umm, not that they're here now of course. So I went along, figuring we'd at least be in the dark. We got to the drive-in and my friend's mom turned the old station wagon around so the back of the car faced the screen. Me and my friend sat in the back while the other kid sat on the roof. But, I noticed that on the other end of the drive-in, facing the front of the car, albeit a long ways away, was another screen that was showing Rocky III. So even though we were there to see E.T. - which, as you might know, went on to become the highest grossing movie of all-time - I kept turning around to watch Rocky. It was years, and the advent of renting VHS tapes, before I saw E.T. in its entirety. But I'll never forget going to that drive-in.
The last drive-in I went to was in New Jersey sometime during college. Besides being memorable for going to a drive-in, that day was memorable for a couple of other reasons. A group of us had gone to Action Park during the day and during one of the rides, I lost a contact lens, so I was half-blind. Then, there was this water ride where we were on jet skis or something like that. During the day, with the sun shining brightly overhead, it was a fun ride to go on because even if you got wet, the sun dried you out pretty quickly. My mistake was going on it one last time before we left. Half-blind, and with the sun setting. I got soaked and never dried up. So as a group we decide to go to the drive-in and I'm still wet as we drive up to the theater. I think we were there to see... Super Mario Brothers? Yeah, I know, but there wasn't a lot of choice. The only other movie playing was Made in America, and I bet less of you have any idea what that was. What was funny is that I was in a car with a friend of mine who was driving a Mitsubishi Precis and as we drove up the attendant asked 'Made in America?' and my friend, a little puzzled by the question, replied 'umm, no, made in Korea.' At which point the attendant looked at us like we were nuts before I realized what he was asking and I said 'no, no, Super Mario Brothers.' We didn't sit in the car like I did for my last drive-in and instead sat out on the grass, me still soaking wet.
I think my real love of movies started a few years earlier when I was working in a video store over the summer. We had the ability to rent whatever we wanted for free and so on any given day I could watch 2-3 movies (my record for a single day is 5 - 2 in theaters, 3 on tape) and in the back of the store we had set up a little recording area so we could copy anything we wanted too. I still have probably a hundred or so VHS tapes sitting at home - some copies, some actual films. At one point someone said to me that I watch so many movies, I should write them down. And so for a few years, I did. The first year I wrote down everything I saw, I ended up with 251 films. I wanted to end with an even 250, but in the last couple of days before New Year's, we were skiing with some friends and my father wanted to go see The Bodyguard. So yes, the all-star casting of Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston was my 251st movie that year. I don't think I've come close to topping that year, and after a while I stopped writing all the films down because really, what was the point?
A couple of years later I was in New York when I saw what would become my favorite film of all-time, Braveheart. The film had been released the previous summer, and then released a second time in the late fall. But it was only after it got nominated for a slew of awards that I ended up seeing it in February of 1996. I don't recall which theater I went to here in the city, but I do remember that it was one of the smaller screens, almost like watching it on a really large TV. There were only 5 of us in the theater, and it was only the second time in my life I was completely mesmerized by what I was seeing. Since then I've seen Braveheart maybe 3-4 times but for some reason I save it for special occasions - the first could of times because I saw it with someone who hadn't seen it before. The last time because I got it on DVD. And the next time will be because I now own it on Blu-ray.
Oh, the first time I was truly mesmerized by a movie? The Lion King. As many people know, I'm a big Disney fan, especially Disney movies. But amazingly, the first Disney film that blew me away wasn't one of their earlier films (at the time) but The Little Mermaid. I saw it back in high school with 4 other friends. All of us were movie fans and we were wandering around the video store trying to find movies none of us had seen. We ended up with The Little Mermaid and... Scarface. And yes, I was probably the only one out of the five who came away liking The Little Mermaid more. After Mermaid came Beauty and the Beast, which holds the record as the film I've seen more than any other - probably around 40-50 times at this point. And so when The Lion King came out, I was there, opening day in the back of the theater. I chose the back because I was there by myself, and I had a feeling all the parents there with their kids would stare at me if I sat in a decent seat, wondering what I was doing there alone. But as soon as the movie started, with that tremendous opening sequence and the Elton John music playing over it, I was hooked. I will admit, when Simba got held up for all the other animals to see, I got goosebumps.
Since then the only other movie I remember feeling truly mesmerized by was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I'm arguably the biggest Harry Potter fan I know, and a few months before the first LOTR came out, the first Harry Potter came out. As much as I love the books and the world of Harry Potter, the movies haven't lived up to the visions I have in my head, so I went to see LOTR hoping that it would suck, because I didn't want another famous book property to be better than Harry Potter. A strange jealousy yes, but there you have it. To say I was blown away by The Fellowship of the Ring would be an understatement. It was easily one of the most beautiful looking films I've seen and though I was loathe to admit it, a much better film series than the Harry Potter series has been.
And now, here we are at the end of 2010. The last full movie I've seen this year was only a few hours ago - Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It will not go down on any list as a memorable one, and chances are a year from now I'll have forgotten all about it. But I suppose it could be a parallel to 2010 in general. A year that had some interesting moments, some more memorable than others, but chances are nothing that will really stand out years from now. Here's hoping 2011 brings me at least one story I can add to my collection.