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Let's Jump on this Bandwagon - frazzled and bedazzled
fiveandfour
fiveandfour
Let's Jump on this Bandwagon
The meme on Crucial Movies that help explain who you are got me thinking. And not just in that way of finding it interesting what is crucial for others or the commonalities among people as respects choice of movies.

Growing up, my family didn’t go to movies. My parents had grown up during the Depression, so it was just part of who they were to be extremely conservative when it came to spending money on entertainment. In fact, the first and only movie I saw in a theater with my mom happened when I was in college. Consequently, it affected a lot of things, including how I saw the way popular culture is shaped by movies. My childhood was smack in the middle of the first three Star Wars movies coming out and it’s no understatement to say they were ENORMOUSLY popular with my peers. Talk about a pop culture explosion! Though I didn’t actually see them at the time, they were so ubiquitous that it was pretty much impossible to not know many things about them. Hence I was in a position to see just how far a popular movie can leak into everyday life even when a person doesn’t see the movie in question.

One outcome of looking from the outside in is that for me a big part of what makes a movie crucial to me is how much of the experience-in-common thing is at work. From referencing things from a movie to explain your own experiences to using a popular catch phrase, I think there’s quite a lot to the notion that the more widely known a movie, the greater the chances of it being considered crucial to many people – including me. (Yet, for all that, my favoritest, most crucialest movie of all time isn’t all that popular, so go figure.)

Anyway, having said all of that, here’s the list I can think of today (roughly in order of the sequence of when I saw them):
Charlotte’s Web: likely the first movie I ever saw. I still remember going to the drive-in with my birth mom and talking to her about the story and the voice actors on the drive home.
The Wizard of Oz & The Sound of Music: as someone who could only see movies that were broadcast on regular tv growing up, I’d say it’s almost impossible for these two (which were shown every year) to not be crucial, somehow. And they undoubtedly fed into my secret love for musicals.
Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark: the first big pop culture movie I saw fresh and in the moment. I joined the queue around the block with a group of friends to see the first two Indiana Jones movies and it was a blast to be a part of that communal experience. They also gave me an appreciation for the swashbuckling hero type, which I don’t think I had thought much about before Indy.
The Breakfast Club: this is one of those I wanted to dislike, but couldn’t. It just caught too many truisms about being a teen-ager, and since it came out when I was a teen-ager, it sort of snuck in there and became important somehow.
A Room with a View: this is the first movie I ever completely and totally, 100% and then some, fell into and didn’t want to come out of. I wanted to live in that world, smell those smells, have those clothes and Helena Bonham-Carter’s hair, know those people for real, get a Baedecker and go to that pensione, and live those lives. In fact, there’s one moment (a little bucolic shot when the story moves back to England) where I felt like I was home every time I saw it. I loved the humor and the social commentary and the locations and the costumes and the actors and the music. I saw this movie too many times to count at a little independent theatre. It was so popular that it ran for at least a year straight with showings every week at that location (I’m pretty sure it was more like 2-3 years, but I was off at college and not paying attention). There was even a little tv in the lobby playing highlights from the movie on a loop (the kissing scene in the field, Cecil’s fight with a bee while carrying a teacup and saucer, “Fifteen shillings and five shillings make one pound!”, George’s proposal to Lucy) so you could be entertained while awaiting the next showing. I loved going by myself and half paying attention to the other people in the room and their reactions to various scenes. I also coerced a number of people into going to see it with me. And of course thereafter read all of E.M. Forster’s books (conveniently located next to C.S. Forester’s at the main Portland library) and saw many Merchant-Ivory productions and checked in purposefully on many of the actors’ careers over the years (easy enough given who they are – what a cast!) In other words, if I had to choose only *one* crucial movie, this would be it.
Psycho: this was one of those experiences where I saw the movie so long after it had joined popular consciousness that it was almost like an anti-climax. But once I set aside my knowledge of the gajillions of ways this movie influenced a billion-trillion stories that followed, I came to appreciate it for itself. Anyway, this movie touches on some of the things I’m eternally fascinated with (plot twists, the psychology behind human behavior, well-told murder mysteries, etc.), hence its crucial-ness. Of course, this movie’s influence also comes into play every damn time I take a shower when I’m home alone. Every. Damned. Time.
E.T.: Still one of my favorite movie-going experiences. Everyone in my party of viewers was sniffling into a salty, buttery, popcorn-encrusted napkin by the end.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles: It’s kind of a perfect movie, I think, and endlessly quotable. But it’s the humor that makes it so important to me, obviously – so many different kinds and all of it so well done.
Star Wars: I didn’t see it until I was in my 20s, so it had a lot to live up to by then. By that time, the special effects were not *quite* as special as they had been back in the day, the sets and costumes were demonstrably of the “shoestring budget” type, I already knew that stories set in space could be just as human as any other kind, and the settings, characters, and plot was mostly already known to me. But it followed the classic hero-journey story in such a fun way, and played around with the low-budget things so as to make them part of the story’s strength, and didn’t take itself too seriously, and used that Saturday-morning-serial-story thing to such great advantage, that I couldn’t help but fall for it. My husband and I happily re-watched The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi on May 4th and we’re not ashamed to say it!


Honorable Mentions (aka movies that could make the crucial list on any other day):
Casablanca
Field of Dreams
Where the Boys Are
The English Patient
Rear Window
Love Actually
The Godfather
Superman
Dances with Wolves
Pathfinder <-A link for this one because I'm pretty sure no one's heard of it
The Age of Innocence
Dangerous Liaisons
The Manchurian Candidate (the original version)
Gaslight
Rebecca
The Volunteers
Pillow Talk (sherdup - I know it's dated and sexist and has a lady who's an alcoholic "because she doesn't have a man to take care of" - I don't care)
The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (or An Affair to Remember or Arsenic and Old Lace or Operation Petticoat - depending on the day)
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang & Mary Poppins (a couple more of those movies that were shown on tv every year)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
U2: Rattle and Hum
The Matrix
The Big Lebowski
The Color Purple

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