And now I have to figure out my favorite movie! Gracious.
As certain long-suffering friends of mine could attest, movies have not played a central role in my life. Going to the movies was a once- or twice-a-year treat, and, those rare times I got to rent a movie, I tended to stick with my standards. As a result, there are many classics I’ve never seen, or never saw until far, far later than you’d expect. I never saw The Wizard of Oz until I was in 8th grade; I never saw The Goonies until I’d already graduated from college. Of the AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list, I’ve seen a whopping 21. That’s almost a quarter, hey?
In the past few years, I’ve been seeing more movies, for certain – though not exactly any more of the classics. I haven’t seen Citizen Kane, but I have seen DEATH BED: The Bed That Eats! (Somewhere, a cinephile wicks an unbidden tear from his eye.)
So picking a sincere favorite film is… tough. I can’t even read films very well, honestly, which makes even the best film hard to appreciate. The bigger the cast, the more similar the characters, the more lost I am. (The Godfather is the story of a whole bunch of indistinguishable black-haired guys in suits who kill each other for, probably, reasons.) As with everything else on this list, I gall at picking a “best” anything – I don’t know enough about film to make that determination. But when it comes to a subjective favorite… yeah, I’m still not sure..
In terms of the films I’ve simply watched more than anything else, I’d say it probably comes down to Star Wars or, possibly, HELP! The one is a used-future modernization of the classic Monomyth. The other is two or so hours of The Beatles being ridiculous. But both of them are… comforting, in some way. No matter what sort of mood I’m in, I’ll probably enjoy watching either one, and my mood will be all the better for having watched it by the time the credits roll.
Star Wars is… well, it’s Star Wars. For all that it’s yet another riff on that same old Monomyth structure, it still feels so much like a glimpse into other worlds. So many great aliens and robots and languages and technologies! And, yes, so much great music. I still remember being amazed to realize that different characters had different songs! There was the Imperial March, obviously, but there were other bits of soundtrack that related to specific characters, varying a bit depending on what was happening! Amazing! It felt like a secret code somehow, a whole extra layer of information hiding in plain sight. Not to mention that it was just plain beautiful.
Of course, I love the main theme and the Imperial March. And if ever I fail to have chills on the Binary Sunset scene, just go ahead and put a tag on my toe.
But, much as I may love that one… I think The Throne Room / End Title are even better. Bittersweet, of course, because it means the movie’s over. But triumphant nevertheless, and carrying all the pride and weariness and relief without a single word being said. Well, besides [assorted beeps] and [roar].
Not that I’m ever going to get married, but if I were, this is what I’d be playing when I went back up the aisle.
That’s right. Eat a bag of ’em, Mendelssohn.
And what of HELP!, you may ask? It’s a tough call there, as well, given that the entire movie is basically an excuse for The Beatles to lark around in the Alps and the Bahamas, playing music all the while. And given that I’m being pressed to pick a favorite Beatles song, and that’s just onerous.
But the one that I like most today, at least, is probably “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” The slow jangling strumming, Ringo’s despondent tambourine-playing, the unexpected bits of classical flute… just plain lovely.
In fact, it was the first song I ever sang at karaoke. And, no, you don’t get to hear that.
I feel somewhat bad about this post, because I feel I should have something more to say. But I don’t really have anything complex or profound to say about the songs themselves, or the movies themselves. They are what they are! Much as I may love analyzing things to death and back, some things are somewhat monolithic in my mind, and Star Wars and The Beatles are among them. I’ll savor the minutia I pick up on, but I don’t always try to pick everything apart, weigh it, qualify it, justify it. I allow it, and my enjoyment of it, to exist unquestioned. And there are bits that make me grin, if not laugh, every single time, no matter how many times it’s been. I’m glad enough of that; I’d hate to kill the jokes for good and all.
But I can question why I have that approach, of course! And my best guess is not just that I was entranced by Star Wars, growing up, or that I also grew up feasting on a rich and steady diet of oldies (including an acceptable parts per million of Beatles.) But it’s also that both movies gave me some small, scrabbling fingernailhold on social relevance, back in the dark days of late elementary school and junior high. They gave me some common ground with friends, or at least with people that I hoped I could get away with calling “friends.” (I was used to social interactions that were asymmetrical, to say the least.) But those movies were somewhat off the radar, at the time. It was still shameful to be too much a nerd, back then; there weren’t many who’d openly admit to liking Star Wars, Star Trek, or anything else old or uncool. Sharing an open fondness for these things created a camaraderie, a sense of being brothers in (pasty, noodly) arms. A social… not relevance, really; perhaps mere presence, which was otherwise unattainable. I had Things In Common with people, and they would actually talk to me about those Things! It was a whole new world, I tell you.
Though these movies and these songs are still nearly timeless presences in my life, there is still some sense in which they’re never as vibrant as they’d been back then, back when it was us against the world — or, well, me and those people that acknowledged me against the world, not exactly like a team or anything, but, you know, headed the same general direction, coincidentally, for now.
Indeed, “for then,” for the most part; the last I’d heard, one of them became a real estate agent and the other joined the Peace Corps, and both are somehow married, and the world still seems a little upside-down for it, because apparently they figured out how to stop being awkward adolescent nerdlingers, and here I am in my underwear watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and eating a Christmas Tree Cake that had fallen behind the microwave.
But I do still keep in touch with the other of that strange small crowd, who’s in much the same odd boat, and who’s proved a more genuine and longstanding friend than any I’ve had. There’s a delightful sense in which we’ve just been having the same single, sprawling conversation for a couple decades now, with occasional brief interruptions to go to the bathroom or go to bed or have a shitty relationship for a few years. But the conversation always picks up again later, no need for “Hello” or “How are you,” just back into the swing of discussing whatever bits of music or movie or TV or life we care to discuss.
Like those movies themselves, it’s a comforting, familiar presence that can improve any sort of day, one which always elicits a grin at the least, which I enjoy just as it is, and which I don’t tend to question. Is that profound, or just really myopic? I don’t know. (Third base.)