In the User Showcase post The Flickchart Self, the author contrasts the uncomplicated innocence behind the process of choosing our favorite movies as children with the stifling complexities such a decision involves as an adult. The post got me to thinking about where exactly my movie tastes began, how they evolved, and what really is behind each of my Flickchart matchup decisions. Do I use a complicated process based on all kinds of external influences that have corrupted my innocence, or am I still drawing from a simple and untainted place somewhere in my mind that unpretentiously just likes or dislikes stuff? I intend to explore the evolution of my movie tastes from their genesis to the present and figure out just how much of what I like today is rooted in my carefree and unselfconscious days of youth.
The first movie I was able to follow well enough to experience an emotional reaction to was King Kong when I was around age two. According to my mom, I started screaming “They killed him! They killed him!” so hysterically that she had to usher me quickly out of the theatre to avoid further emabarrassment. Not until several years later, though, when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark did I attain the level of cinematic savvy that allowed me to identify a movie as a favorite. Being only seven years of age at the time, I possessed only a limited idea of what my movie tastes were. As far as I recall, I had never made a fully conscious decision up to that point as to what I was looking for in a motion picture. Somehow, though, my mind organized all the gunplay, explosions and Nazis being wiped out by the Wrath of God into the category of “Favorite Movie”. I had become a self-aware member of the audience. With “The Raiders March” as a rally song, I began my lifelong enthusiasm for exploring the bountiful hills and barren valleys of what film had to offer.
In the case of the King Kong incident, my reaction probably had little to do with my filmic awareness. More likely, it was sparked by a basic, innate distaste for seeing a giant gorilla pumped full of lead and plummet to his death. Determining that Raiders of the Lost Ark was my kind of awesome required a higher degree of sophistication and an appreciation for how all the parts of a movie come together. I guess it’s possible that I had an innate fondness for two-fisted archaeologists with spunky love interests who battle Nazis over religious artifacts, sure. But I think I was at the point where I could tell the difference between a good movie that contained those things and a bad one. I still think Raiders is one of the best movies ever made, so I must’ve been on to something back then. I guess that scores a point for uncorrupted childhood innocence. Let’s move on.
Here’s where the tale gets a bit sordid.
I don’t know how typical my movie viewing habits were, but I figure most boys encounter the world of R-rated entertainment somewhere around their preteen years. I grew up during the 80s, which was perhaps the greatest time for a young male movie lover in the history of the universe. By the time I was old enough to be conscious of the unique features of the female body, cable television was emerging as an invaluable source for exploring just how unique those features were. Unlike today, though, where any mildly curious 9-year-old boy can click a mouse and see more than any human being should see, 80s cable TV revealed just enough to spur my imagination. (NOTE: Symbolically, my imagination could be represented as a wild stallion.)
So, throughout much of the early to mid- 80s, I dedicated my time to seeking out as much forbidden content as cable TV had to offer. Keep in mind that I actually had to work at seeing all that stuff. A typical day involved browsing through the TV guide with rapt anticipation to find out what kind of naughty (or graphically violent, or both) entertainment would be showing that evening. If something spicy was scheduled, I spent the seemingly endless hours before showtime hoping my parents would go to bed early enough so I wouldn’t miss anything. Once they finally did retire for the evening, I had to sneak out and watch the movie on low volume with my thumb hovering over the channel changer button on the remote for the entire duration. If I heard one of them staggering out to use the bathroom, I had to be ready to switch to a more wholesome program with lightning speed.
Anyway, this phase in my movie watching career definitely involved a conscious awareness of what I liked to see in movies, and an often devious determination to seek that stuff out. Such landmark films as My Tutor, The Return of the Living Dead, Hard Ticket to Hawaii and The Man With Two Brains (and some West German sex comedies) would have a role in forming my tastes to this very day. Could my actions still be considered “innocent” and “uncorrupted” during this period? Well, the only real motivation I had at the time was a blossoming libido and a relatively normal fascination with violence for a boy my age. So, yeah. Two points. (NOTE: I did watch movies more suited to my age group, too. I probably saw The Last Unicorn and Midnight Madness 156,017 times each. I was well-rounded.)
OK, so Raiders of the Lost Ark was the dawning of my appreciation of movies, and cable television ignited my will to pursue that appreciation even at great personal risk. (NOTE: If I had been caught watching naughty movies, my parents would’ve probably attempted an awkward discussion about sex. Thanks to cable, though, I knew all the basics and even understood some advanced concepts.) By the time I was a young adult, I was totally committed to delving into every godforsaken nook and cranny of cinema that I wasn’t allowed access to as a kid. In fact, many of my most enduring favorites were discovered during that time, from A Clockwork Orange to Suspiria to Repulsion. I saw many bizarre and wonderful things back then that built the very foundation of who I am as a movie watcher.
Perhaps my most important influence from those days was drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs, who functioned almost as my spiritual advisor. (He also had a small role in the movie Casino as the slots manager who gets fired by Robert De Niro.) After spending all those years sneaking around to watch sleaze and cheese movies on cable, I had finally found a movie critic who spoke highly of the type of entertainment I enjoyed. Maybe my parents would’ve considered putting me on medication if they knew about the sheer quantity of trashy cinema that I was consuming, but Joe Bob Briggs understood my passion. He was one of the good guys, and with his guidance I was turned on to a whole new world of questionable classics. It was through him that I learned that there were three elements to all good motion pictures: Blood, Breasts, and Beasts (I particularly favor the first two).
I don’t want to imply that I don’t enjoy films of a more delicate and refined nature, it’s just that I often factor in the amount of comely actresses and bloody carnage for evaluation purposes when applicable. But, anyway, I think it’s pretty clear that even after many years of film appreciation, my likes and dislikes have remained pure as the arctic snow. I have harnessed the inspiration provided by Raiders of the Lost Ark, 80s cable TV and the wisdom of Joe Bob Briggs to propell myself deep into a world of cinematic discovery. And I have not wavered from my righteous path. Three points for innocence.
So, I finally got around to watching the Peter Jackson King Kong not long ago, after years of putting it off. I came up with a variety of excuses for not watching it, mostly revolving around my dislike for Adrien Brody and Jack Black, or my weariness toward CGI extravaganzas. But what it really came down to, though, was my fear of sobbing like a teenage girl who was rejected by the dreamiest guy in school. While I can say that I did not cry, it was only because I paused the movie every ten seconds starting at the scene at the ice pond. Getting through the rest of the movie from that point was one of the most gruelling emotional experiences I ever endured. By the time Jack Black said his “It was beauty killed the beast” line, I was nearly rolled up in a ball on the floor. And with that, my friends, I believe innocence has achieved victory.
(And yeah, Naomi Watts was really hot in King Kong.)
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Chad as kingofpain on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.