My Movie Life

  1. The first movie I remember seeing was Bambi, probably when I was about four years old. We went swimming that day, and there was a thunderstorm, and the mental image the day conjures is me standing in the baby pool with nobody else around. I have no idea if the memory is accurate.
  2. I can’t pinpoint when or how my love affair with movies started, although it was probably sometime in the last two years of college (1991-93).
  3. The relationship was cemented the fall after I finished college by Fearless — the first movie to rip my heart out.
  4. With Fearless and Babe, I don’t even bother with most of the movie; I just put them in to watch the last half hour.
  5. Unforgiven was probably the first nonmanipulative movie to really get to me. It felt like I got punched in the gut.
  6. Using very rough estimates, I’ve seen at least 2,000 different movies in my lifetime.
  7. In the past decade, I have become highly selective about what movies I see, because my time is valuable and bad or cynical movies are dispiriting.
  8. In high school, I watched as many horror films as I could get my hands on, quality be damned.
  9. The only movie that ever made me sleep with the lights on was Rosemary’s Baby.
  10. That said, the first half of Kubrick’s The Shining still scares the piss out of me.
  11. After watching the television movie Salem’s Lot, my father terrorized me by scraping his fingernails on my bedroom door.
  12. The Exorcist gave me nightmares the first time I saw it (when I was 10-ish?), although my mother swears she didn’t let me watch it at that tender age.
  13. My family got its first VCR in 1986.
  14. The first movie we rented was Silver Bullet.
  15. I saw my first porn movie my freshman year of college.
  16. My first “erotic” movie — somewhere between respectable cinema and porn — was 1974’s Vampyres. I didn’t see it the year it came out, incidentally. I would have been three years old.
  17. Before my father’s death in 1992, the last movie my parents saw together in the movie theater was Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  18. There, were, however drive-in movies they saw together in the ’80s with us kids.
  19. I have the uncanny ability to identify movies based on very little information, even if I haven’t seen them.
  20. Reading about movies provides almost as much joy as watching them.
  21. I have nearly an entire bookcase dedicated to books about movies.
  22. Although I don’t often agree with them, I love reading the work of critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and David Thomson.
  23. Our household (me, my wife, and Bad Dog Ginger) subscribes to Entertainment Weekly, and I’m a regular reader of the British film magazine Sight & Sound.
  24. Our DVD collection includes more than 250 titles.
  25. My love of movies makes it difficult for me to enjoy live theater.
  26. I have seen This Is Spinal Tap — and I’m talking about before the 1990s revival — with people who didn’t realize the band was fake.
  27. Wes Anderson’s movies (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) get better every time I watch them.
  28. I very much like Schindler’s List but am also extremely distrustful of its level of emotional manipulation, and I resist watching it again.
  29. I’ve often wondered what people who have no knowledge of World War II (this is a theoretical issue [I hope]) would make of Schindler’s List and its largely de-contextualized narrative. Would they react to it differently if they felt it was a fiction, or if they simply didn’t have the historical background?
  30. I’m still trying to figure out why Martin Scorsese is so revered as a film director. The only movies of his that I truly like are Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and The Last Temptation of Christ.
  31. I also have little use for Spielberg.
  32. It is my opinion that advances in special effects over the past decade have essentially created a higher standard for movies. Because we’ve lost the “How’d they do that?” awe factor — it’s all digital now, and nothing’s impossible — films have to be better at the basics: story, character, etc.
  33. Unfortunately, they’re not.
  34. Flesh-and-bone creatures rendered by CGI remind me of this exchange from Cronenberg’s The Fly: “Oh, it tastes funny.” “Funny how?” “It tastes ... synthetic. ... ” “The computer is giving us its interpretation of a steak ... and something’s getting lost in the translation.”
  35. I’ve never walked out of a movie.
  36. I rarely rent a movie that I don’t finish.
  37. One exception: Lost Highway.
  38. Of the 17 films listed in the British Film Institute’s 2002 “greatest movies” polls of critics and directors — with 11 movies on each list (the first two Godfather movies are curiously grouped together) — I have seen eight.
  39. Among the films on the American Film Institute’s 1998 “100 Years ... 100 Movies” list, I have seen 47.
  40. The American Film Institute’s “100 Years ... 100 Movies” list is a piece of shit.
  41. At a screening of Far from Heaven at our nascent brew-and-view, the proprietor inserted a vintage intermission cartoon smack in the middle of a scene. Given the nature of the movie, my wife and I weren’t sure whether it was part of the movie.
  42. A friend and I were cornered in the bathroom after a showing of Total Recall because we mocked it aloud from beginning to end. It was at the second-run theater.
  43. I have been told that I look Aidan Quinn, and I didn’t think so until I found this picture.
  44. The first movie my wife and I saw together was The Red Violin, which was dreadful and interminable and probably came off worse because we’d had virtually no sleep the night before.
  45. Before we’d spent any face-to-face time together, my wife and I bonded over movies.
  46. My wife and I enjoy re-casting low-budget movies with the actors the filmmakers wanted to get.
  47. The phrase we use for movies you couldn’t pay us to see based on their trailers is “hot poker,” as in: “I’d rather have a hot poker up my ass than sit through that.”
  48. I have crushes on Elizabeth Peña and Ashley Judd.
  49. I was born in the wrong country. My love of Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg suggests a Canadian disposition.
  50. I took a date to see Dead Ringers on New Year’s Eve 1988.
  51. In an ideal world, my companion(s) and I would be the only people in the theater when we go to see movies.
  52. Barring that, I have a three-seat rule whenever possible, meaning that there’s a three-seat radius around me into which nobody may enter. If they do, I move.
  53. I appreciate the collective movie experience, but my interest in it is greatly diminished by the behavior of the audience.
  54. I rarely purchase anything at a movie theater’s concession stand.
  55. Generally, I’d rather watch movies at home.
  56. Although you might not realize it by reading my work, for the most part I don’t buy into auteur film theory, because even a movie that’s written, directed, edited, and scored by one person has dozens of collaborators whose contributions are essential to the film’s success.
  57. Gore Vidal was correct in saying that the best indicator of a movie’s quality is its script; a great director can’t salvage a shit screenplay.
  58. That said, directors who care about their work (instead of a paycheck) are relatively reliable, because they’re careful about the material they choose.
  59. After watching David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive in the theater, I had no idea what had happened in the movie.
  60. I was straightened out by explanatory articles on, and I’ve grown to love the movie.
  61. Apocolypse Now acts as a narcotic on me, as in: I can’t stay awake.
  62. I am one of the few people who really likes Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Stuart Saves His Family, Marnie, and George Romero’s Martin.
  63. The Brady Bunch Movie also has a warm place in my heart, although I won’t claim it’s art.
  64. I watch the Oscars every year, although the Academy rarely does well by me with any of its picks.
  65. When my parents had a party one weekend, they sent us kids to see Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety, and we were at an age where all we could talk about afterward were a character’s “triangle boobs.” Of course, we didn’t get many of the jokes (such as they are).
  66. I reviewed movies for alternative-weekly publications from 1997 through 1999.
  67. Through movie reviewing, I had the misfortune of sitting through Armageddon, The Wedding Singer, Wild Wild West, Godzilla, There’s Something About Mary, and Batman and Robin.
  68. I’m happy to no longer have the responsibility to see every movie that comes out.
  69. One weekend, I reviewed a double feature of Contact and Men in Black. If you see them in that order, you’ll notice that Contact begins with a shot that’s nearly identical to the one that closes Men in Black.
  70. After the endless Contact, I liked Men in Black a lot more than I should have. Brevity always scores points with me.
  71. I’ve interviewed five filmmakers for various publications.
  72. For about a year, I wrote something about every movie I watched and put it on a Web site that nobody visited.
  73. Being a moron, I lost nearly everything I wrote about movies during that period.
  74. This site is an attempt to re-capture the spirit of that time, although there are some movies I watch that I don’t write about because I don’t have anything to say that interests me.
  75. I would love to see a shot-for-shot re-make of The Birds because the special effects in Hitchcock’s original are so distractingly dated.
  76. I don’t buy a word of it, but I love Camille Paglia’s monograph on The Birds in the BFI Film Classics series.
  77. The first time I saw Vertigo, I was in my mid-teens, and it took two or three more viewings and many years before I got it.
  78. If I love a movie, watching it never gets old.
  79. I saw Star Wars (ahem, I mean: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) eight times in its initial theatrical run.
  80. At a screening of the 1997 re-release of Episode IV (and fuck you, George Lucas), I sat in front of someone of diminished mental capacity (and I don’t mean drunk) who shouted “That’s new!” whenever appropriate.
  81. The Empire Strikes Back is the only Star Wars movie that I can watch now without cringing or fast-forwarding.
  82. I didn’t see The Godfather until its theatrical re-release in 1997.
  83. The first time I saw The Godfather, I didn’t recognize Al Pacino or James Caan in the early scenes.
  84. I hated The Godfather Part II the first time I saw it.
  85. My opinion of the movie has since changed dramatically.
  86. One of my life goals has been to write and direct a movie.
  87. Because of my limited creative-writing skills (I’m an analyzer, not a generator), a more realistic aim is to direct a movie before I die.
  88. When my wife becomes a judge, I would love to quit my job and spend my days watching and writing about movies.
  89. Any money that came from that would be gravy.

I just realized that your number 8 and the number 8 on my own “movie life” list are nearly identical. Weird.

“Why Martin Scorsese is so revered as a film director?”:

1) “Mean Streets”-Scene at the bar, with the gun, towards the end...Plus the music...

2) “Taxi Driver”-The buildup. The ending.

3) “Raging Bull”-Should have WON the Oscar for Best Picture.

....”Goodfellas”, “Cape Fear”, and “Casino” were good fun, too...

Two reasons I revere Martin Scorsese
are: The tempo of his films and his
compassion for characters on the
fringe. His love of film comes through
whether he’s doing a personal project,
or just as a gun-for-hire.

I also think “Tucker” is a great movie.

Read and enjoyed every word of this unique bio. And recognised a kindred spirit. Thank you so much for all of the work that you put into your blog. I’m just smart enough to understand just how impossibly brilliant your analyses are, but not smart enough to comment here in a way that might actually genuinely flatter you. Sorry about that.

Thank you also for providing reviews that are the most fair-minded and honest that I have ever read. My hat’s off to you.

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