When I was 12, I fell in love with movies. The year was 1982. Since then, movies have been my escape, my companion, my passion and a constant source of amazement, inspiration, wonder and profundity.
I’m 41 now and even though I’ve seen a lot of crap in the past 30 years, there are still moments in the theatre—like when I see movies like Hugo or The Tree of Life—that take me back to when I was 12 and remind me why I fell in love in the first place.
So, in honor of my 30-year love affair with movies, I am going to take a look back at each of the past 30 years and reminisce about the movies that moved me. We’re not talking about the movies that were my favorites or even the ones that I would consider the best of the year. Instead, this is going to be a very personal, extremely subjective list with only one requirement: these movies in some way mattered to me at the time.
I thought it might also be fun to take a look back not only at the movies that made a particular impression on me, but to look at the ones that didn’t—those movies that popular consensus now says are important or influential in some way but, for some reason, just didn’t resonate with me. And finally, I will use this space to admit here, in front of everyone, the movies I haven’t even seen yet. You may stop talking to me once you find out I’ve never seen Ghostbusters.
So, here we go. The first installment of 30 Years of Movies—the Movies That Mattered…To Me. We’ll start where it all began—1982—and count down to 2012 in weekly installments. I hope you enjoy it and that it might inspire you to go back down your own cinematic memory lane.
The Movies That Mattered:
Airplane II: The Sequel
You always remember the first time you laughed your ass off in a movie theatre. The original may be the one everyone remembers, but I actually think there are more classic one-liners in the sequel. Whatever my sense of humor is—blame Airplane. There are kids who grew up on Monty Python or Saturday Night Live. I really feel I grew up on Airplane. The spoof genre really hit a chord with me and I honestly can’t remember laughing as hard at a movie as I did—and still do—with this one. Yes, I like to think of myself as sophisticated and cultured, but when it comes to what makes me really laugh—give me silly every time.
Because of its rating, I had to catch this one on video a few years later, but this was still the movie that solidified the legend of Jessica Lange in my young mind—one that still exists 30 years later. Her performance in Tootsie was the one that registered her in my consciousness, but it wasn’t until I saw her textured, aggressive, nuanced and riveting performance in Frances where I really understood what a massive talent she is and made me want to see everything she would ever do in the rest of her career. I just knew, then and there, that she would never let me down. So far, so good.
Favorite scene (WARNING: strong language):
Yes, I did, in fact, see this movie 6 times in the theatre. I was young and stupid. But there was something about Michelle Pfeiffer in those leather jackets and the corny-but-catchy-tunes that I couldn’t get enough of. Would someone actually admit that they bought the soundtrack album and played the grooves out of it? Would someone actually admit that they knew every lyric of every song and even came up with lip sync routines to the numbers? No, nobody in their right mind would ever admit that.
An Officer and a Gentleman
Another one that I saw later in life, but became an instant classic for me. What’s not to love about this movie. The performances are fantastic, the chemistry between Richard Gere and Debra Winger is palpable and I loved the setting and the story. For me, it’s a movie’s re-watchability that tells me if it really stands the test of time and this is one of those movies that I just have to watch whenever it’s on TV. It’s dramatic, intense, heartbreaking and romantic. It takes you onto every emotional plane possible. It’s a great movie.
I’ve said it all already about my favorite movie of all time. Don’t ask me why, but this movie hit me right between the eyes.
The World According to Garp
I think I finally caught this one when I was in college, and maybe that was just the perfect time to see it. The poignancy, the heartache, the overall depth of this story would never have sunk in earlier. Robin Williams really can act, it’s too bad this was the last time he ever really showed it. And who can forget Glenn Close and John Lithgow—two performances that rightfully launched careers. I believe this was the first time I saw and understood how character and writing can make a great movie. And I still look for it every time.
The Movies That Should Have Mattered More:
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
OK, so I didn’t see it until later, but I know it should have been a bigger deal to me. I seem to be the only one of my generation that doesn’t count this teen sex comedy among the most influential films of my youth. I guess I’m more a John Hughes kind of girl.
First strike against me: I didn’t see Tron until I was an adult. Second strike: I wasn’t all that impressed with it when I did. I guess it’s one of those “you had to be there” kind of movies, meaning that if you didn’t see it when it really was ahead of its time, then don’t bother, because it just looks really silly now.
I guess a little of the Tron effect comes into play with Blade Runner, another movie I didn’t see until much later, but I can at least appreciate Blade Runner’s mood and look, which are sensational. And I do recognize its influence, but I guess it still came too late in life for me to appreciate it as the groundbreaking film that many consider it to be.
You’ll probably label me un-American if I admit that E.T. was only mildly impressive to me. It was a fine film, don’t get me wrong, but I was more taken in by Spielberg’s Duel than I was by E.T.
Brilliant film and a brilliant performance. But come on—I was 12. And I’ll have to admit I haven’t seen it since.
The Movies That Might Have Mattered, but I Missed:
My Favorite Year
The Year of Living Dangerously
The Oscar Winners of 1982:
Best Picture: Gandhi
Best Director: Richard Attenborough – Gandhi
Best Actor: Ben Kingsley – Gandhi
Best Actress: Meryl Streep – Sophie’s Choice
Best Supporting Actor: Louis Gossett, Jr. – An Officer and a Gentleman
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Lange – Tootsie