10 movies that marked me.

 In Three Sentence Movie Reviews

I wrote this for Facebook.  But I figured why not also post it here.  And here it is.

I watch a lot of memorable movies but the movies I find most memorable (and thus one can say marked me) are often linked to an event or place or time period.  So here’s my top 10.  I’m putting them in the order I watched them chronologically (from little girl to this summer)

Singing in the Rain Tied for first in my “favorite movie” list.  I saw it as a girl with my mother and loved the music and the dancing and Lena Lamont’s voice.  I’ve watched it again and again because there’s always something to hook into:  the story, the performances, the costumes, the songs.  I’ve seen a theatrical production and even watched it on the big screen (thanks Cinema 21!) and I never get tired of this film.  Though I confess I tend to fast forward through the endless Cyd Charisse dance scene.  It’s just as enjoyable at double speed and done that much sooner.

Footloose Angie Fuller asked me to accompany her to the theater.  Footloose was playing.  We were in fourth grade (and thus a tiny bit young for this film).  It had been raining at recess that day and my shoes were still sopping wet hours later.  This was the first film I saw without my parents.  When my mother asked me how I liked it, I said, “There was a lot of swearing.”  The dawn of VHS meant I watched this movie over and over and over again.  Long before I was a teenager, this movie taught me that trying to keep teenagers from doing what they wanted to do was pretty much a lost cause.  And that there is a time to dance.

Stand by Me Number of times I’ve seen this film?  Twice.  Once when I was about 12 and once when I was in my 30s.  Amount I remembered of this film upon re-watching? Nearly 100%.  The first time I watched it was the perfect age to see this, just a year or two younger than the protagonists. I was also an 80s girl completely in love with the 50s, so the setting worked for me.  This movie marks the beginning of the end of the era of watching movies with my parents.  During most of my early teenage years it was too uncomfortable to try and process my own reactions and theirs while taking in a movie.  I also remember this movie fondly because of my mother’s aghast reaction to the mailbox baseball scene.  “That is a federal offence!” This movie also got me interested in Stephen King, who was (along with V.C. Andrews and the authors of bodice rippers) among the first grown-up authors I read.  The story of friendship and change is what ultimately sticks with me.  It’s a heartbreaking film and not just because River Phoenix would be dead seven years later.

Shag My favorite girl movie of my teenage years and one I think many people overlook.  Four friends graduate from high school and plan one final weekend together before going off on their different paths.  The early 60s beach setting was awesome and the high-jinks that ensue are memorable. It’s highly quotable.  Pudge (yes there is a character named Pudge and yes, she’s of normal weight) says at one point “It isn’t a bone at all, it’s a muscle. This cousin of hers dated a Clemson Tiger who sprained his in a game, and she had to massage it every night when it got hard because he was in so much pain.” It also has a really fabulous soundtrack and a big dance number.  I’m just now realizing this movie may be the reason my friends and I went on a road trip after graduating from high school.  We met neither a “Chip” nor a “Buzz,” but we still had a good time.

Dazed and Confused I must have seen this before I graduated high school in 1993, but it didn’t really hit home for me until I watched it again in 1994 or 1995.  By that time I’d gone off to a women’s college with hazing rituals that were eerily similar to the ones depicted in this film.  I love the high school bacchanalia aspect of this film.  The soundtrack has been played to death, but I loved it for a long time.

Fargo “We should go see Fargo,” said the guy who would become my college boyfriend. “What’s that?” “You’ll like it,” he assured me. We hadn’t spent much time together, but he was right.  We went to the Academy of Music Theater in Northampton, Mass. and I laughed throughout this film.  It’s too violent and incredibly tragic, but I fell in love with Frances McDormand and her angel of a pregnant Marge Gunderson, unflappable in the face of so much senseless mayhem.

Chasing Amy I’m guessing the films of Kevin Smith will most likely only last as period-specific examples of this and that.  I’m also guessing this film hasn’t aged well.  But there was a time when I loved it for exploring the idea (however awkwardly) that sexuality can morph and change.  It also explores male friendship in a way that I hadn’t seen much on film at that point. Holden and Banky’s breakup comes years before the bromance comedies of the last decade.  I watched this at the Academy of Music in Northampton too.  And let me tell you, watching Chasing Amy with a bunch of smart women from Smith College is a different experience than watching it in your standard multiplex.  There was hissing.  More than once.  From all areas of the theater.

Almost Famous Also tied for first in my “favorite movie” list.  In September of 2000 I was poor.  After a few months of unemployment, I had finally found a job, but I was still catching up financially with the things I let slide.  So it was a few weeks before I could scrape together the cash to see this movie which I watched at the Lowes Harvard Square Cinema.  I remember being surprised at how funny it was—the previews had played up the drama—and I remember being so happy to be watching. For me it’s a perfect film.  I love this movie because it’s about the end of things and the beginning of things and every single performance is spot-on.  Philip Seymour Hoffman’s speech about being uncool remains a top 10 movie moment for me. 

What’s Your Number A recent find (thanks Heather) and one I loved so much I watched it twice in one day.  What seems to be a silly rom-com plot (woman feels she’s slept with too many men and decides to look up all her past conquests to see if any are husband material) delves much deeper into the subject of how females are supposed to be in society.  There’s also great sister stuff and a slow-rolling romance with the hunky Chris Evans.  And Anna Faris’s comic timing is impeccable. 

Boyhood Too soon to deserve to be on the list?  I can’t tell.  But as I said in my original review, there was a time before someone made a movie over 12 years with the same actors, and there is a time where that concept now exists, and I’m happy to have experienced the changeover.  I’ve been thinking about this movie since I saw it in August so that’s a good sign for longevity.  Cinema 21 was the perfect place to watch it, old theater, red seats, packed house. Great movie.

What movies have marked you?

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  • balyien

    The only one of these I haven't seen is "Shag." I've never even heard of it! Your description intrigues me though. I think I'll have to check it out.

    "Singing in the Rain" is on my top ten list of favorites for sure. If you can believe it, I'd never seen it until Dan and I were on our weekend-long first date and he showed it to me. Since he owns it, we watch it at least once a year and I never tire of it (although I too think the Cyd Charisse sequence too long). I quote it all the time too. "Oh, Pierre!"

    My favorite Kevin Smith movie is "Clerks" (and it has a special memory attached to it). Watching it more recently, it's definitely a very 90s art house film. However, I think the sense of young adult malaise/ennui it explores is still very relevant today.

    I would have to really, really think about it to come up with a list of 10 movies that "marked" me. Maybe I will and post it to my blog. 🙂

  • Patricia

    Like I say, Shag is totally overlooked. I haven't seen it in years, but I bet I would still like it. I think I have it on VHS, but no VHS player.

    I could have gone with Clerks too. It was such a revelation of what a movie could be. Plus, by the time I saw it, I'd actually been a clerk so I totally got it. The repeated question of "You open?" perfectly captures the job. No matter what you do (even improvising a sign out of a sheet and shoe polish that says, "I assure you, we are open") will do nothing to keep the customer from asking the same questions over and over again.

    After I published, I realized I should have gone with Before Sunrise instead of Dazed and Confused. But since I recently watched Dazed and Confused that was much more in my mind. And Singles should have been in there somewhere, but I already had Almost Famous. Tough choices were made.

    I thought of all of these while sewing. So perhaps if you put it in the back of your mind while doing some other task you can come up with a list. And you should totally post it to your blog.

  • kathleen.

    As a huge fan and admirer of Richard Linklater's work, I have really got to watch Dazed and Confused soon..!

    P.S: You list is so different from mine it's interesting to read yours.

  • Sara K.

    I love that I have watched quite a few of these with you in your parent's basement. I think you introduced me to Singing in the Rain. I always do the Lena Lamont "arm dance" that she does when she is singing. And Moses Supposes. What a song! Donald O'Connor is amazing!!!

    On my List: Say Anything, Far and Away, Cutting Edge, Amelie, Funny Face, Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder version, of course), BBC Pride and Prejudice Mini Series, Anne of Green Gables with Meaghan Follows… I know that there are more, but that's my memory for today.

  • Patricia

    I love that too. And I'm glad to have introduced you to Singing in the Rain.

    Of your list I love Say Anything, Cutting Edge (such a good movie!) P&P. I had an allergic reaction to Willy Wonka in fourth grade and angerly swore it off forever because it was different from the book, so I've not seen it since then. I was never a fan of Far and Away, but I do like the setting. And I don't think I've seen Anne of Green Gables.

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