They say that smell is our oldest sense. A smell can trigger deeper memories than any of the other senses. In my case, the smell of tobacco brings me back to circa. 1985, sitting in the den with my grandfather Ernie, while he stuffed his pipe and watched 60 Minutes. Music does that too. I can’t hear anything Hootie and the Blowfish without being transported to Bar Harbor – and those two summers Beth and I spent waiting tables there. Movies are kind of awesome that way. I remember the first time I saw Star Wars: we were in the loft of my cousin Courtney’s camp on Millinocket Lake.
I got to thinking about some great movies, and the memories they impart. Here are ten great movies – if only in my mind. They may not all be cinematic genius, but they’re special to me. Here, in no particular order, are ten of my favorite flicks.
1. The Matrix
Beth and I were in our first apartment in Biddeford. We had just moved off campus, and needed a computer. We spent $2,200 on a rockin’ PC with a 15″ screen, 13 GB hard drive, and … a DVD drive/player. It was the coolest thing. Nobody I knew had them yet. We went right to Wal*Mart and got our very first DVD – The Matrix. The breakthrough in cinema is legendary, but the best part for me was sitting in a chair we got for free on the side of the road, dragged in front of our brand-spanking new computer with Beth and Melissa (our other roomie) and watching Keanu become The One.
2. Steel Magnolias
I know, I know, it’s a girl movie. Didn’t we just cover the fact that I was raised by women? This is actually a pretty great flick. Julia Roberts is getting married. Her parents are Tom Skerritt and Sally Field. Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine play supporting roles. We watched this many, many times at home on rainy Sunday afternoons when I was a kid. I never really “got” the movie until I was older, but it brings with it warm memories of Mom and my sister Molly. When Drum tells Ouiser they could call a truce long enough for him to get a piece of armadillo wedding cake and he says, “Nothin’ like a good piece of ass.” my mother would laugh and laugh! Still kills me.
Not a really great movie, and not really a favorite of mine, but good memories all the same. It was my second summer in Bar Harbor, and I was renting a room from an old lady over by the hospital. It was on the edge of town, and partially in the woods. I watched Scream alone on my bed with the window open, and door ajar (there was a nice breeze). I lay there the whole time arguing with myself as to whether I was man enough to watch the movie without closing the door/window. Nobody but me would know if I closed it, but I was trying to prove a point to myself. My cousin Shawn’s forte is horror – it’s never been my bag. I know, Shawn, Scream doesn’t count; but I manned up.
Admit it. One of the best movies of all time. Was Bill Murray ever funnier? This movie has come off the shelf and into the player for decades around my house. We’ve owned it on VHS, DVD, now Blu-Ray. It’s the constant. I remember almost peeing myself as a kid when the ghost in the library screams at the boys in the beginning. Beth and I can quote the whole movie, and the kids are fans at this point. “Nobody steps on a church in my town!” “Ray, if someone asks you if you are a god, you. say. YES!” If this show comes on TV, I cancel my plans for the next two hours.
Another movie I give my mother credit for. All of the Rockys, actually. She loves Rocky I and Rocky II like I never could. I sat through them as a kid not because I loved them, but because watching Rocky is what we did – but I never really got thrilled until the latter half of Rocky III and “Eye of the Tiger.” We’d get excited and bounce on the edge of the couch the same way Rocky’s kid and his friends do on the edge of the bed at the end of Rocky IV. I still kind of hold a grudge towards Dolph Lundgren because he killed Apollo. We’ll forgive Sylvester for the fifth one. Mom and I got to see Rocky Balboa in the theater together – very cool. The Rockys belong to Mom and I. If I listen closely, I can almost hear the ‘tink-tink-tink’ of the pressure valve in the kitchen cooking Mom’s signature smothered beef tips with mushrooms.
If Rocky belongs to Mom and I, Predator belongs to Brandon Smith and I. We must have watched this movie at camp a thousand times. At Brandon’s camp, my camp, the Boathouse, everywhere. Gratuitous bicep shots, 80s movie lines so cheesy in their awesomeness: “I ain’t got time to bleed” “You’re one ugly motherf**ker” “Son of a bitch is dug in like an Alabama tick” “If it bleeds, we can kill it” It’s a 107 minute beefy, testosterone-fueled, extra-terrestrial action flick; and it makes me feel 13 again.
Goonies was stuck on the end of a mix VHS tape the parents had made for us when we were kids. It had He-Man, Masters of the Universe and Rainbow Brite on there as well. Whenever it was rainy and we couldn’t go out to play – and then got whiny, in went The Tape. Goonies is escapist fun. Another movie anyone in this house can quote front to back. It’s one of those PG movies from the 80s full of soft-swears. Things were different back then, I guess. Just another nostalgic, happy-making flicks from my youth. “That’s what I said, booby trap!”
8. American Pie
Just a little too young for Porky’s, this movie was a game changer for us. We saw it for the first time on a lark at the theater in South Portland. As luck would have it, we found ourselves in line with some people we had just met; at work I think. Not having any idea what we were getting ourselves into, we of course invited them to sit next to us. As the movie unfolded, I remember Beth shrinking into her seat, trying to become invisible. Hilarious; unforgettable.
Our first really big budge movie on the list – except, of course, for The Matrix in its day. Super cool movie seen for the first time in 3D. I remember sitting there just enthralled by the visual aspects, the 3D-ness, the majesty of it all. I remember sitting there with Beth for what, 5 hours?, hoping it would never end. I think I may have shed a tear when that giant tree gets blown up. We left the theater already working on our list of who we were going to bring back to see this. We were blown away. Weird, though, it’s a movie we don’t own – despite our Blu-Ray and giant TV thing we’ve got going on. I guess we kind of realize that we’ll never recapture the magic we shared that evening.
10. Harry Potter 1-7.2
I honestly don’t remember when we started going to the midnight showings of these films. Huge fans of the books, we started reading them to our nieces and nephews when they were young. We even went to midnight releases of the books. Of the books! Who goes to Bangor in the morning to get a ticket that would insure a good place in line at the midnight sale of a BOOK that we had already purchased online weeks before? That whole sentence makes no sense. Watching Harry Potter at midnight in Bangor, then getting Denny’s breakfast at 2:30 a.m. on the way home became our tradition. Harry Potter simply cannot be beat in terms of movie-magic, at least for our house.
Obviously not an inclusive list of all great movies, so share with me your fave movies and why by leaving a comment.