What Movie Sparked Your Love for Cinema?

I saw this question on Twitter as part of a "get to know me" game and when I tried to think of the answer for myself, what I came up with kind of surprised me.

I've mentioned before that working at a movie theater as a teenager is what broadened my horizon for films, but what was the movie that got me to look at cinema beyond the comedic and horror films that I normally stuck with?



At first I thought of American Beauty. It's my all time favorite movie which I saw for the first time at age 13. While it's very important to me because it was the first time I considered dysfunctional families and stopped feeling alone about it, I never really got into anything like it until years later. 



I thought of all the Shirley Temple movies I would record off of AMC when I was little just so I could watch her tap. I loved those too, but I never watched other classic films. 



I loved big franchises like Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, but back then I was just enjoying the ride and not thinking about the process. At least not right away. 



Weirdly enough, I think the movie that changed cinema for me was a small, tough to watch indie called Mysterious Skin. You see, when I worked at that theater we'd get magazines showing all the upcoming films. And because I lived in a small town it means we rarely, almost never got independent films. When I read about Mysterious Skin, it intrigued me. And it starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who I was familiar with. 

The funny thing about this is that there was a decent amount of time between me learning about the film and it actually coming out on DVD to rent. But just reading about it changed something. I remember finding IMDb, getting recommendations, saving titles, learning about the Sundance Film Festival and going on a movie watching spree. When I'd actually see it in the fall of 2005, it was heavy. It deals with child abuse and plenty of things that make me uncomfortable to think about but I was in awe of how well it was made and how good JGL was in it. How director Gregg Araki shot around those uncomfortable scenes made me appreciate the film making aspect that I had rarely considered before. All I had to compare it to at the time were those shitty Lifetime movies my mom would try to scare me with. This was in another league. 

That same fall, my boyfriend and I drove to the nearest big city and spent a few days doing nothing but watching all the movies in theaters that our local one would never get. We ended up seeing a lot of the eventual Oscar nominees for that year, and that started my tradition of religiously watching it. 

Because of Mysterious Skin, I looked for more independent films. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stopped being the kid from 3rd Rock and 10 Things and became my favorite actor. Because of Mysterious Skin, I'd look up Brady Corbet's filmography and find Thirteen, a film that remains in my Top 5 today. That led to me seeing Evan Rachel Wood, and her becoming one of my favorite actresses too.  It's probably because of Mysterious Skin that I tend to gravitate towards all this dark and dysfunctional story telling. (Actually, maybe I can blame that one on American Beauty. Or all those slashers my parents somehow allowed me to watch.) 

Regardless, while I always liked watching movies, I don't think I truly loved everything about them until I was 18, reading that theater magazine in between stringing up projectors and having an obscure title catch my eye. 

What movie did that for you? 




Also thank you for making it to the end of this rambling. 


Comments

  1. Mysterious Skin is a great choice as that is a film I love. To answer your question. Wow...

    I want to say Reservoir Dogs based on my own life experiences but during my teenage years. It was going back and forth from obscure indies to big Hollywood films as I think it was in the early 2000s with IFC as they were showing these films that were different. I think it was for me, Breaking the Waves as it didn't look like anything I had seen before or anything else since. It showed that films didn't have to look all slick or clean or be like The Blair Witch Project either. It felt like it was something personal as if I was watching some home movie for me.

    After that, I realized there was so much more out there and I also went to my first art house theater.

    And here is something else that I remember about Mysterious Skin when it came out. Even though films like that would only play maybe a few weeks to a month. For some reason at I think the Midtown Theatre in Atlanta or the Sandy Springs Lefont Theatre, that film was playing in either of those theaters for nearly 4-6 months which was surprising.

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    1. That is surprising, but awesome. Indies rarely get to hang around theaters for very long.

      I've never seen breaking the Waves but I like Stellan Skarsgard so I should check it out. Having IFC as a channel during all of this would've been nice. lol

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  2. This is tough for me but I think I have to go with....gulp....Maytime, the soppy but great operetta starring the iconic team of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. I hated school but, on Saturday nights, there was A Night at the Movies hosted by the great Elwy Yost on our own non-profit station and I could disappear into the world of cinema. They sang so beautifully and the doomed romance was a bit like. harlequin romance but better. Anyway, I loved watching their movies and it made me just fall in love

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    1. That sounds wonderful! I looked up Maytime and I think I'd like that, it sounds sweet.

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  3. This is such a lovely post, and a really difficult question to answer! When I found a love for movies when I was around 14/15 I found a love for Jake Gyllenhaal and started trying to watch everything he was in, using IMDB like you!
    I ended up watching The Good Girl, which was the first movie I'd ever seen that wasn't a comedy or an action movie, and the story gripped me so much that I started being more open minded and started trying to watch everything I could!

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    1. I love The Good Girl! It still has Jennifer Aniston's best performance, IMO. What a great movie to kick things off.

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  4. I hate to date myself but for me it was "The Empire Strikes Back". I remember leaving the theater as a kid saying "How did they do that? They can't do that!" That film left such an impression on me. It showed me how much a movie can excite you, surprise you, and emotionally move you.

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    1. I always assumed you and I were close to the same age. 😆 That's special though, I would've loved to have seen Empire Strikes Back in theaters when it first came out. I saw it when it was re-released in the 90's but that's not the same thing.

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  5. Great post! This is a tough one to answer, but I've always credited The Royal Tenenbaums as the film that made me want to watch more films out of my usual stuff. I've grown up watching movies, but it's usually what was handed to me or what would be in the theaters. It wasn't until then that I immersed myself in the world of cinema.

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    1. That's a film I need to re-watch. I saw it before I had my current taste in films and I didn't like it, but I have a feeling I'd like it a lot better now.

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  6. Great post. I actually remember which one, because it made me start writing about films (back in 2011). It was Streetcar named desire. Loved everything about it: the performances from Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh, the dialogue, even the lighting (even though it was black & white. Damn, I have to re-watch it soon

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    1. I had that on my Blind Spot last year and really liked it too!

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  7. Only ONE!!! I couldn’t possibly narrow it down that way.

    I’ve always been a movie fan since my first memories of watching early morning TV-in a hat tip to your love of Shirley Temple every Sunday morning there was Shirley Temple Theatre which I watched without fail so by the time I was 7 or 8 I’d seen all her early films (and her best adult one-The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer which ran often because of the lead trio of Shirley, Cary Grant and Myrna Loy).

    Since this was pre-VCR or any other sort of recording devices I had to rely on regular features like the Million Dollar Movie late every Saturday night or my personal fave The Movie of the Week which is exactly what it sounds like, on one of the UHF stations (if you don’t know what that is they were local stations-for me it was stations 17, 29 and 48 which required their own antenna-or sometimes a box-to receive) a particular film was shown three times a day for a week. So if I liked that week’s film I was in heaven. I’d say those movies-The President’s Lady & With a Song in My Heart (both of which are where I discovered Susan Hayward), the Barbara Stanwyck/Clifton Webb Titanic, River of No Return (a Marilyn Monroe/Robert Mitchum Western), Stars and Stripes Forever (a John Phillip Sousa bio starring Clifton Webb) and Sunset Boulevard (brilliant but a lot for an 8 year old to take in!) are the ones I remember most vividly-helped lay the foundation of my love of film.

    Then there was a Saturday matinee show (my first memory and for years my favorite, Blackbeard, the Pirate starring Robert Newton-looking back now shamelessly chewing the scenery-and Linda Darnell as the damsel in distress. Loved her at first sight and she remains my favorite actress to this day. Watching the movie now it’s overblown and somewhat silly but I still have a soft spot for it.) and TV movies of the week and an occasional event film. For instance The Wizard of Oz showed just once every year and it was appointment television for pretty much everyone. We didn’t go to the movies much when I was a little kid which is probably why I have such a fondness for older films since those are what was available on TV. I did see both Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music in the theatre (though I was really young and don’t remember much except it was raining so hard during SOM that we could hear it in the theatre!).

    So it’s more a case of knowing which film or films lead to my love of a particular genre of film. My appreciation of the intricacies of the craft of filmmaking came later, in the beginning it was the stories and especially the stars that pulled me in.

    Besides those I already mentioned I’d say Some Like it Hot and Auntie Mame showed me how joyous comedy could be. How the West Was Won the exciting sprawl of Westerns. The Adventures of Robin Hood the thrill of derring-do. They Drive by Night what high drama was all about. The Spiral Staircase the disturbing power of suggestion. Then there was Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Which I sneaked watched because my Mom thought it was too intense for prepubescent me….she was right!) which just scared the hell out of me.

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    1. Aww that's a lovely story! Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is an amazing movie, as it Some Like It Hot. I'm glad you liked Shirley too, I adored her.

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    2. Hi Joel...I remember getting UHF and we got 7 and 29 which showed great 50's horror camp films from the 50's and 60's on a Sunday afternoon. We had the special box and the antenna where we turned a dial and could hear it hum and turn to try to get the stations better. I remember when it was the premiers of the Sound of Music on TV and I couldn't wait for it. The Wizard of Oz always showed up at Easter along with The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. I also remember the premiers of Gone With The Wind. It was so much fun seeing all these old movies and then watching the variety shows, like Carol Burnett, make great fun of these movies..who can forget Scarlett's dress?

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    3. Man I was blessed with a VCR and cable lol

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    4. Brittani

      Shirley really was an extraordinary talent. The ease with which she carried her films at such a young age is surprising enough but she was a ridiculously quick study who did all her scenes, including the dance numbers, usually in one take.

      If you haven't read it you might want to give her autobiography-Child Star-a look. She was a remarkable woman all her life, very civic minded and aware of the value of her fame. She had her struggles just like everyone but even then she meet them head on. In the early 70's when she found a lump in her breast she refused the accepted "one-step" radical mastectomy treatment and insisted on the European "two-step"-a biopsy followed by an informed decision (in her case she required only a so-called simple mastectomy) after which she held a press conference from her hospital bed feeling that the knowledge that if it could happen to Shirley Temple it could happen to anyone would raise awareness of a condition that until then was hidden in the shadows and not publicly discussed. Her actions were even condemned by the AMA! But she was flooded with letters thanking her from women for bring the issue to light.

      Birgit

      Our receiving box hummed too! I remember clearly fooling with that and the rabbit ears on stormy days just trying to get a clear picture on those UHF channels! But they really did show some of the best stuff.

      How could I forget to mention The Ten Commandments! EVERY Easter after dinner we all gathered around the console TV and watched Chuck part the Red Sea!

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    5. She really was. I haven't read her book, I'm sure I will some day.

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  8. Great list Brittani. I have seen Mysterious Skin but way after I saw other Greg Araki movies like The Doom Generation and Smiley Face. Have you seen Vox Lux directed by Brady Corbet and starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law. It's quite the experience.

    As for the movie that made me a movie fan It had to be Pulp Fiction. I know that is cliche but it did help introduce me other genres

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    1. I just watched Vox Lux a week or two ago! I didn't know Brady was directing now, I have to find his first feature.

      I don't think picking Pulp Fiction is cliche, that's an excellent film. I wish I had seen it sooner.

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  9. Wonderful post Brittani! I don't think I've ever seen Mysterious Skin, but now I want to. My whole family were psychos about movies growing up, so watching/quoting/talking about them was something we always did. My mom raised me on TCM while my relatives raised me on everything else, so it's hard for me to pick one or a few movies that stand out. I'm sure if I did, it would probably be something from Classic Hollywood or with Judy Garland. :)

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    1. That's lovely! We liked movies in my house too but I don't think anyone ever thought much beyond just being entertained for those few hours. AMC always had classic movies on when I was a kid, but I'd only watch the Shirley Temple ones.

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  10. This is my favorite post of yours. You really let us see behind the curtain here and I appreciate the look.

    For me, things really trace back to 78's Superman: The Movie. Got to see it in a nearly empty theater and just let the magic wash over me.

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    1. Oh, thank you for saying that! That's so sweet.

      It's been ages since I've seen those old Superman movies.

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