Recently, Tim Champlin tweeted me and asked if I could do a list of my ten favorite movies. I thought it sounded like a great idea, so I jumped at the opportunity to do it. Before I get into this list, I want to set a few ground rules. First, these are my favorite movies. I don’t know how to quantify “favorite,” but I do know that it is not the same as a list of the ten best movies. Some of these movies may not be great, but they are movies I could sit and watch again and again, for the most part. Also, you can’t argue someone’s favorite movies. You just can’t. Another rule I set for myself was limiting myself to one movie per series. Otherwise, this list would be nothing but Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. That would be boring. So, in no particular order, here is my list.
Some of my fondest memories growing up revolve around our old tube TV and VCR and sitting down with my family to enjoy a great movie. In fact, almost all of my favorite memories growing revolve around good movies and good company. There was something special about going on a Friday night to the local Video store to pick out a movie or two and then coming home and watching it. Staying up late, bringing out all the blankets from your bedroom and making a big pile of blankets and pillows on the floor, lying on your stomach, head perched on your hands, kicking your feet back and forth and watching those opening credits. It was almost always magical. In some ways, kids today will never experience that kind of magic. Their idea of movie night is sitting down with the iPad and selecting a show to watch on Netflix, and their movie night happens every night, and is rarely together. They will never know the joys of going to the video store, spending an hour at least trying to find the perfect film. I remember browsing for so long thinking about trying something new, but often times, I would settle for an old favorite. My favorite movies were like good friends. I know that sounds sad, but I don’t think I minded.
Sunday Night Flicks is my attempt to get some of that magic back. I think part of the magic was more than just the experience. Part of the magic were the great films we watched. I want my kids to experience those films. I want my kids to be the kids who look down on other kids who don’t know classic films. I want my kids to appreciate a good film for being a good film, and not just the latest and greatest. In short, I want my kids to be geeks like me. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
The Princess Bride was one of those old favorites for me. If I couldn’t find something new at the video store, I would pick this film. Eventually, we owned it on VHS (ahhh, the glory of VHS), and the case quickly became battered and well worn as we watched it over and over again. I could recite almost the whole film from start to finish. I would run through the house with anything I could find that resembled a sword and yell, “Hello, you killed my father, prepare to die!” It was just such a big part of my childhood, that I felt it was an appropriate place to start with my kids. And, we had just bought it on iTunes and watched it for Valentine’s. Let’s be honest, there is nothing wrong with watching The Princess Bride two days in a row.
The key was finding a way to entice the kids to watch it. My kids rarely agree on anything when it comes to watching a movie. Plus, they rarely want to watch something not animated. We can talk about all the ways I have obviously failed as a parent later. I’m working on it. I started with my oldest daughter, Eliza. She was going to be the easiest sell. I asked her if she wanted to watch a princess movie. Before I could say anything else, she was on board. No problem. She loves all things princess, and I like to show her princess stuff that isn’t Disney. Like Star Wars (wait…well it didn’t start out as Disney).
Next, I had to convince my oldest child, Johnny. I wasn’t sure how to do it. I knew he would love the movie, but he had to get past all the kissing and stupid stuff like that. Then I remembered the way the Grandpa in the film convinced the Grandson to listen to the book. I asked Johnny if he wanted watch a movie with sword fighting, and giants, and a fire swamp, and pirates. He just kept getting more and more excited as I added more things to what was in the film. He was sold. The other kids would fall in line as long as the oldest 2 were on board.
Then we started the film. At first, I think Johnny agreed with the Grandson. He thought I had tricked him. Eliza loved the whole “As you wish” thing and started repeating it over and over. Except when I asked her to do something for me. Then she only remembered how to say no. Apparently she doesn’t love me. Johnny was about to be bored and ready to walk away, about the time that Buttercup runs into the 3 kidnappers. Now, i am going to assume that most of you have seen this film, so I am going to be pretty free with any spoilers. Anyway, as they kidnapped the princess, Johnny was suddenly interested again. When she jumped overboard and the eels started circling her, both Johnny and Eliza were on the edge of their seats.
Johnny thought the Man-in-Black was pretty much the coolest guy ever as he beat Inigo in their awesome sword fight, and then when he beat Fezzik. Johnny thought he was pretty much a superhero at that point. Eliza was thrilled when he turned out to be Westley, because she thought he had died. I thought that was funny, because I always thought that it was pretty obvious that he was Wesley from the beginning. I guess not when you’re a kid and this is the first time you have seen the show. They enjoyed every minute of the film, and something fun happened as we watched it. We all started out in different spots on our sectional, but by the end, we were all cuddled up together.
As I sat there with my kids all around me and my wife and I only separated by a two-year old, I thought about how good movies always did this when I was I kid. They brought us closer together. They gave us inside jokes to enjoy together, they gave us laugh and tear together and all-around gave us a common experience that brought our family together. That was what was happening now with my young family. It gave me a thrill to see that they were enjoying this movie as much as I did as a kid. After the movie, I asked they liked it. Eliza said yes right away. Johnny kind of shrugged his shoulders, like he didn’t care or he was too cool for it, but the smile on his face gave it away. The best indicator was that they wanted to watch it again tonight.
I can’t wait to show them more great movies. Each week will be anew experience and hopefully it will bring us closer together as a family. Hopefully, it will help my kids to appreciate really good movies with really good stories. Hopefully, it will make them want to tell really good stories. Who knows. Mostly, I hope it will be fun, and someday, maybe they will have blogs of their own where they write about stupid little stuff like this that always seems to mean so much more than the big stuff.