Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Making of Movie Memories. Or Juvenile Delinquency. Take your pick.

During a conversation about movies recently, I mentioned that I love watching The Goonieswith my 4-year old son. "Isn't that movie kind of scary?" said the other mother.

Yes. Yes it is.

"And doesn't it have some dirty language?"

Yes. Yes it does.

When one of the Goonies says "damn it!" my son always shakes his head no and says, "We don't say 'damn it,' do we mommy?"

No. We don't. I answer proudly.

And yes, The Goonies also has a fake suicide, guns and a dead guy all of which I try to obscure by stretching myself in front of the television at the opportune moments.

Motherhood takes flexibility.

But truth be told, I don't really care. To my son it's all about the treasure hunt in a dark, spooky cave and booty traps. "That's what I said, 'booby traps!'" (For those who know the film.) Throw in a big, buttery bowl of popcorn, piles of blankets and ... ta-da! one fuzzy childhood movie memory. If there's any latent psychologically damage from low-level violence, I'm sure he'll be fine.

Goonies, after all, do teach resilience.

How could I deny him? Movies add so much color to childhood. And I want my son's to be colorful. Mine was. Not just because I am one of seven, but because my parents took us with them. Everywhere. To boxing matches, the horse races. And best of all, the movies.

I remember us kids in slippers and pajamas piling into the station wagon to watch triple features at the drive-in where "family-friendly"meant the kids sat on blankets spread on the ground leaving the parents alone in the car.

Then there were the rainy Saturday afternoons sitting on a scratchy carpet remnant in a cold library basement listening to the hypnotic clack of the film projector spinning out movies like Fantastic Voyage, a 1966 sci-fi film where scientists shrink themselves to attack a deadly blood clot in some guy’s body. Very creepy in a medically invasive kind of way.

To this day, I can't help wondering if a team of miniscule scientists has stowed away inside the syringe each time I get a shot.

And when Star Wars was released my dad took us to see it, not once, but 13 times. In a row. The last time, the local theater owner didn’t have the heart to charge him. I remember feeling like a starlet, pulled out of line, the red rope unlatched just for me. "Please. Just go in. Your money's no good here."

There's a reason the zombie film Shaun of the Dead is my idea of the perfect romantic comedy. Seeing Amityville Horror on the big screen as a child will do that to you. So will getting locked in the basement by your brothers afterward. It took months before I could go into our basement's dark, dank fruit cellar, a Portal to Hell if ever there was one.

You don't have to tell me twice to "Get out!"

And sometimes the right movie is a gateway to wondrous, transformative, albeit slightly deviant, things.

Enter Heavy Metal, an animated, R-rated, rock-and-roll extravaganza that my father took my brothers and me to see. We liked it so much that he let us hide under the seats between shows, dodging ushers sweeping up popcorn, so we could watch it again without paying. Very rock-and-roll.

Actually, I'm not sure which was more transforming - the movie with it's blond, buxom, sword-wielding heroine kicking ass in a leather bikini or committing a misdemeanor with my family. But as a tall, skinny, frizzy-haired girl with glasses, braces and poor posture, I took whatever help I could get.