Without fail, my sisters and I would become obsessed with a given movie during family vacations while growing up. We would watch said movie over and over again and then repeatedly quote it. One summer, it was the Adam Sandler classic Big Daddy. I think we randomly saw it on television one night, convinced my parents to buy us a copy of the movie on VHS, and then proceeded to watch it about ten more times over the course of the trip. My sister would mimic the Eastern European (?) accent of the delivery man, played by Rob Schneider, and say “I got you a clock radio!” Meanwhile, I would do my best Steve Buscemi impression and yell “You owe me a sausage McMuffin!” As our vacation drew to a close, my family packed into our GMC Suburban to make the drive from South Carolina to Ohio. At the time, we had a small, white television set with a built-in VHS player, that my parents propped up between the car’s two front seats. Just for good measure, we watched Big Daddy a couple more times on the twelve hour drive home.
A couple years later, our movie was Zoolander. My sister switched from her Rob Schneider impression to one of Will Ferrell, as Mugatu, yelling “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” We formed a weird fascination with Vin Correjo, who never actually appears in the movie, but whose tombstone in the male model graveyard reads “derriere extraordinaire,” and we found all the Billy Zane jokes to be odd yet hilarious. Our obsession with Zoolander actually outlasted vacation that year and continued throughout the summer until school and real life inevitably got in the way.
Overall, these movies were great ways for me to bond with my siblings and to develop a love for film in general. While Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller movies will never not be funny, in early high school, my relationship with movies started to change. Sophomore year, one of my English teachers had decorated one of the walls in her classroom with classic movie posters from films like Sunset Boulevard, Vertigo, and Singin’ in the Rain. At the time, I knew nothing about these movies, but I felt strangely drawn to them just the same. I began to research them on my own, I printed out a copy of the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Films of All Time list, and after semester exams ended in January 2005, I rented Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and American Beauty, and spent a long weekend watching movies.
Little things amazed me. The way Orson Welles would move his camera, how every little thing in The Godfather screenplay seemed to be there for a reason, and how Billy Wilder could craft a perfect black comedy. Favorite directors emerged — Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, P.T. Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, and Quentin Tarantino. I got genuine joy out of showing friends Pulp Fiction for the first time, and I’ll admit that I really wanted to move to New York after seeing Henry Hill use the city as his own personal playground in GoodFellas. Movies weren’t just entertainment to me anymore, they were something that I could study, research, and learn about. This probably reached its height when I started at NYU. I would seek out other students that were interested in film, trade movie recommendations, and utilize the school’s endless movie library to watch everything from obscure Fellini movies to Hoop Dreams.
Today, I still would say that I love movies, but because I don’t work in the entertainment industry, I feel like my consumption has gone way down compared to my high school and college days. Nowadays, movies are more therapeutic for me than they used to be. They’re a way to shut out the rest of the world and take in a good story. I still love seeing something on the big screen that makes me laugh, moves me, or makes me question things, I just don’t get to do it as often as I used to.