Can You Mark Times In Your Life By What Movies You Saw?

My wife and I have been to the theater once in the past eight years. I know, we’re pathetic, but we prefer watching things in bed, with our dogs around us, DVRed or, gasp, paying for it on-demand! But that option didn’t exist in days of yore. When we said things like days of yore and thou and ‘get thee to a nunnery!’

We broke down and went to see Guardians of the Galaxy with Brenda, my wife’s sister, and Poshmark Queen, last year (actually she made us go, because, well, she’s a Queen). We had no clue what tickets cost, or the price of a coke, a tub of popcorn, etc. Needless to say things have changed. Also it was SO loud (that partial sentence proves I don’t know grammar and I’m OLD!). And we saw it in 3-D and my wife screamed when he kicked the lizard toward the screen. It was a really fun movie, though! We recognized the soundtrack from our mid-life crisis years.

I didn’t see many movies growing up, but some stick out, not just because of the movie, but the circumstances. While we might place a song at an era, we’ve usually heard the song many times, so it’s not as specific as watching a movie.

Star Wars. 1977. Yes, the original. My mother and I went to see it not long after it opened in 1977. We took the subway near the end of June to a theater in Manhattan. I clearly remember because the next month, 17 years old, I left home and reported to West Point for R-Day. Which is the beginning of Beast Barracks.

THX 1138. 1971. I remember sitting in the theater with my father, George Sr. I do have to wonder how he even knew of George Lucas’ first film, which came out in 1971. Also R-Rated. And yes, breasts. Strange the things a young boy remembers.

You Only Live Twice. 1967. My older brother, George, took me to see this at a theater on Boston Post Road in da Bronx. We used to walk all over the city then. I loved the rappelling in the volcano scene!

Animal House. 1978. Once more, my brother took me to this, during some off time from West Point, between my plebe and yearling years, down in Manhattan. It was pretty wild. And, yes, there were breasts! I notice I say ‘down in Manhattan’ but that’s because for some reason going to Manhattan was ‘down’. Every other part of New York State was ‘up’ from the City. I totally got John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever where Manhattan was a world away. BTW, never saw that in the theater and only years after it came out, because I thought it was a disco movie; I was wrong on that.

Patton. 1970. My Uncle Joey took me to see this when it opened down in Manhattan. The screen was huge, the music incredible. Even though I now realize how much they used the wrong tanks, etc. etc. it’s still a great movie and character dissection. George C. Scott came to West Point with a Bob Hope show (yes, I’m an OLD grad). Everyone started chanting “Speech! Speech!” when he came on stage. And he did give us some lines. BTW, Brooke Shields was in that show. So maybe I’m not so old? My Uncle also used to drive me down to Manhattan on Sunday mornings and we’d go to this neat bookstore on 18th that had tables and tables of books. With an escalator in the middle to another floor full of books. It was called Barnes and Noble. In retrospect, I spent most of my childhood in libraries.

Malcolm X: 1992. My wife and I saw this in Clarksville, TN when it first came out. We’d both read his autobiography and had found it fascinating. We actually bonded the first time we saw each others bookshelves and realized we had almost all the same books.

Gettysburg: 1993. Saw this in Nashville, TN with my wife. The Civil War has always fascinated me.

Alien. 1979. Fort Benning. The old theater near the quads, which might still be there. I was there for Airborne School after my yearling year and before my cow year at West Point (we just can’t call it freshman, sophomore, junior and senior at West Point, because we’re special: it’s plebe, yearling, cow and firstie). The out of the stomach scene was stunning. No internet then to give spoilers. We felt airborne school was five days of training jammed into three weeks: ground, tower and jump week. I did my five jumps, hurt my knee and swore I’d never jump again. And then I volunteered for Special Forces, ended up in 10th Special Group (Airborne). Passed jumpmaster school (the highest failure rate of any school I ever attended: 14 of 83 graduated), and have jumps into the triple digits and my master parachutist wings. But I only jumped for pay and mission. Never for fun. Fun is lying in bed with my wife and dogs watching movies we don’t go to the theater to see. Which reminds me, she just rented Steve Jobs, so I know what we’re doing tonight.

The Departed. 2006. We were living on Hilton Head Island. My wife and I didn’t see this in the theater. We saw it that Christmas because our youngest boy, Corey, brought home a bootleg copy on DVD when he came to visit. And we all watched it together. What strikes me is that the title is so appropriate in retrospect because that short time period was the last time we ever spent with him. He was gone a month later. Which has put things in perspective in terms of what I worry about and how I spend my time, especially with family. After that we moved from an island in the southeast about as far as you can go and still be in the US to an island in the Pacific NW.

Big Hero 6. 2014. I sat in a lobby with my grandsons, Riley and Haydn, last month, while our son, Craig, was defending his dissertation at UNC in Chapel (we moved from the PNW to the southeast for our first grandson’s birth– life and death, the cycle). His wife was in the room for moral support since she’s been at his side for the entire ordeal. The event comes to mind in terms of movies because Riley was watching Big Hero 6 on the iPad, being so good after such a hard journey and little sleep, and I held eight month old Haydn in my arms as he fell asleep. Between that, Riley watching his movie, and Craig accomplishing something he’s had his heart on for years and worked so hard for– that moment was one of the happiest in my life.

There are more, but those come to mind readily, with both good and bad memories. I imagine everyone uses certain movies to mark certain milestones or periods in their life?


Originally published at writeitforward.wordpress.com on February 19, 2016.

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