How Movies Changed My Life

It was a dark and stormy night … oh wait that’s not it.

It was the summer of 1975 in New Jersey, just a stones throw from Manhattan and temperatures were rising. Back then air conditioning was a luxury and here it is, muggy, in the high 80’s and my mom is ready to give birth at any minute. And remember this is the 70’s, they didn’t schedule births to nine months on the dot, they let it happen naturally. Apparently I wasn’t ready to join the real world yet, so I hung out a couple of extra weeks. Desperately needing to cool off, she decides to go to the movie theater to cool off. Jaws was the blockbuster hit of the summer so she picked that as her entertainment while she cooled down.

Now for those of you who have seen Jaws (and if you haven’t … what is wrong with you?) You know it’s not a relaxing movie what-so-ever. It is entertaining as hell, but it is tense and has a few of the all time great jump scares in it.  So the running joke in my family is that Jaws frightened me out of the womb. Now in all honesty we know that isn’t true, but it is a fun little story.

But it is something to say that movies have always been a part of my life. Two years later comes the next big blockbuster, a little space opera called Star Wars. Now for those of you with kids, you know how hard it is to watch a movie with children, especially a two year old. Well that movie must have been so entertaining to me that even as a toddler, I didn’t budge from my seat and stared in awe at the screen the whole time. From that moment on I was hooked on this “galaxy far, far away….”. I needed to have Star Wars everything. Sheets, toys, lunchboxes, puzzles, you name it.

As I got older and we got HBO, I was able to watch more movies than I could possibly imagine. Most of course were PG/PG-13, like Ghostbusters, Goonies or National Lampoon’s European Vacation, but occasionally I would stay up late and sneak in an R rated movie, mostly comedies like Caddyshack, Porky’s, Zapped! or The Last American Virgin. HBO was a great introduction so many movies I had never heard of. Then one night, while staying at my best friend’s house, we stayed up late and watched Aliens. Holy shit, I was blown away by this sci-fi action flick like you wouldn’t believe. It. Was. Awesome!

The next day I went home and told my dad all about it. His first reaction was, “That’s great, have you seen the original?” You see, I was probably twelve … I had no clue there was an original movie! He immediately walked down to the rental store and brought home Alien for me to watch. I was bored to tears by it. It was slow, albeit scary, but it wasn’t the action flick that had just blew my mind the night before. I didn’t get it. Needless to say, over the years I learned I was dumb and that Alien is by far my favorite film of the series. Aliens is still fun, but the original has such an intensity to it, that it is hard to top.

Early on in high school, I sadly got the chicken pox and it was awful. At one point in the week, I looked like Brundlefly. It was disgusting and I wanted to cry. I did cry. A lot. But, the week off from school allowed me to watch as many of my parents VHS tapes that I possibly could. Yeah I was totally looking for nude scenes, but I didn’t find as many as I expected to. However, it did introduce me to The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, which I did watch both all the way through, uninterrupted. Unlike everything else that I just scanned my way through looking for the good parts. Both films are long, slow and deliberate. But since I had nothing but time on my hands I was able to fully enjoy them. Part II might be the first time I saw two stories from two different eras being told at the same time, intertwined as one. It was fantastic.

Needless to say, movies have always been a part of my life, some for better and some for worse. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m glad I saw movies I didn’t like, it helped shaped me just as much as movies I did like. I only wish I could have seen more movies back then. I miss being able to watch one flick after the next with little to no sleep and not overthinking things about the plot and just enjoying them as they were. As I get older I find it increasingly more difficult to just sit down and enjoy a film without having to overthink them or judge them based on what I wanted to happen in them instead of what did happen. I just need to remember to sit back and watch them for what they are … pure entertainment.

Author: K. Alvarez

A king without a throne.