How Movies Changed My Life

When William Dhalgren first pitched this series a few weeks back, I was immediately on board because it combined two of my favorite things: reading about movies and talking about movies.

That excitement quickly faded the second I realized I would have to somehow put into words how important films are to me. Films are more than just escapism for me, they are more than just a hobby. My passion for all things celluloid far exceeds the textbook definition of obsession and while Eskimos might have fifty words for snow, there’s only about ten for love, and none of them come close to accurately describing it.

I believe it was Kurosawa who summed it up perfectly with the quote “Me – Film = Nothing”. While I’ve never been a fan of quoting other people, that pretty much nails it. It’s not my favorite thing in the world, it is my world or rather, it is me. As important as water is to fish or vans are to pedophiles, it’s an extension of my being I can’t live without.

Put simply: film is my soul and watching them is like going to church. I’ve worshiped at the alter of almighty cinema for so long, I don’t remember my life without it. So to ask me how films changed my life is like asking a devout Christian how different their lives would be without God or asking a blind man what he’d do with sight. It’s an impossible question to answer.

I could however, talk about the films that have made the biggest impact on me but the problem is, I don’t think there are any. Movies have been apart of my life for so long that it’s impossible for me to pinpoint the film that got me obsessed in the first place. I unfortunately don’t have that stereotypical Star Wars experience that turned me into a fanboy or that one revelatory viewing that lead me to discovering new films or exploring new genres.

I mean, I could regale you with stories like how I watched Young Frankenstein and Follow That Bird so many times as a young boy that I could perfectly reenact any scene in those films, even with the sound off, or the time I saw Child’s Play at my cousin’s house and it scared me so badly that when I went to my local video store to rent a game a couple months later with my mom, I apparently blacked out when I looked up to see a ceiling covered in Chucky dolls. But outside of those specific moments, I don’t think those films made much of an impact on me outside of being funny enough to imitate and scary enough to give me nightmares.

And although I don’t think they count for an article like this due to me already loving films when I first watched them, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs did inspire me to become a director but since I didn’t nor do I think I ever will, I don’t think they’ve changed my life so much as create a fantasy that makes me feel good to think about. What Tarantino‘s films did for me, is not dissimilar from what the lottery does for broke ass dreamers—it created an unrealistic goal (filmmaker) that’s fun to think about but didn’t impact my life too much outside of that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of his work and I doubt I would’ve discovered as many films as I have without him but that’s mostly due to him, not his movies. He turned me onto a shit ton of overlooked foreign classics and underrated gems I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, but that was through his interviews. His films may be overstuffed with shit ripped from other films but there’s not a single music cue or visual flourish or unknown actor I’ve liked in one of his films that inspired me to find out what film they were from. I either got the reference or I didn’t. I see no point in hunting for shit I’ll eventually find myself.

But I guess he’s as good a jumping off point as any because like I said, his passion for every kind of cinema turned me on to some movies I had never seen or heard of before. Long before I discovered the work of Danny Perry, Tarantino was my lighthouse guiding me through the fog of Hollywood garbage and while his recommendations weren’t always the best (I will never see what he sees in Hollywood Man or 2011’s The Three Musketeers), his obsession in highlighting the obscure really resonated with me. Which, to anyone who’s read any of my Films I Saw articles could tell, became a life long passion of mine as well.

My love of film eventually grew into an obsession with the obscure which in turn became a quest. A quest to find the best unknown film in existence. Which isn’t as easy or as fun as you’d imagine. Not unlike a truffle farmer sifting through pounds of shit in order to find one useable mushroom, I’ve dedicated many hours going through the worst of the worst to find those hidden gems no one’s ever heard of before. Those amazing rarities the world somehow forgot that now belong to me because I’m one of the few that discovered it. But it’s more than just finding something rare for the bragging rights. It’s the chance to share my discoveries with everyone around me and while very few actually watch the crazy shit I recommend, the ones that do make it worth it.

I can’t answer how much movies mean to me or how they’ve changed my life because they mean so much to me, that it’s impossible for me to answer and I can’t properly articulate why I have an obsession with the obscure when I know almost no one will watch what I recommend nor can I tell you which film has had the biggest impact on me because I’ve loved them for so long, I can’t remember but I can tell you this: as long as I’m living and as long as I have at least one functioning eye, I will continue to watch films because that’s what I do.

I watch movies.