The first movie I ever cried at was The Lion King. The moment when Mufasa died was the first moment I remember putting myself into a character’s shoes, and pictured losing my dad.
Last week, I saw the Oscar-nominated film, The Descendants. Silent tears leaked out as I felt the hypothetical, unfathomable depth of sorrow, torment, and pain of losing my spouse.
Nothing has changed in these experiences, except my ability to recognize the nuances of these films.
When I was a young high-schooler I had a couple girlfriends who I spent a lot of time with. We had many sleepovers, late night talks, and watched a lot of movies together. We watched movies like One Fine Day, Singin’ in the Rain, and other Gene Kelly musicals. In other words, happy movies. I remember a conversation with them, in particular, where they said they didn’t like watching movies that made them sad. I didn’t necessarily share this same view, but could not articulate it quite yet.
Fast forward a couple years and I had been hanging out with a different group of people. This group contained my current best girlfriend and my future husband. In other words, we were kindred spirits. I was hanging out with people who, at a young age, were searching for things with deeper meaning. We were a group of young cinema lovers who watched a film almost every time we were together. They forced me to watch horror films that terrified and thrilled me at the same time. The girls made the guys watch romantic movies which lead us to some meaningful conversations about love and human relationships. At that time (like most of us), I had far fewer responsibilities than in my adult life. I would often be up alone at 2 am watching black and white films from the Golden Age of cinema on TCM. These films, along with the cinematic escapades of my friends, shaped my worldview and my psyche. I was very aware of the influence that Alfred Hitchcock had on the horror/mystery genre (or all film for that matter), or that Abbot and Costello and the Three Stooges had on comedy.
In recent years I have been studying film and am planning a career in film composing. I am a musician who writes music to tell a story and evoke emotion in the viewer. I wish I could say that after my years of study I am an expert who can look at a work with objectivity, but I cannot. I still watch movies like Letters to Juliet, which was widely considered a cheap, sappy romance, and love every minute. I watched that film twice in the theater and felt no guilt. On the other hand, I watch artsy, esoteric films like, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Brick, and Moon and completely love them as well.
Where is the line between the two?
How does my mood, location, and position in life affect my relationship to the art I consume?
These are questions I constantly ask myself. Because of my lack of equal temperament toward film, I have determined that I could never be a film executive making decisions for the market, or discerning what success means. I have not lived any part of my life yet where I can be objective toward this art form. I’m happy not being the one signing the checks and placing a monetary value on movies. I am much happier making them and enjoying them.
I freely accept and admit that my emotions dictate my love for film. I enjoy them much more because of this. Just give me a glass of chardonnay and the Notebook, and all will be right in my world.
My personal shelf of guilty-pleasure movies includes/but is not limited to:
What’s on your list?