Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whoops, wrong tape...

I assure you my mom has excellent taste in movies and has exposed me to many fine films. But those stories aren't as funny as the ones where she misfires and gets the entirely wrong movie.

In middle school, she rented for me and a friend a Snow White movie she was sure was the one I had watched on TV when I was a kid. It was the standard Snow White story with a few more of the Grimm elements thrown in (the evil queen uses a poison comb and a corsette to try and kill Snow White before resorting to the apple), but it wasn't overly dark. It was just a good live action telling of the tale meant for older kids and was really well done. I obviously remember it fondly.

But that's not what was grabbed in the video store. What she had grabbed was Snow White: A Tale of Terror. Snow White: A Tale of Terror goes beyond being Grimm, but goes full tilt into the horror genre.

It stars Sigourney Weaver as the Evil Queen, and tries to make elements of the story as "realistic" as they can be. For example, the dwarves aren't seven dwarves, but instead a band of robbers of varying heights, led by Ally McBeal's boyfriend Gil Bellows (or as I'll refer to him going forward, Dashing Thief). The thieves don't have cute names and all leer a little to much at Snow White.

Additionally, Snow White pretty much falls for Dashing Thief and he becomes the Prince Charming (what a twist!), with the actual prince being relatively wussy and hurled out a tower window towards the end. (Funny side story: My friend I was watching it with referred to the wuss Prince as "queer boy" towards the end as a joke. I thought she was saying Choir Boy and didn't get the joke about him being queer for like five minutes, mostly because she was whispering it in case my mom heard.)

A lot of crazy crazy stuff happens in the movie. I'll say the most notable scenes are:

-After receiving what she thinks is the heart of Snow White (in fact it's a boar's heart, as the original goes), Sigourney Weaver's character DANCES AROUND HER LAIR, rubbing it on her and cackling. Then she has it cooked into the castle's meal for the evening and acts totally shocked when someone reveals to her and the King (played by Sam Neil) that Snow White is dead/missing.

-Towards the end when Snow White and Dashing Thief are rushing to the castle to stop Sigourney Weaver, they find King Sam Neil crucified upside down (but still alive, hey!) at the castle entrance. This was a little awkward, as my friend was Catholic (I was raised not going to church of any kind, and am therefore a filthy heathen), and I was worried she'd be offended, but she didn't really react.

-The kicker has to be part of the final showdown between Snow White and Sigourney Weaver. Early in the movie, the Evil Queen becomes pregnant, but the baby ends up being still born. They burn it on a funeral pyre, and she mourns it for the rest of the movie. But it also makes her determined to kill Snow White to resurrect the baby (or something along those lines). Anyway, as Snow White enters the Lair, Sigourney Weaver is cradling a blanket and A CHARRED BABY ARM RAISES OUT OF THE BLANKETS. In case you hadn't guessed, the burned infant was partially brought back to life there.

Based on those scenes, I think it's safe to say mom rented the wrong movie.

Now, my mom was not fully aware of how weird it was getting, because she was going in and out of the living room, half watching it and half taking care of dinner and other stuff. As the insanity of the movie progressed, she was surprised that the movie she thought she had rented was so different from how it was remembered. Eventually, we all realized it was not the family friendly dark Snow White, but the batshit crazy Snow White.

My friend and I laughed for a while about that movie (I think our favorite part to retell was maybe the charred baby arm, just because, what the hell?)

Eventually, I did get a chance to rewatch that version of Snow White my mom was trying to rent, and it was still good. But it will never compare to the lunacy of Snow White: A Tale of Terror.

Come on, how can you goof these up?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Well, it was supposed to be fun.....

Sometimes, movies just don't live up to the hype. For example, I was all hyped up to see The Final Destination (I could take or leave the 3-D) mainly based on a scene featured in the commercials and trailer where a girl appears to be doomed to die in an automated car wash. I couldn't stop thinking about just how you could possibly die in an automated car wash since it just seemed so improbable. So, using some free passes, I dragged a friend to an early Friday showing, shelled out two bucks for some very Devo-esque 3-D glasses (crack that whip!), and settled in to watch the sexy young adults succumb to the most ridiculous deaths every committed to film (The Final Destination series trademark, for the uninitiated). The scene arrived, the girl's car stopped in the car wash and a series of unlikely mishaps within the car wash seemed destined to culminate in her inching slowly towards killer brushes (seriously). But, as it turns out (SPOILER!) she didn't die in the car wash, she was saved at the last minute and end up dying later in the movie. What a let down.

All this brings me to another very much helped film that I met with excitement and my mom thought it would be fun to take me and some friends to. As you may have guessed, it was a disappointment, but I don't think anyone was as disappointed as my mom by what we saw.

My neighborhood friends and I used to love watching "Son of Godzilla" when we were little. Compared to other Godzilla movies, some of which my dad had shown me, "Son of Godzilla" was pretty silly and wasn't really "scary." It cracked us up to no end, and we would watch it in my basement, rewinding the best parts (back in the day with the good ole VCR). We kind of liked other Godzilla movies, but by far the one I remember best and enjoy the best is Son of Godzilla.

So then the fancy Godzilla remake came out in 1998, my mom thought it would be a great idea to take me and the gang to theater to see it. It had all sorts of hype leading up to it. 7/11 or Taco Bell drink cups with the "new Godzilla" on them, who was much more dinosaur and lizard-like than the classic Japanese version. I think there toys floating around too, as well as tons of commercials. By the day we went, we were pretty amped up.

We got in the theater and I remember that we ended up being pretty close to the screen for some reason (it could have been close to opening weekend, but I lack any kind of ticket stub to tell you the precise day. oh well). The other things I remember about the movie? Being bored out of my little skull. It just took forever to get to the monster, and then you only ever saw parts of it like a foot or the head. Only once did we see Godzilla in all its supposed glory, the Brooklyn bridge in a brief wideshot (meant to prove how big it was I suppose). I know kids are supposed to like action, but it just kind of left me numb with all sorts of car chases and running around New York from a thing we barely saw. I do remember getting a kick out of Jean Reno's character in the film, a mysterious French guy trying to cover up the Godzilla mess (or something. It didn't really matter in the long term with the movie since it was supposed to be "Godzilla!" and ended up being "oh, Godzilla.") He was what I remember chatting about the most with my mom after the fact.

The movie ended, I think with a "Godzilla had babies!" twist, and we just left the theater in a flurry of chatter, but I don't know that any of us really liked it. I know my mom didn't. It wasn't just that she's not terribly into action movies, but the fact was she was hugely disappointed that it wasn't more fun for all of us.

To this day if it somehow comes up in conversation she'll always say "Man, I just really thought it would be a fun movie for you guys. You guys used to cackle at those Godzilla movies in the basement. What a let down."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oh my God, a Velociraptor! Get in the car!

I don't know why exactly my dad took me, my older brother (by close to six years), and my brother's friend to the movies one hot summer day. I remember my mom was picking up my official dance photos from my short lived tap career, leaving dad to tend to us. Whether I was tagging along, or no one bothered to check to see just what it was rated and made my brother take me along, I'll never know. But that was the day that I saw Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park is a classic and seminal film for many a young viewer, and it had a major impact on my life. But first, let's cover the experience itself:

It was hot, so just like in the days of old, we retreated to the nice, air-conditioned theater. We were about twenty minutes late, so I missed the initial scares in the opening scene and the setting up of the entire premise. We made it into the theater during the scene where they're watching a baby velociraptor emerge from an egg. Charmed by the little creature and completely unaware of the advertising about dinosaurs attacking people, I settled in for some kind of entertaining flick about people and dinosaurs. Maybe the dinos will talk!

Then, they go into the park and the thunderstorm hits. The power goes out. And the T. Rex attacks the kids in the car, and I'm pretty sure I lost it. I was terrified. And it just kept getting worse. The crazy spitting dinosaur showed up, the T. Rex attacks Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern in the car, everybody gets chased by everything, and the kids get cornered in the kitchen by some terrifying as hell veliciraptors. I remember crouching down during that scene in my chair, covering my head with my arms and kicking the hell out of the seat in front of me, in a futile attempt to fight off the raptors. (It must have been a midday showing pretty far into the run because the theater was mostly empty, thus no patron yelling at me to stop kicking their damn seat).

Now, I was only seven when I saw this, so as far as plot points were concerned, I was utterly confused. I just knew that dinosaurs were everywhere, they weren't friendly, and they ate Samuel L. Jackson. Which is why, at the end when they're all cornered again by viscious raptors, and the T. Rex shows up to "save" the day (sort of) and the raptors start jumping up and biting the T. Rex, I called out "The babies are helping!" I apparently lost track of the fact that the raptors were menacing Sam Neil and Co. mere seconds earlier. But to be honest, I was bewildered.

I left the theater knowing three things: First, Jeff Goldblum was the coolest person ever, but I couldn't figure out why; Second, dinosaurs were pretty cool even when they ate people; and third, I wanted to do whatever Sam Neil did for a living. I wanted to be a paleontologist.

Also, that very night I lay wide awake in bed in the early evening as the sun was setting picturing a T. Rex walking down the street. I was feeling a combo of fear about the T. Rex, but also a moment of "Holy crap, wouldn't that be ridiculously cool? I hope a T. Rex walks down the street."

I had a hard time remembering how to spell paleontologist, so every "What do you want to be when you grow up?" assignment required the teacher asking "A what? Oh, I'll check how to spell it." Somewhere, there are tons of assignments from the first and second grade about my wanting to be a paleontologist.

My parents were really supportive of my interest. I got all sorts of dinosaur books and activities for my birthday and Christmas and a subscription to a kid's dino magazine that sent you a piece of dinosaur skeleton with every issue to assemble (so keep asking mom and dad to renew kids!). The coolest toy though had to be one where they had a few pieces of dino skeleton embeded in clay that you had to carefully excivate and glue together to complete it. It was a very cool activity, and we displayed the finished item for quite a while on one of our bookshelves. I also hauled around books about dinosaurs and carried rocks around in a fanny pack (much tom my mom's dismay. She thought I would trip, land on the rocks and crush my stomach or something. Oh moms.).

Jurassic Park did more than define a career path (for a while anyway). It also brought me my best friend in the whole wide world. One day in the second grade, I was wearing a Jurassic Park T. Rex t-shirt. I happened to be sitting behind her, and she turned around to pass a paper or something and said "Hey, cool t-shirt."
"Thanks, I really liked the movie."
"Me too!"

And the rest was history. We used to play Jurassic Park on the playground with a bunch of other kids, play with the action figures at each other's houses, and generally have a grand time. And we're best friends to this day.

So thank you Steve Speilberg and the team behind Jurassic Park for temporarily scarring me for life, then giving me an early career path and a best friend. Those people may have been torn apart by dinosaurs, but they helped bring me together with science and new friends.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Possibly my earliest movie memory....

Hello and welcome to the first entry of Oh My God, Rewind That! I've found throughout my life and movie-watching career that I don't just remember movies, I remember them, with a nerdy love for memorizing the words or images I've just experienced and then a desperate need to tell everyone what I've just seen (even if they were right there with me).

That need to re-experience and retell inspired me to begin the blog o' movie memories, wherein I detail a viewing experience I remember from my recent or distant past and what made it so memorable, be it the movie itself or the context in which it was viewed. There will undoubtedly be spoilers, and I will try to make sure I post a warning (sorry in advance for any slip ups. And by the way, the butler did it).

So with the awkward introductions out of the way, let's get to one of the first movies I've ever seen, probably my favorite movie, and a undeniable classic in cinema history: The Wizard of Oz.

I don't remember the exact first time I ever saw the movie, but I know I watched it countless times from approximately the age of three onward (it was in its heaviest rotation from roughly ages three to seven-ish or so).

The highlights for me were easily everything the Scarecrow did and the Cowardly Lion freaking out at the first meeting with the Great and Powerful Oz and running down a hall and jumping out a window. I loved Glinda, and Toto and the journey and everything about the movie as a whole. Even the terrifying Wicked Witch of the West and the Flying Monkeys, which didn't terrify me as much as some other people, were so cool to me.

The one thing that upset me the most (and stands out in my memory) was toward the end when Dorothy misses the balloon home to Kansas. Something about that scene used to just crush me, and I would cry pretty much every time. I remember one time when I watched that part, then walked out to my mom in the kitchen when she was making dinner. I remember being real quiet and sad. "What's wrong?" my mom asked.

"She missed the balloon again," I replied in that sad little three-year old voice.

"Oh, honey, you know she makes it home every time. Go finish the movie."

Sure enough, I went back out and hey! Glinda was there! And it was all good again. Dorothy clicked her heels and she was home.

I've watched it many times since then of course, and it never loses anything for me. It still makes me smile, makes me a little sad, and makes me hum "If I Only Had a Brain" for a week after.