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.