We all started someplace in our film viewing lives that brought us to whatever point we as individuals may currently be at.
For me it was insomnia as a little kid and watching Movies ‘til Dawn and KTLA and seeing all the classic Monster movies and watching Elvira on KCAL, watching the Million Dollar Movie on KABC. Then I saw Gone with the Wind and my opinion changed about films, this wasn’t the Sci-Fi I saw at the Drive In with my family, this was epic and human. When I was 13 I saw the Godfather and Godfather Part II, and then I found myself checking out more serious films when they came on HBO, Cinemax and Showtime. I never got around to reading a list of things to watch, I watched what looked interesting and what looked interesting started to evolve.
1991 was kind of the Hallmark year for Film for me. One night I couldn’t sleep and Showtime showed a preview to Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, so I pulled out a old VHS tape with three movies recorded at SLP and I watched Apocalypse Now for the first time. I sat in the rocking chair a foot from the 32-inch screen and rocked for two and half hours as the film washed over me. It remains my favorite film. Also that year I saw Europa Europa, the first Foreign Language film I really paid attention too. Then over Thanksgiving when I stayed home while my family visited other family, I rented a bad horror film, Popcorn, an okay comedy, Steve Martin’s L.A. Story, and a gangster flick, Miller’s Crossing. There was no turning back from film at that point.
What’s your story?
2008. Spring. 16 years old. I stumble across this strange little site called Criticker. I was bored, decided I might as well rank everything I’ve watched for the hell of it. Less that a hundred films or so. Hmm. Might as well go watch some more. Could be kinda interesting maybe. For the next few months I watch a few flicks a week. Action movies, scifi and comedies mainly. One evening, alone at home I see a copy of American Beauty sitting on the shelf. It’s rated eighteeen and has nudity on the front – how could I resist? Two hours later I was in awe. I’d never watched a film that actually made me care about its characters and their troubles like that, nor had the thought crossed my mind that drama could be so engaging. The fire was lit, and though now I do not hold American Beauty in any particular regard (it’s good, but certainly nothing amazing), I will always respect that it kicked me off down this garden path.
I started to try out all sorts of different stuff. Many films expanded my taste, many films I look back on my liking of back then with a sign of embarrassment and many I would not grasp till later on (alas Wild Strawberries, Seven Samurai and The Godfather Part II I love now, but I did not love then). As far as the first point goes there are three films more to add to American Beauty that expanded my taste and opened my mind. The Fountain showed me that a film’s concerns did not have to be purely narrative, in this case they were thematic and aesthetic. Pan’s Labyrinth showed me that actually non-English language films were every bit the equal of English language ones (the problem beforehand wasn’t that I had any trouble with subtitles, but more that I just hadn’t tried watching a film with them). 12 Angry Men showed me that actually black and white was pretty darn good as was dialogue. And oh how the floodgates opened.
Ah, you’ve hit on the truth of our existence- our lives are but a film created by advanced beings, and can be ended with the flick of a switch or current or simply a thought. For we are helpless in the great void of space, the unknown, comforted by our ludicrous fancies
In the beginning was Bach and Mickey Mouse, and dinosaurs and the devil
Then came Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the majestic domes of cumulo-nimbus with new worlds in the sky and the evil childcatcher who sent shivers down the spine and tears down the face.
Then came The Great Escape and what an adventure it was. Then El Cid, North by Northwest, Top Hat and a season of Fred Astaire.
Then came French films of the 30s, Renoir
Later came John Kobal’s book 100 Top Movies, and wondrous discoveries and the obsession leading to Sansho the Bailiff.
And now there’s the wizened spectral features, the darkened eyes, the gaunt expression, the bloated yet withered frame and the yearning for lost time and sunlight instead of darkened rooms.
1985- Running around in cape and fangs in the Bronx at my grandparents’ house pretending to be Christopher Lee. Later in a gray pinstripe suit, hat and cap gun impersonating James Cagney.
It all started with The Empire Strikes Back. Yes, seeing Star Wars, Grease and Superman at the age of 8 were enjoyable diversions for a child, but something clicked when I saw Empire. The great popcorn movies had captured my 10 year-old imagination and I returned to that same film at least eight more times. Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., The Blues Brothers and the like became staples of my early teens. Then I started reading Ebert. The 1985 edition of his home video companion opened my eyes to film as something more than just entertainment (although I hope never to lose the childlike wonder of those early entertainments.) At 16, my tastes were expanded by two very different films: Tommy and Taxi Driver. In college, I discovered Coppola, Hitchcock, Allen, Altman and Kubrick. I was quickly becoming an addict. It was Pulp Fiction that sealed the deal. With that film, my eyes were opened as to just how varied film influences can be. Low-brow can stand beside high-brow. An entire world of non-English language cinema was now open (Thank you Kurosawa!) I’m still on that journey and still learning thanks to sites like this one.
So there i was ,an lonely alienated teenager filled with narcissistic self loathing ,when around 1 in the morning the seventh seal materialized literally out of nowhere in-front of me.now it might say something about the comparable levels of narcissistic self loathing inherent in bergmans most sophomoric work ,that it struck such a profound note but there you go.
2008. November. I was home sick, and Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate happened to be OnDemand. I remember my graphic design teacher had recommended the remake to me, because she said that the plot of the movie was similar to Obama’s life (she was a bit of a conspiracy theorist). Even though it was the original version, I decided to watch it anyway, and was blown away. It was a marvel for me, it expressed everything that I had wanted in my movies but never got.
Next I decided to rent Citizen Kane from Netflix to see if it was really the greatest film of all time, within two minutes I was nailed to my chair. Lawrence of Arabia followed, then Apocalypse Now, then 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Godfather, and there was no returning to the mainstream from there.
The great irony is that I got into movies because I was as Liamallen described, a lonely, alienated teenager filled with narcissistic self-loathing, and I wanted to see on the screen what was missing out on in life. If anything, the cinema has made me worse because it corrupted me at far too young of an age. Although, I’m not as anti-social anymore.
For once, I don’t regret being older than you guys.
The voyage of discovery was longer and had some different stops when I was a child going to Saturday matinees at local theatres: Lash LaRue, Abbott and Costello, half a dozen or more cartoons, a travelogue to provide time to go out for more Tootsie Rolls or Jujy Fruits, and a serial!
From time to time, there would be a double feature of “reissues”: Stagecoach and The Long Voyage Home, Gunga Din and The Lost Patrol, Robin Hood, The Thief of Bagdad, Westerns, Swordfight movies, and Gangster pictures (we didn’t find out till years later that we were seeing classic film noir). Going downtown to the big Paramount, Loews, and RKO theatres to see the cool new cowboy movies like Red River and Fort Apache. We were auteurists in the making before we had any idea what a director was.
Let me point out here that this was still the time of Nitrate prints. Of course we didn’t know anything about that for a long time. I have been lucky to see a number of original nitrates as an adult, and let me tell you, it makes all movies look better: the blacks are blacker, the whites are whiter, and every subtle shade in between is clearer and sharper. Nitrate was indeed the Stuff That Dreams are made of.
A couple time a year, my local theatre showed a trailer for a foreign movie. They were strictly adults only which didn’t bother most of us, but I really wanted to see Bitter Rice with Silvana Mangano working in the rice paddies with her skirt tucked in at the waist, displaying long, luscious legs. I finally got to see a French movie called Justice is Done, very mature and sophisticated, but not as sexy as I had hoped.
Later, moving to NYC was like going to heaven; there were revival houses, special screenings of foreign and silent films, and best of all 42nd Street! Before it became Disneyland North, even before it was the porn capitol of the Big Apple, 42nd Street was a place where for a buck a shot you could see double features of all types until 4 A.M.
And what a treat it was in the mid-sixties, when it started to be accepted that those Ford, Hawks, and Hitchcock pictures we loved were just as great Art as anything with subtitles!
When I was young, unbeknownst to myself, we did not have alot of money. Truth be told we probably didn’t have any, my father was career service and was not home often and only for short periods of time. When he did come home he always worked a second job waiting for him somewhere. As little as I was and no exsposure to anything different one excepts this as normal. There was no money to go to the movies, this was a luxury we could apparently ill afford. My learning curve began with what was available on TV. Million Dollar Movie on WOR and other stations I really do not remember. Westerns and sci-fi were my first great love, they took me to places I had never seen and to worlds that left me breathless. Forbidden Planet is the first film I clearly remember that began to show me that sci-fi could be more than spaceships and monsters. I still cherish that film and the memories it brings back. Godards’ Weekend which I saw at a film club when I was older was the film that sent me on my quest to discover more about film critically and technically. I still remember the impact the end credits of Weekend had on me, The End of Cinema, now there was something to think about.
For me it was a process. Disney and revivals that used to come to theaters in the days before home video—James Bond films—“Kung Fu Theatre”—Star Wars—Chuck Norris films of the late ’70s and earlier ’80s—Hitchcock and Westerns on TV—getting the cable TV and our first VCR.
I was real young when I started to get into movies. I think the first real memory of loving cinema was seeing Thr Nightmare Before Christmas in the theatre when I was seven and ever since then I got into films like Star Wars and Indiana Jones and similar films. But I think it was when I was 13 or 14 that everything just started working. It must have been ’98 or ’99 I think when I was at the blockbuster where I really wanted to see something different. I had heard about A Clockwork Orange so that was one of the three films I rented. The other two were Kurosawas Seven Samurai and Bergmans The Seventh Seal. I stayed up all night and watched all three. Thas when I realized I was kind of hooked
Thank you for the stories, it’s interesting to see how we have all got here.
I think I accidentally flagged your post uli cain. I’m sorry. I’m using my iPhone and sometimes I accidentally hit stuff
somewhere around december 2008 (18 years old) i bought ‘1001 movies you must see before you die’. about 1000 movies later since then, here i am!!
why aren’t you dead then
of course ,one more film to go.
because i haven’t watched them all. from that list only around 600. the book was just the boost!
I don’t think there is any one particular point in my life where I suddenly became interested in film. It was more of a slow process, going from “neat entertainment” to “good movies” to “let’s make a movie!” all in about a 5 year period between age 10 and 15 or so. It all started with those classic 1960’s war movies, plus Star Wars and Indiana Jones, I watched as a child. After that it was a fairly logical progession.
Star Wars was the first film I saw in theaters, and the first on I remember seeing. I believe it came out in May, ‘77, so I wasn’t quite three yet, but I was hooked. My father would take my brother and I to Saturday matinées of the latest Godzilla or Harryhausen flick, and of course the big events like Raiders and E.T. Occasionally the whole family would get out for a drive-in movie, which is how I saw Superman, Conan the Barbarian (yes, I was probably too young, but don’t worry about that part right now).
By the time VHS rolled into our homes I was a genre hound—I watched every horror film I could get my hands on, and a fair share of sci-fi. Really the only respectable director I liked at a young age was Kubrick.
By the time DVD rolled around I thought I had top-notch taste in film (though I still thought Kubrick was it).
By the time TheAuteurs rolled around I was ready to open the floodgates into my open mind and really find out what this thing called film was all about.
The lesson continueth today. Thank you.
I believe I responded to a thread similar to this a while back, but I’ll leave some comments here as well. The first film I remember and it was one I saw in a theater was Star Wars. I was around five when that came out. I think when I started seeing films like Star Wars again and again on video and t.v. and then seeing films like 8 1/2 and Citizen Kane plus books like Filmmakers on Filmmaking by Geduld, ( I think that was the name of the author I read! ), Understanding Movies by Louis Gianetti and the Film Director by Richard L. Bare did I start to understand how filmmaking worked and that film was not just entertainment but an art and a craft. There were other films that have moved me as well such as La Dolce Vita, Weekend, Apocalypse Now, Hitchcock and Kubrick films and as time passed films such as The Conformist, L’avventura, Throne of Blood and Shame. And even then there are more films I could add that are just as good. I guess it’s an ongoing process. I think, to a certain extent, I am hoping and I am seeing films that take me into new directions and perspectives of seeing things.
For me, it started with Fantasia. The magical Disney cartoon left open a door that can never be closed. I was about seven, and I began to ingest film. I saw 2001 and A Clockwork Orange much too young (my father had left the Stanley Kubrick collection lying around), which lead me to want to understand them. And onto the Internet I went…
When I was just into double digits, my parents entered tons and tons of competitions, successfully winning everything from lunchboxes and thermoses to holidays. During this time, the only films I got to see were at one of our local multiplexes and were generally previews at 10am (or earlier) on Sunday mornings. My brother’s a few years younger than me, so we would only go to U and PG rated family friendly dross. The Santa Clause, The Indian in the Cupboard and the Pagemaster I recall being particular offenders. On holiday though, the family went to see Toy Story. For reasons I can’t fathom now, I hated it and the rest of the family loved it. My Mother was particularly incensed by my lack of appreciation, and told me that since I was being so unappreciative that she would not take me to see anything ever again. I said that I thought everything I’d seen lately had been terrible and I was just being honest about my opinions. Arguments ensued.
A day or two later, my Dad bought me a copy of Empire magazine, and told me that I oughtn’t write off going to the cinema simply because I hadn’t liked what I’d been seeing. In that issue, there were maybe sixty or seventy getting released, and I had heard of about five of them. Shortly before all this, my parents had decided that I was old enough to take the underground from the suburbs back into central London, so I circled a few things in Empire, checked the listings in Time Out and went on my way. Bare in mind, I was 12 at this point, but London has never, in my experience, cared about ratings on films. So that first day I went down and caught Fargo and Seven, both 18 rated*, on my own. Those were also not the films I reported to have seen to my parents. But I realised that I could go see anything I wanted, and that there were decades of film that I could explore. Thanks to uncaring box office staff, and the incredible programming at places like Riverside Studios, Prince Charles, Curzon West End (now Soho) and many others, my love of film has been irreversible. And I still have both of those ticket stubs from that day!
*for those unfamiliar with the UK rating system, there are 12, 15 and 18 rated films, and unlike in the US, if you are not that age, regardless of if you are with a parent or not, you are not legally allowed to see them under any circumstances!
The first film I remember seeing in the theater was 2001 back when I was four or so. My parents must have heard a lot of buzz surrounding the film and decided to see what it was all about since they normally wouldn’t have gone to see something like that. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it made a big impression on me although I certainly couldn’t say I understood it, or maybe I could since I wasn’t able to rationalize any of it or make intellectual demands, maybe the undiluted emotional force the film had was as good a way to experience it as could be imagined…a moot point, but it may explain where my love of film came from even though the next ten years or so were spent watching whatever I could on TV. I loved horror movies like The Deadly Mantis, Monolith Monsters, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Wolfman and all the rest of the classics. I also dug Errol Flynn and Jerry Lewis movies and would feign sickness and stay home from school on days when the afternoon feature film was one of theirs I hadn’t seen before. (I kind of miss the emotions films could generate at that age. When you’re young something like Beneath the Planet of the Apes or Frankenstein: The True Story could have an impact that is hard to match nowadays.)
When I was in 5th or 6th grade my parents made the mistake of giving me a small black and white tv for my bedroom, this guaranteed I would stay up until 3am almost every night watching Dr. Who, The Thrillseekers and whatever movie would be played on the late show afterward. This gave me a abiding fixation on films from the 30s through the 60s as I became hooked on Bette Davis, Olivia DeHavilland, Cagney, Fonda, and whoever else was on. I also was a devoted Laurel and Hardy fan and enjoyed The Little Rascals and The Bowery Boys shorts which I would watch with my dad on Sunday mornings. I soon discovered there were some pretty racy films out there, like those pre-code Eddie Cantor flicks, and as I was in my early adolescence, I came to appreciate that part of films as well. I learned to scan the Catholic Bulletin for their weekly film ratings and keep mental notes of all the ones they condemned to be sure not to miss them, which meant lots of Public Television watching back when they used to show things like the I, Claudius series or Swept Away. This covert deviancy got me hooked on films like The Graduate, Woman Times Seven and other films by better directors, although I didn’t really know much about that at first, and that interest led me to start checking out all the films books I could from the library to further my knowledge of what films were out there. It was this period that got me hooked on films like The 49th Parallel and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a public television staple.
By the time cable TV became available and we had our first VCR, when I was around 14, I was a full fledged junkie. At about the same time, I met a friend who’s parents were as permissive as mine, but who also were interested in art films. He took me along to see The Tin Drum and Aguirre, the Wrath of God which opened a whole new area of film to me. Soon he and I would be going to the local art/revival house at least once a week and usually more since they had different double features almost every night, or we would check out whatever looked cool downtown which we could get to by bus. Stuff like Breaking Away, or particularly All That Jazz which we saw six weeks in a row, paying for a ticket to see something else and then going in to All that Jazz after the other film was over. On the nights we wouldn’t go to the theater, we rented movies, five at a time, every other day or so and watched what we could on cable too.
By the time I could drive, my friends and I would go see films at the theater even more often, culminating in 1985 when we saw every new movie that was released to the theaters in Minneapolis and the surrounding area, except, for reasons unknown, Red Sonja, which we missed somehow. Needless to say, that level of mania couldn’t, and need I say shouldn’t, last, but by that time it was entirely apparent that permanent moviegeekdom was going to be my curse.
My friend went on to work in the film industry, as did a few of my other acquaintances in varying capacities, but, oddly, I never really felt a strong urge to make films at all. I was much more drawn to those that wrote about films. So, I guess that’s why I’m on here rather than doing something more productive with my time, and I guess those early years of staying up all night are why I keep those same hours still. I can’t say my love of film has led me to any great external reward, mostly it means I’m one of those people who rains on the parades of those who swoon over the current trendy cultural phenomenon while searching in vain to find people to talk to about the hits of ‘43 or whatever, but since I’ve never been much of a joiner anyway, I guess that isn’t so bad. I just wish there was more cash in it since this habit hasn’t made me a very wealthy man.
There you go, way more than anyone would ever want to know about my life and movie watching history.
Although always a fan of late night films since I was little and a fan of British and sub-titled films I saw on tv (mostly Janus films, funnily enough) from early teens, I came of age as a cinephile when watching Blow-Up in a movie theatre in Toronto when I was around 20. Watched it once, then twice, then stayed and watched it again. (They didn’t kick me out between screenings). I was mesmerized. Wrote my parents a long, rambling letter with my theories about it, which I am sure they were thrilled to receive. Saw a Bergman retrospective same year, then Marat/Sade. Started buying books on Bergman, Antonioni, Resnais and the like. A little latter, saw 2001 in a packed theatre and fell in love with contemplative cinema. It’s been a magnificent journey ever since.
I love how Sci-Fi and Monster flicks appear to be the gateway drug to more serious films.
^Yes, and I still love them!
I’ve relayed this experience in a “Where Did Your Love Of Film Start” topic, but It wasn’t until 2008 I took film seriously and it wasn’t till 2009 I was a film addict. Of course before 2008 I was first inspired by film by seeing Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Eraserhead which are some of my all time favorites today and show the full power of film as an art form.