I’d like to pull back the curtain of mystery that in no way, shape or form surrounds me and write about something a little more personal this week. It’s only in the last several years that I truly realized my destiny as a film nerd, but the more I look back, the more I realize film has always played a substantial part in my life, and the more I recognize certain films, usually ones I watched till the tape broke as a young, half-formed film buff, as having influenced my tastes and interests in important ways, or being important watershed moments in my filmic life.
This is what this week is about, charting some of the early days of what would turn out to be a life steeped in film, if only to give you an idea of how this madness got dropped on you.
Bill Murray was a constant presence on in the filmic diet of my early years, much like Ryan Gosling is now, but for less dreamy reasons. Of course while things like Groundhog Day and Scrooged were always welcome, the top pick was always his most famous film, Ghostbusters.
Although it probably influenced my comic sensibilities (because I totally have those, right? Right?) a fair bit, I think this was probably the genesis of my love of horror and monster movies. My favorite scene was always when the containment unit was shutdown (“by dickless here”) and New York is beset by ghosts. I always wanted to see more of them and know what their deal is. What IS that thing screaming out of the subway, shrieking like Bea Arther caught in a bear trap? Who is that decaying cabby dude?
This is probably why I, like many people, have massive disdain for the EPA as well, but that’s another story.
You may have noticed that I’m quite keen on Japanese style transforming superheroes, especially given that I lowered FTB’s indie cred a considerable amount devoting an entire column to this malarkey. Guyver 2, to say nothing of good old Power Rangers, is probably responsible for this in a big way, being a fairly successful adaptation of a Japanese superhero comic and anime.
What got my attention, and had me watching it virtually every weekend as a young’n was….it’s fucking VIOLENT. And as a kid, finding a crazy violent, adult oriented superhero movie is like finding your dad’s nudie magazines. But with more monsters getting their skulls caved in.
Although I probably saw violent movies before this, Guyver 2 was still a big moment for me, a realization that maybe I could enjoy kung-fu supermen fighting rubber-suit monsters and be a grown-up too. Also that slicing open a mobster’s throat and burning my name into the wall behind him with lasers is totally an acceptable way to vent my anger.
Akira, a blood-soaked anime film based on the comic of the same name, was a watershed moment for a lot of North American anime fans, and I was no exception. But for me, Akira was important for a few reasons beside “Holy shit this cartoon has violence and boobs!”.
See, like a lot of anime, particularly ones from the 80s and 90s, Akira goes batshit insane in the third act. Like “What in God’s good name am I WATCHING” insane. But me, I had to figure it out. I had to understand.
So naturally, I watched the movie about a dozen or so times, as my friend who was working behind the counter at the time can attest, and then something amazing happened…..I got it. I formed an interpretation. For my adolescent brain, this was like climbing Everest. I had taken a film which seems to say “interpret this, asshole” and interpreted the hell out of it.
Akira taught me a lot of things. The power of animation as a mature art, that red motorcycles are fucking cool, but what I took away most from it is the power to look at what I’m seeing and think about it on a deeper level, to interpret the images I’m being shown rather than just take them at face value, which probably led me to writing this very column. So you all have Akira to blame for this.
Dark City. Dark fucking City. I could write a whole column on this movie, and almost have. To those of you who haven’t heard of it, which is shamefully most people, it’s a late-90s high concept genre movie that blends Film Noir, Sci-Fi, German Expressionism and a dash of Kafka for good measure. If you wanna know more…go watch the movie, man. It’s friggin awesome.
And as a teenager, this thing blew my mind. The aesthetics of it were something I’d never seen before, and I found myself appreciating it visually on a level I had never been to. From the first time I saw it, I knew the film was beautiful on a profound level, memorable and visually distinctive.
Although I already knew enough about film to know when a movie was really, really good, Dark City was probably the first movie I saw that I would classify as art. This was the first time I really appreciated the technical and artistic eye that had gone into making the film, as well as the storytelling.
Plus, y’know, it goes completely insane in the end and basically turns into a superhero movie. That was cool too.