Hello, friends. We have a question for you.
What is the first movie you remember seeing? More specifically, what is the first movie you remember seeing in a movie theater?
That’s our theme for today’s entry, the final Friday entry for the month of August. We invite you to comment below and tell us about those films. Are they still well-loved movies for you?
That theme is not all we want to talk about today, however. We found another theme between us. And it happened quite by happenstance. Through the many discussions we three nerds have had about film in the time it took us to decide to follow through with this particular project, we discovered something that we did not know before. Something that would have a year ago seemed like a happy coincidence, but now seems like “a sign”. It’s a silly thing to even consider now, but, perhaps the universe is now telling us that we were always meant to one day join forces and create this blog.
By way of explaining exactly what we’re talking about, we submit this snippet from our team Q and A. Aaron asked Karen the following question: Think of a movie that you like because of the experience of watching it for the first time.
Karen’s answer made Greg and Aaron both pause for just a moment:
“You’re going to laugh. No, really. The first film I thought of was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I’m not even kidding. Summer of 1991. I’m 12. A few months shy of 13. High school looms large and exciting and terrifying (but not for another year). I’m surrounded by my best friends on one of those star-lit, somewhat muggy, smell-of-the-fields-perfect Illinois summer nights. We’re at the Harvest Moon Drive-In running around, getting into trouble, crossing the highway for Pizza Hut, lying on blankets. Watching the opening night of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I’ve always been a sucker for historical (-ish) fiction on the screen, but add a cheesy love story to that? AND Kevin Costner? My 12-year old brain, surrounded by my friends on one of those perfect Illinois nights could barely comprehend how full of joy I was. Full of pre-teen angst, too. . . sure. But also, so much joy. And I will always have a soft spot for that film, forevermore.”
Greg and Aaron both loved this answer. They are both nostalgic and fond of this movie, too. But. . . they were both also there. At the Harvest Moon Drive-In. On the opening night of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Which, we suppose, is not so odd in a small town, but this factoid becomes prescient for us now because Aaron hadn’t met either one of the others yet.
This theme, this idea that we were meant to do this together really began to formulate for Greg while he answered the questions in our group Q and A. It seems that, totally and completely on accident, we had all asked (essentially) the same question of the others. These questions all rotated around the idea of trying to remember the first movies we had ever seen. It seemed to Greg (and we’ll allow him to expound on this idea more in his answers) that something cosmic was pointing all of us in the same direction.
Aaron asked Greg the same question that he asked Karen above. Greg’s response:
“Easy. Gotta be E.T.. . . No, wait. . . Raiders of the Lost Ark. . . No, wait. . . Jurassic Park. . . No, wait. . . E.T.. Seriously: E.T..
In 2016, I challenged myself to complete a Greg’s Top 100 movie countdown that would span the entire year. The whittling-down process consumed me for the first two months of the year, but, in my mind, I knew that E.T. would be right up there in the Top Three. The reason was, and still is, simple: E.T. was the first movie I saw in the movie theater. At the tender age of five. Even today, I have vivid memories of laughing, crying, being terrified (that damned cornfield scene. . . ) and insert any other emotion here. Other early memories of movies are checkered and scant at best, but I’ve never forgotten how I felt about seeing that little Play-doh-ey guy running around and then leaving us forever. . . little bastard. Since then, I go into every movie I see for the first time looking to feel something. . . anything. . . an emotion different than the one I first entered the theater or living room feeling. ‘That’s all I have to say about that,’ said Forrest Gump.”
Later in the interview, Aaron asked Greg the following question, a question that Greg had, by accident, already answered: What is the very first movie that you remember seeing?
Greg again: “Well, shit. I guess I need to read these questions through before I begin to answer them, because I already answered this one at the beginning. However, I will add another early movie memory to fulfill the requirement of answering the question. I am a horror lover through and through. I’d call it a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel guilty about scanning Netflix in the wee hours to find some schlock that I can pick apart ’cause it just ain’t scary enough. So. . . my mom dropped my brother and I off at Wing’s Cinema in Rantoul, IL when I was probably 6 or 7. He was a teenager. It was a Disney movie, and it was called Something Wicked This Way Comes. It was a film based on a Ray Bradbury novel about a couple of kids who visit a traveling carnival that has elephants and clowns and carousels, and on the side, it sells dreams for a stiff price. Yeah, there are evil spirits and nightmares and spiders. . . big ones. . . So, that night, and for about two weeks later, I checked under my bedsheets to make sure there were no tarantulas crawling around. I didn’t want to see a single one, let alone about a hundred! Oh, remember when I said this was a Disney movie? Yeah, I wasn’t kidding. Dudes…Disney went through a dark period in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I’m tellin’ ya’.”
Imagine Greg typing away that answer on his laptop, in his garage with a Captain and Coke. Now imagine the look on his face when he opened up the email from Karen that contained the following question: What is the first film you remember seeing in a movie theater? What is the first film you remember seeing in a movie theater that you loved? How do you think these films have affected the way you see the world?
Greg’s response: “I’m going to make a small joke that I feel is amusing and not intended to upset the other authors of this blog in the slightest: Clearly, all three of us should’ve read all of the questions and answers posed to each of us by each of the others before proceeding – ha! Aaron has noted that we all have a lot going on and we all are still swimming in the murky waters of starting up this endeavor, but, on a different note, all of our questions were rooted in a certain similarity that suggests the three of us were all on the same page about what this whole thing should be about, which further suggests that we were all three destined to do this together at some point in our lives – better now when we all still have our wits about us as we enter into our late 20s. . .”
Keeping in mind everything you’ve already read, imagine the look on Greg’s face when his answers were completed and submitted and then we discovered the little tidbit about all of us being at the Harvest Moon Drive-In at the exact same time a good year before we could all three meet each other right and proper. A thought that Greg already had in the back of his mind, that he had articulated and typed for one and all to see, was confirmed. The word for that is. . . we think . . . kismet.
More on that in a moment. Greg’s answer continues:
“Nevertheless, I will try and answer, with slightly different sentimentality, especially in part three of this question.
E.T. is the first film I remember seeing in the theater, and it impacted me profoundly. As I said when Aaron asked something similar, I can remember running the gamut of emotions during that in-house theater experience.
Because I felt so wildly ‘all over the place’ emotionally, I can vividly remember absolutely loving this experience and this movie thoroughly, so much so that it wound up at the top of my Top 100 countdown that I spent the better part of 2016 hammering out. Couple this with the fact that I spent a good chunk of the limited time I spent with my siblings watching movies that I wouldn’t have otherwise watched, E.T. was an excellent start to a hobby that ended up being a career for me. So there!
Part three, though, is an interesting follow up. How do movies change the way I see the world? I think I would have to dovetail a bit onto something I said in another question – there’s a reason somebody made these movies or wrote these screenplays – because, especially in the dramas and slice-of-life ‘essays’ for lack of a better term, these things do tend to actually happen once in awhile, and the writers’ and directors’ perspectives on these issues do much to lend us our own perspectives, especially when we are in need of perspective.
Greg too lost on the silver screen? Too slipped on a banana peel (Eckhart, Batman, 1989). Thinks too much that life is like a movie? Well, how is this different than those who lose themselves in music, or books, or stamp collecting, or model building, or video gaming, or sports, or lawn work, or chess? They are all escapes, no? I actually wish to modify what I said earlier about movies being the great escape. Movies are MY great escape, same as sports are for some, painting is for others, and so on.”
Aaron answered this question from Karen as well:
“Before I answer the question, an anecdote: Back in the early 1990’s, I saw a movie at a theater on the University of Illinois campus. I believe it was called The Thunderbird Cinema. Almost as soon as I set foot into the auditorium, I remembered seeing Fantasia there. There were wall adornments and decoration to the proscenium area that just gave me almost instant deja vu. But it wasn’t just Fantasia. I had memories of The Sword in the Stone and The Fox and the Hound as well. Most specifically, I recalled lying on the ground in the aisle and watching The Fox and the Hound as it loomed above my head larger than life. It was an odd memory to have because these three Walt Disney cartoons are movies that, up to that point, I had no real memory of ever having seen from beginning to end.
Later, I asked my mother about these memories. And she confirmed for me that my family frequented this movie theater when I was younger because, during the summer, when classes were not in session, they often did family films for $1. She even confirmed the memory of lying on the ground (apparently, we had been outside at a public petting zoo for a good portion of the day and I had reported not feeling well). So. . . there you have it . . . I guess discounted Disney movies are the first films I remember seeing in the theater (incidentally, The Sword in the Stone has, over time, become one of my most favorite animated Disney films), even though I was a teenager before I actually remembered it.
But. . . to give an honest answer to the question. The first movie I vividly remember seeing in theaters is Return of The Jedi. 1983. I was six. We saw it at Urbana Cinema (which used to be The Princess and, also, showed movies for a dollar). I had already seen the other two films, and was pretty well consumed by them, but the third film in the trilogy was the first one that I didn’t see on television. That I saw while it was still new. While other kids were still waiting to be allowed to see it. It was a big moment for me.”
As of this writing, it has not been confirmed if either Karen or Greg were there watching Return of the Jedi as well.
But, man, what if they were?
One more thing before we sign off today: we’re not sure that we truly believe that something cosmic has a hand in our endeavor. But it sure feels like it sometimes. And we know this: We’ve worked hard on this blog. We’ve had some great discussions. We’ve learned some things about each other (for example, in spite of our initial beliefs, Aaron is far more pushy than Karen). We’ve continued to nurture decades-old friendships in the name of what we love. We have inspired one another, and together, we have created something that is meaningful to us.
We are now a month into our project, and we’re having fun. It seems appropriate to take a moment to thank you for that. For coming along for the ride.
Be sure to check in next week for our first “Movie of the Month” and take a moment to sound off in the comments! What was the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
Karen, Aaron, And Greg