I dunno, man. You still have a stack of ten or twenty movies you’ve purchased that you haven’t even watched yet. You could build a sizable mancave with the books you have piled up next to the bed. And what about your comic books? You’re way behind on reading your comic books. Do you really need more stuff?
These were the thoughts that went through my head as I stood over a $5 Bargain DVD bin at my local Wal-Mart with a copy of Stardust in my hand. I asked myself the typical questions, trying desperately to justify it:
Have you seen this movie? (Yes.)
Did you enjoy it? (Yes. Quite a bit.)
Will you ever watch it again? (Maybe?)
Are you sure about that, because you have expressed no desire whatsoever in watching it since you saw it for the first time back in 2007? (No. No, I have not.)
I ended up buying it.
Because Stardust is one of those movies that I have such a deeply- and emotionally-profound connection to that I would probably purchase it even if I had hated it. I have movies like that. Movies that I liked, but didn’t love, but own anyway because nostalgia, in all its varied incarnations, tends to drive me. A good chunk of the movies I have ever really loved are not just important to me because of how they made me feel, but because of the nostalgia that surrounds having viewed it for the first time. For example: I have anecdotes, a personal history, connected to seeing Ghostbusters for the very first time. Also, Poltergeist, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Strange Days made me stop pursuing a girl upon whom I had a back-breaking, boundary-less crush because I feared that she would think that I was a rapist (since I enjoyed the movie as much as I did)!
There are movies that I connect to people I no longer spend time with (The Red Violin). Movies I connect to loved ones who have died (Cool Hand Luke). Movies that I didn’t even finish that evoke such blissful memories of bygone days that I can speak of them like an expert during casual conversations (I’m looking at you, Gone With the Wind).
To me, “nostalgia” is a genre shelf in the personal video store in my mind. There are, obviously, shelves designated to specific genres, but there are also shelves devoted to movies I watch over and over and over, so that I can readily find them when the need arises. There are numerous shelves devoted to the movies I want to see and haven’t gotten around to yet. And a big shelf (perhaps, if I’m honest, the biggest), easily cross-referenced with all the others, where I store the movies that my bond with is more personal than just “I loved it and want to watch it again”. I gave in and bought Stardust because it was one of those films. On that latter shelf.
Have you seen Stardust? It’s a good movie, if not a little muddied in its attempts to be more than it is, but I would venture to say that it wouldn’t hold up as well on a second viewing. I did see it. And I did enjoy it. But I could tell you very little about it now, other than that it starred Robert DeNiro (as a cross-dressing space pirate, right?) and Michelle Pfeiffer (she was a witch?) and was adapted from a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman. It was a movie that I wanted to see when it came out because of those names attached to it (Gaiman is a favorite writer, DeNiro is a favorite actor, and Michelle Pfeiffer is– bar none– the most beautiful woman to ever walk the face of the Earth), but this was not the reason I had opted to see this film in theaters. There were ulterior motives at play. I had chosen this movie because Amanda wanted to see it as well.
Amanda was a girl that I had been spending quite a bit of time around, but mostly in the presence of others. My crush on her was more than a little embarrassing, and I was unsure if she liked me as well because I have never, ever, ever been very good at that sort of discernment. This outing, this trip to see this movie, was going to be the first time that her and I had been out in public by ourselves with no other motive than to keep each other company. It was our first date, so to speak, and it was a long time coming.
I had met Amanda four months prior. I had been hired to direct a stage play; she was hired as part of my backstage run crew. I thought she was adorable, but never acted on that impulse because it was a) completely unprofessional and I am b) inept. We talked quite a bit during the run of that show, but it ended with us going our separate ways to our individual lives. A casual “Maybe we’ll work together again sometime”, and then it was on to the next show and the next newly-hired stage crew. Four months later, she contacted me with a brief two-sentence message through MySpace (remember MySpace? LOL). Back-and-forth idle conversation for a couple weeks. Some exchanges of a more “getting to know you” variety. Next thing I knew, we were working on the same shows with the same people again and becoming fast friends.
Eventually, the notion of going to see this movie together came up (she doesn’t devour movies like I do, but a fantasy comedy in this vein is right in her wheelhouse) and our first date was set. Though I had to try to not think of it as a date lest I completely screw it up and never be allowed to see her ever again. Things were a little rocky at first– I had chosen a restaurant that she was too polite to tell me she wasn’t fond of. I had also viciously torn into a band I really didn’t like at the time, only to discover later that said band was her favorite band since music was only a bunch of caveman hitting rocks with sticks and more rocks. Despite this, we went to the movie and we enjoyed ourselves.
Halfway through the movie, she took my hand– a sign that even I could not misinterpret– and, later, we took a walk in a city park that we weren’t even supposed to be walking in (as it was after dark and the park was closed). During that bout of trespassing, I was helping her out of a swing on the playground and took the plunge with a kiss that she did absolutely nothing to protest against. Not a big, romantic end-of-movie-backed-by-swooning-orchestrals kiss, but a kiss just the same. As quick as that, I was vindicated in my thought that maybe, just maybe, she liked me, too.
Stardust came out in 2007. It is now, as you read this, August of 2018 and, three months ago, Amanda and I had our seventh wedding anniversary. We have two children together– incredibly clever six-year-old twin boys that I hope will one day be as obsessed with Star Wars as I am.
I don’t write as much as I used to. For years, writing, and the creation of alternate realities, was an escape from my own depression. My own (perhaps, in retrospect) alcoholism. My own tendency to self-destruct if I wasn’t doing something creative with my mind and the very act of holding a pencil in my hands. I’m happier now than I used to be, so my need to rely on that creative control in my own existence has waned. I’m happier now because of every second of everything that has transpired since seeing Stardust for the first time.
I do plan to watch this movie again. And even if it doesn’t hold up over the eleven years that have passed, I’m going to be able to justify the purchase. It will remain in its well-earned spot on the giant shelf of nostalgia films. Because without it, I might right now have nothing.
About This Author
Aaron can always justify one more movie in his collection. But Wal-Mart really needs to move that bargain bin to a section of the store he has no need to frequent. Home And Garden, perhaps?