My Take by Jim Carl - July 9


The old adage is true:  You can never go home again.  The quote means that when you grow up and discover your place in life, you’ll never be able to return to the atmosphere of your childhood.  Yes, you go back to your hometown and revisit the neighborhood where you grew up, but it won’t be the same.  People will be older or passed away, friends will have gone, landmarks will have been torn down or disappeared, and the things that made you nostalgic in the first place will have been supplanted with the unfamiliar.  The same is true with certain movies, I'm only saying.
Some of my favorite motion picture memories have nothing to do with what was happening on the screen but what was happening in my life at that moment I went to see them.  Whether it was the friends who accompanied me, the deviltry we were committing, or the gluttony of seeing my first Bo Derek movie without an adult in tow, it's these factors that made the picture so enjoyable.  Cynicism and disappointment rear their ugly heads when I revisit some of these old movies and discover the sad truth that what's now playing on the screen isn't a Memorex copy of what's been playing in my head for years.  It’s still the same motion picture, nothing’s changed.  It’s me who’s changed.  And yes, I just made a reference to Memorex.                     

When I was younger, I loved all the movies listed below.  Something must have gone ker-plooey in the guts of my dvd player, perhaps a gremlin is to blame, because when I watched them again, all I could do was scrutinize their flaws and question my own youthful naïveté.   Here’s another adage that’s equally true:  Sometimes it’s better to leave certain things well-enough the hell alone.

For liability reasons, here are 5 movies I'm not allowed to watch in the hospital rec room again:
PROJECT X (1987)
Monkey see, monkey do.
This is the movie where Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt liberate sweet-faced, sign language-speaking monkeys from an evil military installation.  Its message is earnestly child-like: Do the right thing, damned be the consequences.  It seemed like such a straightforward and honorable plight when I was eighteen years old and wasn’t in my current tax bracket.  Re-watching this movie as a forty-something, all I could think was “Oh, bullshit.”  In real life, this kid would get court-martialed (and rightfully so) before a single cage gets unhinged in this movie, whose script also goes unhinged.  What was once the story of a righteous boy and his chimp suddenly became an overwrought message movie about half-baked animal rights and a wise-ass amateur who mocks authority and recklessly puts lives in danger.  Having written that, I’m not so jaded that I don't still love its ending.  When those monkeys give that general the finger and fly off in that military airplane, my heart soars.  Who doesn’t love flying monkeys who give the finger?                

It’s so elementary, my dear Watson.
I used to think the plot of this movie was so very clever.  Because the actor playing Sherlock Holmes was about my own age in 1985, I could relate to his thirst for adventure.  Taking a page from James Bond, this is the kind of movie where the villain lives in a hollowed-out volcano and hundreds of white-cloaked minions scurry in its depths, spinning dials on consoles, and no one questions how a hollowed-out volcano just happened to appear one day on the outskirts of town or who’s paying for all those fancy high-tech gadgets those minions are operating.  Replace the volcano with an Egyptian pyramid (in England, no less) and swap the lab coats with ornamental robes, and you’ve got the same whacky plotholes in this movie.  I’m a lot more critical these days about criminal masterminds and their plans for worldwide domination.  Maybe it’s because I sorta fancy myself a mastermind, but when I viewed Holmes again a few years ago, I found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it have been simpler if…?” or “Why don't they just explain that...?” I didn’t swallow it for a West Texas second.  Over and over again, common sense kept interrupting the movie’s unnecessarily over-plotted storyline.  You know a picture’s in trouble when the villain reveals his reasons for revenge and you find yourself siding with him.  Still, that shot of the stained-glass window coming to life was a doozy.
How I spent my summer vacation.
When I first saw this adult drama about Harrison Ford abandoning modern consumerism and transplanting his family to the Amazon to, as they say, get away from it all, I thought it was bold and fascinating.  Teenagers love stories about heroes who grasp life by the knothole and experience it at full-throttle, like Jack Sparrow or Captain Kirk, making their own rules as they go.  It's the common fantasy of every small-town kid who dreams of living in the big city.  Unfortunately, it's the common fantasy of inexperienced fools.  Watching Mosquito again as a grown-up who’s had his own share of hard knocks and moderate success (and lived in New York to boot), I found the movie’s message to be a load of overly-diagnosed American psychological crap.  What was once the exciting story of an intellectual pursuing his ideology suddenly became the overbearing tale of a lunatic suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Having once lived with someone with NPD, I can do without reminders.  I’ve not read Paul Theroux’s novel, but I do own a copy and someday plan to read it and see if Peter Weir's adaptation lost something in translation.  Get away from it all on your own time and stop wasting mine.

The tale of a three-hour cruise.
It shames me a little to admit that I once used to vehemently argue this movie’s virtues.  One of the best Friday sequels, I used to say, as if that meant something.  Let’s face it, I love trashy 80s horror movies; otherwise, I wouldn’t be programming a film series like Retrofantasma.  Sometimes, a movie franchise becomes so engrained in your life that you're willing to forgive the producers for making a bad entry like this one in hopes that the next one will be better.  But for God’s sake, did I have to have to pick this awful movie?  How embarrassing.  Having tried to watch it again a few years back, all I can offer is a sincere apology to everyone I’ve ever met, including several therapists who no longer attend Movie Night.  I don’t know what possessed me, except it must have been something evil, foul, and odious, not unlike the demons which possess Quentin Tarrantino or Tim Burton whenever they’re on-set.  I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong.  (But not about Jason X, which is a modern horror masterpiece, I tell you.  Just wait.  Time will prove me right on that one.

Please stop the music.
My grandmother loved this Doris Day musical about the Wild West.  Growing up in West Texas in the 1970s, it was pretty much a given that you'd see a lot of movies involving rugged cowboys, villainous gunslingers, and slap-happy barnyard dances.  Sorta like you were expected to always cheer for Roger Staubach (even when he threw an interception) and forgive Lyndon Johnson for being a Lutheran.  It was a fact written in stone.  Every year when it aired on TV, my grandmother and I would gather round the Panasonic to watch Ms. Day croon about “getting back from the windy city” and having ”a woman’s touch.”  Watching it again as an adult whose favorite musical is The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, I realized that I'd strayed too far from the proverbial rodeo.  I kept glancing over my shoulder towards the living room window as the wind blew through the curtains and terrapin lamps spun from the ceiling, worrying if Ms. Day's voice was carrying onto the neighbor’s lawn.  I was truly concerned that people would talk.  People I didn’t even know.  By the time Ms. Day started cater-walling about “the black hills of Dakota”, I turned off the TV.  It made me feel sad.  Inadvertently, Calamity Jane had filled me with remorse and made me miss my grandmother.  The memory of this movie used to mean so much, sitting alongside her on the overstuffed sofa, laughing and feeling good.  Now, all it did was make me feel old and alone.  You can never go home again.

Runners-Up: 1995’s Mute Witness and 2005’s The Island.

Funny enough, there are some movies that I hated when I was younger whose reputations switcher-ooed when I got older.  For one reason or another which I'm certain my doctors will someday explain, I now enjoy Rambo: First Blood Part II, Dr. Strangelove, Smokey and the Bandit, Megaforce, Dune, and Silence of the Lambs, just to name a few.

What about you?  What are some movies whose memories you wished you’d left the hell alone?



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