Friday, May 22, 2020

The Thrill Of It!

image by TheDrifterWithin

I can’t exactly remember the first R-rated film I ever saw. It was either Tombstone or Cliffhanger. Both were released in 1993 but were watched on home video with family. This means that both viewings likely occurred around the time I turned eleven in 1994. I remember the red blood on white snow in Cliffhanger, and Tombstone started a Doc Holiday obsession that resulted in a report on him for school.

I very clearly know that my first R-rated film in a theater was when my aunt took me to see Bad Boys on Easter Sunday when I was twelve. While she could clearly see the R on the newspaper ad, I was somehow (through sheer rhetoric) able to convince her that it was actually PG-13. Now a mother to an almost twelve-year-old herself, my aunt will still occasionally apologize to my parents for this fact.

Of course there were also occasional sleepover movies in the homes of more lax parents. This is how I first saw Natural Born Killers. My friend Tim was a war movie nut and the fact that it was from the director of Platoon meant it had to be great! Sleepovers also introduced me to stuff like From Dusk Till Dawn and the first three Kevin Smith films. My first David Lynch film was Lost Highway because it had a Marilyn Manson cameo and we heard it also had nudity. But my intake of forbidden films really kicked into high gear at the end of eighth grade when we moved to Seal Beach.

Back in Garden Grove we had lived walking distance from a Blockbuster, but the inventory was pretty vanilla and the clerks would never even think of putting their jobs on the line by renting to an underage kid. Adam at The Wherehouse in Seal Beach had no problem with this.

Suddenly, all the movies I’d seen covering the walls of skate shops were mine for the taking. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, A Clockwork Orange, Goodfellas, and Taxi Driver were naturally some of the first to be crossed off the list. Also that first summer, my friend Graham (who now works in makeup effects) took it upon himself to get me over my fear of horror films via a week by week intake of the Evil Dead series.

By the fall of my freshman year I was walking 2.5 miles each way to watch stuff at the local AMC which had recently gone from 6 to 12 screens, and the new ones were stadium style! I’d seen movies like Cool Runnings there over the years, but the start of my serious relationship with the Marina Pacifica 12 was seeing Woody Allen’s Celebrity just after my fifteenth birthday in late 1998. This meant I was primed and ready for the fabled year of 1999.

Aside from The Matrix which I saw at the Irvine Spectrum for my friend Danny’s birthday, pretty much all the major 1999 milestone movies were at The Marina Pacifica. It’s where I saw a midnight showing of The Phantom Menace with my whole family. It’s also where I saw Eyes Wide Shut on opening day. It’s where I saw Fight Club the night before taking the PSAT and where I saw American Beauty immediately after taking the PSAT. Interestingly enough, the only film I ever got kicked out of there was Dogma on my sixteenth birthday. Thankfully a friend’s dad agreed to speed down to the theater and chaperone our viewing.

As for the truly arty stuff there was the much closer to home, single-screen Bay Theater which showed a combination of rep and indie/foreign. Here is where I got to see  stuff like Run Lola Run. It’s also where my sister and I watched The Godfather with a priest friend and where I saw All About My Mother with my Mexican grandparents because it was in Spanish. By the time I got a DVD player for my seventeenth birthday I had a pretty good baseline for what my taste would be going forward. And also it was now all above board and acceptable. I was of age. There was no longer any danger.

As I think about my daughter and her future with film, I think of all the films that I cannot wait to experience with her. None of those films are ones that I have mentioned in this piece. What made those films special was the danger. The thrill of watching something parents and ratings boards said I shouldn’t be watching. Even the few that were seen with adults still had a nervous charge of “this shouldn’t be happening”. I don’t want to deprive Lola of any of that. Some things should still be allowed to be illicit.

And if she happens to find a copy of The People Under The Stairs on our shelf some night while mommy and daddy are out, so be it...

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