Filmstruck4: The Movies That Define Me

So the “Filmstruck 4” challenge of picking four movies that define you went around this week, and I spent a good amount of time trying to pick mine. (It is HARD) And I think I managed a pretty decent stack. It was tough to narrow down but I think I did it:

Sabrina (1954) – Directed by Billy Wilder


When I think about Sabrina I get a dreamy look in my eye, and when I analyze the movie, it really gives me everything I’ve come to love in romantic comedy. The top shelf antics of the super rich, a transformation of a mousy girl into a gorgeous image of feminine perfection, (OK, this movie’s idea of “mousy” is Audrey Hepburn with a ponytail wearing a slightly ill fitting jumper, but you know, context!), family complication, and William Holden in a white dinner jacket.

It also kicked off my love affair with black and white films and Audrey Hepburn in particular, so that’s pretty important, plus it has my favorite dress in all of cinema history.

The Little Mermaid (1989) – Directed By Ron Clements & John Musker

The Little Mermaid

This was the first movie that I ever saw in a theater, remains my favorite Disney movie, and has some of my favorite Disney music. (Including the platonic ideal of an “I Want” song.) Every time I watch it, I’m reminded of my deep and abiding love for this flick.

The Princess Bride (1987) – Directed by Rob Reiner


“Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…”

So much of everything I am and do is defined by The Princess Bride. From taking fairytales seriously (but not too seriously!) to tongue in cheek camp humor, to Mandy Patinkin and Billy Crystal, plus countless familial inside jokes that revolve around seeing this movie far too many times, (we text one another when someone finds it on TV so that we can all find a television and watch it immediately. I never said this was healthy.)

Dogma (1999) – Directed by Kevin Smith


Long before I accepted my destiny as a fangirl, I was a Kevin Smith superfan, and long before I accepted my own shades of grey relationship with Catholicism, Dogma at least got me asking questions about it. It’s also got my all time favorite Ben Affleck performance, (second only to Shakespeare In Love) and is probably the reason I’ve always considered him a character actor rather than a lead. I have a real love for Alan Rickman’s Metatron too, and actually it’s the character I think of first for him. (With apologies to Professor Snape and Mr. Gruber) I also think it’s Smith’s best directing work, (Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back is a close second.) and has my favorite Silent Bob lines. No monologues, simply, a gruff, “No Ticket,” after throwing Loki off a train and a simple “Thanks,” to God and Metatron after his and Jay’s commedation in the finale.

I could only pick four, which is why there is nary a Star War nor a Batman on this list.

Runners Up: Star Wars, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Legally Blonde, West Side Story, Gone With The Wind, Batman Forever & The Sandlot

As You Wish

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, about the things that have shaped my taste. I didn’t just pop out as a wonderful encyclopedia of nerd knowledge. Many things led me there.

Like other people my age, I watched Saved By The Bell and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I played Pokemon, listened to the Spice Girls and read Harry Potter.

But these were tiny drops in the bucket of my nerdiness. There were three other things that got me to the point where those could have any kind of impact.

Those three are Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and perhaps less obvious, The Princess Bride.

“This is True Love. Do you think this happens every day?”

If you’ve never seen The Princess Bride I want you to stop reading my blog.

Seriously, I’m not kidding. You think I’m kidding? I’m really not. Stop reading right now and WATCH THE PRINCESS BRIDE!

“When I was your television was called books!” Says the famous TV actor. But seriously, watch this movie

The Princess Bride might be the greatest movie of all time. It has absolutely everything you could possibly want in a story. Pirates, fencing, revenge, true love and also it’s hilarious.

We still watch it all the time in my house, but it was one of those movies that I don’t even remember watching for the first time. My dad, my brother, my sister and I used to go to the video store on rainy Saturdays. Sometimes we would rent new things, but usually we would just rent the same movies over and over again. The Land Before Time, all of the Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, random “collections” of Ninja Turtles and Jem, The Sandlot, Rookie of The Year, A League of Their Own, and The Princess Bride. 

As we grew up, we watched it hundreds of times. We quoted it incessentaly, it’s even become a code word in our house, (due to a long drawn out story where my father was watching it on Cinemax, fell asleep and when my mother came back in to their room, Cinemax had, erm changed programming, shall we say.) an honor really only bestowed on one other pop culture element, Bruce Springsteen’s “Rosalita,” (leaving Mass after communion and before the final blessing, as if one were to leave a Springsteen concert before the final encore of  “Rosalita.”)

The Princess Bride taught me what good fantasy can do. Fantasy is about transcending setting to tell universal truths. (The Lord of The Rings: No matter how small, any person can change the fate of all. A Song of Ice And Fire: Conflicts are often complicated and have many sides, there is no black and white, and you know nothing Jon Snow. Harry Potter: All you need is love.) And The Princess Bride teaches us that Stories are important. It isn’t that True Love will always conquer.

Obviously, the True Love (that capital letters are important) between Westley and Buttercup is important,  but, The Princess Bride  is a satire of fairy tales, and as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes satire can be just as good as the real thing. And when the message of the story is that the story is the most important part, the tone of that story matters less. Besides, is Westley defying death over and over again for the love of Buttercup less astounding because they’re in a satire? Is Inigo’s righteous quest for revenge on his father? Is the magic performed by Miracle Max less amazing because he’s played by Billy Crystal?

This in fact makes it better!

Because in the end, they’re all just stories aren’t they? That’s what I learned from The Princess Bride. In the end, it’s about the story. Don’t forget that The Princess Bride is a movie based on a book, who’s entire framing device is that it’s the author’s most beloved book from childhood. In the film version, it’s a grandfather reading it to his sick grandson. It’s about the idea that a story can change us, down deep.

I like that message. It makes me feel warm inside.