Reel to Real

I’m the first to admit that movies can serve many purposes andsometimes the noblest function gives the viewer a chance to tunein, check out and laugh a little. It’s also plain that individualtastes in movies differ tremendously – one person’s Adam Sandler isanother’s Monty Python. I believe that while film can be fun andescapist, it can be much more. Over the next year, via this column,I will work on justifying that statement. For now, I’d like to tellyou a little bit about my own relationship to the movies.

I’m a senior at PSU-an English major-and I’ve taken quite a fewfilm classes. I’ve watched movies for most of my life, having lostmy celluloid virginity at the age of three when my mom took me tomy first movie, “Lady and the Tramp.” Since then, I’ve watched justabout every kind of movie that there is to watch. After startingout with Disney, I moved on to sci-fi, sobbed through chick flicks,cheered the adventure films, explored a documentary phase, endureda couple of token porn reels, went back to the classics and nowfind myself enjoying the realms of film and gender andfilm-as-myth, those works that seem to connect us to the humanexperience, to tell the stories of who we are, how we came to behere, and how we might become better. In this vein I offer the rolereversals of “Fargo,” the unflagging human spirit and redemption of”The Color Purple,” the transcendence of “2001: A Space Odyssey,”the enduring certainty of family in “How Green Was My Valley” andthe conflicting traditions and ideologies of the undeniablyfeminist “Whale Rider.”

This column is going to be a work in progress. In future pieces,I might talk about the art of filmmaking, directors, theaters, filmfestivals, favorite actors or even movie food. I might hit oncritical theory, indie films or movie critics. I might take youalong as I wax nostalgic about the demise of the drive-in, thelong-gone triple feature or even the heyday of silent films (by theway, if you haven’t watched Buster Keaton, you’ve missed out on oneof the purest types of laughter available to humans).

For now, I’d like to offer you a couple of end-of-summer moviesuggestions. I know, Labor Day happened a week ago and schoolstarts soon – for most of us, those are the inexorable signs of thechanging season, the ushering out of summer and the rustling in ofautumn. But the fall equinox isn’t official until Sept. 22 and I’mgoing to drag summer out for as long as I can. In that spirit, I’vegot two recommendations for you.

First is “Summer of 42,” a sweet, soft-focus coming of agestory. In a summer beach town framed by the presence of World WarII, young Hermie and his friends grapple with adolescence. Theirjourney begins with sex and extends to heartbreak, a poignant lossof innocence and the inevitability of adulthood. The acting is runof the mill but the story is universal and has some wonderfulcomedic moments. The setting of the film is a visual treat,providing an idyllic, escapist summer backdrop that is set againstthe unseen darkness of war. The haunting musical score fits thestory perfectly.

Second is “The Flamingo Kid,” a film that gave Matt Dillon hisbreakout role. The son of a plumber, Jeffrey has grown up in thesepia-tones of working-class Brooklyn. When serendipity lands him asummer job at the exclusive El Flamingo beach club, it’s obviousthat his life is about to change. As one of the club’s new “CabanaBoys,” Jeffrey’s everyday attire changes from Brooklyn brown toflamingo pink and he meets many of New York’s upper crust up closeand personal. Given the chance to compare the traditional workethic of his father with the money-fueled boredom of the film’swealthy anti-hero, Jeffrey learns a lot about the kind of man hehopes to become. Hector Elizondo, Richard Crenna and Jessica Walterhave important roles.

Both of these movies are coming of age stories and the fact thatboth have male protagonists is a predictable feature of modernAmerican film, in which the female coming-of-age or heroic tale isalmost completely absent. Both films can be found at Movie Madness(4320 SE Belmont). Movie Madness has a vast library of films onVHS, DVD and laser disc.

All in all, my hope for this column is that it will be fun toread most of the time, interesting a lot of the time and, withluck, might make you think at least some of the time. In the nextissue of the Vanguard, I’m going to share ten reasons why filmshould matter to every PSU student. Until then, settle back, pop ina favorite film, grab some popcorn or gummy worms or whatever andenjoy the movies.