Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Fistful of Influence! (Matt’s Picks)

    OK, everything Brad said in his post on this same subject.  These aren’t necessarily my favorite films, but these are five of the films that shaped who I am as a movie viewer.  Movies have been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, becoming all the more so when we got a spankin’ new VCR and color TV in the mid 80s.  These movies represent a few important street signs on the road map of my life in film.

5.  Star Wars:  Growing up in the 80s, Star Wars and the renaissance of genre films that followed in its wake was like a warm blanket I wrapped myself in.  The toys, the bed sheets, the Underoos, sure.  But the movies themselves.  To a lonely kid who spent much of his time inside with a TV, the Star Wars films were trusted friends.  And Star Wars itself was the beginning of it all.  I love all things (almost) science fiction, and I never held with the idea that you were either a Star Wars or a Star Trek person (the 60s Star Trek remains one of my favorite TV shows, and if I did a list like this for TV it would be right near the top).  But Star Wars had a lasting impact, even with all the later tainting of my love that came with the dreaded prequel trilogy and overdose of merchandising.

4.  Fist of Legend:  I’d watched a few Chinese martial arts films before I watched this Jet Li film, mostly Jackie Chan stuff.  But it was while watching this movie that I realized Kung Fu films could be more than just stunts and bad dubbing.  They could also be about stuff.  They could also have compelling characters and solid plots.  They could also tap into genuine emotions.  Fist of Legend has some excellent fights, but it’s a good movie, too.  So, in a way, it was the movie that really introduced me to Kung Fu films.

3.  The Phantom Empire: This Gene Autry serial was a very early viewing for young Matt the Lad.  Not only did it make me fall in love with the idea of the movie serial, but I also became captivated by the mix of genres (here Cowboy Musical and Science Fiction).  Over the years, bits of this film were always floating around in the back of my head, leaking into my fiction and into my choices of movie rentals.

What could I possibly have found to like in this?

2.  Coffy:  When I broke up with my high school girlfriend, I suddenly found myself with more time and more money than sense.  Being me, instead of re-directing those resources into doing something that would improve my life, I descended into a black whole of video rental madness.  For a couple years, I watched more movies than I could possibly count.  I mean, I watched EVERY DANGED THING I could get my hands on.  And while I’d been aware of Shaft, and I knew there were Grindhouse films that had been made in the 70s, I was largely ignorant of them, and knew little of Blaxploitation beyond a few articles in film texts.  But one night, walking through the stacks at the local Front Row Video (yeah, it wasn’t even Movie Gallery, yet), I spotted a very sexy picture of Pam Grier looking out at me from a video box.  I was in love, and my movie lust found yet another new direction to stretch.

1.  Raiders of the Lost Ark:  Almost everything about me, my tastes, and my interests eventually leads back to seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark at the old Bangor Opera House when I was five years old.  I wanted to be Indiana Jones.  I wanted to fight Nazis, travel the globe, find ancient cities, have love affairs with feisty brunettes, and live in Hollywood’s version of the 1930s.  Pulp, history, geography, the desert, the jungle, nature, religion, and so many other life long interests started here, not to mention my eventual love and fascination with the films and the era that inspired it.

-Matthew J. Constantine

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