Saturday Night At The Movies

I’ve noticed a few movie references creeping into my posts and it got me thinking about how much I miss going to the movies now that I live in the country. I like to think of myself as a bit of an “art house” movie snob and tend to eschew (another word I love, like harbinger, but would never actually use in conversation) commercial, blockbuster-type movies. Except, of course when I’m watching telly, then I watch anything and everything!

Alex and I don’t share the same taste in movies but every now and again I am persuaded to watch a movie of his choice, usually after I’ve had a few glasses of wine. It starts off with me trying to convince him to watch Brothers and Sisters but of course he insists on something with Jack Black in it. We haggle a bit; I lose and under sufferance watch the bloody movie. Inevitably I land up killing myself laughing at the terrible, puerile humour and at the end of it, much to Alex’s amusement (he’s onto me now) I tell him what a dreadful movie it was. The truth of it is, I love most movies, have done since I was a kid.

In my early teens, growing up in Port Elizabeth, I had a Saturday morning job at Michael’s Record Bar. I was a regular in the shop. In those days you could buy 9 records and get one free, and I was an avid collector of 7 singles as well as LPs. I also used to play the piano and loved browsing through their fantastic sheet music section to find stuff to challenge my music teacher (she once told me that since I marched to the beat of my own drum, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t keep time to the music!). I think I had become so much part of the furniture that “Michael’s” eventually asked me if I would like to work in the shop. And I loved it. Every Saturday morning my dad would drop me off at about 8:00 am, me in my mini skirt, tank top and white, wet look boots (with blue and white eye shadow and thick eyeliner, to make me look older). At about 1:00 pm I would meet up with my best friend, Michele, at the “twisty twirly” (can’t remember what it was really called) across the road where we would have hot dogs and root beers, before heading off to the movies. I can’t begin to describe the exquisiteness of those Saturdays. We would get together with the rest of the gang outside the cinema, in the alley at the side of the OK Bazaars, so we could all have a smoke or two while it was decided, not in words but with meaningful looks, who would be snogging who in the movies. Sometimes I would then go from the matinee show to meet up with my parents for a 6 o’clock show, especially if they were throwing in dinner at the local steakhouse afterwards.

When I met Peter, I must have told him how much I loved the movies because he wooed me by taking me to the movies nearly every night. He told me later that he would get back to his apartment after dropping me back at home and start working on his lectures for the next day. Of course, once I gave in to his charms, he didn’t need to take me to the movies quite so much anymore.

My most memorable movie experience happened on my honeymoon in Swaziland. Peter and I were staying in a homestead in a very rural part of Swaziland where Peter had done his participant observation as part of his anthropology studies a few years earlier. Since my biggest treat on honeymoon had been learning how to hoe and the novelty of rural life was beginning to wear thin, Peter decided it would be a good idea to take me to the movies in Manzini (about an hour’s drive away). Unfortunately he mentioned his intentions to his Swazi friend with whom we were staying and the entire household, none of whom had ever been to a movie before, decided to come with us. In preparation for our big night out, we all went down to the river to wash (men separate to women, of course). We discovered afterwards that someone was cleaning manure out of their bakkie further up river and so the water was not as clean as it could’ve been. We then all piled into Peter’s Ford Cortina and headed off to the bright lights of Manzini. In 1978 it was not a common sight to see rural, Swazi folk at the cinema and we did cause a bit of a stir as we all queued up at the ticket office. However this was nothing compared to the commotion that followed. Once inside the movie house, it began to dawn on me just how much we all stank, especially when Peter attempted to put his arm around me and I nearly passed out, that and the fact that all the other moviegoers had moved as far away from us as possible. Our group then proceeded to talk very loudly to each other (since they couldn’t understand English too well), shout exclamations at the screen and generally carryon like people possessed. Believe it or not, the movie we went to see was All Quiet on the Western Front!

Swaziland Honeymoon, January 1978 (our accommodation in the background!)

Swaziland Honeymoon, January 1978 (our accommodation in the background!)

Years later, Kiera became my movie going companion. When she was young, Kiera very seldom ever had a party on her birthday, the 22nd of December, because most of her friends were away on holiday. Every year I used to ask her what she would like to do to make her birthday a special day and she always asked if we could hire some videos (later DVDs) and “make like the movies”. This entailed shifting to the sofa round to face the telly, a trip to Sweets from Heaven, plenty of popcorn and a stash of movies. At first we watched all the Disney movies before we discovered a shared passion for tearjerkers. A box of tissues was added to the coffee table and we went for anything that involved the death of a parent, child, grandparent or dog. Some of our favourites included I am Sam, Stepmom, Legends of the Fall, 6th Sense, Armageddon, The Lion King, The Green Mile, Philadelphia and Moulin Rouge.

What I look for in a movie is a bloody good story, well told. I like to feel emotion while I’m watching it and lose myself in the movie. I feel disappointed when, at the end of a movie I have the sense that it really was much ado about nothing, just as I do with a book. But it’s very seldom that I won’t finish watching the movie, or reading the book for that matter, always in the hope that there will be a twist in the tail. Recently I bought myself a DVD player. In the absence of a local movie house I’ve decided to start collecting DVDs so that I can “make like the movies” here. As a first step I’ve started compiling a list of some of my favourite films but, of course I don’t necessarily want to see all of these again. So I would really appreciate any movie recommendations that you can add to this list. It would be nice to find some movies that I haven’t seen before.

This is my very incomplete list of favourite movies:

I love British movies: To Sir with Love, Harold and Maude, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Sleuth, O Lucky Man, The Rocky Horror Picture Show,  Withnail and I, Gregory’s Girl, The Full Monty, Brassed Off, The Commitments (which a friend reminded me about recently), Bend it Like Beckham, The Crying Game, Educating Rita, Local Hero, Shirley Valentine , 84 Charing Cross Road, The Last Emperor, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Death at a Funeral,  East is East, Tea with Mussolini, Hope and Glory, Sense and Sensibility and The Kings Speech; and

French and Italian Movies: I have quite a collection of these because of my Italian classes and Kiera studying French. My French favourites are Jean de Florette, Manon of the Spring (for obvious reasons), La Cage Au Folles, Amelie, La Vie en Rose, Paris, Je t’aime and Welcome to the Sticks. Italian favourites include Il Postino, Amacord, Cinema Paradiso., La Vita è Bella, Mediterraneo and Under the Tuscan Sun (American but made me dream of Italy); and

Australian Movies: Gallipoli, Babe, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Muriel’s Wedding, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Shine and Rabbit-proof Fence (I thought there would be more); and

Some Others:

  • Of course, childhood favourites: Mary Poppins, A Sound Of Music, Oliver and Camelot (I know Franco Nero was the heartthrob, but I had such a thing for David Hemmings, even if he was the evil Mordred);
  • Charge of the Light Brigade (David Hemmings again!)
  • Any of Clint Eastwood’s earlier stuff (Edna and I went to see Play Misty for Me one evening when my dad was out of town and when we got home, to our dark, empty house, we were shit scared!). He was brilliant in all those Spaghetti Westerns as well, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. His “middle stuff” was not so good but recently I enjoyed Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby;
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (omigod how I loved Robert Redford and Paul Newman and would watch anything with them in it)
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Jack Nicolson’s best);
  • Young Frankenstein  (Edna and I still laugh when either one of us says ”walk this way”);
  • Annie Hall (I loved Diane Keaton’s style);
  • The Big Chill (loved the music);
  • Ordinary People;
  • Moonstruck;
  • Out of Africa (Robert Redford again, I love that scene when he washes Meryl Streep’s hair);
  • The Prince of Tides (I used to have a thing for Nick Nolte too);
  •  Hotel Rwanda;
  • The Year of Living Dangerously;
  • American Beauty;
  • UP (I love most animated movies); and last but not least,
  • Departures (I watched this recently and reckoned it was one of the best movies I had seen this year).
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