The Moment

My friend from The Matinee, Ryan McNeil and I, were talking today about films that impacted us, made us realize there was more to them than we’d realized.

He was talking about The Moment.

It happens to every cinephile.

There’s a moment when you realize that there’s more to movies than what s up there on the screen and there’s another one, when you realize that a film can be more than just popcorn entertainment.

I wish I could say that both instances were in the same film, but then I would have to make something up, and that would never do.

The first film that made me realize there was more going on than I knew, the idea of special effects, the idea of production design, model-work, matte paintings, musical scoring, locations and sets was The Empire Strikes Back.

It was just before I saw the movie, while I was living in CFB Borden that I got my first issue of the sci-fi classic magazine of Starlog!

Where had this magazine been my entire life? I read the entire issue cover to cover, learning stuff about the movie Alien as well, way before I ever got around to seeing it (I had a problem with horror movies for the longest time). I leafed through the pages, and for the first time ever, put up some different pictures up on my wall. Until that time the only things I had on my wall were two huge pull out posters I’d gotten from National Geographic magazines, one of the move, and the other detailing the Apollo missions.

My first Starlog, issue 34 just had everything I wanted to know about the movies and tv series that I loved. I couldn’t believe that there were all these things going on behind the story that was being shown on the screen.

I was hooked.

I had to know more.

For awhile, Starlog was my monthly fix, as soon as I could scrape together the money (read as plead for an allowance). I simply had to know how these films and stories were getting made and told.

It blew me away. I was 9 about to be 10, well aware that the movies and tv I watched were just stories, but hadn’t made the connective leap entirely to realize that they had to be made. That there was so much effort going on behind the scenes to get these moments to the screen. It boggled my young mind, and i just couldn’t stop thinking how cool that was.

So, while I still viewed movies as simply entertainment, and didn’t understand why people wanted to see movies that didn’t have chases, or action, or things blowing up, I was learning about the work that goes into making these movies. And each and every time it enhanced my viewing experience of the film.

It was a long time though before I started to realize that I got just as much enjoyment, and sometimes even more satisfaction from films that weren’t action movies. Movies that could have a message, or change the way you see the world, movies that could make you think, feel and cry.

A couple of movies flirted with the idea, the first one was Dances With Wolves. I lost count of how many times I saw that film in the theater. It simply struck something within me, perhaps it planted the seed.

It wasn’t quite enough to convert me off of things other than action movies. Two movies, two years apart, did that.

The first was my all time favorite western, directed under the able hand of Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven.

Here was the tale of an aged, widowed, gun for hire, a murderer of men, riding out on one last ride.

It was unlike any western I had seen until that time, and had a realism, to it, a reality, that I hadn’t seen before.

It showed consequences of actions, the impact of violence, the need for redemption, and the desire for something more from life. It took what you thought were the typical western stereotypes, the sheriff, the gunslinger, and grounded them, made them accessible and human.

I was stunned.

Two years later, it happened again, and settled in to stay this time.

Frank Darabont made me a convert in 1994 with The Shawshank Redemption.

I couldn’t believe how much a movie could get inside you, move you so emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, I cried at the end of E.T., I was a wreck the whole way through Schindler’s List, but that’s Spielberg, I watch everything he makes, because he’s Spielberg.

Shawshank was the first movie outside of a Spielberg film that I actively sought out, just from the word of mouth I’d been hearing.

And it lived up to every word that I had heard.

Here was a story about pain, suffering, and ultimately friendship and hope.

This movie opened up the world of film to me. I was working in a video store in the time, but had mainly stayed in the horror (having gotten over my fear of it – perhaps through the knowledge of how these movies were made), sci-fi, and action. Now I actively sought out different films, things I’d never thought to watch before, learning new directors, finding new actors.

These films showed me that there was more to movies than entertainment, there was the creativity behind the camera, there were more stories, there were films to be discovered from around the world, there were tales that I had never seen, and some that I’ve yet to see.

There’s a huge world of film out there, don’t confine yourself to one genre, you could be missing something amazing!

What films impacted you the most?

What films made you realize there was more to cinema than what you originally thought?

9 Comments Add yours

  1. dbmoviesblog says:

    What an interesting question! As I am an avid fan of thought-provoking, intelligent films, I dare say ‘The Usual Suspects’ and ‘Fight Club’ affected or made the biggest impact on me – many years ago – when I watched them for the first time. Then ‘Spider’ and ‘Machinist’ kinda opened my eyes too. Since then I am ‘hooked’ on clever complicating film plots. I also think that film choices are very ‘gendered’ – in that its all good talking about ‘Star Wars’ and Shawshank Redemption’s, but what about really quality ‘love’ films – ‘The English Patient’ is very emotional and the most moving film I ever seen.

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      And while I did enjoy The English Patient, I had read the book first, and was much more taken with that, though it is a gorgeous adaptation. There’s nothing wrong with a clever and strongly written love story film, in our most recent podcast, featuring Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart we talk briefly about one of her fave films, Sophie’s Choice. That film is smart, powerful, and heart-breaking. And while films like Shawshank Redemption and Unforgiven may seem like popular choices, those were the ones that made me realize there was more and to consequently seek others out. If it wasn’t for films like La Femme Nikita, Life Is Beautiful and Hard-Boiled, I fear I never would’ve explored foreign films, and I would’ve missed out on some glorious movies.
      I certainly don’t try to ‘gender’ my choices, but I won’t tolerate some of the rom-coms that are out there right now. They just seem silly.
      I think a lot of it has to do where one grows up, and the influences around you.
      and I love the Usual Suspects!
      What other films make your list of faves?

  2. dbmoviesblog says:

    I agree with you about silly rom-coms, dont get me wrong, I can’t tolerate them too. I am talking about top notch stuff, but probably not the ones that would immediately appeal to guys, e.g. I do not think that ‘Out of Africa’ is too long or overrated as many claim, it’s an amazing film. I also think recent adaptations of both ‘Revolutionary Road’ (2008) and ‘Painted Veil’ (2006) are very very good.

    As to my favourite films – many I d say. Needless to say I prefer 80s n 90s films to the latest trash. Also, some of Cronenberg’s, for example ‘History of Violence’ and Aronofsky’s, such as ‘Requiem for a Dream’, films had a real profound effect on me.

    You can also check out my list of thought-provoking and intelligent films here – (I love all of them) –

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Out of Africa is a bril film. But I’m also a huge Redford fan, and like Streep as well. Cronenberg is fantastic director, and History of Violence is amazing. I’m glad I saw Requiem for a Dream, but it didn’t make me jump up and down.
      And your top 20 list is really good, thank you for sharing it, the only one I haven’t seen on it is Exam, I’ll have to look into it.

  3. An intriguing article! There are many films that have had a great impact on me, but the most profound would have to be Saving Private Ryan, which hit me in a way no other film has, before or since. Other deeply affecting films would be The Road (adapted from my favorite novel), Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and District 9. Another standout would be Life Is Beautiful.

    I haven’t seen The Shawshank Redemption, but I do own it – perhaps I’ll stick it in this weekend. 🙂

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Don’t be swayed by the run time on Shawshank, it’s a gorgeous film, and makes me just so happy by the end of it. I love films that make you feel the way this one does by the time the credits roll.
      I love SPR, those first twenty minutes on the beach kick my ass every time, I jump and freeze-up at every bullet impact into a body.
      Nolan is a wonderful director, and as much as I like his take on Batman, I think Inception and The Prestige are his best works, well along with Memento of course.
      Life is Beautiful is just a fantastic film on every level.

      1. Agreed on SPR. That Omaha Beach sequence is hands-down one of the most gut-wrenchingly raw battle sequences in the history of film.

        Nolan is easily one of my favorite directors, and Inception is (in my opinion) among the best sci-fi films ever made. And The Prestige = awesome. My Dad and I loved it. 🙂

        Have you seen Nolan’s The Following? It’s his first film (I think), and though it’s not a favorite, it’s very interesting.

      2. TD Rideout says:

        I did, I like what he did with it, and agree with you, not necessarily my favorite, but a good film!

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