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Movies That Really Changed My Life

I have talked about a couple of early movies that changed my life, like Star Wars and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I didn't go into detail about how they did so. Star Wars, of course, changed everyone's lives. It was one of those things that made us rethink how we could tell stories and how movies could be made. It nerdified an entire generation and can be said to have led to the culture we have now, dominated by comic book movies and video games. The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened my mind up to different ways of life and expressing sexuality while also promoting messages of positivity and courage in life. (This may not be what people think of when they see that movie, but it's in there. Don't dream it, be it.)

 Another movie that really hit me was Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe's not-quite-biographical movie about a kid working as a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 70's. The Tiny Dancer scene made me think of times when music had helped heal wounds and relationships in my life, and also made me stop and consider how music is used in movies. It made me wonder if Martin Scorsese is less a brilliant director and more a brilliant soundtrack editor.  Almost Famous is a movie made by someone who loves music, about people who love music, for people who love music. It was also one of the first and best movies to use music as a comedic cue, when My Cherie Amor is playing as Penny vomits after an overdose. It wasn't a full on gag of a music cue, but the juxtaposition was funnier than if it had been. Few people have been that clever in using music in their movies (except again Mr. Scorsese) but this movie did make me start paying a lot more attention to what was going on in the soundtrack. This has caused both positive reactions (my appreciation for Tarantino increased) and negative ones (how can you have a movie that is so focused on music called Baby Driver and not include the KISS song by that name in it?).

Around this same time I saw American Beauty. I know, I know, we're not supposed to acknowledge Kevin Spacey because he's a monster. And while I agree that he probably is, this movie hit me in just the right way at just the right time. I was beginning to delve into the "art" of film around this time. I was also going through a divorce, having married very young for all the wrong reasons. When the family is having dinner and everyone is ignoring Kevin's character, he stands up and throws his plate against the wall to get their attention. I stood and cheered. Even all these years later I can still relate to that listless "is this really what I'm doing with my life?" feeling. As creepy as it is, as an older man I understand the temptation of wanting attention and validation from a younger, attractive woman. There was a time I would never have watched this movie, as it had no superheroes or monsters or serial killers in it. But this movie helped open up my pop culture palette. It talked about film as a visual art form while also presenting it as a narrative art form. It helped me realize the potentialities of movies beyond just doing cool horror and sci-fi shit.

The last one might at first glance seem the most ridiculous but was actually the most significant because it actually changed my behavior and how I interacted with other people. 8 Mile is Eminem's movie about a white rapper growing up while chasing his dreams. The movie has him always making excuses to his boss, always saying things were not his fault. At the end of the movie something happens that really isn't his fault, but he just bucks up, takes responsibility and says it won't happen again. When I saw this I recognized a behavior that I was very much prone to. I never understood why everyone was against me and so unfair to me. Seeing this movie made me realize that my own behaviors were leading to these "unfair" treatments, and that I had to take responsibility for my own life and actions. My life began to improve almost immediately. And sure there have been backslides, but for the most part I have been better at acknowledging that I am my own worst enemy. I don't always avoid the self-destructive behavior, but now when it happens I place the blame squarely on myself and try to figure out how to prevent it from happening again. I thinks that's a pretty profound life lesson for an okay movie about a rapper's coming of age to impart.


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