One question I always get asked (and I’m sure this is one we all get, whether we write for a site or just say “I’m really into film!” to someone over drinks) is “So what’s the movie that got you into movies?”
I have a variety of answers, depending on my mood, because my whole life was a series of Big Movies that nailed me to my seat and kept my mind whirling. Sometimes, it was an actor. Sometimes, a director. Occasionally it was the lead up to a film, like Jurassic Park, or its aftermath. My life has just always been played to a background of movies.
I feel kind of weird about this, though. Many of my web colleagues have one definite moment, one single film, that just sold them on the whole medium. When you see actors on Inside the Actors Studio, they often have one specific performance or film they can point to. Directors often have one favorite to namedrop in a Q&A. Shouldn’t I have one favorite? One shining moment that defined my life’s purpose?
As I said, I have a rotating group of titles I’ll pull out as a trump card. One of them has always been Raiders of the Lost Ark, a series that’s lived as this constant, nagging obsession in the back of my mind. It’s even influenced my interior decorating, but that’s a tale for another time.
I popped in Raiders over Memorial Day – it’s been too long, Indy – and as is the case with old favorites, it played without my needing to really watch it, but one moment really jumped out at me. It’s always jumped out at me, but perhaps I was more sensitive because I’d been exploring this idea of a Big Defining Moment. It’s the scene where Jones uses a surveyor’s glass to locate the Well of Souls, and he pans along until he finds an outcrop of rock. He focuses, scribbles it down … and he stops for a moment, wobbly, resting his elbow on the glass. It’s there. The prize any scholar would give his left eye for – right there — something so ancient, mystical, and legendary, just sleeping there under a heap of sand.
It’s a character defining moment, a handful of frames that (I think) tell you more about who this character really is than any other point in the movie. And I realized yeah, that’s a moment that defined me.
The only problem? It didn’t make me seek out film. It made me seek out history because I wanted to be Indiana Jones, standing on a cliff face, scanning the horizon to find an unmarked spot. I wanted that thrill of discovery. So, I went to school for history and literature, studying dead language and primary documents, while watching movies and thinking how much I liked those, too. But surely this was more practical – to get at the heart of Indiana Jones, and not the film that surrounded him!
I’ve never regretted it – well, I’ve regretted how long it all took, I should have shaved a year or two off – and I’m proud to say I’ve had a few moments where I got to stand over a forgotten tomb or a historical spot, and go weak in the knees. (I never did discover one for the books, obviously.) That’s a pretty valuable experience, really, and something to take to the grave. (Which someone can find, someday, and go wobbly over?) So why am I so jealous of those who sat down to watch Taxi Driver or On the Waterfront, and got up knowing beyond all doubt that all they wanted out of life was in the movies?