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What I Love about the Movies: You Don’t Have to Hide Your Emotions

April 11, 2008

I will never be one of the all time great poker players, nor will I ever be a stoic. You can read my emotional state at any time just by looking at me. That’s fine with me, I’d rather be honest with my feelings any day, than try to keep it bottled up. That’s another reason why I love going to movies. You can react with the emotion of the moment, and NOBODY will make fun of you, unless they are a cold-hearted slob, that is.

I didn’t learn this lesson until I was about 11. I was fresh out of sixth grade, and ready for a summer of fun (and I needed it). The movie that EVERYBODY was talking about, and falling all over themselves to heap praise upon was Steven Spielberg’s classic E.T. Of COURSE, we all wanted to see it, after hearing about how scary, adventurous, funny, and sad it was.

We hopped in the car and headed for Lincoln to see this masterpiece (cue the GCC film bumper). I settled into my seat, the lights went down, and the movie began. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING had prepared me for what would happen to me over the next two hours. Fans of the movie will recall that E.T. and Elliot form an emotional and psychic bond with each other. I have news for you. That bond goes beyond the screen and into the audience in a big way. When that little alien was scared, I was scared, when the situation was funny for all parties concerned, I was laughing my head off. But when E.T. dies on that operating table, and when E.T. and Elliot have to say goodbye to each other, it was Niagara Falls time in Lincoln.

I’ll admit that I was able to hold it together when E.T. died on the table, because I knew there had to be more to the story than this. Still, seeing Elliot standing there telling his little alien friend how empty he now felt, just went right through me. And in the end, when Elliot hugged E.T. goodbye, and that ship took off, I barely remember getting the words “Is it over now?” out of my mouth before I started crying my eyes out.

I remember feeling silly and embarrassed by this reaction. After all, 11 year old boys do NOT cry at science fiction movies. It just doesn’t happen. I have to give my parents a lot of credit, though, because they told me that my reaction was exactly right. My mom even told me about losing it during those same scenes. She kept it to herself pretty well, because I don’t even remember hearing her sniffle.

So why am I bringing this up 25 years later? Well, the other night I wanted to see if this movie could do the same thing to me after all of these years. You might be thinking to yourself that this Andy guy is crazy, but fear not. The truth of the matter is that I hadn’t watched this film in a while, and was looking for just such a movie. Results of the experiment? You guessed it. I was wiping my eyes again. Not Niagara Falls time, but enough to realize that this movie does indeed deserve it’s status as a classic. So, while I am still a little sore at Steven Spielberg for making me cry at the movies for the first time, I’m also grateful to him for showing me how a movie can be so much more than an afternoon of fun. Now I don’t care if I lose it emotionally at a sad movie, because it just means that the movie achieved it’s purpose, and the makers, and the cast all deserve to be congratulated.

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