I neglected to mention one of the most important things of all when I discussed why I’ve been a “lying actor” for most of my life. Anyone who has ever watched a movie with me or been to the movies with me already knows this. For whatever reason, I can put myself in any film. A dramedy, a comedy, a romantic comedy, an epic film. It almost doesn’t matter. As long as the film is good and the acting is very good, I tend to be “in” the film, in the moment. I become emotional, romantic, more free of my inhibitions — at least in my head — than I would be if I had three glasses of White Zinfandel after coming home from a date with my wife.
Keep in mind, there are only two periods in my life in which I’ve watched movies regularly. One, from ’74 to ’81, and the other, since The Untouchables came out in the summer of ’87. Between the ages of four and eleven, I saw everything from Ben Hur, True Grit and Casablanca — thanks in large part to the old WNEW (Channel 5) in New York in the years before Rupert Murdoch — to Carrie, Star Wars and Breaker! Breaker!. I had no particular set of movie tastes at all. My father Jimme loved “shoot ’em ups,” he said to me over and over again years before Clive Owen starred in a movie by the same name. My mother had no movie tastes and no discernment as to whether a five-year-old like me should watch The Omen with her. My ex-stepfather only liked martial arts films — I use this term loosely — like ones with Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, or David Carradine. I never had a chance to develop a set of tastes over time, especially during my teens.
While all of my classmates would consume movies like large buckets of popcorn, I was relegated to the occasional commercial trailer for the really, really big movies. It took me ten years to figure out why one classmate would walk into class almost every day singing “Roxanne!” a couple of octaves higher than Sting all throughout eighth, ninth and tenth grade. I didn’t see 48 Hours or Eddie Murphy’s take on The Police’s classic song until ’91. I’ve never seen E.T., Flashdance, Fame, The Verdict, Kramer vs. Kramer, The Cotton Club, Out of Africa (not that I’d really want to) or Gandhi. I’ve only seen movies like The Killing Fields, Witness and A Soldier’s Story in the past ten or fifteen years. And others, like Platoon, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I only got to see relatively close to their release dates because of cable (we didn’t get it until September ’85) or the Pitt Program Council.
So I appreciate the opportunity to see a good film with a good plot and great acting when I can. I easily get caught up in stories, even hokey ones, because I know I am a goofball and that out of six and a half billion people, there have to be others like me out there. I do emote at some of these films, but not usually at the obvious ones. I once walked out on Breaking the Waves because three women were sitting around me crying as the movie was drawing to its depressing close. Emily Watson’s character somehow believed that she was keeping her paralyzed husband alive by doing what he wanted, which in this case was sleeping with other men. Gimme a break! It was stupid, desperate and scary, but not something to cry about. Of course, my then girlfriend Angelia (now wife) dragged me to this “great” Indy film because she wanted a change of pace.
But I digress. I do cry at films. Usually when unrequited love is rewarded — I wonder why. Or when someone dies, especially when the other character or characters have developed a relationship with that person. Or when someone’s truth and life is vindicated. Movies like Chocolat, The Color Purple, Love, Actually, Finding Forrester, About A Boy, The English Patient, Crash, Good Will Hunting, Sixth Sense, even Jerry Maguire. Over the years, I’ve become a fan of Indy movies, quirky movies, movies that are character studies or have a plot that only a sensitive person like me can appreciate. I see a bit of myself in some characters. So when a character manages to overcome great obstacles, it makes me smile, laugh, even cry as if I’m in the film. When a character can become angry, I can be angry for them. When they fall in love, for that moment, I’m in love, too.
Still, I do watch some action films. Like Shoot ‘Em Up, Tombstone, Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon, sometimes over and over and over again. I’ve seen Tombstone at least thirty times over the years, and we own the DVD! I find myself liking the so-called bad guys almost as much as I like the lead characters. Documentaries, especially those by the ever-rabid Michael Moore, pull on my social justice strings. And, by the way, we sometimes need someone as rabid as Moore to hit us over the head about issues in which we need to take action. Of course, animation has become bigger in my movie selections of late. I love The Incredibles, Cars, the first two of Shrek. Of course, none are better in my mind than Kim Possible or Avatar: The Last Airbender — although Ben 10: Alien Force is starting to catch up.
As I get older, though, I can’t watch horror films or sci-fi films with horror or these docu-dramas that provide real life horror, like Boys Don’t Cry, 28 Days Later, or Hotel Rwanda. I can relate in the case of real-life horrors, but either the horror is over the top or just too much for me to relate to at one time.
The one thing I can’t watch at all any more are apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic movies. Because of what I’ve gone through, I can and become obsessed with the end of the world as we all know it at times. Terminator, Terminator II, The Day After, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, Independence Day (still a great film, though), and so many others. Between ’83 and ’03, I had so many bad dreams about being caught in the middle of a thermonuclear detonation that I had to stop watching Hollywood’s various depictions of Armageddon. If it happens, it happens. At least I’m experienced some form of it in my upbringing.
So, I’m a emotional sap when it comes to some movies, but also like a bit of “Movies For Guys Who Like Movies” movies, but have to back away from movies of cataclysmic pain and suffered, not to mention gratuitous violence and horror. I guess that makes me normal, and it gives me a sense of what kind of lying actor I would’ve been had I pursued this even casually growing up. Somewhere between Hugh Grant, Rob Brown, and Cuba Gooding, Jr., I guess. The best that I can do with the calling I have related to movies is to write something inspiring enough that by the time Noah’s my age, someone has used some of it in a movies. That means turning off the DVD player long enough to write or read.