"I'm not really into films like that. That's more your thing." This is something that my mom has actually said to be on more than one occasion. I chuckle as I type this because my mom is probably one of the most opinionated people I have ever met--who isn't me. Even if she hasn't watched a movie, one look at a bad trailer or awful description, and she would read that film so fast it would regret the day it was born.
No, my mom may not write a film blog or go to screenings, but she is most definitely a film lover on the down low. She may play it off, but it is she who helped inspire my interest in film. When I was growing up, she was diligent about introducing me to many different kinds of films, including black and white films, independent films that often flew under the radar, and westerns, because she was invested in showing me various cultures and themes through film.
In fact, I can think of 15 older films off the top of my head that she taught me that still resonate with me today, ones that I plan to show my children. They span a variety of genres, and my mom had an interesting commentary for each of them:
1. IMITATION OF LIFE (1934)
Cast: Louise Beavers, Claudette Colbert, Warren William
Director: John M. Stahl
Mom's Commentary: "It's a heartbreaking movie about a mother who only ever wanted to love her child."
2. COFFY (1973)
Cast: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui
Director: Jack Hill
Mom's Commentary: "Pam Grier was and is still great."
3. PSYCHO (1960)
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Mom's Commentary: "The best scene is when the detective [played by Martin Balsam] is falling backwards down the stairs. It's such a frightening shot."
4. ALIENS (1979)
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
Director: Ridley Scott
Mom's Commentary: "Once that thing popped out of that guy's stomach, I was DONE."
5. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
Cast: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Hattie McDaniel
Director: Victor Fleming
Mom's Commentary: "Stunning cinematography." And: "Scarlett was one of the most desperate and delusional women in film. She rationalized everything by saying 'tomorrow is another day.'"
6. THE PARENT TRAP (1961)
Cast: Hayley Mills, Maureen O'Hara, Brian Keith
Director: David Swift
Mom's Commentary: "[Despite the fact that Hayley Mills plays Bostonian and Californian twins], she doesn't even try to hide her English accent here." And: "My favorite scene is when she's having a fit about how she had to chop off her hair for this scheme."
7. CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME (1975)
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Moses Gunn, Rosalind Cash, Bernie Casey
Director: Joseph Manduke
Mom's Commentary: "I lost it when his friend died. Such a sad story."
8. THE BAD SEED (1956)
Cast: Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Henry Jones
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Mom's Commentary: "Some of the best horror is psychological--you don't always see it, but you can sense it. That's more scary."
9. SCHOOL DAZE (1988)
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, Tisha Campbell-Martin
Director: Spike Lee
Mom's Commentary: "This takes me back to my college sorority days, but with more song and dance."
10. BOYZ N THE HOOD (1991)
Cast: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube
Director: John Singleton
Mom's Commentary: "This is one of the best black movies--actually, one of the best movies of any kind--ever. Hands down."
11. RAISING ARIZONA (1987)
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Mom's Commentary: "This is Holly Hunter and Nicolas Cage at their goofiest."
12. HALLOWEEN (1978)
Cast: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran
Director: John Carpenter
Mom's Commentary: "The music alone will haunt me for the rest of my days."
13. POLTERGEIST (1982)
Cast: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O'Rourke
Director: Tobe Hooper
Mom's Commentary: "I love when the boy [Robbie, played by Oliver Robins] says 'Drive away, Drive away!' at the end of the movie when his sister hasn't even gotten in the car yet."
14. JAWS (1975)
Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
Director: Steven Spielberg
Mom's Commentary: "When I first saw this movie, I was scared to take a bath."
15. MY FAIR LADY (1964)
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway
Director: George Cukor
Mom's Commentary: "There will never be another Audrey Hepburn."
In her own informal way, my mother endowed me with the knowledge and appreciation of film--its themes, its ideals and its extravagance--and introduced me to icons of the past and present. She inspired me to discover more films on my own, and explore them more deeply. For that, I will forever be grateful.
Which films did your mother introduce you to?