When your kid enjoys a Happy Meal because it comes with a car from Cars he or she is actually eating the movie. When I watch a movie on my iPad using Netflix I like to touch the actors’ faces. No two presentations of a movie are exactly the same—the aura of the original is everywhere. When I used to watch Must-See-TV on Thursday nights on NBC—Seinfeld, Cheers, LA Law, ER, Frasier, Friends, etc.—I could feel the weekend in the advertisements, the commercials for movies that will be Everywhere Tomorrow, the blockbuster promises of a Friday. I watch Weekend at Bernie’s every May to prepare for the wonders of summer. I watch Rudy or Scent of a Woman or St. Elmo’s Fire in September to prepare myself for hitting the books. I watch The Sweet Hereafter or Fargo or Nobody’s Fool in the dead of winter when it’s too cold to go outside. Every time I walk the aisles of a video store I’m overcome with a not-unpleasant desire to take a shit; I’m pretty sure this is Pavlovian: as a child I used to always read Variety and Entertainment Weekly in the bathroom. Back to the Future II is the most important American film made in my lifetime. I spend far more time refining my Netflix and uTorrent queues than I spend watching movies. From memory I can tell you where and with whom I’ve seen every movie I’ve ever seen. I’m not exaggerating. The first movie I saw in the theaters was The Neverending Story. I was three, with my mom, and we sat near the middle-back of the theater on the left side of the aisle, near the theater’s left wall. Towards the end of the movie the Empress tells Bastian that there are people enjoying his story just as he has enjoyed Atreyu’s—“people” meaning me and my mom. I’m beginning to think that this movie moment won’t ever be topped. I download movies illegally; I’m a criminal because of movies. I’ve seen Weekend at Bernie’s so many times that I feel like I can walk around inside Bernie’s beach house, like I can see every scene of the movie from any camera angle I want, like I can actually live inside of the space, like I can stretch: this is how Marty must have felt about Back to the Future in Back to the Future II. If you tell me that you like or dislike a movie or actor or director I will remember it for the rest of my life. I’m not exaggerating. I try to watch Down by Law every Thanksgiving. Is it any surprise that my favorite movies are about people who take movies seriously? Please note that I would never write “too seriously.” Badlands and True Romance are both about a guy who thinks he’s in a movie but isn’t, even though he actually is. Badlands is the tragedy and True Romance is the comedy. Think of Ferris Bueller speaking directly to the audience, staring straight into the camera. One can think of Badlands as being about a character who speaks into the camera, but slightly off-center, like he doesn’t and won’t ever know where the camera actually is—because it isn’t there, even though it is.
I saw Back to the Future in 1985 with my mom, dad, and brother. Afterwards we went to McDonald’s, still buzzing with excitement, and I had my first fish filet. It should go without saying that this was one of the 10 best days of my life. I watched 145 movies from start-to-finish last year, not as many as I should have. In the third grade my class took a field trip on a Friday morning to see The Little Mermaid. We had the theater all to ourselves. Life was the bubbles. No novel or play or videogame or painting will ever be as important to me as Weekend at Bernie’s. Jamie Lee Curtis topless in front of a mirror in Trading Places: let’s just call it a key moment in my sexual development. I fell in love with my wife in a basement in Manhattan in an Italian Neorealism course watching Fellini’s 8½. All conversations move movieward. Less than 1/10th of a second after I see a movie poster I can tell you the genre of film it advertises. I’m betting I can correctly guess whether or not you’ve seen a certain film. I’ve had to hide my knowledge of movie titles and actors’ names around friends for fear of embarrassment. I can name 20 movies starring Julia Roberts without thinking or blinking or breathing. I’ve smoked and fucked and been stoned out of my mind in movie theaters. I’ve snuck in and been kicked out. I’ve never seen Gone with the Wind or Touch of Evil or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly or Seven Samurai or any of the Fast and the Furious movies. In my life I’ve cried more during movie previews than I’ve cried not during movie previews. I like to spend entire evenings deciding what to watch. My love for movies is indistinguishable from my love for music. There’s no topic of discussion more important than “the greatest living director.” There’s almost nothing that scares and excites me as much as the thought that I’ve somehow managed to miss a crucial scene from a favorite movie, that I’ve had to go to the bathroom or that there’s been some sort of interruption at the same point in the film each and every time I’ve watched it. My default mode of thinking is that my life is a movie watched by aliens on a distant planet, that I occupy one of 6 billion reality-TV channels serving 60 trillion aliens, that there’s exactly nothing novel or high-concept about The Truman Show. I’m also convinced that most Americans’ default mode of thinking is more or less identical to my own; that God, Facebook, etc. are just outlets and metaphors for that desire to be narrativized and watched. Nothing can secularize a nation as quickly as movies. The Internet is mostly for reading about and downloading movies. Cinema as we know it is already just a predecessor to virtual reality, an artistic-industrial-military-personal dream that will not die until it’s fulfilled. The setting for about 20% of my dreams is a movie theater—big, crowded movie theaters where the aisles are mazes and in which the stadium seating descends as you move farther away from the screen.