Movies I Watched With My Dad
I was trying to think of something I could do for Father’s Day weekend on Le Blog. I don’t generally get too personal here unless I’m talking about something important like Star Wars or Disney World. Finally, I decided to write about the movies I remember seeing with my dad.
It may surprise some of you to know, I was never a gifted athlete. Which was just as well, because I had no interest in sports as a kid. My dad coached my brother and me in pee wee baseball for one year before he finally agreed to let me give up. I played soccer for less than half a season. I did stick with basketball for a while, but I think I shot the ball once in I don’t know how many years.
What I liked to do was to go to the movies. We didn’t go to the movies very often, but I think that made it special when we did. Now, my dad doesn’t like movies. Especially the kind I liked as a kid. He fell asleep during Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. For Jedi, he decided just to drop us off at the theater. I guess he wasn’t in the mood for a nap that day.
(For the full story on the first time I saw Star Wars, check out my National Star Wars Day post.)
My dad liked The Muppet Show. It was one of the only TV shows he watched with us. In fact, it may have been the ONLY show he watched with us on any kind of regular basis. So when Jim Henson released The Dark Crystal, my dad agreed to take us. If Jim Henson had been standing in the parking lot when the movie let out, my dad would have given him a piece of his mind. I remember him grumbling that everyone gets to screw up once and this was Henson’s turn.
Most times we went to the movies, my dad would play the role of critic in the lobby afterwards. He hated just about everything. So the handful of times he actually liked a movie really stand out.
The first movie I remember my dad liking was Raiders of the Lost Ark. I mean, how could you not, right? We saw Raiders late that summer. Since it didn’t take place in outer space, my brother and I didn’t actually ask to see it. But after every single person my dad knew told him he had to take us to see it, he decided to check it out.
Raiders was and still is a tremendously entertaining adventure movie. Everyone liked it including our kid sister who would have been 5 in the summer of 1981. The thing I remember the most (aside from the shock of my dad not hating it) was my sister screaming her head off when skeletons fell on Karen Allen and a snake slithered out.
Three years later, I remember waiting in a packed lobby to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I was grinning from ear to ear in anticipation of what was to come. (If only I knew, I might have calmed down a bit.) I remember my dad looking down at me and a realization dawned on him for perhaps the first time.
“You really like to go to the movies, don’t you?” he said. And for a brief moment, I felt like my dad understood me.
Of course, then we were all subjected to two hours of Kate Capshaw shrieking. Suffice it to say that if Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas had been standing in the parking lot when the movie let out, my dad would have punched them both in the face.
Another movie I was dying to see was Superman the Movie in 1978. I didn’t actually get to see the first Superman in theaters for whatever reason. I ended up watching it at my grandparents’ house. They had OnTV, the precursor to HBO. However, 2 years later my dad took us to see Superman 2.
Today, Superman the Movie is one of my favorites. I love it for all the stuff I thought was boring as a kid. The stuff on Krypton and especially the stuff in Smallville. But when I was 9, Superman 2 blew my mind. I did not see any way that Superman could possibly defeat three villains who all had his powers. It was inconceivable!
I remember cheering out loud at a couple points during the movie. When Superman asked General Zod to step outside, I went ape shit. But when it looked like Superman had lost his powers and General Zod made him kneel and take his hand… but then Superman squeezed his hand and you heard Zod’s bones crack because Superman had tricked him and taken away Zod’s powers while keeping his own… well, I just fucking lost it!
I’m not doing it justice. Here, just watch it yourself.
Yeah, that’s right, Zod! Wassup now? Sorry, I got carried away…
The icing on the cake was that when the movie was over, my dad actually liked it too. Had Richard Donner (the true creative force behind Superman II) been in the parking lot after the movie, he would have had nothing to fear from my dad that day.
I remember watching the early James Bond movies on TV with my dad. The Connery ones. And really, he only liked Goldfinger and Thunderball. So those are probably the only two we watched. They were cut to pieces on network TV and had about an hour worth of commercial interruptions. I didn’t really understand anything that was going on, but the movies seemed so grown up to me then.
The summer of 1983, there were two James Bond movies in theaters. I had never seen a James Bond movie except on TV. So I begged my dad to let me go see one of them. But both Octopussy and Never Say Never Again were rated PG-13. I was a few months shy of being a teenager. So the answer was no. I was told I could go see any movie that was rated G. G!
The only movie that was rated G was the Smurfs and the Magic Flute! I pointed this out to my dad and he told me he would take me to see the Smurfs if I wanted. I suspect he just didn’t want to drive me out to the theater that day. Because the next year he took me and my younger brother to see Beverly Hills Cop. Which, by the way, he loved. I enjoyed it but I don’t think I actually got all the jokes.
As a footnote, Timothy Dalton turned out to be my first Bond on the big screen. By the time The Living Daylights came out in 1987, I could drive myself. So my first Bond movie was the one where he practices safe sex. But, I’m not bitter.
My first R-rated movie was actually the Blues Brothers in 1980 (a good three years before Smurfgate). My dad was a fan of the original cast of Saturday Night Live and their snobs vs. slobs humor. In fact, the night we watched Superman at my grandparents’ house in 1979, my parents went to see John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in 1941. I remember my dad was still pissed off about the viewing experience when he got home. Stephen Spielberg was lucky he didn’t cross my dad’s path that day.
Anyway, in 1980 we went to see The Blues Brothers at the drive-in. I would have been 9 at the time. My younger brother was 8 and our sister was 4. Our next sibling was on the way which is probably why we all went to an R-rated movie at the drive-in.
Blues Brothers was showing along with Jaws 2. I had never seen a Jaws movie before, but in the 70’s the music and imagery had been inescapable. I was sacred silly to see Jaws 2. I remember my parents assuring me that Blues Brothers would play first and I could sleep through the scary movie.
Only, that’s not at all what happened. Jaws played first and I watched it from behind my fingers. For the rest of the summer, I was scared to take a bath much less go to the swim club.
By the time the Blues Brother started, my siblings were all fast asleep. But not me. I watched every frame of that movie with fierce interest. I didn’t understand a damn thing that was happening. But I knew it was something I shouldn’t be seeing. As such, I was riveted.
I think my dad liked the Blues Brothers. It’s hard to say exactly. I remember he got fed up during the comic car chase sequence at the end. Deciding it was best to beat the crowd, he turned the car around and left before the movie was over. The next day, he asked one of the neighbors how it ended. It was years before I actually got to see Jake and Elwood complete their mission from god.
The last time I went to a movie with my dad it was the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I remember my dad fell asleep. When we asked him what he thought after the movie, he asked “What was up with the gay walk?” He really missed his calling as a film critic.
There were other movies of course. My dad was visibly agitated after wasting time in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Clash of the Titans. And he was ho-hum about Rocky 3. Although even today he sings the praises of Hulk Hogan’s nuanced performance as Thunderlips. It was not uncommon for my dad to proclaim himself “the ultimate man vs. the ultimate meatball”.
To get a positive review from my dad was a rare thing. So this Father’s Day, please join me in saluting the few films that made it happen. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II, Beverly Hills Cop and Thunderlips from Rocky 3, we salute you!
Have a great weekend and check back on Father’s Day for the ultimate Father’s Day video.