Why, hello there! If you find yourself reading this, I am pretty sure you are a lover of movies. Or you got bonked on the head and you really have no idea why you are here. Either way, we’ll take it! Okay, back to movies. This being our introductory post, we decided to dig deep down into the recesses of our hippocampus and look back on our formative days as a movie buff in the making.
I was lucky enough to have grown up in a home where movie watching was greatly enjoyed and encouraged. My sisters and I were regulars of the Betamax rental shop just right next door. I remember walls and walls of shelves, stacked with video cassettes from top to bottom. We had our staples, particularly those labeled “ASSTD. CARTOONS” in black marker on packing tape. They contained a mishmash of Disney Sing-A-Long Songs, Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and Silly Symphony shorts. Eventually our parents wised up and thought about how much money they would save if they just purchased those movies we rented over and over. We got feature length films too. But my sisters and I couldn’t settle on just one title for the three of us. The eldest harboring dreams of growing fins and scales, choose The Little Mermaid (1989). The middle kid having some sort of moppet fetish, got Annie (1982). And yours truly having prehistoric sensibilities (and manners) got Land Before Time (1988).
But my young cinematic experience weren’t all cheery. Our parents appeared to have an utter lack of concern in screening what movies we could or could not watch. It seemed like dream come true to be given free rein in video rentals, I know. But not quite.
We rented Poltergeist (1982), thinking with a name like that, he could very well be a close cousin of Snufflelupagus from Sesame Street. Okay, Snufflelupagus was kind of creepy, but Poltergeist threatened the dullness of suburban living with trees that eat kids, and closets and eat kids, and television screens that eat kids. If we cannot be safe in our own homes, wherever else can we be?! We were excited about Child’s Play (1988) because we were children and we loved playing. But when a doll with a shock of red hair and a rictus smile appeared on screen, we knew something was amiss. But it was all too late. My sister, who is now already in her thirties, still holds her ghoulish childhood nightmares over my mom’s head to this very day.
And I could never forget my first time in the cinema. I was initially excited because we were going to watch a movie with dinosaurs! And it’s live action! I am talking about the little movie called Jurassic Park (1993). But I didn’t realize that coming to the cinema involved being in a large cave in complete darkness with loud audio and people I did not know. I kept tugging my mom’s arm, and practically dragging my feet, telling her I wanted to go home. But she insisted we stayed and I had my sister hissing behind me, so I lost the battle. But I won the war. Okay that makes completely no sense at all. But you get my point. Anyway, it was the best two hours of my young life. It was movie magic. Thank you Steven Spielberg.
My parents always mention that when I was still an only child, they often see local movies at the cinema and bring me with them. That was before I was 2 years old so of course I don’t remember anything. What I remember are movies that I watched during the VHS era when I was in grade school. My father would rent VHS tapes every week. He had his choices of action movies that are his favorites and family movies that my parents and siblings would watch together at home. Therefore, the movies that I first watched are family movies about kids and dogs like Home Alone (1990), Dennis the Menace (1993), Baby’s Day Out (1994) and Lassie (1994), among others. I also recall that I had a good time watching Face Off (1997) with my father.
When asked about first movie memories, the first thing that popped up in my mind was from The Little Rascals (1994). I don’t really remember the plot but one scene really stood out. It’s the scene on the boat when Alfalfa sang “You Are So Beautiful” to Darla. The two kids were so sweet and adorable. I used to sing that part of the song on repeat during my childhood. Moreover, I will never forget Alfalfa’s hair.
As regards to being familiar with the plot, the earliest that I still remember is Hook (1991) that stars the late Robin Williams. Because my aunt has a Peter Pan book by J.M. Barrie that I tried to read then and because of the Peter Pan cartoons that were shown on local television those days, I didn’t forget this sequel-like movie adaptation. It’s about the adult Peter who returned to Neverland to face and fight again the pirate Captain Hook who kidnapped his children. There’s this feud between him and Rufio, the boy who became the leader of “The Lost Boys” since he left. One of my favorite parts was during the banquet and they told Peter to “use your imagination”, till Peter and Rufio exchanged funny and silly insults. Another is when Peter found his “happy thought” that lead him to fly and become Pan again. Now that I think about it, Peter Pan and this movie taught me to use my imagination and think of happy thoughts, which I do now and then when watching movies.
My family isn’t exactly the movie-going type.
We did have a VHS player then, and there was this one VHS rental shop in town, but—if my memory serves me right—it just collected dust in our sala. We relied heavily on TV for entertainment. There were cartoons in the mornings, animé in the afternoons, and soap operas at night. Who needs to rent movies when TV is free? Perhaps the majority of our town’s population thought that way, too, as evidenced by the demise of the only movie-house in our province.
But before it closed down, I managed to see three films there. The first was Jose Rizal (1998) played by Cesar Montano, and it was required by school. The other two, I’ve seen as back-to-back screening and they were Air Bud (1997) and The Parent Trap (1998).
Now, what you must know about my nine-year-old self is that I preferred Tagalog films over English ones. Sure, I am fond of Disney cartoons and I did envy my playmate for their family’s wide array of VHS from Tarzan (1999) to Dumbo (1941), but Got 2 Believe (2002) starring Claudine Barretto and Rico Yan trumps them all. I liked my movies cheesy and predictable.
Now, Air Bud and The Parent Trap — those were pretty something. Those movies had got my attention and managed to sustain it until the credits rolled. Air Bud revolves on the story of a boy who took care of a lost dog which happened to be good at playing basketball. It’s a story of friendship, loyalty, and a dog playing basketball (!) That should capture my attention. And then there’s The Parent Trap about twins who weren’t both aware of the other’s existence until summer camp when the two of them were made to stay together in a creepy cabin on top of the hill as their punishment for misbehaving. Then, after a short catch-up, they were on a mission to swap with each other and get their divorced parents back together. Lindsay Lohan was an adorable kid and The Parent Trap was cute and funny and it had been my entry for “Favorite Movie” on all of my friends’ slum books for the longest time.
I have come a long way from my nine-year-old-self movie selection. But I will always have Air Bud and The Parent Trap —my earliest, fondest, movie memories—which first taught me that the unexpected could also be worthwhile.
How about you? What are your earliest movie memories?