A blog about general entertainment, fashion, and movies. And some random stuff too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Movies With Impact

I was talking to my friend Matt, who I went to High School with, and he's now at NYU getting his masters in composing (which, on a side note, makes him perhaps the coolest person I know).  I asked him when I was explaining my idea for this entry which story or movie changed his life. He replied it wasn't a story so much as a score he heard when he was 15 years old. It was the first Harry Potter score. ...And now he's a composer! Because of that one score he heard from 10 years ago. That's power. That score shaped his future. A good friend of mine from college said once: "Lives change on a day-to-day basis, for a number of reasons: either a best friend gets married or you see a beautiful sunset. Or you read a powerful book."

I'm sure anyone who has been interested in reading my blog is probably under the same belief that stories have the power to change perspectives, change ideas, change hearts, and under the right circumstances maybe even change lives. I really wanted to have an entry where people could discuss and talk about the story that impacted them in this way. In my experience, there has been one movie that has impacted me more than any other: The Lord of the Rings.

I was a sophomore in high school when The Fellowship was released, and I was unaware what the movie was about or that it was based on a book. I never enjoyed reading before (I mostly blame the Accelerated Reading program we did in middle school), and so it wasn't important to me, anyways. However, on a church trip December of 2001, Ashlie, who is now my best friend, took me to see the first installment of The Lord of the Rings. I was so clueless when it ended that I asked, "So... do we just assume everything goes as planned?" Her and our other friend, Rachael, laughed. "No, there are two other movies!" I was intrigued. It wasn't until the next year, when The Two Towers was released, that the fire started to grow in me, and I decided that I couldn't just watch these movies. I had to go against everything I would usually do and actually READ THESE BOOKS. I couldn't wait any longer to do so. 

It was through reading this series that I discovered I could enjoy reading. No one assigned me these books. No one forced me to test over them. I picked them up on my own and read them, and found I couldn't put them down. I never imagined before that I could ever feel so attached to a book. This was the beginning of me experiencing what (I later learned) Keat's called “the holiness of the Heart’s affection and the truth of Imagination.” I began to realize that some things that are created in the mind can be more real than some actual things in our lives, and through fantasy, real-life truths can be found. A Tolkein scholar has said, "People make the comment that this type of fantasy is escapist and evading the real world, but I think that [thinking] is an evasion. [The story] is actually trying to confront something that some people would rather not confront."

This new perspective and passion for the power of literature is what lead me to want to help others realize their capacity to love reading and how it has the power to change people. In turn, this made me want to teach English, directly sending me into my profession. I decided for sure, a year later in my senior year of high school (not far after the release of the third movie), that I wanted to be an English major, and so I was. And so I became, and am now, an English teacher. With a library in my room for my students to check out books they may enjoy. (Yes, Lord of the Rings is on there!)

Also, I fell in love with the cast of this movie. They will, perhaps, always be the cast-love-of-my-life. I don't know another movie that has ever been cast so perfectly. But besides that, they also gelled so beautifully with each other behind the scenes, it was that much more fun to watch them on screen. Chemistry abounds! Watching the actor commentary and seeing pictures of them from set, hanging out, or even red carpets was just a blast because you knew they loved each other, these films, and the experience of making them as much as you did. These movies/this story changed their lives, too, and it made me feel like I was, in some way, connected to these people. Because even though our lives were changed in completely different ways, they were still changed for the same reason and by the same means. 

Ultimately, because I adored this cast like I did, I wanted to watch all the special features I could get my hands on about the making of the film. I learned about every element of film-making, from adapting and writing a script, to story boards, to casting, to making scenery, to props, to directing, and much, much more. It made me discover my love for the art of film-making and it awakened my passion and interest in everything that goes with it.

Here I am, nearly 10 years later, and I still feel the same way about this story as I did when I first started on my journey to discovering it. Each December I watch all 3 movies all in one day, and my favorite parts always make me happy or bring a tear to my eye. Rereading the books always makes me feel like I am coming home. It's the kind of love you know will last a lifetime when you can go nearly a decade and nothing has worn off or gotten old. 

What movie/story/book/score/show has had an impact on you in this way? Please tell me in the comments!


  1. For me it will always be Velvet Goldmine. I saw that movie years after it originally came out, and because of it I am in love with making art. Every time I need a boost for inspiration I watch it and I'm instantly refreshed and I feel like myself again. It woke me up to the entirety of glam rock, and just listening to the music wakes up my inner fire. Almost all of my art has some tie to that movie, and I don't know who I would be if I had never seen it.

  2. Thanks for this! I came to the movies late ('The Two Towers') and only then began reading the books in preparation for the final movie. I didn't quite make it before RotK came out, but I finally did finish reading them all.

    I feel exactly the same way about the movies, the cast and the books! And my love is just as strong today as it was at the beginning.

  3. Neppa, great film. Great choice! I understand.

    Mo, thanks for your input. I am glad we share this!

  4. For me, the story was Joyce's "The Dead." I was a freshman in college, assigned to read, and then found myself immersed and enriched and the story has never let me go. Three films, all equal in my book and all capable of enthralling me every single time I watch, and making me a better, more reflective person: "To Kill a Mockingbird" (first viewing in 5th grade), "Gone with the Wind" (sixth grade), and "Casablanca" (eighth grade). More than books or films, they are narrative worlds I can inhabit.

  5. LOTR is one of the books I can read hundred times and each time I find something new :)
    I enjoy movies too but I was always a bookworm so mostly I'm influenced by books.

    The second book I can read and never get bored is "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series by Douglas Adams. These books are kind of philosophy of my life.

  6. I remember reading The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck in the eighth grade. It is about as long as Of Mice and Men. It helped to get me hooked on quality writing and good books. It has a great opening few paragraphs--very ironic. In the tenth grade I remember reading "The Baby Party" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a short story in our lit book, and that got me interested in his writings. In college Hamlet probably had the biggest impact on me and became something that I could return to and always see something new. Now, I've probably read it over fifty times, but each time I sit down to read it again, I always feel excited.

    When I was in school, it was pre-home video and pre-cable, so a person was definitely likely to remember seeing certain movies because you had to hunt them down like fugitives on the run. There would always be one that you ached to see that never seemed to get programmed for some reason. I would get the TV listings out of the Sunday paper and go to the back where the movies were listed. St. Louis had one channel that showed old movies all night, but of course you had to get up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning to see a particular film. But I often did in high school. That is when I first saw some classic films: Sunset Boulevard, which is great anytime but especially fantastic at 3:00 in the morning. I remember seeing Sabrina that same way. Also Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. And the comedy Born Yesterday. William Holden is in three of these four films, and I may have gotten to like him as an actor because I mostly saw him in his best work at 3:00 in the morning. I loved every few weeks getting up at 2:00 sneaking on a TV and watching some old black and white film in the dark--it was like some time capsule tapping into the past. What great dialogue those movies had! Beautiful sentences, the likes of which you never hear in daily life. As one of the screenwriters from that era has said, "Most people don't say witty or memorable things in everyday life, which is why screenwriters are paid so much money to think up clever things to put in movies."

  7. That was a wonderful post for me to read, because The Lord of the Rings has been my "one book I'd take on a desert island" since I first read it, around 1970. I read it again every year or so, and I watch the movies, extended versions, just as often.

    But the movie that had the biggest impact on me was Star Wars. Not any of the long titles, but the first, the original Star Wars. I think it saved my life.

    With all the movies that have followed it and saturated us with special effects, fast action, and wisecracking heroes, I think it must be hard for anyone who wasn't there when this movie hit the theaters to understand how very fresh, different and exciting it was. I saw it in the theater in its first run, and it simply blew me away. I left the theater on a natural high that lasted for hours.

    Years later, Star Wars was released again, and it came to my town, to the bargain theater (25 cents). At the time, I was at a real low point in my life. I won't bore you with the details, but my love life, my social life, and my creativity all sucked, and I'd just lost my job. That summer was probably the worst of my life, one of the few times that my normally optimistic self couldn't seem to rise above my problems. So what did I do? Out of my meager unemployment benefits, I scraped enough for gas and a quarter every few days, and I went to see Star Wars. I saw it over 20 times before I finally got a job and came out of my slump. During that time, yeah, I had suicidal thoughts, but all I needed to do to get rid of them was to see my heroes and listen to their silly wisecracks, and then cheer them on against the Death Star. I always came home again with a high that would keep me cheerful for days, and when I lost the good feeling, off I'd go again to reclaim it.

    So although I've seen and loved hundreds of movies, and many of them have affected me deeply, Star Wars is the one which had the greatest impact on my life.

  8. You're going to hate this, but I can't think of a film that's had a more lasting impact on me than No Country for Old Men. To me, it's cinema in it's purest form, and one of the great masterpieces of the 21st Century, crafted by the quintessential American filmmakers. It so beautifully and brilliantly captures our state of being in the times we live in. How do we react when confronted with unstoppable evil, and to some extent, the embodiment of death (masterfully seen in Bardem's Chigurgh)?

    It challenges us with an ending that isn't wrapped up in a nice bow. There is no final confrontation or sense of closure for Ed Tom Bell. The bad guy gets away. And not by some epic chase or shootout. He simply walks away. And there's really nothing Sheriff Bell can do about it. How are we as humans supposed to deal with that? The sense that there's nothing we can do about the insurmountable evil in this world, and we simply have to keep living our lives as best we can.

    To this day I've never seen anything that challenged me as not only a lover of film, but as a human being. It forced me to look inward and think about the hard questions of life, death, and how we deal with it all. What would you do if you suddenly happened upon a briefcase full of millions of dollars in it, but it's obviously dirty money? Would you keep it? Would you turn it in? That sounds like an easy question but really think about it. It's a much more complex question than it appears on the surface level, and really gets you to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what you're capable of, and what you're willing to do for a break. It taps into the human condition and asks us what any of us as humans are capable of, especially when confronted with that sense of unstoppable darkness with no hope of seeing the light. That sense of hopelessness and helplessness really strikes a huge chord to me as something that's true of where we are right now in time and how we are as people, and I don't think I've ever encountered a film that really impacted me in a way quite like that.

    It asks the hard questions, and really changed the way I saw film, and the world as a whole. To this day I can watch the film and always get something new out of it. I know you hate the movie, but as far as an honest answer of what film has impacted me in a truly profound way, I can't think of any film with more impact on me than the Coen Brothers' magnum opus.

  9. Kathy, that is exactly what I am talking about! What a beautiful story. That's exactly the power movies can have. I totally understand. :)

    Kevin, well of course I knew you'd say that when you told me I'd dislike your comment. But I understand what you mean. However, I am interested to know what movie or story stirred your interest for the first time in film to BEGIN with.

  10. In terms of a film(s) that got me interested in film to begin with, I really don't know that there's a definitive answer to that question. I've always been interested in filmmaking, since I was very young. I made films all the time. So it's always felt like a gradual thing, building and building over the years until high school when I just kind of decided that this was what I wanted to do for a living. I could name a few films that certainly had an influence on me. The Lord of the Rings certainly had a lasting impact, and really kind of got me into reading on a level beyond what I thought possible. Collateral was a film that really introduced me to adult-oriented cinema in the form of Michael Mann. King Kong definitely stirred passion as a filmmaker, as it was an example of fulfilling one's ultimate dreams (Jackson's dream project of remaking King Kong, his all time favorite film). The Departed introduced me to Martin Scorsese, the modern master, and Pan's Labyrinth and Babel were fantastic ways to be introduced to international cinema. But in all honestly, I think No Country for Old Men was what kind of sealed the deal for me. I know that sounds odd, since obviously I was interested in film to begin with, but for the reasons specified above, it really kind of made me think "this is it. This is why I love movies. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is where it's at." Hope that makes sense :)

  11. Yay! I don't know why it's taken me so long to read this...*winter break laziness fail*

    I don't really need to elaborate on what my moment was since you mentioned it up top and we already talked about it, but it's still a fun idea to talk about.

  12. I would just like to say that my boyfriend and I had this EXACT SAME CONVERSATION just a few days ago. It's amazing what a story can do. I have always been a reader but no book series - until Harry Potter had made me LOVE books the way I do today.

    I was about 12 when Fellowship had come to the big screen and I had already read The Hobbit in the past (which I loved) and I had seen the LOTR cartoon that was released back in the 70's. I can in all honesty say, I had a celebrity crush on almost every single male character in that cast at least once since I was 12. Sad? I don't think so. LOL

  13. Hi, this post made me re-think about my choice of career, since I`m very confused between choosing what I think that I would really enjoy to do and what basically society tells me to.

    As a person who loves new informations of any kind, reading books, and helping other people with homework doubts I reached the conclusion that I would like to be a teacher. However, many of my acquaintances that are teachers often tell me that I shouldn't become one.

    Since you are a teacher yourself, could you give me a piece of advice?

    Thanks, =D.

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