Movies at Home
The lovely ladies at the classic film blog True Classics have dedicated the month of June to “Movie Memories”. This is their second year hosting the hugely successful event, and I am honored to be asked to participate. Please take the time to read all of the Movie Memories over at True Classics. You will not be disappointed.
While seeing movies in the theater is something special, to be honest, many of my most favorite movie memories are from times spent in front of the television at home, watching films with my mom and dad.
Mom and I spent many Friday nights camped out in the living room watching whatever movies we could find on TV. I would be on one end of the sofa, Mom on the other, both completely stretched out. At some point in the night, one of us would get a knee in the back or a foot in the ass, but it was all worth it. For me, it was an excuse to stay up late and watch grown-up television. For Mom, it was much needed decompression from the hectic work week.
On some Fridays, we would just watch late night television. Other times it would be classics like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), and we’d nervously giggle over the little children being pecked to death by crows (Hitch would be proud). Sometimes we’d catch a few campy beach pictures, like Beach Party (1963) and Gidget (1959). We’d laugh at the silliness of Moondoggie and Big Kahuna’s names, and envy Annette Funicello’s adorable bathing suits. But it was two hilarously disastrous, melodramatic movies that kept Mom and me entertained for many of those Friday nights. One was the made-for-TV The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976), starring a young John Travolta. This atrocity was released between his supporting role in Brian de Palma’s Carrie and his breakout as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977). I only remember a few details from Bubble: at one point, Travolta’s character looks like a crushed velvet gingerbread man-turned-astronaut in his “steppin’ out” getup. His dad is Mr. Brady (Robert Reed). He wants to ride a horse and feel the wind blowing through his amazing Travolta hair. The details of the movie aren’t important. What I do remember is laughing my ass off with my mom.
The second of our not-so-guilty pleasures (?) is the rom-dram Violets Are Blue (1985), starring Sissy Spacek and Kevin Kline. “Wait a minute, Jill”, you say. “Spacek and Kline are American treasures! They can do no wrong!” My response to that is “Violets Are Blue is a crime against humanity. But it also provided us with years of laughs.” I can’t tell you what’s so funny about this movie. Maybe the first time Mom and I saw it, we were extra punchy. But there is something about Violets Are Blue…something hilarious. Maybe it’s the dialogue, the endless boat race scenes, or perhaps the ridiculous dramatic event where Spacek can finally use her photojournalism skills she’s been gabbing about all movie. Of course I can’t forget about Bonnie Bedelia, serving up gazpacho. Don’t know what I’m talking about? It’s OK. I don’t either.
Mom and I watched so many truly great movies over the years. We still do. But it’s those two damn movies that we still talk about to this day. It’s been years since we’ve seen them, but we had so much fun.
When it came to R-rated, notoriously violent or foul-mouthed movies, Dad had a no tolerance approach…unless he liked it himself. Fortunately for me, he was a big fan of Monty Python, Mel Brooks, and Zucker/ Abrahams/Zucker. One of our big bonding films has always been Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). I was probably 10 years old when I first saw it, and although I didn’t understand all of the jokes, I remember the two of us laughing at “Bring out your dead!” and the old woman on the steps beating that poor cat against the side of the house. And of course there’s the Black Knight and his “it’s only a flesh wound” line. The sight gags are hilarious for everyone, but perfect for a kid who doesn’t quite understand the sometimes subtle British humor ( “You can’t expect to wield supreme power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!”).
Another one of our favorite movies was/is UHF (1989) with Weird Al Yankovic. This movie isn’t necessarily vulgar or violent, but its edginess and cool-factor (Hello?! Weird Al!) and “Wow! My dad loves it!” Not only did my dad love the movie, he bought it for me on VHS and again on DVD when it was released. Every time I go home there is usually some vague reference to UHF, whether it be about red snapper, badgers, or Spatula City. And I love it. My mom also loves these movies, too, with exception of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker films. I think she would rather sit through obnoxious time share presentations than watch Airplane! or a Naked Gun movie.
There were many movies we enjoyed together as a family, but there are a few that stand out more than others. We still watch them and make frequent references, and even remark how incredibly stupid they are. These movies have literally become an important part of our lives. And they have one thing in common:
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. It’s true. My family is held together by our love of 198o’s Chevy Chase movies. Three to be exact: National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), Funny Farm (1988), and most importantly National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989).
Most families have their Holiday movie traditions. A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas in Connecticut…ours is Christmas Vacation. Although the Griswold’s dysfunction is quite exaggerated, my family can relate to their hijinks and dealings with colorful characters like Cousin Eddie.
Chevy Chase. Wow. I really have lost all self-respect.
Jill Blake is the owner of the classic film website Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence. She is also a co-founder and editor of the film site The Black Maria and film editor at CC2K. In 2012, she was interviewed on-air by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. In 2013, she was a featured guest on the TCM podcast. In her spare time Jill is a stay-at-home mom, wife, fried okra connoisseur, and the neighborhood’s own L.B. Jeffries.