It's hard not to feel fogeyish and cranky about the crap flicks I've had to see with him — because they're the only age-appropriate options, because they're animated, because they've been merchandized to pieces, because I want him to have a movie-going childhood he will look back on fondly. Like I did.
Why, when I was a girl, we had UHF and PBS (and a family with priorities), so when we went to see That's Entertainment in the theater when it came out, we had already seen a surprising number of the films it showcased — and took note of the ones we hadn't yet seen. That was in 1974, when there were still vehicles for stars from Hollywood's golden age to get work and for my sister and me to play "That's so-and-so from such-and-such."
There were probably more, but I distinctly remember going to the movies to see:
- Blazing Saddles
- Young Frankenstein
- Murder on the Orient Express
- Airport 1975
- (and for my 10th birthday outing) The Towering Inferno
Benji is the only thing on that list that approximates the kind of crapola I'm subjected to in theaters today with my own 11-year-old. It was the first film I really resented for making me cry. The other movies either recall a beloved genre or offer up a cavalcade of cameos for further research or recollection. Even Benji threw us a bone by starring Peter Breck, the brooding Nick Barkley of The Big Valley, the star of which was, of course, Barbara Stanwyck in black leather.
Chinatown and The Godfather: Part II also came out that year, but we weren't allowed to see those; we just read the parodies in Mad Magazine. Turns out that two films I saw much later and admire greatly were also made that year: The Conversation and Alice in the Cities. I suppose I miss the range — the understanding that there were some movies I wouldn't "get" at 10, but would later and would want to — and the ready access to older movies on regular television and in rep theaters. It makes me sad, really. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
Smurfs 2 opens in July.