My dad died four years ago, so Father's Day is bittersweet for me. Yet it's also an occasion to remember all the good times we had in connection with the movies.
Rather than recount the most uncomfortable experiences (fuming about the profanity in a movie I'd recommended the whole family see, while I cowered; listening to him awkwardly define "rape" after my pre-teen sister heard it in a movie I wanted to see), let me tell you about the time my brother and I convinced my parents to see The Sting.
We'd seen it early in 1974 and loved it; after it won several Academy Awards, we urged them to go and they finally agreed. (They'd reduced their moviegoing to once every few years by that point.) We were nervous, because The Sting had a little profanity and even a brief, risque dancing scene with Sally Kirkland (OK, my eyes popped out).
When they came home, we eagerly asked for their reaction. My movie-loving mom, who inspired me to write about movies and watched many classics with me on television, liked it. But my dad couldn't get over the basic premise of the movie, that small-time crooks and con men would come together during the depression to try and con a bigger crook. My dad grew up in the depression and lived a hard-scrabble life; he insisted: "Criminals wouldn't act like that. That would never happen!"
As far as movies were concerned, that was the big difference between us. I've always been subject to the ability of certain movies to cast a spell; if the story is persuasive and emotional and well-paced, I'm liable to get caught up in the mood and forgive plot twists that don't make sense and overlook stupid, illogical actions by the characters. It's one of the things I guard against when I'm reviewing a movie: I feel I need to be conscious of maintaining a certain degree of reluctant distance before I give myself over to the filmmaker.
My father, though, had no such compunction. We might be watching something together late at night and the ending might tear me apart because I had become so emotionally involved in the story and with the characters. He'd simply shrug and go to bed. That's not to say he was unemotional or unfeeling, or that he lacked empathy. He could certainly sympathize with my personal hardships and losses. Fiction was a different matter; he had a core resistance to anything that didn't have the ring of truth, and refused to buy into any falsehood.
Before he died, we spent many hours together watching movies. By that point, I watched more foreign-language titles than English, and he had the idea that I could actually speak all the languages I was listening to -- he couldn't quite see the subtitles flashing across the bottom of the screen and, anyway, he thought the fight sequences in Hong Kong movies were far too long.
My father wasn't perfect, but I have a lot of fond memories of him. Whenever I watch a father on screen, I can't help but compare him to my dad. Sometimes I may have a passing thought: "Wow, wish he had been my dad!" but it's only a passing thought, a joke. I don't think he had a favorite movie, but the movie dad that resembles my father is, in my imagination, a weird combination of John Wayne, Gregory Peck, and Mel Gibson.
What about your dad and the movies? If you're a father, what movie memories do you hope to pass down to your own children? I hope the memories --and inspirations -- are good. Happy Father's Day!