Columns / Discourse / October 20, 2010

Check the Reel: Introspection

My earliest movie memory is when my father took me to see the 1998 version of “Godzilla,” featuring Matthew Broderick, a pregnant Godzilla and Roger Ebert (don’t ask). Any other boy would have welcomed a giant, city-destroying lizard with open arms, but I welcomed it with tears. I begged my dad to leave me at home. He insisted it would be fun and dragged me along.

I came back from the theater shell-shocked. I had trouble sleeping that night for fear Godzilla would reach into my room and pull me out. Later, I learned this was something of a family tradition. My dad watched “Night of the Living Dead” with my mom before I was born. She slept with the lights on the next few weeks.

It’s an amusing anecdote, to be sure, but watching “Godzilla” didn’t convince me to become a film-goer. For the longest time, I never really cared for movies. Sure, I watched Disney like most kids, but what really excited me were video games – their interactivity, the zany, colorful characters like Mario and Link and the endless hours of fun the games promised. Movies, on the other hand, bored me. I couldn’t sit for two hours and passively absorb entertainment. I needed a controller in hand to manipulate the characters on-screen.

Since then, I’ve obviously changed my mind. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here writing an opinion column on movies.

Why’s that? To be honest, I’m not sure. Film geeks tend to remember that one movie that opened the floodgates for them. They know in full detail where that obsession started and what they were thinking at the time. Often it starts early: you see ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Jaws’ or ‘The Seventh Samurai’ at the age of six and think, “That’s what I want to do!” Next thing you know, you’re watching three movies a day and you’ve found your life’s passion.

That never happened with me. At the age of four, I discovered the Super Nintendo. I thought video games were my life’s passion until schoolwork and other hobbies got in the way, but I never once considered turning to movies. That was my dad’s turf. He’d been watching movies for most of his life and I wasn’t going to start so late.

And then things changed. There wasn’t any burst of inspiration, any sudden realization that movies meant the world to me. On what was ultimately a careless whim, I decided to watch the original “Star Wars” trilogy in my senior year of high school. A friend loaned me “The Godfather,” I watched “Apocalypse Now” in an English class and I took advantage of a Family Video store’s closest proximity to my house to rent a bunch of films each week.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I started watching movies and liked them. It’s as simple as that, with no epiphanies, eurekas or egads involved. Movies slowly grew on me and in the end they led me here: the Discourse section of The Knox Student.

Now I try to watch a movie a day, whether I’ve seen it already or it’s brand new. I understand compared to other filmgoers at Knox (including fellow TKS writer (Dan Kahn), AKA “The Film Freak”), I’m lagging behind. I haven’t seen “The Godfather Part II,” “2001,” “E.T.” or “Schindler’s List.” The majority of Kurosawa’s and Hitchock’s filmographies remain untouched by me, and I just saw “Citizen Kane” last week. Shocking, I know.

And yet I keep trucking along. I may be late to the party, but I’m just glad to be there in the first place. My dad’s still laughing, I’m sure, at that fact after so many years of denial and turning down offers to watch movies with the family. I’m laughing, too. It’s a funny fact, but one I’m glad to call a part of my life. I started watching movies at age 18 and I’m proud of it. I’m proud of my late start and where it’s taken me.

Ivan Keta
Ivan Keta is a weekly film columnist for The Knox Student. In 2013, he won first place in Critical Film Review from the Illinois College Press Association, competing in the open division against dozens of other Illinois college newspapers.


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