My brother and I aren’t close. Never have been. We’re two very different people with very different interests. We’ve spoken once in four and a half years, a fact that I carry with genuine apathy.
Despite our estrangement, I have a handful of pleasant memories of him. Most of them, it may not surprise, relate to film.
If you read my Four Year Anniversary post, you know that movies have played an integral part in my life. My fascination with film started early and has only grown since. Growing up, I often saw movies before my brother did, which tended to annoy him, given that he’s three years older.
To make up for this, he would constantly rent movies that he thought I had never heard of. This was done for a number of reasons, competition chief among. He was playfully trying to find great, modern films before I could get a hold of them. This often meant slogging through dozens of straight-to-video films that never saw the dark of a movie theater. The movies were, by and large, utter crap. But amidst the abominable waste, there were a few hidden gems, which I’ve highlighted below.
|Me, Mickey and my brother, circa 1994|
My brother is 29 today, and this is, quite frankly, the best (and only) way I know to wish him a happy birthday. Maybe he’ll read this, maybe he won’t. Maybe he’s never seen my blog, maybe he reads it often. Regardless, these films have impacted my life for various reasons, which wouldn’t have been possible if my brother hadn’t shown them to me.
The Monster Squad (1987)
If I kept count of how many times my brother and I watched this movie on Saturday and Sunday mornings, it’d be in the hundreds. No bullshit.
We loved everything about The Monster Squad. It’s hilarious (“Wolfman’s got nards…”), it’s clever, and, to a six year old, it’s scarier than all hell.
To this day, the old school Tri-Star intro (the one with the giant pegasus running toward the screen) still terrifies the shit out of me. How’s that for Pavlovian psychology?
Drop Dead Fred (1991)
My brother and I watched Drop Dead Fred every Christmas Eve for 10 some odd years. Why? Who the hell knows. Tradition is tradition. At some point, you realize that ending a tradition would be far more unsettling than simply sitting through an absurd, yet absurdly funny, screwball comedy once a year.
I haven’t watched Drop Dead Fred since our tradition lapsed. Maybe I’m afraid it won’t be as funny as I remember.
American History X (1998)
Now we’re getting to the serious stuff. I’ll never forget the afternoon that my brother came to my room, in a silent, shaken funk, and told me that I had to come downstairs and watch the movie he’d just finished. The next two hours were equally insightful and distressing. We sat stunned and awestruck, like driving by a horrible car accident; we shouldn’t look, but we can’t take our eyes off it.
I remember seeing that final shot of the beach, and just sitting on the couch, staring at the ground, trying to catch my breath. American History X makes no apologies for the kind of film it is, which is why I respect it so much. It’s honest, raw, and brutal. And, in my opinion, essential viewing for anyone who makes judgments about others based simply on how they look.
Any Given Sunday (1999)
I’ve seen Any Given Sunday many times, but the most memorable viewing was when my brother took me to see it in the theater (it was my second time, his first).
We bought two tickets to… Galaxy Quest, I believe, and strolled with confidence into Oliver Stone’s hard-R football epic. I was 15, my brother was 18. It was a Sunday evening, and there were about 20 other people in the theater. Seconds after sitting down, while the trailers were still running, we were approached by a theater usher who couldn’t have been older than 18.
The ensuing conversation went a little like this:
Usher: Can I see your ticket stubs?
Brother: We don’t have them.
Usher: If you don’t have stubs, then I have to ask you to leave.
Brother: We had tickets, how do you think we got past the dude who tears them? We just threw them away by mistake.
Usher: He said you had tickets to another movie.
Brother: (looking at the screen) Shows what he knows.
Usher: I’ll have to ask you to—
Brother: (interrupting) Can I talk to you outside?
Minutes later, my brother returned to the theater, sat down, and told me to enjoy the movie. Later, I found out that he convinced the usher that we were brothers (true) whose parents weren’t around much (false) and that he was pretty much raising me (false).
It worked. Which set up a whole new method of continual manipulation. In fact, that’s the exact same shtick he pulled to sneak me into…
American Psycho (2000)
…a film that deserves to be credited, along with Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski, as the most hilariously quotable film of contemporary cinema. In fact, I believe American Psycho to be one of the most brilliantly sardonic pieces of American film written in the past 20 years, based on one of the most brilliantly sardonic novels ever written.
American Psycho is one of my favorite movies to show to those uninformed about Patrick Bateman. I love watching their faces as Christian Bale moonwalks across his apartment in a raincoat, ax in hand. Or the nervous chuckle that is often produced by lines like, “I like to dissect girls, did you know I’m utterly insane?”
So sure, showing the movie to people is always a blast, but it never tops the experience of being in the back row of a movie theater as a hysterical, jaw-dropped 15-year-old.
A few days ago, I described in detail my fascination with Andrew Dominik’s hilariously warped character study. A fascination that began in my childhood living room. Sitting there with my brother, laughing our asses off at the sight of ol’ Chop slicing his ears off with a razor blade. It was the best of times.
There’s a scene in Chopper soon after Eric Bana testifies against his former cellmate. Instantly, with no warning, we jump cut to a slow motion shot of Chopper walking down a crowded street as a free man. When the brief scene was finished, my brother rewound the DVD and hit pause. “Who the fuck would let a guy like that out of prison?” he asked through tears of laughter. He pushed play and we finished the movie, as we usually tended to do.