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Films that defined me

It’s the $1 million question among movie addicts everywhere: What films ignited this zealotry for cinema? What films left lasting impressions on the kid who grew into a full-blown cinefile? Marc at Go, See, Talk! has challenged his circle of bloggers to pose these tough questions and devise a list of films that defined us, that turned us from kids who made mud puddles outside into kids who couldn’t wait to pop a tape into the VCR (for all the spring chickens out there, VHS existed before Blu-rays and — gasp! — DVDs).

If you’re hankering to know which films defined M. Carter @ the Movies, read on. (Something tells me no one will be terribly surprised by my choices.) For the complete list of participating bloggers, visit Go, See, Talk!, or click on the graphic above.

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Action

“First Blood” (1982) — If “Drop Dead Fred” sealed my fate as a slightly warped, left-of-center lover of comedies with a razor-sharp edge, it was Stallone’s “First Blood” that stoked the fires of interest in watching things go KAZOWWEE! and burly do-gooders go positively medieval (not in the Tarantino sense of the word) on bad guys. With “First Blood,” Sly Stallone satisfied both requirements with room to spare. The explosions and shootouts and action — plus the unstoppable force of John Rambo — stunned Young Me; later, Adult Me came to appreciate the secondary story about the harsh, degrading and unfair treatment of Vietnam vets just struggling to re-enter the world of the living.

 

Comedy

“Blazing Saddles (1974) — There’s a certain joy that comes with watching movies your parents don’t know you’re watching that makes a kid feel invincible. And so it was with “Blazing Saddles,” which I caught on cable a few times before my parents introduced me (officially) to the wacko freaky genius that is Mel Brooks. The “too much beans” scene alone could send a malleable young soul into hysterics; throw in the sight gags and the pratfalls, the endlessly quotable dialogue and the outrageous characters (like the hypersexed Teutonic Titwillow, or the mumblingly moronic Gov. William J. Lepetomane) and you’ve got yourself a classic even an preteen can appreciate.

 

Dark Comedy

“Drop Dead Fred” (1991) — Of all the oddball films that littered my childhood, it’s “Drop Dead Fred” that made me the morbid, gallows-humor-loving film fan that I am today. Billing “Drop Dead Fred” was a bold move on New Line Cinema’s part, since movies involving fair amounts of profanity, pre-Farrelly Brothers grossout gags, out-there costumes and very clear episodes of serious emotional abuse aren’t the usual fixins for the warm fuzzies. In fact, “Drop Dead Fred” may be one of the best examples of a movie about kids that’s directed at adults, and a fine specimen of a dark comedy because of the fearless approach director Ate de Jong takes toward comedy. Jong’s film is trying, but there’s something strangely uplifting about its conclusion that renders it timeless.

 

Drama

“The Land Before Time” (1988) — This forgotten gem of love, loss and enduring friendship among a clan of young dinosaurs had some hefty industry talents attached (James Horner, Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas included) that played my heartstrings, while the big-scale Pizza Hut marketing campaign no doubt tugged at mom and dad’s wallets. The original film (forget about the 17 low-quality sequels) has everything fans of weepies could want: family tragedies, natural disasters, suspense, a sob-worthy death scene … not to mention the fact that the main characters (including an evil T-rex!) are dinosaurs. For a pre-Pixar kid film, that’s quite an accomplishment.

 

Fantasy/Horror

“Return to Oz” (1985) — Anyone who argues that “Return to Oz,” besides being a bastardization of the Judy Garland classic, is not a horror film must have missed the part with Princess Mombie, who keeps GLASS CABINETS full of TALKING DECAPITATED HEADS in her palace. Mombie and The Wheelies caused me countless hours in lost sleep, with the mental hospital scenes — storms and restraints and Thorazine, oh my! — providing ample fodder for future psychoses. “Return to Oz” is kiddie horror straight up, and even years later the trippy effects combined with the lavish costumes and sets continue to look startling and innovative. And terrifying. Did I mention that already?