The date was October 25, 2013. A recently christened 23-year-old me was feverishly rushing to finish a review of Bad Grandpa. Wrapping the review up with an inspired comment on how meaningless our existence is worth if we can’t laugh at sublimely executed fart jokes (you can read the whole thing here if you’re interested), I rushed out the door. I had a date. I’d been invited to a pool tournament hosted by a sorority from a college 45 minutes out of town, the president of which, a girl with a traffic-stopping smile named Emily, I had been talking to a good deal as of late. I was really enjoying the conversations we’d been having and was simultaneously nervous and excited by chance of properly hanging out with her. I had no idea that that night was my date with destiny.
If that last sentence didn’t give it away, this is going to be an extremely sentimental piece. If you’re not in the mood for something sappy and self-reflective, I suggest you head elsewhere. If you’re open to a piece on how movies have shaped and molded my life, come along with me on this adventure.
16 days after that pool tournament, I was telling Emily I loved her and wanted to be her boyfriend after a Drafthouse screening of Pulp Fiction. Six days after that, I was at her house showing her Goodwill Hunting, a movie that we so closely identified with that we now refer to it as “our movie.” Two days after that, I invited her to be my guest at my press screening for Catching Fire. Over the next two years, we would attend film festivals together, sit through a marathon of Nolan’s Batman films, decide we’d name our future cat Llewyn after a character from a Coen brothers movie, spend our next two anniversaries seeing a movie at an Alamo Drafthouse, argue over the script for Fury Road, then turn right around and discuss wether or not Transcendence is a beautiful love story. And that barely scratches the surface.
But before all of that was a viewing of Spanglish on a laptop surrounded by thirty-some- odd laboratory rats. Emily was just over a semester away from completing her bachelor of science degree in psychology, and she had been put in charge of an experiment that ultimately went on to be presented at a conference in Amsterdam, a job that required her to spend dozens of hours a week in a laboratory in the basement of a school building. I accompanied her to her laboratory out of a genuine desire to spend time with her. She was overjoyed when she learned that there was a movie she had seen and I hadn’t, a practice that continues to this day in the form of a list.
I’ve spent my entire life obsessed with moving images. When I saw The Lion King at the age of 3, I rushed up to the screen to touch it. What were these things moving on the screen? How could I get to this world? How could I tell interesting stories like it? As time progressed, I’d dress up as my favorite movie characters for Halloween, collect Star Wars action figures, watch every director’s commentary and special feature I could get my hands on, and follow a passion for writing that led me to this very site.
Around the time I had just started talking to Emily, I was coming out the other side of what is now referred to by myself and friends as “the dark times, before the Empire.” I stayed home and robotically watched as many movies as I could, going as far as to watch as many comedies as I could to keep suicidal thoughts at bay. Though the cinematic education was a plus, movies were something that gave me little more than a brainless exercise of redundancy that offered me very little enrichment. It’s only in hindsight that a fan of a James L. Brooks movie who didn’t know who James L. Brooks was or had seen any of his other films opened up more cinematic avenues than any bonus feature could ever dream of.
Today marks two years of dating Emily, and our wedding is just around the corner. Cliche as it sounds, she has drastically changed the way I watch movies. We view movies through the subjective lenses of our own experiences. To me, movies showed me cool scenarios, occasionally inspired, and taught me all sorts of technical ways to tell a story. To Emily, movies were an escape from reality, something that made her happy. She had never even thought about the importance of a camera angle or how impressive it was if something was shot in one take.
Over the past two years, I have become more confident and aware of who I am because of Emily. She’s literally the smartest person I know with such a big heart. She’s opened my eyes to how it is to be a woman in a male-dominated society. Things that movies had numbed me to now infuriate me. I’m more lenient on romantic comedies because I now view them through the youthful, romantic and optimistic eyes of my fiancee. Don’t believe me? Look up my review of The Longest Ride.
I don’t exaggerate when I call her the best movie buddy ever. My conversations and writings have improved. The beauty that permeates our lives together is now reflected in the movies we watch together. When I look back at the list of every unique movie we’ve watched together, I remember not only where we were in our journey together but also what we took from the movie as a result. I’ve come a long way since I told her about sticking my balls in salsa to help promote Cheap Thrills at Fantastic Fest. We’ve come a long way since Spanglish. Watching movies no longer open my eyes to how they are made, now they pan back and show me just how amazing my life is. When I watch a movie now, I still see it through the eyes of someone breaking down the craft, but I have a new outlook on all of it now. Everyone has their own reaction to films, the reasons that certain films speak to them. Criticism is more than just breaking down the craft. She’s opened my eyes to seeing just how they speak to people in different ways.
In the grand scheme of things, two years in a short time. We have many movies ahead of us, but more importantly we have so much life ahead of us. The experiences ahead of us will continue to be reflected in the movies we see, the festivals we attend, and the TV shows we binge in lieu of going to a party on a Friday night. I was so close to taking my curtain bow early. I had no idea the beauty that was about to be introduced in my second act. I can’t wait to see what happens next.