Movies That Shaped My Life / by Deborah Clague

Upon recommendation from a close friend and praise from critics the world over, I decided to rent 'Boyhood' last weekend. With such strong reception, the movie clearly speaks to people. Great movies do. In the span of a few hours, they can entertain, educate, inspire, instil empathy and distill doubt. 

'Boyhood', however, did not elicit any of this emotion from me. It didn't connect at all. Which got me thinking … what movies have shaped my life and influenced the person I've become? At the risk of having my taste and merit of subjective opinion questioned, these are my favourite films of all time: 


SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES

"Again? Don't you want to get something else?" - my father, in exasperation, after forcing him to rent 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves' for the millionth time (1984).

It seems so long ago, now that Blockbuster and the like are as extinct as a triceratops, but I can remember my first video rental experience as much as I can recall repeatedly viewing my childhood movie of choice: 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves', the first film I ever saw.

From an early age, I was my father's sidekick; a miniature, snot-nosed, Cabbage Patch-toting version of himself with limited verbal skills and even more limited reasoning. Despite this imperishable bond, the affinity wasn't without controversy. Looking back, I'm not sure why I was so fixated on this film. The story is trite. The protagonist is daft. And yet, every single time we entered that independent VHS rental shop on South St. Mary's Road in Winnipeg, I immediately went over to the shelf that held its case and asked my father to rent it. It became comforting to me. For him, it was pure torture. Yet he always obliged. 

Now, as an adult, 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves' is a time capsule. The fairytale contained within the 83 minute running time less a focus than the majestic visuals and vivid memory of childhood that it induces. My favourite scene is the climax below. Walt Disney was a genius. 


INDIANA JONES: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK 

Growing up, the extent to which I exploited my daring was getting purposely lost in the forest next to my childhood home. It wasn't that sizeable or dense, so I didn't hold the fear of never being found (or encountering a wicked witch) but it tested me enough. It whet my appetite for adventure. This was prior to seeing 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' though. This film (and its sequel 'Temple of Doom') altered my outlook in two ways:

1) it instilled a sense of awe for far-flung regions of the world. The forest seemed boring in comparison. And safe. I now wanted to trek through caves and study ancient cultures. I coveted grit and a really awesome hat. 

2) Indiana Jones became the archetype of man that I will eternally be attracted to. You never forget your first love. 


MOULIN ROUGE

"This is the worst movie I've ever seen" - pretty much everyone I know. 

The start of this movie, melancholia-rich melody playing as the camera pans through the bohemian streets of turn-of-the-century Montmarte, is probably my favourite opening scene ever and hints at the visual extravagance that follows in the remaining 127 minutes. I watch 'Moulin Rouge' whenever I need creative inspiration. I am not a minimalist. 


GHOST WORLD

The era of self exploration post high-school graduation is often examined in film, but never has it held such resonance for me, a wannabe artist fond of mocking the artifice of the world and all its peculiar inhabitants, than in 'Ghost World'. This film could be a documentary of my life. There are far too many similarities with my own adolescence from the rapidly evolving (and dissipating) friendships of the time, to attending class with feminism 101 students that create art out of hangers and tampons, to the questionable relationship with a quirky older gentleman that collects vinyl. Sometimes a girl will break a boy's heart, just because she can. 

I am Enid. I fangirl Don Knotts. I'm still waiting for that bus. 


RUSH HOUR 2

I love Chris Tucker. I love Jackie Chan. I believe this movie is lightyears better than Boyhood. That is all.  


THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

The most recent film on my list is 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' and it manages to bring everything full-circle. It's great on its own but more importantly, it will forever remind me of a bittersweet time of my life. Whereas 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves' was the first movie my father and I watched, this would be the last.

I acquired a DVD copy of it the day of release knowing full-well that my father had talked about wanting to see it for months but couldn't attend a theatre while dealing with the late-stage effects of oesophageal cancer. Bringing it to the hospital, along with his portable DVD player, the film was as magnificent on a 9 inch screen as it would be at IMAX. Perhaps moreso in that moment. It gave him a few hours of distraction. It gave me a few hours of normalcy. Those late nights in Health Sciences Centre weren't all bad.