Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Tonight, my father's on my mind. He passed away in 1999, and he's really the reason I love movies so much. He's the guy who introduced me to them, and taught me about them. I remember when, one Halloween night, he eagerly came over my apartment to watch a marathon of horror movies. He piqued my interest in horror movies at a young age (even if he would never step foot into a haunted house with me at a carnival). As a child, I would always ask him what he was watching, as it always seemed he was watching one movie or another. That's Entertainment! Enter the Dragon. Prom Night. Godzilla vs Megalon. It didn't really matter. In the days before VHS, or cable or TiVo, if a film was on the TV, he was watching it (usually late at night). He had an agile command of the minutest information about films, and as a result, was always the "go to" person for an "entertainment" question in a game of Trivial Pursuit. When he passed away, his obituary in Variety, which recounted his stint as a musician, also acknowledged that he possessed "an encyclopedic knowledge of show business." In the last couple years of his life (as he slowly deteriorated from heart failure), I would invite him to accompany me to films I was commissioned to review for Cinefantastique. He never refused, regardless of the film. I treasured those times then, as I do now, since they allowed a wonderful opportunity for us to talk with each other as we drove to and from the theater. About a month before he died, although he was physically not up to the task, he showed up at my house (as was tradition) to watch the Oscar telecast with me, and fill out his ballot on who might win. My mother told me later that he did it because he knew it was something that was important to me. (I am still in awe of the year he correctly picked Don Ameche to win Best Supporting Actor for Cocoon over the odds-on favorite Klaus Maria Brandauer for Out of Africa.) Even in the hospital, during the last few days of his life, film was still our touchstone. As I sat vigil in his darkened room in CCU, I watched Anatomy of a Murder, as the drugs he was on made him hallucinate in the middle of the night. During more lucid moments, we watched Noah's Ark, with Jon Voight, together. And even on the last day of his life, as things began to spiral down quickly, I was still there next to him, talking about film; asking what his favorite movie was, to divert his mind from the inevitable. Movies were the thing that we had together, from my earliest years, to the last moments of his life. And even now, seven years later, there is rarely a time when I see a film and don't think of him, of what he might have said about it, and how film was always our touchstone.