September 09, 2004

an ode to my crappy movie collection

Since the parents had the garage sale, a lot of hidden boxes and other items have been unearthed in their basement. I found a box full of movies I had taped off of HBO and The Movie Channel when I was in high school. Truth be told, we weren't actually paying for those channels but we still got reception free of charge. Naturally, I recorded things like the wind. I showed no discretion. I just pressed the record button all willy-nilly like. As a result, I am in possession of some shitty movies in VHS format because I was forever fearful that the freebie channels would be cruelly taken from me. And eventually, my good fortune dried up. It was a sad and dark day when I turned on the telly to see scrambled HBO and static on TMC.

I compiled quite the library of movies during my free cable run. Well, when I say quite the library, I'm referring to quantity, not exactly the quality of the films. I was the curator of crap. Even if the films in my collection opened to dismal box office returns and scathing reviews, I took enough care to carefully label each tape with a number and store them in an orderly fashion in the TV cabinet. To quickly access the movie of choice, I had only to look in my corresponding handmade catalog which was protected in a see-through report cover with yellow plastic binding.

I didn't apply the same cataloguing system to my audio cassettes, but they too were neatly labeled. No tape case was without a jacket. I always made sure the Maxell/Memorex/Fuji/Scotch card was filled out. If I made a mistake that couldn't be saved by White Out, I painstakingly cut a piece of paper from my sketch book to the appropriate dimensions and started fresh. I was quite neurotic about it. Is it any wonder I'm on an anti-anxiety drug today?

But back to the movies... While I'd like to boast a film library with tons of black-and-white Oscar-winning classics, my collection was a bit heavy on the cheese. Think TNT instead of Turner Movie Classics, perhaps. And I am not ashamed. My Christmas collection was rather superior but the rest was just a dumping ground for mostly-forgettable 80s and early 90s films. I had a lot of the classics but when relying on the whim of premium cable programming directors, one just has to make do. Casablanca? No. The Lost Boys? Absolutely. Gone with the Wind? Uh, nope. Baby Boom? But of course. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Get the fuck outta here. Pink Cadillac? Now you're talking.

My collection was largely shaped by my various celebrity obsessions. They were few and somewhat far between but they were serious business. Beginning at a young age, I religiously scoured the TV listings that came in the Sunday Daily News. I became quite adept at spotting Harrison Ford's name in mere seconds. Oh how I ached for knowledge of that man. He was so mysterious to me. Everyone else my age was foaming at the mouth over Luke Skywalker but I knew that Han Solo was the sexy one.

As I grew older and I started getting "funny feelings" about women, I became TRANSFIXED by Kim Cattrall after seeing her in Mannequin. Shut up. Oh but such unwavering devotion to this woman lent for some really shitty viewing on my end. My patience was tested time and time again. Midnight Crossing? Oh Kim, Kim, Kim...

And then I discovered Michelle Pfeiffer and the three of us became entangled in a bizarre love triangle (New Order, represent!) It was bizarre in the sense that Michelle and Kim had NO idea they were even involved, of course. I have to say that following Michelle around like a puppy wasn't a bad thing. The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dangerous Liaisons, Married to the Mob = good. Although, One Fine Day and Dangerous Minds = very bad.

After seeing Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone was in the running for my affections but she quickly became annoying and was given the boot but good. I had a very quick dalliance with Jennifer Runyon of Charles in Charge and The In-Crowd, but that too was a passing fancy. In addition to poor career choices, she also had a weird mouth. I regret this crush.

Kim and Michelle were really holding steady throughout high school. Then I rented Adventures in Babysitting and developed a third-string crush on Elisabeth Shue. My heart didn't exactly race at the thought of her but I liked her enough to plunk down my money to see Cocktail in the theater. I'm not going to lie to you... I liked it! Yes, it was ghastly in many ways but I have no regrets. In fact, I think I even remember most of the poem Tom Cruise recites while standing on the bar at the jail-themed club: "The Sex on the Beach! The Schnapps made from peach! The Velvet Hammer! The ALABAMA SLAMMER!" So on and so forth.

You know, when Elisabeth later regained some cred with Soapdish and the Oscar nod for Leaving Las Vegas, I felt vindicated for liking her all along. Same thing when Kim hit it big with Sex and the City. [insert Arsenio-like hooting here]

When I was a senior in high school, an English teacher brought in a videotape of Into the Woods. As the opening credits of Great Performances rolled, so did my eyes. Despite my love of musicals now, I hated them back then with the exception of maybe Annie and Grease. As a 17-year-old brimming with 'tude, I did not want to see people prancing around the stage bursting into song every few minutes. But I found myself warming up to it. The story was interesting. The songs didn't suck. Most importantly, Bernadette Peters shed her old crone costume at the end of Act 1 to reveal a smokin' bod with boobies OUT TO HERE. She struck quite the memorable pose in my heart and mind with those pursed, juicy lips and those cascading curls. In that moment, my heart was in my throat and still pounding. I didn't know what to make of it because I was totally unawares of my future tendencies, you see. I just chalked it up to admiration, as I was prone to do when a lovely lady made me feel all tingly inside.

The smitten feeling soon passed because it was towards the end of senior year and my thoughts and focus were taken over with graduation, parties and getting ready for college. Two years later, I saw Bernadette on Broadway and the latent crush resurfaced BIG TIME. I went back to see The Goodbye Girl three or four times even though it kinda sucked. But Martin Short was in it too and well, he just kicks my ass. To be in the same room with my idol and Ed Grimley was a monumental moment for me. I got Bernadette's autograph afterwards and proceeded to stalk her for several years. It was serious. I dragged a friend to TropWorld Casino in Atlantic City to see Bernadette's concert. We were the only two who didn't smell like Ben-Gay and have balled-up tissues in our sleeves. It was worth it though as she's a lovely woman and very gracious... even in the face of a bumbling, crazed fan.

My wayward point is, for each obsession, I quickly gained the ability to spot their names in the TV Guide with the speed and precision once reserved only for Harrison. Now Kim, Michelle and Bernadette had equal face-time in my anal-retentive movie archive. In retrospect, they should really thank me for sitting through some of that crap. Hello, Heartbeeps, Bernadette? What the HELL were you thinking? Hanover Street, Harrison? I mean REALLY. I can still conjure up the stank of that piece o' shit. Grease 2, Michelle? I realize this has kitsch value for some and others downright like it but I think it's rotten. P.U.

I used to be concerned mostly with Kim because she made the worst choices of all. But then I saw Lifetime's Intimate Portrait where she explained that she made the likes of Masquerade and Honeymoon Academy in order to finance her real love -- the thee-A-tuh. I had a new-found respect for her after that. Hell, if someone wanted to pay me good money to phone in a performance in a crappy Robert Hayes movie, I wouldn't say no either. Screw the Academy and the critics -- just give me the check. By the way, I also learned from Intimate Portrait that Kim is Canadian. Who knew?

By now the crushes all have waned. Instead, they're more like fond memories. I still love movies but I barely own any. Based on my obsessive behavior as a teen and my more-refined tastes as an adult, it would logically follow that I'd have an enviable collection of top-of-the-line films. On the contrary, I have a few VHS tapes and one DVD to my name. Which movies you ask? Lawrence of Arabia? No way. Working Girl? Naturally. From Here to Eternity? Surely you jest. Sixteen Candles? Like you had to ask. On the Waterfront? Hell no. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Fo shizzle.

And long may my crappy collection reign!