I feel as though I’ve been watching movies since I arrived on this planet and I cannot honestly name the first movie I ever saw. I do, however, remember when I first learned that a movie could leave an indelible impression. It was 1969 or 70 and I was about three and a half/four years old. (Yes. Let’s get this out of the way, so we’re all clear here. I am turning 50 this year. And let’s not speak of it again unless I need to bring it up for some reason. Thankyouverymuch.)
My family was displaced because our apartment building had been burned down to the ground. We were temporarily living in the Concourse Plaza Hotel in the Bronx. Don’t be fooled by the use of the term “Plaza” in the name. The place was a dump. But we were together, everyone was safe, it was temporary, and that was all that mattered. I have no idea how many months we stayed there. For a three and a half/four year old child, the concept of time is of absolutely no consequence. Ah, the good old days . . . But I digress . . . My most prominent memories of “the Plaza” are (1) once, my brothers trapped a mouse outside one of the windows and watched it freeze to death; and (2) every day, to ease my anxiety about my unfamiliar surroundings, my dad would take me downstairs to this sort of concession stand in the “hotel” lobby and buy me a Milky Way candy bar when he got in.
The third thing I can recall from that period relates to a movie. Prior to “the Plaza,” I had seen countless movies with my family: Martin & Lewis, Fred Astaire, Godzilla; some funny, some scary, some dramatic, etc. Nothing was off limits for me. (As the youngest of seven children, you get to watch whatever everyone else is watching pretty much unnoticed by blending in with the crowd, so I was exposed to every genre available at the time, to reflect the taste of each of my siblings.)
Never had I been so strongly and deeply affected by a film as I was by the 1958 version of The Blob starring Steve McQueen. I will never forget, it came on one Saturday afternoon. Something about that scene where the Blob oozes through the slats of that movie theatre attempting to “swallow up” all those teenagers and everyone is screaming and running for their lives paralyzed me with such a fear that day I would not recover from it for decades. I had seen many “scary” movies before: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, you name it. But THIS was next level stuff for me! Three. Year. Old. Mind. Blown!
You see, at “the Plaza” there were slats in the bottom fourth of the bathroom door. So all I could envision was going to the bathroom and having that nasty jelly oozing through those slats while I screamed in terror until I was consumed. So, what’s a three and a half/four year old to do? Lay in the bed. And. Pee. So terrified was I after watching that movie, in broad daylight, on a black and white television, on a Saturday afternoon, in the privacy of my own temporary hotel situation – a child who had been well potty-trained with never an accident on my record – made a conscious decision to wet the bed rather than face the possibility of being absorbed into that gross, jelly blob. Upon finding out I had wet the bed my mother asked me what happened with such incredulity I went mute. I did not have the capacity, as a three and a half/four year old to convey the level of pure terror I was feeling. Of course, eventually, I had to get over it. I was the youngest of seven children. Nobody had time for my little traumas. The band played on! But believe me when I tell you I used the bathroom with the door wide open for a veeeery long time thereafter.
Even though The Blob gave me such a “bad” feeling, I have always sought out that level of emotion from the films I watch. I know. It’s an extremely high bar to set and I do realize I am not going to be as innocent as a three year old ever again. But that emotion, amongst a host of other things, is what makes a great movie great for me. A movie that makes me laugh and makes me cry is my ideal; makes me feel alive in the moment that I am experiencing it.
Every film is not a masterpiece, and every film does not have to be one. Some films are for light escapes – jaunts if you will, providing temporary refuge from every day life. Other films are just silly, time-passing tools. And then there are films that tug at your heart and open your soul. And let us not forget about the many, many films in between that serve one purpose or another. There is a place for all of these, and each can be done well. Or not.
The ability of an actor to convince us that the character being portrayed is real; to make him or herself become invisible – to disappear – while standing right in front of your eyes, is what I long for. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is nothing short of transformative and magical. It is true art – art not only from the actor(s), but from the producer(s), the director(s), the writer(s), the costume designer(s), the make-up artist(s), the sound crew, the camera crew, etc. When all those moving parts come together just right a thing of beauty is born. And once you’re no longer three or four, and understand the difference between reality and make-believe, and the serendipity it takes to achieve THAT . . . When you see it, you know it and you respect and appreciate it all the more.
After the age of three or four or five or ten or so, it becomes increasingly difficult to find magic of any kind, anywhere; much less in a movie. But every once in a while, the stars align and a group of people gets it so very right. That’s what makes movies so enjoyable to me. The possibility that this crew just may have gotten it just ever so right.
I am not a descendant of anyone having anything to do with film or the arts, but I know a good movie from a great movie from a piece of crap from a “it could have been great, but…” movie. I am not an aspiring actress, director, writer, cinematographer, make up artist, producer, or anything of the sort. Instead of saying, “Those who can’t teach,” I say, “Those who don’t critique!” I will offer an honest forthright opinion of a film and back up my opinions and interpretations to the best of my ability. There is no right or wrong when giving one’s opinion. It just is what it is. And that’s what I hope to give here and I hope you enjoy it. My unfiltered, honest opinion of the movies I see that I hate, love, like, regard as masterpieces, label junk, or believe are immediate classics. I’m going to call ‘em as I see ‘em, with my own editorial flair.
I will be putting up a review every Sunday on average – sometimes more often, sometimes perhaps less, depending on what movies are premiering that week or what other goings-on may be on the agenda. So please come by and check me out. And please feel free to comment anytime.
Welcome to Bloop! and Enjoy!
Mi-Mi Waters, M.S. holds a masters degree in school psychology. She is a native New Yorker who aims to represent herself from a prospective of an African American, female who absolutely loves movies.