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A Life In Films

I see a lot of movies.

Well, maybe not as many compared to professional film critics, but probably more than the average movie-goer. So far, I've seen forty-three 2015 movies. And that's just the ones released this year. It doesn't count the older films I've watched. Some folks like to kid me about this love of movies, of how often I'm at the theater. But it's more than just some moving pictures on a screen. For me, they are -- or at least can be -- life markers.

Following are some films, and the memories I associate with them:

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) -- I (barely) remember seeing this at the Virginia Theatre when it was first out. Most of it went over my head, though there was a courtroom scene, regarding a divorce, where they stated that the separation would be "permanent." Unfamiliar with the word, I turned to my mom and asked her what it meant, and she explained.

Return of the Jedi (1983) -- Went and saw this at the old multiplex over by Market Place Mall in north Champaign. I remember it was a late showing, which seemed kind of exciting for a seven-year-old, and in attendance was mom, dad and Gummy (my maternal grandmother). I think it was the only time all four of us saw a movie together. Dad, Gummy and the Market Place Cinemas are gone now.

Batman (1989) -- Best friend Derrick and I rode our bikes to downtown Champaign one hot summer day some twenty-six years ago, shopped around the comic book store, then got in a line that snaked around the Virginia Theatre, talking with several other teen Batman fans. I still remember sitting in awe as the movie began, and the opening credits swooped around the inside of the bat insignia.

Jurassic Park (1993) -- The first memory I have of going to a movie at the (then-new) multiplex in Savoy. I'll never forget the sense of wonder I felt at seeing the dinosaurs first appear. It was a new benchmark in film special effects. A prime example of why we go to the movies.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996) -- One of the many movies I saw with friend Jeromy Keller. A few minutes before he picked me up is when mom informed me that my dad had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. It was a good movie, but I watched it that first time through a distracted haze. To this day, I still associate it with that terrible news.

Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) -- A co-worker's spouse worked at the Savoy theater, and helped some us get tickets for the opening midnight screening. I remember standing in line, giddy beyond belief (this was back when I was at an age that giddiness at a midnight screening was still physically doable), taking-in all of the costumed fans waiting to see the first new Star Wars film in sixteen years. I also remember, probably around half-an-hour in, staring up at the theater ceiling thinking, "Ugh, is this really happening? Is it really this bad?"  George Lucas giveth, and he taketh away.

What Lies Beneath (2000) -- I could have picked any one of three movies for this particular memory (Chicken Run, Meet the Parents, or this one), as they were the first three films that Ashley & I saw together. I picked this one, because it was still such a new experience for me that I remember sitting there thinking, 'Wow, I'm watching this with my boyfriend!' and also that it impacted me because it was about a relationship gone bad, and it was so early in mine and Ashley's relationship.

There are, of course, a plethora of other movie memories, too numerous to mention in a blog post. The aforementioned occasions are prominent ones in my life. Others, such as romantic dates, times with good friends and family, etc., are fondly remembered, as well.

Film-going isn't just about popcorn and an escape for a couple of hours. It is potentially time spent with those who are important to us, of experiencing a vivid story together, of sharing that memory and discussing what you thought of it, and it can stand as a marker of where you were at in your life at the time you saw it.

So, when you see me at the movies a lot, know that it's not always just a fun diversion for a couple of hours. It's a part of life.


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