Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nostalgia Posters - A Photographical Look Into My Cinematic Childhood (1992-2002)

Well, while I'm in between reviews and lists and the like, and since I'm personalizing this a bit more, I figure the majority of the people who read this blog (roughly an amount I can count on my hands I bet), are around the same age group as I. As such, they probably had a big enough appetite of movies from their earliest memory, since cinema has done a lot more than just stories: it brings groups together, it focuses on the lives of others, it implants images that last us forever...

We're much more impressionable as children and, as opposed to my horror buff adulthood of now, back then I really enjoyed westerns, superheroes, Jackie Chan comedies and Indy adventures. My best friend was into the comedies, the laughable family pictures (which he still has a predilection to today, if I'm not mistaken). My brother was into the racing, the disaster pictures and the dinosaurs, and his best friend at the time was really into the dinosaurs. He was the guy who showed my brother and I the Jurassic Park series and I owe a lot to him for that. While I'd get excited for Batman, my brother would get excited for Jaws. Both my siblings went through that marine biology phase. I didn't. I feel like I missed something now.

Before theatrical visits, I just take pleasure in the moments of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Magnificent Seven (I really really wanted to be Yul Brynner when I was young), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Rush Hour, Winners and Sinners and such and such. John Wayne, Jackie Chan and Harrison Ford took hold of my earlier years and beat up the bad guys, ever stalwart working men in the newly discovered worlds they'd enter.

My first movie in an American cinema to the best of my memory is Pocahontas, ironically not remembering a damn thing from that movie save for the Colors of the Wind moment. I also can't remember much from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Instead, the first movie which I remember each scene as it was playing in the cinema is Space Jam, disappointing as now I can't really enjoy that movie as much as I did.

The Alvin and the Chipmunks direct-to-video monster movies really opened me up to not being scared of horror movies and I certainly got the big fascinations with the Universal Studios Classic Monsters from seeing their VHS re-releases appearing on shelves at the supermarket or the science stores that I'd frequent.

Of course, there were such things that my mom, despite being under the impression that even censored Tales from the Crypt runs were okay for me, and my more strict dad would object to me to seeing. My American classmates in first grade had made a big deal out of seeing The Mummy, but the monster aspect (which my father certainly was not for) and the idea of possible nudity made it a moot point for me. Being raised in the Islamic fashion (even though some Muslims I know had seen the movie), the depiction of Musa (Moses) in The Prince of Egypt was not good to introduce to me as okay to my parents. Titanic was right out (and I still have yet to see it completely, though not from any parental influence) from the drawing depiction a topless woman. Obviously, a hero who depends on his alcoholism as a strength is not a good role model for me, cutting me away from the Drunken Master series. And the demonic afterlife aspect of Mortal Kombat made them try to avert my eyes, even though they had no problem with me playing the video game at the nearby laundromat. I can't remember why, but even Small Soldiers had a weighty debate from my mom before she finally relented and took me to see it. It was awesome.

I remember the first movie I actually appreciated for it's cinematic quality was one we went to see on my birthday. I thought of Mulan being first and foremost a girl's movie, but then after being pulled into the theater to see it, I actually got excited from the first frenetic action sequence. Mushu was funny, the fight scenes were insane.

So, as my childhood continued on, I became more and impressed upon by the previews and movie posters of the movies before I'd see them. I couldn't stand any visual of the Cryptkeeper (even just hearing about him or the TV show made me imagine him and that was dislikeable), so the Tales from the Crypt posters were avoided. The Spider-Man poster excited me from finally seeing a live-action personification of him. The Spawn poster made me want to see the movie more so from hearing him described as a superhero in the previews and the shadows making him suddenly mysterious.

I have a particular favorite childhood movie memory that I enjoy sharing despite my usually tight-wound habit of not sharing my expression. It goes like this, a new mall had just opened up next to the school I had gone to in my first grade year. It was a kind of big deal in the area. My dad picks me up from the school and for some reason has brought the entire family with him, including my newly born one-year-old baby sister. He parallel parks right in front of the mall and then just rushes out of the car into the mall for a good 30 minutes.
When he gets out, he has a big smile on his face. He rushes to my mom's window, not having the patience to just get back to driving the car before he can announce the news. He holds up the tickets in his hand: 'I have tickets for Star Wars.'
That day turned out to be the day The Phantom Menace came out, and though you can go and toss a 'PSHAW!' in the way of calling out our enjoyment of it (well, except the baby, who fell asleep), that night was exciting. I still remember the cheers given when Obi-Wan avenges his master and slices Maul in half. It was a big deal then and it was especially a big deal to me. I still love that movie.

These movies didn't just later on built my tastes into what it is now, they brought my family and friends together. Some saturday nights that weren't frenetic and my brother and I did our homework, we'd sit down to watch Cartoon Network's Cartoon Theater for a treat of, say, Roger Rabbit or rent something from Blockbuster like maybe Jurassic Park III or Casper. Granted, at this point, I'm more incluned to introduce to any future children movies from other parts of history outside of this frame, like The Wizard of Oz, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Singin' in the RainWho Framed Roger Rabbit or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I still enjoy seeing these movies to this day, even the ones I can call crappy, because they still bring back something to me.

With this post, inspired largely by The Dancing Image, a page I frequent often as inspiration for my own film recounts, I present the movies from my childhood.

Damn... That's a long time ago. Well, in the words of the ever jolly Sallah, in reference to his many children,
'Life goes on, Indy... There's the proof.'


  1. Loved reading this, and am flattered you cited my piece as an inspiration. Your Alvin & the Chipmunks reference is uncanny, particularly as you note how it introduced you to/made you comfortable with the Universal monster movies as I have a piece coming up in 3 weeks which is all about 80s (and beyond) kids entertainment familiarizing kids with previous films and stories in an almost postmodern way - and I used that Alvin film as my first example! (Indeed the piece was inspired by running across the Alvin Meets Frankenstein movie, which I never saw as a kid, on TV).

    Great fun scanning the posters too. Aside from the nostalgia factor, there are some real gems here - I'd forgotten how cool The Phantom Menace teaser was.

    I've been reading - and writing - a lot about the decline of film as a popular medium lately, specifically the way people seem to care about and talk about it less than they used to, even 10 or 20 years ago. One thing that really cheered me looking at this was seeing a kind of continuity between the films I grew up with and those of a slightly later era, which often coincided with my withdrawal from mainstream cinema (Harry Potter, fir example).

    My posters did not go past the late 90s and yours do not go into the early 90s or late 80s but there's a lot of overlap. Which makes me feel that the parts that DON'T overlap are still part of the same tradition and that a love of cinema continued even after I started to suspect it was waning.

    Most of all, the enthusiasm of your personal recollections reminds me that as long as passion like yours exists - and I'm sure as I'm writing this the next generation is getting all excited about whatever the case may be - the torch keeps being passed and the movies as a cultural touchstone and object of enthusiasm - won't die.

  2. Thank you for the compliment and I really look forward to reading that piece. I never actually thought about that factor, but I'd actually have to agree, despite the damage some of the efforts do, the re-telling of stories actually does help to introduce and nourish interest in the original story-telling. While not entirely film-given, the symphonic power metal Kamelot albums Epica and The Black Halo got me interested in the tale of Faust and as such, I began looking into all film adaptations of the tale.

    The teaser posters were the ones I really got a kick out of finding. For Spider-Man, Spawn, Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Phantom Menace, Mortal Kombat and Ice Age, I was not going to settle for anything less. I thought the imagery of the poster would say a lot more than the title of the movie, I thought it would introduce the types of film universes I was introduced to at my early youth.

    As far as I have witnessed so far, however, interest in film hasn't declined to a severe amount. While it's a true, the digital age/internet has brought in the advent of video games, music and literature (not that I'm complaining about the latter two; I still have yet to really get involved into gaming) at a competitive and more accessible medium, I still have little to no trouble finding people to talk to about cinema, even if it can hardly be the classics we discuss. So I'm glad you eventually came to a final conclusion that passion for movies are here to stay for a long while. It's a hope I've ridden on for a long time.