“With great power comes great responsibility….”

I think it was Socrates… or it could have been Cliff Robertson in Spider Man… who gave us that gem of a quote, little knowing that different powers bring different responsibilities… One of the responsibilities of being a notorious film fanatic is becoming the “go-to” man for any obscure movie question that comes up in every conversation. I get e-mails and phone calls all day and night, usually along the lines of, “Dude… who was that guy in that movie with that girl, she had red hair… maybe blonde.. and there was this guy trying to kill her… but the first guy turned out to be the real killer, and she didn’t know it…”

I got hooked on film as an art form at the tender age of ten. My elementary-school librarian noticed that I was reading far beyond the levels of the rest of my classmates. She saw I was spending more time reading reference books than I was reading about Encyclopedia Brown and The Wind in The Willows. She brought me a book one day called Warner Brothers Presents. It was about the glory days of the Warner Brothers movie studio, and it was full of pictures and film synopses of some of the best movies ever made. It was one of the first experiences I had with what I now-know as my near-photographic memory. I committed that book to memory. I studied every still shot, every cast list, every word of criticism. It was fascinating… and it was addictive as hell…

Before long, I was studying biographies of Cagney, Bogart, and Gable. My parents made the inevitable mistake of putting a small black-and-white television in my room, and I spent most nights lying in the floor of my room, watching Ted Turner’s Superstation, Channel 17, taking in any and all movies he had access to. Ted loved to show movies in those days, and would show them over and over again. And I watched every one I could stay awake for. Thanks to Ted, I learned that Hollywood was a fantastic factory of images, and I loved every one of them. Gangsters, cowboys, comedians, and lovers, they poured out of that old Magnavox and into my darkened room, and I drank them in like a fine wine.

I became the guy nobody wanted to play Trivial Pursuit with in college. I could work the board for a half-hour or more, if I could stick to the entertainment and “arts and leisure” questions to get around the board to the “pie piece” questions. When some of us would rent movies for a weekend, I would convince them to look past the Stallone/Schwarzeneggar/Van Damme/Norris quartet and try something like The Great Escape or The Dirty Dozen. One memorable weekend, over much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I converted four beer-drinking buddies to the world of Hitchcock by renting Psycho and North By Northwest. I smiled as I watched the four, all happily buzzed on cheap-ass Milwaukee’s Best, suddenly go silent as that omenous shadow appeared on Janet Leigh’s shower curtain, and not say another word until the last shot of Anthony Perkins faded from the screen.

I get questions all the time – “What are your top ten movies?” “What are the best moments in movies, in your opinion?” “What are your favorite horror movies?” “Westerns?” “Gangster movies?” “Adventure movies?” “Thrillers?” “Foreign films?”

On the surface, those are relatively simple questions. You name your favorite movies, your favorite moments, whatever, and boom, there’s your answer. But it’s not that easy when you are a true fan of films. There are breakdowns, sub-categories, sub-sub categories. Take the horror genre, for example. Horror movies cannot be grouped into one basket. At least, not for me, anyway. There are at least 20 different sub-categories, some cross-referenced with science fiction, some with thrillers. Some classified by monster, some by country of origin, some by decade. You cannot compare Boris Karloff’s performance in Bride of Frankenstein with, say, Christopher Lee’s performance in Horror of Dracula. There is a 30-some-odd year difference in time between them, one is made in black & white, the other in color, and Karloff was part of the Universal Studios’ horror machine, while Lee was in the Hammer Studios/”British Invasion” era. It just will not work.

How can you compare John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven? Hitchcock’s Rope or Rear Window with Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs? Romero’s Night of the Living Dead with Browning’s Freaks? You can’t. Plain and simple.

So, what’s a guy to do? There are people that can talk for hours about the works of Hemingway, or the paintings of Van Gogh, or the subtle sculpting genius of Michelangelo. I know film. I love film and filmmakers. Others have Rembrandt, Seurat, and Monet. I have Billy Wilder, Frank Capra, and John Ford. Some can tantalize a room with their knowledge of Maugham, Faulkner, or Hardy. I can talk for hours about Tobe Hooper’s  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (which I have done, usually fortified by mass quantities of alcohol), Fritz Lang’s M (one of the finest films to come from pre-Nazi Germany), or George Lucas’s Star Wars (do not even get me started there… trust me…).

I will talk about many, many things in this journal. Politics, philosophy, religion, literature, music, you name it… but there will usually be a movie reference or two in the conversation. It’s how I talk. Movie lines work their way into my vocabulary – I can’t help it, they just do. Ask me a question about movies, I will answer it as best I can.

Be warned, though… this mind of mine is a whirlwind, waiting to escape and run wild here in the cyber-world. It’s been locked up for a long time, and this journal is the parole it has been waiting for… I have no idea where it will go, what it will say, or how far it will run before it tires out… so sit back and enjoy the ride, folks… the Rollercoaster is just kicking into gear…