A 'perfect movie' and a moving sports drama are this week's recommendations.
I’m scrapping a real intro this week in favor of well, asking for favors. I do enough talking about myself down below, trust me.
As this column grows and I refine what it is and what it definitely isn’t, I want to turn this opening slot into a rotating smorgasbord of goodness. What does that mean? It means I’m going to keep you all from getting bored of my Millennial-ass opinions by letting you share yours.
To start, I want to hear about your worst movie-watching experiences. Could be at a theater or at home, by yourself or on a date. Doesn’t matter to me. I just want to take in the disasters. Someone spill a sticky drink on you? Intend to pick up a family-friendly comedy that in actuality was an R-rated swear fest? All’s fair in love and film. I’ll share the best with the rest of the class.
I also want to hear any questions you have for a mailbag segment that may run once a month (I type this without checking with my editor first). Don’t limit questions to film and TV, though those are certainly game. This column is us getting to know each other. Ask anything that pops into your head, and I’ll answer the top 3-4 of them each time.
Send your stories and questions to [email protected]. Please, please participate! Engagement is my version of Scooby Snacks: I can’t get enough of it.
I can, however, get enough of this intro. On with the recommendations!
“The Princess Bride” (1987)
HBOGO, rated PG, 100-minute run time
Everyone knows this movie, so it’s time for a personal story: This movie was first shown to me in high school by a girl I liked. We’ll call her (redacted). She liked sports almost as much as I did, and was funnier than me, and smarter than me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about her.
One day, after hanging in the same circle of friends for, I don’t know, a year maybe, (redacted) invites me to her house after school to hang out. Just me and her. It was ostensibly to show me her DVD collection — remember DVDs? — because even back then I thought I knew more about film and TV than most people, and she was one of the people on my level. Even though I was crushing on her, I never in a million years thought she liked me back.
We get there. She shows me her collection. It’s expansive — more so than I anticipated. At least 100 movies on the shelves. I’m impressed.
(It’s at this point I’m going to make a confession: I don’t remember which of the next two things happened first, but they both definitely happened. I’m going to tell it in the order I think this happened, but I might be wrong. It doesn’t impact the story’s end either way, I promise.)
We leave the collection behind to go for a walk through the woods, per her suggestion. We’re chatting, having a grand time. We stop at a spot in the woods (redacted) calls “romantic,” and just kind of stand there for a while. She’s looking at me but I think nothing of it.
We get back to her house and decide to actually watch a movie. I defer to her, and she picks “The Princess Bride.”
“It’s a romantic comedy but you’ll like it,” she said.
I had never heard of it, but I agreed. Little did I know "The Princess Bride" is ONE OF THE MOST ROMANTIC (in all senses) MOVIES OF ALL TIME. Westley’s utterance of “As you wish” taught me how to be a gentleman and treat women with the reverence they deserve. Inigo Montoya’s bravery and sheer force of will is inspiring to this day. Fezzik’s puns taught me the best humor doesn’t have a specific target, it’s just silly fun. Princess Buttercup is the epitome of strength in the face of danger. Her and Westley’s relationship is beyond beautiful. All of these things add up to one of my favorite movies ever, and one that taught me to believe in love. It’s the type of movie you watch with someone you A.) already are in a relationship with, or B.) want to notice you. And, in case this wasn't clear, (redacted) was single at the time.
Unfortunately I never picked up on any of that stuff until repeat viewings later.
We glanced at each other during kissing scenes, but chose to remain awkward. As the credits rolled, I thought “That was a pleasant-enough movie,” as we picked at the last popcorn kernels left in the silver bowl between us on her couch in silence. I left soon after in my mother’s SUV.
We remained friends through high school, then attended different colleges. I never found out for sure if she liked me too, but looking back, this is a classic “oblivious teenage boy” scenario, right? She could have been The One! What was I thinking?!
I learned about “The Princess Bride,” though, and that’s not nothing, because it’s a perfect movie. So thanks, (redacted). I’ll never forget our after-school hangout.
Netflix, rated PG, 136-minute run time
On June 7, the NHL’s Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, a history that started 43 years ago.
I watched the celebration from my knees, which were on my floor. My body fluctuated between curling into a ball and lifting my head up so I could see, through tears, captain Alexander Ovechkin raise the Cup with a guttural howl. I was crying for lots of reasons, too many of them to go into here, but the moment meant a lot to me.
I’ve been a Caps fan my whole life. “Pizza and Puck Night” became a weekly routine in my family. My grandparents were once season-ticket holders. My uncle still is. It’s what bonds our family together in some respects. During the early years of my fandom, the team was terrible. Then, during my teens, the Caps got good, which ultimately led to more heartbreak when the team collapsed every postseason. It occurred with such regularity that it became a sports-wide joke. The person who invented the Heimlich maneuver (aka Dr. Henry Heimlich) couldn’t prevent the Caps from choking.
Until this year.
Sometimes I find myself in a rut, either professionally or personally, and usually I pull myself out of it by finding a great story to tell, or falling in love with a new music album, etc. Since June 7, all I’ve had to do is go on YouTube and watch the cup celebration. I’ll throw my commemorative “The Save” T-shirt on while I watch. It’s silly, but I don’t care. I’ll never forget anything about this Caps run.
If you’re reading this thinking, “Damn, I wish I could experience this level of emotions over hockey, but I didn’t grow up with the sport,” do I have great news for you! All you have to do is watch “Miracle.”
The movie tells the story of the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team. Made up of misfit amateurs, it shocked the world by beating the top-ranked (and professional) Soviet Union team en route to the gold medal. The story steals the show here, alongside Kurt Russell’s performance as head coach Herb Brooks. The movie itself is basic biopic stuff: Learn a little bit about the players’ personal lives, a little about the coach’s life, and pile on the underdog role as much as possible.
That being said … it works.
The mix of memorable, quotable scenes (“Again” and “This is your time!” chief among them) and sheer emotion (the movie uses Al Michael’s actual call from the Soviet Union game) places it on a higher shelf than standard sports movies like “We Are Marshall” and “Invincible." Russell is the Great American Coach: tough, but loving.
To this day, what the 1980 team did is unmatched in international sports history. “Miracle” is a great way to get into the best sport in the world while learning about an event people will still be talking about for decades.
I’ll leave you all with a few final words. First and foremost, as always, be good to each other. Second (and this is mostly for the teens), learn to pick up social cues!
Third? Let’s go Caps.
See you all next week!