Originally Published on May 8, 2015. Republished for Mother’s Day with an added segment.

For Mother’s Day, some of our writers spoke about the relationship with their mothers and movies.

Suspending Disbelief

We watched Gone Girl together and, thirty minutes in, she shouted her frustration that the police were inexplicably waiting to arrest Nick Dunne. She just couldn’t believe it.  She’s always been like this. And I’ve always envied it. I don’t think I know anyone else who so readily surrenders disbelief and allows herself to fall victim to every narrative trick. Any viewer remotely familiar with thrillers or murder mysteries knew that the over-pronunciation of Dunne’s assumed guilt was misdirection, almost clumsy in its obviousness. Not my mom, though. She was completely floored by the twist, as she always is.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

You see, my mom is not a movie person. Not naturally. Not long after her longest stay in the hospital, I started occasionally taking her to the theater with me. When we went to watch Prisoners, it was the first time she’d been to the theater since Passion of the Christ. Before that, it was twenty years. She probably can’t even remember what Prisoners was about. Her movie memory has always been sub-par. Her vitamin D deficiency makes it worse.  Recently she explained that her favorite Meryl Streep movie was Mrs. Doubtfire. I can’t make this up.

Of course, for her, this forgetfulness elevates the immediate movie experience.  You can tell if you watch her watching.  When the screen shows a room filling up with water, she’ll lift her chin in survival mode.  She holds her breath when characters are in danger.  She puts wear and tear on the arms of whatever chair might host her viewing.  And my mom is the reason they call sad movies “weepies.”  She was a wreck even before the tidal wave subsided when we watched The Impossible.

But then, a few days later, when she brags to her sisters that she and I went to the movies together, she doesn’t remember the title.  Or the plot.  “It stars that one guy from… shoot… Damian Matthews?” she’ll say.  I speak the language of forgetfulness, so I know that she means Matt Damon.

I know my mom doesn’t love movies.  Just like she didn’t really care who won my action figure battles when I was three, and she wasn’t really that excited about the plot of Where the Wild Things Are when I was four, and she definitely didn’t care about my endless dinosaur trivia when I was six.  She always seemed to, though. She was always so excited at the time. Now that I’m in my thirties, I recognize this phenomena for what it is.  She doesn’t love movies.  She loves that I love movies.  And she wants to share the the things I love.  Because that’s what best friends do, so I’m okay with suspending disbelief. – David Shreve, Jr.

My Daughter’s Taste

I’m watching my daugther as I write this.  Her painting consists mostly of covering her palm with watercolor, and then slapping her palm on the paper–hand serving as intermediary between brush and canvas. She has no preconceived ideas about “good” or “bad” paintings, or good or bad anything, for that matter, when it comes to taste (in the figurative sense–she has strong opinions about food). Right now, her “taste” is guided entirely by her feelings—”this makes me feel happy, therefore it is good.” It’s simple. As we grow older, the reasons we like or dislike things become more complex. It’s no longer, “I like this because it makes me happy, “ but “I like this for what it represents (which may also make me happy–or not).”

I associate each of my immediate family members with one specific movie (they have no say in this), and love each of those movies because of that association. My dad’s movie is Doctor Zhivago. My brother’s movie is Top Secret. My mother’s movie is Moonstruck (Nicolas Cage’s best performance, in my opinion). Inevitably, my daughter’s taste will be affected by the taste of those around her, and when I consider this, I wonder–which movie will be mine? – Katherine B. Shelor

Watching My Reactions

The first memory I have is of going to the movies with my mom. I was two and we saw Beauty and the Beast. I sat in the theatre with a giant bucket of popcorn in my lap and never took my eyes off the screen the entire time. My mom frequently tells me she was barely paying attention to the movie because she was so busy watching my reaction. From that day onward, I can easily say that my mom is responsible for my love of movies. My childhood was filled with dozens of animated movies, but the second major breakthrough in my cinematic education came in the form of Star Wars, and once again it was my mom who was responsible. When she introduced me to The Empire Strikes Back during the trilogy’s re-release, she made me aware of the world of science-fiction, and from that came The Twilight Zone, and a deeper exploration into the world of comic books. Really, my entire pop culture fascination stems from my mom’s own fascination with movies, storytelling, special effects, and science fiction. But despite sharing the same base interests, our cinematic tastes are not the same. My interests skew much further into the weird and macabre (my mom is no fan of horror), and most movies I see are not ones we see together, though we have made a tradition of watching every new Star Wars movie together. But despite diverging interests, one of the greatest gifts she’s ever given me is recognizing my passions and finding ways to encourage them.

My mom saw my early interests in fairy tales and my fascination with comparing the different versions of the same story, and when I grew older she built the bridge between fairy tales and fantasy/science fiction, giving me new stories to compare and discuss. Even from childhood she recognized my passion for analysis long before I even knew the word. And as I became increasingly fascinated with the weirder aspects of these stories, she introduced me to Goosebumps and Universal Horror movies. And all of these interests came together during my teenage years, creating a well-rounded geek. But my relationship between my mom and movies/pop culture didn’t just end with viewing and reading. While there are many parents who encourage their children to go to college for the practical majors, my mom encouraged me to do and study what I love. And even though doing so has sometimes meant financial stress, homesickness, and worrying about the future, I’m doing what I’m passionate about. And it’s all this knowledge that will make the trip to Ohio to see The Force Awakens with my mom this December all the more special. Because we’ll always have the movies, I’ll always have a giant bucket or popcorn, and she’ll always be watching for my reactions. – Richard Newby

My Mother and Moonstruck

My mother has a Blade Runner poster that she keeps protected behind a thick plastic sleeve. She has a metal Taxi Driver poster in her office, atop of which sits a small toy taxi she bought from New York City. She loves Best in Show, The Red Violin, Only When I Laugh, and O Brother Where Art Thou. She has given me her screenwriting books, showed me The Red Balloon before I could have any sense of appreciation for it, and throughout my childhood she made movie references that went over the heads of me and my sister. She has fantastic and varied taste, and some of my fondest memories between us involve movies and art. But the movie I associated with her for years, Moonstruck, I hadn’t in fact seen until recently.

My mother took my sister and I to see Puccini’s La bohème a few years ago at the Metropolitan Opera House, just as Cher’s Loretta and Nicolas Cage’s Ronny do in Moonstruck. It was her second time taking us to the opera, the first in New York City. I still hadn’t seen Moonstruck at the time, but when I finally did, it brought me back to the gift she had given us, the fountain at Lincoln Center and the emotion of the music. She chose it not because of the movie, but because it had been her first opera, and one that she found accessible, easily enjoyable. But the coincidence feels magical to me.

Moonstruck occupies such a big space in my heart not because of what it is, but because I can never disconnect it from one of the people I love most. When I asked her what about it she loves, she brought up was the theme of family, that it was about tradition. And, she said, absolutely characteristic of her affinity for writing, that she loves the dialogue; “there’s not one line of wasted dialogue.”– Christina Tucker


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