I saw Tremors on a Tuesday night in 1990. It was a movie-going experience that changed my life forever.
On the one hand, Tremors is one of the first films I can remember that felt like a throwback in a way that I understood and appreciated. It was a movie that I knew could seem really stupid to some people, but I also knew there was something I "got" about it even at age 12. I understood that the goofiness was intentional, and that all of the movie's humor was self-aware. This may seem obvious to those of you reading this in 2017 -- or to those of you who were older or more sophisticated viewers in 1990 -- but to a kid, there's an exciting sense of discovery to realizing you can enjoy a movie on a level that goes beyond the surface. I understood that Tremors had the spirit and energy of a '50s monster movie without having seen that many '50s monster movies at that point (though I had seen It Came from Hollywood a bunch of times, so maybe that counts?). Despite having loved genre movies for my entire life to that point, there was something that felt different about Tremors. It unlocked something in my brain.
Our night out at Tremors came several weeks after the first time he left. My younger sister and I made plans to go to the movies with our dad, picking Tremors because I wanted to see it and because it wasn't rated R. It was a big deal to be picked up and taken out by the man who no longer lived with us, and as excited as I was to see a first run movie -- a rarity in those days, and on a school night, no less -- I also remember feeling a tremendous sense of guilt. Accepting my dad's invitation to a movie seemed like a betrayal of my mom. But I was young and didn't want to cut one of my parents out of my life, which my mom understood and never suggested I do otherwise. And so we got picked up in front of the house and taken to the mall theater to see Tremors, a movie I fell in love with enough to distract me from the weird "first date" feeling of the whole night. This was the first hangout and the first movie I was seeing under this new arrangement.
Surviving the Game and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and Freejack in theaters. Sometimes we would get adventurous and travel to the art theater downtown to see stuff like My Own Private Idaho or Shakes the Clown. It's how I saw the re-release of The Wild Bunch on the big screen. It became the thing we did together, and though I had grown up rarely going to the movies now I was going probably once a week. All it took was a divorce.
These were years that were critical to my development as a movie fan. I won't say that they formed my tastes, because I think in a big way my tastes have been pretty set in stone since I was very young. But these were the years that my tastes were tested against a number of movies I might not have otherwise seen: V.I. Warshawski and Map of the Human Heart and Matinee, a movie that wasn't really on my radar but which wound up being one of my all-time favorites. Part of loving film is a willingness to have your tastes and your interests challenged -- to expose yourself to movies that run counter to what you are otherwise into. This is one of the reasons I fear for a generation that gets to curate every single piece of media they ingest, whether it's deciding exactly what to watch on various streaming services or watching YouTube videos or curating their own playlists instead of being exposed to stuff on the radio. I'm not suggesting radio is especially good, or that what's on network television is better than stuff on Netflix. But there's a lot of stuff I saw as a kid because it was on that I might not have seen otherwise, and I'm better for it. I don't think I knew much about The Player when my dad and I went to see it at the Catlow Theater because Roger Ebert had liked it, but it's a movie that opened me up to the entire filmography of Robert Altman.