Thursday, January 25, 2018

Talking Movies with Rob's Mom

by Rob DiCristino
A few thoughts on Raiders, De Niro, and life behind the counter of a video store.

Rob: Hi, Mom!

Mom: Hi!

Rob: So, the first question we always ask is, “Have you seen anything good lately?”

Mom: Actually, the other night I watched Landline, which is an Amazon original movie. It’s basically about a married couple and their two daughters. The dad was cheating, and the one daughter was going through a crisis because she was engaged. That was really good. It was what’s her name from Nurse Jackie

Rob: Edie Falco?

Mom: Yeah. She’s actually why I watched it. I mean, it wasn’t a spectacular role for her, but it was good. But I’ve mostly been watching old stuff.

Rob: Like what?

Mom: I actually watched Rocky the other day to get ready for the Eagles game. And they won, so maybe that’s why?

Rob: Probably! What’s the better Eagles movie: Invincible or Silver Linings Playbook?

Mom: Well, I’ve gotta go with Robert De Niro, obviously. Although, I’m not sure I entirely appreciated everything Silver Linings Playbook was trying to say, but I loved the characters and how they were all set up. But it was mostly about Robert De Niro being an Eagles fan. And it was our hometown, so you had to appreciate all that.

Rob: There are so many local landmarks.
Mom: Even when they’re running down the street. I had friends who lived right around there. I used to work at a daycare center that was literally across the street from the Llanerch Diner when I was like thirteen. Even in Invincible, with all those streets in South Philly that I remember.

Rob: Speaking of sports movies, do you have a favorite movie genre?

Mom: I don’t know that I have a favorite, honestly. Dramas are probably the best. If I can connect to something that’s of some importance or meaning in my life, you know? I tend to be drawn to that over something like a comedy that’s just for entertainment. I mean, I’m a woman, so obviously I like love stories, but that’s the kind of goofy girl chick flick stuff we all watch. But usually if I love something, it’s because it affected me in a real way.

Rob: It’s always about empathy. It never really matters what a movie is about as long as it has characters and a story I care about.

Mom: And it doesn’t always have to challenge you, but as long as it has things that keep you interested. Thrillers and mysteries, too.

Rob: Do you have a favorite movie? Or a top five?

Mom: I think I have a lot of favorite movies in different genres. There’s Shawshank Redemption and Silence of the Lambs and Jaws, of course. I hate to say it, but there’s that movie called ‘night, Mother with Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft. And I don’t know why I love it, because it’s about a woman killing herself, but it’s just just the two characters and the whole movie is so well done. So that’s really great in that cinematic way. But then there are things like Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. That’s one of my favorite movies. Brighton Beach Memoirs is another one. I like Biloxi Blues, of course, but Brighton Beach is in a different era [era].

Rob: I’ve still never seen it. I’m a horrible person.
Mom: You have to see it! It’s a really simple story, but the characters are all really strong. It’s not really like Biloxi Blues; it’s more about your teenage years and what you feel and the experiences you go through. How ridiculous the world around you is. And then I have a lot of old favorites I used to watch with your grand-mom on Saturday afternoons like West Side Story and An Affair to Remember. It’s not even the story in that one, really. It’s more about the characters and the simplicity of the time period. Your grand-mom always watches The Nun’s Story with Audrey Hepburn, and that’s a really good one. It’s not even the religious stuff; it’s the whole idea of this woman who struggles and tries to use what she has to get by. And then all the pressure she puts on herself and how she’s still not able to succeed in something. And then there’s The Professional. I love that one.

Rob: That’s quite the eclectic mix. Favorite actors or actresses?

Mom: We talked about Robert De Niro. I’ll watch anything with him. Anything with Morgan Freeman. Meryl Streep. Clint Eastwood. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Anthony Hopkins, although I don’t love all his movies. I just like him.

Rob: How about favorite movie watching experiences? Either at home or in theaters.

Mom: The first time I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was down the shore, and Grand-mom and grand-pop brought us to a theater pretty far away just to see it, and that was so completely cool. I remember seeing Midnight Run for the first time, too. We weren’t even supposed to be seeing that one. We were supposed to see something else, but it sold out, and that ended up being one of the best movies. Oh! And I went to see…what’s the one with Michelle Pfeiffer in the bathtub?

Rob: What Lies Beneath?

Mom: I saw that with my friend Michelle, and she was so scared of that movie. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but I just remember loving the fact that she was so scared. She literally called me afterwards because she had to go downstairs and get something when she got home, and I had to stay on the phone with her. And Salem’s Lot. That scared the hell out of me for a couple months. I told you how I had to go sleep in your uncle Frankie’s room because I was scared to sleep by myself. Stephen King will do that to you.
Rob: My grand-pop (your dad) was a huge movie collector. Do you remember when or why he started doing it? By the time I was around, he was pretty deep into it.

Mom: We didn’t have cable when I was growing up, but when we got the house down the shore, we had cable there. We also had HBO, and I guess it was just the fact that we had it that made him start taping stuff. It was like getting it for free. I don’t remember that being a huge staple of my childhood, but I do remember Jaws and stuff like that. But that whole idea of taping them and logging them in the book and keeping them all organized, that was something we just expected from your grand-pop. For him, that was completely normal. It was neat because we could always go and find a movie once we had it. I’ve always been able to watch a movie a million times and still really enjoy it, so always having the red book right there for you was really neat.

Rob: I know. I’m definitely still chasing that feeling by collecting movies. Speaking of which, I guess we should talk about the video store. What was it like to work there?

Mom: That was neat because that was when it was really popular to rent movies. That was a really big deal. It was so visual back then. It was more substantial. You could see the movie on the shelf and the cover that went with it. There were the big, classic boxes and the cheap cardboard ones, but they all had to draw the eye. So my friends and I working there saw the pictures of every movie, and I still see a lot of them in my head. I don’t even know that I watched all of them, but I definitely remember what they looked like. And of course, I met your father there, and all that.

Rob: And all that.

Mom: People would come in and get three or four movies at a time. It was the age of that kind of entertainment. That’s what people did for fun. But my job was just to make sure they all went back in the right boxes.

Rob: There was an art exhibition recently that was essentially just a horror video store [Slashback Video]. People donated all their old horror VHS tapes. You would pay to get in and they would let you stand behind the counter and all, but you weren’t allowed to touch the tapes.

Mom: Isn’t that something? The horror movies, too, with all the blood and the women with their throats cut. You don’t realize what kind of effect that stuff has on you until you’re older and always thinking about stuff from your past.

Rob: Alright, let’s talk about me.

Mom: My favorite subject!

Rob: What were the first movies you remember me really loving?

Mom: Ghostbusters was a big one. I remember you had the little outfit. Monty Python. Jurassic Park. And you loved the old Batman.

Rob: I very distinctively remember that, when you got the Jurassic Park tape, I couldn’t stay up to watch it for whatever reason, but you let me watch the scene with the brachiosaur and then sent me to bed. I had to wait to watch the rest of the movie.

Mom: Oh, no! That was mean!

Rob: Yeah, it was. It was. Anyway, do you think you and Dad meeting in a video store has anything to do with what I’m doing now?

Mom: I love it! I knew that whatever you did would have to have a creative side to it. Everything was so intense. Nothing was really blasé with you. If you liked a movie or a show, you were all in. You always picked it apart and understood every part of it. I swear it has something to do with your father watching that damn Siskel and Ebert all the time. And Mystery Science Theater. He always watched that. I guess we all hope we have some kind of influence on our kids, so that has to mean something.

Rob: It did! Before we wrap up, is there anything new coming out that you’re looking forward to?

Mom: Don’t judge me, but there’s the whole Tonya Harding story going on right now.

Rob: I heard that was good!

Mom: But nothing in a while has really made me want to go to the movies. I’ll be in the mood to go, but then I’ll look stuff up and think, “I don’t want to see any of those.” Maybe I’m just getting older and pickier.

Rob: Well, I’m exactly the same way.

Mom: But I’m really into the streaming originals, whether they be series or movies. Like Amazon has stuff like One Mississippi and Catastrophe. That’s a little trashy, but it’s really good because it’s so honest.

Rob: I just binged One Mississippi. It was great. Okay, I’ll let you go. Thanks! This was fun!

Mom: It was! Now, let me talk to my grandson!

Rob: Yeah, yeah.