Updated: Aug 15
In honor of the holiday season and a very tumultuous year finally coming to a close, the Buffed Film Buffs thought it nice to each share a movie that makes them nostalgic- whether that be of youth, of a particular person, or just of better times- so you can get to know your writers just a little better.
Oddly enough, my taste has been pretty consistent since before I could even understand what was happening on a TV screen, much less understand why I couldn’t stop watching. Like most kids, my favorite movie was always whatever I had watched last, but the movies I came back to were fundamentally the same as what I love now: westerns, bizarre trash, and anything with a banjo in the score. While I couldn’t have told you his name and probably didn’t know he existed, I even had a favorite director; every Gore Verbinski movie I saw sparked an obsession. Rango (2011) was the first movie I ever bought on Blu-ray, I pestered my family to take me to see The Lone Ranger (2013), but most importantly of all, I had the Pirates of the Carribean trilogy (the only three movies in the series) on an infinite loop. The best way to represent my childhood education is to find where it overlaps most with what I love now and nowhere do my tastes overlap more than with Dead Man’s Chest (2006).
Tiny Chance had an unhealthy obsession with pirates, their myth and their reality. Some four or five Halloweens in a row, I dressed as a pirate, two of those times as Jack Sparrow. It was watching Pirates of the Caribbean habitually that led to my four year old self spending hours crouched on a blue sheet with a camcorder filming an armada of Playmobil pirate ships. When The World’s End came out in theaters, I collected all of the Happy Meal toy tie-ins. I don’t think I could tell the movies apart at the time and I usually just watched them all at once, so setting Dead Man’s Chest above the rest of the bunch is purely the work of my adult self. Of all the movies I fixated on as a child, Dead Man’s Chest is the one I revisit the most. A ridiculous mess of a movie, it’s a reminder of what blockbusters used to be. Every minute of the film boasts some manner of over the top gore, surreal humor, or cartoonish commentary on sexuality. Of course, some of its anti-imperialist and anti-corporate politics are probably incidental considering that the movie has its origin in a Disney theme park ride, but intended or not, I get a kick out of them.
During my rewatches, I regularly chuckle imagining my five year old self watching a movie that essentially opens with a torture island and Jack Sparrow getting up close and personal with a rotting, waterlogged corpse. Even ideologically, the movie is a jumble of moral and thematic contradictions, with no interest in offering easy answers. Whether I understood what appealed to me at five doesn’t really matter, because it stuck regardless. I knew what I wanted out of a movie and Dead Man’s Chest gave it to me all at once. A horror comedy with tentacled zombies, an amoral picaresque, and any number of other stories, all in one ramshackle, two and a half hour package.
Talking nostalgia, I could discuss my love linked with the Tim Allen Santa Clause movies that I watched on television every Christmas as a child which brings back warm family memories, or I could tell the story of how during a tantrum I had, my mum split my DVD disk of Cars (2006) in two leaving me distraught (that was my favorite movie, man!) But it is the Australian outback horror, Wolf Creek (2005), that has stuck with me almost like trauma.
I first saw it when I was around 10 and it has built inside of me chronic phobias of the dark, the bush (especially during night) and bogan-like old Australian men with thick accents. I have many memories of the film because it haunted me for a long while after seeing it. I distinctly remember walking from the living room to my bedroom late at night and seeing outside our large arched windows, a figure of a bearded man in a cowboy hat and red flannel staring back at me with a rifle in hand and smiling that piercing smile of Mick Taylor that is ingrained into my mind. Wolf Creek holds a staple to my childhood and I would still commend it today for being a classic in Australian horror and film, even without my nostalgia connected to it. But let's just hope you don’t reconsider that trip to Australia afterwards.
The concept of nostalgia has me ponder one particular quality in a film: capacity for repeated viewings. How many times did I watch a particular movie during my childhood, and what was it that brought me back every time? There are several qualifiers: 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) was a big hit for me and my best friend, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) checks all the boxes for a consistently fun romp in the park, and the lesser known Little Manhattan (2005) had me yearning for all the lovesick emotions of a child I had yet to confront myself. But only one movie was on the lineup for all road trips, family nights, and sleepovers, bringing my dad and me to tears of laughter each and every time. This movie is none other than the dry-humored hipster western masterpiece, Napoleon Dynamite (2004).
If you didn’t grow up watching this movie every month, it makes perfect sense why you wouldn’t see this as une oeuvre d’art. It’s weird, it’s aggressively PG, and nothing much really happens. If not for a certain dance scene, I doubt this movie would live in fame as a cult classic. But beyond the awkward humor and eclectic desert environment, I think there is a great degree of profundity in the film’s message which comes in its final minutes. When the “your mom” jokes and ill-fated romantic gestures have settled, there is the aroma of change in the air. Napoleon’s brother ran off with his girlfriend, his uncle went back to his trailer in the plains, and Pedro secured the presidential position. Napoleon himself is in his final years of high school, and he is starting to sense that his destiny lies beyond his small Idaho town. As “Music for a Found Harmonium” plays, Napoleon watches his surroundings dissolve and then take their new shape.
Every time I watch this movie, I begin to appreciate the progress of the people around me and, in turn, initiate some change within my own life. It’s a good reminder that at the end of each story lies the beginning of a new one. Napoleon and Deb playing tetherball as the sun sets is one of the most oddly cathartic moments in cinema, in my personal opinion.
It’s also funny as hell, and makes me nostalgic for making jokes with my dad (the DVD contains one of the greatest compilations of deleted scenes ever compiled). I don’t think movies get much better than this.
To be honest, I had a hard time picking this movie because there were so many movies that shaped my childhood in different ways, from the dancing penguins in Mary Poppins (1964) to Spider-Pig in The Simpsons Movie (2007). However, there is no film that brings me more nostalgic joy than Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro (1988).
The entire movie is not only fun, but it also evokes the sense of wonder about the world that comes with being young. When I was about five years old, everything I looked at seemed like magic to me: the trees, the sky, even the sight of a creek could blow my mind. This wonder of nature is perfectly portrayed in Totoro, as the two sisters become friends with a monster who shows them the wonders of the nature surrounding them, even in rainfall and trees. The score when the girls and Totoro fly up the tree is absolute nostalgic perfection, and I tear up every time I see that scene. There’s a lot that both children and adults alike can take away from that movie. It’s awesome.
Writer's Note will be a reoccurring collaboration between the featured writers.
Happy New Year from the Buffed Film Buffs :)
-Lydia, Chance, Max, and Spencer