On April 15th, my dad would have been 68. I would have called to wish him a happy birthday. We would have discussed work, the family, COVID-19, the lack of sports, and a bunch of other topics. Eventually, we’d end talking about a movie he caught on TNT, HBO, or AMC. I’ve lost count on the number of times we’ve discussed The Godfather, Shawshank, or The Prestige. The man loved music and talking about movies.
So of late, I started thinking about the movies he and I discussed the most. And then, I started watching them. The guy had some great taste and I miss those conversations. Even though they always covered the same ground and we always covered the same points, our chats never felt stale.
After thinking through those discussions and rewatching a bunch of them, I’ve compiled a top 10 list of the movies that seemed to come up the most. To be clear, these aren’t the best movies or even his favorite movies, although many of them would probably make his all-time Mount Rushmore of movies.
- Frequency: My dad was always a bit of a science-fiction nerd and had a soft spot for Dennis Quaid. This movie about a ham radio leading to some form of time travel meets people coming back from the dead was right up his alley.
- Needful Things: Most Stephen King books that become movies are bad. They really are. There’s a few that stick out. The Shining, Pet Cemetary, and Fire Starter are a few examples. I think he loved this adaptation, not because it’s a great movie, but because he found Max von Sydow’s performance to be brilliant. This line in particular always came up, “The young carpenter from Nazareth? I know him well. Promising young man. He died badly.”
- Godfather II: If there was one movie that we disagreed about often, but in the best way, it was Godfather II. He thought it was a better movie than the first Godfather movie. I thought he was crazy. But, if you want a great discussion, have two opposing viewpoints. He loved the line from the scene where Michael explains, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” While a great line, I always preferred the lesson that comes from this line, “Now listen, whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting, he’s the traitor.” Both, are invaluable.
- The Shawshank Redemption: Great movie. Great story. Great adaptation of a short story. Great cast. It was always on tv, which made for frequent conversations. But, what tickled him the most was the reality that Zihuatanejo was not this beautiful paradise, but actually one of the most dangerous places in Mexico.
- The Prestige: The only movie on this list that I haven’t seen. I bought it last week and I’m going to watch it on his birthday. He loved the performances of Jackman and Bale. In particular, what he often waxed about was the drive they both had to be the best. The guy loved a great Christian Bale movie, which brings me to #6.
- American Psycho: Christian Bale at his very best. I don’t know if this a good thing, so to speak, but he would generally open the conversation by saying, “Caught American Psycho last night. That scene where Bale talks about the business cards. You really remind me of him and his appreciation for details.”
- The Natural: If there’s one thing my dad loved, it was a movie with a great line, designed to teach a lesson. As we discussed the success of Cora and John in basketball and soccer, he would often quote from The Natural, “You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough – you’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift… then… you’ll fail.”
- Rocky IV: Not a great movie. No one is winning an Oscar. But, it remains one of the most vivid memories for me – as a child, my dad took me to the theater to watch Rocky take on Drago and I can still hear the crowd yelling at the screen. Our discussions would frequently cover who was more devastating, Mr. T’s character from Rocky III or Ivan Drago?
- Back to School: My dad loved Rodney Dangerfield and while this was not a great movie, there was always something about his performance that made my dad chuckle. We’d start out talking about the movie and end up discussing the standup routines of Dangerfield, Carlin, and Pryor.
- Coming to America: Eddie Murphy. That’s it. That’s all you have to say. The genius of Eddie, the wide range of characters he played, the absurd story-line, and the memorable quotes kept us talking for hours.
- Unforgiven: My dad was never a big westerns guy. But, something about this gritty western appealed to him. We’d always end up discussing this quote from Eastwood’s character, “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away everything he’s got and everything he’s ever gonna have.”
I could go on and on. Movies have a way of bringing people together, even when they disagree about the movie. I miss those conversations. But, I look forward to having them with my own kids.