Two things hit me early on while watching Man of Steel. One was that I can’t wait to see it again with my son when he’s old enough, and the other was that I wish I could have seen it with my dad. He’s still alive, but we don’t live close enough that I imagine us seeing it together some day. At least not in the theater, and that’s really what I was thinking of. Man of Steel is the kind of movie I loved going to with him as a kid. With that in mind, the two things are clearly related. It’s just the sort of movie that dads take their kids to. Of course, the fact that the movie has a lot to do with Superman’s two paternal relationships adds greatly to the whole deal. Basically, it’s a perfect movie to open Father’s Day weekend.
Growing up, my father was the larger parental influence when it came to my love of movies. Part of it is the cliche of divorce, how every other weekend was our time with Dad and its entirety was spent with entertainment and junk food and all that fun stuff. But he’s also the guy whose work occasionally involved the movie business (see an interview we did with him about his painting for Star Wars), so it wasn’t all about distraction and overcompensation. It was genuinely educational experiences had when he’d analyze the technique of a Drew Struzan poster for us or explain the physics (or violation of its laws) at play in an action movie we just watched.
Not everything was wonderful, either. Offended by its subject matter and tone and language, he made me turn off Heathers when I was 13 (is there some psychological connection there to how it wound up one of my favorite films of all time?). And no matter how often he made us watch his favorite Three Stooges shorts, I’ve just never really found an appreciation of those films. There are also a lot of multiplex nights where I primarily recall the experience being with my younger brother, as he and I would become split from our dad and older brother when it came to what we wanted to watch. That’s too bad, as I have no idea if he’d have enjoyed certain films that I’m now genuinely curious about whether he’s even seen them ever. Namely Spaceballs (my dad loves corny, punny humor, and I recall him liking other Mel Brooks films).
I saw a lot of movies with my dad over the years. Very few that I can vividly remember the whole experience of (as in the case of Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at the old town hall turned into a cinema in Newtown, Conn.) and a lot that blended together (all the VHS tapes rented from Video Express, one pick per brother per weekend, coupled with another movie poster from the 50-cent poster bin — our room at Dad’s was wallpapered with ‘em). The one that I can’t get out of my mind as far as something I most connect to my dad is Smokey and the Bandit. We watched it a lot. I don’t recall the first time. And he used to love quoting Sheriff Buford T. Justice (wait, now that I think about it, was that to just subtley take jabs at my own mama?).
Once I was older and due to certain circumstances I unfortunately went many, many years without seeing my father let alone a movie with him. I finally got a chance to visit with him long enough in the summer of 2008, and we went to the movies. It was Hancock. He hated it. But he still clearly had a great time. As did I. It felt just like it did 25 years earlier. I even got a box of candy (Milk Duds, my childhood favorite), which I never ever do anymore, just because I felt like a kid again. Just thinking about it makes me want to take the trip out in the next few months. If not for Man of Steel, there’s another movie I honestly can’t imagine enjoying enough without my father beside me: The Lone Ranger.
What is your favorite movie memory with your father?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter: