Unlike some parents, my mother and father were never very concerned about their kids seeing R-rated movies. Besides giving me a form of cultural seniority among my elementary school peers, watching R-rated movies also gave me some interesting film-watching experiences and kick-started my journey of exploring the art of cinema.
My family is all about traditions, and when I was a kid, one of our favorites was “Camp KJs” (KJ being an acronym for myself and my brother, Kevin). These were nights in which we would all watch 2 movies together and sleep in the living room. Those bi-weekly movie nights accounted for most of my favorite childhood memories. On one particular night, my older brother decided to pull out our DVD of the critically panned 1999 monster movie, Deep Blue Sea. For those who aren’t familiar, Deep Blue Sea features Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, and a few genetically-modified giant sharks. I remember the entire experience vividly, or at least as vividly as one can recall something from when they were five years old. I was generally a pretty fearless kid, so at first I had no qualms with the characters on screen getting brutally eaten by these monster sharks. At one point, (SPOILER ALERT) Samuel L. Jackson gives an epic speech about teamwork, during which he is rudely interrupted by a shark that jumps out the water, drags poor Sam Jackson down below, and rips him in half. Soon after, a second shark swims up and joins in on the action, at which point I yelled out “Look, Mommy! They’re sharing”.
Unbeknownst to me, I would have countless childhood nightmares featuring Sam Jackson’s half-eaten body being shared among monster sharks. Despite the traumatizing aspects of the scene, I remember this being the first time I really appreciated film. In hindsight, Deep Blue Sea isn’t the cinematic masterpiece I once thought it was, but for some reason I link this movie to my first steps toward making film a passion in my life. In the next few years, I dedicated much of my time to looking up critically acclaimed movies, and without a parental filter, I was able to watch classics like The Shining, The Godfather, and Gladiator as early as eight years old. Consequently, I was weirdly knowledgeable about Oscar trivia for a middle schooler. This in turn led to me putting my Oscar-worthy film knowledge into the making of many not-so-Oscar-worthy home movies (all available for viewing on youtube).
While I was never able to appreciate fine art or literature in the ways I wish I could, the idea of filmmaking was always much more accessible to me. In my opinion, film is interactive and epic in scope in ways other mediums of art usually can’t be. When understanding the process that goes into filmmaking, from the conceptual ideas to the entire process of shooting to the final post-production work, I have the utmost respect for filmmakers. Although I am currently choosing a different career path for myself, there is no doubt in my mind that I will continue to watch and appreciate cinema for the rest of my life.