"Movies and Me: A Memoir."
College Writing 1, Dr. Jen Consilio
Ever since I was a young kid growing up in Plainfield, IL, movies have played a very important role in my life. I remember listening to and watching picture-book stories by my mom and older sister, which set the foundation for my interest in storytelling in general, but it was really being introduced to film by my dad that set me on a path of loving this beautiful artform. What struck a chord with me about film was the sense of escapism that all the ones I watched on repeat as a kid gave me. In terms of my bond with my father, movies acted as the foundation of our relationship, and the one hobby that we can always agree on and relate to today. Even though there’s a movie for every mood I may be feeling in the moment, the ones that moved me as a child were animated ones, as well as the adventure and science-fiction films that my father loved when he was growing up in the same town. These three genres gave me feelings of joy, wonder, and relatability. Being a generally shy and quiet kid in school, I found movies reliable and helpful in any situation. Whether it was the theatrical experience or a character that I saw myself in, I was caught up in the magic of the movies, no matter the mood I may have been in.
The first movie I remember that had an impact on my eight-year old self was Toy Story 3, from 2010…
INT. - CINEMARK THEATER - DAY
Enter LIAM JAROT, his sister, MOIRA JAROT, and their father, ED JAROT, walking into a darkened movie theater, more specifically, the Louis Joliet Mall-located Cinemark, about to play the newly released “TOY STORY 3”.
LIAM, having finished first grade at St. Mary Immaculate, was eager to go to the furthest place from there. Not that Liam had an awful year previously, but certain moments such as bullying or an embarrassing moment left Liam looking for a place of ESCAPE. Even though this kid was not far from his home, the singular place that first transported Liam to fictional worlds was the MOVIE THEATER.
Prior to this screening, LIAM saw movies made for his young age here and there, but none of those ones made an impact on him. Television shows on channels such as NICKELODEON and CARTOON NETWORK did keep him entertained, but mainly because of their quick 11-minute length for each episode.
As the film starts, the three family members put on their 3D glasses, and the brightness of the projected movie reflects on LIAM’s face, he begins to tell his story...
It was June of 2010. I had just finished first grade and was going into second. One morning, my dad asked my sister and I if we wanted to run errands. Always eager to see the outside world, my sister and I agreed. I don’t remember having any expectations at the time other than the fact that we were just going to a grocery store or something similar like that. Once my dad pulled into the parking lot of Cinemark, a nationwide chain of movie theaters, I knew what was about to happen; I was about to see a movie. As a kid, the towering building strictly dedicated to movies fascinated me, but I had never had any memorable experiences from other theaters. This location had just been open for at least a couple of years, so a newly built theater was just the place I needed to create my first memory of watching a film.
Going into the theater, the smell of fresh popcorn overwhelmed me. Once we got our tickets and moved to the concession stand, a feeling came over me that was similar to a kid in a candy store. With my dad generally keeping our health in check, I shared a large popcorn and drink between him and my sister. As one of the staff members ripped off their portion of the tickets and gave our half to us, we found ourselves in a dark hallway, with enough lighting to see where we’re going as well as the little marquees showcasing each theater room off. Having found the right room, we entered the theater. At the time, there was no reserved seating we could make in advance. Because of that, there was always an anticipation walking towards the bulk of the room and getting a chance to see which seats were left by the time you entered. Thankfully, there were three open spots in a middle section in the top half of the room, and once we got settled, the three of us were more than ready to see the new film.
I had enjoyed the previous two Toy Story films enough that my dad knew that I would be interested in the third one, even if I hadn’t asked before to see it. During the film, I could set my mind to watching some of my favorite characters in all of movies, including Woody and Buzz Lightyear, escape a daycare and find their way back to their owner, Andy. Throughout the movie, the audience went through multiple emotions. First, like every Disney and Pixar film, there are many jokes peppered throughout to keep the entertaining momentum going, such as Mr. Potato Head having to put his anatomical pieces on a pickle when he does not have his main body to attach to. Oppositely, at the end, Andy, the former caretaker of the protagonistic toys, leaves for college, but not before dropping off the toys he’s grown up with to a local kid in the neighborhood, named Bonnie. Watching that scene in the theater, I was ten years away from living a potentially similar moment, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still feel the raw emotion of Andy losing the connection between him and his toys. I was still too young to exactly relate to that moment, but the power of the theatrical experience such as hearing other audience members grieve over that lost connection still struck a chord with me during that scene. If you are seeing a movie with a crowded audience, the people in the room do not feel like a group anymore if the movie plays its audience well. It can turn into a collective community watching the same film and feeling the same reactions throughout for an hour and a half. No other experience, say for a play or a musical at a theatre, can make the audience laugh one second and tear up the next. This encounter isn’t guaranteed every time you may go, but when it happens, it reminds me why I love the shared aspect of the theater experience. Once the film is over, the people in that room go back to being their individual selves again. Once we left the theater, and came back to reality after having our emotions successfully played with, without really knowing it at the time, I was now a film-fan for life.
END OF SCENE
One striking part of my experience of watching this film that was different for me was an aspect of movies that is near and dear to my heart, the cinema experience. For a kid, a giant projector screen showing these already larger-than-life characters was the spark that ignited a love for the format. In the opening scene of Toy Story 3, it is told from the perspective of the main kid Andy’s imagination, telling a train-heist story of Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Ham, and Rex stopping Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head from stealing the train’s loot. I believe I wouldn’t have loved that scene enough if I had first seen the movie on a normal TV screen at home. As a kid, the concept of 3D blew my mind, and for my first main theatrical event, my dad upgraded our tickets to give my sister and I that greater experience. Because 3D TVs were very expensive at the time, the three or so dollars to upgrade the tickets made the theatrical experience more like an exclusive event, something I could only get at a theater when it came to budget. Watching the characters “reach out” to the screen enveloped me in that showing, whereas at home, although the smaller and “flatter” screen still would’ve kept my attention, factors like breaks in the middle of the movie would’ve affected the experience for me. Because there are no breaks and I watched the film in one sitting, Toy Story 3 remained memorable to me days after watching it. The fact that I could leave my house and go spend a couple of hours in Disney’s fictional world made me want to go more and more to the theater rather than watching a movie at home. For the most part, bad memories like getting made fun of on the school bus in first grade was eliminated by the time I sat in a theater’s red leather seats.
The second film that I can vividly recall watching for the first time, albeit not in a theater, was Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial…
INT. - JAROT HOUSEHOLD - NIGHT
We FADE IN as LIAM, around 10 YEARS OLD, sits back on the family room’s green-and-brown couch in his favorite pajamas. With him is his father, ED, reclining back on the family room’s (and, more importantly, his) black lounge chair. Liam had just placed a Blu-Ray disc of “E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL” in their recently bought Blu-Ray player, and the film was loading.
As of this moment, on a fall night in 2012, Liam is in fourth grade. While not focusing on any challenges of school at the time, Liam is most anxious and bitter around the start of the school year at SMI. New teachers and new classes inevitably created new potential problems. As he ponders over how he’ll take on the changing circumstances, “E.T.” begins, as well as Liam’s anecdote.
2012 was E.T’s 30th Anniversary, and my dad, having been a fan of the film ever since he first saw it the year it came out in 1982, knew how to celebrate the occasion. He decided to show me the film for the first time then, and I now understand the rule that every kid should watch E.T. when they’re around 10. Elliot, the main protagonist of the film, is 10 years old himself, so I immediately saw myself in him. He’s a lonely kid who soon finds himself connecting with an alien lifeform in his backyard. While no kid can relate to that exact story, I could empathize with Elliot’s solitude from a healthy group of friends. I had made a few friends here and there at school, but I would have never called those friendships close.
At the climax of E.T., Elliot, who has been looking for his new friend ever since he got lost, finds him near a creek, pale white all over. Confused, bewildered, and engaged, I asked my dad what happened.
ED JAROT (41 YEARS OLD)
Well, E.T. is sick, and needs to get back to his homeworld to get better.
Having received the tragic news from his father, Liam continues to watch, eyes intent on the TV screen, wondering if the extraterrestrial will make it out okay, and once he is (thanks to the kids of the film’s help), Liam can breathe easy again, having just been through an engaging 20 minutes...
By the end of the film, what “E.T.” had taught me was to hold onto those friends as long as we’re together at the same school, or we may go away and lose communication before I know and appreciate it. As the extraterrestrial leaves Earth at the end of the movie, I again found myself emotionally moved with it, despite only knowing the creature of the film for around two hours. I had known people at my school for a longer time than I had known my closer friends, but time isn’t as important when it comes to your friends. What matters is the connection you have between them. As with E.T, Elliot found a friend (disregarding his look) and found him to be a reliable source of connection in so little time. If I remember right, the film takes place over a few days, but by the end of the movie, you feel that Elliot and E.T. have known each other for months. Even though the friends I made didn’t last a short time, the memories we made hanging out on weekends and in the summertime made those friendships and connections earned by the time we had to leave each other.
The credits roll after E.T.’s spaceship flies off, and, having just watched a masterpiece, Liam pitches an ambitious idea to his dad…
LIAM (10 YEARS OLD)
Let’s watch it again!
END OF SCENE
Because I couldn’t see E.T. at the time in a movie theater, why did it have such a big impact on me at home? It would be due to the homely and grounded feel that the film has. For all the science-fiction elements that people will always remember, at the end of the day, E.T. is simply about friendship. The friends that I had at school were more impactful on my life than I had realized at the time, so I tried to make the most out of the time we had together before we moved on to high school. Although I thought we may be able to keep in touch with each other in the future, it wouldn’t be the same as spending around seven hours (five days a week) in one main building for eight years. Despite some friends leaving over the course of those many years, I would always keep the memories we had close to my heart, and not act somber over it.
Overall, movies, more than any other form of entertainment, have stuck with me since I was eight. Having seen hundreds of films now with a wide spectrum of genres, voices, and stories, I’ve since realized how important seeing movies at a young age can be. Because my father was the main figure who introduced me to the artform, I’ve seen hundreds of films with him, whether we loved, hated, or disagreed over them. Now in college, I’ve since said goodbye to my friends in grade school and high school, but we can still message each other over social media, after having learned to always keep your connections close with Toy Story 3 and E.T. When I was a kid, I didn’t focus on the process of making those films and the hundreds of people who work on them. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve gained an interest in working in the film industry through my continuing to watch movies as well as having visited various studios in Los Angeles. What made me love movies in the first place, though, was the mix of emotions I felt while watching them, whether feeling anxious or joyful. And one day, I hope to be a part of a team that recreates those experiences for audiences around the world, making a new fan of film like me.