Friday, July 18, 1986. A group of my closest friends and I pile into a car and drive to Westwood from Orange County. I was 17 and this was a frequent weekend ritual for us. Orange County was boring and we loved to venture north to go to the then-reigning capital of movie releases. Back in those days, Westwood had movie theatres on almost every corner, and it was THE place to go to see a motion picture with THX and Dolby sound and a coterie of new technologies that made movies better.
My friends and I had also been experimenting with making movies of our own. We borrowed video and Super 8 cameras and created little pieces that today would be a great fit for YouTube. Back then, our audience was a small circle of friends who would gather together and drink beer while watching our handiwork. And that was perfectly fine. We had more fun making the movies than we did distributing and exhibiting.
But Friday, July 18th was a watershed moment. It was the night I pledged that I would go to film school. It was the opening night of James Cameron’s Aliens. Little did I know that it would also be the beginning of a great chapter in Jordan’s Journey.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking my watershed moment should have been Lawrence of Arabia, or Vertigo, or Citizen Kane. By 1986 I’d seen all those films and loved them. Aliens was a popcorn movie–a sequel to a great Ridley Scott original–but 5 minutes in I was completely mesmerized by what the film was doing to me. I was on the edge of my seat. That movie, at that moment in time, was a rollercoaster ride that blew my teenage mind.
I had been flirting with USC. My mother told me there was no way I could go there. We couldn’t afford it, she said. “Once again,” she reminded me, “you have Nordstrom taste on a Sears budget.” But every time I visited the campus my desire to be part of it grew. And on July 18th I made up my mind that I would go there and that I would get into the film school.
29 years later that day is still a part of my life, but not the way I imagined. I did go to USC. I did attend the film school. And while I didn’t pursue a career in filmmaking, I am so proud of that wonderful chapter. It was not just my college years, which were some of the most rewarding of my entire life. It was also my fondness of movies in that era. There were a lot of bad movies, but there were also movies that I’ll never forget. These were the movies of my formative years.
I wanted to share these movies with my children. I wanted them to have the same cinematic vernacular of my teenage years. So I came up with an idea. Let’s do 80’s movie night.
I floated this concept with Luc first. He loves movies and I thought this would be a perfect father/son activity. But I got no satisfaction.
“Nah,” he said. “I’m more interested in the new stuff.”
I was dumbfounded.
The new stuff? Really?
In my head were a stream of films that shaped my adolescence–films I wanted my son to experience, too. Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Empire Strikes Back. Romancing the Stone. The Goonies. Blue Velvet. Baghdad Cafe. Platoon...I could go on and on.
He was polite and he smiled when he said, “maybe.” I knew I hadn’t made the sale.
I shelved this idea for awhile until Jordan started asking to watch movies with me. On a flyer I said, “how would you like to watch 80’s movies with Dad?”
“That sounds awesome, ” she said.
Truthfully, she may not have realized what she’d just committed to. I’m not sure she understood that she would be subjected to images of terrible fashion trends, forced montages, and poppy music soundtracks that featured a meandering saxophone solo.
I explained that these were the movies I grew up with. They were old. Some probably weren’t as good as I remembered. I’d be okay if she said no.
I expected her to shrug me off, too, after this consumer warning. But instead she seemed to get more excited.
Thus began a cinematic retrospective that has been going on for over a year; one that we have loved. At least once a week Jordan and I gather in the living room and cue up a film that was released between 1980 and 1989. We haven’t watched Aliens yet, but we’ve sure covered a lot of other ground. Not all of them are “classics.” Some are downright horrible (Troop Beverly Hills). Some are better in my memory (Three Men and a Baby: doesn’t hold up well). Others withstand the test of time (Beverly Hills Cop: still solid).
Sometimes we binge. For example, we’ve taken to screening a different movie every night of three-day weekends. President’s Day weekend we watched “Groundhog Day”, “Back to the Future,” and “Victor/Victoria.” It was epic.
Eventually, we will run out of 80’s movies. I suppose we’ll have to move on to other eras. But I highly recommend this experiment to those who lived those movies like I did. The Slayer has been very fond of going back to the future with me.