I’m going to celebrate Thanksgiving this year by writing a daily essay throughout November on the movies I’m most thankful for. This will not be a list of my favorite movies, nor will they be reviews. Instead I’m planning bite-sized posts about the movies that have stayed with me—whether because of a captivating story, a single scene that stopped the heart, or for marking a certain period in my life. Since I write about classic films all the time, I’m going to restrict this series to movies made during my lifetime.
Note: The Wednesday classic film reviews and personal Lazy Sunday updates will continue as per the usual schedule.
So let’s get started….
Splash (1984) was a film of firsts—the first film for Touchstone Pictures (which would go on to make such films as Pretty Woman, Father of the Bride (1991), and Dead Poet’s Society), and the first starring role for Tom Hanks.
It was also the first movie I ever saw in a theater. The math tells me I was three years old. This seems impossible, and yet I fact checked it with my mother.
I remember almost nothing of the movie. I rewatched it for the first time in preparation for this project and it holds up surprisingly well—it’s a delight to watch a non-raunchy rom-com in an era when they are on the edge of extinction.
Here’s what I do remember: the awe of initiation into what felt like a secret club. My mom loves the movies, and presented seeing Splash as a rite of passage, filled with both delights and responsibilities.
The delights: Milk Duds, my seven-year-old cousin Jamie to share the experience, and a real-life mermaid on a screen a million times bigger than our television.
The responsibilities: I had to be quiet. I couldn’t squirm around, even if I got bored.
I didn’t get bored.
Instead, I was mesmerized by the spectacle of Daryl Hannah as Madison the Mermaid. It was my introduction to the quiet, communal experience of watching films with strangers.
In that cool, dark theater, a movie buff was born.
It was magic to me then, and it’s magic to me now.