What your Top Five Movies Say about You

Headlines like the one I just wrote usually make me gag. But in this case, I'll just have to suffer through the horrible Cosmo-esque cliche, because it's a pretty good description of what I want to write about today.

I had a film theory teacher during my undergrad years who used to tell us to re-write our movie "Top Ten Lists" annually. Because your top ten favorite movies (or even your twelve or your 8 or whatever...) tend to reflect something about where you are in your life. This is true of everyone, but it's especially true for those of us who are film-lovers.

On a seemingly unrelated, but definitely related note, I'm frozen on week seven of Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way". I mean, I am totally stuck. It's a combination of things. By week seven, you're kind of sapped. Going through the book and workbook is actually pretty draining.

Cameron requires a lot of you, you have to sign a contract saying you'll take good care of yourself by eating and sleeping well, journaling for at least three pages every morning, and so on. By week seven, the good habits she's trying to get you to adopt haven't solidified yet and they still feel tedious. Even though they are good for you.

According to every magazine cover ever, healthy is supposed to be easy, right? Lies...all lies I tell you. Especially for us creative types that like to fancy ourselves as complicated and different than everyone else.

Learning and practicing self-discipline is the opposite of easy. It's quite difficult, thank you very much.  So I've tried to force myself to finish all of the homework for week seven this weekend so I can finally roll myself over into week eight on Monday.

One of those leftover tasks I've been sitting on is to jot down the first five movies you can think of off of the top of your head. If you're the type who likes revealing self-help exercises...I hate you. (Kidding!)

 If you're the type who likes revealing self-help exercises, I'd pause to do this now. Grab a scrap of paper and a pen and just do it really quickly. Because once you learn what the trick is, there's kind of no way to do it without cheating. So do it now! I'll wait here. Just click through to the rest of this entry when you're done...

Disclaimer: No actual technical difficulties are ensuing...I
just like this as a kind of "Wait a Minute" picture.)

Did you do it? Mine were...

1. The Pink Panther Strikes Again
2. Pee Wee's Big Adventure
3. Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
4. Kind Hearts and Coronets
5. Superstar

The second step of the exercise is simple. You just glance over the list and look for commonalities. Are the movies all from the same genre? Do they have a similar storyline? Are they from a common era? Etc.

All of mine were comedies, all of mine involved a totally awkward weirdo as the protagonist and three of my movies would probably be considered too embarrassing to appear on any kind of movie list by my fellow film class snobs. If someone told me to write my Top Five Favorite Comedies, my list would go, in no particular order...

1. Kind Hearts and Coronets
2. The Pink Panther Strikes Again
3. Duck Soup
4. Some Like It Hot
5. Modern Times

While totally truthful, and also movies that center around weirdos, that's probably the list I would write to try to sound impressive. Four of those movies are black and white...and I think I could allow myself to feel pretty superior about that.

But Cameron's attempt to get us to trick/ignore our inner-sensor, inner-snob (whatever you want to call it) can reveal some helpful information.

I'm right in the middle of changing genres of writing. For a long time, I've been working in journalism. Getting my brain to jump the track back to creative writing has been a much bigger challenge than I ever thought it would be. I find myself frozen at the keyboard a lot lately, feeling embarrassed, feeling dumb, thinking, "What am I thinking? This is going to be the WORST. I should just go back to reporting on other people's art."

But when I first glanced down the list of those five movies that popped into my thoughts, I noticed that the themes they had in common were relevant to a couple of creative projects I'm working on that I care about a lot. I've picked the draft of my memoir back up from grad school and I'm re-drafting. Heavily.

It's called "Growing Up Weird" and it's all about life as a dorky little misfit, growing up the out of touch, overly imaginative daughter of a showbiz mother who owned and operated a highly creative singing telegram business in the cornfields of the Mid-West in the late eighties and early nineties. (Also, three of the movies from my first list are from the eighties/nineties.)

"Comedy of Errors" - S5: Ep 9
I've got some short film scripts cooking, and I may or may not be keeping a Moleskine notebook on my person at all times to jot down potential "stand-up" ideas. Don't tell anyone. I'm sort of mortified about it. I don't think I'll ever work up the gumption to try that one out. It just seems SO Dennis from "30 Rock" to even think about doing it.

But I'm more likely to work up the gumption by at least writing things down than I would by doing nothing. (I'm letting Dorothy Zbornack from season 5, episode 9 of "The Golden Girls" be my inspiration. Because that's a mature approach to trying something new...looking for guidance from a person who ISN'T REAL. Sigh...)

Next Friday, my husband and I have a lunch date with a dear friend and mentor to share with him some details about other personal projects. We've taken to getting together once or twice a month and just talking about what we want to try and how we're attempting to make progress. Basically, it's an accountability club. There's a lot of laughter. And french fries! Which makes me much more likely to attend regularly and if you ask me, fries make ANY meeting better. Put that in an advice article Cosmo...

Potato products aside, I have a really unhealthy perspective on my creativity right now. It's a kind of, "Stop the ride, I want to get off," way of thinking. I can barely get my ideas onto paper. I'm sort of looking at my ideas the way that a little kid would watch a horror movie, through my fingers, hands covering my eyes. But when I do find the courage to admit what I'm trying to do to friends and family every now and then, they all say things like, "It's about time! We've been thinking you should try that for years!"

I guess what I'm saying is that I want to close the gaps. The gap between what I want to create and what I've been creating for the last few years. The gaps between the negative things I think about myself and the positive things my friends and family tell me I can accomplish. The gaps between what I know I care about vs. how I spend most of my time.

And I got ALL OF THAT from a tiny little listing exercise that took me less than five minutes.

So I'll be making my 30-Year-Old Movie Top Ten Lists (there has to be a separate list for each genre) again soon to see what they reflect and reveal. Did you do the exercise? Let's talk about it in the comments!

(Quite frankly, I feel like it takes a bit of a support group to get through the Artist's Way. I love Julia Cameron so much, but I just can't bring myself to do some of the tasks she assigns. I'm too broke to buy myself the little gifts she suggests (Socks, gloves, new makeup!), I'm not much of a rock or leaf collector and she loves to suggest painting things turquoise. Which I think is the official color sponsor of jewelry for middle-aged ladies. Not that there's anything wrong with that! But I'm not ready for chunky turquoise beads and Maya Angelou glasses yet....YET.)


Elizabeth Periale said...

Good for you t have all of those projects on the burner! I hope you'll be posting asome of your creative writing.

I did your exercise. Although my list is true to me there's no denying that that great photo of Jack Lemmon was a bit of an influence.

The Uninvited - 1944 Ray Milland
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Some Like It Hot
The Wizard of Oz

As I look at my list I think I must be attracted to twisted comedy and a bit of deception! The Wizard of Oz doesn't immediately appear to fit in with the rest, but the more I think about it, I think it actually does.

Sabah said...

I love your post. As I was reading I had the biggest grin on my face. Besides the fact that you are very much endearing, I love your questioning yet confident manner BUT most of all, I loved all the insight contained in it.

I am a better person for having read it. I am indebted to you. Thank you.