Amid empty aisles, a group of lost souls clean up popcorn, play games of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," and struggle to make connections as they work at a run-down movie house in Massachusetts. This is Annie Baker's Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-winning play, The Flick, currently running at Playwrights Horizons through April 7. "This play is partly a tribute to my first love," Baker says in the organization's bulletin newsletter, and indeed, the medium of film has not only the ability to bring people together, but change lives.
We invited the four-member cast of The Flick, Alex Hanna, Louisa Krause, Matthew Maher, and Aaron Clifton Moten, to answer the question, "What are the films that made you who you are today?" They provided the following answers.
Alex Hanna (Skylar/The Dreaming Man)
I think it's safe to say that E.T. was one of the earliest movies I watched. It came out before I was born, but I know my family had it on VHS growing up. I certainly remember watching it multiple times when I was very young, but only in the last few months did I revisit it (via Netflix, of course). Seeing it for the first time in probably two decades, what struck me most were the profound and iconic visual themes that I think didn't register AT ALL when I was little. (The keys!) But many of the aural elements, primarily the John Williams score, gave me a head rush of nostalgia.
I have had a deep affection for the work of Mr. Williams for as long as I can remember: I tend to think that the best thing about Star Wars is the score, and I sometimes watch Meet The Press and the Olympics just to hear his compositions. So it should be no surprise that my current obsession with the romantic composer Tchaikovsky (his 5th symphony is often on loop on my iPod) has its roots in my childhood exposure to the neo-romanticist Williams, or that the composers who have inspired Williams' most famous works (R. Strauss, Korngold, and Copland to name a few) have found their way into my musical heart both as a listener and a classical singer.
Louisa Krause (Rose)
The first movie I recall seeing as a child is a tie between Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme and Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales & Legends — Pecos Bill. Both aired on the Disney Channel back in 1990 and both featured Shelley Duvall. I made my mom record them and I would rewatch these VHS tapes over and over again with my brother. I can remember Shelley Duvall as the coolest Little Bo Peep looking for her sheep with this big flouncy tutu-like skirt, red hair, and a big hat. And then I remember her riding a tornado, like a bull in a rodeo, in Pecos Bill. She was a badass. She was the ingénue and the ballsy cowgirl. And I wanted to be like her. And now years later, I continue to follow Shelley Duvall's Rootin' Tootin' footsteps.
Matthew Maher (Sam)
I feel like the obvious answer to this question for anyone my age would be Star Wars. I think I saw it maybe six times in the theater alone, so my first six movies were Star Wars. I went to see it at least eleven additional times, on Betamax, VCR, DVD, and again in the theater, at the Ziegfeld, when they rereleased it like fifteen years ago. That final screening revealed at last the movie's intrinsic silliness, but the attack on the Death Star still holds up.
Star Wars aside, I was actually fortunate enough to be the target audience for a golden age of movie blockbusters. Raiders of the Lost Ark? I was freaking out, literally unhinged, muttering "I love that movie, I love that movie..." Jaws? No more swimming in the ocean for me until I was twenty-six. E.T.? I wept at E.T. Large, wet tears. We were, all of us in the theater, keening with grief. Someone should really put together a list of all the people who made those movies. Very talented group.
Aaron Clifton Moten (Avery)
I don't remember the first movie experience I ever had. It must have been Bambi. My family is a big movie-watching family and whenever I'm home in Austin, Texas we still go out to see movies as a group. The first time I ever went to a scary movie, however, my family was not with me. I was twelve, and everyone at my school was talking about The Ring, so of course I had to see it. I went with a friend, I think his Mom dropped us off, I feel like I didn't tell my mother I was going, I was only twelve. And I must have brought the guilt of not belonging in the PG-13 rated movie with me to my seat, because when the lights dimmed for the feature and someone a few rows back shouted the F-word, I started shaking. On a scared scale of one to ten I would say I started the movie at a confident seven. An hour into the movie, somewhere around the lighthouse, my heart felt like it was gonna rupture from the paranoia and I ran out to "pee." Longest pee I've ever taken. The only thing that made me go back inside the theater was an employee eyeing me like I was a lost child, and I didn't want them to ask me where my parents were. So I went back in to suffer the rest of the film. Now I never watch horror movies. They put way too much stress on me.