Yesterday was Father’s Day, so I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad, who passed away just over ten years ago.
For Mother’s Day, I told you about how my mom passed on her love of books to me. My dad wasn’t much of a reader (at least not of fiction — being first a Lutheran minister and then a pastoral counsellor and trainer, he read a lot of work-related non-fiction). But what he did love was movies.
When we were little, he used to take us to the Princess Theatre, a venerable, old-fashioned place with a balcony and a red curtain over the screen that was raised and lowered for every show. They showed children’s classics on Saturdays — Disney animated films, Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island. We saw the newer Disney movies, too. I remember all three of us kids being completely obsessed with The Lion King.
Then he started us on Robin Williams. First the kid-friendly films — Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire — and later Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, and Good Will Hunting. We also loved Tom Hanks — Sleepless in Seattle, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Cast Away. And Anthony Hopkins — Shadowlands, Amistad, The Mask of Zorro (okay, that was more me than him). The ’90s was our golden age of film.
As a counsellor, he was fascinated by movies involving mental deviance and undiagnosed free spirits — Awakenings, The Fisher King, Rain Man, Patch Adams, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Shine.
He shared movies that had an impact on him as a young man — The Graduate comes to mind. We watched Vietnam movies, for which he had a special fascination because if he’d been American instead of Canadian, he might well have been drafted. Not having the same history, I preferred the WWII movies we saw together, like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.
He loved to talk afterwards about the characters’ choices, why they had done what they did, whether those choices were morally right. He wasn’t a judgmental man, more a curious and intellectually inquisitive one, and we had many philosophical conversations over the years.
A few years before he died, I started dating a film major (now my Significant Other). The kinds of movies I saw changed, as did the nature of the post-movie discussions. I still miss what I had with my father, but I’m glad a version of it remains as part of my life.
I have to close by remembering, not a movie, but an author. I mentioned that he wasn’t much of a reader, but one author he did love was J.R.R. Tolkien. Long before I was old enough to read Lord of the Rings or even The Hobbit, he told us bedtime stories drawn from those books. He even made up new adventures for them. So I knew Bilbo and Frodo and Gandalf like old friends.
He didn’t see the animated versions of those stories. He did live long enough to see the first one or two Peter Jackson adaptations. I’m not sure they were really his cup of tea — he wasn’t an action movie fan. But I do wish I could have watched the new Hobbit trilogy with him. I think he would have loved it.