GG 12 | Iconic Movies

Come To The Movies! – A Closer Look At Some Of The Most Iconic Movies Of All Time With Professor “Goddess” Nick Davis

GG 12 | Iconic Movies

 

Come to the movies! Movies have shaped our lives, helped define us, have been pivotal moments in our lives, and continue to be. Often times, the movies we loved when we were young, looking back from a new perspective, can have a totally different meaning now. Let’s go to the movies with Professor Nick Davis from Northwestern University. We will discuss Goddesses, changing roles of women over time, gender, LGBTQ, and race in movies past and present, both behind the scenes as directors, producers, and actors. Discover our favorite films and how they helped shape our lives along with our favorite movie treat! Popcorn anyone?

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Come To The Movies! – A Closer Look At Some Of The Most Iconic Movies Of All Time With Professor “Goddess” Nick Davis

If you’re like me, you love the movies. I love the movies. In fact, I would not be here if it wasn’t for the movies. I’m going to tell you why. My parents met at the movies. They went to a blind date to see Psycho. My mom told me that she was scared at that movie that she leaned into my dad and my dad had his arm around her on their first date. That was it. Instant magic because of Psycho. My mom also remembers the bra that Janet Leigh wore. She said that it was called the Bullet Bra and that stuck in her mind of remembering the first date with my dad.

Moving on, when I was a little girl, when I turned eleven, I’ll never forget going for my birthday party. It was exciting to go for a birthday party to the movies. We went to go see, Oh, God! with George Burns. I remember that was transformative for me because I never thought about God. All of a sudden, God was this old man, at least in the movies. It got me thinking deeply about God. Why is God in the movies as a man? Why not a woman? Why is he white? All of these things started to get me thinking when I was eleven years old. I’m going to bring on our featured goddesses because before we introduce our guest, I want to chat about some of the movies that have influenced us when we were younger. I’d like to ask our featured goddess Alyssa, Dena, and Rachel what is a movie or two that was inspiring for you that you can remember. Dena, how about you?

I feel like we were blessed in the ‘80s with the number of great movies that were out there, and I can’t focus on one. I vacillate between the whole St. Elmo’s Fire, About Last Night world, as well as the whole The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Sixteen Candles. That seemed to be the memories of the movies that I’ve re-watched. I don’t know where that fits in, but Heathers was amazing with Christian Slater. I was getting me ready for high school and that’s what made me think about things and what high school would look like. I don’t have any greater influences necessarily, just great memories.

The Breakfast Club, I too remember with all the different characters in high school and looking at my high school, different groups, but when you think about it, it was not diverse. I’m thinking back. Alyssa, what was your favorite or a movie that influenced you growing up?

I’m going to go back even further to the ‘70s and in 1978, Grease. I love this whole musical in a movie all wrapped up in one. That was a new thing for me. I hadn’t seen a lot of musicals at the time in the movies. Like a lot of preteen girls at the time, I probably fell in love with John Travolta and I loved Olivia Newton-John and the music. That one stuck with me. For years later, every time it was on, I had to watch.

In one of my dance shows, I was Sandy. Rachel, how about you?

I was going to add though to Grease. I remember going to the movie theater and looking at my watch, hoping it wasn’t going to be over yet. I loved every second of that. John Travolta and I share a birthday. I found that out later in life when I no longer had a crush on him.

Do you have another movie that was inspiring for you or that you remember, Rachel?

I love the movie, The World According to Garp. John Irving is one of my favorite authors and I loved his writing and it was so kooky and weird and different characters. The World According to Garp, it struck me. Growing up in a small town and not seeing a lot of weirdness around and all those different characters and all the experience, for years, that was always my favorite movie. It struck me.

It’s interesting now when we think about the movies that we used to love, like Grease. I remember loving it too, but then as I got older, I was like, “Why did she have to change into the sexy character smoking and all of that?” In The Breakfast Club is the same thing. The nerdy guy, he probably did the best in all those characters in his life. It’s funny to think about now looking back. Thank you for sharing, goddesses. I’m going to introduce our guest now.

Our guest is Nick Davis and I met him because I was invited to join a movie group here in Chicago by a dear friend of mine. She’s like, “You need to come and invite three friends. We need some new perspectives. You need to join this group.” I was so grateful to her because not only were the women so thoughtful, it’s such an amazing discussion, but this man, Nick Davis, he is the ultimate goddess. I have to say goddess. I know he’s male, but I feel that he embodies everything that a goddess embodies, which he seems. He’s intellectual, he’s strong, he’s beautiful inside and out. He’s empowered. He’s creative. He’s amazing.

Many of us, even when we try to act differently, are pretty wedded to the idea that things get better over time. Click To Tweet

Nick Davis is an Associate Professor of English and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northwestern University. His research and teaching primarily focuses on commercial narrative films from around the world, often with an emphasis on gender and sexual diversity before and behind the camera. On relations between cinematic and literary cultures in the US, the courses he teaches frequently include Introducing Queer Cinema, Introduction to Film, its Literatures, and Contemporary Women Filmmakers. Also, The Filmer’s Review as Genre, Henry James and Film, Critical Frameworks on Contemporary Film, Introduction to 20th Century American Literature, and at the graduate level, Queer Theory and Queer Cinema. He will add two courses to his repertoire, including Trans Cinema: Surveying Transgender and Nonbinary Screen Representations Dating All The Way Back To The Silent Era and 2001: A Cinematic Odyssey, exploring film aesthetics and public discourses in the US and elsewhere before and after 9/11 attacks.

Nick wrote one book, The Desiring-Image: Gilles Deleuze and Contemporary Queer Cinema in 2013, which plays changing trends in onscreen sexuality and in the decades after AIDS into new dialogues with academic theories about individual desires, interpersonal collectives, and power relations. He is working on a book called Millennium Approached: Studying and Teaching the Movies Of 1999, tracing a series of obsessions and anxieties percolated across US and world cinema as the 21st century loomed. Outside these projects, he has published academic essays about the movie, Y Tu Mama Tambien in 2001 by Oscar-winning Mexican director Alfonzo Cuaron, Illusions in 1982 by African American filmmaker, Julie Dash, the politically radicalized actresses Julie Christie and Vanessa Redgrave.

Also, movies as varied as The Wild Party in 1929, The Boys in the Band in 1970, The Incredibles in 2004 Brokeback Mountain in 2005, A History of Violence in 2005 and Spa Night in 2016. He was also a writer and contributing editor at Film Comment Magazine from 2016 to 2020 and has published his own film reviews at www.Nick-Davis.com since 1998. Nick earned his BA in English at Harvard University in 1999 and his PhD in English with certificate in film and video studies from Cornell University in 2005. From 2017 to 2020, he held the NU Alumni Teaching Professorship, Northwestern’s highest award for classroom teaching.

Welcome to the show, Nick. Thank you for joining us. When I called you a goddess, how do you feel about that?

I am 101% thrilled.

Tell me a little bit about your passion for movies. I want to know what started you loving movies. What was your first movie that you can remember that you were inspired by?

I was thinking about that while I was listening to the other answers. I must have been such a weird kid because I remember being eight and begging my parents to take me to see Children of a Lesser God. We had been watching TV together and the Oscars happened. I didn’t know what they were. I watched this 19 or 21-year-old deaf girl in horn-rimmed glasses and baby’s breath who looked like a nerd. I thought I was a nerd and she’s winning an award on TV for this movie with this crazy title. I couldn’t even start to imagine, who are the children of a lesser God? Who’s the lesser God? I have to see this. My parents snuck me into the theater because we were living on a small military base and they thought maybe some other parents will think it’s odd that they’re taking their eight-year-old to this R-rated love story.

The first thing that happens in the movie is Marlee Matlin’s naked body swimming by the pool. I remember from that moment and then getting to talk with them about what afterward, it must have been one of those moments they’ve said for them where you find out who your kids are and what they’re interested in. We talked about so many things we didn’t usually talk about that and I was hooked from that point forward. The Breakfast Club, for sure, I almost wanted to make the dandruff and cereal sandwich in the podcast, but I won’t. I got to see Steel Magnolias 2 or 3 times on this Marine base when it was in the theaters because I thought it was so fun.

What led you to continue on your journey? You’re a professor at Northwestern University, but what led you into studying and doing what you do now?

I was definitely such a reader before I was a moviegoer and we didn’t even have a VCR for a long time in the house. Living on this military base in Germany, I started reading all these books about people who made movies before I could see the film. When I started getting interested in all that, it was the year that Katharine Hepburn’s memoir came out and I didn’t know who she was, but someone told me, “If you’re getting interested in this, you should read that.” It was through the prism of people like her especially, Bette Davis and all the screen goddesses. I’m not only learning about their work and all the work they did to have the careers that they had but how Katharine Hepburn’s own performance of self was a bit of artistry. She was conscious of the persona she wanted to put out in the world, even if her own life was a little different and more complicated than she admitted. I remember being hooked on the drama of the movies when I started seeing them and on the drama of the lives that go into making a movie or having a career. Especially around the women who always seem to have more to balance and more they were negotiating in keeping a career going, but they also seem like the stars that lasted with people for decades and decades.

We’re going to bring on our feature goddesses because we want to cover so much about film. We want to ask you some questions. I wanted to first ask you, how do you feel that women’s roles have changed in movies? I’m even thinking back to Flashdance and Pretty Woman, those were movies that I love too, but I always felt as I got older, why are they being rescued by these men? That was what I grew up with so I felt like I need to be rescued by this man. It’s changed over time. How do you feel that women’s roles have changed in movies over time?

One of the biggest impressions made on me and more and more all the time is how up and down those cycles have been over the years. In the ‘30s and ‘40s, there was no question that female actors and women-driven stories were the center of the business. They were also the primary audience. Male leads were aspiring to be in a Bette Davis movie. Humphrey Bogart swept out the stable of Bette Davis’s ranch house, and that was his first significant credit. He was so thrilled to be there. If you look at the list of Best Picture nominees in the ‘30s and ‘40s, 6 or 7 of the 10 were movies that revolved around Greer Garson or Rosalind Russell or Katharine Hepburn or whoever it might’ve been.

GG 12 | Iconic Movies
Iconic Movies: In the ‘30s and ‘40s, there was no question that female actors and women-driven stories were the center of the business. They were also the primary audience.

 

It was a real change over time that we started especially around the mid-‘70s that teenage boys and their imagined tastes came to dominate everything. I was such a little tiny Oscar nerd in the ‘80s, I was both taking in all the movies we were talking about. Also, going to things like Broadcast News and seeing Terms of Endearment and realizing later that the ‘80s were a peak period where a Meryl Streep or a Jessica Lange or Sissy Spacek could build a career playing women you might easily know in your own life. The dramas that came out of that working life or personal life or a regional conflict where they lived could drive a whole career because there were plenty of those movies being made. There was the coexistence of how is that happening at the same time as all of these rescue fantasies that you’re talking about.

When I saw that, I knew what a period was, but that was a period and they’re making fun of her.

It’s hard to remember things like everybody thinking Meryl Streep’s career was starting to phase out at the end of the ‘80s and that she was starting to do comedies out of desperation to stay relevant. No one could imagine what an actress after turning 40 and then again after turning 50 was going to do. Quite a lot has changed in terms of the longevity of some women’s careers, but it’s a smaller set of women who’ve been able to keep that going without moving to TV. As I started studying it more in school and realizing that the silent era was full of women directors and that women were the principal editors of most people’s movies. They had a lot of hand in shaping what movies that might have a male director. They were the ones putting it together. It’s such a zigzag all the time.

Alyssa, what would you like to ask?

Nick, it seems like then we came into this period of the ‘90s and the 2000s and we swung back to male-dominated roles, like movies where the lead protagonist was male. I was reading a little bit about studies that have been done that showed that the top-grossing movies from even 2014 to 2017, maybe 2018 with women leads out-earned movies in all budget levels than movies that starred men. It seems to refute the idea that women-led movies make less money. I’m trying to understand why, even though we saw the ‘30s and the ‘40s and you even talked about the ‘70s and ‘80s, why the pendulum has swung back to now putting out these movies that have male-dominated roles. Even in the world of the #MeToo Movement, I know that the number of women directors and the number of women leads has increased, but it’s still trailing behind male lead movies. I don’t know why Hollywood would want to leave money on the table knowing that those other movies with women protagonists out-earned the other ones. I’m confused.

It’s confounding to everybody who cares about these issues. It’s feeling like if we only have to make it about money, it too should make the argument for the exact reasons that you’re saying. Every time a The Devil Wears Prada or a Mamma Mia or a Hunger Games wherever you want to go, every time one of those huge smashes happens, first, we have to live through people’s month of articles being surprised when it’s not clear to me why anybody was surprised that everybody wanted to go see all of those films. What made The Devil Wears Prada successful? They’re always treated as these unicorns when that’s not the pressure put on any male-driven blockbuster. It’s presumed that they will do well unless nobody likes them and they tanked.

Part of it has to do with the fact that after the whole industry changed in the wake of the Jaws, Star Wars, Exorcist, invention of the blockbuster, which has only amplified over time, now the superhero phenomenon has aggravated that further. It’s interesting hearing stories from filmmakers who say, “I want to make this story about this married couple,” or, “About this teacher or about this community protest. I’m going to need $25 million to be able to make it.” Hearing from studios, “We will support it if you can figure out a way for it to cost $75 million because then it’ll be big and splashy and spectacular with more famous stars or we’ll take you down to $5 million. We can’t deal with this stuff in the middle. Nobody wants a movie about people talking to each other.”

I personally will sprint a movie about people talking to each other. Not to paint in overly broad strokes, but a lot of movies written by women and that women are interested in directing and starring in emerge out of a lot of interpersonal complexity, dialogue and situations that can’t easily be inflated to some $100 million action spectacular. Even though we’ve seen that women can lead those and direct those as well. Some of it has to do with Hollywood’s nervousness and in the last decade, the fate of a lot of those projects is to say, “Why don’t we make that a series? Either a four-part installment miniseries or turn it into Damages or The Closer, but movies have not wanted to support that budget bracket, which means entire genres where women tend to be most showcased fall out.

It even took like a million superhero movies for Gal Gadot to appear on the screen as Wonder Woman. Even in those big blockbusters, they tend to be the male leads.

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It was like a shock that Wonder Woman had been successful. Find me five people who don’t love Wonder Woman but it’s still seen as a rare bird for some reason.

Dena, what would you like to ask?

I’m wondering how you’re feeling or talking about this conversation about changing Gone With The Wind.

I wind up in those kinds of conversations where that conversation has wound up about. I don’t know how much it always helps to take something totally out of circulation, except things that are only made to be egregious like they’re pieces of propaganda that it’s hard to imagine how it benefits to keep circulating them. I’m good friends with the professor at University of Chicago, Jackie Stewart, of African American Cinema. It’s HBO Max that was showing Gone With The Wind and then it was pulled and she’s who they asked to come give a taped introduction about, “As a black woman film scholar, I teach this film all the time. I am indebted to things about this film. There are also things about this film that I hated when I was ten and I hate them now 40 years later, but we’re not going to get anywhere not having conversations about all of that.”

The question of, yes, the black characters were in Gone With The Wind are existing within familiar stereotypes that were already familiar by that point. Hattie McDaniel was already fed up by 1939 of playing a maid yet again, but there are also more of them who have named speaking roles and multiple dialogue scenes and who you start to get to know as characters. There’s not one. It’s amazing that has to count as something to aspire to. There’s a lot of historical value in seeing those artists at work and thinking about why was this by far the most successful commercial American film that ever existed. What does it mean that it played continuously in one Atlanta theater for 65 years? If you can’t see it and you’re trying to have the conversation in the abstract, it’s hard to get to the bottom of any of that.

Sometimes people are maybe being low-balled that when we talk about audiences, we’re worried about the effects these movies have on them. When we think about our own reactions to things, we’re fully comfortable being ambivalent or having, “I used to love it, now I hate it. I’ve always loved, hated it. I go back and forth. I like it, but I’m not sure I’d show it to my kids.” People are used to complicated reactions, but the way the industry runs acts as though that’s not the case and that things are going to be good for us or bad for us. I was glad to see that it was brought back with the framing that asks people to treat this as complicated.

I’m glad that we have to teach to and talk about and change it later.

There are a lot of movies though that need to do that. Off the top of your head, can you name some other movies that you think would deserve to be pulled like that and reframed?

Megan Kelly, who’s not someone I usually look to for thought provocations, I’m going to sit with for a while. I had to give her credit for saying, “How about if we start taking out of circulation all the movies where women are portrayed as objects or vessels? Are we going to have four movies left?” Partially for those kinds of reasons, I tend to want to err on the side of bringing into circulation all kinds of work that exists that we don’t know about and that doesn’t get circulated. Rather than pull things and make them unavailable, to see all this work that women filmmakers and black filmmakers were doing as early as the ‘10s and ‘20s that’s only started to bubble up on Netflix or come out in restored versions on DVDs.

There was some study done that there were ten movies from the 1940s that are available on Netflix. There were six from the ‘50s, Casablanca and The Ten Commandments, whatever. There are entire decades where if you were trying to get interested in movies now and wanted to see something earlier than what came out in the last couple of decades, you would have no shot based on our streaming services. With that goes a whole lot of history of people being more represented and less represented at different times.

My students, I remember teaching the career of Sessue Hayakawa, who was the Japanese American actor for whom the term sex symbol was invented in the movies in the ‘20s. His roles were the ones that huge audiences, especially white women audiences, were flocking to see. When they asked him, “How do we keep you? What do you want?” He said, “I’d like to be able to direct.” In the early ‘20s, we have a Japanese American sexy guy who’s starring in the top box office films and making his own films. Who knows about that if you don’t work specifically in film history?

It’s the same with blackface. If we pulled all those, we wouldn’t be able to educate our children and describing this is what was popular. This was what was shown and seen as normal at that time.

GG 12 | Iconic Movies
Iconic Movies: Gone with the Wind was by far the most successful commercial American film that ever existed.

 

That might be a good example of something that on the Gone With The Wind example that Dena had brought up. I could imagine there’s so many TV channels, there’s so many streaming options. Sometimes, who knows why you’re encountering what you encounter in terms of what happens to be on. If there were a targeted evening or day of saying, “Let’s look at these black-based driven comedies and think a little bit and have some back and forth with the host of the cable show of what does this mean? How can we talk about it? People aren’t being totally left to their own devices to grapple with it. I rarely think pulling things is the best strategy because people find them anyway too.

They find them and it’s good to have discussions about it and learn from it and teach our children about it. Rachel, what would you like to ask?

I’m curious when you were saying about a lot of female movies are more about dialogue and a little slower. I feel that during this time of a quarantine and the time of racial uprising, that we’re all we’re like on pause and we’re all thinking. I feel woken up and it doesn’t matter where you are in the spectrum you are analyzing yourself and things more differently. I’m wondering what you would love to envision that the film industry will mirror in this philosophical time and time of awakening. What movies or programming do you see that could be coming forward as a result of this time?

A few things that come to mind. One is that I would imagine that, for sheerly health-related reasons, the last movie you’d want to make is one where there are 5,000 people on the set interacting with each other and a huge catering table. Maybe making Ironman 16 is hard now, but figuring out how to make a movie, I almost don’t even care who’s in it. I do, but any movie you want to make about 3 or 4 people trying to push through a tough situation that lots of people out here can identify with is a movie I’ll always want to see. That seems to be underrepresented now. It may be that the conditions of production are going to encourage smaller scales and more controllable situations.

I wonder about that. It’s also been interesting. I haven’t seen it yet, but there’s a movie called The Old Guard that debuted on Netflix. The woman who directed it, Gina Prince-Bythewood, an African-American filmmaker said, “For twenty years, I’ve actually done well.” She’s made seven movies that have been released commercially and several of them have done quite commercially. She also said, “I would always go see these superhero action blockbusters. I love those movies and wished that I felt skilled at being able to make them. In the last two years, I thought, ‘Why am I telling myself that? The reason I don’t know how to make them is because nobody’s ever asked me to make one.’” She set about for two years making the case that she should get a shot. Charlize Theron, who’s one of the actors in Hollywood working the hardest, I think, to bring more people into every tent, said that, “I’m in if you’re in.”

Some of these even stereotypes of what kinds of movies do women or black filmmakers most want to make have much to do with even our own internalized stereotypes of what our own group that we belong to, or some other group have been doing for so long when they’re allowed to do anything that it starts to seem natural. I would love to see more people say, “Wouldn’t it be more interesting to ask this filmmaker over here to take a stab? We’ve never seen this story from that perspective,” or, “We’ve never seen it built around an actor who looks like this or set in this part of the world.” There’s no reason not to.

Dena had sent a little chat to you. She said, “I want to take your class.” I have to tell you, Nick is in-sync and that’s what I love about him. He’s passionate about what he does. I can’t even say the words. We ask you about a movie and you go dive right deep into it and the heart and soul of it. Yes, we all want to take his class. We want to go back to college and take his class for sure.

I’m so excited to be in this class. I know how many of you are our teachers now or have been in the past. Dena, you do preschool, I learned. I know that so many of these interests come from the teachers and from my parents at early ages. I was in second grade when my mom bought me a card deck at the newly-opened African and African American Art Museum at the Smithsonian. It was 52 African Americans across history. All the diamonds were scientists and all the hearts were artists or something like that. It came with a little booklet to describe them all.

You read about Harriet Tubman as somebody who’s seven years old and think, “This seems conspicuously more interesting than anything I’m hearing about on the news of a reasons why people are famous.” To read about Sojourner Truth or Frederick Douglas. To be exposed at such an early age to all kinds of lives that have been lived and what people have been up against and superseded, I know it directly informed why I always wanted popular entertainment to be testifying more diversely to what people’s lives have been like. I’m curious as whether in your work lives or as teachers, or as parents, how have you felt about that about what do you introduce when? What to you is too early to take a child or a student to a movie that might seem a little adult that might be their best shot at seeing something that’s not the same old formula over and over again?

I will tell you that I took both my daughters to an R-rated movie, and it was the biggest mistake of my life. It’s called us No Strings Attached with Natalie Portman. They were begging me to take them and I snuck them in and I heard this woman behind me saying, “Who would bring kids here?” I did, and I had to leave. It was too much information for them. It was way too much. I’m pretty open with my girls about sexuality, but this was not a good idea. Alyssa, Rachel and Dena, how would you like to respond? Rachel?

I was going to say, first of all, I was obsessed with Harriet Tubman in grade school. I read every book in the library about Harriet Tubman. It’s so funny. I told my kids that story. Something came up. I was like, “You have no idea how much I love Harriet Tubman.” It’s so funny that you brought that up. It reminded me. I have three teenage boys and it’s hard to get them to watch anything that I like. I started this tradition on Mother’s Day that I make them see a movie with me. A few years ago, we saw the RGB documentary and I had them go. That’s been my way because I never get a say in what movie we’re watching. They all love sports. They all have like this commonality. You can’t pay me to watch sports on TV. I miss out on that dynamic. When I assert myself, there’s moments where I can say, “This is what we’re doing.” That’s been our tradition for Mother’s Day now.

If you don't know to look for it, you won't find it. Attending film festivals is sometimes the best way to find interesting stuff. Click To Tweet

How did they react to that movie?

I don’t think they were shocked. We have an environment where we talk about news. It wasn’t so shocking. I don’t think they would have ever chosen to see the movie on their own, but they enjoyed it. We had a good conversation, but I can’t remember anything being shocking to that for sure. Living in Chicago, I feel that like it being urban kids, as much as Chicago is a segregated city, I still feel that the urban experience, there’s a lot of diversity in our neighborhood and they take public transportation and there’s a lot of exposure. I feel that you’re adding more flavor to their worlds, but they see a fair amount.

I can’t remember. I’m thinking when’s the last time I and my sons all went to a movie theater together and saw something. Obviously now, we’re all home under the same roof and watching a lot of television together and Netflix and all the various streaming services. It’s been a treat that we’ve had this time that we probably wouldn’t. Without COVID, we’d be running in a million different directions and we wouldn’t have all this time. We love movies as a family. We love these long series and we watched Game of Thrones form start to finish together and all of that and we love it.

To your point about as a parent and when they’re young and they’re growing up, and Karen, taking your girls to an R-rated movie. The oldest ones, they’re the ones that we probably parent the best because they’re the ones that you’re like, “It’s not age-appropriate. We’re not going to do that. Am I going to take you to that? That one had bad language. That one had sex scenes.” By the time you get to number two, in your case, Rachel, number three, they grow up a lot faster. They start watching what’s appropriate for the older one.

My younger son definitely started seeing some stuff on TV and in the movies that my older son did not at that same age. It is interesting how much you can use these movies as jumping-off points to have these conversations and to talk about this stuff. For me, I love anytime we can all sit down together and watch something and talk about it after. Now of course, they’re adults, they’re fully grown. The sky’s the limit on what we can see and what we can talk about. We’ve had some good discussion.

Dena?

I have three kids. Back when they were little, I tended to go to common sense media. That was my barometer and my excuse. Since they’ve been little up until now, my husband has this line during any show where he says, “Guys, cover your eyes.” They still do it. They still go like this, no matter what it is. If it’s gore, if it’s sex, if it’s language. We don’t have controls on our televisions or computers or pads, and my kids spend time alone on their devices. They surely tell me they’re watching Grey’s Anatomy and whatnot, but we’re a little loose with the idea of it. We have always loved to sit down as a family and watch the shows on Netflix or the movies. We do a good job. I have two girls and a boy is in the middle. We’ve agreed to not watch The Kissing Booth with my son, but everyone loves the Marvel Comics and other series together. It’s great. It’s a big part of our existence for sure.

It changes over time. When I talk about my favorite movie later, I watched it again with my daughter and she had some comments. She was like, “Mom, this is sexist. You like this movie? It’s horrible.” I was like, “You’re ruining it. I’ve always loved this movie and you’re ruining it for me.” She walked out of the room. She wouldn’t continue watching it with me. She’s like, “There’s no way. I’m not even putting this into my being. You shouldn’t have either.” I’m like, “I love this movie, but we’ll talk about that after.”

You all mentioned The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, ‘80s formation. I don’t know if you read the article that Molly Ringwald wrote in The New Yorker maybe in 2018 where she said, “I’ve been embarrassed how much I am looking forward to the moment of showing my daughter all these movies. I can’t figure out if she’s quite old enough. She’s preteen and both because I’m not sure if she’s ready, but also because I feel like I’m bragging or I’m impatient. She’s going to be like, ‘It’s my mom. I don’t care.’” they finally sat down and watched them when her daughter reflected some interest in seeing that stuff. She said, “I’d spent all this time being worried that she wasn’t going to relate to these films or they were going to seem dated or I was going to seem super lame.” She had the opposite experience to what you’re describing, Karen, where Molly Ringwald was saying, “I don’t know why there’s a scene in The Breakfast Club where John Nelson’s character is fingering me underneath the table and that’s played for laughs while the principal is in there lecturing all of us.”

There’s something in Sixteen Candles about a girl who’s unconscious. There’s a guy who’s been aspiring to lose his virginity for a long time and that’s how he winds up losing his virginity. She said, “My daughter was eating all this stuff up. She was proud of me and loved all these movies and totally related to them. She said everybody in The Breakfast Club reminded her of people she went to school with. I was watching them with new eyes and remembering that even when I was seventeen and was in this odd position, that my movies were making money.

“I was probably the only seventeen-year-old girl on a movie set in Hollywood who the director was asking, ‘What do you think?’ John Hughes was always great about that except when I observed that I thought something was sexist. That was the one topic on which he would get defensive or he would say, ‘You got to think about the audience.’ There were fewer of those episodes than there would be now as I watched the movie again.” It was curious seeing who’s watching through what lens and her daughter saying, “Mom, you’re taking this all too seriously. My friends and I all know this is not real life. This would not be funny if it happens in the context of The Breakfast Club. I understand why this is a joke.” It’s a thoughtfully written essay. Maybe I’ll try to dig it up and send it.

GG 12 | Iconic Movies
Iconic Movies: Once there is an abundance of diversity in films, we could have the conversations we want to have about which ones we like or which ones we want to support.

 

I wanted to jump into LGBTQ movies. I have many questions about that and goddesses, if you do as well, please join in. I was trying to look back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and the ‘70s, and I couldn’t find much. I know that it was there, but I couldn’t find it. I’m curious about those types of films. Now you see more, but I want to know how they’ve developed over the years and if you see more happening. What are your thoughts on that?

One of my favorite classes to teach is An Introduction to Queer Cinema or LGBT Cinema. The biggest shock at the beginning is that we’re starting back in 1919. It’s not even the kinds of movies that you’ll see. As we move forward, we get to the late ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. There are movies where you think, “This film isn’t saying it, but clearly this boy in Tea and Sympathy or this girl in The Member of the Wedding. If we were allowed, we would say gay character or lesbian character, but the movie is not there yet. Movies from the ‘10s and ‘20s, coming from many different places in the world, especially in Germany, where court trials about targets of homophobia and blackmail for being gay and taking the case to trial and real-life sex experts and psychologists playing themselves saying, “Homophobia is disgusting.” We can’t treat people this way. We’re losing some of our greatest minds and some of our best artists because we’re hounding them out of public life for this aspect of their being that’s completely natural and much more common than you all admit. Understandably, my students cannot believe that it’s not coded and not euphemistic. That too has been up and down.

There was a movie I saw for the first time. One of the Turner Classic Movies called Boy! What A Girl! from 1947 that’s set in Harlem. It’s an all-black cast, black-directed movie from the late ‘40s. There are two brothers who were piano players and musicians and maybe tap dancers who were trying to impress two sisters. They can’t quite get an act together that’s good enough to wow these gals until they ask their friend down the hall. They never say, is he a crossdresser? Is he a trans character? Why is he always in dresses and wigs, but that’s who he is? He’s a great singer and comes and joins their act. It winds up raising all this money for the community, I think.

It’s another history that because there’s little in circulation and because a lot of us, even when we try to act differently, are pretty wedded to the idea that things get better over time. My parents’ generation and my grandparents’ generation didn’t talk about X or weren’t aware of Y. Now, finally we are. When I talked to my grandparents about this stuff, that’s not what I learned. When I see more movies, that’s not what I learned. I noticed that with my students too and it’s not just my students, it’s with me. Once you get over the first hump of why have we been invisible and that can often put you in a situation where any movie that has a female lead or a gay character or a black director, you’re starved for it to finally happen, you accept a lot.

Once it becomes clear that there has been an abundance of this work, you can start having the debates we’re talking about which of these movies do we actually like? Beyond having a black character in the middle, is this movie seeming progressive about race or is it acting like yes, she’s black, but none of us were talking about that. The conversations get more interesting, which is what people want and where we would get if we could overcome the hurdle of, they’re not seeming to be anything. We could have the conversations we want to have about which ones do we like or which ones do we want to support.

I want to give our other featured goddess a chance to ask one more question. Alyssa?

Nick, in terms of what we want to see and what we want to support, I was thinking about that. Obviously, there’s this need this desire for movies to be made that have characters that look like America. They have black and gay characters. I noticed in the news, Halle Berry was supposed to be starring in a movie playing a trans character. It became known that she was making this film because she was interviewed about it. She was criticized for two things. One in her description of the character, people felt that she was using the wrong pronouns throughout the interview. Secondly, they didn’t like the fact that Halle Berry is not a trans person and she was playing this character. There are many people out there, trans people who want these roles that in the article said would kill for those roles. Why are you going to Halle Berry for that role? She backed out of it. I don’t know what’s going on with the movie now. I’m wondering, are we on this precipice of have characters played by actors that embody those qualities? I’m pontificating on it and wondering are we now at this crossroads in casting?

It’s such a hard issue. As you’re saying, it both extends to many different kinds of demographic questions around race, gender identity, and sexuality. It also has a particular life within each of those worlds. It does seem especially heightened about trans representation. The Halle Berry example you’re giving and Scarlett Johansson went through something similar, announcing a project and then recanting it. Both when I read but also teaching at Northwestern, it’s a robust theater school. I work with a lot of student actors. Talking to trans actors saying, “The thing is the only roles I ever seem to have a foot in the door are trans parts. I both don’t get to act much because there aren’t tons of those roles, but also I never get to play the nuclear physicist or the funny sidekick or the whatever. The roles I get are always about the fact that I’m non-binary or I’m trans.”

The whole point is to try to reach outside yourself and imagine somebody else’s life. You learn the most playing characters who are removed from your experience in some ways, but since it never ever happens that a trans actor is cast as a non-trans character. It seldom happens that script that’s written anticipating a white lead, some producer says, “Why don’t we cast this as a Latino role because Michael Pena is perfect for it?” It feels like a one-way street all the time where straight actors or white actors or cisgender actors can rule the roost and have the ability because there are more roles available to them.

They have more chances to achieve success. Suddenly they are seen as box office draws. I understand why any actor who’s not in that position, whether it because of gender or race or whatever says, “What I always hear is that there’s no box office name who’s a trans actor that I can cast here.” They say, “When do you think that’s going to happen if you don’t give us any roles?” Also, a little more dialogue. We’re getting used to people being a little more transparent about their paychecks and stories where they realized that, “As the woman in this show or in this movie, I was being paid half as much as a guy who has only a third as many scenes as I have. What’s going on?”

It helps when actors are also a little more forward about this role was always meant to be a white lead. Denzel Washington made the case that, “You want me in Philadelphia as this lawyer, both because I will learn something from playing this role but my audience needs to come see this movie as much as a gay audience needs to come see it.” They changed the role. The more you hear that stuff and encourage other people to cast adventurously, it may tilt it where later we’re less fundamentalist about only somebody who’s exactly like the character already can play that character. I understand why we’re in that moment now.

Making movies now is near impossible because there's not a lot of new content that's being made. Click To Tweet

I wanted to comment on that because everything you said makes perfect sense. I feel frustrated because it seems, and you said this, but there’s no win. Halle Berry backs out to give that opportunity, yet on the same hand, you’re saying those roles, it doesn’t seem like there’s a way. If you put somebody in there that’s trans, then you’re giving them no opportunity to get outside their box and be a character that they aren’t naturally. It’s not their being. At the same time, if you let Halle Berry do it, then you’re getting criticized for not giving those opportunities. Clearly at this moment, I can’t think about how does that change. How do you fix that? It seems like there’s no clear answer of how you fix that.

It often happens but that project suddenly has taint around it as the one that got off on the wrong foot. It’s rarely the case, but then they find somebody else who’s better casting. It usually means that movie winds up not getting made. That does feel like a zero-sum. I agree with you. You then hear all these other artists saying, “I’ve sold twelve scripts about trans characters in different genres. They have different storylines. They’ve all been bought and none of them are produced.” This one that worked its way up the pipeline enough that somebody almost produced it and got as far as casting it is suddenly in the media as the arbiter of, “Are we going to get any trans movies or we’re going to have none,” because this one got shot down.

The most frustrating message for the artists is often there’s no drought of the work. There are tons of projects. It’s two things. There’s a bigger reservoir you could tap into. If this is not the right movie to make, what about these other ten or what about these other twenty? Also, it’s interesting that Halle Berry in particular was pulled into this because I remember when she won that Oscar for Monster’s Ball and got a lot of pushback, including from black actresses who would turn that part down saying, “I am not going to play a black woman selling her sexuality to this white death row inmate who executed my husband. Everything about this script feels problematic to me. I don’t know why she’s doing it.”

I understood why she was saying, “People have this idea of 25 scripts sitting on my coffee table and I’m going, ‘That’s the one I’ll do.’ This is the script I got that asked me to be anything except beautiful. I saw a real opportunity here. If dozens of movies starring black women came out on a different year, it wouldn’t matter as much that this one’s a little provocative and might be polarizing and people might not be thrilled that I made it, or the attention might feel like a mixed blessing.” I hope we get there with trans stories too, where it’s like there are enough of them that the flaws or the debates around one of them doesn’t feel like it’s sinking the whole enterprise. I agree with you that until we get past that point, it’s going to feel like we’re not making any of the progress that we want to.

Goddess readers, we need you to make more and more movies. Rachel, did you have something to add?

Along those lines, it’s funny. My husband and I will be looking for movies and it’s unbelievable the number of movies you don’t want to watch. It’s uncanny and it’s not like we’re going to the theater all the time, so we’ve seen many of these. It’s going back to your notion of real dialogue. I feel that movies are like music nowadays where it’s like you’ve made it pretty. You dolled it up with a ton of makeup and a ton of production, but the bones of the music or the movie aren’t there. It’s static. It’s like your four, four rhythms. There’s not much happening with dialogue. I wanted to comment that I’m constantly for real life. Lady Bird was one movie that I saw that I was like, “It’s a movie about life. There isn’t some big plotline or some region to some goal. That’s one of the few movies where I liked this movie for what it was and the dynamic and the conversation and what they were experiencing. You weren’t reaching for this end. Is there a genre of movie that’s more like that that’s out there that I don’t even know to look for those movies because they’re not the big commercial blockbuster like you were talking about?

There are a few things I want to say about it. One is that I have found it helpful to save the listings for film festivals, even when I can’t go to them because I find that there are movies that are never going to win the fight to get into mass release. That’s where you meet a lot of the Lady Birds and the Moonlights, the more of them that didn’t have the shooting star trajectory. There are movies that I am banging my head against a wall sometimes. I got to see it because I went to Toronto and got to see it with this huge festival audience and have all these great conversations. You’ve been wanting to tell all your friends and it’s nowhere.

A year-and-a-half later, it’s on Amazon Prime or Netflix. If you don’t know to look for it, you won’t find it. I’ll read those kinds of lists of things all the time, especially if it’s in a city I’m never going to make it to. I’ll think, “I missed my shot.” Trying to hold onto those later, the ones that I was circling, that’s what I would go to if I could attend this festival. That’s sometimes the best way to find interesting stuff. There are streaming services because there’s one topper film. They’re a small distributor that goes out to festivals, going to touch and not because it’s controversial or impenetrable or hard to understand. It’s just people don’t think I’ll spend my Friday night going.

I discovered them through a movie called Ava that I saw at the same festival I saw Lady Bird when they were both brand new. Ava has a lot of the same plot points as Lady Bird, but it’s set in Tehran. It’s what happens when you’re a teenage girl who doesn’t get along with your mother all that well and is treated bad by some other characters? You’re also obnoxious and getting your own way a lot of the time. You’re doing that under a difficult regime. That movie has gone over well in my teaching. If I hadn’t seen it at that one festival, who would know? Looking for streaming services that might not be Netflix that are built around, these are things that were never on anybody’s radar can help.

The other thing that the Lady Bird example reminds me of, it’s been in my head through the conversation. Even Karen, when you asked what are movies that would come to mind as relevant to the conversation we’re having or this idea of goddesses onscreen. Many of the movies that came to mind when you asked me that were movies that then I realized like, “Silkwood doesn’t end that well for that woman. She gets a new sense of self being this researcher and activist and standing up to the government, but the ending is bad.” Lots of movies where the is flawed. Lady Bird is not an angel or Monster’s Ball is not necessarily a role model movie but that I’m sympathetic of the actresses saying, “I’ve been dying to always play a strong woman. I’m looking to play complicated people.”

There are a lot of goddess things to be found and watching people make impossible choices in their lives or know that the fork in the road has costs on either side. Derek and I were watching Fatal Attraction. For whatever reason, I was laughing. I had my one fight I remember ever having my parents because they wouldn’t take me to see it for the same reasons we were all discussing earlier. I was nine years old and I had somehow gotten my head, “I got to see this. Everybody’s talking about it. It’s on the cover of Time.” They said, “I don’t think this is right for you.” I was like, “You guys don’t get it. I’m trying to learn about movies.” That was a script that they reshot the ending to make her more of a villain because the audience didn’t like that the movie was sympathetic to her in the first draft when they wrote it.

I’m telling this long story, but mostly to say there was a lot I learned from that character about what the after-effects of abuse might look like later in your life. How you might be a deranged killer who’s boiling bunnies, but you’re also saying some pointed stuff to this man about you don’t get to spend a weekend with me and throw me in the trash that I found bracing. When we talked about thinking about what are the movies we want to see, I don’t always want to see Erin Brockovich as much as I adore it or a Katharine Hepburn movie, as much as I wish I were more like her. I’m also missing all the stories about mixed-up trans characters and black characters who are going through whatever in their lives. That means sometimes they’re making great choices and sometimes they’re not. I feel like those are maybe missing a lot of the time and that it’s not from perfect role models that we learn a lot.

GG 12 | Iconic Movies
Iconic Movies: There are many goddess things to be found where we watch people make impossible choices in their lives or know that the fork in the road has costs on either side.

 

Our final question before we go to Favorite Things is how do you see the movie industry now moving forward? With COVID especially, the movie theater experience, going back to school, even putting plexiglass between each desk. How are we going to sit at the theater again, if we are?

I’m interested in what you all think about this also, because none of us has the leg up in knowing how this is going to go. I’m still such an inveterate movie theater goer. I still go like 3 or 4 nights a week when I can swing it because we live in a city where that’s possible. A lot of my friends are not experiencing this as a huge sea change because they’ve already settled into most of the movies they watch at home. I don’t know what your movie habits are like. My life is barely recognizable from what it was before having not been to a movie theater but for a lot of people that already was not the routine.

I started off by saying that’s how my parents met at the movies and they love to go to movies together. My birthday party when I was eleven, my mom packed homemade popcorn in Ziploc bags. That was the only thing. Why couldn’t we buy the movie popcorn? She snuck it in her purse and she passed it out. I love movies. Dena, how about you?

I was going to say to Nick’s question, for me, I go to the movies a lot and I do it with my girlfriends during the week, the Tuesday’s special day or whatever it is. I looked forward to it all the time, so much so that we will go see almost anything to get in the theater, get our popcorn, get our big icy drink. I miss it a lot. I do. I have a great big TV at home with surround and so on and so forth. It’s pleasurable, but I hope that sooner than later we’re safely allowed to go to the movies.

The problem is making movies now is near impossible. There’s going to be this hole which could be a year or two years, I don’t know, but where there’s not a lot of new content that’s being made. As Nick alluded to earlier, maybe it’s 2 or 3 characters, much more plot story-driven rather than a major blockbuster, which requires a zillion people on set. Maybe I’m hypothesizing that the types of movies that are going to be made in the future are going to look different.

How are they going to kiss? Are they going to put Saran Wrap and kiss? How are actors going to kiss?

I thought something about this. I don’t know if we may be on Sunday morning or a newspaper where they were talking about having to CGI kiss. I couldn’t even imagine what that’s going to look like, but if they’re standing 6 feet apart, it’s going to be hard to do love scenes.

I read that one of the soap operas, maybe it was The Young and the Restless, was using inflatable dolls in the scenes where you already know who the two characters are, but once they moved to the bedroom, understand that’s him and that’s her. It blew my mind, but people are trying everything or casting their real-life partners to sub in the character during the kissing scene or the weddings or the sex scene. You have to go with that. Soap opera viewers have dealt with crazier stuff than that.

It’ll be interesting to see. Rachel, what do you think?

I was thinking, can’t they quarantine for two weeks and then kiss?

That’s what the new shows are doing.

Movies can give you an out-of-body experience where you forget you’re hungry for two hours. Click To Tweet

Alyssa, you mentioned this potential poll of what is even going to show up in the theaters and this will never happen. If I got to make the decisions, let’s take all these movies that have only been on Netflix or have escaped people’s radars. There are tons of stuff that I refuse to believe there’s not a curious audience.

All these film festival movies that you’ve talked about, now, I want to go back and look at all these lists of movies that were never released into the theater and start watching them. If they’re hard to find, and as you said, Nick, unless they come out on like Amazon Prime or one of the streaming services, put those all in the theater. It seems like there’s a ton of it.

Even the films that you always see in the Academy Awards, how can you ever see any of those? They always look clever and fun.

Nick, maybe you can make us a list of movies we should be seeing.

It’s my favorite thing to do.

Thank you, Nick, for joining us. You are the ultimate film goddess and we appreciate all of your words of wisdom about films, about what you feel is happening moving forward. We can’t wait to get back to the movies.

I’ll see you all there. This has been fun. Thanks for having me.

Thanks.

For Favorite Things, I asked our featured goddesses, as well as our guest, to talk about their favorite movie of all time. Who would like to go first? Alyssa?

One of my favorite movies, it is and remains one of my favorite movies because of how it was close to something personally for me. It’s Thelma and Louise. It came out in May 1991, which is exactly the month that I graduated from college and road tripped from New York to California with my best friend from high school in a red Chrysler LeBaron convertible. Not the Thunderbird that Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis drove. We drove cross country. My friend was moving out there. I was taking a little break between college and starting law school in the fall. I had some time on my hands for a long road trip. We got many parking and speeding tickets. We had a broken windshield. We have many crazy things that happened to us along the way. Nothing like what happened to them along the way, thank goodness.

We also had some of our craziest things happen towards them in the Grand Canyon. You all know the scene at the end of the movie. We got pulled over by some park rangers for going through stop signs. Nothing nearly as bad, but it’s also where our broken windshield happened. To say that I related to this movie, to these two women, which by the way, was empowering for its time, these credibly strong women. One of them in particular separate from my horrible home situation. I remember the movie, it was criticized a bit for bad light. The criticism was back in 1991. By the way, when my girlfriend is still come by, I call her Louis. It spoke for us in many ways.

We got to talk later more about that. I didn’t know that about you, Alyssa, that movie. Rachel, how about you? What was your favorite of all time? If you can narrow it down.

GG 12 | Iconic Movies
Iconic Movies: Romantic comedy is an incredibly disappointing genre in a lot of ways because they get so ridiculous and stupid that you can’t relate to a lot of them.

 

I am a sucker for romantic comedies. It is an incredibly disappointing genre in a lot of ways because they get ridiculous and stupid that I can’t relate to a lot of them. I watched a lot of bad ones because I’m dying for that one. There’s like a lot of unrequited love from high school in me, so they mean much. My absolute favorite movie is Love, Actually. I love the weaving of all of these different love stories. It could be any age. It spans upon all these different relationships. It’s funny and it’s real and you cry and you laugh. Even the opening scene with The Beach Boys song at the airport, and it’s talking about how everyone’s looking for love and it’s such a great expression of love at the airport. I think the movie is done beautifully. Anytime I’m flipping through the channels and that movie is on, I will watch it from any moment to the end. I love it.

That movie is such a reflection of you and your personality too because you’re such a loving personality. I’m getting to know her too. I’m going to say mine next. I did tell Nick before at one of the movie groups, and this is what I saw with my daughter and she walked out. It’s Splendor in the Grass and it’s an old movie. It’s been redone. I didn’t realize that it’s been redone, but it’s an old movie with the characters, Deanie and Bud, and it stars Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. It’s a love story back in the late ‘20s. When there was the good girl who only kissed, if even, and then the bad girl who was spoiled who would have to go all the way, who would have sex. There were those two characters and the good girl is Natalie Wood, who was to remain good and not spoiled. Her mother was overbearing. Warren Beatty, they were in love. He had to have sex.

They were both sexually frustrated. She was as well. She thought something was wrong with her. Her mother said, “Yes, not supposed to be that way.” I’m watching this with my daughter. She’s looking at me like, “You like this movie?” There’s one scene where they’re hugging and hugging. He pushes Natalie down to her knees. He said, “You are my slave.” She said, “I’ll do anything for you.” I don’t remember that when I watched it when I was seventeen, but she’s like, “Mom, this is sexist. This is horrible that you like this movie.” Getting past that, the love story, because what happens in that movie, and I’m going to spoil it. If you are going to watch it, block this part out. They end up going their separate ways after she goes to a mental institution and he goes off to Yale. He drops out and becomes a farmer, but they end up going their separate ways.

In the end they meet up again and they realize that they have to accept what is. They’ve gone at different paths. The poem by Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality, “Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower, we will grieve not. Rather find strength in what remains behind.” I saw this movie when I had a breakup with this long-time boyfriend and I thought I’m never going to have love like this again. What’s going to happen? I love that movie. Dena, is that your favorite movie?

I don’t know why nobody is saying my favorite movie, which is Almost Famous. I could watch it all the time. I would change my hair to be blonde to be Penny Lane. I love the sad love story of her following this musician. The names are escaping me besides Penny Lane. I love the boy that’s in high school gets to go write for Rolling Stone and pushes himself in that way in his growth. Tiny Dancer is forever a song that brings tears to my eyes. I would scream it whenever it’s on the radio. It’s a part of my family memories. I love everything about it. I have parts of it that are now probably looked at as wrong in the way that Penny Lane was treated. I was never a Band-Aid, but there is something about that movie that I love.

Nick, how about you? We’ll end with your favorite movie before we talk about movie snacks and then we’ll end the show.

I’m going to sneak in a quick comment about the film Thelma and Louise. I saw that in the theater and not only you felt empowered and transported. You can predict what movie is going to resonate for what person. It gets back to that conversation about we’re all more complicated than I can only relate to people who look like me. I love that Geena Davis founded that whole statistical institute about gender in the movies based on her experience of that. At the same time, she said, “That movie had a male director and there’s nobody else that Susan and I ever wanted to direct it.” It’s not always one-to-one about who’s going to produce the best art.

My favorite movie is The Piano with Holly Hunter. I saw that across the street from my high school because I had to kill time between the end of the day and the school play that night that my friends were in. They had opened this little strip mall six-screen theater, and the person who opened it thought, “If I show Jurassic Park on four of the screens, I can show stuff that has never been playing in the suburb here on the other two screens and it’ll pay for it.” I’d read about that movie but didn’t even understand what I was reading, trying to follow a one-paragraph summary of New Zealand in the 19th century and she’s new and she has this daughter. I thought I would go.

It sounds hyperbolic, but it was true. I wanted to be a mathematician up until about that morning. While I was watching that movie, I thought, “I think I’m going to want to work on stuff like this.” I am blown away by what every character is doing. I don’t understand how this camera is underneath the boat. I don’t understand how it’s inside the piano. Why is she doing that? Why is he doing that? What is the Bush of New Zealand? It felt like I’m going to learn so much more about the world from experiences I’m not personally having and trying to understand them than staying in my own bubble. It’s a direct line from watching that to being a film and gender studies professor now. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve seen it. My friends are up and down if they even like it.

I have to say Nick, I got the chills when you mentioned The Piano because I kid you not, I was thinking about that movie intensely. I don’t even know how long it’s been since I’ve seen that movie. I’m very much a believer in the signs of life. I think that was in preparation for meeting you. I am blown away.

Harriet Tubman and The Piano. We have something happening here.

That’s what we talk about in Grateful Goddesses is stepping out of our box and finding our path, finding our passion and finding that pivot point when we see that that’s what we want to do. We’ve often joked about in our 50s, but what do we want to be when we grow up. We’re still learning. We’re still going to the movies and having different perspectives. Looking back at movies and seeing what’s changed and how we feel about them. Now, onto the most important thing. I brought along my bowl. It’s not movie popcorn, but I brought along my popcorn. I brought along my M&Ms that I like to pour into my popcorn. That’s my favorite movie treat. I also brought along my Junior Mints, My Good & Plenty. These are some of my favorite treats. How about you, guys? Rachel, what’s your favorite treat?

Junior Mints all the way.

Dena?

I always do popcorn and I pour the M&Ms in on a good day.

How about you, Alyssa?

I go back and forth between popcorn and Twizzlers or anything. Gummy bears, gummy worms, gummy stuff.

Nick, what’s yours?

It’s going to be such a boring answer. My favorite snack is the movie. It’s like I’m at church or having an out-of-body experience. I forget I’m hungry for two hours.

Nick, if our readers want to contact you, how can they do that?

The best place is my email, which is Nicholas-Davis@Northwestern.edu.

Thank you for joining us.

Thank you.

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