My dad is my pop-culture superhero, and film is our family tradition

My first pop-culture love, at least that I remember, was film. And the first movie I remember truly being affected by was Jaws. It scared the shit out of me. To this day I still have a very real, if unfair, fear of sharks — and a fascination. It’s because of the subject matter, sure, but also largely because of the filmmaking. The way the film builds suspense, making for an explosive reveal of the great white shark terrorizing Amity Island just blew me away — and has stuck with me ever since.

My dad showed me that movie, and so many others.

So here’s my giant list, in no particular order:

Singin’ in the Rain. The Bourne Identity. The Bourne Supremacy. The Bourne Ultimatum. Hell or High Water. Forrest Gump. Pulp Fiction. All About Eve. The Wizard of Oz. North by Northwest. It’s a Wonderful Life. Carol. The African Queen. The Hunt for Red October. The Godfather. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Dr. Strangelove. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Atonement. Aliens. Predator. Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back. Return of the Jedi. Speed. Dirty Harry. The Fugitive. The Shawshank Redemption. No Country for Old Men. Chinatown.

That’s so just the tip of the iceberg — which speaking of, Titanic is also on the list.

He introduced a lot of these to me as I was growing up, catalyzing an interest in the classics from an early age — and fostering a lifelong love of film. Others on the list were Oscar contenders that we had mutual interest in, and put on our queues so we’d be well educated going into our family Oscar pool — a tradition where we can share, and aggressively compete over, our shared passion. And now, there are even a handful that I’ve introduced him to.

I think, for my dad, it’s just a huge priority for him that I see “the greats,” to make sure I’m a well-informed filmgoer. Recently, he suggested we go to a 20th anniversary screening of Heat and when I told him I hadn’t seen it, he said that he was disappointed that he hadn’t yet shown it to me, basically because he’s a whole-hearted believer in the cinematic power that is Michael Mann. Well, he need not be disappointed in himself, but he was so right about the film — and watching Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in that coffee shop on the big screen was a truly special experience.

I also think it’s just really important to him to share some of his favorites, to pass them onto me — like he would a family tradition.

So, a lot of thought goes into this unofficial education. I can’t tell you how many times he’s asked on the phone, “When are you free to see X, Y, Z?” But, I think some of my favorite shared film moments with my dad are the ones that happen naturally. There’ve been a number of times when I’d come home to find him watching a movie and maybe I was planning to go up to my room to put needless hours into Facebook, but instead I’d stay and watch with him. It’s almost like he uses film as a means to connect, but sometimes the films themselves do the connecting on their own — they’re just that compelling and powerful.

Maybe I would have come to discover the movies above on my own, but I don’t know that. What I do know is that film has given me a ton of costume inspiration. Every Halloween I wear a pop-culture inspired getup, and this go around I plan to be Vivian Ward (because it’s never too early to think about October 31st). Film has been there for me when I needed a good laugh, cry, escape, and so on. It’s not only something I can rely on when I need it, but I spend the majority of my free time checking out what’s new and revisiting favorites. And film has led me to my career. I write and edit entertainment stories, which is just the best and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Point being, film has shaped my life, and I have my dad — with a big, helping hand from my mom — to thank for that. (And he’s definitely had similar influence with TV and music too.)

This Father’s Day we’ll be, among other things, watching Casablanca. We’ve watched it together before, but he wants to revisit it — and I’m so excited to revisit with him.

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