Ed’s Note – This piece was originally posted in July 2006. When I caught a Comment on my Cousin Jason’s Biggerboat site stating my Aunt Sharon’s intention to reveal a list of film’s that made my Uncle Ron (a grown man if there ever was one) cry, I decided to repost this here to provide her with a forum for that list. Aunt Sharon – Lay it on us.
When I started this little project aimed at documenting my Top 5’s in all areas of entertainment, I laid out one simple rule. In order to make the list, the media has to coax some sort of visceral or emotional reaction in me. I have to feel a charge in my gutt, convulse in laughter or stain my cheeks with a dash of Niagara.
For this list, I decided to tally the 5 flicks that bring out the chick in me. As always, feel free to add to the list in the Comments section below. Yes, it’s there even if your sole intent is to ridicule me for revealing the vast layers of my soul. Hey, it’s my site and I’ll cry if I want to.
5. Terminator 2
The Terminator: Why do you cry?
John Connor: You mean people?
The Terminator: Yes.
John Connor: I don’t know. We just cry. You know, when it hurts.
The Terminator: Pain causes it?
John Connor: No, it’s when there’s nothing wrong with you, but you cry
anyway. You get it?
The Terminator: No.
One would think that the greatest sequel ever made would find its way onto my Top 5 Sequels That Best Their Predecessors, Top 5 Movies for Guys Who Like Movies or Top 5 Robert Patrick Robotic Performances – but no – this sci-fi spectacle managed to make me gush. In fact, if the T-800 or Uncle Bob or whatever handle he was going by could have caught me in The Cameo circa Summer 1991, he’d have grabbed me by the scruff, stared deep in my countenance and barked “What’s wrong with your eyes?”
The scene that gets me every single time I view this film is the end sequence where John Connor is forced to lower his pal – and father figure – the T-800 into a vat of molten metal. I don’t know if it’s John Connor absolutely losing it (a performance perfected by the knowledge that he was moving from Cameron to Direct-to-Video Pet Semetary II within days) or Brad Fidel’s haunting score or a premonition that 13 years later Arnie would defame his greatest role with an overcooked “Talk to Da’ Hand” quip. All I know is, T2 gooses something in me and now that I write this I realize it’s been a full 6 years since I watched it and I could use a good cry.
As he’s being lowered into lava, The Terminator tells John – “I know now why you cry but it is something I can never do.”
Don’t worry buddy. I’ve got you covered.
4. Edward Scissorhands
There’s a classic Seinfeld episode (The Barber) where Jerry is caught cheating on his regular barber Enzo with his newest stud stylist – Enzo’s nephew. A battle royale rages and is only quelled when a broadcast of Edward Scissorhands grabs their attention. Enzo sums the movie up perfectly – “That Johnny-ah-Depp. He make-ah me cry.”
That goes for two of us, Enzo.
I’m a huge Tim Burton fan – have loved his flicks since Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – and often find something to enjoy in his few misfires. When Scissorhands released – with an early Depp performance that would prove indicative of his career aspirations to escape the Teen Beat cover boy status Hollywood was all too eager to thrust upon him – the film caught me up in its magic.
From one angle, it can appear to be a trite fairy tale and sermon on the evils of Suburbia and the desire to destroy what is different. In typical Burton fashion, he dresses up the familiar in pretty funky clothes and creates real cinematic magic.
Now it’s not the oddball pairing of Depp’s Scissorhands with Winona Ryder’s cheerleader Kim – although that love story has its moments – most notably Kim’s ice dance under Edward’s makeshift snow blower set to a classic Elfman choral arrangement. Nope, the tracks of my tears lead back to a handful of flashbacks that pepper the film. In these marvelous sequences, we meet The Inventor (played by the late, great Vincent Price) who oversees elaborate Rube Goldberg devices solely designed to pump out sugar cookies. All this is practice for his passion project – building his own personal Pinocchio. Depp’s wordless yet incredibly expressive performance in these sequences – as The Inventor teaches his unfinished charge proper manners and the pleasures of poetry – are heartbreaking. It all culminates in The Inventor’s sudden, silent death – leaving Edward “unfinished”. As he reaches for his Inventor, his Papa, and his pincers slice through a brittle gingerbread man. That’s when I lose it.
That Johnny-ah-Depp. He make-ah me cry again. Fortunately, Jack Sparrow makes it all better.
3. Planes, Trains & Automobiles
I’m a sucker for holiday movies. After all, it’s when we get back together with our families and over the course of a collective meal or two, we wish that we could freeze time and stay secure in the warm comfort of home. Holiday movies do wonders to replicate those warm fuzzies.
Writer-Director John Hughes may have lost his perch, but in the 80’s he reigned over Hollywood and produced some of the most indelible character-driven comedies. The Breakfast Club. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. Sixteen Candles. They’re all representative of a specific time and place and are sewn so tightly to the fabric of my existence that they share equal footing with Raiders, Jaws, Aliens and all the other hallmarks of my childhood.
Hughes is also responsible for the trifecta of holiday flicks, beloved by me, that have coaxed a tear or two. Home Alone made me a bit misty when Kevin McCallister glanced out his window and saw his creepy old neighbor reunited with his granddaughter on Christmas morn and Christmas Vacation (arguably the greatest film in that series) tore a tear when Clark found himself alone in his attic watching old 35mm family movies – set to a great Ray Charles ditty.
But none of those hold a candle to the final moments of Planes, Trains & Automobiles. As Steve Martin’s Neal finds himself on Thanksgiving Day – finally moments from home – he replays key exchanges between he and John Candy’s Del. The math adds up quickly – Del’s much talked about wife is out of the picture. Neal returns to the subway station and finds a lonely John Candy sitting by himself – waiting another holiday out with no home to return to.
Neal: “There is no home, is there Del?”
Del: “My wife died 5 years ago.”
That leads to a great parting shot of Neal and Del – walking up to Del’s picture perfect suburban manse as Thanksgiving twilight descends – and a movie that had me busting a gutt for 90-odd minutes sends me out into the streets feeling warm all over.
Following his turn as Samwise, it’s become too easy to pigeon-hold Sean Astin as a punchline. In fact, My Name is Earl featured this classic line accompanying Earl and Randy’s visit to college:
“This is just like that time that Hobbit Rudy went to college.”
I remember that time Randy. It was all our plucky little hero could do to get into his dream school Notre Dame and play a game for the Fighting Irish. While Rudy follows the same footprint established by other underdog tales – from Rocky to The Mighty Ducks – Rudy is buoyed by a great performance by Sean Astin, some solid local color and a tremendous Jerry Goldsmith score that nicely underscores Rudy’s troubles. (BTW This is the film where Vince Vaughn befriended John Favreau – so you Swingers fans ought to be crying tears of joy).
Now, as emotional as Rudy’s big score is – where he finally makes it onto the field and plays a series of downs in his last game in his last year of eligibility – the tears drop earlier. After watching Rudy work his blue-collar ass off to pump his grade northward at a local community college – and seeing him receive rejection letter after rejection letter – Rudy’s first major milestone is finally realized. Grabbing another letter from the campus mail room – Rudy heads to a bench beside a nearby river (the trees decked out in their late autumnal glory) and begins to read what he thinks is the same old story. As Goldsmith’s score kicks in – the tears flow – and Rudy chokes over every last syllable of “You have been officially accepted at…” – and right there, my boy Rudy makes me so proud. Oh sure, the ‘slow clap’ that occurs later in the film may get some in their soft spot (you know the sequence where one beefy lineman intones – RUUU-DEEEE, RUUUU-DEEEE – and is soon joined by the entire collegiate chorus) but for me – it’s Rudy’s simple acceptance letter, the culmination of all that hard work, that makes me so damn proud.
1. My Girl
All right – let’s face it – this movie is a chick flick (which I usually loathe) and at the time it came out, it was famous for being the flick that dared to kill Macauley Culkin. Hell, Uncle Buck couldn’t even swing that and you know Candy had to have taken a swipe or two at this precocious little moppet.
Anyway – I didn’t catch this in the theater – but in my Junior year at UMASS Amherst, they ran this thing all day and night on our local Campus cable station.
One day I found myself sequestered in my dorm room with a few of my softball team cronies. All told, there has to be about six or seven of us fine specimens of testosterone prime sitting around planning that day’s line-up while Anna Chlumsky’s Veda ambled her way through young love with Macauley’s Thomas J. in the background.
At some point, we stopped trying to work the particulars of my patented infield ‘bait n’ switch’ and turned our gaze to the flick. It was at this point that Thomas J. lost his glasses dangerously close to a buzzing bee hive.
Now, I had heard all about this damned movie. I knew Thomas J. was allergic to everything. I knew that Mac died in the flick and the camera kept hovering over these bees clueing me in to the fact they’d be accomplices in the dirty deed. Yet the moment came, Mac’s glasses hit the dirt, and suddenly were at his funeral – held in Veda’s Dad’s Funeral Parlor. When Veda, who has refused to take a look at her pal’s dead body, finally enters the viewing room and makes a beeline (sorry) towards his casket, my eyes gave way.
Now here’s where it gets real awkward. I’m in a room with several compadres. There’s no crying in baseball. As I started to wipe feverishly at my cheeks – hoping to dry the deluge – I caught each and every one of them in pantomime of my actions. Then it hit me. We weren’t baseball players. We played softball. Do you know how many Coronas get spilled during a 7-inning frame? There’s nothing but crying in softball.
Now one of us was missing – our buddy Eric – who I had known since high school. Back at Rockland High, Eric (or Buzz) was our starting quarterback. He was one of those Everybody’s All American types too – with the brains to go with the brawns. I hadn’t noticed it, but Buzz had slipped out of the room around the time we all got our period. I thought to myself – “Yeah, that’s Buzz. All Man, Baby.”
The illusion was shattered when our friend Kirsten waltzed into the room. Without skipping a beat, she offered up:
“Hey, do you guy’s know what happened to Buzz? He’s around the corner crying.”
We went 0 and 33 that season and the following year all transferred to Julliard.