My 10-year-old son, who is intrigued by all things cinematic, recently asked me what movies I enjoyed watching when I was younger. A flood of awesome (mostly) '80s flicks immediately sprang to mind. I dug through my collection of DVDs and pulled out six of my childhood favorites. Each one taught me something about life, love and other totally random things.
1. E.T. taught me about friends, foreshadowing and feigning sickness.
After watching this sweet Spielberg movie, children everywhere snooped around their backyard shed in hopes of finding their very own extra-terrestrial trick-or-treating pal. And why wouldn't they? E.T. was adorable! Honestly, this film was packed with a number of valuable learning tools:
Number one: always help out friends in need, even the short, funny-looking ones.
Number two: bicycle baskets are not just for girls.
Number three: if you want to convince your mom that you're too sick to go to school, hold a thermometer beneath a hot desk lamp to feign a high fever.
2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom taught me that boys dig all things gross.
I think it's entirely possible that this is the film that inspired the 80's phrase, "Grody to the max."
There's a scene where a character named Willie has dozens of centipedes, roaches and other nasty bugs crawling up her arms, down her shirt, through her hair, and around her neck. It was all I could do to hold down my lunch. My brother, on the other hand, couldn't stop chuckling.
In the sacrificial ceremony scene, a bad guy holds up a pulsating heart as blood drips down his arm. Every boy in the theatre cheered with glee while I buried my face in my dad's armpit.
3. A League of Their Own made me appreciate not only baseball but also those who can spit, pee and dance with gusto.
This wholesome movie revolves around baseball games and forging friendships. I related to the competitive spirit, the authentic camaraderie, and the push-and-pull that make up complicated family dynamics. But mostly I adored those silly scenes where Tom Hank's character has a "spit-down" with Geena Davis's character, asserts that there's no crying in baseball, and pees for a solid minute in the locker room.
An awesome bonus to this fun family flick: the bar scene where Eddie Mekka, the guy who plays Carmine Ragusa in Laverne & Shirley, dances with Madonna. I could watch that on replay all day long.
4. Superman II demonstrated the importance of setting the right mood.
When I first saw this film, I was inspired to save the world, learn to fly, and get fitted for colored tights. But when I watched it as an adult, I gleaned something new from one of the scenes. Do you remember the part where Superman turns human, then has a celebratory roll in the sack with Lois Lane? It was so weird. Perhaps it wouldn't be so weird if they weren't sleeping naked in a pod bed, cuddling in a comforter made of tin foil. But they are, so it is.
5. Seems Like Old Times taught me how to unknowingly curse.
I dug this movie. Perhaps it's because the main character, played by Chevy Chase, was a writer. Or perhaps it's because chicken pepperoni sounded mighty scrumptious. Or perhaps I was mesmerized by the fact that Goldie Hawn's character owned a herd of dogs. I don't know. What I do know, however, is that this particular film introduced me to the word "sh--." And Chevy used it with such flair that despite not understanding its meaning, the context in which it was used tickled my funny bone so much that I decided to act out the hysterical scene for my parents. They were not as amused.
6. Christmas Vacation taught me to embrace my crazy family.
This film beautifully demonstrates that every family is dysfunctional in some way. But we love them anyway. And it's all good.
There's a scene in which a frazzled Clark, fed up with his tightwad boss, hits a breaking point and proceeds to swig a mug full of eggnog and then spew an endless line of obscenities without taking a breath. We've all teetered on that edge at some point in our lives, which is why the scene resonates with such hilarity.
When your preschooler, however, performs his own public tirade while in line at the post office, you've got to dig down deep to find the humor. Lucky for him, I've got a soft spot for cute kids and short extraterrestrials.
Read Christy Heitger-Ewing's award-winning book "Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat" (www.cabinglory.com). Visit her author website at http://christyheitger-ewing.com/.