Maybe watching the opening scenes of American Beauty with my 81 year-old mother and 13 year-old nephew wasn’t the best decision. My nephew Joe has become a cinephile recently and is constantly grilling his parents and me on Academy Award Best Picture winners and AFI’s Top 100 list.
Joe: Aunt Lynne, do you think Raging Bull is the 4th best movie of all time?
Joe: Can I watch Goodfellas (No. 92)?
Joe: What is _________ (Name any movie) about?
Me: I don’t remember.
Joe: Can I watch Goodfellas?
Me: Still No.
Joe: Did you understand 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Everyone, ever: No
I went through my own DVD collection and gave him this classic 4-pack: Casablanca (#3), Gigi, Mrs. Miniver and An American in Paris. I also threw in American Graffiti (#62), The Dark Knight and Napoleon Dynamite to keep my fun aunt status.
Mind you, this grilling has been going on for months with his parents. I have only been subjected to it in spurts. So when I arrived for my Easter visit, Goodfellas, American Beauty and The Graduate had already been cleared parentally. We watched the end of The Graduate, one of my favs. He thought it was okay. His mom and I keep suggesting Swiss Family Robinson, but alas, it does not rank highly on many lists.
Cut to Grandma’s living room and Joe has American Beauty (Best Picture, 1999) cued up. I remember it as a dull, sad movie with rose petals. It opens with Kevin Spacey in the shower starting his day “off.”
Joe & I simultaneously: “Um, maybe we should watch something else.”
Grandma: “I can’t see or hear a thing!”
This makes me remember the time I took my mom to see Love Actually. I loved it so much the first time that I took her to see it, totally forgetting about one of the story lines involving the cute couple of fluffers.
Mom: “What are they doing?”
Me: “Never mind!”
We end up watching Stand By Me (1986), shockingly rated R, which the three of us enjoy. Next up will be Goodfellas. It’s just a little gangster movie, right? Kind of the fun version of The Godfather (#2 and already viewed)? I did get him to see Frozen earlier this year, so maybe he’ll be able to see the violence and decadence and just “Let It Go!”
I reminded Joe that the AFI list is a “Lifetime” tally and doesn’t need to be viewed by June 1st. While not everything is appropriate viewing, even with a rank or award attached to it, I appreciate this new interest of his over any video game. I remind him that it’s great to be a movie enthusiast, not a movie snob and probably never a good idea to compare yourself to Travis Bickle, ever. For the record, I stand firmly on not letting the 13 year-old see A Clockwork Orange (#70) and The Wolf of Wall Street. Not on my watch anyway! What are your guidelines?