There are certain films that one must first be exposed to as a child in order to still enjoy as an adult. Take Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. A timeless classic, but not necessarily one that glues itself to the imagination in adulthood. Or Clue, a movie that seeps into the comic DNA at age thirteen (“Mr. Body’s body!”—is that witty or what?) but becomes almost gratingly over-the-top to the grown-up ear. Before revisiting The Princess Bride, I worried it would fall into this category of film. It’s not that I suspected it wouldn’t “hold up”—it’s a whip-smart, widely beloved film, not some obscure Luke Perry vehicle I stumbled upon in the wrong sleeve at Blockbuster in 1993. But it had been a while. My concern was that after I rewatched it as an adult, I would find it had somehow been demoted to a less magical place in my memory. Because The Princess Bride does warrant the word magical. This is a movie in which the central action is Peter Falk reading a book.
Like many American children of the late eighties, I cannot count how many times I’ve seen The Princess Bride. Even the addition of a sixth finger on my right hand would not speed the process. For my generation, this is not just a movie; it’s a facet of our adolescence and a building block of our world-view. To call the movie influential, personally or culturally, would be an understatement. It’s why I know the words putrescence (real) and hippopotamic (real) and blave (fake). It’s how I first learned about hydraulics and hangovers (though the idea that Inigo was once so drunk he “couldn’t buy brandy” made zero sense to me as a kid and makes only marginally more sense to me as an adult). It’s where I heard the only pickup line worth deploying: “Please consider me as an alternative to suicide.” It’s why people of a certain demographic don’t get married, they get “MAH-weed.” It had a palpable effect inside Hollywood as well. The film’s opening—a tight shot on a screen showing a video game (being played by Fred Savage, as a young kid home sick from school)—would be replicated in the more commercially successful Big less than a year after The Princess Bride’srelease. The Princess Bride may have had a lackluster opening in theaters in 1987, but by the early nineties it had become something of a VHS phenomenon. And now? It is a statistical fact that every twenty seconds, someone in America is instructed to “have fun storming the castle.”
Mean Streets: Rites of Passage
Martin Scorsese’s breakthrough feature—a rare example of a work of personal cinema with broad popular appeal—delivers all the elements of his future career in one spectacular, bravura throw-down.
Bugs Bunny in the Shaolin Temple
In a string of wildly entertaining films released between the late seventies and the mideighties, Jackie Chan paved the way to his international stardom by turning himself into a real-life cartoon character.
Nanny: Troubled Water
With the full force of her imagination, director Nikyatu Jusu examines the complicated nature of Black motherhood, as well as the importance of Black communion as an antidote to racial oppression.
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