The Long and Short of It

Where to begin?

Film has been a part of my blood for as long as I can remember.

From the time I was a tiny tyke I took in grand historical epics while sitting on my father’s lap and marveling at the spectacle before me.  I grew up in a household that adored movies and it is largely thanks to my father that I fell in love with the art form.  He introduced me to the works of John Ford, Cecil B. DeMille, William Wyler, Victor Fleming, George Cukor, and David Lean, among many others. I would sit for hours to watch Lawrence of Arabia followed by Gone with the Wind followed by The Searchers followed by… well, you get the picture.  In the early years it was the scale that always impressed me, the capturing of a brief moment in time, and the reimagining and visualization of history that a school textbook could never possibly give you. And while the cinema’s depiction of the past has always fascinated me, it is its vision of the future that continues to dazzle me.  Cinema is where our dreams can become reality.

Though my love of epic film certainly comes from my father, my love of the fantastical largely comes from my brothers.  I don’t think I can remember a time when Star Wars was not a part of my life.  Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.  The former was played in the house at all times, while the latter was discussed, read, illustrated, and D&D’d on a 24/7 cycle (the bastards never taught me to play though!).  I was born in 1985 when VHS was the norm in almost every household.  I can’t begin to count the amount of copies of the original Star Wars Trilogy that my poor parents had to buy throughout the years. George Lucas’ vision of an adventure-filled future stuffed with fascinating creatures, laser swords, and romantic heroes was enough to make any daydreaming child’s head explode with creativity.  I would play with my brothers’ Star Wars action figures (which were later handed down to me) for hours, creating my own stories and worlds in a “Galaxy Far, Far Away”.  The original Hobbit cartoon as well as the Ralph Bakshi adaptation of the first half of The Lord of the Rings were also played in the house quite frequently, but the less said about them the better (though I still have a bit of a soft spot for Bakshi’s film).

But above any work mentioned so far, there stands a singular film that changed my life forever.  It is perhaps the earliest memory I have of seeing a film.  My childhood was a bit of a lonely one.  My father was in the military and as such our family was forced to move quite frequently.  I always made friends at every stop along the way, but in the back of my mind I would always know that within a few years they would no longer be a part of my life.  My siblings came in and out of my childhood like a rotating door, regularly going back to their “other family”.  Both of my parents were previously married and I remain the only offspring produced by their union.  So, when I first sat down and my Dad popped in a copy of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extraterrestrial I was absolutely mesmerized and, ultimately, deeply moved.  No, I couldn’t connect to the story of divorce at the heart of the film like I’m sure my siblings could, but what I did connect with was Elliot’s loneliness and his desire for a true friend.  Who as a child wouldn’t want to be visited by a friendly alien from another world?  But it wasn’t only the connection to that crushing feeling of loneliness that pulled me into the film, it was the beautiful movie magic on display.  Spielberg had made a film about kids like me while wiring it to the most wondrous imagery that only a child could imagine.  It was at this extremely young age that I discovered the power and potential of the moving image.  This film encapsulates the very reason movies should be made.  To this day if I even hear a few brief notes from John Williams’s glorious score my eyes begin to well with unbridled emotion.

So, yes, let’s get this out-of-the-way.  Steven Spielberg always has been and will always remain my favorite filmmaker.  I know its cliché, and the amount of flack I have gotten for it over the years from fellow film buffs has been irksome to say the least.  Spielberg is a dreamer and his visions continue to stir me even when his sentimentality becomes a nuisance.  But don’t worry, my tastes range quite broad with Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Darren Aronofsky filling out the rest of my favorite modern directors line-up.

It feels good to be reunited with our Editor in Chief, David McGinnis, even if it’s only in online form.  David and I went to high school together at the North East School of the Arts in San Antonio Texas, where we studied film.  He was the editor extraordinaire of many of my projects, while I would help him write screenplays, give critiques on rough cuts of his projects, and fill in on any odd job he needed, including acting.  Our student films played at many a film festival, not least of which was Sundance.  We went our separate ways in college and I ended up in Chicago studying Musical Theatre where I now act professionally.  It’s odd where life takes us, isn’t it?  We have kept in touch over the years, frequently commenting on each other’s year-end best of lists and the occasional review posted here and there.  To be working together on our mutual obsession, if only in print form, will certainly be a highlight in this New Year.

Now you have the long and short of who I am.  As this is all new I haven’t a clue as to what I will be writing, but to be sure there will be many a film review coming your way plus an essay or two.  And let’s not forget my favorite hobby – Oscar watching.  I’m positive I’ll have plenty to say on that subject.  Shall we begin?

Sean Knight

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