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Favorite Movie Series: Keith Garcia on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Hey there, Ben here with the latest guest post in our ongoing Favorite Movie Series. Keith Garcia is the Denver Film Center programming manager, one of the programmers of the annual Starz Denver Film Festival, the host of the much loved Watching Hour cult movie series, an all around swell guy, and one of the first friends I made specifically through The Movie Advocate. Kieth's watching habits and programming style strike a unique balance between "film"-ier indie fare and "movie"-er blockbusters. It's a style that has served the Denver Film Society - and Denver itself - well. In other news, this post marks the second Susan Sontag dis on The Movie Advocate in under a week. Boys, please...

1988 - The Year My Inner Child Became A Neurotic Spanish Woman

It's a standard joke in my family, that comes around whenever we have a gathering and the subject of my poorly paid choice of employment comes up, that I've been watching movies since I was in the womb. My mother supports the fact that I was a particularly tough fetus and caused her to seek refuge from pain and strain by visiting the local movie house circa 1977 and take in as many films (mostly horror) that she could to alleviate whatever fuss my impending birth was foretelling. I told her that I was struggling to get out so that I could actually watch a film instead of just wondering what the hell was so wrong with Rosemary's Baby or what John Travolta looked like dancing to the Bee Gees. Mommmm! I wanna see! So out I came and proceeded to watch everything in my path without regard to genre, length, quality or consequence (save for porn which wasn't easily available to me... yet). Movies needed me to watch them as much as I needed to feed on their tender glow. Soon, my indiscriminate hunger for movies encountered two delicious meals that blew my mind, as if I'd been eating nothing but hot dogs my whole life and suddenly I was served a juicy, marinated peppercorn and bacon wrapped sirloin steak and a six scoop vanilla bean sundae covered in rich caramel and chocolate syrup; and it all began in the year 1988...

I'm a child of the big summer movies. Every time that Premiere magazine hit the stands with their "Summer Movie Preview" I would squeal like a pig on Tuesday and read it, notate it, file it and dream of what that ol' big screen had in store for me. In the summer of 88 the marquee of my mind was already lit up with the title WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT and I knew that life was gonna be good. Robert Zemeckis' new film was already stirring up buzz because of the whole "cartoons and people" thing and not since Gene Kelly danced with Jerry the mouse (and the world was preparing for Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat to take it by storm) was a special effect more anticipated in the world of cinema. Now, a major reason for why ROGER RABBIT slapped me in the face was the gimmick at hand, when the film was over you couldn't tell me that cartoons didn't live in our world, and it just didn't make sense to me that they wouldn't after the magic that I had just witnessed on the screen. But you see, my mind was starting to sort out all of the films I'd spent years shoveling into it and actually utilize those coal bits to make my cinematic engine run. I was starting to recognize how the film was made up of bits of a dozen of films that had existed before; the best of film noir, the Three Stooges, countless Warner Bros cartoons, buddy movies and more but by taking those bits and presenting them so smartly, colorfully and originally I left the film with a craving to seek out more like it. I credit WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT for not just taking me to Toon Town but for giving me the map to take an educated walk into other film territories that my 11-year old mind was just starting to realize were out there.

One of the places I had no idea I needed to visit was the illustrious world of the foreign language film. At the time there was plenty of stuff that had been making its way on to the burgeoning arthouse scene that 11-year old Keith avoided like the plague. Why would I need to READ my movie? Can't they afford to make it in English? Yeesh! Despite growing up in a Mexican household I had no desire to listen to other languages (unless it was when my parents were fighting which was the only time they really spoke Spanish around us kids) and even less of a desire to know how they lived, laughed or loved. So, leave it to fate to teach me otherwise. One day I was renting ALIENS for the 800th time from All American Video when I returned home to find the wrong tape in the case. This one was called WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN and it made me nervous. How was I supposed to know what this was about if I couldn't pour over the video box and make some judgement? Who makes a title that long? What kind of last name is Almodovar? Before I knew it I was popping the tape in my VHS deck and secretly hoping there was some sex in it (my gay bell wasn't ringing yet but at that age any nudity would do) but as the movie's amazing title sequence began over the slow wail of "Soy Infeliz" on the soundtrack grew I sat transfixed. Suddenly I was thrown into the chaotic world of Pepa (the amazing Carmen Maura) and the dramatic melancholia of her shattered love life, needy friends and desire to just be left alone. It actually wasn't until I was about an hour in that I realized that I had been reading subtitles the entire time. Wait, this has been in Spain this whole time? Who's named Pepa (without a pal named Salt)? This movie's hilarious but I'm reading all the jokes?! What the heck!? I paused a moment to sort out these weird new feelings (which was actually my gay bell ringing rather loudly. Seriously, gay men are pre-programmed to enjoy Almodovar films, I'M JUST SAYIN') but I needed to know what was going to happen to Pepa and her predicament so finish the film I did and was so invigorated I watched it two more times after that. In fact, I ran up a $2.75 late charge not returning that film on time and before you knew it I was spending my years 12 and 13 absorbing Almodovar's earlier (and steamier!) catalog and patiently awaiting his new entries (and learning how to properly pronounce his name which is ALMO-doh-var, fyi). I credit that mistaken tape as becoming the first stamp in a cinematic passport that has taken me around the world and back a dozen times, oh yeah, and for laying the seeds of camp down for me that would eventually grow into giant gay flowers just a few years later (thanks for nothing Ms. Sontag!).

Now, I am a fancy 33 year old with a job that requires me to sort through the entire canon of film and bring it to the masses. I always feel confident in my ability to sort through the miles of film history when I think about the knowledge I gained from watching just two films at such a young age. ROGER RABBIT and WOMEN ON THE VERGE may not be the films that send another young man or woman headfirst into the world of cinema but for me they were two keys to the doors that made me notice I had a lot to learn (and still do) if I plan on sharing films with others in an effort to remind folks of just how wonderful the medium is. So thanks, Eddie and Gracias, Pepa.

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Favorite Movie Series: Keith Garcia on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown + sport