Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on February 17, 2011
“It’s a god-awful small affair
Sailors fighting in the dance hall
In a 1997 interview David Bowie was asked what his song “Life On Mars” was about and he said, “A sensitive young girl’s reaction to the media. I think she finds herself disappointed with reality … although she’s living in the doldrums of reality, she’s being told that there’s a far greater life somewhere, and she’s bitterly disappointed that she doesn’t have access to it.”
If you were a young girl growing up in a small town trying to escape the doldrums of reality you ‘d know exactly what the song meant. There’d be no reason to ask David Bowie because it’s instinctual. I knew exactly what “Life On Mars” was about when I first heard the song and fell in love with it at age of 14. It spoke to me like few songs did at the time because it was a reflection of what I was feeling and experiencing as a sensitive teenage girl. I had grown up loving the movies but I was quickly discovering that reality didn’t always measure up to the world I saw on the silver screen. But movies did offer me a means of escape. For a few brief hours I could spend time with Cleopatra in Egypt or solve crimes with Sherlock Holmes on the foggy streets of London.
When I watched movies as a child I was often an active participant instead of a passive observer. I sang along with my favorite musicals and I repeated jokes told by my favorite funny men and women. I loved to re-enact death scenes and mimic the screams of my favorite movie heroines. I was an odd kid with an overactive imagination and the movies were often much more entertaining than the world outside my front door.
I had acting ambitions when I was young but I also suffered from a terrible stammer so those dreams were squashed early on and I quickly turned my attention to writing. In Jr. High I took a journalism class and became part of the school’s newspaper staff. Around the same time I started reading The San Francisco Chronicle regularly and my favorite part of the newspaper was always the movie review section. In the early ’80s John Stanley and Gerald Nachman wrote a lot of the film reviews for The Chronicle. I had grown up watching John Stanley on Creature Features, a local horror and science fiction movie show, which I mentioned last week in my interview with artist Nicolas Caesar. Discovering John Stanley’s film reviews in The Chronicle was a real surprise and incredibly inspiring. This led me to ask my journalism teacher if she would let me write movie reviews for my school paper and to my surprise she agreed.
I went to the movies just about every week during the ’80s and if I really liked a film, such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982), I’d try to see it multiple times. My friends didn’t always share my enthusiasm so I often found myself alone in a darkened movie theater hooked to the silver screen. It was a nice escape from my troubled home life and with my teacher’s encouragement I began to actively write about the movies I enjoyed. I didn’t have any interest in writing negative reviews back then so I focused my attention on films that I liked, which is something I still do today.
I recently came across a couple of the reviews that I wrote for my school paper so I thought I’d share them. The reviews were written on one of those old-fashioned things called a typewriter when I was just 14-years-old and they’re full of spelling and grammatical errors that my teacher tried to correct. Unfortunately I still make a lot of the same mistakes but hopefully you’ll notice some improvement. The following review was for the teenage drama, Tex (1982). The film was produced by Walt Disney and directed by Tim Hunter who went on to make the critically acclaimed film River’s Edge (1986). Tex was the first film adaptation of an S.E. Hinton novel and it paved the way for the success of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders (1983) and my favorite S.E. Hinton adaptation, Rumble Fish (1983). I was a difficult kid and few authors really spoke to me the way that S.E. Hinton did. Her work had a profound effect on me during my adolescence so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the film adaptation of Tex.
You might notice my abundant enthusiasm for the actor Matt Dillon. He was one of my first on-screen crushes thanks to his appearance in films like Over the Edge (1979) and Little Darlings (1980). His star turn as Tex put him on the cover of every teenage heartthrob magazine published that year and I probably bought them all.
My next review is for Alan Parker’s film adaptation of Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982). I had grown up watching musicals and I was already a fan of more experimental takes on the genre like Ken Russell’s Tommy (1975) and Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia (1979) but The Wall was something else entirely. The combination of live-action and animation really impressed me and songs like “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” with its searing lyrics “We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control” sent my 14-year-old mind reeling. I had also lost my own father very early in life and although I wasn’t capable of articulating my feelings back then, The Wall was one of the first films I’d seen that dealt directly with the trauma of losing a parental figure at a young age. As my 5 ½ star rating makes clear, I was incredibly moved by the movie.
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