Some images stay with you forever, and as I grow older I realize how much I was shaped by media I consumed when I was younger. Between episodes of Spongebob and playing Polly Pockets, I found refuge in a stack of VCRs I watched over and over. Of course there were classic Disney films in there, but a few other cartoons that would changed the way I saw colors of the world.
Tim Burton was also a huge influence on me growing up, watching James and the Giant Peach or the Nightmare Before Christmas every day in October and again in December, and But my favorite is below.
And as I grew older and got more into documentaries, real human story telling, I fell in love with more artists and ways of living.
Here are six films that shaped how I see the world.
One of my mom’s favorite movies, so of course one of mine too when I was younger. I loved the pastel colored suburban landscape that they dropped Edward in, how comical it all was. His mansion entrance made of cobblestone and covered in cobwebs at the end of a perfect cul-de-sac. I recently re-watched it and loved it even more. He says so much with his eyes. As a visual story it’s cartoonish and nightmarish, a mark of Tim Burton’s genius. As a psychological story it poses interesting questions about acceptance, assumption, and human relations. To what extent do we allow people to be different? How can what someone look like override who they actually are? And most importantly: How can I date Edward Scissorhands?
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Three drag queens caravan across Australia. The characters don’t necessarily get along, but they all really love each other. The endless winding roads and orange sandy landscapes make a perfect backdrop for their sequins, feather boas, and silver airstream slicing through the desert. My favorite part in the movie is where they are stranded, their bus has broken down. Bernadette wanders off to get help, and finds a wary savior. As he tentatively approaches the caravan, Anthony runs out in a floor length ballgown with joy that they are being saved. The potential savior takes one look at the flamboyant scene and speeds right off. Felicia turns to Anthony and says, “how many times do I have to tell you, green is not your color!” and they burst out laughing. It’s a small moment but it always makes me smile, how they are able to face such discrimination with humor and support. Also, their routines and outfits are FABULOUS… (hello, the alien flower costume with trumpet feet.)
Beatles Yellow Submarine
This was a movie I had on VCR and would watch most weekends on the box tv, lying on my stomach on the floor. I remember hearing clamor of my parents’ parties downstairs while I cuddled my stuffed peacock and watched this with a bowl of popcorn. It is a cartoon of the Beatles venturing through time and space in a Yellow Submarine to try and stop the Blue Meanies. They stop occasionally to sing songs from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This film influenced all of the art I have ever created if I am being honest. The colors, shapes, patterns, kaleidoscopic quality. It’s only an hour long and I come away with a different idea or visual every time. If you are close to me, I have shown you this movie, watching your reaction the whole time.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Another one in my VCR collection. I think this is the first Hayao Miyazaki film I fell in love with and also greatly influenced the way I looked at the world (in lighting colors, motion, and expression) and my goals in life (be a witch, own a small red radio, eat nothing but pancakes). Kiki is resilient, positive, and a problem solver which I always admired about her when I was growing up. Now when I watch the film, I stop to pause it every couple of frames to admire the frame art. I love the beginning scenes of her mother making potions in this beautiful greenhouse. The plants cascading all around her, I always imagined that room smelling so fragrant and floral.
Yup, yet another one in my VCR Collection. This was the one my little brother and I could agree on. It is produced by Disney, a cartoon scored by classical music. It is an interesting medium because while I loved it as a kid, it doesn’t necessarily have common elements found in children’s cartoons. Each song has a different visual to accompany it, sometimes abstract colors and firework like explosions, sometimes scenes from a daydream, like centaur people wading around in pastel colored lagoons and being adorned by flowers from flying cherubs. These images have stayed with me my entire life, and made me start visualizing stories with songs.
Bill Cunningham New York
I watched this documentary more recently when I was starting to become obsessed with all things New York. It was bookended by The September Issue and Iris, which are both fabulous movies as well, but this one I kept coming back to rewatch. What I really love about it is how much Cunningham loves his craft. He is regarded as the best at what he does in the fashion industry, yet he wears the same blue coat every day, patching it up with duct tape when necessary. He lives humbly, refuses to change his ways, is stubborn and passionate, and unlike a lot of other creatives I have studied. He is someone who I admire beyond their body of work, just him as a person is an inspiration to me.