Summer 2010: Prelude

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Please Pass the Popcorn

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By Paige P. Parvin 96G

“I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash you got.”

Fans of the Coen brothers may recognize this line from Raising Arizona, the offbeat 1987 comedy starring Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter as a childless couple who kidnaps a baby to raise as their own. It was one of those quirky movies my friends and I watched and quoted incessantly in college. For Halloween one year, my boyfriend and I dressed as the main characters, H. I. and Ed. I carried a doll to represent the stolen toddler. He carried Huggies.

The film recently found its way into my current family vernacular when I pulled out the aging VHS tape to show my teenage son. He totally loved it, a fact I proudly posted on Facebook, to which a dozen friends responded by posting back their favorite lines. (“Mighty fine cereal flakes, Ms. McDonough.”) Now Raising Arizona is quoted regularly in our house, along with Napoleon Dynamite, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Hangover—which was produced by Emory grad Scott Budnick 99B and is just undeniably wildly inappropriate for a thirteen-year-old. I make no excuse.

Except this: Movies connect people. They create a cultural currency that helps strangers become kindred spirits and gives friends common ground on which to exchange opinion and passion and wit. They help us sharpen our particular brand of humor and shape our political leanings or romantic ideals. They give us a way to talk about difficult things, or just something to talk about after a first date.

At best, movies can serve as a language that tells us things about ourselves and each other. When EM associate editor Mary Loftus worked for a daily newspaper in Florida, she and another editor started a practice of asking job candidates in interviews if they could quote a line from a Monty Python movie. That, she says, told them as much of what they needed to know as any standard interview question.

There are movies that might even provide a thirteen-year-old and his parents an excuse to laugh together (and for that, allowing an adolescent to view a film that is largely about drinking, gambling, and sex seems a small price to pay).

For some of us, movies are so magical that we are compelled to devote years to their formal study—like me and my fellow alumni of Emory’s film studies graduate program, Genevieve McGillicuddy 96G, Eddy Von Mueller 07PhD, and Susan Carini 04G, all featured prominently in this issue of Emory Magazine, along with many others from schools and departments across the University. Emory has yielded graduates now working in all areas of the entertainment industry—only a few of whom you’ll meet here—and a new film-business collaboration between the Department of Film Studies and Goizueta Business School promises even more.

Plus, a growing number of students are putting film theory into practice by testing their talents behind the camera, producing award-winning creations of their own. Their shared interest is building a new community of student filmmakers at Emory that no doubt will provide a support network long after they graduate.

But one of the most inspiring examples of cinematic camaraderie is the first Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM) film festival, directed in April by alumna Genevieve McGillicuddy. The Hollywood festival drew thousands of TCM fans and movie buffs from around the country and the world who spent four days happily bonding over their shared love of classic film and their appreciation for their favorite network. “This is a very scholarly gathering where people over four or five generations have truly connected through a common interest,” one guest told me. For more on the festival, check out Susan Carini’s blog for the Emory Alumni Association at eaavesdropping.blogspot.com/2010/04/l-story-first-in-series.html.

So, what’s your most quotable movie? Can you still reel off the best lines? Reenact the most memorable scenes with your friends? If you’ve forgotten how powerful that can be, I recommend you head to the nearest theater, buy a tub of popcorn with extra butter, and join other kindred spirits in the dark.

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