To start off with the one of many embarrassing admissions, the first film that brought tears to my eyes was the 1978 TV Jan and Dean bio-pic Dead Man’s Curve.
In my defense:
I was about nine years old at the time.
I was sick, home from school, and on some brand of mind altering cough medicine.
I started watching it because I saw Richard Hatch and thought it was a Battlestar Galactica rerun.
The point is not that I am pathetic, although a case could be made for that argument, but rather that movies have great powers to tap into emotions. Even for a geek (who are supposedly rational and dispassionate) like me.
Every type of media has its specialty.
Comic Books have a unique control of time and an intermingling of text and pictures that can add to or offset each other.
The Theater provides direct interaction and a sense of immediacy between performers and audience.
Books stimulate the intellect, by providing both background and outside details, and internal thoughts and feelings.
Television involves the audience in complex, detailed storylines and characterizations that build over time*.
Movies’ specialty comes from a huge gang of creative people working together to pick the right combination of elements to trigger powerful emotions.
* The exception to the rule that movies generate more feelings than television is Doctor Who. I seriously have no idea how they pack that amount of emotional content into each episode.
The individuals responsible for the show (writers, directors, actors, producers, composers, visual FX, etc.) get choked up recording the commentary tracks. Is it any wonder I regularly wind up fighting back tears following those adventures? (Proving rather strongly that the whole point of this may be that I’m pathetic after all.)
What follows isn’t just a pile of any old weepy movies. Rather they are the moments that lay bare specific sections of a nerd’s soul – The Teargeekers.
Before the official top ten list - here are some honorable mentions:
First of all, these two films were selected for the same reason…
Up Close and Personal
City of Angels
In the case of these movies, I cried openly as I mourned the loss of the two hours that I sadly would never get back again; foolishly wasted sitting through predictable melodramas with crappy endings.
OH THE TRAGEDY!
Disney films also only rate honorable mentions, because they’re known for the ability to generate strong feelings in normal viewers.
Walt Disney himself said:
“For every laugh a tear must fall.”
This was because he was a cruel and heartless bastard who hated children.
NO! Ha Ha! Of course not!
He understood the idea that by juxtaposing emotional highs and lows it increased the effect of both the laughs and the tears.
Although the original versions of the Haunted Mansion and Snow White’s Scary adventures do provide evidence for the other reason. The big meanie.
The following three Disney films contain moments of special merit to this geekly movie goer.
“When I was very young.”
Geeks have no desire to grow up. We know we have to, but we always try clinging to some of the good, fun, creative side of youth. In Peter Pan, George Darling represents many of the unfortunate things that can happen to a person when they grow up. (Which is why he’s usually the same guy playing Captain Hook, who represents the unfortunate things a grown up can do to children.)
Mr. Darling has no time for the frivolous, and is all about the responsibilities and burdens of adulthood. Life is to be serious, organized and purposeful, but then…
He glimpses the flying Jolly Roger and remembers.
He remembers the joy, the freedom, the expressiveness of childhood, and in that shining moment recaptures some of what he lost, and allows his own children to maintain some of the important things that are so easy to lose to the pressures of growing up.
Beauty and the Beast
“You came back!”
The Beast was a big, loud, hairy, clumsy guy with a bad temper and no clue how to talk to women. To say I identified with this character is a gross understatement. He finally met a beautiful, intelligent woman who loved reading AND fell for the person he is inside, when circumstances forced her to leave and probably never see him again. (Which is a fairly close description of most of my history of relationships before I met my wife.)
And then - when things looked their worst and he was under attack by an obnoxious, stupid, more athletic -yet physically smaller and weaker- bully (You people are learning way too much about my childhood here.) :
She came back.
Gets me every time…even in the painfully truncated MGM theme park stage version.
Toy Story 3
“You think you can take care of him for me?”
That line is a random pick from the parade of tear inducing moments at the end of the trilogy.
The bond of togetherness in the incinerator
Buzz and Woody’s “good-bye” handshake
Andy describing all the toys to Bonnie
Andy handing over Woody
The toys’ final playtime with Andy
Andy’s farewell drive.
It should not be surprising that this animated film, which contained more emotion than any live action movie that year, made this list.
Those Pixar guys are amazing. They clearly showed the feelings inanimate toys had while being played with one last time by their original owner. Heck, they made a prison movie that’s fun for the whole family featuring scenes of a plastic action figure that MOVED in Spanish.
No, the surprising part is not that a movie of that quality about becoming emotionally attached to action figures and other toys made the Teargeeker list.
The surprising part was the timing of the moment of maximum weepiness…
Several weeks after attending the premier of Toy Story 3 I entered my closet to pull out a bag of old Marx Marvel heroes. My mother had been recently cleaning out the attic and found my extremely battered, bruised and broken from years of play in past decades toys. Based on their condition (any visible details worn off, severe body warping, and the occasional missing limb) I had picked them up and planned to give them a Viking funeral in the fireplace Up the Lake.
I opened the bag to check they were there, and reached in to grab one. They all came out as an interconnected group, with their arms and legs linked together very much like the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3.
I wiped away a tear, gave them a quick hug, and put them safely back in the closet.
Because I’m pathetic.