This week's Friday Five is from Sarah Lotz, author of The Three and part of many wonderful writing tandems with many different names (see: Lily Herne, S.L. Grey, Helena Paige). Sarah's been a guest here before and we're delighted to have her back. So with no further ado...
I’m old. Old enough to have seen Star Wars at the cinema when it first came out. Yet I still feel awkward whenever I watch a movie with my parents and a graphic sex scene flashes onto the screen. It’s ridiculous. I wasn’t brought up to think of sex as shameful, I’ve co-written and published a series of porn books (albeit under a pseudonym) and I also have a daughter, so everyone knows I’ve had sex at least once. But still. I can’t help it. And I know I’m not the only one.
There are thousands of potentially parental squeam-inducing movies out there, but the top culprits for me are The English Patient (although that said, I once saw it with a bunch of nuns who were less fazed by the shagging than I was), Y Tu Mamá También (self-explanatory), and Don’t Look Now (the sex scene in this one goes on for days – you can leave the room to make tea, defrost the freezer and change the oil in your car and it’ll still be going on when you return).
So I’m taking it as a given that movie sex scenes + parents = awkwardness, and will concentrate on the top five movies that have traumatised me and my family for other reasons.
Requiem for a Dream
I was visiting my folks in the UK at the time. All was going great. We were gathered in the lounge, the fire was crackling, no one was sulking, no one was pissed, the take-out curry was en route. We were like a family out of a John Lewis commercial. Time to watch a movie.
‘How about Requiem for a Dream?’ I suggested, stupidly. ‘I’ve been dying to see it for years and it’s got Jennifer Connelly in it.’
It wasn’t just the graphic grossness that made Requiem for a Dream such top-notch cringe-worthy family viewing. I’d just published a semi-autobiographical novel based on my experiences living on the streets when I was a teenager (I’d run away from home for various nefarious reasons and my folks didn’t know where I was for months), and during that time I’d taken a truck-load of Class A drugs. As we all sat there, frozen with horror at the sight of Jared Leto’s gangreney bits, it was obvious my parents were thinking: so this is what she REALLY got up to when she was a drug addict. The thieving. The squalor. The lying. The amputation. That horrible dildo thing at the end.
I will never be able to watch it again without dying a little inside.
My Dog Skip
This one is for parents and future parents out there. Never let your kids watch this movie. The ending of My Dog Skip makes Bambi’s mother’s death look like a scene from Step Brothers. My daughter and her best friend are now in their twenties and have never forgiven me for renting this film.
Set in the 1940s, it starts off deceptively well. Shy boy meets dog, they fall in love. Aw. Cute. Heart-warming, even.
Boy gets bullied, dog helps out.
Boy gets into a scrape involving bootleggers and a graveyard, dog helps out again.
Boy ain’t got no friends, dog helps out with that, too.
Dog even helps cement bond between races (don’t ask).
Boy falls out with dog in baseball related incident, dog forgives him.
Dog almost dies after being whacked with a spade by evil bootlegger. Dog lives.
Should have ended there.
Because then boy grows up and buggers off to college, cruelly leaving his best friend behind. Dog lies on boy’s bed looking sad and bereft for what feels like forever. Then dog dies. The end.
Cue uncontrollable sobbing FOR HOURS. Cue mummy mummy mummy Skip is dead. Why did Skip die, mummy, why? Why is the universe so cruel? Why did you rent this movie for us when we asked for Pet Sematary?
I repeat: Never let your kids see this movie. They’ll be less traumatised by The Phantom Menace or even Zombie Flesh Eaters (I know mine were).
And if you ever let your kids watch The Plague Dogs, I’m calling social services.
Everyone knows that Matt Damon is a fine actor and a terrific person, so this one is purely personal.
And it’s personal because my mum is in love with Matt Damon. She has become a Matt Damon bore. She even likes Ben Affleck because of his association with Matt Damon. No one is allowed to criticise Matt or any of his movies in her hearing. Not even We Bought a Zoo. Not even Invictus. Not even Ocean’s Twelve. She sulks with me if I do the ‘Matt Damon’ voice from Team America: World Police. She knows all the words to Sarah Silverman’s ‘I’m Fucking Matt Damon’ and sings it without any irony.
The guy would have to do a Mel Gibson for her to go off him.
Quantum of Solace
Ever since my dad rented the video of Live and Let Die for me and my brother in the early eighties, watching the latest Bond movie the second it’s released has been a family tradition. My mum rightly thinks Bond movies are stupid violent misogynistic crap (although the Bourne movies are fine because: Matt Damon), so my dad and I tend to sneak off by ourselves to get our fix.
Then Quantum of Solace came out. It starts off okay with a confusingly directed car chase, but it’s a car chase, so that’s cool. Then … load of incomprehensible bollocks. What the actual fuck is it about? Does anyone know? Do the writers even know? Even the title is an exercise in WTFness.
It was a sad, sad day. My dad and I exited the movie house, our hearts broken. A family tradition forever soiled.
Skyfall made up for it a bit, but unless they resurrect Roger Moore, I’m afraid it’s all over between us and 007.
AKA, the movie that almost caused a divorce.
My husband is cool. He has good taste. His favourite films are Hot Fuzz, Withnail & I, Fargo and The Big Lebowski (he has good taste not highbrow taste). We rarely fight, we’re best friends – soul-mates, even, if you want to get all vomity about it. And then I went and spoiled it all by making the classic Whedonista mistake of introducing him to Serenity without getting him to watch Firefly first.
I love Serenity. It’s one of my favourite films. It’s in my top ten. I couldn’t wait for him to see it, so that we could swap notes on the awesomeness of Nathan Fillion’s trousers.
Cue the scene:
[The popcorn’s made. Husband and I are on the couch with three dogs and a cat. There is no space and much animal hair. This is normal. The movie begins.]
ME: You’re going to love this.
HUSBAND: Can’t wait!
[Five minutes in.]
HUSBAND: So. Much. Expo.
ME: Wait. The Reavers will be appearing soon.
HUSBAND: What the fuck are Reavers?
ME: I can’t tell you without spoilers. Just watch it.
HUSBAND: Hmmm. Dodgy. Lots of references to Chinese culture and language, but no Asian protagonists.
ME: [Pretends not to hear]
[Husband starts fiddling with phone and fidgeting. I start getting annoyed in that way you only get when someone clearly doesn’t appreciate something you think is awesome]
ME: You have to concentrate or you’ll miss the good bits.
HUSBAND: I don’t know what the fuck is going on.
[An icy atmosphere falls over the lounge. Body language stiffens. Dogs whine. Time passes slowly. Then we get to the scene where Wash is impaled.]
HUSBAND: Why are you crying?
ME: Because Wash is dead. He DIED. Don’t you get that?
HUSBAND: But you’ve seen this like a hundred times. And besides, he was annoying.
ME: GET OUT GET OUT YOU ARE DEAD TO ME
But then I made him watch Firefly and our marriage was saved. He loved Firefly.
In fact all was great until a month later when I discovered he’d never seen The Empire Strikes Back.
[Repeat above scene]