As streaming giants increasingly take over media and most visual forms of entertainment, I find myself feeling that painful twinge of nostalgia, a longing for a simpler time. I’ve always been a movie person. I didn’t grow up with cable so most of the entertainment I got as a kid was through VHS tapes and DVDs. My mom loves to tell the story of how I wore out The Lion King tape from watching it so many times.
Going to the video store with my dad every Friday was so exciting, I never watched trailers so I’d usually choose movies based on the interesting covers or look at the wall of employee recommendations. It might be “boomer” of me to reminisce about something so simple as going to pick and rent a movie, but it was always interesting to see what was new, right then and there. Streaming really makes you take for granted the involved process of picking and watching a movie, and I know I would’ve missed out on some pure classics if it weren't for that movie rental spot. Reflecting on some of the favorite movies from my VHS days that I still feel hold up and wanted to share:
→ Naussica of the Valley of the Wind (or all Studio Ghibli films)
Naussica was actually the first Studio Ghibli movie I’d ever seen. I pulled it right off the wall of recommendations since the cover looked really cool, and I loved the Japanese art style. I’d never seen or heard of Hayao Miyazak,i and everything was a new experience for me. The world he built, the colors and style he used, the backstory for every character, I’d never seen anything like it. I think what I appreciated at the time was how he clearly made movies for kids, but the message was never watered down or simplified. I realized this upon watching it recently, and the themes still impress me; life and death, pacifism vs violence, selfless vs selfish, the value of preserving the environment, and the necessary consequences from sticking to your ideals. These are things I couldn't really understand back then, but I really believe it helped shape me and some of my decisions later in life. I feel like most kids’ movies these days boil down to: this guy is bad and he needs to be stopped or friends solve all your problems. What I like about Hayao Miyazaki’s films, is his ability to make you understand the villain or conflict deeply. You find yourself pitying the antagonist, or you realize that they aren’t even bad, just misguided! Real conflict is usually never black and white, and this kind of storytelling really impacted me as it creates reality in a world of fantasy. If you haven’t seen Naussicaa yet, I highly recommend doing so. I think it’s one of Miyazaki’s most underrated films.
→ The Parent Trap (1998)
I never would've expected to put this movie on my list but here we are. This was my sisters favorite movie growing up so I’ve probably seen it 100 times. It was always sort of a guilty pleasure of mine when I was young, and now I put it on everytime my girlfriend or I are having a bad day. It always seems to make us forget our problems. The pranks, the siblinghood, and the importance of a solid family always warm our hearts. We watched this last week, and we were surprised with how good the acting is and how long the story progresses. The whole movie is a feel good experience from start to finish, and it still holds up today.
→ The Lion King (1994)
While we all caught the digital remaster (rerelease?) of The Lion King, I still think nothing beats the OG. When they announced they were doing a “live-action” remake I felt my eyes roll out of my head. The best part of the original was the bright cartoon style! The colors, trippy animation, cartoonish and fun scenes, it embodies the Disney of the 90’s, and it’s a real bummer it might be forgotten. Watching the new version was definitely enjoyable, but it lacked the pop style seen in the original which made the music fit perfectly with the characters. Maybe it’s just my nostalgia talking, but there’s something about seeing hand painted backdrops and characters that makes it feel much more genuine. There was a reason I insisted on watching it everyday as a child!
→ The Lord of the Rings
When I was 11 my mom handed me The Hobbit to read. I was pretty bummed out at first. It was one of the longest books I’d ever picked up at that point, and there were so many weird names and places. I remember saying, “No way!” but she insisted. She said she read it at the same age and was obsessed. After she read me the first few chapters I couldn’t stop. Instead of staying up late for video games, I was now being scolded for reading too late. I was hooked. When I turned 12 my mom rented the whole movie set, and we both watched the entire series over a few days. It blew my mind. The movies were just like I had imagined in my head, only better. The set design, acting, writing, everything is above and beyond what any production does today; you can tell how much heart every person put into making these movies. I really believe Peter Jackson is a genius for what he did as even to this day, 20 years later, when my girlfriend and I can’t think of anything to watch we throw on some popcorn and start the journey all over again; it’s that good and that rewatchable.