So, in March of 1990 I was still 12. In July I turned 13. By the fall I moved from 7th grade to 8th grade.
My favorite movie to that point was still “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
By the spring of 1991 in March, the sequel “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze” was out and it was totally on my radar.
On the last weekend in March, my family and I were all together shopping in the big city Idaho Falls, Idaho…it was huge to us…(grew up in a town of 10,000 okay?) It was very rare for all five of us to spend a weekend together and we decided after we were done shopping to go to a movie.
Of course my goal was to convince everyone to go see Ninja Turtles 2. I mean, what other movie could anyone want to possibly see; am I right? Right?
Yeah, my sister had other plans…and at the time, I was not happy to hear them.
“Come on,” I shouted. “You never let me choose. I know you guys think it’s stupid, but they’re good movies.”
Yes, that was as good an impression of a salesman that I could provide at that stage in my life.
Long story short, epic fail.
So there was this other movie that was fresh off a huge success at the Oscars, 7 in total including Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay; that Sunday before. My sister had already seen it, loved it, and wanted to go again and get our take on it.
“I promise you, even as mad as you are at me right now, you will love this movie.”
She was serious.
I didn’t think she knew how mad I could get at someone. I thought she was crazy. She used the word “love.” That word intrigued me and I was impressed with her hubris so I caved (to be honest, it was a 3-2 vote and my little brother and I were SOL but that is beside the point).
So all of us went to “Dances with Wolves” together and my sister was not wrong. By the end of the movie I felt like she undersold it.
I had never seen anything like it and it was a HUGE impact on my taste and what I thought was a “good” movie after that.
As soon as we entered into a Civil War medical tent of bloody bodies (and I mean BLOODY bodies) lying on a table with faceless people hovering over them, talking as if they are not there or even human at that point–I was hooked.
This is a movie in which a horse should’ve probably gotten an honorary supporting actor nod. There has never been a more memorable and magnificent animal shot on film–no pun intended for those of you that know why that’s a pun in the first place…mom is not going to appreciate that last bit.
The picture captured me with gore and bravado and it held my focus with it’s intelligent and subtle humor, even in scenes that should not be humorous; in particular when Dunbar takes the time in the middle of a battle to scold Stone Calf for using the gun as a an ax instead of shooting it at the enemy.
Along with beautiful animals, there are beautiful landscapes, a very simple love story that avoids a lot of cliches, and a man that eventually learns to find his true self among people that he would’ve never thought could accept him.
I cared about the characters–everyone one of them-including the wolf and the horse, and the tragedy that occurs within the story had a very real feel to it like when your cousin punches you perfectly in the middle of your chest and you have the wind knocked out of you for a short period of time (we were boys, we used to do that to each other for fun–“okay, your turn dude…”).
Thankfully, not many heroes die, but we are left with a sense of “no good can come of this”…and I loved that damn movie.
I left in tears, and when my sister put her arm around me as we walked out of the theater and asked me, “Was I right?”
I cried even harder into her shoulder nodding and saying, “Yes.”
The score by John Barry is one of my favorites. It’s my sister’s ringtone to this day. Every time she texts me, I’m reminded of this moment when she taught me the difference between a movie and a GREAT movie.