Go Wuss, Young Man…

So, it’s official, I am turning into a Big Wuss.

It seems that, the older I get, the more emotional I get. Things which once rolled off me like a… rolling… thing that’s… on me (maybe I’ll come back to that simile) now seem able to wound me to the very core.

It’s a sign of growing older, I know it is.

See, when we were fourteen or so, this movie came out that was widely advertised as being the most heart-breaking motion piccie of all time. No, it wasn’t one of the famous ones like ‘Love Story’, in fact I remember it quite well. It was called ‘The Last Snows of Spring’ and it was pretty crappy by any standards.

But people did cry, maybe they felt obliged after all the adverts. In among all this cinematic weeping-and-gnashing-of-teeth sat us, laughing our heads off, joking, giggling and poking each other in the ribs.

This tragedy crap meant nothing to us. And why would it? We were kids, we'd never known any tragedy.

I believe that we are most touched by drama which deals with things which we have experienced ourselves.

It’s not a rocket-science theory really. Here’s an example:

When I was about seventeen, I put my hand through a window (‘long story, I’ll tell you sometime). You can sometimes get away with putting your hand through a window but pulling it back out again at speed is liable to do you some considerable damage and, in my case, it did. The other day, twenty-eight years later, I was admiring the scars which are still clearly in evidence around my wrist. The point is, up until I did that silly thing, I could happily watch people go through glass panes, in movies and on telly, all day long. Immediately after that, and for ever after amen, I have winced and shuddered whenever I see it happen. The experience had become personal to me to an extent that now I could be touched and even shocked by seeing it dramatised.

It’s true of pretty much everything, I think.

Take the only movie to ever make me cry, really blub like. Before I tell you what it is (and you pack up and leave) let me explain that the first time I saw this film I hated it. Really. Although the lead actor won an Academy Award for his performance, I found the whole thing forced and obvious. That was back in 1994.

Unimpressed. Deeply. Me.

Then I saw it again in 2004. I’ll tell you the truth, I saw the second half of it, on television, late one night. I hated it again, easy. That celebrated ‘Opera’ scene just does my head in (sorry Tom, it just does) 'load of old... but then the last scene came on… and it reduced me to a wreck.

A Wreck.

The film was ‘Philadelphia'. If this rings a bell with anyone, I did discuss it briefly before in the middle of a movie meme. Anyway this final scene shows (OLD MOVIE SPOILER ALERT) the family party after the main character’s funeral. On the TV in the room there are videos of the guy as a kid, playing around, looking sad. And that’s what got me. I had a boy the same age as this little dude in the movie. No matter how hard I tried, he would grow up and see the world for the harsh place it often is. The world would hurt him. It was beyond my control. And there it was - the life experiences that I simply didn’t have back in ’94 came up and kicked me right in the ass in good old ’04.

Oh and Neil Young’s moving soundtrack song possibly threw me off over the edge.

And now, as years subside, I can feel myself getting worse. I have more life experiences with each passing day, you see. More reasons to blub.

Just last week I was watching the last part of the BBC’s fine new adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank. Seeing Anne portrayed as a wonderful testy vivacious teenager, criminally robbed of her liberty and life – well, it spoiled my day. What really threw me was the information at the end which said that the only survivor of that hidden household was Anne’s father – who lived until 1980. What a weight that poor man he had to carry through his life.

When I was seventeen, I wouldn’t have got any of that.

But I think I’m starting to now.

(PS: Are there movies that have reduced you to a blubbering mess? I'd be interested to know)


Susan at Stony River said...

You and I can share a box of tissues one day---I'm the same! And you're right, it used to be easy to simply watch, or even to snicker at the weepy parts, but now I'm just pouring tears for everyone. It doesn't take much: even that big git Harry Bailey gets me every Christmas. My kids look at me like I'm nuts.

Here's a question: do you feel worse after crying over a film, or is it cathartic for you? My mother used to love a good cry; I hate it.

Anonymous said...

What usually does me in now are war movies, especially when they deal with how young our 'fighting men and women' are when they go to war. Before I had kids, they never bothered me, but now, I'm scared to death my kids are going to want to grow up to be soldiers. Black Hawk Down, Band of Brothers, pretty much anything that focuses on the people rather than the action is likely to throw me to tears. Sometimes it's sorrow, sometimes it's anger, but I'm always emotional at the end of them.

Anonymous said...

Ok so I couldn't read the whole thing because I have never seen the movie and I want to.... but I guess it makes sense that if you were a 'hard' kid growing up you'd be more sensitive now. But I know people who used to be wusses when they were younger and have grown to be extremely cynical and 'hard' as adults so I guess it works both ways.

I'm glad you're the former ;)

K. said...

Philadelphia has a great Bruce Springsteen song, too.

In 1993, our family was flying somewhere and I watched Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey with my two boys, who were 8 and 6 at the time. Somewhat disbelievingly, I found tears rolling down my cheeks at the end of the movie. That's the only time a film made me cry.

Jena Isle said...

Hello Ken,

Don't worry, almost everyone who is getting "old" ....ouch...he he he...gets mushy, maudlin and lachrymose with films and songs.

Whenever I hear Danny Boy, I feel like I want to cry, lol.... You're right about being indifferent when one is younger.

Now, I cry very easily, just watching soap operas, movies and reading books.

The last time I cried so hard was when I watched the movie, "The Notebook" , lol...I imagined myself at their age and it made me cry harder...lol....

It maybe because we are now acutely aware of our own mortality and that someday , we too will go, and would anyone even care?

Happy Valentine's day in advance Ken, best regards to the family.

Henson Ray said...

Please...I blubber over TV commercials all the time...and I'm even embarrassed to admit...I even choke up a little at the end of almost every episode of "Ghost Whisperer"...and yes, for some reason, I really like that show...as corny and melodramatic as it is, there's something fascinating about the concept.

Reese said...

Philadelphia turned my into a complete sobbing blob by the end of it. It was particularly heartbreaking because my husband's brother, Tommy, died of aids in 1990. We faced a lot of the discrimination that was portrayed in the movie while we were in the hospital. I'll spare you the details. Let's just say the doctors lacked compassion. Another film on the same subject that always gets me is "And the Band Played On." (I think that's the title) It's a docudrama starring Matthew Modine about the beginning of aids and how society ignored the disease and its victims in the early years. sorry for the long post. I'm pretty passionate on this issue

Jim Murdoch said...

Things that have made me cry ... hmmm, Well, discounting Lobo the Lonely Wolf (the first film I ever saw in the cinema and howled over - BTW that's not its correct title), the first film I remember crying over was when I was seventeen. It was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the bit at the end. I've seen the film a good half-dozen times and I still get choked up over it. My claim to fame used to be that I saw E.T. and didn't cry but I can't say I was unmoved either; it felt like a point of honour. Unlike you I cry a lot less these days. It takes a lot to affect me. Which is a shame because a good cry is a great release.

Ken Armstrong said...

Susan: Share a box of tissues? Okay... I'd rather a pint but one takes what one can get... :)

Mike: Very True. The opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan (filmed here in Wexford) captured the mess that young people can get thrown into, mostly without warning. It's as good a reason to weep as any, I guess.

Reggie: I don't think I'd have ever qualified as a 'hard' kid but it's a nice image.

K: You're right, the Bruce song is Great but the Neil Young one has something 'special' about it.

Jena: I read 'The Notebook' but haven't seen the movie, I'd be afraid I'd have a meltdown. :)

Henson: I never got into the Ghost Whisperer, maybe I should stay away from it in case of localised flooding. :)

Reese: Thanks for your comment. You illustrate my point very well and very sadly. Your own terrible experiences mean that the bots of the movie that didn't hit me too hard really connect with you.

I hope my lightweight 'slagginoff' of the movie didn't cause you any distress. None intended for sure. Thanks again for adding a deeper level of reality to my point.

Rachel Fox said...

Pretty much everything makes me cry...especially once I get into a tearful mood.

You're right about your response changing once your perspective has. Painful business...and nothing can undo it once it's changed.


Reese said...

No, no distress at all! I remember the ending you talked about with the home movie clips of his childhood. It was very sweet.

hope said...

Interesting that "Band of Brothers" came up. It got me...whether due to the sadness of seeing young men killed in war or the fact that it was based on true stories, with the "real" men interviewed at the end. Same with "From the Earth to the Moon", which was about the space program, narrated by Hanks.

Both had "real" persons involved in the telling. I remember crying when a couple of the old soldiers died right after the film was released. It was like losing a friend somehow. Same with astronauts. Then again, I grew up when a space launch was something which made you cross your fingers and toes while saying a prayer they'd lift off safely. I read 3-4 astronaut biographies after that movie and shed tears again as some of them passed away.

That old saying, "With age comes wisdom" needs to be widened to include, "and leaky tear ducts signaling it's okay to be human." ;)

tashabud said...

Hi Ken,
I'm a very sensitive old woman who cries very easily at poignant scenes. Yes, I cried in "The Notebook." The book that made me cried so much was "Three Weeks With My Brother" by Nicholas Sparks. But the movie that made me cry so much was a black and white movie called "The Long Gray Line." It's a story about this couple who immigrated to America from Ireland. If you haven't yet seen it, I think that you'll like it when you see it.

I haven't seen "Philadelphia". Perhaps, I'll try to rent it one of these days.


Ken Armstrong said...

Jim: Hi! you sliped in there behind my last comments. One flew over the cuckoo's nest will always be one of my favorite films and, for quite different reasons, favorite books too. You have good taste in tears.

Rachel: Don't cry. You'll set me off. Damn. :)

Reese: It was sweet, yes, but then it became heart-breaking. It touched a raw nerve that I sisn't know existed. Thanks for replying.

Hope: Nice Hanks linkage there. You don't just chuck this stuff out, do you? Did you see, 'The Right Stuff?' That captured the valour of the space programme really well, I thought.

Tashabud: Interesting. I don't know The Long Grey Line. Must keep a wee blue eye out for it. :)

Laura Brown said...

I think you are right about feeling more something you have experienced. There are things I can't even talk about rationally due to past experience. When the experience is closer to you (in time and space) you will have more care about it than someone who only thinks it was an entertaining or really lame TV show.

Of course there are also the oddities like myself who can't even watch horror because I'm sure it really is possible there is something around that dark corner even when there never has been any time before.

I don't have to make sense I'm just a blog commenter, here for the view.

Unknown said...

You are so right about this; I get more sappy every year. And my wife and I still talk about "Philidelphia" and how it was so heartbreaking. Just the other day, I was watching "October Sky" and got a little choked up. Must be getting old...


Anonymous said...

If you get more wussy as you get older I'm in dire straits!
I'm only 18, and I'm the biggest wuss I know. Any kind of swooping music has me in tears.
Even ER last night had me sniffling.
I don't tend to find crying cathartic though, because generally the first sign of a tear will have my sister pointing at me and laughing.
Not fun.

Anonymous said...

If you tend to cry more as you get older, I'm in dire straits! I'm only 18 and I cry at anything and everything - sad films, books, tv shows, anything really. Even a particularly moving song can choke me up a little.
Besides which, exposure doesn't lessen it at all, I'll be in floods the first or the fifth time I've seen something.
It's somewhat a subject of ridicule in my family, I cry at everything, and my sister tends to laugh at me.
Still, she wasn't laughing when my brother got married - she was all teary-eyed too!

Anonymous said...

A blubbering mess?!! Well, I prise myself on my masculinity - however, the infamous 'zipper scene' from "There's Something About Mary' came to mind immediately!
BTW - I know I never came for your man card last time but that no entitle you to keep pushing your luck. Man up Nancy!

Unknown said...

I am a stupid sucker for Frances Hodgeson Burnett's A Little Princess-- whether it's the movie version done in the 90s (which was beautifully done) or the Shirley Temple version.

I read this book as a kid, too, and cried a LOT.

I am not a person who likes to cry at films. In fact, I avoid them like the plague.

Except for this one. Don't know why I do it to myself.

Anonymous said...

I've done a lot of work with damaged kids Ken, and I now have two boys of my own - 1 & 3. Anything involving kids really hangs it on me at the best of times, but mostly - before my kids came along - I used to be able to tough it out! In a resigned kinda way I guess.

That movie with Sean Penn - "My Name is Sam"... well, that did it for me! Anything that shows the emotion of a kid being taken from their parent is a killer for me.

Rabbit Proof Fence (an Oz film) hits the top of the charts for me though... it's a little too 'close to home' and has very real connotations with my own family.

A year ago, the day saw me blubbing in hospital as our new Prime Minister apologised to our Aboriginal and Islander peoples. I blame the drugs as I was recovering from surgery - and like you - I'd much rather a pint!

I'm such a (soggy) girls blouse Ken - ahhh the shame ;-)

Ken Armstrong said...

Laura: Your view frequently make my day so keep 'em coming whenever your in this neck of the woods.

I went to see the movie Poltergeist on the first night it ever came out and, at a pretty scary part, my friend reached forward and GRABBED the shoulder of the guy sitting in front of him. He had never even seen this guy before. The guy nearly died. A very dangerous thing to do but he got away with it. I would have been killed/killed had I tried this. Point? Well, sometimes the dark corner thing *is* possible.

Just saying...

Mike: I guess we're all getting older. I just wonder what I'll be misting up at when I turn 60... if... :)

Aislinnoc: I couldn't choose between both your comments 'cos there's such good things in both, so I put 'em both up. ER is no easy ride sometimes, that's for sure. I've been watching it from the start and seen a lot of people flatline... :) Interesting about exposure not lessening the effect, I'd better stay away from 'Philadelphia' in company in that case.

Linc: Uh oh. I've gone all 'touchy feely' again haven't I? Well, look at you, offering friggin' Valentine's Day advice over at your pad. You may dress it up as 'recipes to get laid' but I bet you're all gooey-eyed and simpering in your little love nest today.

BTW: I forgot to answer Susan's question in the fist comment. Crying? Cathartic? No, I can't say it is. My sexist view is that this is one of those primary differences between Men and Women (this and the 'fingernails thing') simply, that women can gain some solace through tears while men can not. Care to discuss?

Jenn: It was you who reminded me of missing Susan's comment. Your view is the male view (I think) thought the rest of you is undoubtedly female (hubba) :). I mean that you veer away from tears, as I would. There's no good in tears at all, in my view.

Belongum: Rabbit Proof Fence is a movie I know well and like very very much. My wife and I both have a soft spot for 'I am Sam' We saw the middle of it once then sought it out to see the rest. Sean Penn does it a little like Rain Man and l'il Dakota Fanning is spookily good but it's a sad funny flick and people could do a lot worse than watch it.

As for your PM apologising, God, if you couldn't shed a tear then I don't know when you could. The drugs sound good too - 'any left? :)

hope said...

I did see Hanks in "The Right Stuff". I like most Hanks' movies. He's working now on the "sequel" to "The Da Vinci Code" called "Angels and Demons". Funny thing is, the sequel was written first and is actually a better read!

As for that woman vs. man tears stuff, supposedly women benefit from a chemical readjustment after a good cry. I guess we reboot by letting it all go in the form of teardrops.

The first tears I ever shed were due to a t.v. movie called, "Brian's Song". It was before disease-of-the-week-movies got started and it was based on the true story of a football player with cancer. To this day when I hear that theme song I tear up...and I was 12 when I saw it.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ken,

I would like to inform you that my post about you has won first prize...Thanks for the support. I had wanted to write that post about you months ago,,,lol..

Happy blogging.