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By Michael Ferraro | May 17, 2006

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Magnolia. When it got to the scene where Philip Seymour Hoffman gave Jason Robards the liquid morphine, my eyes misted like no movie ever made before. By the time the credits rolled, I stood up and thought, “That Paul Thomas Anderson… you f****r.” It was the first time a movie ever almost made me cry (except for when I was kid and I watched Terminator 2… when the Terminator is finally lowered into the hot steel).

In the years that have passed since Magnolia‘s release, I have suggested it to a countless number of people. I worked at Blockbuster when it came out on video (“video” is a term used to describe these big tapes that movies used to be on before the days of DVD) and I told every customer I could to watch this movie. Many of them brought it back to me angry. A majority of them asked me why I liked such a depressing movie.

It was then when I stopped suggesting movies to people. Well, that, and this one time when I got in trouble for telling a customer that only stupid people will find American Pie funny. The lady rented it anyway, then called my manager to tell her that I called her stupid because she thought American Pie was the funniest movie she ever saw. People are awesome.

In 2000, another film was released that hurt me more than Magnolia and the ending of Terminator 2 combined.

The first time I saw Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, I felt like I was punched in the stomach. When the credits rolled, I couldn’t move from the chair. I wanted to curl up and die. But he did it, he got those watery canals in my eyes to let their fluids flow.

The scene in question is when Harry (Jared Leto) comes home to his mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn) to inform her how good he is doing. Sara has some news for him too; she has been invited to be on a television show and all she wants now is to lose a couple pounds so she can fit in her favorite red dress.

It happens here. Burstyn’s amazingly powerful performance as an old woman with nothing much to live for was enough to scare me away from ever becoming a senior citizen. But then she delivers the following lines:

Sara Goldfarb: I’m somebody now, Harry. Everybody likes me. Soon, millions of people will see me and they’ll all like me. I’ll tell them about you, and your father, how good he was to us. Remember? It’s a reason to get up in the morning. It’s a reason to lose weight, to fit in the red dress. It’s a reason to smile. It makes tomorrow all right. What have I got Harry, hm? Why should I even make the bed, or wash the dishes? I do them, but why should I? I’m alone. Your father’s gone, you’re gone. I got no one to care for. What have I got, Harry? I’m lonely. I’m old.

Damn it. You should see how she delivers these words. It makes me sad just thinking about it. The first time I saw this scene, the watery eye thing occurred once more.


I bought the DVD as soon as possible. You see, when I start hanging out with someone new, or when I start dating someone new, there is a short list of films I find myself forcing these people to watch. Happiness used to be at the top of the list but it was knocked down immediately when I saw Requiem.

Not every one I knew shared my enthusiasm. A person I once showed it to said, “That movie was stupid.” Utterly dumbfounded, I asked, “How can you think that movie is stupid?” This is the best part:

“…because it was too depressing.”

I wanted to punch him in the goddamn face. “I like comedies,” she continued.

How can a person hate a movie that does nothing but kick you in the stomach and break your glasses? I’ve seen it about a hundred times over the past six years and I plan on seeing it a hundred more. That scene still kills me like it did the first time.

If I ever have kids, I’ll show them this film when they turn 10. They will probably stay away from drugs. In fact, I want to become a middle school teacher so I can show this to my students. I bet if I followed up with them 20 years later, 98% of them would be drug free.

The other 2% would be the students who liked comedies. Like that stupid Blockbuster customer who liked American Pie.

And parents, be sure to return to Film Threat blogs next week when Michael Ferraro takes on “Children in the Cinema.”

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  1. David J. says:

    As someone who knows mike as was along for the ride of “Magnolia” in the theatre along with a guy who had a hockey haircut I am in total agreement with this entire blog genius of film choices and scenes and genius of writing.

  2. Sherry says:

    Ahh the sound of youth, stop being soo judgmental. You have to take into account people’s situation. Those masses ambling into blockbuster on Friday night might have a real life situation that is more horrifying than any movie could hope to angst onto screen. When life has handed you a bucket of sh*t and there in no out (I mean really no way out) the last thing you want to see is actors acting like there in pain (no matter how good the performance). I have seen this movie and happiness they didn’t make me cry but they were great.
    Yes, I am probably contributing to the erosion of American cinema. If I get the whiff that a movie involves pullin’ at my heartstrings I head right into the nearest comedy or action flick. I save the cryin’ for home. Incidentally, the only films to me make cry are bambi. Where a red fern grows, elephant man, a tree grows in Brooklyn and for some damned reason sisterhood of the traveling pants. All having to do with dying so I guess it a subjective thing.

  3. Michael Neel says:

    Cool piece, Mike. I especially like the artwork.

  4. saima says:

    I cry at movies. I think everyone needs a good cry every once in a while…

    It feels pretty damn good

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