Let me start by giving you a warm welcome to my first blog ever. I am extremely excited to start ranting on about film, sharing my thoughts, comments, philosophies, ideas and opinions on anything related to American Cinema (and maybe in some occasions other types of cinema).
Gosh, this field is so immense and there is so much we can talk about, it’s literally making my mind spin. Maybe I should take one step back and take a deep breath first.
OK, I think I’m good. Maybe I should introduce myself first so that you can get a general idea about who I am and where I’m coming from, literally.
My name is Rick Van Hattum and I currently reside in New Jersey, the birthplace of film- thank you Edison! Long before New Jersey, I lived and grew up in a small town in the South-Western part of the Netherlands- my place of birth. It was there where I, at a very young age, became hooked to American Cinema. The earliest film that I remember seeing in a movie theater was Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). Surely at the age of 4 I must have not understood much about this movie’s narrative, it’s characters or anything else really, but it left its mark on me nonetheless. And it wasn’t just the film, it was also the venue. This room of darkness with its high ceilings, a smokey trail trough the light-beam of the projector and the slowly dimming lights. Long rows of red-velvet seats filled with strangers, strangers to my left and to my right, in front of me and another bunch of strangers right behind me, all focussed on this lit-up screen in front of us. No doubt it was here where I got my first whiff of hot buttery popcorn. If I really dig down deep, I may remember even falling asleep during half of the movie, but boy was this the adventure of a lifetime for me!
Now, more than 26 years later, I have watched (and fell asleep to) many, many movies. During my childhood and my teenage years, mainly three genres dominated my life; Action, Comedy and Horror. And I didn’t prefer one over another, it just really depended on three things; my mood, which film it was and who starred in it. Because lets face it, when you are younger, you don’t care too much for the directors, cinematographers or screenwriters. Heck, I don’t think I even knew or gave any thought to what a film crew was. All I cared about as a 12 year old boy was the fact rather or not Arnold Schwarzenegger was starring in it, if I would see lots of explosions, blood and special effects and see the occasional tit- that’s it.
But there comes a time in our lives where we all grow out of that phase, some a little later than others. In my case, it must have been somewhere after high-school, a time in which I found myself to be completly lost. I was at the end of my teenage years and had no sense of direction, whatsoever. Just like with everything else, I wanted something new. Of course this applied to my taste in movies as well. The same old action movies I loved so dearly with my favorite action heroes started to feel repetitive and were no longer able to feed into my hunger for film. Maybe my idols became of age and I would no longer buy into the insane reality in which these characters would live, or maybe it was just me, growing up and I was ready to truly learn about cinema itself and explore other themes and genre.
Before we move on, let me state one thing clearly- I can still enjoy the occasionally, over-the-top action flick, while devouring a large popcorn until my lips crack open from the salt, let there be no doubt about that. But seriously, there had to be more to movies than American Heroes with European accents. Slowly, I became aware that the cool part of movies was not determined by the physicall strength of it’s on-screen heroes- it lied within the talent and expertise of the hard working filmmakers, aka the heroes behind the scenes.
I began to pick up on names like Scorsese, Spielberg, Cameron and Scott. Why was it that these names were so important? Who were these people? Now if we travel back in time for just one second, to around the year 1990-1991 to be exact, I remember seeing the trailer or some sort of clips from Terminator 2: Judgement Day on television. As mentioned before, back then I was a action-snob and this was clearly a “Schwarzenegger” film to me. This amazing Action flick (Yes, I know now it’s actually more Science-Fiction than Action) made a huge impression on me and it still does, although one thing is different now. You see, today it’s a “Cameron” film to me. And that’s what’s so significant about my film-passion development. I think I had finally became an actually cinema fan, once I started to correlate my love for these great films to these great directors who made them.
So we talked about my childhood and we ventured into my late teens, early twenties. Here I was, a young student in Rotterdam, studying Graphic Design. Besides movies, I always liked to draw by hand. I have this annoying habit where if I see a pencil and an empty spot on a piece of paper, I have to draw on it. I always felt the need throughout my life to somehow express my thoughts, to turn my ideas into something physical. Anyway, Graphic Design. Yes, I attended college for one year, only to figure out it was not my true passion. I like to doodle onto empty pieces of paper, not spend hours behind a drawing board, shading in pyramids and cubes or learning how to retouch pictures in Photoshop. My school did however offer a film making program, so by the end of the first year, I already had expressed my interest in switching my major. I wanted to create films! And then I met my now-wife and my whole life changed completely.
Fast-Forward: After dating overseas with my American girlfriend for years, we made the decision to spend the rest of our lives together. She didn’t want to move to Holland and I had a weak spot in my heart for America, so the choice was clear- I stuffed as much as I could of 25 years of life and memories in Holland into one large suitcase and left everything I knew behind me. After settling into New Jersey, I quickly realized that this beautiful country also came with a price. It’s a free market, it’s capitalism. A wonderful playground with opportunities for anyone with the desire to become successful as long as you are willing to work for it. I didn’t really have any papers or degrees, nor was a I qualified for anything, so life wasn’t looking so easy ahead of me. So I made my choice and went back to school here. I found this wonderful program at my local community college where I began to study film. I rapidly became more familiar with film as a subject and finally, after taking some time off and switching from full-time to part-time student, I will be graduating soon.
So there you have it, my entire life correlated to cinema in a couple of paragraphs. But of course there is so much more to it. Just like you, I too have some favorite movies and directors, although I have come to the conclusion that making a movie top 10 list is such a paradox to me, because these things intend to rotate and change with time and reviewing. I’m also an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker. Very recently, I finished my second short, nothing special, low-budget, but proud of it nonethless. You see, that’s my dream. Actually it was my dream, now it’s merely a goal; I will become a professional screenwriter and or director. Anyway, I visit movies as much as I can, perhaps not even as much as I should. I am a movie fanatic, but not a movie freak. I am a movie goer, but not a movie-critic.
And this is where I will let you go. Hopefully, you get the very basic impression on what type of movie guy I truly am. Hopefully you thought my writing was good enough to keep your attention all the way up to here. Hopefully I didn’t make to many grammar errors. If so, you may remember, unless you skipped most of my first blog, that English isn’t even my first language, so Ha! Please forgive me. Actually, screw that, I’m a film major, not an English major. Have you ever seen a Math teacher trying to write down word problems on the board? It’s utterly painful.