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Monday, June 14, 2021

My favorite movie hits forty years old

I had no idea that Raiders of the Lost Ark had returned to theaters for its fortieth anniversary until my iPhone suggested it from a list of movies playing nearby.  Whatever other plans I'd made last Sunday got dropped like a hot Sankara Stone as I headed to the big cinema the next town over.  And that's how, for only the second time in my life, I got to behold my all time favorite film on the big screen.
I was far from alone.  About forty-some others had shown up too.  Including the family of four that sat in front of me.  Two little girls, maybe seven and eight.  Just how old I was when I first saw Raiders.  I could tell this movie was giving them thrills and chills, just as it did me.
Maybe it made some of the same impact on them that watching Raiders had on me.  In the days and weeks following my first time seeing the movie, I was obsessed with finding out everything I could about the real life history behind the story.  Every encyclopedia volume must have been pulled off of our bookshelf as I read up about ancient Egypt, the Nazis, the Ark of the Covenant...  All of that and more was fodder for my young mind.

So it's safe to say that Raiders of the Lost Ark is not just my favorite movie of all time.  It's also the film that most affected my life.  Yes, the Star Wars saga was a wide-eyeing wonder of story and spectacle that imprinted onto my imagination.  But Raiders ignited the love of history that has followed and guided my life all along.  It taught me that academia and learning could be a very cool thing (though my own scholarship never involved wielding a bullwhip... though I rock in a fedora).

It was also the start of something special between Dad and I.  He loved this movie too.  And we never failed to catch an Indiana Jones movie together in the theater whenever one came out.  He was a real authority on the kinds of vehicles that moved about Indy's world, particularly the aircraft.  I think that from the very first moments of 1936 South America, Dad recognized this movie as being a homage to the Saturday serials of his childhood.  Raiders of the Lost Ark was like a meeting place between his generation and mine.  And for just that alone I will forever treasure this movie.
But what it is to all of us together is a kick-butt movie that, like any treasure in the desert, has become priceless with time.  It is also something that has never been replicated so perfectly.  Certainly its sequels tried, and sometimes approximated the success.  But Raiders of the Lost Ark was too much like lightning in a bottle.  It was the intersection of the era's most successful actor, its most successful director, its most successful creator of worlds, all come together with the edgiest of cutting edge special effects and a rollickin' score by John Williams.  Something like that just can't be done all over again like that first time.

Forty years later, and it still holds up.  As perhaps the most perfect motion picture spectacle ever committed to celluloid.  There was nothing like it before and there does not look to  be anything like it since then.
So let us raise a glass to Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Happy fortieth anniversary to Indiana Jones.  Remember: it's not the years, it's the mileage.