Cry me a River, Dude.

From big men come big emotion.

By J’Mel Davidson

Real talk, guys. Your friendly Neighborhood J’Mel can be a bit of a sissy. No, ladies. Calm down. Not that kind of sissy. My feet are planted firmly in front of the candelabra. No, I mean that I’ve always been a little easy to explode into sobbing fits. Now, as a large black Southern straight man, the deck is stacked against me when it comes to sincere displays of emotion beyond rage and “keeping it real.” But strong men also cry, dear readers. Strong men also cry.

Recently, I lost my father and because of the stubbornness and code of silence most guys from his generation shared with their sons, it was a hard time. It will be a hard time forever. And I cried, a lot. Obviously. The situation made me think of all the times growing up that media has affected me deeply.

The first instance I can recall was from way back when I was just a Wee’mel. I’d settled in one afternoon to watch the Secret of Nimh and when it was over, I was in tears. I haven’t seen it recently enough to remember, but as far as I know, it’s not a sad film. I think everything actually works out and the rats figure out a way to stop the robot apocalypse—or something. It’s been more than 30 years, as I said. I do remember, though, that as soon as the angelic tones of Paul Williams began to fill my ears and heart, my eyes began to fill with tears. And it wasn’t just a few tear drops. I bawled. In hindsight, it’s obvious that the one two punch of Don Bluth animation and Paul Williams was too much for my young heart to bear.

Look, I’m not made of stone. Sometimes I can be manipulated into feeling emotion by the same cheap sentimental tricks that work on you Earthlings. I have fallen for the trickery of Steven Spielberg and his evil pact with John Williams on many occasions. E.T., for instance. I can still remember crying at the Cobb Cinema City 8 as E.T. lay dying within the science tent or when E.T. said goodbye to Elliot for the last time so that he and his brothers could return to their home planet and continue their brutal genetic experiments on missing children. (I think. I haven’t seen it in 30 years.)

Later in life, the trend of movies that weren’t necessarily sad making me cry started to get a little silly. For example, when I was in high school I would sometimes not go to high school because my school left a lot to be desired.

I won’t go into specifics here. That’s a whole different article. So, I’d stay home and watch Encore. If you aren’t familiar with Encore, it’s a movie channel like HBO or Cinemax. Except Encore didn’t have a whole lot of content, so they’d play two or three songs between films over a light blue screen and a clock that counted down to the next flick. It was during this blue waiting period that I discovered the classic death/suicide anthem Alone Again, Naturally by Gilbert O’Sullivan. This tune somehow mixed with the Adventures of Baron Munchhausen on those days of hookey and turned me into a Blubberpuss Supreme. The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen is NOT a sad film. It’s adventurous. Yet, every time I watch it I get choked up.

By now you’re probably thinking “Well, J’Mza, you’re obviously a gentle soul with no true emotional outlet, and it all manifests itself at times when you’re most vulnerable: during film time.”

Perhaps you’re right, I mean you know everything, right? Shut up.

I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that.

Here’s the one that changed everything. When I was about 14 years old, I saw Goodfellas on HBO. It was late one night and I’d heard how great it was and it had already been to the Oscars. I sat there, entranced by the music and the cinematography; and the wonderful bursts of violence and swearing. When it was over, and the beautiful “Layla (piano exit)” by Derrick and the Dominoes played, I lost it. I was a mess. But this time I knew why. Watching Goodfellas that night made me realize that I needed to make movies. Be it writing or directing or designing the posters, I needed to be a part of this thing that can and often does bring so much emotion to so many people.

Now, I realize some of you may think that this is silly. That they are, after all, “only movies.” They shouldn’t mean this much, they’re just brief distractions in a world full of real problems. Hell, I almost agree. When I’m making fun of folks for taking college football so seriously (again, an entire different article to come) I sometimes stop to think that they love that game the way I love my movies. Crying because Auburn or Alabama missed a punt or whatever is the same as my tearing up when Bruce Willis gets shot in Twelve Monkeys (the second time he gets shot, not the first). We all need distractions from the real world sometimes, and how we react is fine as long as we know why it’s happening and we aren’t hurting one another.

That’s the moral of this story, dear readers: don’t be an ass, watch a movie.  Have a good cry. Try and forget what’s coming.


Sad Sandwich from vexpix on Vimeo.

4 Responses to “Cry me a River, Dude.”

  1. D'Meezy says:

    Finally, you understand my love of Alabama football. About damn time.

  2. Amanda says:

    Fantastic! Now go make some film! (Ps I’d loveto help in anyway that I can)

  3. Brad Watkins says:

    List of parts that immediately make me cry:

    1. Anthony Hopkins’ entrance after the stroke in Legends of the Fall.

    2. The opening ride in the car of Spirited Away.

    3. Harrison Ford, River Phoenix, and Helen Mirren floating down the river in The Mosquito Coast.

    4. Owen Wilson’s death in Life Aquatic.

    5. Any part in Grave of the Fireflies.

    Sigh. All my love, man. Great article. “candelabra”.

Leave a Reply for Brad Watkins