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Movie Playlist for My Brother

In honor of my big brother J.R. Stanton, currently recovering in a hospital in New Jersey, I’ve compiled a movie play list of some pivotal films we first saw together in the theater. Though there are many more titles than the few mentioned herein, these are the essential movies we grew up loving and quoting, and that continue to remind me of him.

Happy viewing.

And get well, soon, Brother!


National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

One of my favorite movie-going memories of my youth was when my father and my brother took me to see Animal House during the summer of 1978—I was nine, it was my first R-rated movie, and I saw it in a classic single-screen venue in Center City Philadelphia two years before it would be split into a narrow duplex. The day after we saw the movie, we took a trip to the theme park now called Six Flags Great Adventure in central New Jersey, and we spent the entire day reciting as many of the movie’s quotable lines as we could remember while scuttling from ride to ride imitating Bluto’s spastic shuffle—an iconic tidbit of physical comedy by John Belushi, performed while he and his Delta brothers sneak into the barn to prank—fatally, as it turns out—Neidermeyer’s horse.

Favorite dialogue exchange:
Bluto (rousing his frat brothers to action): Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?
Otter (aside to Boon): Germans?

Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.


Grease (1978)

After taking me to three theatrical viewings, my father was understandably “over” Grease, so when I begged to see it again during that same summer of 1978, it was my big brother who was charged with taking me to the movies. As a child of rock ’n’ roll a decade older than me, I trust he really dug the 1950s-era source music, but I’m not so sure he was oblivious then to the fact that his kid brother secretly identified more with the Pink Ladies than with the T-Birds.

Favorite dialogue exchange:

Danny (upon sight of virginal Sandy dressed in slutty black tights): Sandy?!!
Sandy: Tell me about it, stud.


JFK (1991)

By the time Oliver Stone made JFK, he’d already won two Oscars for Best Director, and I was eager to see anything he produced. My brother is an avid history buff, and his admiration for the late president John F. Kennedy coupled with his fascination with the Warren Report made for a cinematic experience that surely transcended my own mere admiration for Stone’s distinctive craftsmanship.

Plus, the film’s A-list supporting roster includes Walter Matthau, who for most of the late actor’s autumnal years was a stunning doppelganger for our father.

Favorite dialogue exchange:
David Ferrie: It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma!


Back to the Future, Part II (1989)

Twenty-nine years ago this week, on Thanksgiving eve 1989, my brother and I attended a sold-out showing of Back to the Future Part II at a giant-screen cinema. While I find Part II to be the weakest film of the series, it was a blast experiencing it with an enthusiastic audience of 800 patrons.

Favorite dialogue:
Doc Brown (exclaimed frequently): Great Scott!


Trading Places (1983)

There is much to love in this John Landis rags-to-riches classic, not the least of which is the fact that the movie was filmed in Philadelphia and manages to make our hometown look good.

Thankfully the greedy Duke Brothers depicted in the film are nothing like our kin, though bits of their catty dialogue would echo during family functions for many years to come.

Favorite dialogue exchange:
Randolph Duke: Mother always said you were greedy.
Mortimer Duke: She meant it as a compliment.


The Blue Brothers (1980)

No other classic on this list is as mutually esteemed—nor as much fun—as this epic and ludicrous comic/musical opus, jammed to the brim with too many all-star performers of stage, screen, and radio to name here.

Not counting umpteen viewings on HBO and VHS throughout the ’80s, our brotherly bonds were intensified over the course of seeing this film on the big screen no fewer than four times during the summer of 1980. It helped tremendously that our father was a Philly policeman with a shared love for music and movies, and that the flash of his badge frequently substituted for movie ticket purchases.

Favorite dialogue exchange:

Woman (to Jake & Elwood): Are you the police?
Elwood: No, ma’am. We’re musicians.



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