I feel fortunate my parents took me to the movies, took me to everything they saw. I remember seeing All the President’s Men when I was five years old. It’s one of my most vivid early memories. I remember seeing Apocalypse Now, Tender Mercies, Coal Miner’s Daughter, so many great films that opened my mind to the world, made me dream of places beyond myself. My Uncle Joe Heathcock played the sheriff in a film called The Last Picture Show and we had a poster from that film hanging in our basement. In a world before instant streaming and Netflix, with our local video stores limited in their stock and heavy on “blockbusters”, I actually didn’t get to see this film until I was in college. When I finally saw The Last Picture Show it changed my life. It was a beautiful film, and because my Uncle Joe was in the film, and because it was packed with music my father played around the house, because it was set in a part of the country where Heathcocks have long held stake, it seemed to come from me. That’s the only way to explain it—I felt as if the movie had emerged from inside of me. My passion for film has never diminished. Since 1995 I’ve kept a film log, and as of last night I’ve watched 3,177 films in that time. It’s no wonder film figures often into my fiction, with “Fort Apache” being, in part, a love song to cinema. Certainly, beyond being about film, movies informed my aesthetic on “Fort Apache”. Here’s a few films that worked their way into my imagination and back out again:
1. The Last Picture Show: The place was vivid, but the pain was all the more vivid. Very few films have captured the truth of struggle like this film by Peter Bogdonovich. So much is dying in this film, people, love, the town itself… Here’s a scene where Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) are told the local picture show will soon close down.