COMMENTARY by Harriet Robbins

Now that the awards are being given out for the best films of the year, I wonder if you have ever thought about the effect films have had on your life.

In talking to others I have found that for most of us movies quickly became part of the fabric of growing up.

The wonder of it all, the captivating and provocative images, influenced me at an early age and have stayed with me ever since.

I can remember with clarity the first films I ever saw. The enchantment I experienced has proven to be long-lasting.

My father owned an early nickelodeon theatre which unfortunately burned down several times, putting him out of business. But his love for the movies continued and, like me, he was a regular visitor to the Saturday matinees at our neighborhood movie house. We did not go together but I remember hearing his cough and realizing that he was enjoying the same on-screen adventures as I.

I read somewhere that Steven Spielberg was also a regular visitor to his neighborhood movie house and credits his love of film--and succesful career as a filmmaker-- to those childhood visits.

In today's electronic age many of the new films reflect a much-changed way of telling stories. Special effects, Imax visions and computer animation have brought to the screen what was once thought impossible. I myself prefer stories that are anchored in reality, no matter how high they might fly into fantasy and technology.

One film I remember vividly is FRANKENSTEIN, starring Boris Karloff (1931). I went to see it in the late afternoon and it was dark when I left the theatre to return home. I was ten years old.

It was a scary walk--shadows enveloping me. The memory of that classic horror story still brings me a chill.

Over the years, some fifteen versions of Frankenstein have been produced, including YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1991), starring Gene Wilder, directed by Ted Newton. It is a classic comedy.

Also high on my list are the films of Orson Welles, such as Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil and The Magnificent Ambersons. As a kid, I was even enthralled by such matinee fare as Buck Rogers, Destination Saturn, a 12-part serial that kept me at the edge of my seat.

Some of the films up for current awards have evoked the same kind of feelings I had when small. About Schmidt, The Pianist, The Hours and Chicago have delighted me, as well as such foreign-language productions as Almodovar's Talk to Her and the excellent Korean film, The Way Home.

Movies are a rich, wonderful adventure, one in which all of us can share.