Hall of Influence – Class 4

It’s been four years since we enshrined anyone into our exclusive little club. For those that need a quick refresher the Hall of Influence was created in 2009 to honor those entities that have had a positive impact on me and my life. Excluded from this élite society are my personal friends & family because I can’t imagine that citizens of The Manoverse have much interest in me gushing about a bunch of people you’ve never heard of. In the past five years we have inducted the following individuals: Jesus Christ, The Rooney Family (owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers), author Mark Twain, entertainers Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & his most famous creation Sherlock Holmes, and talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh. Today we welcome five new members from the worlds of entertainment, music, & literature.

 

First up is a writer, producer, & director of some of my favorite films. In doing 80’s Movie Mania I have been reminded of the hughesprolific genius of John Hughes. He was the driving force behind some of the most beloved movies we fondly recall from the early 1980’s on into the infancy of the 21st century: Mr. Mom, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, the Vacation series, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Uncle Buck, Some Kind of Wonderful, Planes Trains & Automobiles, the Home Alone series, Only the Lonely, Dutch, a charming Miracle on 34th Street remake, The Great Outdoors…just to name a few. A plethora of actors owe their success to Hughes, and an entire generation of moviegoers are thankful that he made their teens & 20’s so enjoyable. John Hughes made what I call comfort food films. He wasn’t into violence or sex or special effects. His stories are little pieces of slightly exaggerated Americana. He didn’t utilize “gross-out” visuals or profanity to satiate tawdry & immature humor palates. His comedy was more subtle and character based. You can (and should) watch the works of John Hughes with your children. He was a genius that we lost way too soon, yet I am so grateful that we have such an abundant filmography to always appreciate. There are lots of folks out there who have important jobs…doctors, teachers, law enforcement, scientists, firefighters, engineers…and we value them all. However, having a legacy like that of John Hughes, wherein he helped to create a wealth of entertainment that has provided countless hours of delight to millions of people and will continue to do so for many years to come, is an accomplishment also worthy of praise.

 

vkmOur next honoree is a controversial figure and seems to enjoy every second of it. I first became a pro wrestling fan as a child in the early 1980’s, and the man most responsible for growing the business into the pop culture juggernaut that it became is the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr. VKM purchased the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father in the early 80’s. Up until that point pro wrestling had been a business made up of a bunch of cooperative regional territories. VKM took pro wrestling national, eventually running all of his competitors out of business. He created characters like Hulk Hogan, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, & “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He engaged the MTV Generation and made wrestling cool. For about a decade from the mid-80’s thru the early 90’s professional wrestling was an unabashed water cooler sensation, and while several people can take partial credit for the success there is no doubt that Vince McMahon was the lead dog. Everyone knows by now that wrestling is predetermined, choreographed entertainment and not an actual sport, but I don’t see that as an excuse for disparagement of its fans. The zombies on The Walking Dead aren’t real. Iron Man is fictional…not an actual superhero. Game of Thrones is pure fantasy. So why is it okay for people to go bonkers for those movies, books, & TV shows yet pro wrestling is belittled & disrespected?? Why is my chosen form or entertainment somehow less valid than yours?? At any rate, Vince McMahon and his creation have given me hours upon hours of guilty pleasure over the past few decades. He’s a little older and seemingly out of touch with what fans want these days, but I appreciate his past efforts and what he has built. Kudos.

 

dickens-at-deskOur third inductee today is one of the greatest authors in the history of literature. Charles Dickens was a towering figure of The Victorian Era, having risen from an impoverished son of less-than-supportive parents to the preeminent author of his generation. He produced a plethora of classic stories, including A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, & David Copperfield. He revived the celebration of Christmas with his novella A Christmas Carol. His works have been adapted into films hundreds of times. On the Mount Rushmore of Literature Shakespeare would have to be given the first spot, but I think Dickens would unanimously be awarded the next. His novels aren’t necessarily light & easy reading, as they are rife with social commentary, but neither are they difficult or oppressive. I am fortunate to have attended academic institutions in my youth that introduced to me to worlds that I otherwise may not have independently come to know & enjoy. Dickens deserves acclaim not because he produced one book or created a couple of characters that the masses loved. He had a long & distinguished career in which he achieved a consistent level of creativity and generated a long list of great books & memorable characters that people are still reading and learning about two centuries later. In a modern climate of short attention spans & disposable entertainment it is nice to know that once upon a time there were people so talented and mindful of the meaning of quality that they generated art that has stood the test of time. If you haven’t read Dickens since your high school English teacher forced you to decades ago I encourage you to give him another whirl. You just might be pleasantly surprised.

 

The next person to enter the hallowed Hall of Influence is the man that I consider to be the greatest actor of all time. James jimmysStewart was a mainstay of mid-20th century cinema from the 1930’s thru the 70’s. He starred in everything from goofy comedies to westerns to dramatic thrillers. He was as equally talented under the direction of John Ford as he was with filmmaker Frank Capra or the “Master of Suspense” Alfred Hitchcock. Citizens of The Manoverse are well acquainted with my love of Christmas films and specifically my admiration for Stewart’s 1946 classic It’s A Wonderful Life. I am also very fond of Stewart classics like Harvey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Vertigo, The Glenn Miller Story, & Rear Window. I have read a couple of Jimmy Stewart biographies, and there is every indication that he was a genuinely decent man with solid small town values and a quietly generous spirit. That gracious personality shines thru in his movie roles, even when the subject matter is a little heavy. There is a Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA about three hours up the road from me and I hope to make it there to visit someday.

 

The final inductee for this fourth class of the Hall of Influence is 70’s rock supergroup The Eagles. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I became a fan or what was the first song that caught my attention. It seems like The Eagles have always been a part of my life. An educated guess would probably zero in on their 1976 album Hotel California, with its titular hit single as well as songs like New Kid in Town and Life in the Fast Lane. That album was released when I was just four years old, but that is exactly when children soak things up like a sponge. I can envision 4 year old Me hearing those songs on the radio and deciding “Yeah…that’s cool. I like that.” The ensuing years saw the band take a lengthy hiatus beginning in 1980, but whereas most bands would just kind of fade away into the ether The Eagles actually became more popular after their demise. Demand for their music almost singlehandedly created the classic rock movement that is still a thing today. The Eagles reunited in the early 90’s, just in time for me to see them live in concert in Columbus, OH with some college friends. They came to Huntington, WV just a few miles from my college apartment a couple of years later, but the ticket prices were beyond my reach. At any rate, The Eagles are a difficult band to pigeonhole. They certainly aren’t hard rock and don’t appeal to headbangers, but neither are they really a country act. They are a singular hybrid, the product of a generation and the sum of various parts. The artists that have comprised the band over the years…Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Felder, Joe Walsh…all brought unique gifts and personalities to the table, and thankfully were able to meld together their talent to produce some of the greatest music ever written. If I were to create a soundtrack for my life there undoubtedly would be several Eagles songs on it.

80’s Movie Mania: Bodacious Round 2

First things first. Let’s tie up a loose end from the previous installment. In a coin flip I am giving The Outsiders a victory over Weird Science. The former is just too good to overlook, with a powerful story and an all-star cast, while the latter, though it is another collaboration between John Hughes and Anthony Michael-Hall, is probably their weakest effort. Okay, so…let’s move forward. Today we’ll have the second round of competition in the Bodacious Division. Rock n’ roll dudes!!

 

 

 

Bodacious 2

Batman vs. Pretty in Pink
1989-BatmanThere have been many incarnations of my favorite superhero. The Caped Crusader of course originated in comic books in 1939 and continues to be a staple of that medium today. A famously campy television show aired on ABC for three seasons in the late 1960’s. Director Christopher Nolan brought his dark & gritty vision of the character to the big screen in a solid film trilogy a decade ago. And before that directors Tim Burton then Joel Schumacher produced a quadrilogy (I think I just created a new word!) of Batman movies in the late 80’s/early 90’s. We’ll talk about the other films at some point in the future, but for now we focus on 1989’s Batman, the first of that quadrilogy. Starring Michael Keaton as the titular hero and the legendary Jack Nicholson as his archnemesis The Joker, Batman adequately reflects the character’s caliginous & savage comic book history while still remaining classic popcorn escapism. There were concerns about Keaton being cast in the starring role because he was known mostly for being a comedic actor, but he nailed it and to this day remains my favorite big screen Batman. Of course everybody knows that Nicholson steals the show and is still the best Joker ever, with all due respect to the late Heath Ledger. Anyone who has enjoyed the plethora of films in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” in the past several years should know that they owe a ton of credit to Batman for breathing new life into the genre nearly three decades ago. Unlike its opponent Pretty in Pink did not get a first round bye, besting Broadcast News in a close call. John Hughes, Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, John Cryer, If You LeavePretty in Pink has everything one could want in an 80’s film. A tip of the cap must be given to the powers-that-be for the ending, wherein the girl (Ringwald) DOESN’T pick the loveable loser best friend and instead chooses the good-looking rich guy…just like real life.

The Verdict: Batman. This is a tough one because Pretty in Pink is the prototypical 80’s movie, while Batman is slightly ahead of its time in embracing a gloomier 90’s-esque sensibility. However, I must go with my heart here. In my opinion this is the best comic book film ever made, although I have admittedly seen very few others.

 
Risky Business vs. Iron Eagle
risky-business-1983-02-gHe’s baaaacckk. Tom Cruise dominated the box office in the second half of the 80’s, but his breakout role came in 1983’s Risky Business. Cruise stars asiron-eagle high schooler Joel, whose parents leave him alone while they go on vacation. Like any normal teenager Joel goes a little nuts, including getting’ busy with a…lady of the night. After inadvertently sending his father’s Porsche into the river he must come up with some quick cash to get it repaired. The answer?? Turn the house into a brothel for a night…obviously. Risky Business not only features a fantastic soundtrack (Phil Collins, Bob Seger, Muddy Waters, Prince), but includes an iconic scene in which Joel dances around his living room in his underwear lipsynching Old Time Rock n’ Roll. Iron Eagle upset An Officer & A Gentlemen in Round 1. It ranked 41st at the box office in 1986, behind unremarkable bombs like Cobra, Children of a Lesser God, & Police Academy 3, but ahead of solid competition including Flight of the Navigator, Youngblood, & Brighton Beach Memoirs. Obscure trivia: Did you know that Robbie Rist, best known as Cousin Oliver in The Brady Bunch, has a role in Iron Eagle?? Well you do now!!

The Verdict: Risky Business. I love Iron Eagle, but Risky Business is a time capsule film and probably one of Cruise’s Top 5 roles.

Coming to America vs. St. Elmo’s Fire
coming-to-america1Eddie Murphy is back too. I’m sensing a theme. At any rate, 1988’s Coming to America is much more aligned with the kind of comedy we expect from sefMurphy. He stars as a pampered prince from one of those fictional nations that movies like to create, but doesn’t want to enter into an arranged loveless marriage. So the prince & his loyal assistant (played by Arsenio Hall) take off for NY City. There they find jobs at a McDonald’s-esque fast food joint and the prince falls in love with the owner’s lovely daughter. From there it is a classic fish-out-of-water story intertwined with a rom-com. James Earl Jones plays the king, while Samuel L. Jackson and Cuba Gooding Jr. have really small “blink and you’ll miss it” roles. This is undoubtedly one of Murphy’s best movies. St. Elmo’s Fire beat Romancing the Stone in the first round and is a classic Brat Pack film. It was the 23rd highest grossing film of 1985, behind stiff competition like Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, & The Goonies, but besting notable films like Teen Wolf, Weird Science, Young Sherlock Holmes, & Vision Quest. St. Elmo’s Fire, by the way, is “a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a sharp or pointed object in a strong electric field in the atmosphere, such as those generated by thunderstorms or created by a volcanic eruption, sometimes appeared on ships at sea during thunderstorms, regarded by sailors with religious awe for its glowing ball of light” and is named in honor of St. Erasmus of Formia, the patron saint of sailors. I have no idea what that has to do with the movie, but meaningless trivia is kind of my thing.

The Verdict: Coming to America. St. Elmo’s Fire has a fabled cast and a kickass theme song, but it is a flawed film, probably in part because it is directed by Joel Schumacher and John Hughes is nowhere in sight. Coming to America is directed by John Landis and has a likeable cast with a fun script. It doesn’t necessarily paint outside the lines, but it doesn’t really have to.

 
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home vs. Eddie & The Cruisers
trekThere were six films made with the cast of the original Star Trek series…William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForesteddie Kelley as Dr. Bones McCoy, George Takei as Sulu, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, Walter Koenig as Chekov, & James Doohan as Scotty…between 1979 and 1991. In this fourth installment the crew of the USS Enterprise goes back in time to modern day (1986) San Francisco to scoop up some humpback whales that will play a part in saving Earth in the 23rd century. It is a quintessential fish-out-of-water story, with our favorite space cowboys trying to fly under the radar in the 1980’s. It also holds up a rather humorous mirror to modern culture and allows the characters to really shine in a fun, lighthearted way. Eddie & The Cruisers scored an upset victory over the more acclaimed A Fish Called Wanda in Round 1 because that’s just how I roll. It is actually based on a novel that I may read someday. The premise is fantastic, but I have a lot of questions about the execution. In doing some reading about the film it sounds like it just ended up in the wrong hands and several mistakes were made. A more skilled director and production team might have made a movie that isn’t quite as overlooked & underappreciated as the final product.

The Verdict: Star Trek IV. I love Eddie & The Cruisers, but it could have been so much better. The Voyage Home isn’t necessarily a traditional Trek film. The action doesn’t take place in outer space and The Enterprise is MIA, but the script is really good and the cast does some of their finest work. It makes me smile, and in my book that’s pretty cool.

 
The Princess Bride vs. Cocktail
pb21987’s The Princess Bride is another film based on a book, the author being the guy who would go on to write or assist with screenplays for films like cButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, Misery, A Few Good Men, & Good Will Hunting. The film uses the book as a framing device, with Peter Falk (aka Columbo) starring as a grandfather reading to his ill grandson, played by a pre-Wonder Years Fred Savage. In the “fairy tale” a young farm girl named Buttercup falls in love with a laborer. He goes off to seek his fortune so they can be married but is presumed dead when his ship is attacked by an infamous pirate. A few years later Buttercup is set to marry the prince of yet another fictional country before she is kidnapped by one of the oddest trios you’ll ever see. Of course the young lady’s true love isn’t really dead and sets out to rescue her. The film is directed by Rob Reiner and has a charming cast, including Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, & Andre the Giant. The best way I can describe it is delightfully quirky…family friendly escapism at its best. Cocktail got the decision over Stripes in Round 1. It was the 9th highest grossing movie of 1988, beating out solid competition like Beetlejuice, Scrooged, Bull Durham, & Everybody’s All-American. The Beach Boys’ song Kokomo is the film’s unofficial theme song and was a #1 hit.

The Verdict: The Princess Bride. This is a tough one because I love Cocktail. It is probably the most underrated Cruise movie. But The Princess Bride, besides being a cult classic, is a really solid film and a lot of fun.

 

 

Stand By Me vs. Weekend at Bernie’s
Stand-By-Me-Website-Banner-3-980x363-980x363Stand By Me defeated K-9 in Round 1. It was the 13th highest grossing film of 1986, behind Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee, & Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but WeekendAtBernies_184Pyxurzahead of Pretty in Pink, The Fly, Three Amigos!, & Hoosiers. It was directed by Rob Reiner and features a cool 50’s soundtrack. The framing device with Richard Dreyfuss as an older version of one of the characters that lets us know how all of their lives ended up playing out is a nice touch. Weekend at Bernie’s got the first round decision over Bachelor Party. It ranked 39th at the box office in 1989, ahead of Road House, The Fabulous Baker Boys, & The Dream Team but behind crapfests like The Karate Kid Part III, The Abyss, & The Bear (whatever the heck that is). It is interesting to ponder what became of stars Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman. McCarthy…a member of the infamous Brat Pack who starred in notable films like Mannequin, Pretty in Pink, & St. Elmo’s Fire…hasn’t been in anything memorable since Bernie’s (unless one wants to generously include the 1993 sequel) and has more recently been doing guest spots in TV shows that no one watches. Silverman starred in a mid-90’s sitcom called The Single Guy for a couple of seasons and does a lot of TV stuff, but Bernie’s seems to be his career highlight. Fame is indeed fleeting.

The Verdict: Stand By Me. It isn’t even close.

Redskins, Monkeys, & Big Butts: A Recrimination of The United States of the Offended

Any citizen that has spent much time in The Manoverse knows a couple of things: I’m not easily offended and I despise political correctness. So it was with beleaguered bemusement that I observed a few recent incidents that had people talking…or stirring the pot…take your pick.

 

Washington_Redskins_logoThe first issue is a tried & true chestnut that ESPN loves to trot out periodically, but this time they had a reason. A new Washington Post poll came out indicating that 90% of Native Americans do not find the moniker of the NFL’s Washington, DC franchise…aka the Redskins…offensive. 80% don’t even believe it’s an issue worth discussing. That jives not only with what I’ve been saying for awhile but numerous other polls that have been conducted thru the years. I made sure to tune in to my favorite ESPN shows to get their reaction, and unfortunately it was mostly predictable…with one notable exception. You see, for some reason, mindless, spineless, weasely liberals HATE the majority. The mantra that I have heard repeatedly over the years about the Redskins in relation to these polls is that if 10% or even just ONE person…in the entire country…is offended by it then it must be changed!! It’s the same mentality that has gotten us into the quagmire created by “LGBT” issues, wherein the majority has been silenced in deference to a miniscule number of individuals. Screw the majority!! What most people want doesn’t matter!! We shall kowtow to the vocal minority!! To my utter amazement PTI’s Michael Wilbon, though he disagrees on a personal level, seemed to wave the white flag. He basically said that this latest poll pretty much shuts down the debate for the time being, and he is absolutely right. It should end the argument forever because a) it’s a media driven, completely fabricated controversy meant to stir the aforementioned pot, and b) the Washington Redskins have been in existence for 84 years and if the nickname was rubberstamped in 1932 and not changed in 1952, ’72, ’92, or 2002 then why bother now. About that last point I know what you’re saying: “But…but…times have changed!!”. We’ll get to that idiotic premise. Be patient.

 

adamsStaying in the world of sports, you may or may not know that the NBA Playoffs are going on right now. In the immediate aftermath cosellof a surprising victory over the defending champion Golden State Warriors an interview was conducted with Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams. During the interview a relieved, happy, exhausted Adams gave props to the athletic skills of his opponents, calling them “quick little monkeys”. Football fans of a certain age may recall that in 1983 Howard Cosell said of Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett “That little monkey gets loose doesn’t he??” during a Monday Night Football game, an incident that is often mixed up with a 1973 MNF telecast during which Cosell was showing highlights of the previous day’s games and said of another Redskins WR, Herb Mulkey, “Look at that little monkey run!”. At any rate, when Cosell abruptly left MNF after the 1983 season an urban legend grew giving the impression that he was pushed out in part due to his “offensive” comment. The truth is that Howard Cosell not only used monkey as a term of endearment for his own grandchildren but had also used it to describe athletes both black and white on multiple occasions. At any rate, Steven Adams was given a pass by the talking heads because not only was it obvious to anyone with a brain that there were no racist intentions, but also because he hails from New Zealand and has only been in America for a few years. His ignorance of our culture was thought to be a reasonable excuse…another train of thought to which we’ll circle back soon.

 

The third situation is a bit out of my wheelhouse but it illustrates the point so we’ll go for it. Alleged actress Blake Lively, whose only work I am vaguely familiar with is the delightful 2005 film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, recently posted a photo of herself on Instagram. The marginally lovely Ms. Lively, who is married to the guy who just played Deadpool, is apparently pregnant but the weight has mostly gone to her booty for now. Yes I just used the term “booty”. I’m hip like that. Anyway, she captioned the pic “L.A. face with an Oakland booty” (because she’s hip too), which are lyrics from Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 90’s hit Baby Got Back. Now let’s be honest…anyone who has utilized social media for longer than five minutes has probably used song lyrics as a status update, Tweet, or photo caption. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, everybody has done it. Harmless fun, right?? Well, except to the PC Police, who see racism in EVERYTHING and wouldn’t know fun if it sat on their laps, fed them grapes, & sang a song.

 

As mentioned, one of the reasons the Steven Adams remark was quickly forgiven is because he isn’t from America. He doesn’t know our ways or understand what we mirror-1might consider offensive. So has anyone considered the possibility that we may want to look at our collective selves in the mirror?? Maybe we are doing it wrong. If people in New Zealand don’t find the term monkey offensive then why do we?? If the Washington Redskins was a good enough name in 1932 and even today 90% of the population the name could conceivably offend aren’t offended by it then what is the freakin’ problem?? If a gal with a big butt references a song about gals with big butts then what exactly is the issue?? It was common knowledge three decades ago that Howard Cosell meant nothing offensive with his comments and often used the word monkey in a positive way. Yet here we are talking about it because people are under the impression that Cosell was an evil racist.

 

americaProgressive types constantly use the thought that “times have changed” as a defense for their madness, but I have two questions. First, is that really true? And secondly, if yes then how much and in what way?? Certainly there are thought processes and social norms that evolve…sometimes in a positive way. Women have a lot more freedoms & rights than they did a century ago, which is wonderful. Slavery ended after The Civil War but it took another century after that for black folks to achieve legitimate legal equality. I don’t know why it takes so long for obvious things to become obvious, but clearly it sometimes does. That being said, my issue is that this is the United States of America. The greatest nation on Earth…or atleast Americans used to believe that. We used to tackle big issues. We fought world wars in defense of big ideas like democracy & freedom. We ended slavery. We got women the right to vote and do any other thing they decide they want to do. We welcomed tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free because they came here wanting a better life and happily assimilated and embraced American culture. We went to space and walked on the moon. We invented light bulbs, airplanes, jazz music, baseball, & The Internet. But now?? We indulge a small percentage of the population who wants to argue about the name of a sports team. We take wholesome TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard off the air because a handful of people are offended by a flag. We stoke the fires of a national debate about bathrooms to pander to an infinitesimal percentage of mentally ill people who need treatment not absolution. We are offended by innocuous uses of language that clearly have no malevolent intent. We seem all too willing to sacrifice fundamental rights that the Founding Fathers deemed bedrock principles of the nation. To the extent that “times have changed” I’m not at all sure that they have changed for the better. We tell ourselves that these modifications are positive because we’re more educated, informed, open-minded, multicultural, & inclusive now than ever before, but that’s a bunch of poppycock. There is a thin line between awareness and hypersensitivity and that line gets crossed more & more every day.

 

1The media only exacerbates the problem. Journalists don’t look at their jobs as simply reporting the news. They believe it is their responsibility to shape the narrative. They view themselves as crusaders fighting for the little guy, for those not in a position to help themselves,thus their disdain for the majority. They prefer to be champions for the minority, to be the voice of the voiceless. Isn’t it ironic that…despite claims to the contrary…it is often liberals who side with the 1%, atleast on some issues.

 

The fact is that most people are decent folks. Very few are looking to harm anyone literally or figuratively. Redskins is just the name of a football team, its original focus-glassintent was to honor Native Americans…not insult them. Monkeys are cute little animals, imagery rarely used for racially insensitive purposes. Song lyrics are just that, and if one has a problem with the words then target the songwriter, not fans of the music who innocently regurgitate those words. The world would be a much better place, and more specifically America might get back to achieving great things, if everyone would step off their high horse, get their priorities straight, and focus on what’s really important.

80’s Movie Mania: Gnarly Round 2

Welcome back to Round 2. Surprisingly enough I posted no polls for the Tubular Division so we have no loose ends to tie up.  That may change today…or it might not. So, without further ado…let’s roll.

 

 

 

 

Gnarly 2

 

Top Gun                                 vs.              Crocodile Dundee

topgun2Once upon a time, before Tom Cruise became a couch jumping whackjob, he was the epitome of cool. And hecroc2 just so happened to make some really good movies…something he hasn’t done with regularity for about 15 years. At any rate, in 1986’s Top Gun Cruise portrays a cocky pilot given the opportunity to train at the elite U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program, more popularly known as Top Gun. Once there he annoys just about everybody with his arrogance, but his immense talent cannot be ignored. Oh, he also happens to get romantically involved with one of his instructors. The cast includes Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Kelly McGillis, Tom Skerrit, Meg Ryan, & Tim Robbins, and the soundtrack is amazing. With songs by Kenny Loggins, Cheap Trick, Berlin, Loverboy, Miami Sound Machine, Jerry Lee Lewis, & The Righteous Brothers it epitomizes the 1980’s while also giving a nod to the past. Crocodile Dundee did not receive a first round bye, narrowly defeating Purple Rain, a decision I feel slightly guilty about after the untimely death of rock legend Prince. Ah well…what’s done is done. Dundee was the 2nd highest grossing film of 1986…Top Gun was #1. What we must ponder is which film has aged better and I think the answer is obvious.

 

The Verdict:       Top Gun. As crazy as Cruise may be in real life credit must be given where it is due. While lots of movies get made every year the fact is that the vast majority of them are forgotten about five minutes after we leave the theater. And just like music’s “one hit wonders” there are a ton of actors who may get lucky enough to do one decent project and then they fall off the map. Tom Cruise has hung around for over thirty years and made atleast a dozen or more movies that people remember with varying degrees of affection. Top Gun is amongst his best work and holds a special place in the collective pop culture consciousness of a certain generation.

 

 

 

 

Uncle Buck                                      vs.              The Last Starfighter

buckJohn Candy passed in 1994 at the age of 43…far too soon. Fortunately he left behind a plethora of starfighter2unforgettable work, including 1989’s Uncle Buck. Candy portrays a slovenly bachelor who is called upon to babysit his brother’s children for a few days due to a family emergency. There are a handful of recognizable faces in Uncle Buck, including 8 year old MacCaulay Culkin in his first significant role, but make no mistake…Candy carries the film and does it well. Written, produced, & directed by the incomparable John Hughes, Uncle Buck spawned a short-lived TV show the following year, but without Candy it was doomed. The Last Starfighter upended Police Academy in Round 1 and is a criminally underrated sci-fi adventure. It ranked 31st at the box office in 1984, way behind more celebrated films like Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid, Footloose, Splash, & The Terminator. Admittedly its appeal is probably limited to sci-fi nerds like myself, but that’s okay. It is quirky & inspired and deserves more appreciation than it gets.

 

The Verdict:       Uncle Buck. John Hughes ruled the box office throughout the 1980’s, and John Candy was an underrated actor with a remarkable filmography. They made a great team and this is their best work together.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Morning Vietnam                  vs.              Biloxi Blues

gmvIt’s Vietnam vs. WWII! I have been effusive in my praise of the late Robin Williams and it makes me sad that we’ll never see any more new specimens of his genius. One of the first indicators of the immensity of his talent came in 1987’s Good Morning Vietnam. Williams portrays Armed Forces Radio DJ Adrien Cronauer in a film based on a true story. As with many of Williams’ films that would follow the subject matter is at times dramatic but always tinged with the star’s unique brand of humor. He received his first Academy Award nomination for the role. The cast also includes Forest Whitaker (who would win his own Oscar two decades later), Bruno Kirby, & JT Walsh, and a solid soundtrack has songs by The Beach Boys, Frankie Avalon, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, & The Supremes. Biloxi Blues edged out Parenthood in Round 1. It was the 23rd highest grossing film of 1988, ahead of competition like Mississippi Burning, The Accidental Tourist, & Mystic Pizza in what was a particularly strong year at the box office.

 

The Verdict:       Good Morning Vietnam. As much as I like the combo of Christopher Walken & Matthew Broderick I like Robin Williams 1000x more. It’s a different kind of war film that doesn’t completely ignore the violence & turmoil but doesn’t wallow in it either. This marks the moment Williams segued from legendary comedian to movie star.

 

 

 

 

Airplane!                                 vs.              Beetlejuice

airplane1980’s Airplane! received a first round bye and now enters the arena as the second oldest film in the beetlejuice2competition. It was inspired by a 1957 disaster flick called Zero Hour, but turns the idea on its ear by making it a hilarious parody. Four tough guy actors who had never before done comedy…Robert Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, & Lloyd Bridges…were cast in lead roles. It’s the kind of thing Robert DeNiro has done with some regularity in the past decade. At any rate, the movie is loaded with sight gags, silly wordplay, & amusing cameos to the point that the plot sort of takes a back seat. Shakespeare it is not, but Airplane! does the yeoman’s work of making its audience laugh, which is sort of the point. Beetlejuice got the decision over Turner & Hooch in Round 1 even though it isn’t the kind of film normally in my wheelhouse. There is some buzz about a Beetlejuice sequel, especially since Michael Keaton is an even bigger star now than he was in 1988. Winona Ryder hasn’t had much career success in the past decade (or two) so she’s got to be praying hard that it happens.

 

The Verdict:       Airplane!. Say the words “parody film” and Airplane! almost immediately comes to mind. It set the standard for a genre that has seen its share of success with films like The Naked Gun, Spaceballs, the Austin Powers series, & Robin Hood: Men in Tights. They all surely owe a serious debt of gratitude to Airplane!.

 

 

 

Say Anything…                     vs.              48 Hrs.

sayanything1989’s Say Anything is in the mix after receiving a first round bye. It is a romantic dramedy that’s just a little…different…from the typical high school films that were so in vogue in the 80’s. John Cusack stars as Lloyd Dobler, a recent high school graduate with absolutely no plans for his future. He is hit by the thunderbolt at his graduation ceremony and becomes focused on pursuing Diane Court, the beautiful valedictorian who seemingly has it all together. Miraculously the quest works and the two begin dating during the summer before she intends to take off for a fellowship in England. There is a solid supporting cast, including Joan Cusack as Lloyd’s sister who is a single mother herself, the sublime John Mahoney (now better remembered as Frasier Crane’s Dad) as Diane’s overprotective and somewhat shady father, and smaller roles for folks we know better now than we did back then: Lili Taylor, Bebe Neuwirth, Eric Stoltz, Jeremy Piven, & Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson). At the end of the day though this is John Cusack’s show and he knocks it out of the park. 48 Hrs. narrowly beat out Teen 48-hrs_592x299Wolf in Round 1. The 80’s were very good to Eddie Murphy. He was THE star of Saturday Night Live before jumping into movies like Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, & Coming to America. Since then his career feels like it’s been two decades of mediocrity. One cannot help but wonder how the dominoes would have fallen if Richard Pryor had been cast as originally planned. A sequel…imaginatively titled Another 48 Hrs….was made in 1990, but no one remembers it even exists.

 

The Verdict:       Say Anything…. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s just something about this movie that has allowed it to remain in the 80’s pop culture consciousness. Maybe it is the performance of Cusack, who should have become every bit the superstar that contemporaries like Cruise, Swayze, & Michael J. Fox did but never quite got there. Perhaps it is the charm of Ione Skye, a beautiful lass that, much like fellow 80’s hotties Phoebe Cates, Mia Sara, & Jennifer Grey, shot to fame and then just as quickly fell off the map. Or possibly some credit should be given to the fact that every time we hear Peter Gabriel’s hit In Your Eyes we STILL picture Lloyd Dobler in a trenchcoat, boombox held high above his head, trying desperately to win back the love of his life. It’s probably all of the above.

 

 

 

 

The Outsiders                        vs.              Weird Science

outsiders2Both of these films overcame stiff competition in Round 1. Well okay, The Outsiders beat My Tutor, wswhich isn’t exactly stiff competition, while Weird Science got the nod over Raising Arizona, a film that a lot of people really enjoy. The Outsiders was only the 28th highest grossing film of 1983, behind two James Bond movies, something called Blue Thunder (????), and a bunch of bad sequels like Psycho II, Porky’s II: The Next Day, & Jaws 3D. However it did better than A Christmas Story, All the Right Moves, and re-issues of classics Rear Window & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hindsight is 20/20, and thankfully we have home video to help us catch up with good things we may have foolishly disregarded the first time. Weird Science did even worse in 1985, ranking only 38th in a very competitive year at the box office, although the fact that it made less money than forgettable schlock like Spies Like Us, White Knights, Jagged Edge, & Agnes of God should embarrass somebody…mainly the viewing public. I know which way I lean here, but I’m going to throw a bone to The Manoverse. You’re welcome.

The Fruits of the Spirit – Temperance

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
– William Shakespeare

fruitNearly seven years ago we began a quest to examine, assess, and learn about the nine Fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Today we finish that journey. I don’t know why it has taken seven years to complete a project that could have easily been wrapped up in a few months, but hey…I just go with the flow folks.

 

If you’d like a refresher on what we’ve talked about previously just follow the links to see my thoughts on love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness/gentleness/goodness/meekness, and faithfulness.

 

tempWe are crossing the finish line by taking a closer look at temperance. The first thing that probably comes to mind is The Temperance Movement, which dealt with promoting moderate consumption or even outright banning of alcoholic beverages, especially in early 20th century America. However, the Biblical definition of temperance is a little more comprehensive.

 

There are two words in the Bible that correlate with temperance. The first is enkrateia, which means “strong in a thing; strength; power; dominion; having power over; being master of.” The second word is nephalios, which has the same general meaning but more specifically refers to self-control as it relates to drunkenness.

 

Obviously we know that temperance is, in part, about avoiding intoxication. The Bible cautions against drunkenness on multiple drunkoccasions. Isaiah 5:11 warns “woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them.” Proverbs 20:1 says that “wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” Ephesians 5:18 instructs us “do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”, with dissipation being a synonym for debauchery. Proverbs 23:29-33 asks “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?” and answers “Those who linger long at the wine and go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things.” Isaiah 28:7 says that ”The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink. They are swallowed up by wine. They are out of the way through intoxicating drink. They err in vision and stumble in judgment.” Though drinking wine seems to have been a part of normal, everyday life in Biblical times, God’s Word strongly advises against imbibing to the point of intoxication. There are two reasons for this.

 

First of all, when referring to drunkenness the Bible often uses the Greek word methuo, which means “to be filled”. Look at Ephesians 5:18 again. It says not to be drunk with wine but to be filled with the Spirit. If we’re going to fill anything…our body, our mind, our time…it should be with the Holy Spirit or corresponding things that are edifying to and glorify God. Romans 8:5-8 says that “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

 

drunk3Secondly, Mark 7:15-20 says that “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. Whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled. What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” Think about that in terms of intoxication. It’s not the wine, beer, or liquor that is the issue. They are merely things that we are putting into our bodies. But what often happens when we overindulge and get drunk?? We make bad decisions, say & do wrong things, and generally act immoral & ungodly. So the actions that come out of us as a result of that intoxication are what defile us in the eyes of God, not to mention tarnishing our relationships and our reputation.

 

This thought process can be expanded to so much more than just our use of alcoholic beverages. Temperance requires moderation in everything. It is the ability to master our desires. It is a sense of duty with regard to conduct. It is the practice of always controlling actions, thoughts, or feelings. The influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart should make a person moderate in all indulgences, teaching them to restrain passions and control evil propensities.

 

Glutton ElfThe opposite of the Fruits of the Spirit are the works of the flesh spoken about in Galatians anger5:19-21. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” All of these things are the opposite of temperance. They indicate gluttony, wrath, & being out of control. Proverbs 16:32 teaches that “he who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city..” Self-control is mastery over passions, thoughts, emotions, & words. It is the virtue that holds our appetites in check, controlling our rational will and regulating our conduct without being duly swayed by sensuous desires.

 

Jesus2Self-denial, self-sacrifice, & self-control are inextricably linked in Christian life, but notice the troublesome use of the word “self”. It is indicative of the stubborn human notion of trying to achieve this massive goal on our own, which is demonstrably impossible. This is another reason why temperance is a key fruit that we must exhibit. Temperance is vital to demonstrate to God that He is in control…not one’s flesh. It is the proof that Jesus is the Lord of one’s life. Controlling ourselves, denying human nature its impulse to satisfy its desire, and even sacrificing ourselves are necessary if we are to stop sinning as a way of life. With God’s Holy Spirit help we can practice temperance. Titus 2:11-14 says “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Temperance is a necessary building block in our relationship with Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-9 instructs us to “Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. If these things are yours and abound you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Jesus3Lord Jesus Christ, for he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Romans 13:12-14 says that we must “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Galatians 5:16-17 says to “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another.”

 

And what is the ultimate goal of this temperance (as with all the Fruits of the Spirit)?? 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 says “Do you not heavenknow that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” I’m not very athletic and don’t know much about running races, but I am knowledgeable enough to know that one must have the proper tools & training to compete. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 lays the cards right out on the table, cautioning “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Timothy 3:8 says that “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 4.16

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

voteKudos to the architects of early voting. I was able to go to my local shopping mall a couple of weeks before Election Day and perform my civic duty in a leisurely, comfortable, uncrowded environment. I have voted early in previous years at the county courthouse, but this was even better. Someday we’ll all be able to vote for President, Governor, Mayor, etc. from the comfort of our own homes using our computer or phone, which will be really cool. But until then I’ll take the enjoyable opportunity to cast a ballot in between browsing the bookstore, stimulating my olfactory palate at the candle shop, & grabbing an unhealthy yet scrumptious bite to eat.

 

 

I am a problem solver, so I would like to offer a few suggestions as to who should replace Michael Strahan as the unfortunate soul forced to endure Kelly Ripa on that insipid morning show every day. Ripa has already retired Regis Philbin and now has sent Strahan running to Good Morning America, so I really think she needs to go as well, but apparently ABC disagrees. At any rate, she needs a new co-host and I’m here to help:

  • Gary Busey – the idea that he could snap at any moment and wipe that phony smile off Ripa’s face on live television adds a level of intrigue the show has traditionally lacked
  • Vanna White – she doesn’t even turn the freakin’ letters anymore in her primary gig…I think she can handle a second job
  • Someone From The Food Network – anyone that will feed Ripa so she doesn’t look like one of those Ethiopian children Sally Struthers used to steal food from
  • Eddie Van Halen – she can’t keep a co-host, he can’t keep a lead singer for his eponymous band…Dr. Phil could make frequent guest appearances
  • Bernie Sanders – not even Republicans can deny it’d be entertaining
  • Stephen Hawking – she’s gonna do all the talking anyway
  • David Letterman – I’d tune in for that!!
  • Jon Stewart – he’s not doing anything important right now
  • Tiger Woods – Ripa is a pretty blonde…put her in a waitress uniform and you’ve got gold baby!!

 

 

Dear Bicyclists: GET OUT OF THE ROAD!!!!

 

 

Because I am here not just to entertain but to educate, let’s talk about two easily confused minerals…

healthyManganese promotes healthy bone structure, regulation of blood sugar level, and metabolism of fats & carbohydrates. Symptoms of manganese deficiency include high blood pressure, heart ailments, muscular contraction, bone malformation, high cholesterol, poor eyesight, hearing trouble, severe memory loss. It is thought that more than 35 % of the world population may be deficient, but one can help the situation by consuming foods high in manganese: oats, brown rice, nuts, green leafy vegetables, pineapple, raspberries, bananas, cucumbers, strawberries, black tea, & garlic. Magnesium increases energy, calms nerves & anxiety, relieves constipation, alleviates muscle spasms, regulates levels of calcium, potassium, & sodium, improves heart health, prevents migraine headaches, and helps prevent osteoporosis. About 68% of Americans are deficient, with symptoms including loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions & cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms. To increase your magnesium eat spinach, beans, quinoa, tuna, sesame, sunflower, & pumpkin seeds, papaya, watermelon, and cauliflower.   

 

 

Serious question…

Why are Christians who believe in the Word of God and promote the teachings of Jesus Christ considered close-minded, bigoted, Deep-Thoughtjudgmental assholes while anyone who endorses “equality”, “fairness”, & “tolerance” is apparently pure as the driven snow?? It seems to me that leftists are amongst the most intolerant of people. They immediately resort to name-calling and petty insults. Okay, so we have a difference of opinion. Let’s be mature adults and either discuss our opposing views rationally or take the high road and not debate them at all. Either way is better than passive aggressive, childish, small-minded behavior. I’m sick of Christians being accused of forcing our beliefs on people when in reality we have been compelled by the forces of pop culture & political correctness to mute our opinions or suffer the consequences.

 

 

I just can’t do grocery store sushi. Can’t pull the trigger.

 

 

force2So I finally watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I was in the hospital when it hit theaters last December, and by the time I got back out & about it was gone. It is a really solid film…not quite as good as the original trilogy, but off to a better start than the heavily scorned prequel trilogy (although I think Revenge of the Sith was rather entertaining). One must remember that back when Star Wars first came out in the late 70’s sequels weren’t really a thing. They certainly weren’t a given. Therefore the first movie stood on its own because it had to. Nowadays sequels are assumed or even greenlit before the first movie ever sees the light of day, so the first effort often feels like a setup for future films because…well…it is. Having said all that, there are some really great scenes in The Force Awakens. Even though I knew it was coming (because one cannot escape spoilers for five months) the death of Han Solo really felt like a punch in the gut. And the ending…with the long awaited appearance of Luke Skywalker…is tremendous. The new characters are interesting, and fans can now happily anticipate the next installment, which I assume will focus on a mentor/student relationship between Luke & Rey.

 

80’s Movie Mania: Tubular Round 2

Welcome to Round Two of 80’s Movie Mania. This round will feature 20 films that we have yet to discuss, as five in each division received first round byes. I would really appreciate Manoverse participation, as all of these combatants have their own merits and it’s going to be very difficult to make certain choices. In situations where I am forced to decide a winner my own bias is a key factor. I appreciate the fact that some movies have been critically acclaimed, made lots of money at the box office, or won a plethora of awards. Those are all influential elements. However, at the end of the day it all comes down to one big question: If I am sitting around The Bachelor Palace on a lazy rainy afternoon with nothing else better to do than flip thru the channels or hop on Netflix and check out a good old movie what would I choose to watch?? That is the overriding guiding light. In many cases I can be persuaded in one direction or another which…theoretically…is where YOU come in. Let’s make it happen. At any rate, we’ll kick off the 2nd Round with the Tubular Division, and as always thanks so much for taking time to visit The Manofesto.

 

 

 

Tubular 2

 

The Blues Brothers               vs.              European Vacation

european_vacationbb31980’s The Blues Brothers received a first round bye and makes its Mania debut right now. Starring Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi as a couple of musicians/career criminals with a robust admiration for blues music, the idea sprouted from a Saturday Night Live skit in which Jake & Elwood Blues, clad in dark suits, fedoras, & sunglasses, would perform on the show. After three SNL appearances their popularity grew to the point that they were doing concerts and producing albums. The film finds Jake being released from prison and both brothers “putting the band back together” to save the orphanage in which Jake & Elwood grew up. It features fantastic cameos from the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Chaka Khan, Joe Walsh, & John Lee Hooker, and has stars such as John Candy, Carrie Fisher, Steven Spielberg, & Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) in bit parts. The soundtrack is amazing for those of us that like that particular kind of music. A sequel was made in 1998, but as much as I like John Goodman he’s no Belushi. European Vacation defeated Three Amigos! in Round 1 and is a lot better than people may recall. Taking the Griswold clan out of the car and putting them in different locations across Europe was a really interesting idea. The two actors portraying Rusty & Audrey are my least favorite of all that have inhabited the roles. It’s a tall order to live up to the original Vacation, but this one gives it a good go.

 

The Verdict:       The Blues Brothers. Great cast. Awesome music. Fun cameos. It’s a cult classic for a reason.

 

 

 

 

Lethal Weapon                      vs.              La Bamba

lw1987’s Lethal Weapon received a first round bye, while La Bamba got the decision over Three Men & A labamba2Baby. Lethal Weapon is an action flick, which is usually not my cup of tea. However, the cast is so good and the script is infused with enough humor & character development that it rises above the usual limitations of the genre. Mel Gibson plays a cop on the edge after the unfortunate death of his wife. He is paired with Danny Glover as an older officer pondering life after the police department. Riggs & Murtaugh are a classic film duo…one a loose cannon with nothing to lose and the other a by-the-book family man who just wants to ease into retirement. They are forced to put their differences aside and investigate an apparent suicide that develops into a much more sinister case. The supporting cast is superb, including Gary Busey as a crazy felon…a role he was born to play. The first film was followed by three sequels that I personally like just fine, but none quite recapture the original magic. La Bamba re-introduced the world to Ritchie Valens, a young singer who died tragically in a plane crash that famously also took the lives of 50’s rockers Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Valens was only 17 years old at the time of his demise and had produced a few hits, including Donna, Come On Let’s Go, & La Bamba. One cannot help but wonder what he could have become had he lived. It is my understanding that his influence on the Latino community has been immense and I am glad that, with the help of this film, he finally got some well-deserved recognition from the masses.

 

The Verdict:       Lethal Weapon. How can you not love it?? It’s got action, atmosphere, great characters, & lots of fun.

 

 

 

 

Ghostbusters                         vs.              Mr. Mom

ghostI know there is a remake coming out soon, but who cares?? It can’t possibly live up to the original 1984 mr momGhostbusters, which enters this contest after having a 1st Round bye. Starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, & Harold Ramis as a team of ghost hunters way before such a profession became fashionable and the paranormal evolved into a widespread cultural fad, the cast also includes Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, & Sigourney Weaver as well as cameos by Larry King, Casey Kasem, Bill Walton, & Ron Jeremy (yes…THAT Ron Jeremy). The movie also features an infectious theme song by Ray Parker Jr., who hasn’t done anything notable since. Mr. Mom defeated Porky’s in the first round. It was the ninth highest grossing movie of 1983, ahead of competition like Risky Business, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Big Chill, Scarface, & A Christmas Story. Impressive indeed. Michael Keaton did about a half dozen good movies in the 1980’s and this is probably my second favorite.

 

The Verdict:       Mr. Mom. It’s another upset for the underrated Mr. Mom. I know there are Ghostbusters enthusiasts out there that would strongly disagree with the decision, but again it comes down to repeat viewings and what I would choose to watch while channel surfing, and the fact is that I’ve seen Mr. Mom a hundred times and would likely always choose it over Ghostbusters.

 

 

 

 

Dirty Dancing                         vs.              Moonstruck

dd2After receiving a first round bye 1987’s Dirty Dancing enters the fray. Mostly what people remembermoonstruck2 about Dirty Dancing is A) it starred Patrick Swayze, B) the fantastic soundtrack, & C) the dancing…of course. That is probably enough to qualify it as a quintessential 80’s time capsule movie, but it also had a storyline. It takes place in the early 60’s at an exclusive resort in New York’s Catskill Mountains and features Jennifer Grey as a young woman who receives forbidden dance lessons from the resort’s dance instructor Johnny Castle (a really cool name) and falls for him. The romance is classic Romeo/Juliet, good girl/”bad” guy, right/wrong side of the tracks stuff, but the formula works as long as there is a creative spin. Moonstruck beat out Flashdance in Round 1 and interestingly runs up against more musically inclined competition here. Having grown up in an Italian family I appreciate the broad strokes in Moonstruck, and really enjoy the performance of Nicolas Cage. It was the 5th highest grossing film of 1987, ahead of La Bamba, Lethal Weapon, and yes…Dirty Dancing. Cher may be nuttier than a fruitcake but she has been in some damn fine movies.

 

The Verdict:       Dirty Dancing. Moonstruck is undoubtedly the “better” movie by almost any metric. However, Dirty Dancing is the more memorable movie. For anyone who came of age in the 1980’s it is one of the signature films of that era, and it seems to be that the things we enjoyed as teenagers…movies, songs, TV shows, etc…leave an indelible mark on our soul.

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Chill                          vs.              Scarface

1983’s The Big Chill is undeniably a commentary on 60’s rebels facing the perils of adulthood in the scarface2“greedy” Reagan era. But it is also a universal story about growing up and understanding that, though college may have been the best time of your life, there comes a time when it is necessary to move forward. The cast…featuring stars like Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Cline, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, & William Hurt…is unsurpassed. They gather together to mourn the suicide of a close friend who was to be portrayed by Kevin Costner, but his flashback scenes got cut, which is unfortunate. The Big Chill may have been the genesis for my appreciation of the dramedy, because goshdarnit I like to have some laughs mixed into my tragedy. Scarface easily beat out License to Drive in Round 1 because Al Pacino will kick the snot out of as many Coreys as you can throw at him. It was only the 16th highest grossing film of 1983, behind stinkers like Jaws 3-D, Superman III, & Staying Alive, which perfectly illustrates both the pitfalls of sequels and exactly why they get made in the first place.

 

The Verdict:        The Big Chill. Some movies appeal to a very specific target audience. Scarface fits that bill, and I am not the kind of moviegoer that really enjoys violence, rampant drug use, & abundant gunfire. I prefer to laugh. The Big Chill isn’t a comedy, but it is well-written with great performances and really speaks to me on a deeper level.

 

 

 

 

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure   vs.     WarGames

Bill-and-TedNeither of these opponents had a first round bye. Bill & Ted beat out Mel Brooks’ History of the World wargames2Part 1, while WarGames got a Round 1 victory over The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. WarGames was the fifth highest grossing film of 1983. Bill & Ted ranked 32nd at the 1989 box office. A more useful indicator may be Rotten Tomatoes, where WarGames has a 93% Fresh rating and Bill & Ted has a 79% Fresh rating. Well okay…maybe that isn’t quite as helpful as I’d hoped.

 

The Verdict:       WarGames. It’s a tossup, and I am tempted to leave it in the hands of The Manoverse, but I am resisting the temptation. WarGames might be a tad bit dated and a candidate to be remade with more modern technology, but that is part of the charm that definitively marks it as an 80’s film. The Cold War is a relic of the past and we face new dangers nowadays, but the fear & paranoia felt by many back then can’t be matched. WarGames is the perfect blend of subtle social commentary and edge-of-your-seat fun. It is the rare action-adventure flick without much violence. A masterstroke indeed.

Sherlock Holmes: The “Novels”

Four Sherlock Holmes novels were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle between 1887 & 1914. Of course he also wrote 56 short stories featuring Holmes, but we’ll do a little something with those in the future. For now let’s examine the novels.

 

 

 

 

 

A Study in Scarlet

scarletI am a sucker for origin stories, and Scarlet is the genesis of the Holmes-Watson friendship. It lays the foundation for everything we know about Sherlock Holmes…his physical features, his unique personality, his keen knowledge of certain subjects (and lack of familiarity with others), & the whole idea of deductive reasoning as it applies to crime solving specifically and assessing people & situations in general. Oh, and it also gives us the very first case that Holmes & Watson ever worked on together as well as Dr. Watson’s first foray into chronicling their adventures. That mystery involves a double murder in which the catalyst is…of course…a woman. The middle section of the story takes us back to Salt Lake City a couple of decades earlier and promotes some rather harsh ideas about the Mormon religion. We must not overlook the success of A Study in Scarlet in stimulating the public appetite for Sherlock Holmes. He is a literary icon a century later in part because Scarlet provided such a great beginning.

 

 

The Sign of the Four

fourThree years after A Study in Scarlet and a year before the first of the short stories was published came this little gem. The story revolves around the mysterious death of a British Army officer and the disappearance of the treasure that he had absconded with from India. There is much more exposition about Holmes’ methods, philosophy, & attitudes, and a latter section of the tale features a thrilling boat chase down the celebrated River Thames. The client who initially hires Holmes is Mary Morstan, who quickly falls for Dr. Watson and would go on to become his wife…one of them anyway. The opening & closing scenes of The Sign of the Four allude to Sherlock Holmes’ disturbing cocaine habit, one of the few controversial aspects of the canon, especially thru the prism of modern sensibilities.

 

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles

hound2In 1893, after two novels and 24 short stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided to kill off Sherlock Holmes. However, the public clamored for more of the world’s greatest detective and in 1901 Doyle relented with this novel, set before Holmes’ alleged death at Reichenbach Falls in a battle with his archenemy Moriarty. It tells a tale of the mysterious death of a wealthy aristocrat in the south of England, possibly at the paws of a fabled demonic dog that is part of an old family legend. A new heir is set to inherit the family estate and all that comes with it, but strange things are afoot and the young gentleman’s life may also be in danger. Dr. Watson accompanies Sir Henry Baskerville to his new digs and Sherlock Holmes is actually MIA for a big chunk of the story, but eventually he arrives on the scene to unravel the mystery. The eight year break must have treated Doyle well because the writing here is stupendous. Hound is set in October and the author effectively fashions the mood of a dreary, dank, foreboding autumn. Doyle makes one want to stay far far away from a British moor. There are several interesting characters and the mystery is more nuanced than most other Holmes stories. Hound was so well received that Doyle went on to write 32 more short stories and an additional novel.

 

 

The Valley of Fear

vfThe final Sherlock Holmes novel was written in 1914. Holmes & Watson are dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of an English country gentleman who turns out not to be quite so dead. As with A Study in Scarlet, a big chunk of The Valley of Fear is a flashback story that takes us back two decades when the protagonist was an alleged violent hooligan in America and part of a secret society modeled after the real life Molly Maguires. However, he was actually an agent of the famed Pinkerton Agency sent to infiltrate the society and bring them to justice. Unfortunately justice isn’t always perfect and one of the society’s more ferocious members only gets a few years in prison, thereafter chasing our hero all over the globe, ending up in England. Valley is notable for its extensive exposition about Professor Moriarty, a character that has risen to the high honor of being thought of as Holmes’ archenemy despite only being alluded to in a handful of the canon’s stories. In this instance Moriarty’s assistance is apparently sought by evildoers in hunting down the protagonist. At first it looks like the good guys have won, but by the end we learn the tragic news that the malevolent Professor has gotten the job done, much to the chagrin of Sherlock Holmes. The mystery is well-conceived, with unpredictable twists & turns that keep the pages turning, but the flashback section that is devoid of our favorite detective, his trusty sidekick, or any of the ambiance of Victorian England doesn’t feel like a Holmes story at all.

 

 

 

The Best??

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles. I rather enjoy all four Holmes novels. A Study in Scarlet is a fantastic origin story. The Sign of the Four is exhilarating and well-written but a flashback sequence to another time & place sort of kills the momentum. The Valley of Fear is unpredictable & fresh, yet a flashback sequence that once again takes us out of Victorian England into another decade of the past in America where Holmes, Watson, etc. are nowhere to be found weakens the story to a degree. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a beautifully written, intricately woven mystery. It is true that most of the action takes place away from 221B Baker St. and that Holmes is absent for a chunk of the story, but Watson is ever-present and if a Holmes story must be located somewhere other than foggy old London then the lonely, dank, sinister moor on which the Baskerville estate rests is a worthy substitute. Hound is probably the most popular Sherlock Holmes story, and has been adapted many times on film. However, one cannot get the full effect any other way than by reading Conan Doyle’s beautifully evocative prose. I suggest reading Hound in the autumn just before Halloween, not only because that is the timeframe of the novel itself, but because it evokes a mood impeccably aligned with the season.