The 30 Day Film Challenge – Part 1

“Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our life time, we need to keep them alive.” – Martin Scorsese

 

 

 

As with the 30 Day Song Challenge I do not have the patience to post once per day for an entire month, and fortunately I don’t need to since I make the rules in this space. I feel like I’ve probably written entirely too much about movies here over the years, but it’s a subject I enjoy and right now I need as much to smile about as possible. 2020 has been a bumpy ride for many, so I don’t want to be selfish. Having said that, the past few months have been brutal for me personally, so I’m thankful for an outlet that allows me to take my mind off things, atleast for a little while. The vast majority of these were easy answers, though I had to ponder a few, and in some cases I found the questions a bit puzzling. That’s why I like providing context…it provides some insight into my thought process, which is not only helpful for you but something I find constructive as well. Once again I have broken this project into two parts for readability. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

1       The first film you remember watching…

Coal Miner’s Daughter

To be honest I’m not entirely comfortable with this answer. Coal Miner’s Daughter was released when I was eight years old, and I’m pretty sure I watched movies before then. However, our local mall (complete with multiplex cinema) wasn’t built until a few years later, so anything I saw before had to be at a drive-in or on television, and nothing specific comes to mind. However, I have a clear memory of going to the drive-in with my parents & sister to see Coal Miner’s Daughter.

 

 

2       A film you like that starts with the first letter of your first name…

Sleepless in Seattle

I really like alliteration…it’s fun. I actually had a date…with a woman…to see this movie. It might be the last real date I’ve had lol (I don’t even remember her name though, which speaks badly of me, her, or both of us). Anyway, Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan are screen magic, and Sleepless might be my favorite film of theirs.

 

 

3       A film that has more than five words…

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

I’m not going to dive into a marketing lecture, but the vast majority of films have short titles…1-3 words. It’s just easier for people to remember, among other things. I really had to think about movies I’ve enjoyed with longer titles, but once Anchorman popped into my head it became an easy choice. Stay classy!!

 

 

4       A film with a number in the title…

Ocean’s Eleven

So many choices!! However, I’m a big fan of the Ocean’s Trilogy. Eleven is a remake of a 1960 Rat Pack classic, and I actually enjoy the remake more than the original, partly because the ending of the newer film is so much more satisfying than the older one. Ocean’s Twelve is okay, though certainly the weakest of the trilogy. Ocean’s Thirteen rebounded with the addition of Al Pacino to the cast. I highly recommend binge watching all three movies, something I’ve done many times.

 

 

5       A film where a character has a job you want…

The Shining

Okay, so he is a psychopath…but don’t forget that Jack Torrance (as portrayed brilliantly by Jack Nicholson) is also a writer.

 

 

6       Your favorite animated film…

The Toy Story Series

This is tough. There are so many animated classics that we all enjoyed as kids, but I have to ask myself, would I sit down and watch many of those old movies now…as an adult?? I suppose the occasional nostalgic mood may hit, but generally we look at such things differently when we’re older. However, the four Toy Story movies are more recent, have quite the memorable voice cast, the animation is top notch, and the plot is written to be enjoyed by all ages.

 

 

7       A film that you will never get tired of…

Casablanca

There are dozens of movies I could (and do) watch over & over & over again. I tend to prefer older movies that I grew up enjoying to most of the pathetic excuses for entertainment Hollywood churns out these days, and Casablanca is as pleasurable to watch now as it ever was. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

 

 

8       A film where you liked the soundtrack more…

Saturday Night Fever and The Big Chill

Two movies immediately sprang to mind and I’m not going to choose between them. The Big Chill is about a bunch of middle-age 60’s radicals gathering together in the midst of the conservative revolution of the early 80’s to attend the funeral of an old schoolmate who committed suicide. The film itself is just fine, but the soundtrack…wow. Smokey Robinson. The Temptations. Marvin Gaye. Three Dog Night. Aretha Franklin. If you like Motown you can’t help but dig one of the best soundtracks ever produced. Saturday Night Fever not only skyrocketed John Travolta to superstardom, but it defined the disco era. The soundtrack relies heavily on The Bee Gees, but that’s okay because they kick ass. Disco may be dead, but it had its time in the spotlight and this particular album may have been the high point.

 

 

9       A film you hate that everyone else liked…

Pulp Fiction

I watched it once…I just don’t get it. Travolta is cool. Samuel L. Jackson?? Very cool. I’m a big Bruce Willis fan. Tarantino just isn’t my kind of director. I can’t think of a single one of his movies I’ve enjoyed.

 

 

10     Your favorite superhero film…

Batman

I’ve said it a thousand times…I wasn’t a comic book kid. Outside of the three big superheroes (Batman, Superman, & Spiderman) I couldn’t possibly care less. The only “Marvel Cinematic Universe” films I’ve seen are the two Spiderman movies. I may or may not ever watch the rest of them. However, I do love me some Batman, and I really like the 1989 film starring Michael Keaton as The Caped Crusader. Keaton & Adam West (who portrayed Batman in the 60’s TV show) are easily my favorites, and it didn’t hurt Tim Burton’s movie to have Jack Nicholson’s larger-than-life portrayal of The Joker.

 

 

11     A film you like from your least favorite genre…

Halloween

Horror flicks aren’t generally my cup o’ tea. However, John Carpenter’s original Halloween is a classic. From the brilliant opening sequence to the legendary theme music to the amusingly ostentatious performance of Donald Pleasence as a Captain Ahab-esque psychiatrist, well…it’s nearly flawless. It’s hard to believe that what has become an annual October institution was produced on a shoestring budget of just over $300k (in comparison, Jaws, which was produced three years earlier, had a budget of $13 million).

 

 

12     A film that you hate from your favorite genre…

Holmes & Watson

This one is a double whammy. I’m a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes novellas & short stories, and I’ve also enjoyed the work of both Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly. When I first heard that the duo were going to tackle Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fabled crime solvers I was excited to see what kind of hilarious spin the stars of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby could put on the story, but the result was immensely disappointing. Rotten Tomatoes gives Holmes & Watson an atrocious 10% score, and it won the Razzie for Worst Picture of 2018.

 

 

13     A film that “puts you in deep thoughts”…

Groundhog Day

First, I must state that I detest the way this is stated, like a nine year old wrote it. Secondly, though I’m not above thinking deeply I rarely run across a movie that makes me do so. It just doesn’t seem to be Hollywood’s thing, and sadly I don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg. Are crappy special effects movies with inane action sequences & insufferable explosions the norm because the populace demands it, or have we been conditioned to be dumbed down & accept such mediocrity?? I suppose it’s a little of both. At any rate, in 1993 Bill Murray & director Harold Ramis teamed up to give us the antithesis of such tedious garbage, and what they accomplished is far more than your typical comedy. Groundhog Day is existential. It is profound on a level that neither Murray nor Ramis likely intended. I watch it every February 2nd, and it always makes me ponder life.

 

 

14     A film that “gave you depression”…

The Perfect Storm

Another poorly worded turn of phrase. Here’s the thing: I don’t watch movies to get depressed. Trust me…my real life is miserable enough. Why on God’s green Earth would I pay money to have alleged entertainment make me sad?? It’s why I lean so heavily toward comedy. Having said that, occasionally something sneaks up and gives me all the feels. When I first watched The Perfect Storm I had NO IDEA it was based on a true story. It was on television and I was bored, so I gave it a whirl. It is well-written with good performances so I was quickly hooked. At the film’s conclusion I fully expected the ship’s crew to be miraculously rescued…but, of course, they are not. I’m a little slow sometimes, but eventually I learned that this actually happened…these were real people who died. The film does a superb job of conveying the very tangible danger faced by fishermen every day, and I have developed tremendous respect for those who put their lives on the line to put food on our table. Some years after my initial viewing of the movie (which I have watched countless times) I decided to read the book on which it is based, and I must opine that it is the rare case where the film is far superior.

 

 

15     A film that makes you feel happy…

Bull Durham

I suppose numerous comedies make me happy, but since it’s summertime and baseball just began after a virus related delay of several months Bull Durham popped into my head. Sports films are delightful…sports comedies are sublime. One major barometer I use when judging movies is whether or not I am still glad to watch them many years & multiple viewings later, and more than three decades later I find Bull Durham just as enjoyable as I ever did.

 

 

 

Okay folks, let’s take a break. Stay tuned for Part 2!!

100 Memorable TV Characters…Part 3

 

Television is chewing gum for the eyes.  –  Frank Lloyd Wright

 

 

 

 

My father & I occasionally hearken back to the late February day 18 years ago when we laid my mother to rest. We always recall how blessed our family was with such a beautiful sunny day, because on top of our grief it would have been that much more difficult to go thru the whole process in the midst of rain, snow, & chilly temperatures. We’ve been fortunate to once again have had some unseasonably temperate days here in West Virginia lately, and since I am a self-diagnosed sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder and know I’ve had issues with Vitamin D deficiency in the past I have taken the opportunity to award myself some much needed sunshine therapy this week. Alas, now we are back to the cold & wet climate more typical of this time of year, but the good news is that means that we can move forward with this project. If you aren’t up to speed with previous entries then by all means check them out here, here, & here. After you are all caught up come back and enjoy what’s next with the rest of us.

 

 

 

 

50     Beavis & Butt-Head (Beavis and Butt-Head)

In my final year of college I finally escaped dorm life and got my first ever Bachelor Palace off campus. It just happened to be a few blocks away from our favorite watering hole(s), so oftentimes my buddies would stop by to hang out before we headed to those establishments. It was during this time that MTV premiered a crudely animated sitcom in which two dimwitted delinquents wander around their town causing chaos in between sitting on the couch commenting on music videos (which MTV still aired occasionally at that time). It’s a show with a narrow focus and I assume a very specific target audience, which explains why I wasn’t nearly as interested once I graduated and segued into adult life. However, I have really great (though a bit fuzzy) memories of that year. Some things are special because it is a shared experience, and I am so glad that Beavis & Butt-Head were a memorable part of that era in my life. A feature film was released in 1996 in which the moronic duo go on a quest to find their stolen TV and somehow end up at the White House hanging out with President Clinton. The movie is alright, but not great. A few years ago I got excited when a revival of the show was announced, but I must admit that I never watched the one season return.

 

49     Lenny & Squiggy (Laverne & Shirley)

Speaking of idiots…

Wacky neighbors are a dependable television trope, so while the titular twosome (who had been introduced on Happy Days) were the focus of the show and the ladies swooned over “The Big Ragu” Carmine Ragusa, oftentimes it was Lenny & Squiggy who got the laughs. Lenny Kosnowski & Andrew Squigman live in the apartment above Laverne & Shirley and are truck drivers for the same brewery at which the ladies are bottlecappers. They frequently pop in to annoy the gals, and fancy themselves as tough, cool, desirable 50’s greasers, when in truth they are just a couple of goofballs that don’t appeal to women at all.

 

48     Matt Foley (Saturday Night Live)

It is an inescapable fact that Chris Farley’s weight was used as part of the joke in most everything he did, from SNL to the films in which he appeared. But since Farley himself seemed to be okay with that I suppose no one else should be offended. By far his best SNL contribution was Matt Foley, a raucous motivational speaker who is “35 years old, eating a steady diet of government cheese, thrice divorced, and living in a van down by the river!”. Foley isn’t as much a motivator as a cautionary tale since he is unkempt, belligerent, rude, pessimistic, & apparently a failure, hence the humor, and he usually ended up somehow hilariously crashing thru a piece of furniture. The character was the perfect showcase for Farley’s unique brand of physical comedy, and it is unfortunate that he passed on before Matt Foley could be brought to the big screen.

 

47     Opie Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)

These days Ron Howard is best known as an award-winning director of films like Apollo 13, Splash, & A Beautiful Mind, and many affectionately recall his role as awkward teenager Richie Cunningham in the retro sitcom Happy Days. However, way back in the 1960’s little Ronny got his start portraying the precocious son of the local sheriff in The Andy Griffith Show. We literally get to watch Opie grow up from an adorable six year old to a young teenager. Father-son interactions provide some of the most uplifting moments on TAGS, but Opie has plenty of entertaining scenes with many other inhabitants of Mayberry as well. Two of my favorite TAGS episodes…Season 3’s Mr. McBeevee and Season 4’s Opie the Birdman…showcase Opie and give an indication of just how great of an actor Ron Howard could have been if that would have been his passion.

 

46         The Riddler (Batman)

Batman is my favorite superhero, and while his comic book origins are indeed dark…an aesthetic that most renditions of the story stick with…one notable exception is the beloved goofy 1960’s TV show. Episodic television allowed a different villain to invade Gotham City each week, including the already established “rogue’s gallery” of Batman baddies as well as some pretty hysterical adversaries created exclusively for the show. I’m a traditionalist, so I prefer the bad guys we all know & love to hate, and my favorite has to be The Riddler. Edward Nygma likes to tease The Caped Crusader with riddles that are clues to his location and/or the crime he is about to commit. Riddler wears a garish green costume peppered with question marks, and has an irritating laugh.

 

45     Balki Bartokomous (Perfect Strangers)

ABC had a penchant in the late 80’s into the 90’s for churning out silly sitcoms that, by any objective measure of quality, shouldn’t have made it more than a season or two, but somehow became cherished by the masses. It is an interesting lesson that modern television executives should learn. Not everyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for the next gritty, studious, sanctimonious, ripped-from-the-headlines show. Sometimes we simply crave pointless escapism that tickles our funny bone. At any rate, Balki is a sheepherder from the Mediterranean island of Mypos. He comes to Chicago to stay with his tightly wound cousin Larry, and boom…you have a fish-out-of-water story that’s also an amusing take on the Odd Couple formula. Balki’s misunderstandings about American culture are comical, as are Larry’s exasperated attempts to clear up any confusion. When anything good happens the two engage in Balki’s Dance of Joy, which kind of looks like something folks do at a Greek wedding.

 

44     Frank Costanza (Seinfeld)

In addition to the hysterical main cast, Seinfeld also had a ton of memorable guest stars and several great recurring characters. Frank is the obnoxious father of George. He is a temperamental traveling salesman best remembered for inventing Festivus, a non-commercial Christmas alternative that features feats of strength & airing of grievances.

 

43     Daisy Duke (The Dukes of Hazzard)

I went thru puberty while The Dukes of Hazzard was on the air, so yes…a sexy woman known for wearing super short jean shorts and who appeared in a skimpy bikini in the show’s opening credits every week for seven years definitely frosted my cupcake. Daisy is a hybrid…part sweet southern belle, part tough as nails tomboy. She is said to “drive like Richard Petty, shoot like Annie Oakley, & know the words to all of Dolly Parton’s songs.” She’s not above using her feminine gifts to distract anyone trying to go after her family, and most often does so with charmingly inept Deputy Enos Strate, who has always had a huge crush on her. In contrast to modern shows in which very little is left to the imagination even on network television, Daisy Duke seems like a quaint reminder of a more innocent time.

 

42     Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, & Sophia (The Golden Girls)

I just can’t choose one. The entire ensemble made The Golden Girls work, and even with two Emmys & three Golden Globes I still think it may have been an underrated program. Dorothy Zbornak is a Brooklyn born teacher who is divorced from philandering Stan. She is smart, acerbic, & perpetually exasperated by her roommates, though she thinks of them as family. Blanche Devereux is a well-to-do southern belle and a widow with a healthy libido. Rose Nyland is a naïve & simpleminded widow who is fond of telling pointless stories about her childhood in St. Olaf, MN. She’s really sweet & trusting, and prone to being taken advantage of by others. Sophia Petrillo is Dorothy’s elderly mother. She is sharp as a tack, fearful that Dorothy will send her back to Shady Pines retirement home, & loves to tell stories from her youth in Sicily, though there is a general vibe that most of those stories are poppycock. As opposed to many shows that tend to feature young & pretty people, The Golden Girls proved that “seasoned citizens” can be a lot of fun.

 

41     Otis Campbell (The Andy Griffith Show)

I love any episode of TAGS in which town drunk Otis appears. I suppose nowadays some people would get their knickers twisted about alcoholism being treated as a joke, but thankfully folks were much less politically correct back in the 60’s. Otis actually has a job & a wife, but every Saturday night he goes out and gets snockered on hooch, then locks himself up in the Mayberry jail. Did you know that Hal Smith…the actor who portrays Otis…was a well-known voice artist?? He most notably voiced Goofy in several Disney productions, including Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

 

40     President Jed Bartlet (The West Wing)

I’ve often asked myself if I would vote for Jed Bartlet in an election, but there is no conclusive answer because I don’t believe that anyone like him actually exists. He is a man of high ideals but realistic expectations. He is a Nobel Prize winning economist, but despite being brilliant he’s also empathetic & quite funny. President Bartlet…like everyone associated with the show…is a bleeding heart liberal, but somehow all involved are able to make that look like a good thing, which is probably one of the greatest magic tricks anyone has ever performed on television. Martin Sheen might be a crackpot in real life, but credit where credit is due…he is a brilliant actor. The President was originally intended to be a rarely seen supporting character, with plots revolving around various White House staff members. However, that plan quickly changed, which undoubtedly made for a better program.

 

39     Dr. Johnny Fever & Venus Flytrap (WKRP in Cincinnati)

When I was a kid I considered becoming a radio DJ when I grew up. Why?? Well, probably because Johnny Fever & Venus Flytrap made the job seem so cool & fun. Johnny is a laid back pothead & former 60’s hippie whose career in radio had been successful before he fell on hard times. He had considered WKRP to be rock bottom, but when the station’s format changes from easy listening to rock n’ roll he is energized and becomes a very popular morning drive personality. Venus Flytrap (real name: Gordon Sims) is a Vietnam vet who is hired by his pal Andy Travis, WKRP’s new program director. It is Andy who suggests the pseudonym and also advises Sims to dress cool so he’ll act cool. Unlike Johnny, whose on-air persona is hyper & wild, Venus is tranquil & chill. He is rather conservative and oftentimes acts as an even-tempered voice of reason. These two dudes made being a disc jockey look like an attractive career option to a young boy in grade school back in the day, and it wasn’t until many years later that I learned that it’s actually a really low-paying & unstable gig.

 

38     Norm Peterson (Cheers)

Cheers is the bar where everybody knows your name, and that’s especially true of Norm, who is enthusiastically greeted by the crowd every time he walks thru the door. Norm is an accountant who frequently seems to be between jobs, so he ends up spending a lot of time sitting at the end of the bar drinking beer. He is married to Vera, who we never meet in eleven seasons. Norm doesn’t seem to be particularly unhappy or disdainful of Vera, but neither is he ever in a rush to go home. It’s pretty funny that in an entire decade of watching the guy do virtually nothing except drink beer we never see him even remotely intoxicated, and his huge unpaid bar tab is occasionally the subject of mockery.

 

37     Wayne & Garth (Saturday Night Live)

Party on!! Wayne Campbell & Garth Algar are the hosts of a public access TV show emanating from Wayne’s basement. They are two nerdy juveniles who think they’re cooler than they are because they like heavy metal music & hot women. The sketches introduced a ton of catchphrases that many of a certain age still utilize with some frequency, such as “Schwing!”, “That’s what she said”, “Not!”, “hurl” & “spew”, “Are you mental?”, and “We’re not worthy!”. In 1992 the duo took their act to the big screen in a surprisingly solid film that did well enough to get a sequel just a year & a half later.

 

36     Linus Van Pelt (Peanuts)

Peanuts is interesting. It never spawned a regular comic book or TV show, and creator Charles Shultz was content to simply produce his comic strip for a half century. However, he did allow the characters to be marketed, which resulted in a ton of merchandise that’s still being churned out nearly two decades after Schultz’s death. As I did when writing about my favorite cartoons I am taking advantage of a loophole of sorts in the fact that there have been a plethora of Peanuts animated television specials over the years, a couple of which many of us grew up watching and continue to enjoy annually. Linus is the youngest of the group, a blanket toting, thumb sucking boy who tends to be the most solicitous & sensible out of any of his friends. He’s a great listener and always gives good advice, although his self-absorbed pals continue to overlook & disrespect his insight.

 

35     Captain Hawkeye Pierce (MASH)

Dr. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce is the 4077th’s chief surgeon, a New England bred prankster who deals with the daily grind of being in a warzone by drinking copious amounts of martinis and flirting with every female in camp. He resents being drafted and definitely doesn’t conform to the Army way of life. Despite his irreverence it is Hawkeye that provides many of the series’ more somber moments after it segued into more of a dramedy during the second half of its run. In the series finale he suffers a breakdown and returns home to be a local country doctor after the war ends.

 

34     Bo & Luke Duke (The Dukes of Hazzard)

The show’s theme song describes them as good ol’ boys that never mean any harm. Luke is the older cousin and is shown to be smarter & more level-headed. He’s a former Marine. Bo is the younger, more vain & flirtatious pretty boy. He almost always drives the General Lee. The Duke Boys are on probation after being caught unlawfully transporting moonshine, and aren’t legally allowed to own firearms or leave the county, although they frequently do so anyway. They are constant targets of law enforcement, and regularly foil Boss Hogg’s shady schemes.

 

33     Dr. Heathcliff & Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

While characters like Fred Sanford, JJ “Dynomite!” Evans, Arnold Jackson, & “Rerun” Stubbs are all entertaining on various levels, I don’t think there’s any way they could be held up as role models. Conversely, The Huxtables are undeniably so. Mom is a perceptive & resolute attorney, while Dad is a fun-loving & considerate physician. Both are educated and have high expectations for their five children. They are strict yet devoted parents, and their marriage is strong. They are affluent but not extravagant, and seem to have solid moral certitude. In other words, Cliff & Claire represent the vast majority of Americans, the sort of stable citizens & contributors to society that are often disregarded & ridiculed by the media & pop culture. The Cosby Show was popular and critically acclaimed, so I’m not sure why the formula hasn’t been duplicated a thousand times over. Of course I suppose any attempt to copy it would just be a poor imitation.

 

32     Fred Flintstone (The Flintstones)

Yabba dabba doo!! The Flintstones is a sneaky show. What do I mean by that?? Well, we tend to focus on the fact that it is animated, and that it is set in The Stone Age (the rock puns are always a treat). However, the truth is that it is simply a traditional sitcom about an average nuclear family and their friendly neighbors. Fred is an overbearing yet kindhearted crane operator. He’s short-tempered & irritable, but he’s devoted to his family & friends. He enjoys bowling, golf, & hanging out at the Loyal Order of Water Buffalos Lodge. When I was a kid I honestly thought that actor Jackie Gleason provided Fred’s voice, but I was wrong…sort of. Gleason may not have been directly involved with The Flintstones, but his Ralph Kramden character from 1950’s sitcom The Honeymooners heavily influenced how Fred was portrayed.

 

31     Dr. Niles Crane (Frasier)

Niles is the neurotic & effete younger brother of the show’s eponymous radio show host. Like his big brother Niles is also a psychiatrist. He’s the kind of pretentious nerd who loves opera, expensive wine, classical music, French food, & theater but knows absolutely zero about sports or pop culture. Niles is definitely a hypochondriac & a bit OCD, and tends to be overzealous in attempts to ingratiate himself into the perceived proper social circles. When we first meet Niles he is married to Maris, who we never see (much like Vera in Cheers), but his descriptions of her are horribly hysterical. They eventually divorce and he ends up marrying his father’s caregiver Daphne, who he’d been infatuated with since the day they met. I absolutely love Niles, and would have really enjoyed a Niles & Daphne spinoff, but sadly that never happened.

 

30     Sheriff Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)

Andy Griffith was a brilliant actor. Take some time to watch the 1958 film No Time for Sergeants, in which he plays country bumpkin Will Stockdale, who hilariously clashes with his superiors when he is drafted into the Air Force (sounds like a great idea for a sitcom). After that watch 1957’s A Face in the Crowd, in which Griffith portrays drifter Lonesome Rhodes, who turns a random appearance on a radio show into fame & fortune on television then becomes an egotistical bully before his star falls as quickly as it rose. Griffith based Sheriff Taylor largely on Will Stockdale, atleast initially. After the first season of TAGS he figured out that other characters in Mayberry should be the source of humor while he played the bemused straight man, and so he toned down the hillbilly simpleton persona considerably. Sheriff Taylor is the kind of lawman we’d all love to encounter but probably doesn’t exist in reality…not anymore anyway. He doesn’t even carry a gun!! He’s a good friend, a pleasant neighbor, and the type of father all men should aspire to be. Check out the Season 1 episode A Feud is a Feud in which Andy explains Romeo & Juliet to Opie, or the Season 3 episode Andy Discovers America, in which he gives a unique history lesson to a group of boys. Andy is constantly doing everything he can to boost his deputy’s fragile ego, and is usually the voice of reason in the midst of idiocy. In the last few seasons Sheriff Taylor becomes a little too serious, frequently becoming aggravated by the antics of others, which is just one of the reasons that the first five years of TAGS are the best.

 

29     Kermit the Frog (The Muppet Show)   

When The Muppets won the Sammy Award for Favorite Movie in 2011 I said that “Honestly, toward the end when Kermit breaks out into Rainbow Connection I became so swelled with happiness & emotion that if I could have jumped out of my wheelchair and given a standing ovation I swear to God I would have”. It was in that moment that I realized just what kind of impact The Muppets had on my childhood. In his other popular song It’s Not Easy Being Green Kermit laments that “it seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things, and people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky”, which I have always taken as a perceptive nod to the marginalized in society who often feel ignored, disrespected, & taken for granted. I bet you didn’t realize Kermit was so profound.

 

28     Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

There are only two starship captains in the Trek universe that matter. Captain Picard is an alleged Frenchman with singularly British proclivities (“Tea! Earl Grey! Hot!). He is cultured, judicious, & somewhat aloof, though he does care deeply for his crew. He prefers diplomacy over battle, but ultimately does what needs to be done. He is fascinated with archaeology, enjoys fencing, is quite knowledgeable about physics & literature, and loves horses. Captain Picard is a true Renaissance man, even though he was born about 600 years after that period ended.

 

27         Stefano DiMera (Days of Our Lives)

I’ve been watching DOOL since I was about ten years old, and during that time no supervillain in any entertainment genre has been as evil as Stefano DiMera. He came to Salem in 1982 professing to simply be a European business tycoon, but it soon became apparent that he was more of a crime boss. Stefano has a longstanding vendetta against the blue collar Brady family and makes their lives a living hell for the biggest part of three decades. He dies about a dozen times, but is inevitably revealed to be alive, which explains why he calls himself The Phoenix. The actor who portrayed Stefano actually did pass away a few years ago, but the way the storyline was constructed on the show left things open ended, as though The Phoenix could rise again someday.

 

26     Charlie Brown (Peanuts)

Charlie Brown is essentially the animated personification of his creator Charles Shultz. He is the classic loveable loser, always being insulted & ignored by his friends. He’s a shy & mild-mannered kid with a bundle of neuroses bubbling up inside. But as unsuccessful as he tends to be Charlie Brown rarely gives up. He may not be confident about the result (with good reason), but he keeps trying. In the underrated 2006 sequel Rocky Balboa the aging boxer tells his son that “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.” That’s a great lesson for all of us, and Charlie Brown embodies exactly that attitude.

 

 

 

Okay ladies & gentlemen…let’s take another break. We’ll return for the exciting conclusion in a couple of days.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 8.17

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

 

 

 

 

 

I was never an avid viewer of Tim Allen’s popular TV series Home Improvement, which aired on ABC back in the 90’s. If my memory is correct I believe Frasier (which I adored) was on at the same time, and neither DVR nor streaming video were a thing yet. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed Allen’s movies a little more, especially the Toy Story and Santa Clause films. When his second television show, Last Man Standing, debuted in 2011 I didn’t pay much attention, but it has slowly grown on me over the course of time. As a diehard conservative I am aware of and sensitive to liberal bias in media & entertainment, which exists whether one chooses to acknowledge it or not. Having said that, I do believe that multiple factors led to the recent cancellation of Last Man Standing. I’m a big sports fan and compare Last Man Standing to an offensive lineman that gets drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round, plays a decade in the NFL, doesn’t make any All-Star teams or get to a Super Bowl, but always holds onto his starting job and plays the position at a high level before quietly being cut by a team facing salary cap issues. Shows like The Big Bang Theory (love it) or The Walking Dead (never watch it) are like the star quarterback who gets all the glory & good PR. They create revenue for ownership and therefore enjoy a long lifespan. Conversely, shows like Last Man Standing are good but not great, so when it begins to get a bit too expensive its spot is given to a younger, cheaper alternative that might perform just as well. Do I believe that politics played a part in the show’s demise?? I can’t help but think that it was a contributing factor. Maybe if pop culture & the Hollywood left weren’t riding an anti-Trump wave Last Man Standing would have survived another season or two. At the very least it could have been moved to a different night. The fact that it was stuck in the traditional sitcom graveyard of Friday night indicates that it was never one of ABC’s top priorities. However, in a larger sense I think Last Man Standing is just one of hundreds of shows in the history of television that were slightly above average…good, but not good enough…and ended their run after 3-7 years. It is what it is, and it’s really not worth getting too worked up about.

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I just look around my kitchen at the embarrassment of riches in my stocked pantry, full refrigerator, & packed freezer and it hits me how blessed I am in so many ways.

 

 

 



 

Speaking of ABC…

I have mixed feelings about the announced revival of American Idol. I ignored the show during its first season on Fox in 2002, until the finale in which Kelly Clarkson beat out Justin Guarini to claim the original crown. After that I was hooked for awhile, but for a number of reasons began to disengage and hardly watched at all during its final few seasons. Now, just a year after leaving, American Idol is coming back. I always suspected that it would return since it is precisely the kind of television show that can easily go away then be resuscitated. However, my gut tells me that it’s too soon, that we haven’t had time to really miss it yet or view it thru the prism of nostalgia, an angle that has led to second lives for many movies & TV shows in the past decade or two. There’s a fine line between tweaking a successful formula and tinkering unnecessarily, a difference that can be blurred more easily with the passage of time. It is rumored that Clarkson will be one of the judges, which is poetic. There are a plethora of semi-successful singers whose main claim to fame traces back to being an Idol contestant that could serve as judges and satisfy wistful cravings for those halcyon days. Another name that has officially signed on is Katy Perry, which, in my humble opinion, is a terrible choice. Idol always teetered on the edge of cool factor vs. credibility as far as judges go, with some working out better than others. If it were me I’d skew toward gravitas, which would necessitate not catering to millennials whose musical palates are decidedly unsophisticated. One constant will be host Ryan Seacrest, who may be a tool but is undoubtedly perfect for this particular gig. As much as I hate to say it, he really is like a modern day Dick Clark, with maybe a little Regis Philbin thrown into the mix.

 

 

 

 

 

Though I don’t actively engage in sociopolitical debates on social media anymore I still…lurk. Or observe. Or maybe you prefer the term troll. At any rate, I have been pleasantly surprised at my level of self-control when coming across utter stupidity & ridiculousness, which is basically almost every day. For example, a friend of mine recently posted a query asking why anyone is still out there defending “Four Five”, which is his lame nickname for Donald Trump (if I have to explain the moniker then just please leave immediately). His gaggle of sycophants responded heartily and with their usual level of hypocrisy. I could have easily written a cogent, logical, & concise response, but it would have ended up with me being attacked by people who don’t even know me, ridiculing my physical appearance and any other criteria they could glean from my Facebook page. Been there done that…these are not nice people, and obviously they aren’t capable of critical thought or intelligent debate. What I found really interesting in this particular thread was a comment from a person complaining about how others are always calling them names like “snowflake” or “libtard”, yet in the same thread those with whom these folks disagree (like me) are referred to as mean, hateful, & mentally ill. One egregiously despicable woman referred to a 90 year old relative of hers as “spiteful, racist, horribly rude, & obnoxious”. This elderly lady allegedly “always has something ugly to say about everyone” and is “a misery to be around”. The poster “literally wants to cut my own throat to end the pain of being near her” (her, you’ll remember, being a 90 year old woman). And yet these are the folks who are offended by being called a snowflake. I wish I could say something witty and caustic, but I am honestly at a loss for words and filled with sadness for humanity.

The 2016 Sammy Awards – Part 3

SammyAwardeagleBefore we get to the exciting conclusion of the 2016 Sammy Awards it must be noted that less than 24 hours after “journalist” Megyn Kelly was nominated & shared a victory for the DB Cooper Award it was announced that she is leaving Fox News and heading to NBC next summer. I’m not quite sure that qualifies as disappearing, but it’s not the promotion many might think it is. As always, if you haven’t caught up with Part 1 or Part 2 of the show please do so now. Trust me…you’ll be glad you did.

 

Alright, after a brief yet amusing anecdote from our host Steve Harvey, it is a sincere pleasure for The Sammys to welcome, sharveyvia satellite, the next First Lady of the United States. Please give a warm welcome to Melania Trump, who would like to say a few words.

 

melania2“Four score and seven years ago our fathers had a dream. An awesome dream. People in the park playing games in the dark. It was Saturday in the park. I think it was the Fourth of July. And today, my friends, I also have a dream. I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged only by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day we will live in a nation where people ask not what the country can do for you, but instead ask what you can do for your country. I have a dream that one day we will take not just one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind. Until that day comes, with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender. And when the end is near and we face the final curtain, we will be able to say that we did it our way. To be or not to be…that is the question. Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.”

 

 

crystal3Thank you Mrs. Trump. That was…interesting. And now, to present our next award, please welcome two of the biggest movie stars in the world. justin-timberlake-7592Well okay…we did contact some of the biggest movie stars in the world, but they all politely declined our invitation. So instead, please welcome two former hosts of this show…beloved actor & comedian Billy Crystal and talented singer & actor Justin Timberlake!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Favorite Movie

 

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Dedicated fans of the 2002 original will undoubtedly appreciate the sequel. I feel the same about both…charming, entertaining, yet ultimately prosaic. Watch out for young Elena Kampouris…she’s got star potential.

 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Andy Samberg takes his Sandler-esque sense of humor and applies it to a modern day Spinal Tap type of mockumentary. The story follows faux rapper Conner Friel’s rise as part of a boy band thru his evolution to solo artist Conner 4Real. He’s a big star after his debut album, but when a follow-up flops h-a-r-d his life hilariously implodes. There are a ton of cameos from folks like Simon Cowell, Emma Stone, Adam Levine, & Weird Al Yankovic, as well as supporting parts for a bunch of Samberg’s old SNL cronies. Appearances by Seal, Michael Bolton, & Martin Sheen are particularly amusing. The “songs” performed are predictably bad, and to be honest a bit too…colorful…for my taste, but I assume the target demographic will find them hysterically funny in the way that youngsters back in the day appreciated Spinal Tap classics like Sex Farm and Hell Hole. If you enjoy Samberg’s shtick and aren’t easily offended this is the movie for you.

 

Now You See Me 2

The 2013 original was a surprise hit. This sequel doesn’t quite measure up. Outlaw magicians The Four Horsemen return from exile to take down an evil tech guru, but the script is flipped on them as they are goaded into helping an allegedly deceased billionaire steal…something. I don’t know. The plot is too busy and the performances by a superb cast are overly cheeky. It’s entertaining until you pause for five seconds to ponder the implausibilities, and then the whole thing crumbles like a wet paper towel. I rather enjoyed the first film, and I hope the inevitable Part 3 is more crisply written & executed. As for this entry…let’s just be polite and call it acceptably entertaining.

 

Central Intelligence

I have stated repeatedly over the years that I don’t get the love for allegedly funny comedian Kevin Hart, but somehow I always seem to end up watching his movies, which have generally been…tolerable…fun. This is no exception. Hart stars as a former high school big man on campus that…two decades later…has settled into a humdrum middle class existence. The Rock plays the fat kid from high school that was bullied by all the jocks, with the exception of Hart, who befriended him. Nowadays Rock is a buff CIA agent. The juxtaposition is comical. At any rate, there’s something about secret codes, a rogue agent, an allegedly dead partner, etc. The details aren’t important. Our two leading men get caught up in the chaos and there is gunfire & explosions, the occasional lame joke, and a vague attempt at suspense. It’s the kind of film where the actors are engaging but someone should find the screenwriters and give them a stern scolding.

 

For the Love of Spock

Documentaries haven’t typically been nominated for these awards, but the older I get the more I enjoy a good documentary. This one concurrently explores the life of actor Leonard Nimoy and to a greater extent the history & influence of the beloved character he portrayed in the original Star Trek TV show and multiple feature films. It is directed by Nimoy’s son and features a plethora of interviews with Trek cast members old & new, family members, friends, & fans. It is sort of a love letter from a son to his father, but needs to be seen by anyone who considers themselves a Trekkie.

 

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Adam West & Burt Ward, who starred in the infamously campy Batman TV show in the 60’s, return to voice The Caped Crusader & The Boy Wonder in this animated throwback. The Dynamic Duo are faced with a team of their old enemies…Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, & Penguin…who are after some kind of duplicating device that will help them rule the world…or something to that effect. Batman & Robin even follow the baddies to outer space, and somehow Catwoman slips Batman something that makes him start acting way out of character, like a real jerk. He insults Aunt Harriet, fires Alfred, kicks Robin out of Wayne Manor, & takes over as police commissioner as well as mayor. Robin talks Catwoman into giving our favorite superhero the antidote and all’s well that ends well. If you’re a fan of the old television show you’ll enjoy this harmlessly fun movie. If you’ve never seen the show you probably wouldn’t understand.

 

The Secret Life of Pets

You’ve probably seen Toy Story. This is like that, only with animals instead of toys. That isn’t necessarily deleterious, just derivative. Entertaining, but unremarkable.

 

Star Trek: Beyond

This is the third adventure featuring the “new” crew of the Enterprise but the first without JJ Abrams at the helm…and it makes a difference. The new director’s previous work consists mainly of films in the Fast & Furious franchise, which may be viewed as a positive by some…but I’m guessing not many. The story has the Enterprise being attacked by what looks like a crapload of space knives then crash landing, scattering the crew on a hostile planet where the movie’s villain is after some kind of trinket that turns out to be a bio-weapon. Beyond is the cinematic equivalent of nachos & cheese…it tastes good in the moment, but five minutes after you’ve consumed it you have forgotten it and a couple of hours later you’re hungry again. I’ll probably “get it” more after repeat viewings, but the problem is that I really don’t feel a yearning to watch it again. Thus far this new Trek movie series has been better than the TNG films but not nearly as memorable as the six films starring the original crew. My expectations are always high with Trek, and while Beyond could certainly be worse it also could’ve been way better.

 

Batman: The Killing Joke

2016 was a big year for The Caped Crusader and this may be the surprising best of what was offered. Based on a superb & highly regarded 1988 graphic novel that concurrently examines the origin story of The Joker and his plan to drive Commissioner Gordon insane by kidnapping both he & his daughter Barbara, aka Batgirl, there are some…additions…made to the story that weren’t a part of the novel, and while it upset some critics & hardcore Batfans I am not overly offended. The theme that “one bad day” is all that separates almost any of us from a completely different life is a weighty idea to ponder. I vaguely recall actor Kevin Conroy on defunct soap opera Search for Tomorrow in the 1980’s, but in the ensuing years he has voiced Batman in a plethora of animated films & TV shows. Right alongside him is Mark Hamill, who, of course, is better known as Luke Skywalker, but should probably be equally as appreciated for voicing The Joker in all of the same animated shows & movies. Just because this film is animated does not mean that it is for kids, but Batman aficionados will likely enjoy it.

 

Bad Moms

We’ve had Bad Santa, Bad Teacher, & Bad Grandpa. Now we have Bad Moms. The word “bad” in the title basically gives the main characters license to drink, curse, fornicate, & engage in other debauchery. The cast here, led by Mila Kunis & Kristen Bell, is charming and makes it work somehow. I have no children, but I was a kid once and didn’t realize the school PTA (controlled with an iron fist in this movie by super witchy Christina Applegate) could be so…authoritative. I had a difficult time buying into that concept being even remotely plausible. However I do get the prevailing theme that mothers bear a ton of pressure & responsibility, which is probably why I see so many women in their 30’s & 40’s on my Facebook feed posting about wine, ladies’ night, & the need to “get their drink on” like they’re back at the ol’ college sorority house. Look for a particularly humorous cameo from the normally detestable Martha Stewart.

 

Sully

On January 15, 2009 Captain Sully Sullenberger piloted a successful water landing of a US Airways passenger jet into New York’s Hudson River. 155 people were on board and all survived with only minor injuries. Captain Sullenberger became one of those temporary celebrities that dominates the water cooler conversation for a week or two and then fades away into the haze of history. The incomparable Tom Hanks portrays Sullenberger in this biopic, which examines the events surrounding the incident and the NTSB investigation that followed. It’s a solid film…not all that memorable or groundbreaking, but a story that needed to be told. What is successfully conveyed is the professionalism & skillful conduct under pressure of all involved…pilots, flight attendants, first responders, air traffic control, Coast Guard, etc. Hanks has the gravitas to make almost anything he is in better by his mere presence.

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy may recall that Luke Skywalker destroyed The Death Star in the first film, Episode IV: A New Hope. Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the weapon’s blueprint and why it had a fatal flaw that would ultimately lead to its destruction. There are brief appearances by a few familiar faces, but the cast is mostly made up of new characters that we never met in the original films…with good reason. This is a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon, better than 2/3 of the sequel trilogy (I rather enjoyed Revenge of the Sith) and, in my humble opinion, superior to last year’s much anticipated The Force Awakens.

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman thinks Superman is an out-of-control God-like figure who must be stopped. Superman thinks Batman is an out-of-control vigilante who must be stopped. They battle it out in a brawl that lasts longer than Ronda Rousey’s last two fights put together, but hey, both of their mothers are named Martha so they become pals. Lex Luthor is around to stir the pot and act like a neurotic sociopath who really needs to lay off the caffeine. Wonder Woman is present for no apparent reason other than to set up a Justice League movie. All the other usual suspects are involved as well…Lois Lane, Alfred Pennyworth, Perry White. It’s quite the obnoxious spectacle thanks to director Zach Snyder, whose style just doesn’t frost my cupcake. Having said that, as a longtime Batman fan I am all in on Ben Affleck’s performance as The Caped Crusader. It is my understanding that Snyder will not have his fingerprints on a future film focusing solely on Affleck’s version of The Dark Knight, and for that I am thankful. I am not a comic book film guy…I’ve not seen any of the recent Marvel “Universe” movies…so I didn’t have unrealistic expectations going into this thing. Those that are really into that whole deal probably either love or hate Dawn of Justice. I am somewhere in the middle…I don’t dislike it at all, but I don’t foresee many repeat viewings in my future unless it’s to figure out what the heck I saw the first time.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

For the Love of Spock. I have become very difficult to please when it comes to movies. I continue to lean toward comedy, but those tend to be rather vulgar & spocksophomoric these days. Action films have seemingly become even louder & more cerebrally vacant than ever before. Hollywood caters to the lowest common denominator, serving up the cinematic equivalent of soda pop & potato chips…empty calories with no nutritional value. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, so occasionally they give us a gem. Trekkies NEED to watch this film. I actually became a bit misty toward the end, which was completely unexpected. Yes the target audience is comparatively small. And there’s really nothing groundbreaking about the stories told. But that’s okay. FtLoS knows what it is. It has a very specific focus. 7 out of 10 people may have zero interest in watching it, but the three people who do will absolutely love it. Trek has been a part of the pop culture landscape for a half century, and there’s a reason for that. Part of that reason can be found right here.

 

 

 

tomi-lahrenTo present our final award of the evening please welcome a rising star in the news business. At only 24 years old she has grabbed the attention of political observers on both sides of the aisle with her hard hitting commentaries presented thru viral videos. Please give a rousing ovation to Tomi Lahren!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Biggest News Story

 

U.S. Presidential Election

We began 2016 with a crowded field of candidates vying for the Republican nomination. Conversely, the Democratic nomination was never in question, as Hillary Clinton was always The Chosen One despite token yet spirited opposition from socialist Bernie Sanders. By the end of the summer it became clear that it would be Donald Trump vs. Mrs. Clinton, and voters of all persuasions began pondering if this is really the best America can do. Trump’s participation in the process, once thought to be an amusing distraction, evolved into a serious candidacy despite the man’s plethora of foibles. Both sides underestimated the anger & disenchantment of America’s Heartland with a decade of growing racial tension, fragile foreign policy, fading military power, decreasing moral fiber, & amplified political correctness. Trump hit all the right notes despite his penchant for sticking his foot in his mouth. His biggest weakness was also his biggest strength. Meanwhile, HRC was a terribly unappealing candidate to most everyone outside of radical left wing strongholds in urban metropolises like New York City, Los Angeles, & Chicago. His bull in a china shop bravado against her unethical behavior & vaguely creepy demeanor was a disturbing yet entertaining battle royal. In the aftermath of a Trump victory leftists in the media & Hollywood have been throwing an endless temper tantrum, which probably foreshadows a really interesting four years.

 

Aleppo

Aleppo is a city in Syria. As a matter of fact it is one of the oldest cities in the world and is inhabited by both Christians & Muslims. A civil war has be ongoing in Syria for several years, and the city itself has seen intense fighting. I won’t pretend to know all the facts of what has happened there or the foreign policy implications, but it has been a topic of conversation here in America.

 

Hurricane Matthew

The first Level 5 hurricane to hit the United States since 2007 began near the end of September and caused destruction & chaos in Haiti, The Bahamas, & Cuba before hitting the coasts of Florida & the Carolinas in the second week of October, causing power outages and significant flooding.

 

Scalia’s Death

The Supreme Court lost its most ardent conservative voice in February with the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia at the age of 79. Scalia had been a strong defender of The Constitution since his appointment to The Court three decades earlier. His loss is so significant that a replacement has yet to be vetted & confirmed, although I expect that to change in the next few months.

 

Zika Virus

Every year or two another killer virus pops up that no one seems to know how to obliterate. Zika isn’t exactly new, having been around since the 50’s. However, in 2016 the virus spread from Africa to Asia to North & South America. It seemed to especially be a problem in Brazil, causing significant concern since that is where the Summer Olympics were being held. To my knowledge the mass hysteria was overblown and no Olympic athletes or fans were infected.

 

Orlando Mass Shooting

On June 12, 2016 yet another Muslim sympathizer decided to go nuts, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others inside a gay nightclub in Florida. I’m not really sure what to think or say about the whole thing except that evil exists in the world and it is tragic when innocent lives are lost for no good reason.

 

Samsung Recall

Samsung’s Galaxy Note has been a successful product for several years. However, in 2016 they began randomly catching fire & exploding. Obviously the product was recalled. Seriously folks…just get an iPhone. You won’t regret it.

 

Brexit

In June voters in the United Kingdom (a united nation comprised of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, & Northern Ireland) decided to leave the European Union. I am not familiar enough with European politics to understand all the hows & whys, and I have no idea whether or not this is a positive occurrence. As an American I do understand the value of freedom & independence, and I cannot imagine ever merging with Canada & Mexico to form some kind of supernation.

 

Tennessee Wildfires

In November the Smoky Mountain region of the United States battled wildfires that did significant damage to the cities of Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, home of the Dollywood amusement park. 14k people were forced to evacuate. 16k acres were affected. 14 people died and 134 people were injured. These were the deadliest wildfires in the eastern U.S. in nearly 70 years.

 

WV Floods

The southern half of my home state was hit hard by floods back in June. Ten inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours, resulting in atleast 23 deaths and the loss of hundreds of homes in four counties. 44 of our 55 counties were declared disaster areas.

 

Dallas Police Shootings

In early July five police officers were killed and nine others injured in Dallas, TX following a Black Lives Matter rally. To be fair it is said that the event itself was a peaceful protest. The officers present were tasked with keeping the crowd safe, and it is absolutely sickening that they lost their lives to a racist scumbag when they did nothing wrong.

 

 

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

The Election. Let’s face it…the 2016 election dominated the news. Nearly every other story was dwarfed by it, and the candidates were asked to weigh in on other election-dayprominent events, making them tangentially tied to just about everything that happened in 2016. Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump were on our TVs, computer screens, & newspapers constantly. There was no escape. Even in the aftermath of the election the battle has waged on thanks to a complicit left wing news media and mindless celebrities that won’t let it die. And now we move to the next phase, which is a Trump Presidency, whether one likes it or not. I am inclined to believe that it is not the end of civilization as we know it. Though I am sure President Trump will make decisions that I won’t agree with, I also think he will surprise many folks with some positive choices & favorable results. We’d probably all be better off just ignoring the “mainstream” press & inane ramblings from Hollywood, although I know that is difficult. Let’s just see what happens. I think everything will be okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016

golf icon Arnold Palmer…astronaut & former U.S. Senator John Glenn…writer/director/actor/producer Garry Marshall (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Pretty Woman)…legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt…boxing legend Cassius Clay…authors Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird), WP Kinsella (Shoeless Joe), Alvin Toffler (Future Shock), Tim LaHaye (Left Behind), Richard Adams (Watership Down), & Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini)…rock icons Glenn Frey, Prince, & David Bowie…Agnes Nixon (creator of soap operas All My Children, Loving, & One Life to Live)…former NFL head coach (Philadelphia Eagles) & defensive coordinator (Chicago Bears) Buddy Ryan…former First Lady Nancy Reagan…Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia…Pulitzer prize winning playwright Edward Albee…former MLB player & broadcaster Joe Garagiola…comedians Garry Shandling & Bob Elliot…sportscasters John Saunders & Craig Sager…actresses Carrie Fisher (the Star Wars series, The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally), Debbie Reynolds (Singin’ in the Rain), Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch), Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker), Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond, Remington Steele, Christmas Vacation), Gloria DeHaven, Ann Morgan Guilbert (Grumpier Old Men, The Nanny), Zsa Zsa Gabor, Margaret Whitton (Major League), & Ronnie Claire Edwards (The Waltons)…Ray Tomlinson (inventor of e-mail)…physician Henry Heimlich (inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver)…writer/producer Earl Hamner Jr. (The Waltons, Falcon Crest, The Twilight Zone)…retired pro wrestlers Hayabusa, Lord James Blears, Joanie Laurer (aka Chyna), Balls Mahoney, Lord Littlebrook, Frenchy Martin, Blackjack Mulligan, Mr. Fuji, & “Iron” Mike Sharpe…journalist Morley Safer (60 Minutes)…televangelist Jan Crouch (TBN)…former NFL players/coaches Ted Marchibroda & Marion Campbell…Richard Trentladge (jingle writer for Oscar Meyer)…actors Abe Vigoda (The Godfather, Barney Miller), Alan Rickman (Die Hard, the Harry Potter series), Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein), Alan Thicke (Growing Pains), Bernard Fox (Bewitched, The Andy Griffith Show, Titanic), Kevin Meaney (Uncle Buck TV show), Fyvush Finkel (Picket Fences), Pat Harrington Jr. (One Day at a Time), Alexis Arquette (The Wedding Singer), Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams), Richard Libertini (Fletch, Awakenings, Lethal Weapon 4), Burt Kwouk (the Pink Panther films), Alan Young (Mister Ed), Kenny Baker (R2-D2 in Star Wars), Steven Hill (Law & Order), George Gaynes (Punky Brewster, Police Academy, General Hospital), Ron Lester (Varsity Blues), William Christopher (Father Mulcahey on MASH), Jack Riley (The Bob Newhart Show), Ron Glass (Barney Miller), Tony Burton (Rocky), George Kennedy (The Dirty Dozen, The Naked Gun, Dallas), Barry Jenner, Anthony Addabbo (Guiding Light), Larry Drake (L.A. Law), Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), Ken Howard (The White Shadow), Bill Nunn (Spider-Man, Sister Act, Do the Right Thing), William Schallert (The Andy Griffith Show, The Patty Duke Show), James Noble (Benson), Hugh O’Brien (The Shootist, Wyatt Earp), Joseph Mascolo (Days of Our Lives), David Huddleston (The Big Lebowski, Santa Claus: The Movie), Robert Vaughn (The Man From UNCLE), George S. Irving (voice of Heat Miser in The Year Without a Santa Claus), & Larkin Malloy (Guiding Light, The Edge of Night, All My Children)…troubled former NFL RB Lawrence Phillips…”journalist” Gwen Ifill…baseball Hall-of-Famer Monte Irvin…soap opera producer Claire Labine (General Hospital)…songwriters/musicians Frank Sinatra Jr., Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Merle Haggard, Paul Kantner (Jefferson Starship), Bobby Vee, Matt Roberts (Three Doors Down), Holly Dunn, Steve Young (Seven Bridges Road), Pete Fountain, Jimmie Van Zant, Leon Russell, Jack Hammer (Great Balls of Fire), Christina Grimmie, Rikki Martin, Buckwheat Zydeco, & Maurice White (Earth, Wind, & Fire)…MMA fighter Kimbo Slice…former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno…voice actor Joe Alaskey (succeeded Mel Blanc in performing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, & Tweety)…retired MLB players Tony Phillips & Milt Pappas…Oscar winning director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys)…wine maker Peter Mondavi…Cuban dictator Fidel Castro…New Orleans Saints DE Will Smith & NY Jets RB Joe McKnight…Sir George Martin (record producer for The Beatles)…former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres…sports journalist & tennis commentator Bud Collins…Jim Kimsey (co-founder of AOL)…NASCAR team owner Carl Haas…Rob Ford (former crackhead Mayor of Toronto)…WV radio personalities “Cadillac” Jim Stallings & Lacy Neff…EWTN founder Mother Angelica…former Duke University AD Tom Butters…retired NBA players Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, Brooks Thompson, & Sean Rooks…former Governor & Senator from Ohio George Voinovich…hockey Hall-of-Famer Gordie Howe…former MLB pitcher Ralph Branca (pitcher who gave up The Shot Heard ‘Round the World)…TV host Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille… Jim Delligatti (creator of the Big Mac)…retired NFL coach Dennis Green…television psychic Miss Cleo…retired boxers Bobby Chacon & Aaron Pryor…conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly…former NFL players Cary Blanchard, Dennis Byrd, Keion Carpenter, Quentin Groves, Rashaan Salaam, & Fulton Walker…political host/commentator John McLaughlin…MLB pitcher Jose Fernandez (Miami Marlins)…former NBC Chairman & CEO Grant Tinker…former Congressman & WV Secretary of State Ken Hechler…retired BYU football coach Lavell Edwards…Jeopardy champion Cindy Stowell

 

 

 

2015

2015

college basketball player Lauren Hill…musician/songwriter Gary Richrath (REO Speedwagon)…actors Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek’s Mr. Spock), James Best (Dukes of Hazzard, The Andy Griffith Show), Christopher Lee (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Star Wars prequels), Robert Loggia (Scarface, Big), Al Molinaro (Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi), Wayne Rogers (MASH), Taylor Negron (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Punchline), Richard Dysart (L.A. Law), Windell Middlebrooks (Body of Proof, Miller High Life commercials), Martin Brooks (Dallas, The Six Million Dollar Man), Geoffrey Lewis (Every Which Way But Loose, Any Which Way You Can), Tony Longo, Patrick Macnee (The Avengers), Dean Jones (The Love Bug), David Canary (All My Children, Bonanza), Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia), Alex Rocco (The Godfather, Facts of Life), Marty Ingles, Nathaniel Marston (One Life to Live), Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough, Spaceballs), Roger Rees (Cheers, The West Wing)…legendary blues man BB King…Bobbi Kristina Brown (tragic daughter of Whitney Houston & Bobby Brown)…Oscar winning composer James Horner (Field of Dreams, Titanic, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Braveheart, Apollo 13, The Perfect Storm)…televangelist Rev. Robert Schuller…NFL Hall-of-Famers Chuck Bednarik, Frank Gifford, & Ken Stabler…Gary Dahl (inventor of the Pet Rock)…ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott…actresses Donna Douglas (Ellie Mae on The Beverly Hillbillies), Yvonne Craig (Batman, Star Trek), Maureen O’Hara (Miracle on 34th Street), Ellen Dow (The Wedding Singer), Grace Lee Whitney (Petty Officer Rand on Star Trek), Patricia Elliott (One Life to Live), Suzanne Crough (Tracy on The Partridge Family), Mary Ellen Trainor (Die Hard, the Lethal Weapon series), Ann Meara (Archie Bunker’s Place), Betsy Palmer (Friday the 13th), & Amanda Peterson (Can’t Buy Me Love, A Year in the Life)…Betty Willis (designer of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign)…former NBA coach Flip Saunders…horror writer & director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street)…infamous stripper Blaze Starr…former publisher & NY Mets owner Nelson Doubleday Jr….retired basketball players Moses Malone, “Hot Rod” Hundley, Roy Tarpley, Jerome Kersey, Meadowlark Lemon & Marques Haynes (Harlem Globetrotters), Darryl Dawkins, “Hot Rod” Williams, & Anthony Mason…Huntington, WV weatherman & TV personality Jule Huffman (aka Mr. Cartoon)…MLB Hall-of-Famers Yogi Berra & Ernie Banks…entrepreneur Lillian Vernon…former Governors Arch Moore Jr. (WV) & Mario Cuomo (NY)…retired NFL player & coach Allie Sherman…singers Andrae Crouch, Ben E. King (Stand By Me), Lesley Gore (It’s My Party), Little Jimmy Dickens, Jack Ely (Louie Louie as part of The Kingsmen), Percy Sledge (When A Man Loves A Woman), Jim Ed Brown, …Las Vegas entrepreneur Kirk Kerkorian…legendary college basketball coaches Jerry Tarkanian (UNLV), Guy Lewis (Houston), & Dean Smith (North Carolina)…authors Jackie Collins, E.L. Doctorow, & Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds)…pro wrestling legends Verne Gagne, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rogers, “The Nature Boy” Buddy Landell, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Nick Bockwinkel, & Larry Winters…journalist Bob Simon (60 Minutes)…Hall-of-Fame golfer Billy Casper…former U.S. Senator & actor Fred Thompson…screenwriter Melissa Matheson (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial)…Bud Paxson (founder of Home Shopping Network)…producers Jerry Weintraub (Ocean’s Eleven, Diner, The Karate Kid), Samuel Goldwyn Jr., & Harve Bennett (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan & four other Star Trek films, The MOD Squad, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman)…former MLB players Minnie Minoso, Dave Henderson, & Darryl Hamilton…TV announcer Gary Owens (Laugh-In, Space Ghost)…Ed Sabol (founder of NFL Films)…Gene Gene the Dancing Machine (The Gong Show)…former Speaker of the U.S. House Jim Wright…NASCAR announcer Steve Byrnes…Nobel Prize winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. (subject of A Beautiful Mind)…trailblazing golfer Calvin Peete…attorney & author (Helter Skelter) Vincent Bugliosi…former UNC basketball coach Bill Guthridge…retired NFL kicker Garo Yepremian…songstress Natalie Cole…former NASCAR driver & broadcaster Buddy Baker…retired NFL coach Lindy Infante (Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts)…former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger…rock musicians Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead) & Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots & Velvet Revolver)

 

 

80’s Movie Mania: Bodacious Round 3

Greetings friends and fellow cinephiles. It’s time to put the 3rd Round of 80’s Movie Mania to bed so that we can move on to the Sweet Sixteen. At this point I can’t recall exactly what I’ve said or not said in these little preambles, so please excuse any unfortunate repetitiveness. I do want to remind The Manoverse that I am well aware that I have left many worthy films out of this competition. If you haven’t seen some of your favorite 1980’s classics there are a few possible explanations. This competition is heavily influenced…maybe totally so…by my personal preferences and what I have or haven’t seen. Therefore you won’t find any of the Indiana Jones series (I’ve never watched any of them), no horror films (the only slasher flick I like is Halloween, which was made in 1978), or stuff like Tootsie, Full Metal Jacket, Gremlins, Fatal Attraction, Amadeus, The Color Purple, or The Untouchables…because either I haven’t seen them or have and don’t believe them to be all that remarkable. You may have noticed that Lethal Weapon was included in this competition while Die Hard was not. That was a difficult decision, but I have a little something brewing for Christmas 2017 and didn’t want to be redundant (also the reason cool holiday flicks like A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, & Scrooged are not a part of 80’s Movie Mania). You already know that I eliminated trilogies right off the bat, specifically the Star Wars and Back to the Future films, four of which were produced in the 1980’s. There were also a lot of laudable sports films made during the decade, including Hoosiers, Raging Bull, Field of Dreams, Major League, The Karate Kid, Bull Durham, & All the Right Moves, but I’ve already focused on them elsewhere so I decided including them here was unnecessary. Even with these omissions I believe I’ve presented a compelling & provocative tournament, and a fun trip down memory lane. Okay, enough of that. We ride!!

 

 

 

Bodacious 3

 

National Lampoon’s Vacation       vs.     Stand By Me

vacation21983’s Vacation received byes thru the first two rounds. Chevy Chase stars as Clark W. Griswold Jr., a Stand-By-Me-Website-Banner-3-980x363-980x363well-intentioned yet blundering family man who decides to drive his wife & kids from Chicago to California to visit the nation’s preeminent theme park. As usual with road trip flicks there are a plethora of epic fails & hilarious calamities, with the biggest twist coming when the Griswolds finally reach Wally World. This movie has held up remarkably well over the past thirty plus years, with the notable exception that the conclusion would never ever happen in The Internet Age. A few sequels were made with variable results…European Vacation isn’t too bad, Christmas Vacation is awesome, & Vegas Vacation is…well…let’s just forget it ever happened. A reboot/sequel was made last year in which the adult version of Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a cross-country trek. It is…okay. Stand By Me has gotten past K-9 and Weekend at Bernie’s to arrive at this point. It is one of the better film/TV adaptations of Stephen King’s work, right up there with The Shawshank Redemption and Carrie. It has a 91% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is nostalgically romanticized by almost everyone who was a young teenager in 1986.

The Verdict:       Vacation. I’m all about nostalgia, but I really can’t fully embrace Stand By Me. I suppose I just don’t relate to the boys in the film. I never had those kinds of relationships or those sorts of adventures as a kid. Objectively speaking it is a great movie, but it’s not one for which I’ve ever had deep affection. Conversely, I’ve seen Vacation countless times in the past three decades. If it’s on television I’m probably going to stop flipping thru the channels and watch. I’ve been known to keep it saved on my DVR for a boring rainy day. There are so many great scenes & quotable lines. It is undoubtedly the zenith of Chevy Chase’s long & prosperous career.

 

 

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off        vs.     The Princess Bride

buellerYou were probably wondering about the whereabouts of ol’ Ferris. Well, he had byes thru the first two briderounds but has now arrived. 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off solidified the star status of Matthew Broderick and tells the story of a scheming yet likeable high schooler, his girlfriend, & their best friend who decide to play hooky for the day and enjoy some of the finer things Chicago has to offer. They visit the Art Institute of Chicago, go to the top of the Sears Tower, eat lunch at a fancy restaurant, take in a Cubs game, & Ferris commandeers the microphone on a parade float belting out fun covers of Danke Schoen and Twist & Shout. In the process Ferris outwits his clueless parents as well as a persistent school principal. It’s all great fun, and we get to vicariously live thru a character who brazenly pulls off what most of us would never have the cahonas to try. The Princess Bride got past Cocktail in Round 2. It didn’t fair that well at the box office in 1987, coming in 41st, behind drivel like Outrageous Fortune, Mannequin, & Adventures in Babysitting. It did better than Ishtar and Superman IV though, so that’s something. Like other “cult classics” The Princess Bride would have to wait for the riches gained from home video to be deemed successful. Actress Robin Wright starred in the film while still doing soap opera Santa Barbara, but of course she has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s best. Rotten Tomatoes rates The Princess Bride as 97% Fresh, and our old pals Siskel & Ebert gave it double Thumbs Up. Ebert said it is “good-hearted fun” and “satire containing true innocence”, while Siskel called it “the weirdest assortment of characters since Star Wars” (which I’m pretty sure he meant as a compliment).

The Verdict:       Ferris Bueller. It’s odd to contemplate how different this competition might look with slightly altered matchups. The Princess Bride probably deserves a better fate, but Ferris Bueller is just so entertaining. And it kind of has a subtle message. We’ll get into that some other time though.

 

 

 

Batman      vs.     Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

batmansymbolOur favorite Caped Crusader defeated 80’s pop staple Pretty in Pink in the last round. Batman was by far trek4the #1 film at the box office in 1989, and almost three decades later it is still near the Top 50 highest grossing films of all-time when adjusted for inflation. Willem Dafoe, David Bowie, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Richard Gere, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Englund, & James Woods were among the actors considered for The Joker. Robin Williams thought he had the role after Jack Nicholson initially turned it down, but then Nicholson reconsidered and Williams was dismissed. That angered him so much that he refused an offer to portray The Riddler in the 1995 sequel Batman Forever. Thus we were stuck with Jim Carrey. Director Tim Burton retroactively says of his own film that it was “more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie”, while Christopher Nolan, who would direct a new Dark Knight trilogy a couple of decades later, called the 1989 film “brilliant, visionary, & extraordinarily idiosyncratic”. The Voyage Home…aka the one with the whales…defeated Eddie & The Cruisers in Round 2. It was the fifth highest grossing film of 1986, behind Top Gun and Platoon but ahead of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Stand By Me, Hoosiers, & Pretty in Pink. It has an 85% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with Ebert calling it “easily the most absurd of the Star Trek stories”, but also “the best, the funniest, and the most enjoyable in simple human terms.” I concur.

The Verdict:       The Voyage Home. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Burton is onto something, and since he directed the thing he should know…Batman is probably more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie. I mean I still think of it as a great movie as well, but the competition is stiff. The Voyage Home…in my opinion…is right up there with Wrath of Khan in the Star Trek hierarchy.

 

 

 

Risky Business  vs.     Coming to America

rb2After a first round bye Risky Business took out Iron Eagle in Round 2. It was the 10th highest grossing film of 1983, cta2behind classics like Return of the Jedi & WarGames, but beating out some darn good competition like Scarface, The Big Chill, & A Christmas Story. It has an impressive 96% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ebert said Risky Business “is a movie about male adolescent guilt…in other words it’s a comedy”, and also called it “one of the smartest, funniest, most perceptive satires in a long time.” High praise indeed. Coming to America defeated Brat Pack classic St. Elmo’s Fire in Round 2. It was the 3rd highest grossing film of 1988, behind only Rain Man & Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and ahead of great stuff like Die Hard, Beetlejuice, Scrooged, Bull Durham, & The Naked Gun. Its rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 69% Fresh, which is really good but not quite on par with many of the greats in this competition. Judged against other Eddie Murphy films it is easily in his Top 5, but amongst the bigger universe of comedy films I’m not sure it stands out.

The Verdict:       Risky Business. While Coming to America is a solid comedy it doesn’t feel special except when held up alongside the dreck that comprises way too much of Murphy’s overvalued filmography. Conversely Risky Business is an iconic representation of its era.

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.

25 Favorite TV Theme Songs…..Part 1

I feel sorry for today’s youth on a variety of levels. I just don’t think their childhoods are nearly as cool as mine was. Of course I am sure parents said the same thing about our generation. Anyway, one of the things that kids miss out on these days is memorable TV theme songs. The powers-that-be figured out a decade or two ago that they could add 30 seconds or a minute to a show (well…okay…let’s be honest…it’s all about additional commercial time which means more money) by trimming down or eliminating the theme song and having the opening credits run during a show’s first scene. And even if a program does still have a theme song I’m not sure how memorable it becomes since everyone is watching things online or recording stuff on their DVR and fast forwarding thru the show. Certainly tvmusiccommercials have lost their value, but that’s a topic for another day. We’re here to talk about TV theme songs…the ones that were attached to shows that have been off the air for decades but we can still hum the tune and remember the catchy lyrics. These songs set the mood and in many cases explained the entire concept for the show. They will sometimes creep into your mind for no apparent reason and stay there for days, like an eel from Ceti Alpha V. The tunes listed here are, more often than not, affiliated with an equally awesome show…but not always. There are cases where a theme song is way cooler than the television program itself ever was. As with any kind of subjective ranking like this the choices are obviously influenced by the era in which I grew up as well as my personal preferences. Readers who may have perused my 50 Favorite TV Shows a few years ago will…understandably…recognize a lot of crossover.

 

 

 
Honorable Mentions: Peter Gunn (I never saw the TV show, and associate the song more with the movie The Blues Brothers), MASH (hauntingly beautiful but kind of a downer…I mean come on…the song is called Suicide is Painless), Mission: Impossible (I’ve never seen the show or the Tom Cruise movies), Barney Miller (a cool, jazzy tune that just didn’t make the cut), American Bandstand (an infectious song for sure), The Munsters (I’m not sure why a show about monsters had a catchy surfer theme song), Taxi (simple, elegant, but not as memorable as many others)

 

 

 

25 Happy Days
Happy Days actually had two theme songs. For the first couple of seasons it was Bill Haley & The Comets’ classic 1954 anthem Rock Around the Clock. hdAfter that an original song was recorded that is close enough in vibe & style that the difference between it and Clock is almost imperceptible.

 

 

 

24 Three’s Company / Full House
3This is our first tie…but not the last. Both shows…as well as their theme songs…are guilty pleasures. Many won’t admit that they full_houseenjoyed them but we all know that enough people did that they were each on the air for 8 seasons.

 

 

 

 

23 Star Trek / Star Trek:TNG
TOS’s theme is a bit…spacey & operatic, as if you are in the midst of an acid trip while intoxicated on champagne (not that I have trekany kind of personal experience, atleast with acid). It was composed during the 60’s after all. TNG’s theme, on the other hand, is orchestral & bombastic. Both include the familiar voiceover about space being the final frontier and explaining the mission of the starship Enterprise. I hear TNG’s theme often, as it is the personal ringtone assigned to my friend The Owl when he calls.

 

 

 

22 Night Court / Growing Pains
Growing-Pains_610Whatever happened to BJ Thomas?? I really enjoyed his 1970’s songs Hooked on a Feeling and Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head (which won an ncAcademy Award). Anyway, he teamed up with duo queen Jennifer Warnes (Up Where We Belong from An Officer and a Gentleman with Joe Cocker and I’ve Had the Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing with Bill Medley were two other hits) to sing a slightly sappy, very 80’s-ish theme for Growing Pains. Night Court’s theme song is an upbeat jazz tune with a really cool bass line. It is vaguely similar to the Barney Miller theme only kicked up a few notches. This makes perfect sense when you know both were composed by the same guy.

 

 

 

21 Dallas / The Big Bang Theory
TV Nayyar 104902TBBT is still on the air and going strong, so I hesitate to include its ebullient theme song, but I will, a) because I think it’s cool, and b) the show has been on long enough for me to fairly assume that the tune will stand the test of time. It was composed and is performed by the fringe 90’s rock group Barenaked Ladies, who I think may have had a couple of semi-recognizable hits about 20 years ago. The lyrics are more about the actual Big Bang Theory that we all learned about in science class and don’t really tell us anything about the show, but it’s still a fun song. The Dallas theme is a funky orchestral-disco fusion thing. Unique and unforgettable. Fans of the show dallassurely have memories flood their brain when hearing it…Who Shot JR??, Pam’s dream season, The Oil Barons’ Ball, Ewing Oil, South Fork. Puts me in the mood for power, money, & BBQ.

 

 

 

20 Batman / Sanford & Son
batmanBatman has had multiple theme songs over the years, from animated TV shows to the superb score by award winning composersson (and former Oingo Boingo frontman) Danny Elfman for the Tim Burton films a couple of decades back. However, my favorite remains the simple yet catchy theme for the campy 60’s TV show starring Adam West as The Caped Crusader. Minimalism works. My late paternal grandfather loved Sanford & Son, a show that was cancelled before I started kindergarten. God bless syndicated reruns, right?? The theme song is entitled The Streetbeater and was composed by the legendary Quincy Jones.

 

 

 

19 The Golden Girls
Okay…a serious question. When did The Golden Girls become a cultural touchstone for homosexuality, and why?? Maybe I’ve missed something ggobvious, which is entirely possible since the show was originally on when I was a teenager. It’s no skin off my nose…I’m just curious. At any rate, the theme song belongs in any 80’s time capsule that one might conceive, alongside The Brat Pack, acid washed jeans, MTV, & big hair. It is all about friendship, and really, who could dislike a song like that??

 

 

 

18 The Greatest American Hero
I don’t think I ever watched a single episode of The Greatest American Hero. It only lasted for three seasons and during most of that time was on Friday gamnights at the same time as Dallas, and in my house we did not miss Dallas. If I had been a fan of the show there is a good chance the theme would have ranked much higher on this list because it is among the coolest & most unforgettable songs in television history. It was memorably lampooned on a classic 1997 episode of Seinfeld, which just adds to its credibility. Believe It or Not actually became a hit on the radio (which might explain its familiarity even to those of us who never watched the show) and peaked at #2 on the charts. One thing I do find interesting about the program itself: In 1981 a show was conceived about a high school schoolteacher who becomes a superhero. It got, at best, so-so ratings and was cancelled after three seasons. Almost 30 years later a show (Breaking Bad) was conceived about a high school teacher who becomes a meth dealer. It lasted 5 seasons and is often trumpeted by some as one of the best television programs of all time. That, ladies & gentlemen, is the living, breathing definition of going to Hell in a handbasket.

 

 

 

17 Saved by the Bell
I can’t recall exactly how I became a Saved by the Bell fan. That might be because it was on in the early 90’s and my memory of those years is a bit sbbfuzzy…for reasons I won’t go into. I certainly wasn’t the target demographic. I was a guy in college, not a junior high school girl. But for whatever reason I always liked the show, even though it was so cheesy it made the 60’s Batman show look like Shakespeare. The theme song is peppy and briefly encapsulates a lot of the angst of being in high school. Interesting trivia…the Saved by the Bell and Golden Girls themes were composed by the same person. That’s some impressive range.

 

 

 

16 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Is there a cooler 90’s theme song than The Fresh Prince?? It is still the best thing that Will Smith has ever done. I’m not into rap/hip-hop at all, but if I fresh-prince-outfits-9were 25 years younger and still into getting gooned on Jägermeister it wouldn’t be hard to persuade me to karaoke the heck out of this song. I’m surprised that never actually happened. The tune basically sets up the premise for the entire series and everything that followed for 6 seasons on television evolved from that.

 

 

 

 

That’s it. That’s all you get…for now. Please stay tuned for Part 2…coming soon!!

The Sammy Awards 2012 – Part 4: The Final Crusade of the Temple of the Lost Skull

Resin-Trophies-1348257350204After a brief delay we are pleased to welcome you to the thrilling conclusion of the 2012 Sammy Awards. If you have not yet done so please check out Part1, Part 2, and Part 3 before proceeding.

 

 

To present our next award The Manofesto is happy to bring together the cast of The Hangover The-Hangover_Justin-Bartha_tux.bmp1_Trilogy (The Hangover Part III will be coming to your local Cineplex this May). Please welcome Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifinakis, Ed Helms, & Justin Bartha. And the nominees are:

 

 

Best Movie

 

Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln…the 16th President of the United States for those of you in the southern reaches of Appalachia who’ve never been out of the holler but do inexplicably read The Manofesto…is generally considered by both Democrats & Republicans as one of our greatest leaders. It’s one of the few things both sides of the aisle can agree on these days. He was martyred, ended slavery, had that whole Civil War thing…what’s not to love?? This particular offering from Steven Spielberg is a modest, solicitous look at the last few months of President Lincoln’s life when his steadfast focus was on passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery. I have more than a passing interest in politics (although I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a political junkie) so I didn’t have any issues following the tale, but it is unlikely that this is a film that will appeal to everyone. So be it. Daniel Day-Lewis is remarkable in the titular role and should have another Oscar nomination coming his way soon. Sally Field & Tommy Lee Jones are as solid as we’ve come to expect them to be in whatever they are in, and I have to give kudos to known leftist Spielberg for not inserting any kind of offensive bias into the proceedings. Lincoln is what I describe as a quiet film, meaning that it isn’t abounding in special effects, gunfire, explosions, & violence. There is a story, there is dialogue, and there is good acting. It is simplicity at its best. Most chefs will tell you that a fine cut of meat is usually flavorful enough to be enjoyed on its own, without being bathed in sauces or marinades. The same goes for movies. I have a robust predilection for quiet movies. Your mileage may vary.

 

Rise of the Guardians

I used to think that animated films were for strictly for children and the parents that felt obliged to take their crumb crunchers to see them. However, in the past several years, with movies like the Toy Story trilogy, The Polar Express, and the Shrek series my opinion has evolved, and so I was excited to see this story about Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Sandman, and The Tooth Fairy recruiting Jack Frost to help them save the world from The Boogeyman. I’m not sure why Alec Baldwin uses an eastern European accent for Santa, but strangely enough it works. Santa also has tattoos, which is weird. Anyway, the story basically takes some of our beloved childhood fairy tale characters and turns them into ass kickin’ superheroes, a premise that I’d normally crap all over. However, like Santa’s strange accent, I mysteriously didn’t hate the idea. There is some subtle commentary about childhood, dreams, fear, and feeling invisible, but that is something that is probably only noticeable to geeks like me. For the target audience this is just a rollicking good time and there isn’t a thing wrong with that.

 

Joyful Noise

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to sing hymns in church rather than Michael Jackson or Wings cover tunes. That unfashionable attitude initially made me resistant to this story about a small town church choir trying to win a big time “gospel” music competition. You see, all of my life I have attended the same country church that I grew up just down the road from, and that has understandably framed my outlook on what a church should be. But eventually I decided to give this one a whirl, and I was satisfied with the outcome. Dolly Parton has starred in a few solidly entertaining films over the years, from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas to Steel Magnolias to 9 to 5, and she does her thing here acceptably well. Queen Latifah has never really frosted my cupcake, but I suppose she’s alright. The body count is a little too high for a romantic dramedy, which weirded me out just a bit. I really liked the other two leads…a luminescent Keke Palmer as Latifah’s daughter & newcomer Jeremy Jordan as Parton’s grandson. The music is cool even if it’s not really church music. Joyful Noise isn’t going to win any awards, but even a flawed film can be entertaining.

 

The Dark Knight Rises

I have not been a big fan of director Christopher Nolan’s vision for Batman. It’s too gritty & lifelike for my entertainment palate. Batman is a comic book creation so I prefer a film that reflects that. Tim Burton’s Batman movies, in my humble opinion, struck the right balance between the dark tone of the comics and the expectations we have of a superhero movie. The first movie in this trilogy was a decent enough origin story while the second was dominated by Heath Ledger’s manic portrayal of The Joker and the effusive praise that performance received in the wake of the young actor’s untimely demise. In this case though the third time is the charm, and I have to give Nolan & company credit for getting it done right and in style. This is the very definition of epic, with a complex storyline, interesting characters, intriguing plot twists, and just enough action to keep things moving. Michael Caine is exquisite as Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred, and Gary Oldman is a strong, resolute Commissioner Gordon. Michael Keaton & Adam West are still my favorite Caped Crusaders and Christian Bale does nothing to alter that perspective here, but like a pedestrian quarterback on a team with a great defense Bale doesn’t have to singlehandedly win the game…his duty is simply to not screw it up. Bane is far from the most memorable villain in Gotham City’s rogue’s gallery, but I understand why he was chosen for this particular story. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts here, and it all comes together in a thrilling conclusion that crescendos nicely. I assume someone else will come along down the road, reboot the whole thing, and take it in a completely different direction, but Nolan lays the groundwork for what could be a captivating continuation or a slight detour with Nightwing as the central figure.

 

The Hunger Games

I really liked the Hunger Games trilogy of books, but I mentioned in my review of them that “I am looking forward to the movies because I believe they were the intended end game all along. I have a feeling that the Hunger Games movies will surpass the books’ achievements.” After seeing the first movie I am ready to backtrack on that statement ever so slightly. As most citizens of The Manoverse know, it is my belief that the book is almost always better than the movie, and in hindsight I think I was shortchanging these books. That being said this is still a fine movie. The powers-that-be nailed it when they chose Jennifer Lawrence to portray heroine Katniss Everdeen, and I really liked Woody Harrelson as deeper-than-you think drunkard Haymitch Abernathy. The movie follows the book pretty closely and there are very few significant alterations or omissions. Some of the choices the director made were interesting. This could have been a typical balls-to-the-wall action flick, but the filmmakers show an incredible amount of restraint, choosing gritty minimalism over CGI excess, which is admirable. I didn’t love some of the shaky, documentary style camera work, but that annoyance seems to dissipate as the story picks up steam. Overall the movie leaves a good impression. Whether or not it is a lasting one remains to be seen.

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I absolutely love JRR Tolkien’s classic book The Hobbit, a prequel to the more acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is one of my favorites, which is why I was simultaneously thrilled & apprehensive about it getting the big screen treatment. My concern increased when the auteur of the Rings trilogy of movies, Peter Jackson, decided that he’d direct The Hobbit as well and make another trilogy. You see, whereas Lord of the Rings really is three books therefore making three movies a logical choice, taking one book like The Hobbit and making it into three films seems more than excessive. In addition, tonally The Hobbit is vastly different than Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is lighthearted, whimsical, and…accessible. Lord of the Rings is darker & quite the marathon. This is a movie that would have benefitted tremendously from a different perspective. However, there’s no use crying over spilt milk and at the end of the day what we ended up with is pretty darn good. Martin Freeman is the perfect choice to portray Bilbo Baggins, and anyone who liked the Rings movies should like The Hobbit.

 

Dark Shadows

Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows aired in the late 60’s before I was even a gleam in my father’s eye, so I came into this experience with no expectations and no preconceived notions. I’m a sucker for funny “fish out of water” stories, so I appreciated the humorous idea of an 18th century vampire being revived in the 1970’s. Johnny Depp is clearly having fun playing the role and it is all quite campy. I suppose this would be classified as a dark comedy, although my own personal preference would have been for the comedic aspect to be ramped up just a bit.

 

 

Trouble with the Curve

It’s been quite the year for Clint Eastwood. Everyone was talking about his appearance…one way or the other…at the Republican National Convention. He was in a Super Bowl commercial that stirred the pot a bit. He’s hosting the 2012 Sammy Awards. And he also found the time to star in a movie since that is primarily what he is known for. Curve is an inconspicuous little baseball flick about an aging scout who eschews modern technology & that new fandangled sabermetrics stuff in favor of good old-fashioned instinct & legwork. The suits in charge of the ball club are starting to question whether or not Gus (the name given to most old codgers in movies) still has the knack, and his job is on the line in evaluating a power hitting outfielder who might be the next big thing. There is some family melodrama too in the form of Gus’s daughter, a hotshot attorney whose relationship with her father is strained for no particular reason. When she discovers that Gus’s job is in jeopardy and that he is suffering from macular degeneration she puts her own career on hold to go on the road with the old man. Oh yeah…there is some romance thrown into the mix too when a young scout played by Justin Timberlake pursues the daughter. Eastwood is the go-to guy for crusty curmudgeon roles and there is a good reason for that…he’s great at doing them. Timberlake has become one of my favorite supporting actors and Amy Adams as the daughter is tough yet vulnerable, sweet but also benignly sexy. Is Trouble with the Curve a great movie?? Ehhh…probably not. But it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

 

Friends With Kids

You might have missed this one. If so it’s worth a rental. The story centers around two single 30-somethings who have witnessed their other friends get married, have children, and become absolutely miserable. Their solution?? Make a baby without all the relationship drama. They do just that, and even though all their married pals predict utter disaster the twosome defies the odds and their lives move along smoothly & happily…for awhile. Of course we see where this is headed because we’ve seen it before. But even though there is never any doubt about how the story ends the journey in getting there is fun & interesting. There are no big stars here, just good writing and an unblinking confrontation with the realities of marriage, kids, and the inherent despair those things oftentimes seem to create in modern America.

 

Hope Springs

If I am a Hollywood suit and someone pitches me an idea that’ll star Tommy Lee Jones & Meryl Streep there is a good chance I’d give the green light based solely on the casting. The legendary duo play Kay & Arnold, an aging married couple who have settled into a boring routine that makes my life look like an episode of 24. They even sleep in separate rooms. Kay enrolls them in a weeklong intensive marriage counseling course in Maine. Arnold thinks their life is just dandy and does not want to go, but eventually he acquiesces, proving that there is an old softy who does actually love his wife buried deep inside all those layers of stolid granite. Playing the couple’s therapist is funnyman Steve Carell, who employs a soft monotone straight out of that old SNL NPR parody The Delicious Dish. That works great here because it leaves Streep & Jones in the spotlight to do that thing they do. The doctor’s prescribed solution to their problem is for them to have sex, which seems a bit simplistic to me, but what do I know?? Needless to say the couple eventually works thru whatever the issues are and reconnect so that we get our happy ending. This is one of those stories that might have been a complete snoozefest without the right cast, but in the hands of craftsmen like Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones it becomes a thought-provoking look into the tedium of marriage. I am probably not the target audience for this film, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

 

This Is Forty

You may recall the 2007 rom-com Knocked Up in which slovenly funnyman Seth Rogen hooks up with the beautiful (and she knows it) Katherine Heigl. In that film Leslie Mann & Paul Rudd play Debbie & Pete, the sister & brother-in-law of Heigl’s character. This is a spinoff in which Debbie & Pete take center stage as a constantly bickering couple dealing with job pressures, financial problems, bratty kids, and latent Daddy issues. I love Paul Rudd. He steals just about every movie he is in and I am glad to see him given the opportunity to carry a film (although admittedly that didn’t work out so well in 2009’s I Love You, Man). I also dig writer/director/producer Judd Apatow, who is curiously morphing into this generation’s John Hughes right before our very eyes. I am not married nor do I have children but, even though I am sure most couples don’t fight constantly like this pair, I am just as sure that there are some truths in the story that lots of folks will recognize and smile knowingly. Kudos must be given to Albert Brooks, an underrated comic gem whose presence here as Rudd’s father adds a much needed respite from the bickering. This film is superior to its predecessor, although it is an unfair comparison on many levels.

 

 

People Like Us

Chris Pine has the potential to become one of my favorite actors. He achieved the impossible in 2009…took over the role of Captain James Tiberius Kirk from William Shatner in a Star Trek reboot that not even noted Trekkie & cantankerous critic of pop culture The Owl could bring himself to dislike. I’ve seen him in a few other TV shows & movies, but he is just now becoming a star. In this interesting character study Pine plays a down-on-his-luck corporate barterer (whatever that is) named Sam whose estranged father dies. Upon going home for the funeral Sam is given a wad of cash ($150K) to deliver to a person he’s never heard of. Since he really really really needs the money and his father left him absolutely nothing he is tempted to just skip town and not find the mysterious person to whom dear old Dad bequeathed such an inheritance, but curiosity gets the better of him. I don’t think it’s a major spoiler to reveal that the person in question ends up being Sam’s sister, a single mother who is struggling even worse than he is. He doesn’t come straight out & tell her who he is for various reasons, but they form a bond and he also gets to know his nephew. There’s no action, no gun battles, no car chases. This is another quiet movie…a story about people, relationships, motivation, secrets, and lies. It is well written and the performances by Pine, Elizabeth Banks, and Michelle Pfeiffer (who is apparently eligible to play hot grandmas now) are understatedly pleasant. It’s not going to win any critical acclaim, but I liked it and in The Manoverse that’s all that matters.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

 

The Dark Knight Rises. I may not have cared for the first two films in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but the final installment is too good to overlook. To compare this movie to your typical 21st century action flick (Transformers, Fast & Furious, anything starring Tom Cruise or Will Smith) is like comparing foie gras to Vienna sausages. Batman here is akin to the shark in Jaws in that we really don’t see all that much of him (we see much more of Bruce Wayne), but that minimalist approach is utilized to great effect. The story starts out a little slow before building to a stirring climax, which I dark_knight_logorealize may not be cool with a lot of modern viewers. So many movies offer balls-to-the-wall action from the opening credits to the final scene that it has become what people are used to and what they expect. This is a movie that takes time to tell a story, to offer a plot with layers and intricate context, to develop characters and relationships…all things that I wholeheartedly embrace. The fight scene between Batman & Bane that so many fans of the comics have been salivating about in anticipation plays out differently than what one might expect. It is raw & physical, not some elaborate effects laden dance sequence. Three plot twists at the end…Bruce Wayne’s fate, the identity of the real villain behind all the mayhem, and the reveal of the possible future of the franchise…are well done and probably clinched this award. The ending of a movie is always important, and the last 15 minutes or so of this one is sensational.

 

 

To present the final award of the evening it is truly a privilege to bring to The Manoverse the 43rd6a00d8341c630a53ef0133ed0512cc970b-600wi (111x237) President of the United States and his lovely First Lady. Please give a rousing ovation to George W. & Laura Bush. And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Biggest News Story

 

Presidential Election

On November 6, 2012 we elected a President of the United States. You may have heard a thing or two about it. From the hotly contested yet kind of boring Republican primary season thru the national conventions in the summer to the general election process this was a story that dominated headlines pretty much on a daily basis.

 

Trayvon Martin Shooting

Back in February 17 year old Martin was shot & killed while visiting a gated community near Orlando, FL. The gunman was a young man named George Zimmerman who was part of the community’s neighborhood watch program. Zimmerman claims that Martin looked suspicious and that after he had contacted law enforcement the teenager attacked him which is why he shot him in self-defense. The fact that Martin was a young black man stirred the pot and took the story from just another shooting to a national firestorm. Was Martin an innocent teenager in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was he a juvenile delinquent who was out to cause trouble?? Is Mr. Zimmerman a dirty racist murderer or just an overzealous cop wannabe who became cornered by a thug and did what he had to do to protect himself?? We might not ever know the real story, but we’ll hear about all this again when Martin goes on trial this coming summer.

 

Unemployment

The unemployment rate was right around 7.5% when President Obama took office four years ago. At the beginning of 2012 it was up over 8%. This is in comparison to the 4.5-5% rate for the majority of the George W. Bush years. And we don’t even know if the number is accurate because there are so many people that have just completely given up looking for a job. One must also take into consideration how many people are employed but making a paltry wage in the $7-9/hr. range, which is certainly not enough to properly take care of a family or achieve any goals other than the next meal. It doesn’t seem to matter to a lot of folks these days though because Big Government will take care of them, which of course makes a lot of the politicians happy because it’ll keep them in power. Oh what a tangled web we weave.

 

The Death of Whitney Houston

On February 11 the world was saddened (although not shocked) to learn of the untimely passing of pop superstar Whitney Houston, who was found dead in a bathtub at a Beverly Hills hotel. I loved Whitney Houston when I was 14 years old. She was one of my first celebrity crushes. She was gorgeous & had a set of pipes that would melt even the iciest of hearts. Unfortunately she got hooked up with that jackass Bobby Brown and the two of them became just another clichéd Hollywood joke. Like so many people in modern America Houston became addicted to drugs, and apparently despite public proclamations to the contrary she never completely defeated those demons. How very tragic.

 

Supreme Court’s Mixed Ruling on Arizona Immigration Law

Controversy has been brewing in Arizona for a couple of years due to the passage there of a law designed to limit illegal immigration. Without delving into boring details let’s just say that the law imposed tough restrictions, requirements, & penalties on illegal immigrants. Almost immediately there were accusations from liberals that the law was nothing more than racial profiling and that it was unconstitutional. Queue The Supreme Court, who ruled this past June that the part of the law in which law enforcement can check on the immigration status of a detainee if they deem it necessary is okay, but struck down a large chunk of the law related to requiring individuals having to have documentation of their immigration status with them at all times and allowing police officers to randomly ask people to show such paperwork.

 

Facebook IPO Epic Fail

You have a Facebook page. I have a Facebook page. Most everyone not going to dinner at 4pm and telling troublesome neighborhood youths to get off their damn lawn probably has a Facebook page. That’s why the company going public seemed like such a slam dunk. I actually pondered the idea of pooling some cash with some friends and buying a few shares just for fun. In hindsight I am glad we didn’t go thru with the idea. Back in November Facebook began trading publicly on NASDAQ with much anticipation. The first day was disappointing but still successful. But over the next few weeks the price of the stock fell and Facebook became the stock market equivalent of the movie Gigli or the NFL career of Ryan Leaf. Somehow though I think Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, with his bank account of $9 billion, will weather the storm and not lose any sleep over the debacle.

 

Benghazi

On September 11 the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked. Four people were killed, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Ten others were injured. The Obama Administration tried to blame the attack on an anti-Muslim film that had been posted on YouTube and had been seen by less people than I rode with on an elevator today. Conservatives quickly labeled the Obama response as pure poppycock, and questions began to arise about what really happened, why it happened, what the administration really knew, and why they were so hellbent on lying about it. I believe there are still some Congressional committees looking into the matter, but at this stage it is likely a moot point.

 

The End of Twinkies & Ho-Ho’s

I make no secret of the fact that I am a chocoholic. You want to take pop away from me?? Okay, I can deal. Tell me that alcohol can never touch my lips again and I won’t even bat an eye because I don’t drink anyway. Tell me I have to be celibate for the rest of my life and never again enjoy the touch of a beautiful woman and I might cringe a bit but I’ll be just fine. But threaten to take away my sweets and we’ve got a problem. I love it all…candy, cake, ice cream, cookies. So in November when Hostess announced that it was going out of business and that snacks like Twinkies, Ho Ho’s, Zingers, Ding Dongs, and those little cupcakes with the swirly icing on top…not to mention Wonder Bread…would be disappearing forever from grocery store shelves I kind of felt like I did when I was 9 years old and my pet frog jumped out of his bowl never to be seen again. Thankfully there is a likely reprieve from this death sentence in the works, as various companies are in a bidding war to buy the rights to these products from Hostess. When fair & festival season rolls around next summer we just might still be able to pay $6 for a deep fried Twinkie. God Bless America.

 

Superstorm Sandy

There is almost always one or two big natural disasters to talk about when reflecting upon a just passed year, and in 2012 it was Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Sandy (I’ve seen it called both) which inflicted mayhem on the eastern seaboard of the country, especially New York & New Jersey, in late October. It is said to be the largest Atlantic hurricane (meaning it formed in the North Atlantic Ocean) on record and the 2nd costliest, doing about $65 billion worth of damage. It also played a key role in the Presidential election, as there were actually idiots out there who made a last minute decision to overlook the past 4 years of misery and vote for Obama because he “looked Presidential” for a day or two in the wake of the disaster, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie practically made sweet love to the President because he answered a few phone calls and dropped by for a visit for an hour or two. It is my understanding that there are still people in Jersey dealing with the problems caused by the storm, which is a damning indictment of how we use tragedies as political pawns in 21st century America but don’t really do what needs to be done to truly help people over the long haul.

 

Shootings in Aurora, CO & Newtown, CT

We’ve become almost numb to gun violence in America. It’s just something that happens occasionally and we aren’t all that shocked anymore when it does. However, two incidents in 2012 seemed to awaken the masses and spur debates about gun control, mental health issues, and a whole host of ancillary topics. On Friday July 20 a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight showing of the newest Batman film The Dark Knight Rises. Twelve people were killed and 58 others injured. I go to the movies often myself, and I am a huge Batman fan. As a matter of fact I had seriously pondered the idea of attending the midnight showing at my local theater but ultimately decided against that idea. It is awful to think that something as fun & innocuous…something so American…as going to a movie isn’t even immune from real life violence anymore. Then on December 14…less than two weeks before Christmas…a 20 year old lunatic busted into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and killed 26 people, 20 of them children ages 6 & 7. We might have become nonchalant about violence in this country, but when innocent kids are senselessly murdered we stop & pay attention. Unfortunately, as tends to happen with these types of tragedies, it was quickly turned into a political football, with leftists and Hollywood hypocrites with no shortage of armed bodyguards resuming their incessant cries for gun control. I understand the logic…I really do. Regrettably however we seem to have lost the ability in this country to have an intelligent & thoughtful debate about important issues. We are a nation of reactionaries on both sides of the political spectrum and at the end of the day everyone loses. I cannot imagine the pain & sorrow the parents of those children have been suffering thru, and I am sure it was the worst Christmas of their entire lives. To me that is what must not get lost in the shuffle here. I pray that God wraps his loving arms around these families and helps them somehow resume their lives and find a way to move forward, although I cannot wrap my head around any scenario in which that’d even be possible.

 

Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare

I am a huge fan of pro wrestling, and in wrestling one of the fun things that happens occasionally is a heel turn. That is when a good guy turns bad by screwing over his tag team partner or suddenly telling the fans that have cheered him that he thinks they are losers and he doesn’t need their support anymore. Chief Justice John Roberts did a heel turn last June when he became the deciding vote in upholding the crime against freedom & economic sanity that is nationalized health care, better known as Obamacare. Roberts was thought to be a conservative, but instead proved himself to be just another political whore when he ruled that it was perfectly okay for the U.S. government to coerce free citizens into purchasing healthcare coverage or else go to prison. Roberts ruled that Obamacare is a tax, even though President Obama himself had spent years saying that it wasn’t. If it is a tax…which I guess it has to be or else it’d be unconstitutional…Obamacare is the largest tax increase in the history of the United States. Good job Roberts…you jackass.

 

The Fiscal Cliff

The last few weeks of 2012 were dominated by incessant discussion of this fiscal cliff. In a nutshell the dawning of a new year was scheduled to bring about spending cuts & tax hikes that would have cut the budget deficit but also would have led to another recession (that is if you believe that we aren’t still in one now anyway) and would have wreaked havoc on the finances of nearly all Americans. There was the typical struggle between Democrats & Republicans…one side with a fervent desire to raise taxes, punish achievement & success, & keep on spending money like drunken sailors on social programs that will keep their handout loving voter base happy, and the other side pledging to not raise taxes & desiring to slash spending like Freddy Krueger on a crack high. Of course this deal couldn’t get done way ahead of time. Where would the drama be in that?? As a matter of fact the deal wasn’t technically done on time but a few hours late. From what I understand the Republicans caved like the Buffalo Bills in a Super Bowl, and the Democrats are proud as peacocks. That’s what happens after an election…to the victor go the spoils. It’s just too bad that you & I will be literally paying for this debacle out of our own paychecks.

 

And the Sammy goes to…..

 

The Election. I certainly didn’t like the results, but there is no denying the fact that for the vast majority of 2012 it was the lead story on a daily basis. I will refrain from going off on one of my infamous political rants. The fact is that my side lost this time and I have to deal with it. I cannot resist the urge though to point out that it is less than a week into the new year and my paycheck has already been affected in a negative way. But of course most of the 51% responsible for the debacle that occurred on that fateful Tuesday in November wouldn’t know anything about that since they are unemployed and/or sitting around smoking their cigarettes, drinking their cheap beer, watching those idiotic Kardashian twits whore it up on TV.

 

 

 

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astronauts Neil Armstrong & Sally Ride…entertainment icon Dick Clark… Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Golden Globe, and Tony award winning composer & conductor Marvin Hamlisch…authors Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), Gore Vidal, and Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)…singers Whitney Houston, Andy Williams, Etta James, Levon Helm, Donna Summer, Kitty Wells, and Robin Gibb (The Bee Gees)… General Norman Schwarzkopf…comedienne Phyllis Diller…baseball Hall of Famer Gary Carter…actresses Kathryn Joosten (The West Wing, Desperate Housewives), Deborah Raffin (7th Heaven), and Celeste Holm (Gentleman’s Agreement, All About Eve)…retired NFL stars Junior Seau, Freddie Solomon, Blair Kiel, Alex Karras, and Ben Davidson…Atari & Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel…Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius…disgraced football coach Joe Paterno…hairstylist Vidal Sassoon…infamous police punching bag Rodney King…Boston Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky…automobile designer Carroll Shelby…amplification specialist Jim Marshall…political pundits Tony Blankley and Andrew Breitbart…legendary collegiate coaches Gene Bartow (basketball), Darrell Royal (football), and Rick Majerus (basketball)…game show hosts Richard Dawson (Family Feud) and Bill Raftery (Card Sharks)…director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Days of Thunder)…sports commentators Jim Huber and Beano Cook…former U.S. Senators Arlen Specter & Warren Rudman, former Governor George McGovern, and Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye…former WV Mountaineer football coach Bill Stewart…Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon…screenwriter/director Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally)…motivational speaker Zig Ziglar…songwriter Hal David (Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, What the World Needs Now Is Love, I Say a Little Prayer)…former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell…journalists Mike Wallace (60 Minutes) and Helen Gurley Brown (Cosmopolitan)…artists Leroy Neiman and ”Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade…pro wrestling legend Chief Jay Strongbow…baseball executive Lee McPhail…fashion designer Nolan Miller…former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork…musicians Earl Scruggs, Ronnie Montrose, Davy Jones, Dave Brubeck, and Donald “Duck” Dunn…boxing historian Bert Sugar…former Patriots/Giants/Jets coach Ron Erhardt…impressionist Steve Bridges…former MLB union leader Marvin Miller…infamous mobster Henry Hill (the inspiration for Goodfellas)…retired pro wrestlers Doug Furnas, Mike Graham, Bobby Jaggers, Buddy Roberts, & Brad Armstrong…NFL Films guru Steve Sabol…former White House counsel Charles Colson…retired boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho”…actors Andy Griffith, Larry Hagman (Dallas, I Dream of Jeannie), Jack Klugman (Quincy, The Odd Couple), Ernest Borgnine (McHale’s Navy, The Poseidon Adventure), Ben Gazzara, Ron Palillo (Welcome Back Kotter), William Windom (To Kill A Mockingbird, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles), George Lindsey (Goober from The Andy Griffith Show), James Farentino (Dynasty), Sherman Hemsley (The Jeffersons), Chad Everett, Herbert Lom (The Pink Panther series), Sage Stallone (Rocky V), Robert Hegyes (Welcome Back Kotter), John Ingle (General Hospital), Charles Durning (The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon), and Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile, Daredevil, The Whole Nine Yards)

Superfluous 7 – Fictional Characters With Whom I’d Like To Hang Out

Awhile back I read a book called The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived. It wasn’t quite what I thought it was going to be when I made the impulse purchase, skewing a bit too much toward the analytical and academic instead of the lighthearted and interesting. The authors made a point of emphasizing that their list was based on influence and not popularity. Many of the conclusions reached were curious, some in a good way and some in a real head scratching sort of way. Rosie the Riveter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Barbie (the doll) made their list. The Marlboro Man was #1. Meanwhile, Fonzie and Rocky Balboa are nowhere to be found. So I decided to make my own, much shorter list. My criteria isn’t based on popularity or influence. The question I asked myself was simply “Who would it be cool to hang out with??” Now let me be very clear…I am not simply talking about meeting them or doing an interview. I am talking about spending a weekend or maybe a summer with a person, becoming involved in their daily life. Michael Corleone is an awesome character, but really…who wants to become part of the mafia with all the guns and blood?? Shakespeare created many memorable characters, but a lot of them are unstable and end up dead. I love Forrest Gump, but I think he may get on my nerves after awhile. So I thought about who it would be fun to converse with and learn from, or just have a good time with. It was difficult to narrow down to seven, but the mission was accomplished. Who would you enjoy chillin’ with if you had the opportunity and the line between fiction and reality was not only blurred but eliminated?? Don’t hesitate to let me know…after you enjoy…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Spasticsville, Kansas…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Fictional Characters With Whom I’d Like To Hang Out:

 

 

7 The Duke Boys

I am a child of the 80’s, and every Friday night from 1979-1985 I could not wait for The Dukes of Hazzard to come on television. It is only now, 25 years later, that I can truly appreciate the show (and I mean that sincerely). Was the acting great and the writing superb?? No. But no one ever got killed, and the crimes committed were pretty benign. Hazzard County seems like it would be a cool little town in which to live, as long as one doesn’t get on the bad side of Boss Hogg & Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane…and even then they are actually rather tame as far as villains go. Now I am resisting the urge to write about what I would do if given the chance to spend some quality time with Daisy, instead taking the high road and choosing to chillax with Bo & Luke. Did they have jobs?? What did they do all day other than run the roads in the General Lee and occasionally throw back a cold one at The Boar’s Nest?? I suppose they helped Uncle Jesse by doing most of the heavy lifting on the farm, but that’s okay…a little elbow grease and sweat never hurt anyone. I’m not much of a fast driver, but I could handle being a passenger as the guys race around evading the law. I imagine it’d get the ol’ blood pumping, especially when a washed out bridge forces one of those cool jumps. I could grip the roll bar and yell “Yeeeee-haaaaaa”. Mostly I can just see myself enjoying the slow pace, the good people, and the relative innocence of a place like Hazzard and learning the essence of being a cool country boy from The Dukes. And yes…I’d probably hit on Daisy.

 

 

6 Bilbo Baggins

There is a reason I specifically chose Bilbo Baggins. His nephew Frodo is a character we get to know much more in depth, as he is the main protagonist in all the Lord of the Rings books/movies. In contrast, Bilbo is the focus in only one shorter book, The Hobbit. But Frodo’s adventure is so long, grueling, and dangerous that it doesn’t seem like it’d be much fun to be in his proximity. As a matter of fact, because of that damn Ring (The One to rule them all) Frodo’s life and the lives of everyone around him becomes way too scary. Bilbo’s adventure in The Hobbit is not without peril, but it is much shorter and less fraught with life-in-the-balance moments. However, if I were to hang out with Bilbo it would not be in the midst of an adventure at all. I would want to hang out in The Shire with he and the other hobbits. The Shire is a quiet, idyllic land where the hobbits enjoy simple things like eating, drinking, smoking, and being social. The hobbits enjoy gardening and live off the fat of the land. It is a simple place and they are simple folk, which I like. Bilbo is a good storyteller and definitely has some stories to tell, plus he is pals with the wizard Gandalf, so one never knows when he might pop in.

 

 

5 Batman/Bruce Wayne

Batman is the ultimate example of bi-polar disorder. How cool would it be to hang out with him?? During the day one could enjoy the lavish lifestyle of billionaire Bruce Wayne, and at night get a taste of adventure as The Dark Night trolls the seedy underbelly of Gotham City exacting vigilante justice. I would LOVE to ride shotgun in The Batmobile and of course chill in the ultimate man cave, The Bat Cave. I am not much for physicality, but it’d be intriguing to try to outwit villains like The Riddler, Catwoman, and The Penguin. While Batman doesn’t seem like much of a conversationalist his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, is charming and charismatic. And since I would know his secret we could have rather fascinating discussions. Trying to get inside the head of a man who was emotionally scarred as a child by seeing his parents gunned down and who uses that trauma as a reason to dress up like a bat and fight crime…well call me crazy, but that sounds like fun.

 

 

4 Sheriff Andy Taylor

It has long been my opinion that the happiest place on Earth is not Disney World, but rather the town of Mayberry. I am too young to have caught The Andy Griffith Show when it first aired in the 60’s, but forty years after it was cancelled generations of people like me are still invited into the lives of Andy, Opie, Barney, and Aunt Bea thanks to reruns. And while Barney Fife is one of the funniest characters in television history and we all love Opie because we have literally seen Ron Howard grow from a small boy to an Oscar winning director and a grandfather, for me the heart & soul of the show and the town is Sheriff Andy. It may seem like a trite cliché, but Andy Taylor is a good man. He is kind, wise, understanding, and tough. He’s a great Dad, a good friend, and good at his job. I have reached a point in my life where I see that running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to impress people and achieve what the world defines as success is akin to a cat chasing its tale…an exercise in futility. Faith, family, and friendship are the most important things in life. I think a man like Sheriff Taylor understands that, and I would enjoy immensely the opportunity to sit on the front porch sipping some iced tea, picking a little on the ol’ guitar, and shooting the breeze with him.

 

 

3 Captain Jean-Luc Picard

This was a tough call. Thanks to my good friend The Owl I am a Trekkie, and the Star Trek Universe is polluted with memorable characters. I love Bones McCoy, but I really can’t see myself voluntarily spending time with a doctor. Scotty is cool, but I am not an engineer either. Spock is interesting, but really…would he even understand the concept of chillaxing?? ‘Tis not very logical afterall. Captain Kirk is awesome, but a little too intense and adventurous for my tastes. I like to keep things low key. Captain Picard is more my speed. He is less of a swashbuckler and more of an intellectual, an educated man with eclectic interests in classical music, literature, archaeology, fencing, and physics. Picard is the type of guy one could probably sit and listen to for hours, even if he is so smart that the majority of what he is saying goes way above your head. Captain Kirk would be fun to party with and you’d definitely want him on your side in a fight, but Picard is someone to learn from and gain insight about the world.

 

 

2 Santa Claus

Oh come on…who wouldn’t want to hang out with Santa Claus?? And I am not just talking about on Christmas Eve as he makes his journey around the globe delivering presents and eating cookies. I want to spend all year with Old Saint Nick. How does he know when we are sleeping and when we are awake?? How does he know whether we’ve been bad or good?? How does he know exactly what every child wants for Christmas?? Precisely when does he check The List twice and how much time does that take?? Who compiles The List in the first place?? What kind of set up does The North Pole have as far as manufacturing all the latest gadgets kids want these days?? Most of us are selfish and not the least bit concerned about the needs of others, so why is Santa so different?? Why is he so giving and what lead him down this career path?? What is the economic situation for him personally and professionally since he just gives presents away?? Does he get a cut of the profits from stores like WalMart, Sears, Amazon.com, and Best Buy?? What is the deal with the elves?? These are things I need to know people!!

 

 

1 Sherlock Holmes

I have been a huge Sherlockian since junior high school. I have read each of the 56 short stories and 4 novels countless times and enjoy them tremendously. I think maybe the coolest job in history was Watson’s. I would love love love to be Watson, hanging out with Holmes and then writing about all his adventures. I realize that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes Victorian London seem far more awesome than it probably was in reality, but that’s okay. Doyle’s London is an odd mix of quaint, mysterious, dangerous, and romantic. Holmes wouldn’t need to flip through endless channels of mind numbing idiocy even if the technology were available to him. He’s got plenty to keep him busy. If he’s not out solving some of the oddest crimes ever conceived he is conducting chemistry experiments in his living room, writing an academic treatise on various types of soil or poisons, or playing his violin. One would never get bored hanging out with Sherlock Holmes, except during those times of languid inactivity when he takes to shooting up cocaine. That’d be when I’d have to leave and visit someone else on the list. At any rate, spending time at 221B Baker Street would encompass meeting all sorts of strange people, trudging through the streets of London at all hours of the day & night in search of answers, and most of all learning at the feet of quite possibly the smartest man in history.

 

 

 

100 Favorite Movies…..56-60

After a four month hiatus the time feels right to jump back into this series. Actually this little break was rather unintentional, or atleast I never meant for it to last this long…I just had other things I wanted to write about for awhile. There is still an eclectic mix of things in the pipeline, as I hope is always the case. Intellectual curiosity is a good thing. For now though, we’ll grab some popcorn (and chocolate covered peanuts) and head into the theater.

 

 


60 Hoosiers

It seems appropriate to be writing about Hoosiers on the cusp of NCAA basketball’s Final Four. I assure you the timing is purely coincidental though fitting. Hoosiers is a mid 80’s film set in the early 50’s, which right off the bat gives it a timeless quality. It stars Gene Hackman as a former college basketball coach who, it is eventually revealed, lost his job after hitting a student. Coach Norman Dale has been out of the game for over a decade when he is thrown a bone by an old friend, the principal of a small Indiana high school in need of a coach. Anyone who knows basketball knows that it is especially revered in Indiana, and that is reflected in the story. There’s the usual conflict between the coach and his players, who just don’t understand his methods. Throw in a budding romance between the coach and a fellow teacher (who can’t stand each other at first of course), a town drunk who also happens to be a basketball guru (played by Dennis Hopper in an Academy Award nominated performance), a gifted but troubled player who is reluctant to join the team, and townsfolk who are just a bit too passionate about their team (overcompensating for their empty and meaningless lives of course) and you’ve got yourself a nicely layered movie. Hoosiers has all the typical clichés that were originated in Rocky and have become staples in sports films like Rudy, Tin Cup, Remember the Titans, and Major League. Hackman and Hopper give nice performances and Hoosiers is a more than decent flick. It’s a bit predictable and the characters could be flushed out a bit more (it’s less than 2 hours long…another 20 minutes would have been peachy), but there’s no denying it has a place amongst the great sports movies. That place just may be a little lower in my opinion than many others’.

 

59 Vertigo

It should become apparent as one reads through these 100 movies that I am a Jimmy Stewart fan. By my count there are 6 of his movies on the list. It is ostensibly his Everyman quality…nice guy, small towner, “aw shucks” attitude that draws fans to Stewart, but the truth is much more complex. Jimmy’s talents had many facets, and in his career he played diverse roles…small town nice guy, hardscrabble cowboy, sophisticated man-about-town. Three directors guided Stewart through a large chunk of his 92 films – Frank Capra (3 films), Anthony Mann (8 films) Alfred Hitchcock (4 films). It is his work with Hitchcock that, in my opinion, is the most unique. Vertigo is much like that book that you were assigned to read in school and really resisted, but upon being forced to read it you rather enjoyed. I am not normally a huge fan of the suspense thriller genre, and years ago when I first made myself watch Vertigo (afterall, any self respecting Stewart fan just HAS to), I was fully prepared to not really like it all that much. However, much to my surprise I was sucked in by the singular story and the mesmerizing performances. The plot is far too intricate to describe here, but suffice to say it involves deception, dual identities, murder, obsession, and of course vertigo (i.e. paralyzing fear of heights). Jimmy strays about as far away from the “aw shucks” nice guy persona as he would ever get, but doesn’t cross too far into villainous territory. Vertigo demands repeat viewing so one can digest all of Hitchcock’s twisted goodness, but it is time well spent…although I do recommend following it up with a screwball comedy as a palate cleanser.

 

58 American Beauty

Speaking of screwball comedies…well, okay, maybe not so much. Any movie that climaxes with a person’s brains being spilled onto the kitchen floor probably can’t really be called a comedy. Actually this film is one of those that is rather difficult to categorize, but all things considered I must admit that American Beauty makes me laugh. Maybe it is the spot on accurate portrayal of the desperation and despair inherent in modern suburbia. Perhaps it is because it takes the average happy family myth and turns it on its ear. That’s a common theme nowadays. Numerous sitcoms portray families as dysfunctional trainwrecks of unhappiness. But that is a relatively new development in entertainment. Before American Beauty only two examples, both of them television shows…Roseanne and Dallas…stood out as having such a cynical approach to family life. I never particularly liked the Roseanne show, and Dallas was a soap opera. Kevin Spacey, who I enjoy in just about everything he is in, is brilliant in American Beauty as a man going through a mid-life crisis while dealing with a loveless marriage and a brooding & timid teenage daughter. As Lester Burnham, Spacey deals with his unhappiness like an NFL linebacker deals with a running back trying to bust up the middle for a big gain. Lester begins smoking pot with a voyeuristic teenage neighbor, starts working out in order to impress his daughter’s gorgeous cheerleader friend, and quits his suit and tie gig (blackmailing his young boss for a year’s salary on the way out) at an advertising firm in lieu of working the drive thru at a local burger joint. Meanwhile, Lester’s materialistic, oddly driven wife begins a torrid affair with a real estate rival and the daughter begins an eccentric romance/friendship with the pot smoking teenage neighbor. That kid has issues of his own, with a military man for as father and a quietly desperate mother who lets her husband run roughshod over the family. All the stories converge into a strangely violent climax. Kudos can certainly be given to Annette Bening as the wife, Carolyn, Wes Bentley as voyeuristic neighbor Ricky, and the always entertaining Chris Cooper as Colonel Fitts…but the engine that drives American Beauty is Spacey, who makes every movie he is in better than if he was not present.

 

57 This Is Spinal Tap

I am a big fan of “mockumentaries”, movies that present the story within the framework of a supposedly real documentary. The undisputed king of mockumentaries was made in 1984 by director Rob Reiner (fresh off his success as “Meathead” on All in the Family), and stars Michael McKean (Lenny from Laverne & Shirley), Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer (known to 21st century audiences as the voice of Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and others on The Simpsons). Guest would go on to be a successful director of mockumentaries himself, as well as being the husband of 80’s scream queen and the still smokin’ hot Jamie Lee Curtis. This Is Spinal Tap follows a fictional British heavy metal band as they venture out on an American tour and includes flashbacks that tell the group’s backstory. Sharp eyed viewers will spot cameos or bit parts by now well known faces such as Paul Shaffer, Fred Willard, Fran Dresher, Dana Carvey, Anjelica Huston, and Billy Crystal, but it is the interaction of the three band members that makes the movie great. The band is…well…not that bright, which leads to hilarity. There are several iconic scenes that anyone who has ever seen the film will never forget…the amp that goes to 11, the spontaneous combustion and “unfortunate gardening accident “ (among other things) that continues to take the band’s revolving door of drummers, the Stonehenge set, the black album cover. And the songs – Spinal Tap produces songs with titles like Hell Hole, Sex Farm, Breakfast of Evil, and Swallow My Love. Basically This Is Spinal Tap takes everything we think we know about the awesomeness of the rock n’ roll lifestyle and throws it all out the window. You’ll never take rock music as seriously again, and that’s not a bad thing.

 

56 Batman

Sometime in late childhood I became fascinated with Batman. I am not sure when or why. I was never a comic book sort of kid, and the early 80’s were dominated by Superman, with the movie franchise starring Christopher Reeve. I suppose Batman’s backstory fascinates me, with him being just a normal guy who is psychologically scarred as a child after seeing his parents gunned down by street thugs. Batman is not from another planet and he has no superpowers. He is just a man who kicks ass and takes names. He does have a dual identity, and he does happen to be filthy rich, but I can forgive those indulgences. I really enjoy the old television show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. It only lasted for 2 seasons in the late 60’s (the almost identical timeframe as the original Star Trek series – who was in charge of TV shows in the 60’s and why did they keep cancelling great ones??) and was long gone before I was even born, but repeats were shown on some channel that I cannot recall when I was younger. Then in 1989, Tim Burton, who had achieved great success with Beetlejuice, decided to bring The Caped Crusader to the big screen. As I recall there was some trepidation with casting funnyman Michael Keaton in the titular role, but as it turns out he was perfect…much better than those who followed him – Val Kilmer and George Clooney. Of course the real star of this particular movie is Jack Nicholson as The Joker. I’ve never been a huge Nicholson fan…he’s more of a persona than a great actor…but he was the absolute best Joker. There are many that would say that the late Heath Ledger surpassed Nicholson’s achievement, but I feel like Ledger’s performance is too often looked at…subconsciously…through the prism of his untimely death. At any rate, all the stars aligned on this rendition of Batman on the big screen, and 20 years later it holds up quite nicely.