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…


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…


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…


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!!

Superfluous 7: Worst Halloween Candies

Happy Halloween Manoverse!! My trick-or-treating days are way way way in the rear view mirror, and since I have no children of my own and no crumb crunchers will be visiting the ol’ Bachelor Palace I’ll be spending the evening with Boris Karloff, Abbott & Costello, and Washington Irving. However, y’all know that I have an active sweet tooth and never pass up an opportunity to discuss junk food. Candy Corn seems to receive a lot of unnecessary wrath this time of year, and I recently remarked to a friend of mine that I could easily name a dozen sweet treats which I find much more revolting. That set the wheels in motion, and the result is what follows. So sit back, relax, and prepare to edit your shopping list for tomorrow’s discount candy binge, as I present…..





from the home office in Hershey, PA…..






The Superfluous 7 Worst Halloween Candies:




7          Whoppers

Whoppers come in at #7 because they do actually contain chocolate, which is a good thing. However, it’s what is underneath those little chocolate balls that I can’t get past. Malted milk?? What in the world is malted milk?? Well…apparently it is “a powdered gruel made from a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated whole milk” originally developed as “an improved, wheat- and malt-based nutritional supplement for infants”. So basically Whoppers are chocolate covered oatmeal. No thanks.




6          Tootsie Rolls

I’ve always been confused by Tootsie Rolls. Is it caramel?? Is it chocolate?? I guess it’s chocolate caramel?? I don’t know. The candy’s creator named it after his daughter, whose nickname was Tootsie. That’s nice, but I still can’t get into it. Given a choice I’d pick candy corn every time.




5          Bubble Gum

I am a big fan of chewing gum, but I cannot stand the taste of bubble gum. That’s probably why I never learned to blow bubbles. Also, if you’re going to turn on your porch light and welcome the neighborhood youngsters at the door let’s not be cheap. Handing out bubble gum is about a half step above those evildoers who kept giving Charlie Brown rocks.




4          Heath Bars & Skor

Much like Tootsie Rolls I am a bit flummoxed by these two, and just like Whoppers yummy chocolate on the outside masks the insidious wickedness hiding beneath the surface. What is underneath that chocolate is toffee, a concoction “made by caramelizing sugar or molasses (creating inverted sugar) along with butter, and occasionally flour. The mixture is heated until its temperature reaches the hard crack stage of 149 to 154 °C (300 to 310 °F)”. It’s that hard crack stage that I want to focus on. I bet if we did some market research we’d find out that Halloween distribution of Heath Bars and Skor is part of a sinister plot from Big Dental. I realize that eating enough sugary snacks will increase the bottom line for dentists everywhere over the course of time, but hey, why not hasten the process and force the rugrats to come in for a visit to get that cracked tooth repaired, right??




3          Licorice

Licorice seems to be an all or nothing proposition. Either you love it or hate it. Whether it’s Twizzlers, Red Vines, or any other brand, I fall into the latter category. Once again, I’ll take candy corn every single time.




2          Gummy & Chewy Candy

You know what I’m talking about. There are a hundred different brands out there. Jujubes. Sour Patch Kids. Dots. Mike & Ike. AirHeads. Swedish Fish. They tend to be fruit flavored and have a weird, gelatinous, jelly-esque consistency, which I find rather gross. The only place I ever see them prominently displayed is at the movie theater concession stand. I suppose there are some folks that buy them, but I’m not sure I could be friends with or ever truly trust such individuals.




1          Hard & Sour Candy

Here we have a two sides of the same coin situation, with the common thread being there isn’t a speck of chocolate anywhere in sight. This is a movie theater’s version of counter-programming. Y’all know how at Christmastime, while other TV channels are airing non-stop Christmas movies, there is always one station that does a John Wayne marathon?? While most of polite & intelligent society is spending their candy money on a wide variety of chocolate bars, there are a handful of savages who go in the opposite direction and choose to consume stuff like Good & Plenty, Warheads, Nerds, Skittles, Lemonheads, SweeTarts, Smarties, & Runts. Those people aren’t normal, and I bet they’re the ones who commit most of the violent crimes in our country.

Superfluous 7: Favorite Halloween Movies & TV Shows

It’s a psychological fact that some people enjoy…to a degree…fear. I’m not a scientist and won’t bore you with a bunch of jargon, but there are a couple of reasons for this phenomenon. First, fear triggers the pleasurable release of dopamine, the same thing that happens in our brain during sex. As one article I ran across put it…”Dopamine is love. Dopamine is lust. Dopamine is motivation. Dopamine is attention. Dopamine is addiction.” So adrenaline junkies, drug abusers, folks with a bit of a gambling problem, & nymphomaniacs all have a similar brain chemistry as those who are really into horror movies. I am sure that is an epic oversimplification, but it’s the best I can do. Secondly, there is something called “excitation transfer”, which essentially means that after one gets really scared they calm down, but it’s not just the average everyday calm. When the heart rate levels out, breathing normalizes, & muscles relax one feels an intense sense of relief that is exceedingly positive & enjoyable, and that pleasant feeling is what is remembered about the experience in the long run.

I tell you all of that as a preamble to saying that I am not one of those people. I don’t enjoy being scared. I don’t like horror movies. I couldn’t possibly care less about haunted houses. However, I am rather intrigued with Halloween. I’m a bit of a history buff and have developed somewhat of a fascination with cultural anthropology, folklore, & mythology. I might have explored career options in that general direction if I’d known such pathways existed as a kid. Halloween has a quirky, fun vibe and a peculiar backstory & evolution. I completely understand that many of my fellow Christians choose not to celebrate Halloween, and I respect those opinions. However, there are frivolous elements of the occasion that I rather enjoy. As much as I appreciate a big ol’ bag of candy I am a little too old to go out trick or treating, so instead I’ll keep the lights low in The Bachelor Palace, snuggle with Rocco, and delight in some fantastic Halloween themed entertainment. I’m a bookworm and cannot recommend highly enough Washington Irving’s 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Yes, I know there have been countless film & television adaptations, but trust me…read it. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novella The Hound of the Baskervilles could qualify as Halloween-ish, as could any number of stories written by the late great Ray Bradbury. Tastes vary, but there are worse ways to spend Halloween than curled up with a good book. However, this being the 21st century, many are predisposed to grab the remote and watch a movie or TV show. So sit back, relax, maybe drink a glass of cider & snack on some candy corn as I present…..




from the home office in Anoka, MN…..




The Superfluous 7 Favorite Halloween Movies & TV Shows:





7       Beetlejuice and Young Frankenstein

We begin with a tie!!

I was a little late in joining the Beetlejuice bandwagon, having first watched it several years after its 1988 release. However I have always been a fan of Michael Keaton’s work, and this is one of his most iconic roles. He stars as a long dead “freelance bio-exorcist” who is enlisted by a newly dead couple to scare a living family away from their house. Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, & Winona Ryder are in the cast as well, and the film is directed by Tim Burton with music by Danny Elfman…a most impressive crew indeed. It’s an odd amalgamation of comedy & horror that really works. A sequel has been rumored for awhile, but to my knowledge it’s all talk right now.

Did you know that a Halloween comedy inspired Aerosmith’s hit song Walk This Way?? Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein hit theaters in 1974 and is now regarded as a comedy masterpiece. It is a spoof of classic horror films, focusing on the grandson of Dr. Victor Frankenstein…an American named Frederick Frankenstein (which he hilariously pronounces “Fronk-en-steen”) who disavows his crazy family legacy until he inherits the estate in Transylvania. Once Frederick moves into the castle hilarity ensues as he decides to duplicate his grandfather’s infamous experiment. The terrific cast includes Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, & Cloris Leachman. Gene Hackman makes a brief but hysterical cameo. If, like me, you enjoy a well-written parody you can’t go wrong with Young Frankenstein at Halloween.



6       Hotel Transylvania

Adam Sandler has had a bad run, starring in mostly putrid affronts to good taste for most of the past 15 years. A rare exception is this animated 2012 offering in which Sandler voices Dracula as he tries (and fails) to keep his daughter away from humanity while hosting her 118th birthday party with many of his famous monster friends in attendance. Selena Gomez is even more beautiful animated than she is in real life (or maybe I’m just really lonely), and a bunch of Sandler’s buddies…Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz, et al…add their voices to the fun. A sequel was released in 2015, and a third film is coming in 2018.



5       Halloween Documentaries on History

Nerd alert…I have decided to include an ode to the documentary. The History Channel may have gone in the crapper the past few years (Life After People?? Really??), but once upon a time it actually focused on…duh…history, and occasionally still does (even a broken clock is right twice a day). The original Haunted History of Halloween was first broadcast in 1997 and traces Halloween all the way back to its origins with the Celtic tribes of Medieval Ireland thru an American renaissance of the holiday in the 1950’s and the rise of horror films in the 1980’s. Whether you are determined to view Halloween as a pagan celebration of darkness & death or choose to look at it thru the eyes of innocent children dressing in fun costumes and asking for candy, every angle is presented, all narrated by the mellifluous cadence of newsman Harry Smith. In 2010 History produced an update called The Real History of Halloween, which covers a lot of the same territory, albeit with a more ominous tone and without Smith’s dulcet inflection, as he is replaced by the guy who seems to narrate everything on History (name unknown). Both documentaries are worth your time. Learning really is fun kids…I promise.



4       Frankenstein & Dracula

Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897, while Mary Shelley (wife of poet Percy Shelley) wrote Frankenstein way back in 1818. Both are great novels that have frequently been adapted for the stage & screen. Most movie versions don’t hardly resemble the books at all, but that’s a discussion for another day. Universal Studios produced a collection of horror films in the 1930’s & 40’s with Dracula and Frankenstein featured prominently in many of them, and it all started in 1931 with Dracula starring Bela Lugosi and Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff. Lugosi’s performance as Count Dracula and Karloff’s interpretation of The Monster both set a standard for our pre-conceived notions of those characters. Neither film is all that scary thru the prism of what modern slasher flicks have become, and that’s just fine with me. There are several other creature features in the Universal canon of that particular era, including The Wolf Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, & The Invisible Man, that are worth watching if you are so inclined. However, I suggest starting with these two.



3       Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

I grew up in the 1970’s & 80’s, and comedy team Abbott & Costello had their heyday in the 40’s & 50’s, so I’m not sure how I became a fan. Though it may be counterintuitive, it seems like their movies (along with classic stuff from The Three Stooges, Ma & Pa Kettle, The Marx Brothers, and Laurel & Hardy) were on TV with some frequency during my childhood long before there were hundreds of channels or streaming was invented. At any rate, at the height of their popularity Bud Abbott and Lou Costello teamed up with Universal to make a handful of films in which the humorous duo encounter classic monsters. This 1948 offering is the first & best, although later entries like Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, & Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy are perfectly delightful as well. Contrary to the title the twosome meet more than just Frankenstein’s Monster…Dracula & The Wolf Man are around too. It’s a seamless blend of absurd fun & fear, which is exactly what I like.



2       Halloween

It really is the only horror movie I like. To be clear, I am speaking of the 1978 original. A bunch of sequels were made, and remake(s) came out just a few years ago, but really, other than 1981’s Halloween II, I don’t care about any of them. The original was written, directed, & produced by John Carpenter (who even composed the legendary theme song) with a $300k budget, which was super low even back then. However, the film made $70 million so everything worked out alright. Actually I think forced frugality did the film (and audience) a favor. Instead of graphic blood & guts Halloween is more suspenseful than scary, perfectly capturing the mood of the titular holiday. I have come to appreciate minimalism in relation to many aspects of life, and with movies I respect directors who show restraint, whether it is an artistic or economic choice. I can count on my hands the number of horror films I have bothered to watch in my four & a half decades on the planet…they’re just not my thing. Among those I have seen Halloween is the only one that I keep coming back to. It’s an annual tradition.



1       It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip began in the fall of 1950. Fifteen years later Coca-Cola sponsored the first of what would eventually be over fifty Peanuts animated television specials…A Charlie Brown Christmas. After the enormous success of the Christmas program plans were formulated for a different holiday show. The Great Pumpkin first aired on October 27, 1966 and has been warming the cockles of children of all ages ever since. It makes complete sense if you think about it…kids are all about Santa Claus, right?? So why wouldn’t a youngster like Linus Van Pelt desire another mythical gift giver on what is…for most children…the second coolest holiday on the calendar?? Of course we all know that the magic of Santa Claus isn’t possible without agreeable participation from parents, therefore the absence of such adults in the Peanuts universe dictates that the Great Pumpkin mythos is logically doomed. Schultz seemed to have somewhat of a jaded worldview, and it shows up throughout Peanuts. These are some cynical little crumb crunchers!! At any rate, everything about The Great Pumpkin is perfect, from Charlie Brown getting nothing but rocks in his trick or treat bag in what has to be the cruelest neighborhood in history, to Snoopy going all Walter Mitty and battling The Red Baron on a flying dog house, to the charmingly vibrant animation & groovy jazz soundtrack. I might be “middle-aged”, but I never hesitate to wave my inner child flag and bask in the glorious glow of nostalgia. The Great Pumpkin is quintessential Halloween, and for that I am thankful.

The Great Pumpkin Is Filthy, Charlie Brown!!

gpump1ABC recently aired the 50th Anniversary edition of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!, the classic Peanuts animated special that debuted in 1966. My trick-or-treating days ended many years ago and I’m not really into horror movies, but The Great Pumpkin is a Halloween tradition that has my full support.


I am sure that anyone with a pulse is familiar with the gist of the storyline so I’ll skip reviewing the gpump3details. However, allow me to point out that for many years the show that we’ve enjoyed watching each October is NOT the one originally broadcast in 1966. Network television routinely edits the broadcast, presumably to squeeze in an extra commercial or two. My innate idealism still occasionally pops up, so I thought that may be…just maybe…the program would air unedited in celebration of the Big 50. No such luck.


gpump6There are two scenes from the original that are usually cut. The first is an iconic interaction between Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt where he naïvely thinks that THIS is the year that he is FINALLY going to kick that football. Of course malevolent little Lucy pulls the ball yet again and ol’ Chuck ends up flat on his back. The second deleted scene takes place at the kids’ Halloween party after Lucy has gone bobbing for apples and instead ends up with a mouthful of Snoopy. Snoopy goes over to Schroeder and the young piano virtuoso gpump11proceeds to play a set of World War 1 era songs, including It’s a Long Way to Tipperary & Roses of Picardy, which make Snoopy, who of course is dressed as a WW1 flying ace, very emotional.


gpump8After watching ABC’s broadcast and being disappointed that they couldn’t even show the program in its full & original form on its 50th anniversary I decided it was time to utilize modern technology. A couple of years ago I purchased one of those streaming stick players. What is really cool about it is that when I search for a movie or TV show it is almost always available from one of several services…Netflix, Vudu, Amazon, and a few other choices. However, upon searching for It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! I found that it was not available from any of the familiar suspects, but could be rented from a company I’d never heard of before called VidAngel.


VidAngel is a relatively new option launched in 2014. It allows viewers to filter out things like nudity, violence, & profanity from what may gpump13otherwise be a perfectly entertaining show/movie. It’s actually a really cool idea. For example, if you are watching Titanic with your young teenager but don’t want him to get an eyeful of Kate Winslet’s ample bosom then you can just edit that scene out. Or perhaps you’d really like to share your love of gangster flicks with a new girlfriend who’s a little squeamish. Just edit all of the violence. Now the other unique thing about VidAngel is that you actually “buy” the movie for $20 but after you’re done watching sell it back for $18, which means that it is ultimately a $2 rental. I am sure there are legitimate reasons for this approach, but exploration of the business model is not my current focus.


gpump12So, you would think that there wouldn’t be anything objectionable to be edited from The Great Pumpkin, right?? Well…much to my surprise that assumption is wrong. Way wrong. Apparently this sweet & innocent little animated special many of us have been watching annually all of our lives is potentially as offensive & depraved as a snuff film or anything ever made by Quentin Tarantino. Who knew??


VidAngel’s menu lists 64 possible filters for The Great Pumpkin. 64!! For a show that runs less than a half hour!! These potential pitfalls of gpump10profanity are listed under headings like Crude Language, Violence/Blood/Gore, Disturbing Images, & Sexual References. Sex?? In The Great Pumpkin?!?!? Charlie Brown is more of a rebel than I ever dreamed!! Now, the catch to VidAngel is that they assume you’ve decided to use their service for a reason, so you MUST select atleast one filter. How ironic that my whole purpose was to watch the program unedited but then being forced to make an edit.


Amused more than annoyed, I began to look at the filter menu. Among the possible choices of scenes to be cut:

            * ”A boy questions another boy’s belief in Santa Claus”

            * “A boy is cold & chatters his teeth”

            * Use of “crude” language like blockhead, stupid, & doomed

            * “A girl offends an animal”

            * “A girl stares at a boy”

            * “Gunshots & explosions are heard”

            * “An animal cries”

Ultimately I chose the most unobtrusive filter I could find, which was “several skeletons are seen”, which I knew comes during the opening credits. It shaved 4 seconds off the show, but I was able to enjoy Charlie Brown whiffing on kicking the football and Schroeder’s nimble piano skills.


As I said, I think VidAngel is a good concept. The world would be a better place without all of the vulgarity that has become such a pervasive gpump9presence on the pop culture landscape. Unfortunately our society has become anesthetized to so much of that. However, it is hilariously disturbing when we can take innocuous entertainment like It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! and pick the bones of its innocence clean thru the prism of political correctness. Perhaps we need to pump the brakes a bit. Happy Halloween Manoverse!!

Happy Halloween??

Because I am here not only to entertain but to educate let me state for the masses that a ghoul is a shape shifting monster descended from Satan that has its roots in Arabian folklore and is spoken of in the Koran, and a goblin is a gnome-like creature with origins in European fairy tales that is more mischievous than evil. These terms aren’t all that necessary in relation to the topic du jour but I have an affinity for inconsequential yet semi-fascinating minutia.

Readers of The Manofesto know that I have rather robust views on a variety of subject matter, from politics & religion to sports & entertainment. So my ambivalence toward Halloween may come as a bit of a surprise to some. I am a fairly middle-of-the-road Christian, which usually means I cannot win. Our world has been so programmed with politically correct garbage like “tolerance” and “multiculturalism” that anyone that takes a stand for morality and the teachings of Christ is looked upon with scorn. Conversely, I know too many brothers & sisters in faith who are so hardcore, so serious, so unwilling or unable to loosen up that sometimes my views are looked upon by them as lackadaisical. So be it. I am who I am, I know what I know, and I believe what I believe. Time and experience molds us all, beliefs and attitudes do change.

Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, began as a Celtic festival called Samhain in 16th century Ireland. The Celts were much more than a basketball team from Boston. They were a tribal society in Central Europe during The Iron Age that eventually migrated to Great Britain by the 1st Century AD. The Celts were polytheists, which meant that they had literally hundreds of gods and goddesses. They tended to worship nature, believing that many natural things contained spirits with which they could communicate. The tribal clergyman were known as Druids and were held in high esteem amongst the social order of the day. One of the responsibilities of the Druids was to lead the four annual religious festivals. Imbolc was held at the end of January and marked the beginning of spring. Beltane was held on May 1 and celebrated the coming of summer. Lughnasadh was a harvest celebration held in August. And then there is the festival that eventually begat what we know as Halloween…Samhain (pronounced saw-een), the most important of the four festivals. Samhain can be loosely translated as “summer’s end” (and is NOT the Celtic god of the dead), and it marked the time of year when the days began to grow shorter and darkness lasted longer. But there is a lot more to it than that.

The Celtic people did not have the understanding of Heaven and Hell that is common in our modern world. They believed in what they called the Otherworld, a place where their deities, spirits, and the dead resided. On October 31st they thought that the passageway between this world and the Otherworld was opened, allowing spirits, both evil and benevolent, to roam in their midst. Sounds crazy, right?? Probably. But it is what these folks believed. It was a scary time for the Celts. Think about autumn. Much of the time it is cold, dreary, and dank. Crops won’t grow. Leaves are falling from the trees and other foliage is dying. The dead foliage in turn prevents animals from grazing, so whatever food was on hand at the time had to last them through the long hard winter…no freezers, grocery stores, or other conveniences were available after all. We have a scientific understanding of the whats, the whens, and the whys…they did not. So in order to appease the evil spirits and prevent mayhem and destruction the Celts decided to offer sacrifices of food and occasionally livestock. Hence the earliest version of trick-or-treat. They also built bonfires and inserted candles into turnips to “light the night”. When Irish immigrants came to America after the potato famine of the mid-19th century they continued their familiar rituals, including Samhain, but found pumpkins more plentiful than turnips, and boom…the jack-o-lantern was born. An old folktale is attached to the jack-o-lantern wherein a really bad guy named Jack is so malevolent that he’s banned from both Heaven and Hell and therefore doomed to roam the Earth with nothing to light his way but a candle inside a turnip. Another tradition was dressing up in scary costumes to hopefully keep the evil spirits away. At some point during these Samhain celebrations bobbing for apples became a popular component of the celebration, in no small part due to the spread of the Roman Empire. Bobbing for apples was an ode to Pomona, the Roman goddess of love & fertility. Those wacky Celts also believed that oftentimes spirits inhabited the bodies of animals, most notably the black cat.

Enter Christianity, which began to spread like wildfire just prior to The Middle Ages. It is easy to imagine that pagan rituals and beliefs did not sit well with Christians, and they wanted to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. So they came up with a great idea…they moved All Saints’ Day, a holiday celebrating the lives of saints who didn’t already have their own special day, to November 1st. All Saints’ Day is also known as All Hallows’ Day, which makes October 31st All Hallows’ Eve, aka Halloween. One can debate the success of this strategery, as thousands of years later Halloween is one of our most popular holidays while All Saints’ Day, especially outside the Catholic church, doesn’t seem to have retained much significance. But hey, it was worth a shot, right??

I am not a historian and am far too faineant to spend endless hours doing research, so this isn’t exactly a thorough examination. However, you get the basic gist.

Now let us fast forward to where Halloween stands in America. Many tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to be free, began immigrating from Europe to America in the 19th Century. Naturally they brought with them the traditions of their homelands. The Irish brought us Halloween. Today’s Halloween is pretty simple. For children it is an opportunity to dress up and go door-to-door to score bags full of candy. For adults it is just another excuse…as if any old Friday or Saturday night isn’t already enough of one…to party, i.e. dance and drink copious amounts of adult beverages. The question is, does this make us a bunch of Satan worshiping heathens?? As you may have already guessed, my answer to that query is “no”. Furthermore, it is my opinion…your mileage may vary…that those who try to make modern Halloween something sinister are silly.

First of all, if one really wants to go all those centuries back to the beginnings of the holiday the line must be drawn between paganism and Satanism. Contrary to popular belief there is a difference. Paganism, especially all those years ago, was a sin of ignorance not evil. They worshiped nature as they understood it and went a tad too far by assigning god status to inanimate things. I have a strange sense of pity for these pagans. It seems like their lives were ruled by fear and paranoia, always waiting for some sort of doom to befall them. It sounds like an awful way to live and it is a considerable reach to equate them with Satanists.

Secondly, regardless of what the origins of Halloween were and what one may feel about it, is it fair to even compare Halloween in 21st Century America with what was going on in Ireland 2000 years ago?? Is it rational to think that some little kid dressing up like Batman and trapsing through the neighborhood begging for chocolate has any concept of evil in his/her cute little brain?? Even the thirtysomething going to a costume party at the local pub isn’t doing anything any more heinous than they’d be doing anyway if it was just another weekend and they were getting all liquored up to blow off steam from a rough week at the office, the difference being that once a year they do it dressed as Lady Gaga or one of the idiots from Jersey Shore. So what??

Unfortunately I have a feeling that my passivity toward Halloween is not an attitude shared by a lot of fellow believers. For example, in the course of the negligible investigation I did do for this diatribe I found the following from televangelist Pat Robertson: “I think we ought to close Halloween down. Do you want your children to dress up as witches? The Druids used to dress up like this when they were doing human sacrifice. The children are acting out Satanic rituals and participating in it, and don’t even realize it.” Sorry Pat, but you’re wrong. The Celtic people didn’t leave a lot of photos or other memorabilia, so we don’t actually know how the Druids dressed, and who can say with any authority how witches typically dress (then or now) anyhow?? Plus, as already covered, these Druids were doing pagan rituals…not Satanic rituals. And our children aren’t acting out anything…they are having fun. Maybe Pat Robertson should try that sometime. I also found this gem: “Many religious conservatives regard themselves, their families and friends as continuously being at risk for demonic oppression or possession. Conservative Christian psychiatrist David Enoch has said that: “Halloween practices open the door to the occult and can introduce forces into people’s lives that they do not understand and often cannot combat.” Some believe that “doorways” which allow Satan to have access can be created by something as simple and innocent as bringing a box of Celestial Seasonings tea into the home. These have a 5-pointed star on the rear of the container. This is a “Star-K” certification symbol indicting that the products meets kosher food requirements as stipulated in the Old Testament. However, many conservative Christians believe it is a Satanic symbol. Having such a box of tea in the house is said to give Satan the “legal right” to enter the home and attack the family. A “doorway” could also be created by a Wiccan healing ritual, acupuncture, yoga exercises, hanging an aboriginal dream-catcher on the wall, or engaging in thousands of other activities.”

If you believe that a box of tea, yoga, or acupuncture are pathways for Satan to possess people then you are a moron.

Even Christians who attempt to continue the long and storied history of usurping the original meaning of an event and giving it a Godly spin aren’t good enough for some when it comes to Halloween. Many churches do things like Light the Night or Harvest Parties in an effort to remove the “darkness” motif and emphasize the Light of Jesus. A great idea in my opinion. But again my minimal efforts brought forth the following: “Harvest parties on October 31 tend to assume that our children need something to take the place of Halloween since they won’t be participating in the secular and pagan celebrations. It suggests our kids are missing out on something. And indeed they are, if we allow them to spend Halloween in celebration. There are better things to do on Halloween than partying. If we are to train our children to be soldiers in the army of Christ, why would we sign a pass for them to go on leave when the battle is escalating on the front lines?”

Come on folks…these are kids we’re talking about!! There are better things to do on Halloween than celebrating & partying?? Not to an 8 year old. Soldiers?? Battles?? Front lines?? How about we let them enjoy their childhood?? I believe wholeheartedly in training a child right, bringing them up in church, and teaching them about God, salvation, prayer, and various other things. But I also think that Christians…both children and adults…are allowed to enjoy themselves occasionally. Church folk who take themselves way too seriously are not doing the faith any favors.

Are there negative things associated with Halloween that I don’t like?? Sure. I am not a fan of horror movies at all, and there are a lot of them on TV and in theaters this time of year. I prefer to laugh and have a good time instead of seeing fictionalized depictions of death and mayhem. People who are a little too into scary movies are definitely wired differently than me. Witches aren’t at the top of my list of favorites either. I also think that moderation should be exercised when choosing costumes. Graphically bloody costumes aren’t all that appropriate, especially for children. But is this really even an issue?? For as long as I can remember most of the kids I’ve encountered on Halloween have been dressed rather innocuously. Superheros like Spiderman and Superman, whomever the sports stars du jour are, characters from popular movies and television shows, and general “characters” like firemen, soldiers, and cowboys always seem to be what the kids dress like, not mass murderers, Satanic figures, or any other manner of evilness. One of the biggest selling costumes for 2010 is apparently President Obama. I may not be a fan of his policies but even I will admit that he isn’t an agent of the devil. Now Oprah on the other hand…..

Anyway, that is my opinion. Will I feel the same in 20 years?? I don’t know. If you disagree that’s fine and I respect your opinion. However, I do prefer that opposing opinions have some basis in reality and be expressed intelligently. I don’t mind debates about politics or religion except when the parties involved are complete fools, which, unfortunately, is all too common. I just do not believe that going to a haunted house or reading a well written ghost story condemns a person to the fiery pits of Hell. Halloween, if anything, is a fantastic opportunity to witness to people, to talk about light vs. darkness, hope vs. fear, and eternal life vs. death. I think that is something upon which most would agree. The debate is how best to seize that opportunity. I choose to have some fun, look for ways to inject Godly wisdom into the situation, and try to find a way to pragmatically relate to as many people as possible. Others choose to condemn, hide from, or ignore what is all around them, which just makes them look foolish and judgmental. How do you view the issue??






100 Favorite Movies…..36-40

It is more than likely after today’s sojourn into cinema that we’ll be taking another little break from this series. There are some other things that The Lord is laying on my heart to write, some that I have already begun such as the Sermon on the Mount analysis and the examination of the Fruits of The Spirit. I do not anticipate that this breather will be a few months like last time…more like a few weeks. Until we pick things back up, please enjoy this entry and take a look around The Manofesto at the other subject matter I attempt to write about with some semblance of intelligence and affection.



40 Cast Away

Any hardcore sports fan will tell you that success in baseball requires a collective effort, as does football…but in basketball one superstar can put a team on his back and carry them a long way toward victory.  Similarly, in film, occasionally a single performance is so brilliant that it makes an otherwise flawed film great. Tom Hanks is another actor, like Jimmy Stewart & Robin Williams, who seems equally adept at comedy and drama. I tend to prefer his more lighthearted performances, but that is a byproduct of my overall gravitation toward comedy and not really a commentary on Hanks’ abilities. In 2000’s Cast Away Hanks plays Chuck, a globetrotting FedEx systems guru who is constantly called to all corners of the world to put out fires (in a figurative sense). He is on the verge of proposing to his understanding girlfriend Kelly on Christmas Eve when he has to fly off on yet another problem solving endeavor. He tells her “I’ll be right back”, but his plane crashes and he ends up marooned on an island in the middle of nowhere. The plane crash scene is attention-grabbing and disturbingly realistic, but in a good way. A large chunk of the story is then told on the island, as we see Chuck evolve…or maybe devolve…from a harried, Type A, always on the run, white collar yuppie wannabe into a lonely, boney, grizzled survivalist. The island scenes are, in my opinion, sublime. There are long stretches with no dialogue, and it’s only the subtle, skillful craftsmanship of Tom Hanks that keeps us invested. Cast Away should be shown to every acting student in order to teach how a performer can convey so much with their eyes, small gestures, and sheer physicality. I cannot avoid spoiling things by saying that Chuck does find a way off the island after four years and is rescued. His return home is the portion of the film that is a mixed bag. On one hand I applaud the writers and director Robert Zemeckis for not giving into the temptation to give us the trite, happy ending. Kelly has moved on with her life, gotten married and had children, and that is dealt with effectively. And there is a scene where Chuck’s co-workers throw him a welcome back party complete with a smorgasbord that includes crab legs. Chuck picks one up and tosses it aside dismissively, which is absolutely exceptional. The man has just returned from a deserted island where he has eaten nothing but seafood for four years and these thoughtless jackasses put that kind of stuff on the buffet?? It is almost a throwaway moment, but for me it is one of the most memorable scenes in any movie I’ve ever seen. On the other hand, the ending leaves something to be desired. Chuck has held onto one unopened package that washed up on the island and delivers it. The note he leaves says “this package saved my life”, which I don’t get. Maybe I am just being thick, or overanalyzing. Then he comes to a crossroads…literally. The film ends with Chuck standing in the middle of a four way road with a slight grin on his face. It’s a very odd ending that I suppose was meant to have a thoughtful, ponderous tone. Instead it just leaves me…every time I watch…thinking “That’s it??”. At any rate, the film’s shortcomings are trumped by Hanks’ unforgettable performance and its “read between the lines” commentary on the value of time and the importance of priorities. I would have liked to have seen more emphasis put on what happens after Chuck’s re-entry into civilization, but that likely would have meant shaving the amount of time spent on the island scenes, which would probably lessen the overall impact.


39 The Shawshank Redemption

Sometimes I wish Hollywood could figure out a way to put Morgan Freeman in every movie and television show. He automatically makes whatever he is in better. He has a certain something…call it class, or maybe gravitas…that draws the viewer in like a magnet. In 1994’s Shawshank Redemption, Freeman plays Red, a grizzled veteran of prison life and a man with “connections” who is able to get his fellow prisoners almost anything they want, which makes him an important guy. Red becomes good friends with the newly arrived Andy, played by Tim Robbins in his only notable performance outside Bull Durham. Andy has been wrongly accused and convicted of killing his wife and her lover. He begins to become an important guy like Red by tutoring fellow inmates to get their GED and helping the guards with their taxes. The warden utilizes Andy’s skills to launder kickback money. Eventually, after 20 years, Andy escapes in a unique and unforgettable way that involves a rock hammer and a Rita Hayworth poster, exposing the warden’s illegal schemes in the process. Not long after Red is paroled after having spent 40 years at Shawshank for a murder he did actually commit. The ending is all about hope and…well…redemption. But before we get to that ending we get realistically harsh glimpses of prison life, from brutal & crooked guards to gang rape to the suicide of an old convict who has been released but cannot function “on the outside”. The Shawshank Redemption is not light entertainment, and thus it probably ranks lower than many films of lesser quality on this list simply because it isn’t the kind of movie that one watches over and over again on a lazy rainy Saturday on one of the abundantly available cable TV channels. Or atleast it’s not the kind of movie I am going to watch that often. When I do watch stories like this my palate has to be immediately cleansed with something frivolous and optimistic. Nonetheless, Shawshank is a brilliantly written tale with a cast second to none.


38 Best in Show

I talked about my affection for mockumentaries when we looked at This Is Spinal Tap, and Best in Show is the funniest yet. Maybe being a dog owner enhances the experience?? I don’t know. There is a group of actors…Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Ed Begley Jr., Bob Balaban, Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, & Jennifer Coolidge…that have done several of these types of films together, all directed by Guest. The story centers around an eclectic group of dog owners all headed to the same show in Philadelphia. The show itself is a parody of the Westminster Dog Show held every spring at Madison Square Garden and The National Dog Show shown every Thanksgiving on NBC immediately following the Macy’s Parade. The owners portrayed include a redneck hound dog lover, a clueless airhead heiress engaged in the love that dare not speak its name with her dog’s lesbian trainer, an uptight yuppie couple, a middle aged Florida couple who keeps coming across men the wife has had sex with, and a humorously effeminate gay couple. We also get to meet the folks who actually produce the dog show, and the highlight is a clueless, over-the-top announcer that says things like “which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?” and “I went to one of those obedience places once. It was all going well until they spilled hot candle wax on my private parts.” It’s all very absurd and that is kind of the point. There isn’t any message, no moral to the story, no lessons to be gleaned. It’s just a good time. Try this though…watch Best in Show and then watch one of the real dog shows. You will see just how perfectly the movie captures the essence of the actual event, and that’ll make the movie even funnier.


37 Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

The parade of Christmas movies continues. Lost in New York is a sequel to 1990’s Home Alone, which we will discuss down the road. I feel safe in assuming that the vast majority of folks have seen both films. The sequel uses the same formula as the original, only changing the setting. And while that may indicate an all too prevalent lack of creativity, it is also quite logical. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?? The question I had when this film first arrived in theaters in 1992…and I am sure I was not the only one…was “How in the world can these idiotic parents accidentally ditch their kid AGAIN??” The answer is actually rather clever, the only part of the story with any originality. Once little Kevin has been separated from the pack he ends up in The Big Apple and is having a rollicking good time shacked up at the posh Plaza Hotel. But coincidentally the bumbling thieves from the first film end up in New York too, plotting to rob a toy store on Christmas Eve. Kevin discovers the plan and foils the robbery. There is an extended scene of cartoon violence just as in the first film, this time making use of an absent aunt and uncle’s currently undergoing extensive renovations home. Meanwhile the rest of the family is in Florida until the police discover that Kevin has used his Dad’s credit card in New York. The story is completely predictable and we can see the ending a mile away, but I don’t care. This is a funny movie and a holiday tradition. Is it on the same level as some of the more renowned Christmas classics?? No. I would put it a level below most of them. I could have done without the pious subplot involving the homeless pigeon lady, and the preachy toy store owner is a weak but necessary plot device. But those are small points of contention. Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern are once again sufficiently amusing as the crooks, and Rob Schneider & Tim Curry are modestly humorous as maybe the most inept hotel employees in history. The family plays its necessary part. The city itself is always an effective co-star in the myriad movies and television shows set there. I suppose my affection is, in this case, more a function of repeated viewings than possibly any other movie thus far. Lost in New York is inexplicably on random television channels throughout the year, so I have watched it a lot. I am fully aware that it isn’t high art or critically acclaimed, but it is innocuous enough and suits my tastes just fine.


36 Halloween

Let us segue from Christmas to Halloween. I am not a big horror guy. I just get no joy out of seeing some deranged serial killer mow through an entire cast of characters with a knife or chainsaw or other sundry instruments of doom. People who seem a bit too fascinated with blood n’ guts have a chemical makeup in their brains with which I cannot identify. That being said, Halloween is the one movie of its genre that I thoroughly enjoy and watch annually (during the appropriate season of course). Just to be clear, I am speaking of the 1978 John Carpenter original and not the fairly recent Rob Zombie “reimagining”. I haven’t seen that one yet and probably never will. Carpenter’s film introduces us to Michael Myers, who stabbed his teenage sister to death when he was six years old on Halloween night and has been in a mental institution for 15 years. He escapes…on Halloween…and returns to his hometown. In hot pursuit is the obsessed Dr. Loomis, who has been treating Michael all these years but at some point gave up because he realized the boy was “pure evil”. We also meet teenager Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis in what was her first film role. Michael Myers seems to have an odd fascination with Laurie Strode and stalks her throughout the movie, killing several innocent bystanders along the way. I think one of the reasons I like Halloween is because it really isn’t all that bloody, atleast by today’s standards. The producers didn’t have much of a budget, so they rely mostly on atmosphere and ambiance, and that works really well. Halloween isn’t so much gory as it is eerie and suspenseful. The story is well written and not really all that out in left field. The use of our scariest holiday is inspired and the music is perfect. I particularly enjoy Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis. He is borderline maniacal himself in his dogged hunt for the killer. As with so many other horror films Halloween spawned countless sequels, each one progressively more ridiculous, atleast until Jamie Lee Curtis was brought back into the mix after two decades and participated in two follow-ups that basically ignored all the insipidly silly chapters that preceded them. But even those two movies couldn’t live up to the magic of the original. Sometimes the right mix of circumstances converges and we get lightning in a bottle, and it is nearly impossible to ever repeat. Such is the case with Halloween. I would be remiss if I did not mention Halloween II, which was made 3 years after the first but the story picks up exactly where the first film left off. Michael stalks Laurie in a hospital, slowly killing various nurses and staff. We eventually learn that Laurie is Michael’s younger sister and that’s why he is after her. Michael and Dr. Loomis both supposedly die at the end, but of course death is oftentimes not permanent in the slasher genre. I just cannot put Halloween II in the list, even as a backdoor tie. The violence and gore is increased noticeably and unnecessarily, and there just seems to be something missing. It is certainly much better than the countless sequels that would follow, but not on par with its predecessor. As I said, lightning in a bottle is almost never captured again.