Back in Time?

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All writers get writer’s block.  I am hardly a “writer”, but sometimes stare at the blank page and wonder what to write about.  Since I began blogging, I have stumbled on blogs written by others who share some of the same interests as me.  I have followed blogs that feature movies, TV, music, nostalgia, positive thoughts & quotes, and more.  There have been many instances where I read another blog and an idea will pop into my head.  My friend Max and I tend to “borrow” ideas from each other often.

Many ideas I adapt from those blogs.  For this blog I am literally stealing the idea, and giving credit, and creating some rules for it.  The Anxious Teacher wrote a blog after watching Back to the Future III.  You can read it here:

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What a great idea for a blog!  If you had a time machine – where would you travel?  As I thought about this, I wanted to limit myself to a few things.  First of all, because I have watched the Back to the Future movies, I know that if you go back and change something in the past – it will affect the future.  So Limit #1:  If I go back, I am simply there to observe.  Many of the things I thought I would like to go back and witness happened over a period of time, so Limit #2 – no real time limit.  Limit #3 – wherever I go, I will be dressed appropriately as to not raise suspicion.  I know, it’s silly, but it’s my blog and my rules.

I actually thought about adding what I would call the “Ebenezer Scrooge” element to this.  What is that?  Well, remember when Scrooge was transported into the past, present & future?  He could witness everything, but he could not interact with anyone.  Those events happened and the people were not aware he was even there.  Perhaps that would be the best thing, right?  That way, if I went back in time, I would not be tempted to change things.

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General times and places

As my blogger friend said, I think it would be very cool to visit the old west.  I have watched many westerns on TV and in the movies.  I have read many books set in the old west.  I think it would be pretty cool to walk through one of those western towns.  How cool would it be to visit the saloons, or the general store?  I think it would be cool to don a cool cowboy hat, boots & spurs and ride a horse to get from place to place.

I also think it would be cool to visit the ancient times and watch the building of the pyramids, or buildings like the coliseum.  Those historic buildings are still standing.  How awesome would it be to see just how they put them together?

As someone who has been a huge fan of the 1950’s, I would love to live a year or two in this decade.  It’s fun to see how the ’50s are portrayed in movies like Back to the Future, and I would love to see it in person.  I would love to hear the old radio stations playing those early rock and roll songs.  I would love to see those classic films in a theater.  I would love to have a meal at a real 50’s diner or drive a classic car!

I would love to visit the 1940’s, too!  The music of the great band leaders, the early music of Sinatra, and of course, those great old radio shows! Of course, World War II was going on, but it would be interesting to see how life in America was at that time.

Everyone wants to visit the future … that peaks my interest, but is it something I would do?  I don’t know.  I’d be tempted to come back to the present and use the information for personal gain, or to alter outcomes.   I’m not sure visiting the future would be something I’d want to do – unless I knew it was something specific I wouldn’t be able to see.

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General People of Interest

I would love to watch Beethoven or Bach (or any composer, really) writing and composing a piece of their music.

I would love to watch someone like Edgar Allen Poe or William Shakespeare writing a poem or story.

I would love to sit on a set and watch them shooting a Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy film.

I would love to be in the room where the First Continental Congress held meetings and watch men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others in action.

I would love to attend a taping of an old episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or a taping of the Dean Martin Show.

I would love to be in the audience at a Rat Pack show in Chicago or Las Vegas.  Come on!  Dean, Frank and Sammy!!

I would love to be an extra in one of my favorite movies.

I would love to watch Elvis in the recording studio.

I would love to watch Thomas Edison working on the phonograph or the electric light.

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Specific Events

I would love to watch the moon landing (on TV or from space).

I would love to watch the first flight with the Wright Brothers.

I would love to see JFK’s inauguration.

I would love to see a Beatles concert.

I would love to see Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address.

I would love to witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I would love to witness the launch of Titanic on her maiden voyage.

I would love to be in the stands at Tiger Stadium at the final game of the 1984 World Series.

I would love to be in the crowd at 1985’s Live Aid concert.

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Personal Things

I know I put some limits on what can or cannot happen if I went back in time, but if there were no limits there are a few things I would like to do with that time machine.

I would love one more conversation with my mom.

I would love one more pinochle game with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more Christmas Eve with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more radio show with Rob.

I would love one more cribbage game with my grandpa.

I would love to play my trumpet in one more high school band concert.

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Just One Day

For whatever reason, writing this blog made me think of the Nat King Cole song, “That Sunday, That Summer”.  The lyrics of the song say:

“If I had to chose just one day, to last my whole life through, it would surely be that Sunday, the day that I met you.”

With a time machine, you could go back to one day.  You could pick the day.  You could relive whatever happened that day.  What day would that be?

I don’t know that I could pick just one.

What I do know is that there are plenty of days that I am looking forward to that haven’t happened yet – the birth of my daughter, the graduations of my sons, etc…. I am perfectly content moving forward and experiencing the days to come.

Here is sit, remembering the past – loving the present – and looking forward to the future.

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Favorite Films – The 90’s

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This blog is a continuation of a series I started a week or so ago. Somebody had the idea to post a list was to consist of your favorite films from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. My last “movie” blog focused on my favorites from the 1980’s and this one will feature the 1990’s.

As I looked through the films for this decade and was actually surprised.  I thought that the as I moved forward, I’d have less films to talk about.  I was wrong.  Picking one favorite from each year is going to be tough.

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1990 had plenty of sequels, one of which will end up my pick for favorite.  Eddie Murphy was back with Another 48 Hours.  Bruce Willis offered up Die Hard II.  Almost 20 years later, The Corleone family returned in Godfather III.  The second installment of Young Guns was in theaters and Sylvester Stallone returned as Mr. Balboa in Rocky V.  Johnny Depp was Edward Scissorhands, Kevin Costner was Dancing with Wolves, while Sean Connery was underwater with the Hunt for Red October.  Julia Roberts was “hooking” in Pretty Woman, Harrison Ford was Presumed Innocent, and Macaulay Culkin was left Home Alone.  Comedies included Nuns on the Run, Madhouse, and Kindergarten Cop. The film adaption of Stephen King’s Misery will have be forever fearing sledgehammers!

I am going to catch some flack for this not being my favorite of this year.  Goodfellas is a great film!  It is.  “You’re Italian, Keith!  How can Goodfellas NOT be your pick?”  It doesn’t matter.  It’s my list.

My pick for favorite of 1990 is the conclusion of the Back to the Future series – Back to the Future Part III.

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What can I say, I love these characters.  By the end of Part II, I was wondering just how things were going to wrap up.  While the end is a bit contrived and falls a bit flat, everything else I enjoyed.  I enjoyed how in the old west we see the beginnings of the town, the clock tower (which plays such a big role in the first film), and the earlier family members of the characters.  The suspense of getting that train up to 88mph had me on the edge of my seat in the theater.  Loved this trilogy and it remains one of my all time favorites!

1991

In 1991, there were silly comedies (Naked Gun 2 1/2, Hot Shots, Soapdish, and What about Bob?), action films (Robin Hood, Hook, and Thelma and Louise), and thrillers (Backdraft and Silence of the Lambs).

It is hard to pick one favorite for this year.  As someone who has been fascinated with the JFK assassination, I really enjoyed Oliver Stone’s JFK.  I had read so many books about the various conspiracies.  What a stellar cast!   Robin Williams put on an amazing performance in The Fisher King.  I admit, when I rented this film, I expected a comedy.  It was a very powerful story.  See it if you haven’t!  Billy Crystal and Jack Palance are just great together in City Slickers.  “I crap bigger than you” remains a favorite movie quote!

My pick for this year may come as a surprise to those who have read previous blogs.  Why?  Because I have complained so often about Hollywood running out of ideas!  I have bitched about how they are remaking everything!  This is one of those exceptions.  YES – it is a remake of a TV show, but this is also an instance of a good remake. The Addams Family.

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I think what makes this such a good movie is that the cast is true to the characters of the cartoon and the TV show.  Raul Julia is brilliant as Gomez.  Anjelica Huston is spot on as Morticia.  Christopher Lloyd is great as Fester.  Christina Ricci is the perfect Wednesday.  The film is funny and fun.  I wasn’t so keen on the sequel, but this one was a blast (and a film I have to watch every October!).

1992

1992 brought the return of Michael Keaton as Batman in Batman Returns, Whitney Houston was a superstar in The Bodyguard, and who can forget Sharon Stone in basic Instinct?  Honeymoon in Vegas was ok, but had a great soundtrack! Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei are just wonderful together in My Cousin Vinny while Tom Hanks coaches Geena Davis and Madonna in A League of Their Own.  We are also introduced to Wayne Campbell and his friend Garth in the SNL based Wayne’s World.

This almost was my pick for favorite – A Few Good Men.  Such a great story, with a great cast, and powerful performances!  Tom Cruise, Kevin Bacon, Demi Moore, Kevin Pollack, and Jack Nicholson are all superb in this film! My favorite, however, has to go to Disney’s Aladdin.

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Why?  Two words – Robin Williams!  I have heard of the many hours of voice stuff he recorded for this film that was never used.  I can only imagine the wonderful ad-libs he did in the studio!  Friend Like Me is on my iPod and it gives me chills every time I listen to it.

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1993 comedies included Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights, Wayne’s World II, Loaded Weapon, Groundhog Day, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Mrs. Doubtfire.  Another comedy that is a must watch (especially for the bloopers at the end) is Grumpy Old Men. Drama/Thrillers included John Grisham’s The Firm, Jurassic Park, and In The Line of Fire.

1993 brought two films that are considered classics that I have never seen.  One of them, I have a reason, the other, I don’t.  Schindler’s List and the Sandlot.  Schindler’s list is one that I will watch – but I have the book and I want to read it first.  The Sandlot I have heard quoted 100 times, I just have never had the chance to sit and watch it.  I will – eventually.

Twice in the same decade, I am picking a remake – a remake of a TV show again.  My pick for 1993 is The Fugitive.

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Harrison Ford does a great job playing Richard Kimball.  I loved the original series.  Tommy Lee Jones is just hilarious in this.  It truly is a great film and one I can watch over and over again.

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Jim Carrey dominated the year with three films – The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Dumb and Dumber.  Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, was a wonderful film!  It had a great soundtrack and it was cool to see how they put his character into scenes from history.  I could watch Jamie Lee Curtis over and over in True Lies.  Dennis Leary is so funny in The Ref.  It is one of those forgotten Holiday movies that I just love.  Another forgotten film from this year is The Shadow.  It is based on the old radio show, which was based on a comic book.  Alec Baldwin stars in it and I thought it was very well done.

My favorite film from the year, hands down, is The Shawshank Redemption.

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Based on a Stephen King short story, it remains one of my favorite films.  Prior to seeing it, I knew King had wrote it.  I had always associated him with horror films, so I never saw it.  I am so glad that I was convinced to watch it.  If you have never seen it – you should!  It is a masterpiece!

1995

1995 comedies featured SNL stars Chris Farley (in Tommy Boy) and Adam Sandler (in Billy Madison).  Mel Gibson starred as William Wallace in Braveheart. Tom Hanks first uttered “Houston, we have a problem” in Apollo 13.  He also starred as Sheriff Woody in the first installment of Toy Story. Robin Williams is stuck in a board game in Jumanji.  There was a remake with a twist – The Brady Bunch Movie.  What made this work, was that the cast is still stuck in the past, while living in the present day.  It wasn’t hilarious, but it worked.

Again, here is a film that you would think should be THE pick for this year.  Casino with Robert Deniro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci.  It truly is a great film, but my pick is The Usual Suspects.

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I remember my grandmother used to watch Perry Mason and guess who the killer was all the time.  Some movies, you can guess the ending, but this one caught me completely off guard.  I never saw it coming.  That is the reason I picked this one.  Watching it the second time, I noticed all the things I missed throughout the first viewing.  It is such s good film.

1996

Comedies from 1996 include Leslie Nielsen in Spy Hard, Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore, and Jim Carrey as The Cable Guy. Drama/Thrillers included Ghosts of Mississippi, A Time To Kill, and Primal Fear.  Tom Cruise appeared in Mission: Impossible (which I hated, because it was really all about his character while the TV show was more of a team effort).  We first saw that stupid ghost mask in the first Scream movie, and Sean Connery starred in The Rock.

Before naming my pick for 1996, I will mention in passing a movie that was loaded with big name stars, but was just awful – Mars Attacks.  Urgh!

My pick for 1996 is again, a remake.  The Nutty Professor.

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I want to say first of all that I LOVE the Jerry Lewis version of this movie.  It is my all time favorite Jerry film.  When I heard that he gave his blessing to this film, I gave it a chance and I am glad I did. While Jerry’s version takes a nerd and makes him a cool jerk, Eddie’s version takes an overweight, shy man and makes him a thin pompous jerk. Kudos to Eddie Murphy, who plays his entire family!

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My list of 1997 films is a short one.  I’m not sure why.  There were some films that stood out, though.  Two presidential movies this year – Absolute Power with Gene Hackman and Harrison Ford in Air Force One.  Nicolas Cage was a con in Con Air and starred with John Travolta in Face/Off.  Jim Carrey is very funny in Liar Liar and Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith star in the first Men In Black.

Almost nabbing the pick for the year is Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.  It’s a funny and silly spy spoof and while many of the jokes are childish, the character is one that I found very funny.  My pick for the year, however, is Titanic.

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Let me say this – I hated the whole Jack/Rose love story BS in this film!  It doesn’t make it a bad film, I understand why it was done. I think they thought no one would go see the story of the sinking ship without something “new” in it.  At any rate, as someone who has been intrigued by the story of Titanic since I was in elementary school, I was amazed at the details of the ship.  After the film came out they had a magazine that compared the shots from the movie with pictures from the real ship – it was neat to see just how close the set was to the real ship.

I had read the story of the Titanic many times.  We read Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember in high school.  The minute by minute account was so accurate.  When I saw Titanic, I was left speechless.  There were all the people I had read about.  I will never forget watching it and seeing a passenger falls and hit the propeller on their way into the water – wow.  I left the theater in complete silence.  I got in the car and wept.

1998

1998 saw Stephen King’s Apt Pupil come to the big screen, Robin Williams was wonderful as Patch Adams, and Pixar showed us A Bug’s Life.  SNL and SNL actors were prominent in comedies.  Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan starred in A Night at the Roxbury, while Adam Sandler was The Wedding Singer (with Drew Barrymore) and The Waterboy (with Henry Winkler and Jerry Reed).  Norm MacDonald and Artie Lang star in one of my favorite comedies (though many people found it NOT funny) – Dirty Work.  Finally, Antonio Banderas is excellent in The Mask of Zorro with Catherine Zeta Jones!

My pick for 1998 is the powerful D-Day film – Saving Private Ryan.

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This movie is about as real as it gets.  D-Day was a bloodbath.  This is such a powerful movie.  It leaves me in awe every time I see it.

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As we reach the end of the 90’s, there are plenty of great movies in this final year of the decade.  Comedies included the return of Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,  Big Daddy, Analyze This, and Office Space.  Adventure films included The Mummy, True Crime (the book was better), Sleepy Hollow, and Deep Blue Sea (Love the scene where Samuel L. Jackson gets it!).  For kids (and adults) Woody and Buzz are back in Toy Story 2 and Episode 1 of Star Wars (The Phantom Menace) graced the screen (and left adults wanting to kill Jar Jar Binks!).

My pick for favorite is based on the Stephen King novel – The Green Mile.

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This remains one of my favorite films.  I cry like a baby at the end every time!  What an amazing story!  This is one of those rare instances where I have seen the movie and never read the book.  I am not sure how different the film is from the book, but the book remains on a shelf at home in the “to be read” stack.  Writing about it for this blog has just moved it up to the top of my list to read.

In closing

I have a feeling it will become easier to pick films in the decade ahead.  As I move into the 2000’s, I know for a fact that I have seen less movies.  I got to the point where I didn’t want to go to the movies to pay $10 to see a crappy movie.  It was happening was too often so I started watching less movies.

19 more years to go …. See you next time!

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The King is Gone

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May 1977.  The month I turned 7 years old, two movies were released that would have major influences over my childhood, and adulthood.  The movies were Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit.  I can recall exactly where I saw each movie, too.

I saw Star Wars at Hoover 11 when the movie theater was still in the complex.  I don’t recall the exact date I saw it, but it was within a month of it’s release.  Eventually, the theater closed and became a TJ Maxx.  It was a one screen theater, and I remember the line was long.  I remember waiting in line for what seemed like forever and it being a full house!  I also remember not being able to sleep for a week, because Darth Vader scared the hell out of me.

I do remember the exact date I saw Smokey and the Bandit. August 16, 1977 – 42 years ago today.  I believe my folks had a station wagon at the time, and we drove to the Gratiot Drive-In in Roseville.

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When you saw a movie at the Drive-In, you always got their early.  You found a good spot where you could see the screen without obstruction.  The spot also was ideally close to the bathrooms and concession stands.  You had to pull up to the pole that held the speaker that you would hang from your window, so you could hear the audio of the movie.

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The movie never started until it got dark, so I remember bringing a baseball and mitt to play catch, or we’d go to an old playground that was up near the screen.

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As the sun began to go down, we’d go back to the car and dad would usually turn on the radio.  We had an AM radio in the car, and Dad turned on Honey Radio (where I would years later have the honor of working).  I remember the DJ (I don’t recall who it was) coming on and saying that Elvis had died in Memphis.  He was only 42.  They played Elvis music for the remainder of the time we listened.

I remember the news sort of putting a damper on the night.  My dad was a big Elvis fan.  I remember him watching the Aloha From Hawaii concert in the living room. I remember the many albums he had (including the Moody Blue album on blue vinyl). And I remember how he recorded the song Way Down on 8 tracks that we listened to on the drive to Caseville.  Dad would often put Elvis songs on the stereo and play his guitar along with them.

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I’m glad that we were at the movies to see a comedy.  I recall my dad being visibly upset by the news.  I don’t know that I had ever seen him that way before.  Once the movie started, I knew he was ok.  I recall the hearty laughter from him as Jackie Gleason shouted out profanity into the CB microphone.  Those scenes continue to make dad and me laugh out loud today – no matter how many times we’ve seen them!

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I remember in the days before VCR’s.  I used to record movies on cassettes so I could hear my favorite scenes.  I had no idea that in the future you’d be able to go out and buy your favorite movies on DVD and Blu-Ray.  Smokey and the Bandit was on cable one night at like 12:30am.  It was the last time that month that it was airing.  To me, it could have been the last time it ever aired!  I asked my dad to record it for me on cassette.  When I listened back to it, I could hear dad laughing at all of the Jackie Gleason scenes.  I was probably mad about it at the time, but looking back, I know I’d have done the same thing!

In everyone’s life, there are events that become etched forever in your mind.  For some, it was when they heard Buddy Holly died.  For others, it was when JFK or Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Those become memories that when you look back on them, you remember exactly where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing.  I have a few of those memories – President Reagan being shot, the Challenger explosion, and, of course, 9/11. The first one that is forever etched in my mind, though, happened 42 years ago today.

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