The year after Big Brother started watching us all

In 1985:

Ronald Reagan began his second term as US President.

The single We are the World was released.

EastEnders debuted on British television.

Mikhail Gorbachev assumed power in the Soviet Union.

The WWF held the first ever Wrestlemania In the main event, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T defeated Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.

The NCAA Men’s college basketball tournament featured 64 teams for the first time.

South Africa ended its ban on interracial marriages.

New Coke debuted and after a disastrous couple of months, was removed from US stores.

The mayor of Philadelphia ordered police to bomb the headquarters of the radical group MOVE.

U.S. Route 66 was decommissioned.

The first Live Aid concert was held simultaneously in Wembley Stadium in London and JFK stadium in Philadelphia.

The US announced Christa McAuliffe would be the first teacher in space.

Aspen, Colorado became the first US city to ban smoking in restaurants.

The wreckage of the Titanic was discovered in the North Atlantic.

Pete Rose became the MLB all-time leader in career hits.

Super Mario Bros. was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Steve Jobs resigned from Apple to found NeXT.

Gary Kasparov became the youngest winner of the World Chess Championship.

Calvin and Hobbes and the Tommy Hilfiger clothing line debuted.

Kiera Knightley, Derek Hough, Chris Paul, Carey Mulligan, Colbie Caillat, Lana Del Rey, Michael Phelps, Emile Hirsch, John Francis Daley, Calvin Johnson, Bruno Mars, Jack Osbourne, Carly Rae Jespen, Kaley Cuoco, Frankie Muniz, and Dwight Howard were born.

Henry Cabot Lodge, Marc Chagall, Edmond O’Brien, Karen Ann Quinlan, Gale Sondergaard, Ruth Gordon, Simone Signoret, Yul Brynner, Orson Welles, Phil Silvers, and Roger Maris died.

VH1 and Nick at Nite launched.

David Letterman performed his first Top Ten List.

Elmo made his first appearance on Sesame Street.

Larry King Live debuted on CNN, The Golden Girls and Punk Brewster debuted on NBC, and GI Joe: Real American Hero and Thundercats premiered in syndication.

The Dukes of HazzardThe JeffersonsAlice, and Super Friends ended their respective runs on American television.

These are my ten favorite films released in 1985:

Continue reading The year after Big Brother started watching us all

Everything that follows is older than the new Spider-man or: A brief look back at 1995

In 1995:

The World Trade Organization was established;

O.J. Simpson was acquitted for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman;

Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution;

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City;

Shawn Nelson went on a rampage in a tank in San Diego;

The New Jersey Devils won their first Stanley Cup;

The first DVD was made available;

eBay went online;

Star Trek: VoyagerXena: Warrior Princess, and The Drew Carey Show premiered;

While Matlock, Blossom, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Northern Exposure ended their series runs;

Calvin and Hobbes ended its ten-year run in newspapers;

Selena was murdered;

Pierce Brosnan debuted as James Bond;

Braveheart won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 68th Academy Awards;

Rose Kennedy, Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Montgomery, Jonas Salk, Wolfman Jack, Eva Gabor, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Mantle, Orville Redenbacher, and Bobby Riggs died;

The History Channel and the WB Network launched into American homes;

Will Ferrell joined SNL;

And Drew Barrymore flashed David Letterman for his birthday.

Continue reading Everything that follows is older than the new Spider-man or: A brief look back at 1995

Looking back at 11905 HE*

*For my less scientifically inclined readers, the Human era calendar, first proposed by Cesare Emiliani in 1993 was an attempt to eliminate the confusing distinction of BC and BCE in the Common Era calendar. 11905 HE is the Common Era equivalent of 1905.

In 1905:

The Russo-Japanese War ended,

The Trans-Siberian Railway opened,

Las Vegas was founded,

Albert Einstein published his ideas regarding the special theory of relativity,

The Irish political party, Sinn Féin, was established,

Ayn Rand, Albert Speer, Henry Fonda, Jean-Paul Sarte, and Greta Garbo were born, while Jules Verne died.

Theodore Roosevelt was the President of the United States.

The New York Giants won the 2nd World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics.

The first edition of what would become the Australian Open was won by amateur Rodney Health.

This is a list of my top ten movies released in 1905:

Continue reading Looking back at 11905 HE*

The Quest – Episode 2

Welcome back to episode two of The Quest, the supplemental podcast to my ambitious quest.

Last time in our premiere episode, Ben and I spent some time talking about firsts, our first memory of going to the movies, and my top five movies with “First” in the title.

In our second episode, we’ll spend some time discussing sequels. If you have any thoughts or suggestions for future topics, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

On our next episode, we’ll be discussing top five time films dealing with time travel, with a side conversation about genre definitions and genre bending films.

A brief look back at 3171, Year of Our Lady of Discord*

* For my less imaginative readers, 3171 in the Discordian calendar was 2005 in the Gregorian calendar.

In 2005:

Sadam Hussein was tried for crimes committed against humanity during his time in power,

YouTube was launched,

Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles,

Former FBI agent Mark Felt publicly identified himself as Deep Throat,

Terrorists attacked the public transport system in London,

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans,

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve controversial drawings of the prophet Muhammad,

Angela Merkel was elected Chancellor of Germany,

Johnny Carson, Arthur Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Teresa Wright, Johnnie Cochran, Terri Schiavo, Pope John Paul II, Saul Bellow, Anne Bancroft, Luther Vandross, James Doohan, Peter Jennings, William Rehnquist, Robert Wise, Rosa Parks, Eddie Guerrero, Pat Morita, and Richard Pryor died.

Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Crash upset favorite Brokeback Mountain for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Dan Rather retired as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

After sixteen years, Doctor Who returns to television.

Carrie Underwood won the fourth season of American Idol.

Logo, a TV channel dsigned to appeal to LGBT audiences debuts.

Lost wins the Emmy for Best Dramatic Series.

Weeds, Battlestar Galactica, Prison BreakBones, Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother, Criminal MindsThe Colbert Report, and Deal or No Deal debut on American television.

While NYPD BlueThe OsbournesStar Trek: Enterprise, and Six Feet Under air their final episodes.

This is a list of my top ten movies released in 2005: Continue reading A brief look back at 3171, Year of Our Lady of Discord*

The joys of smoking

Princess Nicotine; or, the Smoke Fairy (1909)

In a world conditioned to see smoking as a cardinal sin, it’s hard to believe there was time when a whole short film could be revolving around the earnest enjoyment of a cigarette.

In addition to reminding us how different attitudes were one hundred years ago, this whimsical film features an impressive stop-motion sequence.

This was replaced as my favorite film released in 1909 by Pickpock ne craint pas les entraves.


The Quest — Episode 1

When people here about my borderline insane quest to watch ten thousand movies, their initial reaction is skepticism. They think I’m either kidding or I’ve lost my mind.

After they realize I’m serious, the questions begin. Why are you doing this? How do you have time? What movies have you seen? What’s your favorite movie? What do you think of X? What did you think of Y?

These conversations with my friend, Rev. Ben Acton, led to this podcast where I’ll augment my impression of some movies and explore my obsession with greater detail thanks to his probing questions.

This is Episode One of The Quest.

Green with Fury

The Green Berets (1968)

The Green Berets (1968)

Colonel Mike Kirby (John Wayne) arrives in South Vietnam to lead a group of Special Forces while embedded journalist George Beckworth (David Janssen) reports on the conflict. Through a series of skirmishes with the Viet Cong, the film attempts to demonstrate the heroism and honor of American soldiers.

I liked George Takei as Captain Nim, a former Viet Minh Officer who joins the American effort against the communists, and David Janssen, fresh off his career defining work in The Fugitive, is very good as the idealistic reporter. The incident with the orphan, Ham Chuck, is a heavy-handed but fair exploration of the human costs of war.

Unfortunately, this long film too slavishly followed the outdated formula of Wayne’s previous films The Alamo (1960) and The Longest Day (1962), and contemporary critical reaction was not kind. Roger Ebert gave it 0 stars and included it among his most hated films. Fifty years later, its defense of American involvement of Vietnam is more quaint than offensive, but it’s still not a very good movie.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has come a long way since the initial film in the series, which felt like Death Wish (1974) on steroids. The second film upped the apocalyptic imagery but maintained a gritty realism. The third film abandoned realism in favor of campy 1980s over indulgence.

This is a hybrid between the two extremes. The spectacle of the Thunderdome grounded in grime and dirt, like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on acid.

The impressive spectacle masks the film’s serious issues. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has an instantly iconic look, but the character is flat and made the transition from barely surviving to rebellion leader in record time. How long has she been content to eke out an existence under Immortan Joe’s brutal rule until she suddenly remembered her heritage and set out to take the Five Wives to safety?

Immortan Joe, the film’s villain and Mad Max’s version of The Governor, is easily the most fascinating character in the film, and I wish the film had given us more of him.

Max, Furiosa, the Five Wives, Joe, and Nux, are all looking for a place to call home in a world where home no longer exists. If the film had focused on the psychological struggle of its characters as they adjusted to their new reality, it could have been something special, but, instead, the characters are excuses to pass the time until the next action set piece. I liked the action; I liked the endless car chases; I also like chocolate, but I don’t eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Exhilarating action, and creative post-apocalyptic imagery make this hollow, soulless film an enjoyable, but unsatisfying experience.