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Hey, everyone. I’m happy to announce the first episode of my new series, Anything Nice to Say.
I watch bad movies and try to find all the nice things to say about them.
As a cynic, it’s not so easy. The first one I tackled was X-men: The Last Stand. Check out the video below. If you are so inclined, you can also check out my Patreon where you’ll have access to exclusive content and get to see the posts a week before they’re available to the public.
You’re always free to suggest movies or topics you want to hear me wax philosophic about. Keep in mind, there should be a lease ONE redeeming thing about the movie. I’m not into self-flagellation.
A tweet recently popped up on my Twitter feed that Britney Spears “…Baby One More Time” came out 20 years ago.
Well, it’s actually 20 years and about a month and a half, so you missed the true anniversary.
But, still, I get it. The point attempting to be made here was: “FEEL OLD YET?!”
And, no. I don’t. Telling me that “…Baby One More Time” is almost old enough to legally drink alcohol does not make me feel any older than I am. I remember it with fondness. In 20 years, when someone laser etches “Billie Eilish “Bad Guy” came out 20 years ago” into my frontal lobe, I might start to think I’m getting old.
This phenomenon isn’t rare. It seems every content website needs a filler piece, so they mine Google for images of products from the 90s. The picture are low definition, sometimes a picture of a television commercial.
Did I just leave this blog post for fifteen minutes to play an emulator of Number Munchers? You bet.
These lists don’t make me feel old. Usually, they make me wonder what we were thinking or why some things went away.
Why did Gushers survive, but Dunkaroo’s failed? What was the Mr. Sketch scented black marker supposed to smell like vs. what it actually did smell like? Are all the Tamagotchis dead? Is Tamagotchis the plural of Tamagotchi? Should it be Tamagotchae?
Like the flavor of Fruit Stripe gum, some things are only meant to exist for a fleeting moment.
When “…Baby One More Time” came out, I was a child. I have not been a child for a long time. I don’t eat garbage anymore. If given the chance to have a Surge soda, I would decline. If given the choice between real food and a Lunchable, I would take the real food. Those other things don’t interest me anymore. I don’t hav I have moved on with my life; I have moved on to more mature things.
Maybe this is a secret negative review of nostalgia culture. Every new Star Wars movie seems to inspire a wave of hatred, not because it is bad (sure, @ me, but you’re wrong), but because it is not the thing they grew up with. Just because you had a fondness for something or you are a member of a particular fandom doesn’t mean you own it or have any say in the matter.
Nostalgia culture is the non-drug equivalent of chasing the dragon. It will never be as good as you remember, not because it isn’t good, nor because it never was. YOU are the thing that has changed and that’s a good thing.
You never get anywhere by standing still.
A short post…
If you follow me on social media, you will already know this, but here’s an update.
I have a book deal with Entangled Publishing.
My book will be out on digital in April 2020. Stay tuned here for updates i.e. covers, info, appearances, sage advice.
Follow me on my social sites, where I am much more regular in my posting.
I had a conversation with my cat the other day. It went something like this.
“WHAAT? After all you’ve put me through, you expect me to help you just like that? JUST LIKE THAT?”
For those of you paying attention, yes. I do have a conversational cat. If you ever get a cat, I hope it does the same because it allows to reenact scenes from Lilo & Stitch. But, my sudden urge to reenact a scene from this movie got me thinking.
There is a lot of
rhetoric that surrounds Disney movies from my childhood. There’s this idea that the Disney princess movies were bad for people, portraying scenes of Stockholm syndrome, women thinking they can change a man, the only goal is a man…yada yada had TL:DR (which stands for Too Long: Didn’t Read, by the by).
What still strikes me is that I don’t find those movies to be the ones that followed me into adulthood.
I was probably a weird kid.
To this day, my favorite animated Disney movie was The Sword in the Stone. I wanted to have a talking owl that spoke almost exclusively in back-sass. I loved the music. Another Disney movie that stands out is Bedknobs and Broomsticks. There may have been some attachment to it out of novelty, because we didn’t actually own that one. We had to check it out from the library.
When I reached adulthood, the soccer match and Portobello Road weren’t as interesting as the fact that she’s FIGHTING OFF A NAZI INVASION. Remember that, kids? That’s right. Mrs. Potts is a witch who saved England from Nazis and would have gotten burned at the stake for it.
Another favorite was The Great Mouse Detective. I have found myself quoting things only to question where it was from to discover when I stubbed my toe and started saying, “My foot, my foot, my only foot!” I was quoting the evil bat from that movie.
Lilo & Stitch, The Rescuers, A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, The Rocketeer. The closest I had to a favorite Disney princess movie was Robin Hood. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the princess movies. They just weren’t the running down the VHS player.
I guess my question is: where have all the side movies gone?
Do you guys remember Blank Check? Why aren’t there anymore Blank Checks? Or Tall Tales? Or Mighty Ducks?
Everyone remembers Cool Runnings, but what’s the Cool Runnings of the 00’s? Where’s the Homeward Bound of 2010? (Don’t tell me it’s the “Dog’s Purpose” movies unless there’s a talking cat named Sassy) Where’s my Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?
Please, please, please do not read this as me wanting a reboot of these things. I don’t want them to come back. I want them to stay safe where they live in my memory. Sure, there’s a place for a live action Dora the Explorer movie, but I feel like there’s a bigger piece of our culture missing here.
The movies I loved may not have been the most popular movies Disney was making, but they were still making them for people like me. The money they made on the princess movies were enough to fund the weird, quirky, emotionally devastating and still-interesting side projects. And, I DO think most people have stronger memories about Lilo & Stitch than they do some of the other Disney products of the time.
Here’s the thing, Disney:
Star Wars and Marvel have basically given you a blank check (brought it back). Maybe start taking some risks on these kinds of projects again. You never know who’s watching. I hope this is an idea that will be carried out on Disney+.
And, while we’re waiting for a new batch of off-color Disney movies, I encourage you to go back and find some of those gems you may have missed. They’re worth a watch.
The Phantom Menace is relevant right now 20 years after it’s original release.
I loved it. I consumed it. I collected it. I was 12 years old. More on that later.
Right now, you get to read a rambling third of my history with Star Wars.
I don’t remember how old I was, but my first memory of Star Wars was watching the sarlacc pit scene of Return of the Jedi on cable on the basement TV (it was a Zenith.) My dad caught me watching and asked, “Do you like this?”
I said yes.
He disappeared in the closet for a few minutes and came back out with the VHS three pack. “Here. Start with the first one.”
Episode I: The Obsession Rises. I was not in control of my own finances, so I didn’t have complete autonomy on how my consumption progressed. My father was supportive, however. Boba Fett was the first action figure I got. The second was a cereal box mail-in stormtrooper with removable helmet to reveal Han Solo underneath. A cascade of toys followed.
Then, the mother lode.
Rebel Assault. Not only did I get to live through the Star Wars universe, I got to blow up the Death Star. I played the game so much, I wore it out. Ask anyone if they remember Commander Ru Murleen and if they don’t have a television-style flashback, they don’t know this game.
My father was an early adapter of Apple products. My first PC was in college. We were only allowed education games, for the most part (your Mathblasters, Super Solvers, Carmen Sandiegos, and Swamp Gas Visits the United States of America.) This was the first game-game I had. He followed it up with Rebel Assault II and TIE Fighter because all other X-Wing franchise games weren’t available for Mac.
There’s so much more. Star Wars introduced me to the adult section of the library, it got me into video-editing. Star Wars launched me to a level of curiosity in media that you can only get once in a lifetime.
Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for:
The Phantom Menace
I was 12.
Blue iMacs in the computer lab.
A grassy hill. The slow roll of the tanks. I memorized that trailer.
“I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.”
(I’m now informed that this was the second trailer, but it’s the one I remember getting on the school computer.)
It was me and one other kid, before YouTube, breaking through firewalls to get the trailer. So many broken links.
There was so much joy, so much excitement. I collected all the Pepsi cans. I read the book. I knew more about the movie before I saw it. I was young and not jaded.
The movie itself:
The lightsaber fights against the droids. Amazing. Qui-Gon using his lightsaber to melt through the blast shield. A dream come true. The thrill of watching a fast-paced lightsaber battle, the thrill of two Jedi fighting one Sith with a double-bladed saber at the speed and intensity they were going was awesome to behold. What did this mean for lightsaber battles in the future?
R2D2’s origin story. I loved that he was able to complete the job while all the other droids got blasted off. And, the queen recognized him for his (its?) service. Even if it was a decoy at that point, I still thought the gesture was important.
Jedi using the Force like they used the Force in the video games. Force jump, Force speed, holding their breath for extended periods of time. It was thrilling to see Jedi masters finally doing what I knew they could.
I didn’t mind Jar Jar. I’m sure on some level he was annoying. I didn’t want his toy. He was essentially a useless character, a Forrest Gump who bumbled his way through much more important events.
The podrace was thrilling. Seeing Jabba’s stranglehold on Tatooine seemed to clear something up in my mind. Tatooine was basically immune from the influence of both Republic and Empire both. Having read the book, I knew that humans could not race pods. The only reason Anakin could was because of his connection to the Force. He used the Force to survive. I liked that Watto could resist the Jedi mind trick, because Jabba could, too. Scum and villainy, remember.
Seeing so many Jedi was amazing.
For me, Qui-Gon’s and Obi-Wan’s battle with Darth Maul and Amidala re-taking the castle were the best parts.
I think I got a lot of the toys before the movie came out, but that’s more hazy. I had the oversized Gillette razor communicator that played the soundbite chips that came with each action figure. I loved the Battle Droids. I loved the “roger, roger” soundbite the best. I loved my droid on his Stap the best. I loved Star Wars. And, my love for Star Wars extended to The Phantom Menace. It was finally a new entry into the world that wasn’t a computer game, wasn’t a book, it was finally something that everyone would share with me. They would get back into the universe. It would be relevant to everyone, not just me, and that’s what mattered.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed The Phantom Menace. I ignored the things I didn’t like, but, to this day, I still vividly remember the things I liked about it. Maybe it was made for kids, maybe it wasn’t. Nothing can take away my joy and excitement I got from it.
An elegant emotion for a more civilized age.
Also, if my aunt is reading this, I don’t apologize for making you do Darth Maul make-up on my face more times than I remember. I do, however, want you to realize that I remember and it still means a lot to me.