Tag Archives: Star Wars

The Cinematic Legacy of Jerry Reed

8 Mar

The other day, I told the story of our visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame. While writing it, another post came to mind.

Jerry Reed was featured in the museum’s latest exhibits on Nashville musicians. He was one of the greatest guitarists who ever came to town and played on a ton of albums. Chet Atkins thought that Jerry Reed was better than him. In addition to playing for other performers, Jerry Reed also had his own string of hits, and this video from The Porter Wagoner Show provides a good example of his talent.

With all of that being said, some people may know Jerry Reed more for his movies than for his guitar playing. That is why this post is not about his numerous songs. It is about the five movies that, in my opinion, are Jerry Reed’s best.image-8

There is no better time to start the list than now.

5. What Comes Around was released in 1985. It was not a great movie and probably cannot be found anywhere. However, it must make the list because part of it was filmed in my hometown. In the climatic scene, they blow up a building, and, in real life, that building was the original Cracker Barrel. A ton of people went out to watch the explosion.

By the way, they did not really blow up the building. It is still standing.

4. W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings was also filmed in this area. Released in 1975, it was Jerry’s first collaboration with Burt Reynolds, which would lead to the top movie on this list. The movie also starred other Country music performers. It is cool to watch and see some places in Nashville that no longer exist.

3. Gator came out in 1976 and also starred Burt Reynolds. In fact, it is a sequel to an earlier Reynolds movie. It is also different because Jerry played the bad guy. He was a criminal empire of drugs, gambling and prostitution. He also had a sidekick named Bones whose head stuck out of the sunroof of the car.

2. Bat 21 was released in 1988 and was a completely different movie from the other ones on the list. It is a true story that stars Gene Hackman as a pilot stuck behind enemy lines in Vietnam. I will not spoil the plot, but Hackman, Reed and Danny Glover find an ingenious way to get him out. If you have not seen it, then it is worth a watch.

1. Released in 1977, Smokey and the Bandit is one of the greatest movies of all time. If you do not think that, then you are wrong. That is just the way it is. Jerry plays Snowman, the truck driving sidekick of the Bandit, played by Burt Reynolds. Did I say that it is one of the greatest movies of all time? It was the second highest grossing movie of the year behind Star Wars. I really do not know what else to say. It is great.

Bonus

There is one more Jerry Reed appearance that I must mention. In 1972, he played himself in The New Scooby-Doo Movies. His performance of “Pretty Mary Sunlight” may be one of the greatest things that has ever been on animated television.

Movie Wisdom – Max von Sydow Edition

21 Nov

I was reading an article about Max von Sydow and his appearance in the new Star Wars movie. It talked about his greatness as an actor and his long career. After reading the article, I decided to write a Movie Wisdom post based on the movies of Max von Sydow, and that is when I discovered something disturbing.

I have not seen as many of his movies as I thought. This is a void in my movie-watching experience that will be filled. However, I thought I had seen a bunch of them. That misconception may come from the impact that he had in the movies that I have seen.

Anyway, this is not going to prevent me from completing my original idea. Here is some wisdom that can be gained from the movies of Max von Sydow.Ming

From The Exorcist

There are no experts.

If certain British doctors never asked “What is this fungus?” we wouldn’t today have penicillin.

From Three Days of the Condor

Someone is always willing to pay.

From Flash Gordon

Live and let live.

From Victory

Anything you say in your sleep can’t be held against you.

From Conan the Barbarian

There comes a time when the jewels cease to sparkle, when the gold loses its luster, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father’s love for his child.

Wealth can be wonderful, but you know, success can test one’s mettle as surely as the strongest adversary.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

From Ghostbusters II

Death is but a door. Time is but a window.

Better late than never.

From Needful Things

Everybody is insane.

From Minority Report

Sometimes, in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.

Dig up the past, all you get is dirty.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

We don’t choose the things we believe in; they choose us.

From Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

If things were easy to find they wouldn’t be worth finding.

 

If These Movies Are On Television, Then I Will Watch Them

30 Jul

The other day, I wrote a post about the BBC and its list of the 100 best American films, and a commenter said that I should provide my own list of top movies. Unfortunately, I am not a movie critic and cannot delve into the intricacies of acting and directing. I only know what movies I like and do not like.

With that in mind, I decided to take this challenge into a different direction. When I am scrolling through the guide, there are some things that I will automatically click on and watch for a while. This includes a few movies with different levels of quality. If I cannot make a list of the greatest movies of all time, then I can make a list of the 10 movies I will always watch if I see them on the television guide.

They are coming at you in the order that I thought of them.

Manhunter (1986) – This was on last night and led me to write this post. It is the first movie about Hannibal Lecter and is directed by Michael Mann. In other words, it is Silence of the Lambs meets Miami Vice. You may have seen its remake, Red Dragon, but this one is a lot more entertaining.

Flash Gordon (1980) – Let Dino de Laurentiis try to capitalize on the Star Wars phenomenon, and this is what you get. It has some great actors and some not-so-great actors, but they are all having a good time. It would have been awesome to been in the room when Flash attacked Ming’s guards by playing football. On top of that, Ornella Muti is there in all her glory.Ornella

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991) – Two stars of the 1980s, Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke, try to make their transition into the next decade. They ride motorcycles. They go after drug dealers. They act cool. Well, acting might be too strong of a word. I have already written about this one and will move on down the line.

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) – When I become king, a new law will make its way across the land. As a testament to its greatness, everyone must watch this movie. Clint Eastwood is awesome, and it is filled with awesome quotes. I should know because I have them all memorized. In the early days of this blog, I wrote an extensive post about this one.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) – As with the previous movies, I have already written about this one. Burt Reynolds is at his peak. Jackie Gleason is hilarious. I saw it five times when it was in release and can never watch it too many times. The only problem is that television cleans up the language and, in the process, destroys a lot of the laughs.

El Dorado (1966) – I could have listed a ton of John Wayne movies, but I think I click on this one more than any other. It could be because this one is on regularly. Anyway, it is a script that was filmed several times, but it never gets old. Oh yeah, there is one other thing. As I have written before, it is a poetic movie.

The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981) – This is a terrible movie. Klinton Spilsbury never made another movie. Heck, he did not really make this one. James Keach was brought in to dub his lines. However, it has some redeeming qualities. Merle Haggard sings the theme song, and part of it was filmed in Monument Valley.

Logan’s Run (1976) – I am a big fan of dystopian movies, and this is one of my favorites. How can post-apocalyptic life be bad with scantily clad women everywhere? On top of that, a push of a button can make one of the scantily clad women appear instantly in your apartment. The only thing that could go wrong is that Carrousel ride at the age of 30. On second thought, it would probably be better to live with a bunch of cats in a destroyed Washington, D.C.Cats

For Love of the Game (1999) – This is a movie that used to hit me on a deep emotional level. As the years pass, it does not have the same effect. Despite that, it is still a good movie. Kevin Costner has made a bunch of sports movies, but this is my favorite one. It could be because Vin Scully is calling the game.

Legends of the Fall (1994) – This is another movie that reaches me on an emotional level, but it is also interesting in a historical sense. Obviously, it is about a family that goes through years of heartache. However, it is also about rum-running during Prohibition. They talk about the Volstead Act and smuggling alcohol across the Canadian border. I could go deeper into a historical analysis, but I may need that for another post.

Now, let us analyze the list by decade.

1960s – 1

1970s – 3

1980s – 3

1990s – 3

Interestingly, nothing made in the past 16 years has knocked a movie off this list. I wonder what that means.

Then, there is this. Over half of the list was filmed between 1976 and 1986. Those must have been formative movie years for me.

Anyway, those are the movies that I will always watch if I find them on television. What are a few of the movies that would make your list?

BBC, Movies and Me

22 Jul

There are a ton of lists about the greatest things that ever were. Books. TV shows. Cars. It goes on and on. Recently, BBC added to the list of lists by announcing the 100 greatest American movies of all time. According to the article, film critics from around the world provided their opinions.BBC

To create this post, I decided to list the movies I have seen and include my favorite line from each one.

97. Gone With the Wind – Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn96. The Dark Knight

91. ET: The Extraterrestrial – I just hope we don’t wake up on Mars or something surrounded by millions of little squashy guys.

90. Apocalypse Now – Charlie don’t surf!

84. Deliverance – Sometimes you have to lose yourself ‘fore you can find anything.

82. Raiders of the Lost Ark – Bad dates.

78. Schindler’s List – There will be generations because of what you did.

76. The Empire Strikes Back – Never tell me the odds.

75. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Einstein was probably one of them.

74. Forrest Gump – Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.

73. Network – I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

66. Red River – Well, I don’t like to see things goin’ good or bad. I like ’em in between.

65. The Right Stuff – Hey, Ridley, ya got any Beeman’s?

61. Eyes Wide Shut – Life goes on. It always does, until it doesn’t.

56. Back to the Future – I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.

55. The Graduate – Plastics.

52. The Wild Bunch – We all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all.

46. It’s a Wonderful Life – Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people.

45. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance.

42. Dr. Strangelove – Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.

41. Rio Bravo – If I ever saw a man holdin’ a bull by the tail, you’re it.

38. Jaws – Well it proves one thing, Mr. Hooper. It proves that you wealthy college boys don’t have the education enough to admit when you’re wrong.

36. Star Wars – Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

34. The Wizard of Oz – That’s a horse of a different color!

28. Pulp Fiction – There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.”

21. Mulholland Drive – I got the pool, she got the pool-man.

20. Goodfellas – Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.

16. McCabe and Mrs. Miller – I got poetry in me!

14. Nashville – Who do you think is running Congress? Farmers? Engineers? Teachers? Businessmen? No, my friends. Congress is run by lawyers. A lawyer is trained for two things and two things only. To clarify – that’s one. And to confuse – that’s the other.

13. North by Northwest – In the world of advertising, there’s no such thing as a lie. There’s only expedient exaggeration.

10. The Godfather Part II – If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.

9. Casablanca – Everybody comes to Rick’s.

5. The Searchers – That’ll be the day.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey – It can only be attributable to human error.

2. The Godfather – Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

1. Citizen Kane – Those are the only terms anybody ever knows – his own.

That makes 35 out of 100. Looks like I need to watch a few more.

Secrets of a Secret Society

13 Jul

Newsweek put out a special edition magazine called Secret Societies: Infiltrating the Inner Circle. Of course, I had to buy it. The thing has sat on my desk for weeks, and I finally picked it up. The magazine includes stuff that I have read before, and my mind started to wander toward a question.

Which secret society would I like to join?

The Illuminati would be cool, but I would have to work with reptile people.

The Shriners would be fun because I could ride motorcycles or go karts in Christmas parades. As a kid, I always looked forward to the Shriner band because a guy strutted in front of it while carrying a big sword.

Bohemian Grove sounds interesting, but the way they frolic in the woods in kind of strange.

The Bilderberg Group would be awesome. They only invite the wealthiest and most powerful. Getting to meet with them would mean being in the categories of the wealthiest and most powerful. Who would not want that?

Heck, the list goes on and on. The Loyal Order of the Moose. Modern Woodmen of America. I do not think the P.E.O. Sisterhood would accept me.

As I asked myself the question, all of that went through my mind. Then, it hit me. I do not have to wonder what secret organization I would like to join because I have already been a member of a secret organization.

I cannot remember how many years ago it was, or I cannot tell you how many years ago it was. After all, it was a secret society.

Some guys I knew decided to form a club where they could partake in intellectual discourse and debate. Out of these sessions, they could make decisions to help the community. It was also a way for the henpecked ones to get away from women for a while.

I was asked to join because they thought I would be good at partaking in intellectual discourse and debate.

Anyway, we met in a small church. To be a secret society you need religious symbolism, right? Also, one of the founders was a member of the church and had a key.

At the first meeting, we named it the Cedar City Men’s Forum and set up the rules of the club. I cannot remember the rules, but you cannot have a secret society without them.

After the formalities, we discussed the pressing issues of the day. Local politics. National politics. Star Trek. You know, the important stuff.

We had several meetings and talked about a lot of things. However, we also wanted to give back to the community. Luckily, there was a huge community project going on. The city had built a new park, and local citizens were raising money for a really cool playground. To get funds, they sold posts in the fence around the playground.

The Cedar City Men’s Forum bought a fencepost.image-43

To be a secret society you need secret symbolism to be displayed in public places, right? We needed our name to be out there for people to look at and wonder what it all means.

This afternoon, I went to the playground to find our fencepost, and there it was. Like other secret societies, the secret symbols outlasted the secret organization. After a few meetings, the Cedar City Men’s Forum discontinued.

I cannot remember why it ended, or I cannot tell you why it ended. It could have been because we ran out of stuff to talk about. It could have been because of an attempted coup against the leadership. It could have been because the henpecked guys were told to come back home. It could have been because someone said Star Wars was better than Star Trek.

Like other long-lost secret societies, we may never know.

Songs of the Year

3 Jul

When I put together the Songs of the Week post, I knew that this could be taken further. Why? Because there are a ton of songs that go along with the months. A Songs of the Year post could be easily compiled.

Except, I was wrong. Some days inspire more songs than other days. Likewise, some months inspire more songs than other months. Apparently, there are certain time slots that have little artistic value.

Despite the obstacles, I trudged through my iPod and other resources to put together my favorite songs of the year.Months

January – How can you beat Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, going to her gospel roots and singing “Amazing Grace”? Answer: You cannot beat that. Her live version, titled “Amazing Grace (Live at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Los Angeles, January 13, 1972)“, is the best version you will ever hear.

February – This month does not provide much in the realm of music. There are plenty of songs about February, but I do not know many of them. Of course, I could be prejudiced against February. With that being said, I will go with “February Stars” by Foo Fighters. It is as good as any.

March – Going after the fanboy traffic, I am picking “The Imperial March” from the Star Wars soundtrack. It is John Williams. It is Darth Vader. In other words, it is cool.

April – Now, we are getting into some good stuff. Straight off of the iPod comes “Pieces of April” by Three Dog Night. the singer is remembering a month-long romance. I wonder why they did not make it to May.

May – Speaking of May, there is an awesome song by Little Jimmy Dickens. “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” was his top charting song and was inspired by Johnny Carson. Dickens is a cheapskate, and the chorus is what people say to him.

June – Dean Martin was the coolest of the cool. Frank Sinatra may have been the leader of the Rat Pack, but Dean Martin was the soul of the Rat Pack. No list is complete with him, which means “June in January” is next on the list.

July – It was written by Bruce Springsteen, but I am not a fan of his. For that reason, this month is represented by “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” as performed by The Hollies.

August – Wow, August has inspired hardly any songwriters. Does it not rhyme with anything? Just. Must. Au jus. There has to be something about August that is worthy of song. If you know of something, then let me know. I cannot find anything worthy of listing.

September – It is not his best, but “September Morn” is a decent Neil Diamond song. Have you ever taken your mom to a concert only to see women throw their underwear at the performer. It happened to me at a Neil Diamond show.

October – Deadmau5 was at Bonnaroo. In fact, that is the only thing I wish I could have seen at this year’s show. For that reason, “October” makes the list. One day, I will go to a Deadmau5 show.

November – It is the greatest Power Ballad of all time. It is the greatest video of all time. If Axl Rose had not been nuts, then Guns N’ Roses could have been the greatest band of all time. Ladies and gentlemen, “November Rain” is the best song on this list.

December – The year will end with a legend. Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December” is about a man facing hard economic times. If he can make it through the disappointment of Christmas without gifts, then everything will be fine.

We made it through an entire year with August being the only disappointment. Do you know of any August songs? What about the other months?

Things I Thought Today

3 May

I thought that….The Thinker

they held a touching memorial service for George Jones.

people who constantly brag about their jobs are jerks.

with all of the vehicles on the road and planes in the air it is going to be difficult for us to give up our addiction to gasoline.

service in a restaurant should not be slow when only three tables are occupied.

Walmart is Earth’s version of the Star Wars cantina.

the last day of class is always a day of mixed emotions.

I’ve become addicted to Twitter.

the quesadilla I had for lunch was pretty good.

sports talk radio is going to run its course one day.

newspapers should never be a thing of the past.

Justified should be on year round.

Iron Man 3 is a movie that I have to see within the next few days.

I really need to get a new car.

going into a bank is better than going to the drive-up window.

McDonald’s has the best french fries.

the only way I could make it through a marathon would be to pretend that I was in a Godzilla movie.

a lot of kids play soccer, but not many play it when they get older.

I could come up with a better blog post than this.

honeybuns may be the greatest use of sugar in human history.

Gambling in Another World

29 Jun

I love everything about casinos. The lights and sounds of the slot machines. The yells as people win at the Craps tables. The feel of the felt under my fingers as I sit at the Blackjack table. The thrill of putting chips in the circle and anticipating the cards. The cocktail waitresses who deliver free drinks. I love it all.

When I tell people about going to a casino, they automatically think of glamor, and the things I just mentioned could, I suppose, be considered glamorous. In Las Vegas, they definitely are. The cocktail waitresses are hot. People are dressed their best and ready for action. After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I bet Monte Carlo is more glamorous than that. I mean anywhere James Bond gambles must be cool.

I say all of this because I just returned from a gambling junket to Tunica. It has the same slot machines, Craps tables and Black jack tables and would like for you to think that it has the glamor to go with those things. Just check out one of the promotional photos.

Everyone is dressed up, smiling and attractive. However, that is not exactly how it is. Some people look like they have slept in their clothes, and others have no idea how to dress. I saw one man wearing flip-flops, shorts and a blazer. Also, it seems that every Southeastern Conference school is represented by a cap or a t-shirt. Now, I have plenty of that gear as well, but I try not to wear it all the time.

I reckon the best way to describe the fashion of Tunica is to describe one of my Blackjack sessions. I was sitting with a wanna be Hip Hop king when a man wearing overalls and a “South Shall Rise Again” t-shirt sat down. He pulled $6,000 in cash out of his bib pocket and played $2,000 a hand. After three hands, he was done; stood up; said, “Fuck this.”; and left. In Vegas, you will see large amounts of cash but not a “South Shall Rise Again” t-shirt. That’s the difference.

Soon, I left the table and walked around the casino and figured this must be what the scene looks like in Lourdes. Everywhere, people were using canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters. It’s as if the disabled go to Tunica for the healing waters or the miracles of the Poker Slots.

After scanning the scene, I eased over to the bar for a drink and a bit of reflection. As I considered my surroundings, I was reminded of a place I saw in my childhood and realized that I had stumbled into a similar world. It was a place with lively entertainment and a variety of characters. I wasn’t really in Tunica. I was here. Except, there was no live band. These beings were rocking out to the best of the 80s.

The next day, I changed venues and went to a smaller casino. I had not been there in a long time because it always gave me a weird vibe, and that vibe returned as soon as I walked in. Are you a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation? If you are, then you may remember an episode where Riker, Worf and Data find themselves in a casino on a distant planet. It was built by aliens for an astronaut who was stranded in space. The episode was The Royale and the trio was trapped in a cramped casino with eccentric characters.

That’s the way I feel when I walk into this particular casino, and this trip did not disappoint. There was one Blackjack table in operation, and it had two people playing. I sat down to play, and they wanted to have a conversation. One was a woman who looked like Elvira if she was addicted to meth and Krisy Kreme donuts. Doing her best to flirt, she asked me what I did for a living. I told the truth and said that I was a history professor. Thankfully, she said that history was boring.

Unfortunately, the other player thought it was interested. He was a man wearing an oxygen tank who had traced his family’s lineage. In short, he was a history buff and was convinced that I was interested in his family history. I didn’t stay long.

With all of that being said, I came home with more money than I left with, and I suppose that is the point. If you ever go to Tunica just don’t expect the glamor of other gambling destinations. And, watch out for what may be happening in the corner.

Ro Ro Ro Your Robot

19 Mar

Robots have filled the imagination of humans for decades, and they have slowly become reality. We have machines that can work for us and build other machines. However, when most people imagine robots they don’t think about an arm programmed to put a part on a car. They think about something that walks, talks, thinks, and, on some level, can be our personal helper and companion. It is something like us but not like us.

As scientists and engineers have developed robots for the real world, writers and filmmakers have developed the robots of our imagination. With that in mind, I have put together a list of five robots from sci-fi and popular culture that were memorable to me. You won’t find anything from Star Trek or Star Wars (I know. They are androids and droids. In my mind, Data, C-3PO, R2-D2 and any other form of moving around intelligence is a robot.), but you will find some creations that are memorable and some that are obscure.

GunslingerWestworld is part of an adult-oriented theme park where people can live out their fantasies. There are areas based on the Roman Empire, a medieval castle and an Old West town. Robots populate the parks and guests can interact with them as if they were human. Believe me, when I used the terms “adult-oriented” and “fantasies” I mean it. Anyway, Gunslinger operates in Westworld and is the fastest draw in the West. Played by Yul Brenner and based on his character in The Magnificent Seven, he faces off against park guest Richard Benjamin.

When a malfunction strikes the theme park, the robots go out of control, and Gunslinger tries to really kill Benjamin. The robot chases the human through each historical era, and Benjamin knows he’s in trouble as he sees the bodies of other guests. He eventually defeats Gunslinger and escapes back into the real world.

Robot – A simple name for a great character. Lost in Space is one of my favorite shows, and Robot is my all-time favorite, uh, robot.

People remember Robot as the best friend of Will Robinson; as the hero of many episodes; and as the nemesis of Dr. Zachary Smith. As time passed, the show focused less on the rest of the Robinson clan and more on the relationship of these three characters. However, people may not remember that Robot started out as a bad guy working with Smith to destroy the mission. That’s why they ended up “lost in space”. Robot soon redeemed himself, but those early dark episodes remain my favorite.

Robby the Robot – Built in 1955, Robby the Robot is the first in a long line of robotic characters and may be the most recognizable.

Billed as himself, Robby starred alongside a pre-comedic Leslie Nielsen in Forbidden Planet, the sci-fi classic. In subsequent years, he appeared in Lost in Space to battle with Robot; in television shows such as Hazel, Twilight ZoneThe Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and Mork & Mindy; and in movies like Gremlins. Through this time and through the creation of new and more stylistic robots, Robby remains the king of them all.

TwikiBuck Rogers in the 25th Century was one of television’s many attempts to build upon the success of Star Wars. It starred Gil Gerard and Erin Gray. However, the light-hearted aspect of the show (actually, there were a lot of light things about it) came from Twiki.

Admittedly, I didn’t watch this show very much and looked at Erin Gray a lot when I did. However, this little dude entertained me. Played by Felix Villa and voiced by Mel Blanc, this guy was always getting into trouble but also helped Buck get out of trouble. He was the perfect companion in the tradition of old western stars, Gabby Hayes and Andy Devine.

Al Gore – I know it’s an old joke. But, his family comes from a town not far from here, and he is a distant relative of mine. Also, he works out of Nashville, and one of my good friends is his personal assistant. I think that gives me a break on using a tired joke. Besides, he looks kind of like a robot.

Despite the look of a robot, there are other clues to his robot self as well.

1. He invented the internet and is an expert in global warming despite the fact that he has no known scientific training. He has also gone from being almost bankrupt after the 2000 election to being a millionaire hundreds of times over. These have to be signs of immense artificial intelligence.

2. He shows no emotion unless someone disagrees with his stance or he is in a massage parlor.

3. He claims to be from Carthage, Tennessee, but no one can remember his childhood in that town. It’s like he was suddenly created. Of course, that could be a sign that he is not from Tennessee at all but is actually a product of Washington, D.C.

That, my friends, is a list of five famous and not so famous robots. Are there any robots out there that you would consider your favorites?

Menacing Phantom?

2 Mar

Earlier in the week, my nephew wanted me to see The Phantom Menace (I decided not to put the words “Star Wars” with it.) with him. I didn’t want see it, but I didn’t want to disappoint him either. He’s 18 and has seen all of the good (read: original ones). Apparently, he just couldn’t miss the 3D, big screen version of this one. A smart lad, he made a 35 on the ACT, but I knew that he didn’t know what he was doing and would be disappointed.

How did I know that? Because I was disappointed when I first saw it. I could remember the awe of seeing Star Wars (before they added “New Hope”) on the first row of the old Capitol Theater. The music. The spaceship flying across the screen. It was beautiful. I hoped against hope that The Phantom Menace would provide the same feeling but deep down knew that it would be impossible. George Lucas should have known it would be impossible too.

Anyway, we went to the movie and donned our glasses. The music played and an old feeling of awe emerged. Then, the paragraph hit the screen with the words “taxation” and “trade routes” Who in the world would make a movie about those things? A lot of action there. That feeling of awe seeped right out of my soul. Throughout the movie, I kept thinking about all of the problems.

1. They made a complicated series about economics and politics. I have to put up with that in real life. When I go to a movie named Star Wars, I want to escape my world. The first movie (I mean the real first one.) was a simple good guys v. bad guys affair. The story has been filmed countless times. Lucas just added some special effects to it. Although, he says otherwise. I am convinced that Lucas had one western-type story to film, and it hit huge. When the studio saw that money could be made, they asked for more. There couldn’t have been a grand plan for an epic. If so, then why did a brother kiss a sister? There is no way he thought past the first one.

I know. This is going too long. However, the richer Lucas became the more he thought people were interested in his views on the world. We are not. We are interested in him making simple stories with a lot of cool effects.

Oh, and how do you democratically elect a queen?

2. Everybody complains about Jar Jar Binks, but he is actually the most endearing member of his species. The fat leader was ridiculous. I know people jumped on Jar Jar because of racism, and there is no way he is a good sidekick replacement for Chewy. However, the absolute worst character is the announcer for the race. In action films, comedy should be subtle. You don’t need clowns spouting off everywhere.

3. Computer generated aliens are not as good as people dressed like aliens. Lucas got all happy with his technology and made too many insect-looking creatures. The cool ones were walking around on two legs with humanoid features. Like the plot, some things should be kept simple.

4. Lucas introduced a kid. How can we believe that a cute little blonde kid is going to grow up to be one of the greatest villains in movies history? It should have started with him being a pissed off teenager. And, how gross is it to see Natalie Portman and this kid together when we know that they will eventually get it on? Very upsetting.

I could go on, but I don’t want to be like Lucas and drag this thing out. When the film ended, I asked my nephew how he liked it. He liked it. A lot. In fact, he liked it better than the original. How could that be? Maybe it was seeing it on the big screen. He has only seen the first ones on TV, and, honestly, that does take away some effect. He’s a smart kid. I had to know. So, I asked why. He replied that the first one was too slow with too much talking. I couldn’t believe it, so I watched it the next day. Turns out that he is right.

Star Wars was groundbreaking movie that changed the audience and the industry, but, like many things, it seems bigger as a child. Like I tell my history classes, people talk about the good old days, but they were never really that good. All generations have problems, but we look at the past through rose-colored glasses. I think some Star Wars fans, including me, have done this. The first movies had such an impact that nothing else could compare. But, young people like my nephew have a different perspective. Not just about Star Wars but about the world.

So, maybe Lucas was right after all. They are his movies to do as he pleases. Just like a professional football team, there are fans, but there is also an owner. In the end, it belongs to him. Star Wars belongs to Lucas. Maybe he realized the purity of the first ones needed to be changed for a new world view. Perhaps he realized that 21st Century audiences needed a more complicated story. It could be that he wasn’t making them for the 1970s/80s fans.

With that in mind I started thinking about The Phantom Menace with a more positive view.

1. It was cool to see the Jedi Council building. I only wish that Samuel L. Jackson had looked at Liam Neeson and said, “Look motherfucker! Can’t you see that this little punk is going to become the baddest ass we have ever seen?!”

2. Darth Maul was cool too. How can you go wrong with a red dude with horns? After all, only Satan could precede Darth Vader.

3. Liam Neeson made an excellent Jedi. At least he made the movie and didn’t bitch afterwards like Alec Guiness did for years.

4. Jar Jar and the gang turned out to be pretty good on the battlefield. They stood up to the droid army and didn’t slobber on themselves too much. Besides, how bad could they be compared to Ewoks?

In the end, my nephew changed my mind a little about The Phantom Menace. Then, he asked, “Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? Sigh.