Right off the bat, I'll tell you: This article is a little long.
It's time for a brief bit of personal history.
For several months from late 2005 to April of 2006, I wrote under the name of Captain Caps, which was my user name on the Warner Brothers Club (now a division of the vast Toon Zone Forums). I lost my e-mail address and password for this site, so around April of 2006, I re-registered to this site under the name Caps 2.0. I wrote my first article under that name shortly after. It was a piece entitled "I Love The 80s 3-D-The Alternate Takes: 1988 Edition". Here's a link to it: http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/555/
As you can see, my writing has changed a lot since that time, and I have now reached the landmark of my 50th article.
I never thought I would have made it to this point, but here we are. Along the way, my vocabulary has changed, my love of the 80s has grown, I've interviewed many interesting people, and my work has grown more serious.
Now is an occasion for frivolity, though. As I've reached this milestone, quite a few other entertainments have reached their anniversary dates as well. I would now like to share 10 mini-essays on 10 pop-cultural items (9 movies and one musical performance) that have had anniversaries of various sorts this year.
Let's get to it, shall we?
Let's begin with Disney's "Sleeping Beauty", which celebrated it's 50th anniversary this year.
10 articles ago, I saluted Cinderella, a Disney Princess I've rarely written about. Now I've decided to say a few words about Aurora.
First off, I think that Aurora is a very lovely name. It has a sense of wonder to it. I find myself thinking of the Aurora Borealis and I wonder if that's where the inspiration for the name came from.
Secondly, I think this movie had some wonderful music. "Once Upon A Dream" is one of the loveliest ballads I've ever heard in a movie. The way Aurora is singing it and then is joined, much to her surprise, by the handsome Prince Phillip is something of great joy and simplicity.
It was such an innocent thing...It's too bad that now this is the stuff of mockery. Warner Brothers, DreamWorks, even Disney themselves have attacked these types of scenes. I'm of the mind that there's no such thing as being dated or outdated. Everything is just a product of its' time...Whether it's good or bad is in the eye of the beholder. I can easily imagine some people saying that a movie like "Casablanca" or "Sunset Boulevard" is outdated and has no connection to the modern day. Having somebody join you in a song, making a decision for a greater good, striving for a new day even as you've entered the dark night of the soul...These are all universal themes that stay with decades after these films' release.
Next we have another Disney classic. It's "Mary Poppins", which celebrates its' 45th anniversary this year.
While I have taped over the majority of what the family recorded off TV back in my young and raw days, this is one of the movies that hasn't been taped over...Well, for the most part.
I was a young guy many years ago...As such, you would've expected me to enjoy stuff like the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movies and things like that. I did, but they haven't aged all that well. "Mary Poppins", on the other hand, has. The movie didn't follow the pop culture of its' time...It just told a simple story, and I mean that in a positive way.
This is a movie that still impresses audiences to this day...Whenever a new version is released on DVD, it sells well. Fantasy is something we all need, especially in times like this. To be taken to a place where, for example, all it takes to jump into a piece of artwork is a few facial gestures, is something that can take your mind off the fact that if you turn on the news, you'll see a story about a rape, a story about a murder, a story about a rape-murder, a story about a murder-rape, a story about a child abduction, a story about how the weather will be rainy for the next 5 weeks, and maybe a few minutes of how a pop star has gone off the deep end or into bankruptcy. Add or subtract a few elements from that and you could easily have a news broadcast from any decade, Thank God we have the movies.
Sometimes reality can be a good thing, though, and that was the case with Jimi Hendrix's performance at Woodstock (which celebrated its' 40th anniversary this year).
I can't say that I like most 60s music, but Hendrix is an exception. I easily consider him to be the greatest guitar player in history, and nowhere was this more evident than in his scorching version of "The Star Spangled Banner". Most of us are used to the traditional version with choruses and orchestras, but this version had an intensity to it that the others didn't. The world has always been crazy, and Hendrix's rendition of this standard reflected where America stood in the late 60s. I occasionally find myself thinking of this version whenever I watch the news or read the paper, which is very rarely. Things haven't changed all that much...America has always had good point and bad points. I think that's why Hendrix's version has stood up after all these years...Through 3 minutes and 30 seconds or so of a combination of guitar work and improvised sound effects, he defined the ethos of America in all of its' glory and its' shame.
2009 also was the 35th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite comedies. The title? The one and only "Blazing Saddles".
I first saw this movie when I was 13 years old, and it was actually my Mom's suggestion to watch it. I saw it and I laughed throughout the movie. Since I was still young at the time, the physical comedy and the bodily function gags were what I laughed at, but as I grew older, I started to appreciate the dialogue more.
I think that the writers are the most important cogs in the machine they call the movies. Through them, everything falls into place. The emotions, the action, the drama...If it weren't for the writers, none of it would exist. I sometimes wonder if writers are truly respected, or if they're just names on screen. Mel Brooks was one of the writers of "Blazing Saddles", so you knew that he was a major force when it came to the words. On the other hand, Steven Spielberg's "E.T" is celebrated by many movie fans, but if it weren't for screenwriter Melissa Mathison, what would the movie really be? What about "Raging Bull"? Scorcese directed it, but who did the heavy lifting that was the writing? Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin.
Writers deserve more credit...5 writers worked on "Blazing Saddles (Besides Brooks, there was Norman Steinberg, Alan Uger, Andrew Bergman and the late Richard Pryor), and of those 5, Brooks gets the most credit. Perfectly justifiable, but where does that leave the other 4? They deserve the glory as well. "It's twue. It's twue!"
This year also saw the 30th anniversary of the classic film "The Muppet Movie".
There's 2 things from this movie that have stuck with me after all these years. The first is the song "The Rainbow Connection" and the second is the song "The Magic Store". The songs made an impact on me from the first time I heard them. The former had a sense of defiance to it if you listen to the lyrics.
Here's an example:
"Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it. I know they're wrong...Wait and see.
Someday, we'll find it, The Rainbow Connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me".
It never struck me how daring those lyrics were until I thought them through several times. All of us at one time or another have been told to stop dreaming, to be realistic, to keep focused, ad nauseam. How can you give instructions like that to somebody who, for example, has verbally abused or physically beaten up at one time or another by damn near every single person he has known? I mean, you can, but it doesn't mean they'll listen.
Now we move on to the song "The Magic Store". This song, combined with a reprise of "The Rainbow Connection", also made an impression on me as well. Every graduating high school class has a section in the yearbook where a picture of them accompanies their thoughts on school as well as entertainment quotes that sum up their personal philosophy. To describe my thoughts on school, I paraphrased "The Breakfast Club". I described school as "demented and sad, but social".
The rest of it was pop culture quotes, and one of the things I quoted was the medley of "The Magic Store"/"The Rainbow Connection". The lyric I quoted was:
"Life's like a movie. Write your own ending".
My life was nowhere near close to ending, but it seemed rather uncertain. I graduated high school in 2001, and 8 years later, I'm holding down a steady job and getting acclaim for my writing. I had to deal with being disrespected by students and teachers alike, but I survived it and while I'm still having a lot of difficulties, I wrote my own ending. The ending may not exactly be a happy one, but I could easily have taken things in a different direction.
Onward into my favorite decade...The 80s. This year saw the 25th anniversary of the classic concert movie "Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense".
I've been to several concerts throughout my life. Back when I was a George Carlin fan, I saw him in concert with "Bruce" (my old "friend"...For more on him, consult my article "Together Is Better"). In 2007, I saw Black Label Society at the House Of Blues at Downtown Disney. A year later, I saw Disturbed there.
I never had the opportunity to see any 80s singers or groups, though. Even as many are still touring today, I haven't been able to see them. I feel gypped, but movies like "Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense" have helped me out.
I'm a fan of Talking Heads, and I also enjoy what I've seen of California through movies and TV shows. Put the two together and I just want to hop into the DeLorean and see Talking Heads do their thing out on the West Coast.
There was a great charge to Talking Heads' work. It didn't carry the darkness of groups like Iron Maiden, but instead carried a positive aura to it. One by one, the band members enter the stage and you can feel something going up and down your spine...Once the entire band is on-stage and throwing down with some art-school funk, all of a sudden, your feet are on the floor.
For me, "Girlfriend Is Better" is the best number in that movie. I first saw this movie shortly after I broke up with my girlfriend, and I was a little reluctant to hear about romance. I heard this song, though, and I could hear a great sense of joy to it. A girl and a guy strutting down the street, happy and cheerful...That's what I get from that song. It's an idealized form of love, but it's good to have high ideals.
2009 served as the 20th anniversary of the drama "Do The Right Thing".
It's interesting that I enjoy this. I'm a white guy of Polish, Irish and German descent who doesn't agree with a lot of what Spike Lee says, but I love this movie. For me, it's a movie that accurately depicts New York City as seen during most of my visits there. Many people have said that the city is no longer like what it was back in the 80s, but for me, the film's depiction of intense emotions, emotionally fragile people and danger on every corner bears a lot of fruit to this day.
As I've said several times, when my Dad was alive, I felt safe visiting the city. Once he died, that feeling of safety went flying down the window. From there on out, visits to the city were either accompanied by my Mom or, in my school years, by teachers.
The thing that stuck with me the most was one high school trip to the city where, as we walked through the city to go to a restaurant, we found ourselves accosted by a strange street person who was reciting poetry and kept following us until we made a hasty walk across the street.
For me, the intense emotion that day was fear, the emotionally fragile people were the students, myself included (and probably the teachers as well), and the danger was that guy on the street. If some guy walked up to you and starting babbling randomly, wouldn't you want to get the Hell away from him?
The circumstances in "Do The Right Thing" held more weight than the trip I discussed, but the feeling of fear is still there. People have offered to accompany me into the city if I want to visit, but no matter who accompanied me, I still wouldn't feel safe. A family friend who was a former military man and then became a police officer has offered to accompany the family along on a trip, but I wouldn't feel safe even if HE accompanied me.
Here's a quick story. A few weeks back, on a cab ride home from work, we picked up two girls who were taking a train to New York City. I asked them if the city was closer to "Do The Right Thing" or "The Muppets Take Manhattan". They said they didn't know of either movie. That really made me feel old. Young people online know about those movies (YouTube is proof of that)...What about young people offline?
Let's move onto something more positive. 15 years ago this year, the world was witness to the 66th Annual Academy Awards. This was important because it was the first Academy Awards ceremony I ever recorded. I'd always been a movie fan...Even in my younger days, I was as likely to watch a live-action movie as I was to watch a popular cartoon. I knew what the Academy Awards were, but had never seen a ceremony up until 1994. When I recorded it, I was amazed at what I saw. The thing that stuck out the most was Bernadette Peters' rendition of the song "Putting It Together".
The song was a rapid-fire barrage of lyrics about making movies and images, both real and fictional, of the people working behind the scenes. There were scenes of special effects people, make-up artists, composers and people like that. There was also a clip of Arnold Schwarzenneger saying how much he loved the script for "Last Action Hero". This was before the movie bombed, though. Was that a tribute or a dis to the idea of the agent? All I know is that it was very enjoyable. I've always watched the Oscars since then. I'm always eager to see what new images will pop up...Montages, musical numbers, anything. I look forward to all of it. I always put in for a day off on the day of the Academy Awards. If I hadn't seen this ceremony, then I don't think it would've impacted me to that level.
You can expect me to write a more extensive Academy Awards article next year, but in the meantime, let's move on to 1999.
"Toy Story 2", which celebrates its' 10th anniversary this year, was released in 1999.
The main conceit of this movie is Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) having an identity crisis when a toy collector (voiced by Wayne Knight) finds him after an accident. After listening to the words of his fellow toys Jessie (spoken voice by Joan Cusack, singing voice by Sarah McLachlan) and Pete (voiced by Kelsey Grammer), he thinks that his worth isn't keyed to humanity, but instead to money. It falls to Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) and the other toys to bring him back.
I first saw this movie in 2001, which was a year where I started having an early-life crisis that lasted for several years. From 2001 to 2007, I cycled through various message boards and writing places, constantly letting others form my identity. From words to personal beliefs, I was always being molded and remolded. I never appreciated my individuality (and at times I still don't). For example, on one message board, when I saw that a person once liked by many on that board was losing with favor with those people, I joined in the hatred, too. I wanted to fit in, but eventually I realized that it wasn't me. I was lying to myself and thus to others as well.
It was only when I returned to this site in 2007 (after letting some criticism get to me to the point where I followed the members of the Gert Frobe Fried Oreo fan club off the reservation for a while) that I realized that being who I am isn't really all that bad. I finally started feeling a sense of worth through my writing. The fact that Samantha Newark, the voice of "Jem", liked my ideas in the article "Jem And The Holograms-The Film" is proof enough of the fact that I've come a long way. There are still times when I hate myself, but all in all, I realize that my individuality can be a good thing.
Finally, this year was the 5th anniversary of the movie "Million Dollar Baby".
For me, this is the movie that caused me to think, "Hey, this decade isn't such a bad one for movies". I know I've caught a lot of Hell on here for saying positive things about the 00s, but I need to explain something. This site is about memories, and for me, not everything retro has positive memories. When they started "I Love The 90s" in 2004, I felt it was too soon. I went through so much in the 90s that I couldn't really feel anything positive about it. I mean, it was a good decade for dance music, rap music, pro wrestling and porn, but the emotional turbulence I went through in the 90s has greatly outweighed any positive personal feelings I have for the decade.
The reason why I say so many positive things about the 00s is because, in this decade, I've come to learn things about myself that I couldn't learn in my younger years. I had students and teachers beating me down, and one time in 1999 (I think), I had my Mom beating me up. Now a decade later, I have a steady job, a good writing career, the respect of many people and an acceptance of my love of 80s culture.
Yes, I have gotten nostalgiac for a decade that hasn't even ended yet (although by the time this article is up, it will be ending in about a month), but that's because I have few fond memories of my youth. I don't want to remember my dad's death...I don't want to remember the bullying...I don't want to remember the hospitalization or the school transfers or the time I got a seizure or the diagnosis of Aspergers' Syndrome. All of that happened in the 90s. In the 00s, on the other hand, I've had so many positive things happen that I can't even begin to count them.
In summation, I've come a long way, as have all of the items I've mentioned. In one way or another, they've stood the test of time and continue to impact the things that come after them. I may not have an impact, but I've stood the test of time. I'm writing, I'm talking, I'm working...I'm here. I know that I'll die eventually, but until that happens, I will continue on writing, singing, existing, and if I need a boost, I'll just turn to the entertainments I've listed.
Now the floor is open for discussions:
Looking from your younger days to where you are now, do you think things have changed or remained the same? Are there any pop-culture items celebrating anniversaries this year that you would've listed.