To let you in on a little behind-the-scenes action here at Cinema Sentries, me and boss-man Gordon spent some time tossing around ideas on what to call this new series. The idea for the series sprang from the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. At the end of each show, everyone in that week’s panel talks about something from pop culture that’s been making them happy. It's always my favorite segment and I love the concept of finding things both big and small that bring you joy and sharing that with whoever will listen. The idea of doing something similar here has been germinating in my brain for awhile. But what to call it? Certainly, I couldn’t name the series “What’s Making Me Happy” but NPR lawyers would soon come-a-knockin’. I really wanted to do “This Week in Awesome” but that too has already been used in various blogs and sites.
We went back and forth and back again for a few days. I tossed it out to Facebook and came back with some good ideas, but nothing that really popped. We thought about using my name, calling it “Brewster’s Millions” or some such thing. We pondered using the negative with “Things that Don’t Suck.” We brainstormed, we spit-balled, we banged our heads against the wall.
Ultimately we went with the silly. And here we have it - “Five Cool Things and…” with the … concluding with something new each week. I have no idea what that something new will be. We’ll all be surprised. But hopefully it will be fun.
But back to what’s making me happy, I mean here's this week in awe— um, I proudly present to you five cool things.
I am a very much a Deadhead. I’ve been following the Grateful Dead for a couple of decades, which unfortunately means I never actually got to see the band before Jerry Garcia died. Luckily, nearly every gig the band ever played was recorded for posterity and I have a healthy collection of bootlegs that I listen to regularly.
For their 50th anniversary last year, the surviving members played several massive, sold-out gigs in Chicago and California. At the time, there was a rumored Scorsese-helmed documentary about the band. Then there wasn't. It looked like it had been shelved or made up or something. But this week brought news that not only did it get made, but it will be streaming on May 26 via Amazon's service. Amir Bar-Lev directed it with Scorsese acting as producer. I’m a huge fan of Scorsese, who has been involved with several wonderful rock and roll documentaries so this is a definite must see.
Christopher Reeve is the Best Superman
I must have watched Superman: The Movie a hundred times as a kid. I loved it. We endlessly talked about all the cool things the Man of Steel could do. We pretended we were saving Lois Lane falling off a building. We used our laser eyes and powerful breath to capture Lex Luthor all summer long. My favorite scene was always when he flew around the Earth so fast he turned back time.
But somewhere along the way Superman (and especially Christopher Reeve's portrayal) became uncool. Tim Burton brought along Batman with his gadgets and brooding. The X-Men were misfits with angst. There was no room anymore for a goody two-shoes who was all powerful.
Recently, we've become fans of the DC Comics lineup of TV shows. My daughter especially loves Supergirl so when I discovered the old Superman movies streaming on Netflix we just had to start watching them. I'd not seen Superman: The Movie in at least two decades. I was really surprised at how well it holds up. Sure, the special effects are dated and the script is plenty cheesy (and turning the Earth the wrong way would not only not turn back time but would cause cataclysmic disasters) but it's a lot of fun. Christopher Reeve especially is brilliant as both Superman and Clark Kent.
As a kid, I only paid attention to Superman doing cool stuff, but now as an adult, I find the Clark Kent stuff way more interesting. If Superman needs a secret identity, then the bumbling, utterly hopeless nerd that is Clark Kent is perfect. Reeve is perfect in the role. With just the movement of his body and a pair of glasses, he completely transforms the muscular, utterly perfect Superman into a small human who nobody pays any attention to.
I dare you to watch the scene embedded above and tell me you disagree.
“Make ‘Em Laugh” From Singing’ in the Rain
I got to see Singin’ in the Rain on the big screen this past weekend (you can read my full review of that experience here). It's a marvelous movie with some terrific songs and dances. My favorite will always be the title song, but what’s been stuck in my head all week is Donald O’Connor doing “Make ‘Em Laugh”. He’s so good in it - jumping, kicking, flipping, and contorting his body like a pretzel. He makes it looks so damn easy too.
Little Pink Elephants from Dumbo
I got a little money for Christmas and had a lot of fun blowing it on Amazon. I mostly bought comic books but when I saw the Dumbo: 75th Anniversary Blu-ray on sale, I just had to buy it. Sometimes on a Friday night me and the family will have “sleepovers” where we pop some popcorn, cuddle up on my bed, and watch a movie. Afterwards, we make a pallet on the floor next to us and let my daughter sleep in our room. It's always lots of fun, and so it was with Dumbo.
I’d not seen the movie since I was a kid so almost all of my memories were fuzzy. I remembered there was a psychedelic scene at some point which freaked me out completely. It freaks me out now, too. I have no idea how Walt Disney was convinced to allow a five-minute musical scene where a mouse and a floppy-eared elephant get drunk and hallucinate a Pink Floyd-esque sequence in the middle of his lighthearted family film, but we are all better for it.
Hell or High Water
I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for a long time now. I gave up the DVDs by mail service when they split it off from the streaming several years ago. Paying for both streaming content and DVDs wasn’t in the budget. I miss the access to so many movies that you get with the DVDs but streaming is so much more convenient. I should say I used to miss the access to so many movies because as of a week ago I am now, once again signed up for both.
My mother lives out in the boonies and her Internet is too poor for streaming movies so she’s been a DVD subscriber for a few years. They get sent to a PO Box that for reasons not worth explaining I have a key to and check on a daily basis. After delivering my mother her hundredth disk or so, it dawned on me that for a couple of bucks a month I could put her on a two-disk at a time plan and get me a movie every week that isn’t on their streaming service. It helped that I had just received a little bonus at work, which the wife wasn't privy to and won't miss. So I laid down a good year's worth of payments to my mom and no one is the wiser.
One of my first movies to receive was Hell or High Water. It looked good and garnered some favorable reviews, including the one by our own Chris Morgan, so I gave it a shot. I’m glad I did as it's quite enjoyable. It plays like a modern-day take on the classic western. The story isn’t anything new but the cast, including Chris Pine and Ben Foster as outlaw brothers and Jeff Bridges as the Ranger out to get them, are excellent.
I’ve never been particularly opposed to watching movies through various alternative means when they weren’t streaming on Netflix but it feels good to be doing it the proper way. Maybe that means I’m getting older. Or maybe my wife has just gotten one too many notices in her e-mail box of late. Whatever it means I’ve already got my queue overflowing with DVDs to be looking forward to in my mail box.