Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Red Socks

No, this is not a blog about the defending World Series Champions. This is an entirely different kind of thing.

My friend Blair has been Blogging about episodes from his and his family's past. Well, I'm going to take a page from that blog (do blogs have pages?) and tell a way back when story of my own.

Recently, Jenn, Katie, Chris and I decorated the Christmas Tree. Earlier in the year my parents had sent the decorations (among other things) I had that had been in storage since they sold their house 5+ years ago. Lo and behold, in the box of decorations was a pair of red socks. The most attrocious shade of red this side of neon and pastel. You know Solo cups, the ones at picnics? That color red. OK for a cup, bad for socks. Unless...

My first ever job was at a movie theater where I was only a bit player in one of the most interesting groups of people you would ever find. Seriously, MTV couldn't do a better job of slapping together a Real World cast if they tried, and they have casting agents. All we had was an insane manager that used to mumble odd, sometimes scary, things to himself and had a knack for flinging staplers (not just saples, staplers) around his office. Seriously, he was insane. All he was missing was a piece of paper with the little INSANE rubber stamp on it and a bunk next to a guy that thought he was Michael Jackson. If he hated a movie, he would call it Gone witht he Wind, his least favorite movie of all time. "Paul, go help clean Gone with the Wind," and you had to know which movie he was talking about because a request for clarifiation only brought about a sly chuckle. He would walk around mumbleing, " I'm a plane. I'm in the air." He would quietly question to himself why people woudl go to "this dump" rather than just go to Blockbuster. I'll stop becasue he could be his very own blog and I STILL wouldn't do him justice.

Anyway, Homer Payack (he went by Butch and wouldn't acknowledge that we all knew his real name was Homer) was my introduction to management.

My introduction to coworkers included a guy who would splice himself into prono movies, a chick OBSESSED with Madonna and Jody Foster (and yet would get pissed at any accusation that she was a lesbian), a woman suffering from the worst scoliosis that you'd ever seen that would believe you if you told her that her car's engine was made of beef jerky and curse you out once someone told her that it wasn't true, and the afforementioned Blair Hollingsworth. For those of you who know Blair, it would be a pretty tough arguement to say he was the most colorful character at the movie theater back in the day and he was EASILY a whole order of manitude crazier back then.

Even though he wasn't the most off the wall, if the movie theater were an actual movie, he most certainly would have been the title character. Our protaganists to Homers antagonist. The uniform at the time was a blue trousers, farm boy styled checkered shit, a blue bow tie and a red vest. Maroon, really. And Blair had these hideous red socks. I think even the color-blind (and world famous) Jim Clark (yes ladies, that Jim Clark) knew these socks didn't match the uniform. But he would wear these socks. And here's the thing, we were all afraid of Homer a bit, but Homer was afraid of Blair. Truely. Blair was pretty much the only one that could really deal with Homer's insanity and that menat he was a threat to his power. One day at the theater and you knew those 2 had a special relationship only because Blair was the only one that could actually quip back wat Homer's ramblings.

So the day came that Blair was leaving the theater. As far as I knew, he had worked there since it opened. He bequeathed upon me these hideous socks. He told me that I needed to carry on the torch and wear them with pride. Keep in mind that I, like everyone else, had just a little bit of fear for Homer. So the day I wore them, I tried to keep my slacks low. but hiding these socks was like hiding an elephant in your tent. Within the first 10 minutes Homer walked up and asked that I follow him. We go out to his car, which under different cirumstances wouldn't be out of the ordinary in the slightest since he always took someone with him to the bank, except he didn't have the deposit bag with him. I freak out. Seriously. THE MAN IS INSANE! At worst, I'm afraid he's going to drive me home and tell me never to return again (my house was on teh route to the bank, so he knew where I lived). I'm saying I'm sorry and that I can run home and change. Than I see that we're headed to the mall. I told him I had other socks and that it wouldn't be necessary to buy new ones. He hands me a $20 and says "buy a pair of blue socks. Keep the change. I never wnat to see those again."

And that was that. Not a peep on teh drive home. Never brought up again.

Here are the things, to this day, I still don't know and wonder about frequently:
1) Did he hate the socks because they weren't within dress code or because they had been Blair's? And don't think for a second he didnt' hate those socks. You don't drive someone to the mall and give them 20 bucks for new socks when they live 2 blocks from the place unless you have hate in your heart.
2) Why would he allow Blair to wear the socks? As I mentioned, he was definitley a little affraid of Blair, but I'm not convinced that entirely explains it. Anyone else wearing those socks would have been fired or sent home. Blair's were the only red socks allowed in the place, and as it turns out, only he could wear them.
3) How much did Blair know? Did he know that Homer hated the socks? Did he know that Homer was a little affraid of him? Did he just wear the socks because he liked them and didn't really give a second thought to the affect it had on Homer. Obviously, it did have an affect on him, and I think any good protagonist would know that.

Anyway, maybe Blair can shed some light on this.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Geeek Day Review Part II

And now the thrilling conclusion to my review of the Star Wars DVDs.

Episode IV: Return of the Jedi
Synopsis: The non-frozen gang members go to a slug gangster's place to retrieve their frozen member. They then go to a forrest-covered moon inhabited by teddy bears to thwart the plans of the bad guys to build another super big bad weapon. Along the way, they make friends witht eh teddy bears, farm boy confronts his dad, good guys destroy the weapon and farm boy's dad turns from good to evil. HUZZAH!!!

Memories of yore: This was the one that I remember the best, obviously. I must have talked about tis one for about 6 months before it came out thanks to the pre-release of an Emperor toy from Kenner that you could only get in exchange for points from the boxes of other toys. I loved this movie when I saw it and I still think it's fantastic today. It is my least favorite of the 3 now (though at the time, it was probably my favorite). The only complaints you can make are that Lucas got to cute, but at the time, that worked fine for me. And I loved me some happy ending. Of course, by this time, I began to fully appreciate the toys. Loved them before, now I needed them. Lived off them, really. I still remember the 2 hardest ones to find, for us, were the Gamorrian Gaurd and Wicket the Ewok (not that my brother wanted him [but I did]).I had to have seen this one in theaters at least 6 times from the time of it's initial release to the time it finally came out on video. The re-release of this movie was one of the first things I saw after moving to Florida (at the twin theater by the Holliday Springs bowling alley. The theater was a changed to a dance club for a while and very well may be a church now).

Old School vs. New School: The major changes in here are unforgivable. The musical sequence and Jabba's Palace and the song at the end of the picture are completely different. Yes, Sy Snoodles and the band looked very stiff and cheesey. So what you SHOULD do, if you feel the need to revamp it, is spice up the band a little. There is no reason at all to completely change the song. The new song sux. It's absolutely retarded. The CG characters all look like cartoons, like all of the sudden we're in Mary Poppins or Song of the South. The old song at the end of the film, Nub-Nub, was one of my favorite bits of non-Imperial March music in all 3 films. Falls somewhere between 5 and 7. To completely remove it and replace it with with a nice, yet wholly forgettable, peice of instrumantal stuff that does not the least bit fit what you would expect to hear from Ewoks is silly. I understand that they wanted to add shots from cities around the galaxy, and I actually REALLY like that idea because it provides a lot more closure to the whole series. But there's no reason taht can't be done to the tune of Nub-Nub. Stupid. I also hate the Sarlac Pit Monster (or should I say Audrey II) that they added. Not knowing what the monster beneath the sand is, only seeing the tentacles, is far more menacing. And if it weren't for the fact that all the other changes piss me off to no end, I am certain that I would ahve really liked the change of using Hayden as Anakin at the end. But as it is, the other changes piss me off so much taht I can't judgge it rationally, so it sux, too.

Final Anlysis: Still better than Cats. I'd see it again and again (but from now on, I might just slip the tape in and watch the old version). 21 stars out of 5 .

Bonus Disc:
The 2+ hour documentary about the release of each of the initial 3 movies make owning the set well worth it. I'd pay 50 bucks just for that one disc, no questions asked. It rocks. Basically, it spends about an hour on the lead up to the first one then 20-30 minutes on teh aftermath of the first one then 30 minutes on the 2 subsequent films. It's really interesting to hear about all the things they wnet through on the original movie. Most of it I had never heard of before. In the past, Star Wars documentaries were usually the following:
No one gave Lucas a chance.
He got his chance.
There were a couple technical problems.
He made a wonderful movie that changed the course of movie making.
This one is more like:
People thought Lucas was criminally insane.
One guy thought, "Hey, there might be something here, and at least it's differrent."
There were major problems all along the way, including his friends starting to think he was criminally insane.
He made a life altering movie that change the course of history for a generation.
Basically, the highs and lows are more pronounced. In the past, I don't think Lucas liked to acknowledge the geniune impossibility of the task taht he tackeled in making Star Wars. I think he always down played the problems and gave an air that he expected it to be great. Obviously, the storm in Tunisia is well documented, and how some of the effects were tough to bring together. But this time, because you get a better sense of the problems, I think you get a better sense of why this film is so one-of-a-kind and why any comparissons of subsequent Star Wars films to the first one are unfair. And one step further, why comparrisons of the subsequent trilogy tot he first one are also unfair. Unfortunately, Lucas brought those comparissons upon himself by going back and fucking with things like Nub-Nub. So I do not try to defend him or the new trilogy. I like them and I don't think I need to explain why. Nor do I wish to have that discussion with any nay-sayers.
I didn't watch the whole Bonus Disc. A bunch of featuettes that I skipped. But I did watch the preview of Episode III (basically a making of Hayden's Darth Vader suit) and original theatrical trailers. Pure gold, those are.

There it is folks. I am not a Lucas apologist. I'm just a super huge Star Wars fan. I don't hate Lucas for what he has done, nor do I think others should. I feel bad that he felt the need to do it. And I feel bad that he felt the need to water down teh new trilogy. But the fact remains that the original takes place at a darker time. And it was released at a time when we were all far more innocent. And it was genuinely a unique endevour. Therefore, it cannot be matched. Anything after it - from the Black Hole to Revenge of the Sith - is not going to have the same magic. That's what made it so perfect.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Geek Day Review: Part 1

I took Friday off to watch the Star Wars DVD release on my new big screen TV. Here are my thoughts: (editor's note: after getting through the first 2 films, I realized that this is best broken out into 2 parts, so the review of Jedi and the bonus disc will be up later in the week. Also, I use the term "editor" loosely.)

Episode IV: A New Hope
Synopsis: There are bad guys that are pushing around the Galaxy, especially people not wearing bras. Luckily a Princess Leah snuck plans that would help beat the bad guys off with some droids. The droids find a farm boy, the farm boy finds a hermit (who happens to be a former Jedi, defnder of the galaxy), they then find a smuggler/space adventurer, they all then find the Princess and in the end THEY all blow up the biggest baddest ship of the bad guys. Hoooray!

What I remember of yore: This was the first movie I ever stayed awake for all the way through. I remember because at the time it was a big deal and it was all I could talk about. My brother insists we were the first one's on our block to see it. That was a big deal because your universe from age 0-7 is the size of your block (how far will your folks let you wander on your own). I loved the Jawas. And the toys were just beginning to emerge into my consciousness. The first ones we got were a sand speeder, Luke, and the Droids. I do remeber seeing ti multiple times though my clearest memories of the movie itself in a theater were from the re-release. I actually figured this out because of a trailer on the DVD's for the re-release that happened some time in the Spring of '78, after Christmas and after we got most of the toys.

Old School vs New School: The DVD release is, sadly, the redone versions that Lucas considers the "completed" versions. Star Wars has quite a bit different. I dislike EVERYTHING that was done on Tatoine prior to the Millenum Falcon takeing off from docking bay 39. The streets of Mos Eisley are too busy now and all the additions are far too "Year 2000" campy. I preface that because it makes the new stuff blatantly out of place. The movie is loaded with 1970's campy so modern camp just doesn't work. The folks they added to the cantina aren't any better than the ones they took out. I won't comment on teh attrocity that is Greeto shooting first. The Jabba scene completely sucks because he's not even REMOTELY as menacing and impressive here as he is in Jedi. I remember as a kid being totally geeked to finally see Jabba. All the buzz and mystery that surrounded him. You'd hear from people who heard that he was a big slug and tons of other "spoilers" but none of it really prepared you for it. Now, when I show my kids the moies (if I show them these DVDs first [which I won't]), they would have already seen Jabba and the coolness of Jabba in Jedi would be changed into questions about why he's not moving and he looks like a rubber puppet. As for other effects, I don't have too much a problem with fixing up the space scenes. The the shot of the Falcon taking off rocks. There are other nit picks, but I've hit the major ones.

End analysis: It was better than Cats. I'd see it again and again. 23 stars out of 5.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Synopsis: The gang is all hiding on Hoth when farm boy sees a vision of the now dead hermit/Jedi and is instructed to go see the Jedi Master Yoda for training. Smuggler/Adventurer and the Princess have some love vibe going on. Luke gets the training while the remainder gang hides out from teh bad guys with "The Guy from the Colt 45 Commercials". Mr. Colt 45 double crosses them, farm boy falls for the trap, S/A gets frozen (maybe killed?), Big Bad guy is Farm Boy's dad and totally kicks his butt. Non-frozen members of the gang, including a contrite Mr. Colt 45, regroup and say they have a plan (which we will all have to wait 3 years to find out about).

What I remember of yore: I was 5/6 when this one came out. This is teh age when you first figure out taht your folks won't be mad if you take a few quarters from teh change jag from tiem to time to buy candy at the corner store. Since this is when you learn to deal with money, you also learn that it's far more fun to collect things if you're buying them yourself. So I was a card fiend at this age. Once Empire had baseball cards, that became my passion. now, eerytime I watch this movie, I see it as a series of baseball cards. I remember exactly which scenes were tough to get. It's very strange. I know for a fact that I saw this movie at least 3 times during it's initial release and that I saw it again in re-release in Florida while on vacation during Christmas vacation.

Old School vs. New School: This is the only film that didn't have any truely egregious changes in the updates. If you watch the old and the new, in about 80% of the changes, you realize that the effects do clean up the film nicely. I don't think the changes in the approach to Bespin were entirely necessary, but whatever. it also raises the question of why was the Wompa so lame in the initial release when ll they had to do to fix it was throw a guy in a costume to make it look much cooler.

End analysis: It was better than Cats. I'd see it again and again. 58 stars out of 5.