Gregory's Girl, 1981

In the spirit of the World Cup (or perhaps it's just commiserations because my three teams are out), I present to you the footie (henceforth referred to as 'soccer') themed film, Gregory's Girl. Gregory's Girl didn't actually make it to the US until a year after it was made, but it was a staple of my early HBO viewing.

It's a simple Scottish coming of age comedy about a young man named Gregory (played by the gawkish and endearing John Gordon/Gordon John Sinclair) and his infatuation with and subsequent pursuit of the school's new soccer star, Dorothy (Dee Hepburn).

The path through the film is a wonderful road beset with twists and plots that eventually lead him to Susan (Clare Grogan), which apparently was Dorothy and Susan's plan (and as we eventually discover the teamwork of all the girls in the film) all along.

A word should be said about Clare Grogan. She was already an established Scottish pop star and leader of the band Altered Images:

She would go on to play the original Kristine Kochanski on Red Dwarf.

Gregory's world is an idyllic and slightly surreal but completely wonderful place. The film is full of little moments that keep you guessing, like the gang of toddlers outside his door greeting him by name, his baking obsessed best friend, the bathroom stalls which double as swap meet of sorts, the recurring perpetually lost person in the penguin costume who appears throughout the film, the clueless soccer coach, and so much more. The younger kids in this film are portrayed as mature, wise characters who the older kids turn to for advice, in particular Gregory's sister Madeline and her friend Richard. And most of the adults in the film display a slightly flippant, immature side, more about fun than function. Those moments make this film as a whole incredible because they don't feel odd or out of place. This is his world, his perfect world, take it or leave it--and remember to keep dancing or else you'll spin right off of it into space.

Gregory's Girl is in my top 3 favorite films of all time, and I still watch it frequently. It's timeless, magic, comedic, romantic, and just about as perfect a film as you could get. There is a sequel, Gregory's 2 Girls, which I am leery about seeing and have avoided it for the past 11 years. One day I will give in and watch it, but for now, the past 28 years of the original is enough for me.


Star Wars, 1977

This is the Genesis Film for cinematic influence on my life at this age.

I figured I would start this blog post off in a seemingly innocuous and predictable way, and begin it with one of the most important films in history, 1977's Star Wars. And I don't mean Star Wars: A New Hope or Star Wars: Episode IV, I mean when there was only one film and that film was just Star Wars period. Kind of like when Orlando only had one Disney park and that park was just Disney World and not The Magic Kingdom.

What can I say about the film itself that could possibly bring anything new to the table? We all know the story, we all know the sequels, and we all know the prequels. To say that Star Wars is canonical to a certain generation is an understatement. Most in my age group were hit with the first all-encompassing wave of merchandising and inundation to ever affect a demographic in regards to a film. And most of us can probably rattle off the least known characters easier than remembering our own families, or have put more effort into debating the fine intricacies not addressed on the screen than we have into our daily work. Star Wars (as a new entity) was to a 7 year old as water is to a shark--essential and perpetuating. Even the poster at the top of this blog loomed over my first grade classroom like a holy visage even before any of us had seen the film. We were all too familiar with Darth Vader's gaze prior to our indoctrination.

Which brings us to another poster I had (see above) and my ultimate misunderstood personal hero, Darth Vader. Not Anakin Skywalker or the crusty old white man they pop the mask off of at the end of Return Of The Jedi, but Darth Vader, the black leather wearing, black helmeted, robotically-integrated man/machine/demigod. The first glimpse of his imposing presence on screen coming through the smoke was all I needed to see--I was hooked. He was unbelievably powerful, he could fly a star fighter, he had a cool ass voice, and he could crush your larynx with a flick of his finger. He was a big man in black controlling all the minions in white, his knights in shining armor. The only other people who wore capes back then like that were Superman, Batman, and Dracula, and I loved all those guys too, but Vader was all 3 rolled into one. Beyond evil or morality, he was law a bad ass spiritual mother... My favorite shirt was based off of this shirt (though a) my mom got it for me in red from JC Penney's, and b) it was spelled correctly):

There were other characters too that I loved, such as Chewbacca, Han Solo, and that cute powerdroid that was stuck in the Jawa's Sandcrawler, but no one even came close to being the majestic awesomeness of Darth Vader. Boba Fett would eventually come close, but he was no Vader.

Of course I had this record, which I eventually memorized:

And all the action figures you could get at that time, the original 12:

I have vivid memories of going to the Treasury (the Southern California version of Target in the 1970s), looking at the toys, turning the corner and seeing a hang card with the picture of a Stormtrooper (someone had ripped off the figure). At this point I knew nothing of Star Wars action figures, but it didn't take long to figure it out. This wasn't the Fonzie doll I was looking for, this was BETTER. I ran around the toy section until I found the full display, and there among the gangs of Stormtroopers and C-3PO figures was one Darth Vader, complete with push-out red lightsaber. My mom ended up getting him for me and I still have him (as well as the rest of the collection which grew through the first two movies by leaps and bounds). From that day until the sad day when I put aside the action figures they were my constant companions, even traveling to New Zealand and Samoa (where I got to see the film in a theater in Apia) with me.

And thankfully the action figures were the same size as my Fisher Price Adventure People so they all integrated nicely. And I had the posters, the games, the comics, the novels, the fast food giveaways, the cereal boxes. I would draw Star Wars related pictures for hours. Hell, I still have the original pillowcases from 1977 and I use them:

To say that this is just a film is like saying McDonald's has a red and yellow sign. It is a film, but it's more than that--much more. It's part of us, who this generation is, who we dream of being, what we think of our interaction with each other. Make a reference to a quote that Jesus made and some might not recognize it; make a quote from Star Wars and just about EVERYONE of a generation will get it. Star Wars can be best summed up by Obi-Wan Kenobi: 'It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.'


Pre-History: Jesus Christ Of The Apes

The focus of this blog is to write about the films I viewed from the age of 7 until the age of 12 that inspired and shaped who I am today. Not so much writing about them as a review, but more of impressions. For me, this time in my life was before VCRs, and most will be films I've seen in the theater (a few on cable TV, which we got when I was 11). This era's beginning is marked by the original release of the first film I ever saw on a VCR (as a bootleg in about 1979), Star Wars.

However, this weekend I Tivo'd one of my favorite films ever (if not the most important film) that could not be included on this blog because it falls out of the perimeters I've set. That film is Jesus Christ Superstar and it is one of the first films I ever saw in the theater. I grew up with the soundtrack on LP, 8-track, and cassette, and eventually purchased the CD, and by the age of 6 I could sing every line of every song. In retrospect, it was a film that (along with my treasured Children's Bible) shaped a good deal of my theological vision about who Christ was physically and mortally, and the relation with his apostles. Though it's not completely Biblically based it can give an insight into the humanity of Christ that you may not get from church. Plus, it had prototype Darth Vaders as the bad guys--the Pharisees were black caped, black leathered duders with square bejeweled chest plates.

When I was 23 my mom got us tickets to see the 20th anniversary touring cast of the musical complete with Ted Neely and late (and AMAZING) Carl Anderson, who played Jesus and Judas respectively--it is something I can't even begin to describe, almost akin to a religious experience.

Fast forward to Saturday, I was watching the film and V came into the room. Having never seen it, after watching the overture for about 30 seconds she said, 'This looks a lot like your other film.'

'Which film?'

'Planet Of The Apes. Even the background music and anachronisms remind me of it.'

'No...' Pause. 'Really?'

You see, one film (or rather series of films) I would never miss on my black and white TV was Planet Of The Apes and it's subsequent sequels. I had to watch it every time it was on, even at my aunt and uncle's house during a sleep over (vivid memories of watching Escape... there one night). The greatest and most frightening film ending ever was to Beneath...--it still haunts me to this day. And I just checked to see if my IMDB review of it from 8 years ago was still up. (Actually, the the first two films of the franchise are interchangeable to me because they are all part of the same event with only days separating the story.) The film has stuck with me through the years so much that even my first personalized e-mail address had the name 'GeneralAldo', one of the Gorilla generals from Battle... (and yes, I know that's a picture of General Ursus below, thank you fanboy).

So, with mere seconds of viewing she had entirely summed up my earliest cinematic influences in 8 words. And then she left the room.

It all started to click in my brain, cascading... The scenery. The juxtaposition. The posturing. The background sounds. The imagery. The starkness. Both played off each other. Both featured outsiders thrust into confrontation. Both ended in deaths. And both dealt with vivid crucifixions. And for Apes, that act was prominent in the intro to it's cartoon spin off:.

Now compare those opening credits to one of the last scenes of Jesus Christ Superstar, especially where the audio is concerned:

Oh, but imagine that you're a 5 or 6 year old already obsessed with both franchises. Yeah.

I only bring this up because I want to share with you, dear reader, what I had going as a foundation for the things I was attracted to. I loved Elvis and the Beatles, but also loved opera and bagpipes. I would religiously watch the sitcoms of the day and the old Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry cartoons, but kind of hated Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I was fascinated by science, but not too keen on mathematics. I favored Spock over Kirk. I loved triceratopses, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Billie Jean King, traveling, drawing, Popeye, and musicals; I didn't love electric guitars, strangers, rides with drops, olives, and Villa Alegre. And why I'm so koo-koo for Apocalyptic films.

I find it no coincidence that the Apes... series ended the same year that JCS began. Jesus was there, after the apes ruled the world. Isn't that the timeline that evolution presents us? I'll buy that. And Genesis 1:2 has been interpreted as 'the earth became void'--my money is on that ape/subway human battle at the end of Beneath..., which ends with the voiceover: 'In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe, lies a medium-sized star, and one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet, is now dead.'

Well, that's about all I can add here. Enjoy the show!