Thursday, June 24, 2010

Without the soul for getting down....

I hadn't intended to do any kind of tribute to Michael Jackson, but it just so happened that as I was looking at my list of topics/memories I wanted to cover, "seeing Thriller for the first time" jumped out at me and just happens to be near the anniversary of Michael Jackson's death. I'm also not a nut for him either. I had a friend who asked me, completely serious, "Do you want to go put flowers with me on his star on the Walk of Fame?" after he died. Not really. But I will buy some of my favorite songs and continue to rock with you...alllll you into suuuuuunliiiiiight...


I think given my age and the time I grew up in, I came in just on the tail end of the golden age of Michael Jackson. Just after "Black or White" and right before the molestation charges and descent into being viewed as a once talented but possibly deviant loon. I don't think I became fully aware of all the accusations and public decries of his allegedly child molesting ways until probably well late into the 90s, mostly because I feel like he feel off the relevancy map for me after the first go around in court. As far as I was concerned, as I got older and into my tens and then tweens, he wasn't coming out with anything really new that made the same kind of impact as Thriller, Billie Jean, Black or White, Beat It and so on. There was stuff like the Free Willy song (which I hold dear, but that movie's kind of an entry unto itself), You Are Not Alone, or some random appearances, and then suddenly it's all baby-dangling, dancing outside the court house whackiness that overcame any good memories in most people's minds.

And while I acknowledge the massive stain all that press coverage and public obsession rendered on his legacy, I still get stuck on the good times. Maybe I'm just an optimist, but the Michael Jackson I prefer to remember is not the whack-job everyone is still figuring out, but the King of Pop that revolutionized music video, gave us the moonwalk, and made a cultural impact for the better. (I also still like Roman Polanski movies. Argue about him all you want, the man makes good movies! So maybe I'm too forgiving?)

All this brings me to Thriller, probably the first instance I distinctly remember Michael Jackson. And he scared the hell out of me in Thriller. I'm a horror movie fan, but I am easily scared. Like, even the simplest jump at me can make me flinch. This skittishness was the perfect behavior for an older brother to exploit for his own amusement. Which is why, one afternoon, presumably when I was between, we'll say, four and eight, my brother called me into the living room to watch Thriller. "It's really cool, you'll like it!" he promised.

I don't know what kind of impact it had on him as a kid, as he was much more in the generation that really had Michael Jackson in his prime (he was born in 1980), but no one can really deny how memorable that video is.

So it starts off with the 50s B-movie look, and things are going ok until...

This Happens

I lost it and freaked out. Mind you, we're less than three minutes into a ten minute video. When I mention Thriller to my brother and how he made me watch it, he just kind of laughs and says "Oh yeah....ha ha ha... You really lost it at the first scare there. Ha ha ha..."

I got through the rest of the video in one piece (barely). I was scared out of my wits by it though. First he's all nice and then turns into a damn were-cat thing. Then he's all normal and dancing down the street with the girl and it's good times. Then, SHIT! HE'S A ZOMBIE! And he's...dancing? Ok, maybe I won't be too scared. Uh oh, Vincent Price rap. Uh oh, now there's no music and the girl's being chased to the house. That's not good. The ending got a little intense for me too, with the zombies descending on the house, and the last shot of him turning to the camera with a freeze frame and the yellow eyes and the Vincent Price laugh...Whoo, that's scary. I'm pretty sure I complained to my brother about it after he made me watch it. "Oh come on," is what I'm pretty sure the response is.

My friends of course had seen it, but it wasn't really new by the time we got around to it. But it holds up so well anyway. I still get a kick out of watching it, and I get a major thrill out of hearing the song on the radio in October.

And that's why I'd rather remember Michael Jackson for the good times. You can focus on all the bad or weird stuff, but it's not as fun as listening to the music or watching him dance.

I mean, come on, who else could dance with zombies and still look so cool doing it?

I wish I knew how to do that damn dance.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Titular Inspiration

Hee, hee, that title made me giggle.

Anyway, I wanted to throw out a little background on why I choose the title of my blog (or changed it, if you were reading that far back, which is doubtful).

Back in the days of VCRs, my next door neighbor had a copy of one of the X-Men cartoon tapes, that had the first episodes on it. I remember little else from the cartoon other than Wolverine, Jean Grey flipping out constantly and then screaming "I am Phoenix!" and this gem, that generated a title and some magical moments for my friends and I.

During the first episode (I think), there is a total one off scene with a character that shapeshifts (if you know his name, let me know!). He is sitting on a couch, watching TV, and on the TV is a George Bush-esque political figure saying, "My fellow Americans, I am..." and then it cuts off.

They cut to the shapeshifter. He shapeshifts into the political figure and says, "My fellow Americans, I am an idiot!"

We died laughing. We just couldn't handle it. It was too funny. (Maybe you had to be there). Through all the laughter, one of us gasped "Oh my God, rewind that!"

And nearly twenty years later, a blog title was born.

I don't think people yell "Oh my God, rewind that!" as much anymore. Maybe because it's not as clear cut to rewind on a DVD. Come on, you've tried rewinding it during that one part, and suddenly you skipped back two scenes. Then you try to get back, and you're forward three.

That's some hard hitting 1999 satire right there.

But there it is, my blog title wrapped up in a fond memory of collapsing in laughter with friends.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Should You Be Watching This?

Ah cable. That sweet filler of lost afternoons, late night insomnia attacks, and alternative prime time programming. She's a great invention, but in the wrong hands, much could go wrong.

I grew up in the era just after cable took off and during the age of the "V-Chip." All us kids were in danger of watching something bad and going off and maiming each other, so parents who wanted to prevent that needed to add the V-Chip to their TVs, and they could effectively block all the bad stuff we might watch unattended.

Well, my parents, and my next door neighbor's parents, never got the V-Chip. So when we were left unattended with a TV, we caught some strange and inappropriate things. Like the movie Tank Girl, which may well be my first R-rated movie ever.

I went over to my neighbor's house and somehow, we just started watching it from the very beginning. Tank Girl, despite its candy colors, humor and kangaroo-dog characters is not a movie for kids. But it's also not the worst thing I could have watched, so I'm obviously not scarred for life or out committing hideous acts of violence all because I saw Tank Girl at the tender age of 10 (or thereabouts). Overall, it was just a weird movie with some moments that made me and my friend laugh and a few that scared me (mostly the ones with Malcolm McDowell as the evil tycoon guy).

At one point, my neighbor's mom walked by us and the TV. She kind of glanced at the TV, glanced at us and asked me, "Should you be watching this?" She was smiling because I think she knew what my kid answer would be.


"Ok..." She moved on, still smiling, but I knew she wasn't convinced.

The movie ended (notably toward the end with a animated section where Lori Petty has sex with one of the kangaroo dog things and sports a giant cartoony missile bra), and I went on my way.

Oh wait, they had a live shot too.

Not long after seeing the movie, I was sitting around at home doing nothing in particular. I happen to overhear my dad on the phone at the time though, and here's the words that drifted into the living room. "Fun movie....Tank Girl...I just saw it..." I damn near blacked out in a panic attack at the tender age of 10. I was convinced I had been caught in my naughty R-rated movie watching and was going to receive dire punishment. I sat on the couch breathing deeply in terror. My dad hung up the phone, walked into the living room, and sat back in his chair.


Not a word or mention of having seen the movie or being in trouble. I still don't know if my dad was talking about the movie with a friend, talking to my neighbor's mom and laughing off the incident, or what. Why? Because I never asked. I was too nervous of the imaginary consequences to do so. And, wouldn't asking admit my wrongdoing? I may have been a kid, but I wasn't stupid.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Time I Accidentally Watched David Cronenberg's The Fly

The title of the post says it all really. One time, sitting at home on a rainy afternoon, I watched The Fly on the Sci Fi Channel. And even with it edited for time and content, it still grossed me right the hell out. I had heard about the movie, but had no idea what was in store. The resulting movie had me jamming a pillow over my face for about ten minutes of screen time. And the even crazier part is, I could have changed the channel. I was left alone in the house with no one to interrupt me, request a change, or ask what the hell I was watching. I was praying somebody would come home and go "Ugh, turn it to the news please." But nothing. So I stayed glued to the literal horror of watching Jeff Goldblum turn from Earth Girls Are Easy mildly good looking to Oh-My-God-Kill-It-Kill-It-Kill-It! fly creature.

I think everyone can agree that the worst part is when Jeff Goldblum demonstrates how he "eats" as a fly. If you've seen it, you KNOW you've seen it. If you haven't, maybe skip to the next scene. I'm not typically squeamish, but good God is that awful. That may have been the first point in the movie during which I stuffed my head in the couch trying to make it go away.

The second was equally as horrible and a nice bit of body horror...for the ladies. That, of course, is when Geena Davis has a nightmare about giving birth the the larva baby she may or may not be carrying (since she's not sure if she conceived with Jeff Goldblum before or after he became a hideous fly creature that must be destroyed). Again, I refuse to go into detail, but I remember some yelling from me and another dive headlong into the couch cushions.

Two hours and not enough commercial breaks later, the movie was over. I was aghast at what I had seen and that I had seen so much on basic cable. My mom came home and the first thing I said to her was, "Have you seen The Fly? The newer one?" She basically said, yes and yes it's beyond gross I don't want to talk about it, I'm trying to have a snack here. Which is also the response I get from everyone else too.

Maybe I should stop asking about it when food's around.