“See You Space Cowboy…”: Anime Super Noobdom & Podcast Appearance

“See You Space Cowboy…”: Anime Super Noobdom & Podcast Appearance

“Just a humble bounty hunter, ma’am.”

– John Cho (Spike) from Cowboy Bebop

I have toyed with the idea of creating a podcast. Maybe Corinne and I would focus on American Dad, or Jeff and I might chat about films or the array of biographies we are reading. Perhaps I would go solo and reformat topics from this blog for an audio adventure. I also dream of doing voice-over work for some cartoon or even narrating an audiobook; one might enjoy my Massachusetts accent and vernacular. That last comment might be a stretch, but I enjoy speaking in front of a large crowd, although I am generally shy. While I have been writing on this blog for nearly two years, this was a big step in putting myself out there. It’s not as easy for me as it might appear, but it’s all part of a larger goal of being true to my best self.

That is why it took me so long to appear on my first podcast, a show about a topic I know very little about; anime. Luckily, my appearance focused on a live-action remake of a popular anime that first appeared in 1998. Today, I am focusing on that appearance on Weeb & Noob Watch Anime Podcast and diving into the show’s topic, Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop. I enjoyed both tremendously, but Cowboy Bebop did not get renewed for a second season, a downright shame. The series was spectacular, one of my favorite shows of the year, but watching it and subsequently offering viewpoints as part of a podcast was an experience unlike any other. Let’s explore the podcast, the show that mesmerized me, and mourn its untimely demise. 3-2-1, let’s jam!

Read more
Christmas Traditions & Holiday Films

Christmas Traditions & Holiday Films

“Ebenezer Scrooge: Let us deal with the eviction notices for tomorrow, Mr. Cratchit.
Kermit the Frog: Uh, tomorrow’s Christmas, sir.
Ebenezer Scrooge: Very well. You may gift wrap them.”

– Michael Caine (Scrooge) & Steve Whitmire (Kermit the Frog) from The Muppet Christmas Carol

It’s that time of year when those who celebrate Christmas begin to rewatch specific movies. Most people, like myself, have a favorite film they immediately watch with a loved one or save until the last moment and watch alone. The simple task, or tradition, of rewatching a festive film performs a nostalgic function. That tradition comes with rules that one must follow so as not to break with a familial custom. Personally, after the last couple of years, these traditions are equally important as well as expendable. I have had to take stock of those traditions worth holding onto and those I wish to set aside. Yes, even the practice of watching a film is one I took notice of, but rather than avoid it, I leaned in and turned on, for nearly my twentieth year, The Muppets Christmas Carol.

Today, I am going to explore the ghosts of Christmas. I will illustrate those moments of joy, those family traditions I nostalgically recall, and how the Christmas holidays have changed. In doing so, I will discuss those Christmas films that I play and replay this time of year, with particular attention given to those adorable Jim Henson Muppet characters. In the end, this post is an opportunity to get sentimental and excited about a new Christmas season and a celebratory year that will, thankfully, be nothing like last year. I will spend this holiday with extended family because of vaccines, lower COVID numbers, and great determination. Whether you celebrate or not, all are welcome to explore the holiday ghosts of my past once again.

Read more
Catholic Upbringing & the Eerie Warmth of “Midnight Mass”

Catholic Upbringing & the Eerie Warmth of “Midnight Mass”

“There is no time. There is no death. Life is a dream. It’s a wish made again and again and again and again and again and again, on into eternity. And I am all of it. I am everything. I am all. I am that I am.”

– Kate Siegel (Erin Greene) from Midnight Mass

I commend Mike Flanagan, creator of The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, for creating, yet again, another Netflix show I cannot get out of my mind. I have, it seems, on countless occasions discussed his cinematic success. I am a huge fan; this is true. His shows regularly mix genres, and I am constantly surprised by the quality of his written stories. I will not make this a four-thousand-word diatribe on Flanagan, although I could. I recently discussed him in a post about my emotional relationship to cinema in the context of 9/11.

Now, I do not plan to cross any similar bridges today, but my watch/rewatch of Midnight Mass offers me the chance to explore the show with a more detailed perspective. It grants me the opportunity to include another part of my early life, my Catholic upbringing. The show is riddled, if not saturated, with religious discussions centered around, if not primarily concerning, Catholicism. Now, I am not a religious expert, nor do I confer judgment on any religion. I am, however, a human being who lived, for some time, religiously. While it never played a prominent role, it played a role, nonetheless.

Read more
Revenge, Miracles & True Love: “The Princess Bride” Movie Rewatch

Revenge, Miracles & True Love: “The Princess Bride” Movie Rewatch

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

– Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) in The Princess Bride

While living in Honolulu in 2012, the Consolidated Theaters in Ward Entertainment Center hosted a Throwback Thursday event where they showcased a classic film each Thursday night. One week was Jaws, and another was Pulp Fiction, and so on. As you might imagine, I was curious which film they would show next. An opportunity to see a movie in the theater I never had the chance to see when it originally premiered was an opportunity I welcomed. Every month, the theater unveiled its schedule for each Throwback Thursday, but I was rarely motivated by the selections. It’s not that those they showcased didn’t deserve the “throwback attention.” Of course, each film did!

Several months into the event, the theater announced a movie I was eager to see. The scheduled film included themes of true love, inconceivable moments, fire swamps, miracles, pirates, and revenge. The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favorite films. Sure, I have spoken of nostalgic films and use these terms liberally, but while countless movies have provided me joy, there is no film like The Princess Bride. But it premiered when I was too young, so I never saw it in a theater, only on VHS. When I asked my wife if she would join me to see The Princess Bride, she said, “sure, I have never seen it anyhow.”

In shock I quickly bought tickets and remedied one of the biggest surprises of our relationship. My wife had never seen The Princess Bride. Somehow, I had missed this terrible truth. At the beautiful theater in Honolulu, I finally watched a beloved film on a screen far larger than my family’s television of 19 inches in the early ‘90s. So, let me rewind the VHS, press start over on my Disney+ account, and scan your ticket to a conversation about a movie that made masks cool, rotten miracles acceptable, and other narrated films bend the knee. We are “stormin’ da” castle… The Princess Bride.

Read more
“The Raid: Redemption” Epic Movie Rewatch w/ Jeff

“The Raid: Redemption” Epic Movie Rewatch w/ Jeff

“Okay, listen up. Our target is Tama Riyadi. I’m sure most of you know who I’m talking about. This man has become something of a legend in the underworld… I don’t care how big he is or who is behind him, he must be stopped. That enterprising f**k’s been renting out rooms like it’s an apartment, to any low-life piece of sh*t looking to keep his head down. Our mission is simple: we go in, and we take him out!”

– Joe Taslim (Jaka) in The Raid: Redemption (2011)

Today I am posting about a recent movie rewind with my brother Jeff. A rewatch of one of, if not the best, action films I have ever watched; The Raid: Redemption. It’s funny; in 2014, my brother called me and told me he had a movie for me to watch. It was a foreign language film from Indonesia, and he explained the premise of the film thoroughly and succinctly. It sounded good, but I decided to hold off on watching it. In the summer of 2017, I finally sat down and watched it. Oh my, I was both amazed, transfixed, and shocked by the viewing experience. The movie was fantastic. I quickly called my brother, provided my deepest apologies for not watching it sooner, and owned the fact that my older brother was, in the end, correct about suggesting this film.

A few years after my first viewing, and leaning into the weekly movie chats my brother and I have engaged in since the pandemic’s start, I asked Jeff to do The Raid rewatch. He, of course, said yes. As I am sure you are well aware, I do not do standard film reviews. I do, however, like to reflect on specific films or genres of film or some aspects of the cinematic experience. I often discuss those films with a story, an event that initiates a need or wish, to explore those films again. I welcome any opportunity to relive or recall a specific film’s viewing experience. I did that with Trollhunter in October and Anna and the Apocalypse in December. Today, I do that with The Raid: Redemption. As film critic Chase Whale said, “My only complaint about The Raid is that it ended.”

Read more
It’s a Soundtrack Way of Life with Nostalgic Movie Songs on My Mind

It’s a Soundtrack Way of Life with Nostalgic Movie Songs on My Mind

“To me, movies and music go hand in hand. When I’m writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I’m going to play for the opening sequence.”

– Quentin Tarantino

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my affinity for original music scores. How the music shapes and molds the images you see is unbelievable. Still, the film score is solely one component of what makes up my favorite parts of the cinematic experience. Therefore, I thought why not venture back to the world of movie music, but this time focus on my most nostalgic movie songs. Many of my posts play around in the sandbox of nostalgia. I am a historian; after all, it’s where I feel most comfortable. But, what do I mean by movie music? Well, I am referring to those songs that immediately produce an incredible nostalgic feeling when I hear them on the radio, television, or film. When I hear the song, I grow still, the world around me becomes silent, and all I picture is where I remember it.

As a professor, one of my favorite traditions is to play “Back to School” at the start of the semester. Like those athletes you see getting off the team bus, headphones on, and walking into the stadium, I play this as I drive to class on day one. It’s smooth vocals and slow beat, quickly picking up tempo and ferocity in a fabulous 80s fashion. The song always has the power to pump me up, like a wrestler making their way to the ring with entrance music playing. Written by Richard Wolf and Mark Leonard and Jude Cole’s vocals, this anthem of the 1986 comedy film Back to School is heart-pumping fantastic. Sure, the movie, starring Rodney Dangerfield, is over the top, aged poorly at multiple points, but is in line with other 80s era films. The song always makes me laugh as I think back to watching it with my brother Jeff. I reflect on the film’s fun absurdity, and all the times I reenacted Sam Kinison’s cinematic moment when he yells “say it” and goes ballistic in the classroom. That is the power of a nostalgic film song.

As you can imagine the task of selecting nostalgic movie songs may sound like an impossible task. I have watched thousands of films, and most movies have several connected songs. No matter, it seemed a fun, worthwhile, and musically inclined venture. To find my most nostalgic songs, I focused on my most nostalgic movies, which I discussed in an earlier blog post, Cinematic Nostalgia: Traveling 88 mph to the 1980s. By focusing on those movies first, I could find those songs that inherently illustrate my love of cinema on a cellular level. But starting with those films does not mean it is where I will remain as I discover songs that strike the most nostalgic key. With that said, let’s dive back into cinematic music, but rather than listening to the original score, let’s put the cassette in the stereo, press play, skip over the instrumental and find the melody that brings all the memories flooding back.

Read more
“Oceans Rise, Empires Fall”: Cinematic Historical Drama & “The Good Lord Bird”

“Oceans Rise, Empires Fall”: Cinematic Historical Drama & “The Good Lord Bird”

“Let me tell you what I wish I’d known/ When I was young and dreamed of glory/ You have no control/ Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?”

– Chris Jackson (George Washington) in Hamilton

When I started this blog, I wrote that I would not attempt to make these posts a history lesson. I love history, being a historian, and talking about history. While teaching American history is my profession and passion, I want this blog to mix that with all the other topics I appreciate. Still, there are times, like today, when I use my knowledge of history, not to teach a lesson but to shine attention on my addiction to movies and television. Allow me, as I put on my historian hat, which I like to imagine resembles the one worn by Denzel Washington in Glory or Daveed Diggs in The Good Lord Bird, and discuss my emotional reaction to cinematic historical drama.

During times like these, when history seems distant, distorted, and dismissed, I often look to cinema to help remind me of what inspires me. History has always been something that interested me. The other day, I watched Hamilton for the first time and felt emotions that I had not felt since the pandemic began. Teaching using ZOOM has left me disappointed, even while recognizing this format’s necessity and how lucky I am to do what I love. But, while I understand those facts, I have felt empty. Watching the filmed performance of the epic Broadway play on Disney + helped remind me, even if slightly, of my love of history. I believe that cinema can offer a powerful emotional trigger that can bring history into the present. So, join me as I reconsider this viewing experience alongside some of the best cinematic moments, for me, that repeatedly stirs up my passion for history.

Read more