Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This Looks Like A Job For....

I can think of no better way to end the blog--yes this time I mean it--than by bringing things full circle--And telling you a little bit more about my life in the process. A heartfelt THANKS to all of my loyal readers for supporting me and all of my nonsense over the last 12 years or so. It's been fun!

A special shout out to Brittani Burnham at Rambling Film-Thanks for always having my back kiddo!! See you on Twitter....@TheLastReel....Now on with the final Reel.....


2018 marks the 80th birthday of the greatest comic book superhero of all time....Superman.......Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster--the character first appeared in Action Comics #1 dated June 1938....

If you've known me for any real amount of time-you know that save for a few struggles--I tend to orbit positive people places and things. On a basic level It's the reason I prefer Star Trek over Star Wars. Instead of evil empires taking over galaxies in Wars-with Trek we explore the final frontier and ourselves--always striving to be better...Each franchise has a complicated story and its themes are nuanced I know--but you get the broader point.

The Man of Steel was not just a bright light for me growing up....He was also "virtually invulnerable" and nearly flawless--Having a disability since birth--His perfection was appealing to a young boy who was reminded every day that he was differently abled. Despite those challenges--and with the loving embrace of my parents and siblings--I still found a way to look towards the sky smile and say "Up Up And Away!!" Although I lived a wonderful childhood buoyed by a great support system of family friends teachers and the like--all in my corner--cheering me on...I was not immune to times of struggle--self doubt-frustration and sadness. This may sound ridiculous to some of you--but--As a fictional character Superman helped me get past most of the negative stuff at a young age. Early on I believed (and still do) that you have to play the hand you are dealt. Humor. Humility Grace Qualities that will get you farther than you know... I chose to try and live by those words--yet not always succeeding....I am deeply and hopelessly flawed after all. Superman never gave up on me though...Superman I am not...A hero--surely not--but striving to live the best life possible-yep...optimistic and hopeful--Hell yes!!


Here's how it all began...Before I read a single comic book--An origin if you like--The first time I met Superman.

I was 10 years old at the time...

It was August 23rd 1979, and as usual for that time of year the weather was very warm and humid. My Mom and Dad were busy working around the house. Four of my five siblings were out and about, doing the things that normal teenagers and young adults do. I decided to pass the time by playing a very long game of Monopoly with the one sister who was home--Maria. After she beat me, it was time to eat dinner. As we finished our meal, two of my brother Nick's buddies--both named Mike, came by for a visit. Even though he wasn’t home, his two pals as they often did, had decided to stick around for a little bit anyway. This visit allowed them to give me some of those old "Space: 1999" action figures and toys, which they was planning to do anyway. The duo said that they were going to the movies in town.

Eventually, they invited my sister and me to come along. After getting permission and money from the folks, off we went...

Little did I know, this simple outing to the movies, would have such an affect on my life and my future...

The only movie theater within walking distance from my home in Woodbury NJ., had only two screens, (yeah remember when movie theaters only had 1 or 2 screens!) and was located right in the center of town. The Wood, (sadly, closed in the mid-80's after the cineplex took over) on Broad Street, was what’s known in the business as, a second run theater. This is the last place where movies would go before they show up on cable or in the video store. The fifteen minute trip ended and we arrived some twenty minutes before the 7:00 p.m. show time. The four of us sat three rows from the front. The screen looked very big to this 10 year old. In the center section, we took four seats on the right side of the row. I sat on the end. This was the first time I sat that close to the screen.

The movie I was about to see had originally been released on December 15 1978. It had been number one at the box office for eleven weeks in a row, garnered four Oscar nominations, and was a hit with the the critics and the public alike. A few moments later the theater went dark and the film began...

The movie I saw that night was officially titled SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE


There are many other films that have inspired me over the years. The list is long and varied. However, this was the very first film to have an impact on me, and the choices that I would make later in life. So that is why it is singled out here.

From the opening shots in black and white--the voice over of a young boy reading a comic book, dissolving into one of the most memorable credit sequences ever filmed, to its epic story and great score, SUPERMAN had it all. A great cast, led by Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Christopher Reeve In fact, it is his performance as both the man of steel and his alter ego, Clark Kent, (Reeve later said that he modeled his Clark Kent after actor Cary Grant) that made it work. Under the fine direction of Richard Donner, the movie and its characters came alive...

When the movie ended, 2 hours and 23 minutes later, I thought WOW! As the four of us made our way back to my house, I was pumped up, and very excited!--And could not stop talking about it...When I finally made it home, I couldn’t wait to tell Mom and Dad all about it. It wasn’t just the movie that I wanted to talk about though. I wanted talk about everything that went into MAKING IT as well. I noticed a lot more about the movie than just the great script by late great writer Tom Mankiewicz. Examples of what else I noticed include: the cinematography (by the late Geoffrey Unsworth), the music (by John Williams), the set design (by the late John Barry), editing (by Stuart Baird), and on and on... The point is that I became interested in all areas of the film’s production. Even to this day, I still pay attention to the credits of films that I see....Driving everyone else nuts---I remember telling my mom that night that I wanted to be a film director as an adult...

As a teenager, I went to the movies a lot, with family and friends. I was and still am the movie guy to those that know me..Trips to the bookstore back then meant getting my hands on any tome about movies and how they got made...

When it came time to pick a major in college--After encouragement from my sister Karen.- the choice was simple--Communications with a concentration in Film and TV production....My parents were never really thrilled with the idea. They wanted me to go into a more "stable profession" Mom always saw me as a teacher--which is of course--very ironic--considering how and where I ultimately landed.

Post graduation I made a few promotional films including one for my high school alma mater--commonly referred to as Gatorland. And... Profiles of interesting people that I thought could use the attention...The highlight among those films though was the completion of an indie short--that-thanks to the help of some very dedicated folks--is literally one experience I will never forget...And Like Superman--it will always be with me for the rest of my life Thanks always to Matt for going above and beyond in making the Indie happen at all and to the rest of my cast/crew--It truly was something special....


My affection for, and inspiration from the celluloid medium has never really left me--and I doubt it ever will really..In some ways, one could say, TLR would not exist without 1978's STM... and that trip to the center of town 38 years ago. No matter my mood, I hear that rousing main title march and my spirit soars. I have probably watched the film in part or in its entirety some 250 times....I even got to hear Reeve speak to a crowd--a few years after his accident-at a motivational appearance event in North Jersey...

Thank You Mr Donner For Making A 10 Year Old Boy Believe A Man Can Fly....And giving me a lifetime of movie memories...And Most importantly helping me stay Positive Always.

This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of my Mom and Dad, my niece Kayla, my pals Alex, Lindsay and lastly "Beccs" I miss you all every day...now and forever....Always in my heart...

3 comments:

Brittani Burnham said...

This was a beautiful post! I love hearing stories about what a movie or book or song means to someone and how it propels them to go out and do things. Reading this story was lovely.

Thanks for the shout out, I'm so grateful you will still be on Twitter, even if you no longer blog. It's always hard to see a blog you love to read go, but sticking around on social media means so much.

:)

Tom said...

Thanks Britt. Our friendship is one of best things to happen as a result of TLR...

Will Stape said...

Tom -

I am never surprised by just how much you know about movies in general, and about Superman: The Movie in joyous particular. No matter how saturated with Superman I may be at any given time, after speaking to you, if the subject comes up (and it so often does in our chats) I am in the mood to see it once more. That's due in large part to your infectious passion for it, and also my great, deep love for this film as well.

As is the case with comic book lovers and film fans, I list many comic based movies as favorites: 'Batman Returns', 'Spider-Man 2', 'Thor', 'Deadpool', 'Logan' 'Captain America: Winter Soldier', 'Wonder Woman' - etc... These days, whenever you turn around, there's a new one coming out to tucker us out, right James Cameron? ; )

And then there's Tom's great cinematic love. 1978's landmark motion picture miracle.

Cameron is bemoaning superhero flicks lately, but there's another franchise exhausting us - Star Wars. George Lucas dazzled us with his operatic Skywalker saga a year before Kal-El took dynamic flight, and the two films remain - with another of Tom's favorites, The Exorcist - as 1970's true cinematic treasures. To say both sci-fi films deftly reinvented movie making is an understatement.

But while Star Wars is consistently and breathlessly spoken about in terms of revolutionizing the movies, Richard Donner's masterpiece deserves just as much credit in that department. Look where we are today. Comic Book Movie Heaven - or hell, right JC? Yes, TV's Batman released a batty feature version of Adam West in tights 12 years prior to Donner's triumph, and there were those Batman serials even earlier too, but we know which movie completely transformed comic book feature films.

Richard Donner, Tom Mankiewicz, Stuart Baird, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman - and all the pioneering rest - brought forth to celluloid life a depiction of the triumph of the human spirit in every way imaginable. Sure, 'The Avengers: Infinity War' will soon over dazzle us, undoubtedly. The next Wonder Woman will ensure that Gal Gadot can heroically carry on with Lynda Carter's legacy. However, Superman: The Movie flew us into the comic book panel we find ourselves in today. If it had flopped, if the profit had fizzled, it may have doomed comic movies for years - or at least delayed them big time.

How do you list perfection? How do you capture a dream? There are far too many scenes for me to list as favorites: The grand, operatic opener on Krypton, the absolutely still hilarious Daily Planet intro to Clark, the first encounter with Hackman's unforgettable Lex Luthor, the soul wrenching moral decision which finda a 'god' literally turning our world around. So many more. If, though, I am forced to choose, I will hold the Superman/Lois scene as my favorite.

Words fail me to effectively paint as emotionally uplifting a picture as possible for this surreal gem. We go from a playful dinner interview and classy flirtation, to soaring above a nighttime skyline. Skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty, even the very stars are not off limits to us, for WE are flying with Superman. We are there along with a dazzled Lois. This is the deep core of Donner's remarkable fairy tale. Superman will take us by the hand in every future adventure. He will make sure we are OK, that we are safe, sound and eventually truly happy. He is Earth's protector, our trusted guide and our brilliant, unyielding light. Reeve and Kidder's chemistry is simply unmatchable, and Kidder's Lane serves as our stand in.

How do you encapsulate your friend? How do you capture our uncountable, shared moments and give them lasting meaning. Thank you, Tom. Thank you for your blog, thank you for your insight, for you passion and for your enthusiasm. And most of all, thank you for your cherished friendship.

- Will