A Cause for Family Time…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Blogger With a Cause.”

For many of us, our work is a vital component of our lives, whether it be school, college or a the demands of a full-time job. While we may try to excel significantly in our professional areas, we invest so much extraneous time to being at the top of our game, that we can sometimes lose sight of the people who are close to us, who ultimately count.

That is, and has often been the case, with me. Several times during my youth, especially during crucial exam times, I would confine myself to my bedroom for hours upon end, studying (yes, I used to be something of a nerd in high school). It got to the point that my mother had to drag me out shopping with her just so I wouldn’t be cooped up inside every day (in retrospect, I thank her dearly for this!)

It was after I finished my big examinations that I came to a sudden epiphany that maybe I was spending too much time obsessing incessantly over grades, and not enough with my family. Armed with this realization, I took it to make it up to them, by easing down on the studying and spending more time with them as a result.

So, if all my demands were already dealt with, I would seize this opportunity to wind down and take it easy with the people who are most dear to me. Of course, I’ve learned since then that I don’t have to forgo working entirely, but to avoid it from taking over my “down time” completely.

Recollections of an Inspirational Teacher…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Teacher’s Pet.”

I’ve had my fair share of teachers during my school years who’ve aided me when I found their particular subject to be too much of a hassle (which was very much the case for mathematical based subjects). Besides that one slight hindrance, I was something of a nerd in school, and actually looked looked forward to learning. However, I might not have enjoyed school if it hadn’t been for my career studies teacher.

He also functioned as the school guidance counselor, but he frequently took us for extra  guidance sessions throughout our last year of school, as is often the case with the majority of schools. By the time my last year of school rolled around, I was aware that I was different from a vast majority of my classmates. While they talked of going to parties and nightclubs during the weekends, I was more than content to sit at home and study, while listening to 80’s music.

When I wasn’t talking to the guidance counselor regarding which college course I wanted to pursue, we were discussing whether I had the potential to do well in life. He assured me that I was just as capable as even the brightest minds in that school. For the first time I could remember, someone saw potential in myself that I couldn’t glimpse. I felt immensely blessed that a person could place so much faith in me to do well in life. I felt that our relationship drew a sort of parallel to “Freaks and Geeks”, where former Mathlete turned freak, Lindsay Weir, has the constant support of eccentric, yet well-being guidance counselor, Jeff Russo.

When the last day of school beckoned, the first task I busied myself in carrying out was in bestowing to him a gift certificate and a bottle of champagne. Unbeknownst to me, he had a present for me as well- a copy of “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. Throughout our weekly (and sometimes daily) sessions, I’d confessed to wanting to read that precise book. I was amazed that he’d remembered a detail as trivial as that. Inside the cover page was the inscription “Believe in yourself and aspire to greatness”.

Many years later, I have indeed aspired to be great, and thus feel more confident than I ever felt when I was at school. Whenever I come across the copy of “Catcher in the Rye”, I think of my former school guidance counselor, and hope that I can someday inspire another individual just as he did to me. And his input and support has made all the difference in my life.

What a Bad Feeling I have about “Flashdance”

One thing I mainly expect when I watch a movie or a TV show is to be able to root for someone. Even if the protagonist is a bit of a jerk, or an anti-hero at best, there’s usually always a redeemable quality to them that makes you want them to succeed in their goals. But when the principal character doesn’t come off as a jerk per se, they seem to be so unlikely that you never really forge a connection with them. They remain as a sort of a caricature of sorts, so that you never really feel as though you know them as a person.

That’s the main problem I had with the main character of Adrian Lyne’s 1983 dance flick,”Flashdance”, Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals). She’s an 18 year old aspiring dancer who works as a welder in a steel mill during the day, but at night moonlights as an erotic dancer in a local bar, Mawby’s.

The film chronicles Alex’s goal to audition for a prestigious dance school in Pittsburgh,as she as promised her elderly mentor, Hanna (Lilia Skala) she would, as well as her blossoming relationship with Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), her recently divorced boss at the steel mill. Alex is determined to follow her dreams, but does she have what it takes?

As much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t have an entertaining time while watching “Flashdance”. While I did enjoy some of the songs (notably, the title song “Flashdance (What a Feeling)” by Irene Cara), Jennifer Beals’ engaging and hopeful central performance as Alex, and her sentimental friendship with Hanna, I didn’t like how some of the running time would be taken up with endless dance sequences, and it didn’t really spend time developing Alex’s character. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Alex seemed to be an unbelievable character to me. Ironic, I know, since the movie was based on the true story of Maureen Marder, a steel mill worker whose story played out similar to Alex’s.

I also found the romance between Alex and Nick to be rather lacking in depth. To be fair, this might have been in part because of the age difference between the actors (Beals being 18 and Nouri 36 during filming). As they both spent almost all of their scenes together berating and screaming at each other constantly, I eventually reached the point where I couldn’t have cared less if they got together in the end, as they both seemed to make each other more miserable than content, which doesn’t exactly make you want to see two characters such as these together.

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert infamously slammed “Flashdance”, likening it to “a ninety minute music video” and placing it on his “Most Hated Films” List. I’m inclined to agree with Ebert on this one. I know some people may enjoy this dance movie, but I wasn’t one of them, and I’m giving “Flashdance” only two and a half stars out of five.

Caught up in a Fantasy…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma.”

It’s a little tricky, to conjure up an idea of what people don’t know about me. That could easily fill up a book or two! However, the one thing I’ve never explained to anyone is how much time I invest in fictional worlds, may it be movies, books, TV, or old-fashioned fan fiction. They seem to regard me as a shy, introverted person who doesn’t “get out much”. In fact, throughout the various blurry days of my school years, that was the entire persona that I projected to my classmates, as well as those who knew me most.

Then, when I was 13 years old, I watched “Edward Scissorhands” for the first time. Watching Johnny Depp’s powerful performance struck a chord with me, and from that point onwards, I became obsessed with not just writing fan fiction (bad fan fiction at that!),but I became immersed in the plights of fictional characters more than people around me. As bizarre as it sounds, Harry Potter fan fiction was more significant to me growing up than, say, my maths homework.

As I got a little older, I developed the ability to speculate on character’s decisions, long after the people I was movie watching with would move on to the next plot point, but I’d still be stuck at the first point. I’d always loved the idea of telling a story, of watching what started out as a simple suggestion manifest into into a full-on adventure.

Whenever I meet someone who loves a certain book or movie just as much as I do, there’s just no keeping me quiet, because I am on the same wavelength as I am. It feels simply fantastic to let the film fanatic in me let loose a little every now and then!

Cancellations and Cult Followings of Freaks and Geeks

I hope that everyone had a restful weekend. I spent the majority of mine binge watching “Freaks and Geeks”, the acclaimed short-lived teen drama which ran for just one season between 1999 and 2000, and was produced by Judd Apatow, best known for his “frat pack” comedies. Set in Michigan in 1980, this show focuses on two disparate groups of high school students at William McKinley High School, the “Freaks and Geeks” of the title.

Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini), a former star mathlete, is a recent addition to the Freaks, a posse of rebellious junior students consisting of charismatic Daniel Desario (James Franco), sensitive Nick Andopolis  (Jason Segel),Daniel’s fiery girlfriend Kim Kelly (Busy Phillips), and the deadpan Ken Miller (Seth Rogen). Meanwhile, her younger brother Sam (John Francis Daley) navigates his freshman year of high school with his best friends Neil Schweiber (Samm Levine) and Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr). Along the way, he must contend with trying to get close to his crush, cheerleader Cindy Saunders (Natasha Melnick), as well as tolerating class bully Alan White (Chauncey Leopardi).

Lindsay’s decision to abandon the Mathletes and become a Freak is met with contempt by her classmates, particularly by her former best friend and fellow Mathlete, Millie (Sarah Hagan), who tries to bring Lindsay back to where she belongs, with limited success . Lindsay’s struggle to find herself forms the basis of the series, and about teenagers trying to figure out where they fit in. She confesses to Sam that she stopped caring about her grades when their grandmother died. She had been a decent person her entire life, and informed Lindsay that there was “nothing” waiting for her before she died. This led to Lindsay to yearn for a more meaningful way of life.

The series also covers topics such as bulling,underage drinking, insecurity, infidelity, body image and other issues which come with being a teenager. Sam and Lindsay’s parents, Harold and Jean (John Flaherty and Becky Ann Baker) are always there to offer support to their kids when they need it.

The most amazing part of the show is how realistic and relatable it is. Following its cancellation in 2000, the show gained itself a loyal fanbase. It’s considered to be one of the top high school shows of the last few years- not a  bad feat for a show which only lasted a total of 18 episodes. Some of the main stars of “Freaks and Geeks” (namely Franco, Rogen, Phillips, Daley and Segel) have become more famous, in part because of the acclaim of “Freaks and Geeks”.

I give “Freaks and Geeks” a total of 5 out of five stars. It didn’t get the second season or the reception it deserved, but I feel that teens aged 14 and upwards would benefit from watching the show, and how it depicts teen life while sympathising with their various plights. Very highly recommended!

The Goldbergs make for great 80’s Laughs!

I’ve decided to turn the spotlight on a show that is currently airing its entire first season in my country, “The Goldbergs”. It takes place in the perpetual time of “nineteen-eighty something”, and loosely depicts the life of the show’s creator, Adam F Goldberg(Sean Giambrone), as he documents his life in suburban Pennsylvania with his surly but caring father Murray (Jeff Garlin), loving “smother” Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey), his dim brother Barry (Troy Gentile), his formerly nerdy turned popular sister Erica (Hayley Orrantia), and his maternal grandfather Pops(George Segal), who occasionally dispenses advice to each of the family members.

The show has been likened to “The Wonder Years”, and with Patton Oswalt narrating as the voice of older Adam from the future in very much the same way as Daniel Stern did on the earlier show, it’s not hard to see the comparisons. But unlike “The Wonder Years”, each family member is based on a member of Adam’s real-life family of his parents and older brothers, each sharing the same quirk as their counterparts (Adam’s oldest brother, Eric, has been changed to a girl in order to add a more feminine approach to the series).

Part of what got me intrigued in watching this sitcom were the array of 80’s pop-culture references sprinkled throughout. Due to the ambiguous timeline of the show, the pop culture sometimes feels all over the place.  This is to enable the writers to get as many references from the 1980’s as they can, without worrying that they’re not accurately depicting the timeframe before it. For instance, one episode has Adam and Barry  preform Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit, “We’re not Gonna Take it”. Later on, Erica and her best friend Lainey (AJ Michalka) duel against the boys with The Bangle’s “Eternal Flame”, which wasn’t officially released as a single until 1989. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the subplot of the same episode sees Beverly and Murray renew their wedding vows in order to correspond with the upcoming nuptials of Prince of Wales, Charles, and Lady Diana Spencer. Only trouble is, that event occurred in 1981!

Despite my many nitpicks of the show’s references, I must admit that I greatly enjoy this show. The entire ensemble cast manages to play off each other quite well. Although some might call the ending montages with with corresponding hit songs from the 80’s a tad corny, for me they’re the best part of the show. and really adds to its overall feel good nature.

In conclusion, I’d recommend this show to anyone who loves nostalgic shows like “That 70’s Show”, or “The Wonder Years”, or simply loves family-orientated sitcoms. Be warned, however,as some jokes contain slight inneundos which might not be appropriate for kids under the age of 13. I award “The Goldbergs” 4 and a half stars out of five.

Please let me know your opinion of “The Goldbergs” in the comments below!

A wish that causes Tom Hanks to be “Big”…

“Have you ever had a Really Big Secret?”- Tagline for “Big”(1988) Everyone has a favourite film starring a particular actor. For me, Tom Hanks’ best film is Penny Marshall’s 1988 hit film, “Big”. Although not one of Hank’s first roles, it is the one which he received the most recognition for, receiving both a Oscar and Golden Globe nomination in the process.

The premise of “Big” is straightforward enough- 12 year old Josh Baskin (David Moscow) makes a wish on a fortune teller machine called “Zoltar Speaks” after being told that he’s too short to go on a carnival ride. His wish? To be “big”. Of course, things never run smoothly in these type of situations, and he wakes up the next morning to discover that the machine has taken his request literally- he is now in the body of a 30 year old man (Tom Hanks).

After trying (and failing) to convince his mother of this mishap, Josh seeks the help of his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton), who helps him run away to New York City,where he gets a job in the toy company FAO Schwartz due to his childlike nature and knowledge of toys. Along the way, he has to reassure his mother, who believes that he has been kidnapped, as well as experience a mature relationship with his attractive co-worker Susan (Elizabeth Perkins). But when the opportunity arises to turn back into a child, will Josh take it, or will he choose to remain in his successful adult life?

“Big” was the movie that defined my childhood, mostly because of Hank’s conviction and earnestness in the main role. He was completely convincing to me as a naive youngster trapped in a world that baffles him initially, but seeing him adapt to his new situation always made me root for him to succeed even more. My favourite scene is probably the best known one, where Josh and his new boss, Macmillan (Robert Loggia) perform “Chopsticks” and “Heart and Soul” on a giant walking piano. It became one of my short-lived dreams to play the piano just like in that scene.

In conclusion, I would rate “Big” a total of five out of five stars, and would recommend it to kids aged 8 and up, although there are some references that would fly over their heads. All in all, this is ultimately a movie for the whole family to enjoy.