My Retrospective Review of the Back to the Future Trilogy; Post October 21st, 2015

My Retrospective Review of the Back to the Future Trilogy; Post October 21st, 2015

The week of October 21st, 2015, I realized that the Back to the Future trilogy was being featured on Amazon Prime streaming; as well as the documentary, Back in Time. So I finished the series last night and decided it would be interesting to share my review of all 3 movies, in hindsight.

Now that we are officially living in the future, according to Back to the Future Part 2, I was able to see how each of the 3 movies still holds up.

Here’s my analysis:

Back to the Future Part 1 is the best.

Part 3 is my favorite.

Part 2 was my least favorite and the least relevant to the series.

Back when I was a kid, I thought Part 2 was the best one because it attempted to show me a glimpse of the future. Hoverboards!

But really, Part 2 was the strange off-the-beaten path installment that have easily been removed from the series and the storyline would have been just as strong. Not to mention, seeing it again as an adult, Part 2 was the darkest and most tedious of the series.

My Retrospective Review of the Back to the Future Trilogy; Post October 21st, 2015

I was surprised at how little of Part 2 actually took place in the good version of 2015. Most of the movie is in the dystopian version of 2015 and then back to 1955 again.

The reason I like Part 3 the best is because I feel it’s the most charming. The plot was simple enough and I loved the chemistry between Doc Brown and Clara. I appreciated how it utilized so many of the original characters of the first two movies.

Just overall, it’s easier to watch; and I feel, the most fun.

Granted, Part 1 is the best. It’s not my personal favorite, but it’s the best. It was the most original, innovative, and legendary.

Interestingly enough, the critics of Rotten Tomatoes agree with my assessment that Part 1 is the best, Part 3 is the second best, and Part 2 is the least best.

My Retrospective Review of the Back to the Future Trilogy; Post October 21st, 2015

In closing, I want to point out this:

Despite these movies being generically remembered as “family friendly” movies, for the most part, they are not:

If Part 1 were released today, it would definitely be rated PG-13.

It features constant swearing (nearly every word in the book) as well as religious exclamations (using God’s name in vain), casual marijuana use (the band at the prom), attempted sexual assault (George McFly saves the day by stopping Biff from taking advantage of his future wife), implied sexual activity involving minors (17 year-old Marty McFly and his girlfriend are planning to spend the night together in the back of his Toyota pick-up truck) and violence: Doc Brown is shot in the chest with machine guns by Liberian terrorists.

Part 3 is the tamest; containing the least profanity, hardly any innuendoes, and the violence is simply cartoonish. It would uphold its PG rating.

Part 2 is somewhere in between the two, but I could easily see it being rated PG-13.

Thanks for reading! If you’ve have recently seen the Back to the Future trilogy, I would be curious to see if you agree with my assessment.

Advertisements

Vintage Family Portraits are Like Sitcoms with Laugh Tracks

The term “picture perfect” is becoming less relevant these days.

Last week I was in Dallas on a work trip and the week before that I was northern California on vacation spending a lot of time with my wife’s side of the family, which explains the extremely low number of posts for the last couple of weeks.  (I’m not the kind of guy who announces “I’m on vacation on the other side of the country!” as my facebook status- I don’t think it’s a good idea to announce to the world when I’m not at home.  Maybe that’s just me.) While in Sacramento, I saw a studio portrait of my wife’s family, circa 1985.  Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best, wearing big smiles (for the most part), all looking at the photographer (for the most part), and best of all, a fake forest backdrop was used as the background.

Granted, this was the mid ‘80’s, so anything that happened during that time was bound to be excessively cheesy compared to now.  But here’s the thing- even today, many professional family portraits are still, at best, hokey.  Because they represent a family at a perceived idea of their best, not what is normal or natural.  In the past decade as reality shows have begun dominated prime time, sitcoms have become more sophisticated and life-like; by being more satirical and less slapstick, and also by removing the laugh tracks.  Yet it can be a difficult thing to make studio family portraits less fake and more real.

And that’s why I’m a snapshot kind of guy.

Just as every family has a “family tree enthusiast”, every family also has a default photographer- and in some family circles, I’m it.  I always have my camera with me anywhere I go, ready to snap some shots of whatever unique, random, or funny situation I find family or friends in.  That means that a lot of times, not everyone is looking at the camera.  But a snapshot can often tell such an interesting story- even if the picture isn’t “picture perfect”.

I am so into snapshots, that it’s part of the name of this website.  Last week in Dallas, I met a person who after I told them the name of Scenic Route Snapshots, said to me, “I get it”.  I thought that was pretty cool, since a lot of people when they hear the name and try to repeat it, ask me, “Seen a cloudy slapshot?” But in case it needs explanation, the concept of my site is that I tend to write about things that most people wouldn’t think to question on their own.  I take an alternative, more laid-back approach to things (the scenic route) and take plenty of snapshots to remember them by (memoirs and journal entries).

But do professional photographers exist that take family portraits that don’t run the danger of being as corny as the opening theme song montage of Full House?  Is it possible for a family in the 2010’s to have a portrait made which represents them in a realistic and relevant way?  Yes, I’m seeing more and more begin to pop up- often following the “on locale and in character” formula of high school senior portraits and engagement photos, by placing the family in an environment which is familiar and natural for them.

When I think of a professional photographer who perfectly captures the realness and believability of snapshots in his professional work, I think of “Photo Joe” Hendricks who I’ve been friends with since I first moved to Nashville five years ago.  As I was trying to conjure an image of what the modern family portrait should look like, I immediately thought of his work, which I’ve included in this post as examples (minus the one at the very top of my wife’s family in 1985). These pictures are the equivalent of a sitcom without laugh tracks- more sophisticated, more natural, and more original.

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

The Sussudio Effect: Why We Secretly Love the Mysteries of Life

Whether we will admit it or not, we like unexplained mysteries.

Do we really need an answer for everything?  Isn’t omniscience (the ability to know everything infinitely) a trait we reserve for God?  Could we handle the responsibility of having all the answers?  We like to think we want all the answers, but if we did, that would be a life without surprise, suspense, and ultimately, much excitement.

Much of the mystique we deal with revolves around our origin, purpose, and ending.  But even without all the big idea concepts like “why am I here?” and “what exactly happens the moment I die?,” both of which the element of ignorance is attached to, life is still full plenty of petty mysteries to think about.  Which at best, simply reflect the fact that mystery is a part of life.

Like the song “Sussidio” by Phil Collins.  It became a number one hit in July of 1985.  And though I wasn’t quite in pre-school yet at that point, the song has definitely kept a solid spot in the Soundtrack of My Life.  I can’t say that I like the saxophone-enhanced song just because of its feel-good vibes and groovy melody.  A big part of why I like the song is because of its quirkiness.  Because let’s face it, no one really knows what a “sussudio” is.

In recent years, thanks to Phil Collins’ interviews that have surfaced and have been referenced in Wikipedia, I have learned that Phil always did a lot of ad-lib and improvising in the studio.  He often would record the music to the song before he wrote the words, just making up random words and phrases to hold the place; then coming back later to replace the gibberish with actual lyrics.

“Sussudio” was a place-holding made-up word that he never came up with a replacement for.  And so it remained.  The word still doesn’t mean anything.  It’s not the name of a girl, as some have assumed.  It’s just a mysterious word.  You get to decide what it means.  Weird concept, but after all, the song did make it to the number one spot.

Why?  It’s a great catchy song.  And it’s mysterious.

I will deliberately bypass the way-too-obvious fact that LOST’s popularity is associated with its strategic and clever uses of mystique (LOST- Answering Questions that Were Left Unanswered) and instead close with the fact that we can spend a lifetime just unveiling the mysteries of the people closest to us in our lives.

It’s not like we sit down with our parents or spouses or best friends and interview them with a #2 pencil and steno pad about their childhood and see what we can learn about them that we didn’t know before.  Instead, we just wait for those random trigger words to show up in conversation, which prompt a story that we’ve never heard before about them before.

Sometimes when my wife and I are out at a restaurant, we (being “people watchers”) will notice an older couple sitting in silence, only really speaking to say predictable things like “How’s your steak?”  We want to be cooler than that when we’re older; we want to have cool stuff to talk about, even now.

There are so many hidden stories in each of us.  We can only try, in a lifetime, to extract them from each other.  Not that they all can be told even in one lifetime, we ourselves can’t remember them all.  Because unlike God, we mysteriously ended up without an omniscient memory.

Super Mario Bros. from a Logical Perspective, Finally

There are moments in the pop culture highlights of our lives where we are so consumed by awesomeness and groundbreaking concepts that we never even think, “Man, that’s pretty weird now that I think about it…”

It’s been a long time coming, but after 25 years since its introduction to America, (1983 in Japan, 1985 in the US) I need to set aside some time to question the life-changing vice called Super Mario Bros. The first issue that I’ve been thinking about is Mario’s ability to jump.

Have you have really thought about how high he can jump? I would say he probably jumps the distance of about six of himself high. Mario looks like he’s about 5’ 8 (I would say Luigi is more like 6’ 1). Since I’m bad at math I’ll just do some rounding.

Mario can jump about 36 feet high. He can be standing still and just jump 3 stories high. And he never hurts his ankles or knees. 

 That is not normal!

And in case you haven’t noticed, every game is this way in the world of video games (unless the character doesn’t jump at all like in the original Legend of Zelda).

What does Mario do with all those coins? They are about the same size as him. Imagine seeing a coin the same size as you and putting it in your pocket. Then collecting 50 more of them within the next 20 seconds. That’s gottta be heavy!

And what’s so bad about touching an enemy? If you touch a wild creature in the woods, let’s say a mountain lion for example, do you instantly die? No, the mountain lion would have to at least bite you or something. But in Mario’s world, you die if you touch any other living creature. Unless it’s a mushroom or fire flower. And in that case, what is he doing with them? Eating them? Again, how do you eat a five foot tall mushroom instantly?

And what’s up with all the holes in the road? What’s at the bottom of those holes? I mean, I would think that at least some of the time when Mario falls down a hole, he could grab on to a branch or something and not lose his life. But there really shouldn’t be that many holes in the first place.

Lastly, why can Mario hit his head on all those bricks and never get a concussion?  Or if he’s using his first to break the bricks, why is Mario’s fist not a bloody pulp pretty much immediately? 

Nevermind the fact the bricks are floating in the air. I’m willing to get past that. Mario isn’t even wearing a helmet when he busts the bricks with his head or gloves on his hands if he’s punching them!

We have overlooked so much ridiculousness because this game forever changed our lives for the better and for the weirder.  Without this American staple of growing up in the 1980’s, I imagine a world where people in their late 20’s and early 30’s would be more boring and less weird.

 

Stranger than Deja Vu

Sometimes DJ’s read our minds…

Here’s a unexplainable mystery that has happened to everyone at least once in their lives. I get a random song in my head I haven’t heard or thought of in years, then it comes on the radio later that afternoon. What would cause that DJ to want to play the same random song and what would cause me to happen to listen to that same radio station at the exact same time he played it?

In August of 2007 I was in Dallas for the Great American Trucking Show (made famous from my photo albums on facebook). As I sat down in the hotel lobby to wait for the charter bus to take me to the convention center, The Beatles’ song “Hey Jude” was playing. In particular, it was the end of the song, “Na na na na… hey Jude…”

Ten minutes later I stepped up into the bus and as I found a vibrantly decorated New Mexico–style embroidered seat, the elevator music version of “Hey Jude” was playing. And it just happened to be the end of the song: “Na na na na… hey Jude…”

During my lunch break today I was in a store picking out a card when I heard the worst song ever recorded in history. I’d never heard it before. But it was awful. Sounded like they made up the melody on the spot. Or lack of melody, I should say: “I… miss… you”. Sounded like Amy Grant in the late ‘80’s. As I paid the cashier teen boy, also named Nick, I said, “So the radio station here. Sucks, don’t it?” He politely agreed.

An hour later I’m back at work. I call our legal guy to ask him a question about a title for a vehicle. I’m put on hold. There could only be one song in the universe that plays in elevator music form. Yes. It was “I Miss You”.

This “hear a song on the radio, then the next song I hear is that song, but the elevator music form of it” event has happened to me twice in the last two years. With a little help from some co-workers and a consultation with Wikipedia, I found out more about the worst song ever recorded in history. “I Miss You” was a 1985 hit by a group called Klymaxx.  It’s worse than any song a Hollywood actor recorded during the 5 months they tried to also have a career in music. It’s bad, man. Bad.

Not important in the grand scheme of things, but if nothing else, this “deja vu song” concept sometimes happens to us.  During what would have been another ordinary day. 

Do you, the random or regular reader, have any weird stories like that?  I’m currently collecting them in my mind.  It’s fascinating.  You can leave a comment about it.  I will care.  I will read it.  I will be fascinated.  I want to know this truly doesn’t just happen to me.

The Politics of Making Friends

Sometimes a friend is just that not into you.  As for myself, I live by The Orange Cat Theory.

In 1985, when I began preschool at Mother’s Day Out at the First Methodist Church of Fort Payne, I was introduced to the concept of friendship.  For the first time in my life, really.  Because from ages 0 to 4 all I really knew was family.  But now that I had been dropped off with kids my own age, I began to grasp was a society was.  Within this group of people were even closer groups of people.  Called friends.

The catch phrase of 1985, the thing I heard the most at preschool was this:  “I’ll be your best friend…”  If a classmate of mine wanted one of my cookies, wanted to hold my stuffed animal, wanted to cut ahead of me in line, I heard:

“I’ll be your best friend…”

What went through my head as a 4 ½ year old was, “What if I don’t want you to be my best friend?”  Did my classmates not assume I already had a best friend?  Should my true best friend lose their status with me on account of a cookie?  Did I look like the kind of kid who was “best friend deprived”?

Was it not enough that Alex Igou and I played with our toy fire engine trucks together during “free time?  And that Simon Millazzo and I always sat next to each other everyday as we waited for our moms to pick us up?  And what about the fact that I went over to Russell McElhaney’s house and saw the GI Joe fort his brother made in the backyard and that his mom was the first to introduce me to a delicious dessert called the “brownie”?

The promise to be my best friend was being held over me as a bribe, but I had no interest in taking it.  And this, in 1985, was my introduction to friendship.  Twenty-five years later, I don’t have acquaintances offering their conditional friendship.  Because I know, just like I did as a 4 year-old, friendship shouldn’t have to be conditional.

Yet I still see some complication in adult friendships.  When the relationship is perfectly mutual, 50/50, that’s when things come easy.  But looking back on my lifetime of friendships, even starting around age 10, I can think of several friendships where it wasn’t a 50/50 deal.

I was always the one going to their house; they wouldn’t come to mine.  I was always the one to call them; they wouldn’t call me.  I was always the one to set up plans; they didn’t include me in their own.  I took the initiative in the friendship.  And I never questioned the authenticity of us being friends.  Because it’s in my nature to be the initiator, the one who calls first, the planner.

But by high school, I realized that I felt I was having to “earn” certain friendships.  That I was having to prove myself good enough, or even more illogically, that I was cool enough for them.

It all goes back to the summer of 1988 when my mom took my sister and I to this lady’s house to both choose a pet cat for ourselves.  We got out of our Bronco II and went into the friendly woman’s kitchen, where we saw a litter of kittens.

For some reason I was always drawn to the orange cats (probably had something to do with Morris the Cat).  So I wanted the orange cat in the litter.  I stretched my arm to him.  The orange cat seemed indifferent towards me.  While that was happening, my mom must have noticed the white and brown spotted cat fighting for my attention:  “Nick, pick the cat that comes to you on his own.”  So I walked away with that cat.  I named him Gabriel.  He liked me.

Most importantly, from that day I learned a valuable lesson about relationships:  Choose to be close to the people that show the most interest in you.  Because that’s a sign of a good friend.  Choosing my friends this way has definitely paid off.

And sure enough, the few times I did spend effort on recruiting an “orange cat” for a friend (applies to romantic interests as well) it never worked out.  My Orange Cat Theory has proven true in my own life.  When it all comes down to it, Morris the Cat isn’t as cool as he thinks he is.

The Orange Cat Theory:

As opposed to choosing a relationship based on your own preconceived notions about someone who seems really cool but causes you to reach out to them, instead look around first to see if someone is reaching out for you.  Choose “the cat that comes to you on their own”, not the orange cat.

Snail Trails: Your Memory May Be the Only Proof an Event Ever Happened

Nothing, not even a blank screen. Then suddenly on April 20, 1983, life as I know it began. Not the day I was born, but the day my memory started. With all my family gathered around me at the kitchen table, my first memory of life begins with a song- “Happy Birthday”. Maybe I was simply overwhelmed by that many people in the room at once. Maybe I thought the song had a sad tune. Maybe this is where I got my fear of being in front of a bunch of people with nothing to do or say. But all I had to do was just blow out that giant number “2” candle on my Mickey Mouse cake. Instead, I cried.

Flash forward to the summer of 1985. I put on my cowboy boots, grabbed my He-Man lunchbox, stood by the front door, and announced to my mom, “Okay, I’m ready for school! I want to meet friends.” I wasn’t even enrolled for pre-school yet, but my mom took care of it and a month later I was present at First Methodist’s “Mother’s Day Out” program (the year before Kindergarten: 1985-1986).

Though I was four years old, I can specifically remember that Simon Milazzo had a toy dog that I liked so much that my mom bought me one like his. I remember Meg Guice crying one day because somebody ate her pineapples when she was looking the other way. I remember Laura O’Dell gave me a valentine with a scratch ‘n’ sniff vanilla ice cream cone that smelled really good, while Alex Igou gave me a valentine with Darth Vader that said “Be Mine or Else…”.

I remember having a daily “play time” where we all went to the dark green carpeted fellowship hall where we were often forced to play “Duck, Duck, Goose” or sing and act out “The Farmer and the Dell”. Meg Guice would always want to be the wife when “the farmer chose a wife”. I never wanted to be chosen to play a character.

Instead, one day I wandered off to play with my fire truck. Alex Igou also managed to escape from the group, going to the opposite side of the room. We both got in trouble for doing this so the teacher put us in “time out” together. Alex said to me, “Do you like your truck I got for you?” (It was the one he gave me at my birthday party.)

I used to think I was weird for having such detailed and vivid memories from such an early age. But while in my Childhood Developmental Psychology class in college, the professor asked those of us who had a vivid memory from age two or younger to raise our hands. Twenty-five percent of us raised our hands and then had to share with everyone what our memory was. We were told that having a memory that clear from such a young age isn’t common, but it’s not abnormal either.

When I think of elementary school, I don’t remember much about what I learned, but I definitely remember clear conversations and events starring my classmates: In 2nd grade (1988-1989) while in line for a relay race during P.E., I was standing next to Cody Vartanian and Charles Robertson. In honor of the new Nintendo game, Cody said to Charles, “Skate or die!” Charles firmly responded, “I don’t have to skate if I don’t want to skate and I don’t have to die if I don’t want to die”.

Last week I told the story of breaking up a fight while dressed as a giant wolf exactly ten years ago, during my final month of high school (see “Cry Wolf”). I feared that it may come across like I had in some form exaggerated the details. According to my memory, no one I was friends with was there to witness it. So I was much relieved when Adrianne McClung Smith commented on the story, saying she was fortunate enough to see the event in person.

For many childhood memories we have, however, there was not a “constant” in the equation. In other words, without someone else who was there who still remembers a specific event taking place, in essence it only happened in our own minds. It makes me think of the “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it…” question. My immediate response was always to ask if I could put a tape recorder in the forest before the tree fell. My next response was to realize I didn’t care if anybody heard the stupid tree fall anyway.

In the same way, I exclusively hold thousands of memories recorded in my mind. Memories about people I grew up with. Memories these people would never have known happened unless I tell them. Since I am the only person to verify such specific events, in theory they happened BECAUSE I remember them.

All anyone else can do is question the validity of my memory. But I know for a fact these memories are real, not simply evolved from a dream or an old snapshot. Everyone else has this ability though, at least to some degree if nothing else. Every person alive owns exclusive copyrights to memories involving other people.

I am constantly disappointed with the sad truth that even in the year 2009, there is no such thing as time travel. So badly I want to go back to those actual random memories; I want to replay them. In the back of my mind I’m hanging on to this thread of a hope that somehow someday I can revisit my past. Not to change it. Just to see it again, like a good movie.

This hope that when I get to Heaven there will be a series of doors with a different year written on each one, allowing me to revisit- in the likeness of Disney World’s Epcot Center how you can visit several “countries”. Evidently I have a condition which causes me to leave a trail of me behind throughout the history of my life, like a snail. At any given point, I am living in both the present moment and simultaneously each year of the past since my memory began in 1983.

As a writer and as an every day conversationalist, things seem incomplete to me without a nostalgic year or story in there somewhere. Some people have a habit of going off on “rabbit trails”. I end up on “snail trails” instead. My short-term memory is awful- I can’t remember who won American Idol last season. But my petty long-term memory is a little bit Rain Man-esque.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on nostalgia, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog”:

dad from day one