YOU'RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER SLEIGH
Since this is the Christmas season, I thought I'd post something that reflects two of the favorite things in the Smith house:
| JAWS meets Rudolph. Now who can argue with this?|
Courtesy of my friend, Steve Crum, I thought I'd share a holiday card from the past. This was sent out by Ed Wood, and features his close friend Bela Lugosi
| Nothing says Christmas like a visit from Dracula!|
Looking back on 10 years of the Rant, I had time to reflect on our many TOP 10 challenges. My TOP 10:
1. Greatest Albums of All Time
2. Greatest Guitarists of All Time
3. Best Movie Sequels of All Time
4. Worse Movie Sequels of All Time
5. Best Christmas Holiday Special (see above)
6. Best Horror Movie of All Time
7. Greatest Debut Album of All Time
8. Best Comic Strip of All Time
9. Best Film Acting Performance of All Time
10. Best Vampire Movie of All Time
IN THE BEGINNING
It all started as a contribution to the letters column. Back in early 2000 I was having fun, helping a friend and showing M. Night Shyamalan no mercy. Two weeks later, Nolan named my part of the project Mike's Rant. I hung out with the letters for a few more weeks until, in Issue #11, the first link to "Mike's Rant" was published. Of course, that didn't last long as the next week I was back with the letters!
It took me quite awhile before I came up with my standard opening salutation. My first greeting was a simple "Howdy." "Hello all," "Greetings" and a very simple "Hey" followed. It wasn't until the first official issue of the Pop Culture Review (until then I was part of "Nolan's Newstand") that "Hello gang!" appeared.
For more then a year I labored anonymously, my face only known to those who knew me. Then, in April 2001, my father took ill and I had to return to St. Pete to look after his affairs. While there I stopped by Casa Canova where Nolan took a picture of me outside his house. To me, it was a horrible photo (I've always been very self-conscious about photos of me). In my defense, I had been up for about 36 hours straight when the photo was taken. However, there was no excuse for my chubby cheeks and that photo ran for several years. In issue #364 I pursuaded Nolan to run a photo of me wearing a toy shark on my head. A horrible photo to run next to your byline, I know, but at least I didn't look like Mr. Creasote from "Monty Python's Meaning of Life." Finally, starting with issue #461, I produced a photo where I actually looked good. Should I die in the near future and Nolan wishes to dedicate an issue to me, I hope he uses that photograph.
In April 2001 I filled in for my friend, Brandon Herring, and contributed a film review (more like a capsule, really) of "Josie and the Pussycats." A few weeks later, taking advantage of running the film a few weeks early, I did the same for "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back." It wasn't until the September 2, 2001 issue that I began my run here as resident film reviewer, tackling the Jason Lee/Tom Greene film "Stealing Harvard."
One of the most enjoyable aspects about writing for the PCR was being able to take an in-depth look at things that interested me. First up was a multi-chapter series on the kitchen band of my youth, the HATS. Why were we called the HATS? I really have no idea. I know I had a habit of wearing baseball caps back then, but I don't think anyone else did. Oh well, the memories of those days, and that band, still resonate inside me no matter what the name.
Other serials, from the making of "JAWS" to the story of the Beatles to my favorite films to this year's Record Shelf have allowed me to share things I'm passionate about with my readers. Had I gone into 2011 you were going to get the story of the Monkees.
Incidentally, the above date is when Mike Nesmith punched a hole in the wall next to producer Don Kirchner's head and exclaimed, "That could have been your face!"
MY OWN TOP 10
Over the past 10 years I've really had carte blanche to write what I've felt. If I wanted to talk about movies or music or politics or sports I knew I had an open forum. But what I've really appreciated about this format and its readers was the chance to, every now and then, write from my heart. Because of that, the majority of my Top 10 favorite "Rants" include some emotional memories:
1. Issue #65 - Steve Sousa, younger brother of my friend Rick, passes away. Stevie's death made me reflect on my relationship with my younger brother, Barry, and the younger brothers of my friends.
2 - 3. Issues #77-78 - 9/11. As of this writing, sure to be "the" moment my son's generation will be able to look back on and recall where they were when they heard about the terrorist attacks. My parent's generation had the assassination of JFK, while my "moment" is probably the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
4. Issue #89 - The Death of George Harrison. I site this issue for one reason: the fact that, more then 20 years after the fact, Matt and I had the same memory rekindled upon Mr. Harrison's passing: nights playing pool at the Paddock Lounge in downtown Tampa, listening to Harrison's "Blow Away" on the juke box over and over.
5. Issue #152 - My son's best friend commits suicide...with my gun. As a single parent I tried my best to do what was right for my son. As a baseball coach I did my damndest to do the same for my players. One such boy managed to hide his pain not only from me but from his friends. One night, while visiting my son at my house and without his knowledge, he took my handgun. He used it the next morning to kill himself. While it was an incredibly tough time for my son, it was tough for me as well because, try as I might, I could never answer his only question - "why?" I still don't have the answer.
6 - 7. Issues #313, 317 - I find my birth family. There is no way to relate your feelings when, because of a chance phone call, you discover 10 brothers and sisters. But I tried my best.
8. Issue #412 - the passing of Roy Scheider. How do you say goodbye to a friend, especially one you hadn't seen in 20 years? As a 17-year-old boy, my chest swelled with pride every time I got a letter signed, simply, Roy. For the next eight years we talked on the phone, sent letters back and forth (no such thing as email then) and built what I'd like to think was more then a star/fan relationship.
9 - 10. - My Dad. Nothing hits a child harder, no matter what age, then the passing of a parent. My father and I had our ups and downs throughout our life together, but I can honestly say that, when the time came, we were closer then we had probably ever been. I still think of him daily and I miss him terribly.
I'D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY
Time for the annual "thank yous" and best wishes:
Nolan B. Canova, my editor and, more importantly, my friend. We've shared so much over the past three-plus decades. You taught me how to play the guitar (for the record, the first three songs I learned were "Cat Scratch Fever," "Surrender" and "More Than A Feeling." Ironically, they're the only songs I can still play from memory. It sucks to get old). The nights playing in the kitchen are still vivid, as if we just jammed last night. Hanging out at the Book Nook, drinking those 25-cent Cokes and browsing through the entertainment papers of the day. Late nights packing your yellow Impala after band practice and stopping at Pop N' Son's for a bite to eat. And finally, your invitation to contribute to your project. Because of you, I've gained some notoriety as a film critic and I'm proud that each week when RottenTomatoes excerpts my reviews, they credit them to Nolan's Pop Culture Review. I wish that NOLANCon had come together and dream of a day when, as John Belushi said in "The Blues Brothers," we get the band back together! Love ya!
Matthew Drinnenberg, my brother. You have been sorely missed at the PCR but I'm proud that you're finally devoting your time fully to your music. I swear to God, if I have anything to do with it, you will be heard! Now send me those demos...George Strait's rep is waiting to hear them!
Juanita Smith, my wife. It's no coincidence that everything good that has happened to me started when I met my true love. You and Phillip represent all that is good in my life and a day doesn't go by that I don't thank God he introduced us. I love you, honey.
Phillip Smith, my son. When PCR readers first met Phillip he was a 16-year-old boy with a dad who loved to brag about his baseball exploits. In the decade since you have grown up before my, and the reader's, eyes. They cheered you on when you did well and their kind words consoled you when you needed them most. And you wrote a pretty good review of that "Twilight" film I did my best to avoid! You are everything a father could want in a son and I can't wait to be back on the baseball field with you this spring. I love you, son.
My Fellow PCR Writers. Over the past decade I've seen names come and go on the masthead. But no matter if you showed up for one issue or hung on for quite a while, your contribution to the PCR helped make it what it is. Special recognition to Will Moriaty, Terence Nuzum, Matthew Drinnenberg, Mike Scott, the Lisa's (Zubek and Scherer), ED Tucker, Vinnie Blessi, Brandon Jones, Chris Woods, Andy Lalino, Jason Fetters, Chris Munger, John Lewis, Ashley Lewis, Paul Guzzo, Corey Castellano and anyone else that had a by-line here, no matter how brief. Except that guy with the Big Toe. He really annoyed me!
Steve Beasley - my only fan! I'm so glad you're back in the Sunshine State. Hope we get to say hello in person soon.
The PCR readers - For 10 years you have allowed me to share my thoughts with you each week, and for that I will be extremely grateful. I'll still be here each week, via the Movie Review, and I hope you continue to follow my work.
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
OK, I just realized that my template only has eight spots so let me finish up here. The big question I've been getting since the headstone went up on the homepage is "Why?"
Believe me, it wasn't an easy decision. As you should know by now, I love Nolan and would do anything for him. While I don't consider myself the best writer on the PCR (there are only two writers deserving of that title: Will and ED) I would like to think that my contributions have helped the PCR gain whatever notoriety it has achieved over the years. You know from my writings that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. When I announced that I was starting a movie-exclusive website I was greeted not with congratulations but with disdain by the PCR powers that be. And when I proudly made a note that the new site had been recognized by The Washington Post I was told not to mention the site in the PCR again. While other writers in the past had been allowed to promote their other endeavors on the homepage (among them Matt's Master of Horror site, Terence's Viddywell Productions, Brandon Herring's Movie Review site...even Will's well intentioned "T.R.E.E." site), my new site was looked on as a conflict of interest. But I didn't see it that way. I was told that the PCR was going in different directions. The interviews I did were no longer welcome because they seemed to give the impression that the site was "selling out." I bit my tongue when comments stating "online movie reviewers and newspaper reviewer are full of crap mostly. i think they do stuff just to secure screeners. and give good review to companys that send them free stuff. pathetic." showed up on the site. Though I was told they weren't directed at me, as the main PCR film critic (and a newspaper film critic), I felt pretty much singled out. Really, the only thing the PCR and my new site had in common was me!
My honest answer to the question "Why?" is that my feelings were hurt. Pretty silly, don't you think. Maybe. But I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I gave my all here.
Abbey Road - the Beatles
All That Jazz - Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The final edition of the Record Shelf spotlights two albums that fit this edition of the Rant: finality.
Though "Let It Be" was the last Beatles album released, "Abbey Road" was actually the last album recorded by the band. It featured this song, prophetically the last one the band recorded:
I picked "All That Jazz" for the final song in the film, the duet between Ben Vereen and Roy Scheider in which, before he dies, Scheider says goodbye to everyone who had influenced his life:
Well, that's it. Have a great life. See ya!
To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "Mike's Rant" is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.