Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 32 — Royale With Cheese

Episode 32 CoverSit back, relax, drink some of Jimmy’s coffee, give your girl a foot massage and make sure the gimp has a $5 milkshake, it’s time to take a look at the movie of 1994: Pulp Fiction.  I take a look at each section of the movie, talk a little bit about the film’s soundtrack and discuss its lasting influence as well as why it should have been Best Picture.

You can download it via iTunes or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 32

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 29

IC 29 CoverOne hundred years ago, the world went to war.  After living through the war, a German soldier and writer named Erich Maria Remarque took his experiences and wrote them into a novel, All Quiet on the Western Front.  In this episode, I take a break from the Vietnam War and look back at Remarque’s World War I novel, giving it a full synopsis and review, then taking a look at two movie versions, and spending time on the poetry and songs of the First World War Era.

You can download the podcast via iTunes or listen here:  In Country, Episode 29.

Here’s some of the media (videos, songs, poetry, etc.) that I use or mention in the episode. (more…)

5 Things to Love and 5 Things to Hate About Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump PosterI could not spend a whole year talking about 1994 and calling it “the most important year of the Nineties” if I didn’t take the time to talk about the film from 1994 that would go on to win best picture: Forrest Gump.  Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it is the story of a simple-minded man (the un-PC term would be “mentally retarded”) who winds up living an extraordinary life.  Told through mostly flashbacks, the story concerns Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), who is sitting on a bus stop bench in 1982 on his way to see Jenny, who as we learn over the course of the movie, is the love of his life.  He tells his life story to anyone who happens to be sitting next to him (as well as the audience):  born in Alabama, Forrest has a low I.Q. and had to wear braces on his legs as a kid until one day he learned how to run.  This served him well more than once, as he played for the University of Alabama football team, served in Vietnam, played diplomatic ping pong, opened a shrimping company, and started a running craze.  Along the way, we also see the life of his girl, Jenny (Robin Wright), who had a life that directly contrasts Hanks’s characcter: she was abused as a child, became a hippie, and spent much of her formative years in a drug- and alcohol-induced haze until finally coming home to Alabama and living with Forrest before leaving (which prompts Forrest to start running and the creation of his running craze).  When Forrest and Jenny meet up after he’s done telling his story, she tells him that she is dying and that she has a son named Forrest, who is the result of the one night that the two of them slept together.  By the end of the film Jenny has passed away and Forrest is now raising his son in his childhood home in Alabama.

That’s a gross simplification of the movie’s plot (after all, I didn’t mention Bubba or Lt. Dan), but most of the people reading this post are probably at least familiar enough with the film to follow along (and if you’re not, the film is available for streaming via Netflix).    Or you can check out the trailer:

So, with the plot out of the way, I thought I’d get to what I wanted to say about this movie, which has not been one of my favorites; in fact, I’ve long contended that with both The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction nominated for best picture that year, I can’t understand how this won best picture.  Okay, I can see why it was a popular choice for best picture, what with its sentimentality and emotional impact; I can’t understand how the Academy thought that this was more worthy of that particular honor than those two films, the latter of which had a major influence on filmmaking for at least the better part of the rest of the decade (and possibly beyond).

You know, never mind that I saw this three times in the theater, bought the soundtrack, and own a copy on VHS (although for the life of me I have no idea where that copy is).  In fact, I liked the movie when it came out.  It was beautifully shot, was pretty funny, and the music was great.  But it did not age well, especially after I saw Pulp Fiction and read Winston Groom’s novel upon which the film is based.  The novel turned me against the film in a big way, as Groom’s Forrest is a lot less likable than the buffoon with a heart of gold that Hanks plays on screen (and for which he won Best Actor).  Prior to writing this post, I hadn’t watched the film since 1996 and decided to give it a fair shake.  I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would, although I still think it wasn’t worth the Best Picture honor (and I still maintain that it’s right up there with the oft-derided Ordinary People’s victory as Oscar larceny).  So what I did was do what any lazy good blogger does, and that’s made a list.  So here are the top five things I liked and the top five things I hated about Forrest Gump. (more…)

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 28

IC 28 CoverThe Tet Offensive continues with “Hue: City of Death,” a story about Marines told via the 23rd’s own Andy Clark in The ‘Nam  #25, brought to us by Doug Murray, Wayne Vansant, and Geof Isherwood.  As always, in addition to the summary and review of the issue I’ll be talking about the story’s historical context as well as taking a look at the letters, ‘Nam Notes, and ads.

You can download it via iTunes or listen here:  In Country Episode 28

Below is a picture of the church depicted in the issue, located in the city of Hue, courtesy of the art museums at Harvard.

Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 31 — The 1994 Grab Bag!

man reaching into grab bagWhat do Beverly Hills, 90210, the 1994 Baseball Strike, and Zima all have in common?  They’re all covered in the latest episode of Pop Culture Affidavit!  As part of my series of posts and episodes called 1994: The Most Important Year of the Nineties, I take a look at ten completely random things from 1994.  It’s movies, television, music, and current events all in one convenient episode!

You can download it via iTunes or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 31

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Leave Yourself Behind

Tom Paris 1994A quick note:  This piece originally appeared on an old blog of mine in July 2004.  I’ve edited and updated it.

My only regret is that I did not stay longer. I would have loved to experience more, go deeper into some countries and learn more about other cultures. However, being a Student Ambassador has opened my mind even further, as I am forced to think on a global scale about my life, and the lives around me.

That is the final paragraph of the journal I kept during the summer of 1994, after I had spent 23 days touring France, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain as a People to People Student Ambassador. Written on a flight back from Paris after my fellow “ambassadors” and I had exhausted the plane’s supply of coffee and soda and had annoyed all of the other passengers, it’s a statement typical of a 17-year-old. At the time, I thought that the program changed my life. Of course, at 17, it had. Being on the verge of my senior year of high school, I was making earnest statements like that on a regular basis. Still, I cannot discount that those three weeks were a turning point in my adolescence, the result of a program whose educational experience was more well-rounded than intended.

Can You Really Get There From Here?

The mission of People to People International and its Student Ambassador program is: “to bridge cultural and political borders through education and exchange, creating global citizens and making the world a better place for future generations.” I received their brochure in the fall of my junior year, right around the time my guidance counselor was drilling into my head that I was in the most important year of my academic career, perhaps even my life. As a result, I went looking for the type of opportunities that would look good on what eventually became a rejected application to Dartmouth — Anchor Club historian, student journalist, and mock trial lawyer. “Student Ambassador to Europe” was something that college admissions officers were impressed with. Europe was where great art was born; where history took place; and where entire generations of disaffected young Americans fled to find themselves.

I convinced my parents that not only would I make it into the program, I would somehow come up with $1200 of the trip’s cost. Not that I knew how I was going to pull that off — this wasn’t exactly like the time I hoarded my $25/week from JillMatt Cards & Gifts so that I could save enough money to visit my friend Chris in Fort Lauderdale. But after some creative publicity, including a story in The Suffolk County News and a talk with the Kiwanis Club (where I made a never-fulfilled promise to come back and speak to them), I had my tuition. On June 24, I set off for Kennedy airport, where I met up with the rest of the Long Island delegation. We had our flight to Washington, D.C. canceled and were forced to cab it to LaGuardia where, in a move reminiscent of a bad Amazing Race moment, two of our group members were dropped off at the Delta terminal and not the Delta Shuttle terminal.

Don’t Smurf an International Incident

Ultimately, my People to People delegation arrived in Washington intact. The entire group of 28 hailed from Long Island, Connecticut, Virginia, Tennessee, and California, and was lorded over by three advisors — the LaMers of Connecticut and Mary Nolan, who had run the Long Island pre-trip meetings. They were all nearing senior citizenship (if they weren’t there already), and I have to admit that I admire anyone that age who is willing to travel for three weeks with a group of unruly teenagers. They had some help during those first few days while we stayed at George Washington University, where People to People’s representatives laid down all of the rules.  Essentially, they wanted to avoid three things: the “ugly American” syndrome, an international incident, and a babysit-the-rich-kids summer camp. I mean, that’s why the Student Ambassador program director stood on the stage in a university lecture hall and told us that we weren’t allowed to drink, smoke, do drugs, have sex, or even form cliques.

I honestly thought that last one was insane. Not that I wanted cliques to form, but it seemed that with 28 teenagers in close quarters, cliquing up was inevitable. In fact, small groups of friends formed on the very first day and would get even more defined as the trip went on. But when up against Papa & Mrs. Smurf (named so for Mr. LaMers’ beard) and Punky (Mary Nolan wore a spiked femullet), we were a single group of 28 students who annoyed everyone on the National Mall, the Metro and in the Crystal Underground. I guess all the things that annoyed me about D.C. when I was living and working there, then, were come-uppance for my acting like an asshat at 17. But anyway, I wrote about our initial camaraderie: “We started as … two groups of people from different states. We left as a group of Americans wearing stupid shirts and name tags.” (more…)

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 27

Nam 24It’s 1968 and the beginning of the Tet Offensive in “The Beginning of the End,” a story by Doug Murray, Wayne Vansant, and Geof Isherwood that sees the 23rd encountering events that have historical significance when it comes to the media’s coverage of the war.  That’s in The ‘Nam #24.  As always, in addition to the summary and review of the issue I’ll be talking about the story’s historical context as well as taking a look at the letters, ‘Nam Notes, and ads.

You can download the podcast via iTunes or listen to it here:  In Country, Episode 27

After the cut are some pictures and clips of real events that take place within the issue [WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT].

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