Friday, September 30, 2016.
By MICHAEL WALSH
So many thoughts after three years in cyberspace; I hardly know where to begin. On the day Reeling Back launched, I described my website as “the attempt of an old print journalist to lurch into the 21st century.”
That there is a site at all is entirely due to the tech-savvy Jon Cunningham, who urged me to follow through on a lot of conversational hand-waving about how nice it would be to have a personal presence on the web. Jon actually built the thing, while Brianna Thomas provided the frontend development and graphics.
Thirty days after it launched, I posted a blog admitting that I wasn’t entirely sure of “the direction this site is taking. The movie line that now seems appropriate is the one spoken by Indiana Jones midway though 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark — 'I'm making this up as I go!'" I’d started out thinking of Reeling Back as an archive, an interesting retirement project to keep aging brain cells firing on a daily basis. It has quickly evolved into an important part of my life.
After three months, I wrote that “Reeling Back has consumed a lot of hours and given me much pleasure. I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I've enjoyed revisiting the ideas that went into my old reviews, and in the new thoughts involved in the afterwords for each restored posting.” Crafting the introductions and the afterwords involved research, and required me to hone my “Google-fu” skills. The postings that resulted became part archive and part memoir, with a helping of newsletter.
And yes, I was having fun. Eight months in, an old friend wrote to tell me that he'd noticed that the introductions to my restored reviews all seemed to be based on date associations. I conceded that “Reeling Back's alternative title might be Date Associations R Us. It's a game, but it's a game that I've been having fun with. It evolved from the site's punning motto, Everything Old Is News Again, and it has been a source of more work than I'd planned for, as well as more discoveries than I expected.”
Today, I’m guessing that between 40 to 50 percent of the material on this site is newly written material. It’s not what I expected at the beginning but, to quote Buckaroo Banzai, “no matter where you go, there you are.” The journey continues as we head into October. In the meantime, the 10 most recent additions to the archive are:
EXPO 86: FINAL THOUGHTS — The 38th and final item in the Reeling Back series considered the fair’s legacy and the permanent movie houses that remained after the closure of the Canada, British Columbia and Expo Centre pavilions. (Posted September 27)
EXPO 86: VIDEO — The default option for less developed nations such as Pakistan, The Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, video-based shows actually hinted at the emergence of today’s “global village” media landscape. (Posted September 25)
LOYALTIES — Set in small-town Alberta, director Anne Wheeler’s 1986 drama focuses on the lives of two women who discover how much they have in common. A keenly involving tale of growth and self-realization, it was Wheeler’s first independent feature. (Posted September 23)
EXPO 86: KENYA, KOREA and SAUDI ARABIA — Excerpts from wildlife documentarist Alan Root’s Balloon Safari were the highlight at the Kenyan pavilion, while Korea and Saudi Arabia emphasized industrial development. (Posted September 21)
EXPO 86: SINGAPORE AND HONG KONG — Attracting tourism was the main goal of the shows offered at the pavilions of the two Asia-Pacific city states. (Posted September 19)
EXPO 86: CHRISTIANITY and ISLAM — Excerpts from the 1976 feature film Mohammad, Messenger of God and the 1977 TV mini-series Jesus of Nazareth were central to the shows promoting religion at the pavilion of Saudi Arabia and the televangelical Pavilion of Promise. (Posted September 17)
EXPO 86: CROWN CORPORATIONS — On the eve of their privatizations, the publicly-owned Air Canada and Canadian National celebrated their transportational good works in shows called Kaleidoscope and LocoMotion. (Posted September 15)
SUPER MARIO BROS. — Based on a video game once voted “greatest of all time,” this 1993 live-action feature bombed at the boxoffice. The movie that actor Bob Hoskins considers the worst he ever made is today the object of a cult following. (Posted September 13)
MATEWAN — A tale of union organizing in the West Virginia coal fields, writer-director John Sayles’s 1987 feature is an honourable exception to the American cinema’s usual anti-labour bias. Relevant at the time it was made, its dramatic message seems even more so today. (Posted September 5)
WEDDING IN WHITE — Among the best of the “great Canadian loser” films, writer-director Bill Fruet’s 1972 drama captured the oppressive truth of Canadian society during the Second World War. Donald Pleasence stars as an unforgiving father and Carol Kane plays his unhappy daughter. (Posted September 2)