Making the Connection

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Published: Dec 22 2015, 01:01:am

Monday, December 22, 2015.

     ". . . on this day . . ."

     Just three little words, this phrase is used in the introduction to most of the postings I've made to the Reeling Back website. Launched 26 months ago, Reeling Back was designed as both an archive and a news diary. Every posting has an Afterword intended to update its content, something akin to the bonus features on a DVD.

    And the majority are keyed to something that happened "on this day . . ."

    Why? The short answer is that I do it for the exercise.

    Reeling Back is my personal experiment in dynamic retirement. Experts tell us that aging brains need stimulation, so I'm doing what I can to stay in the game and contribute, not just to our store of pop-culture knowledge, but to our understanding of it.

    It just makes sense that an old deadline-chasing newspaperman should link yesterday's story to today's date, as in "James Burke, born on this day (December 22) in 1936 . . ."
    It's all about the connections. And it's about time I acknowledged the stylistic debt that Reeling Back owes to Burke, the former English teacher and BBC science reporter whose 1978 TV series Connections offered "an alternative view of change." When I first saw it, Burke's brilliant, 10-episode series reminded me of a quote from media guru Marshall McLuhan.

    “Our time is a time for crossing barriers, for erasing old categories, for probing around," McLuhan wrote in 1967. "When two seemingly disparate elements are imaginatively poised, put in apposition in new and unique ways, startling discoveries often result.”

    Burke was a McLuhanian, someone applying the Canadian communication theorist's multidisciplinary method to examining cultural phenomena. He made the connections that mattered, and he continued to create thought-provoking television — Connections was followed by 1985's The Day the Universe Changed — and write standalone books such as The Axemaker's Gift (1997) and the entertainingly gameshow-like Twin Tracks (2003).

    The classically-educated Burke also has a wonderfully arch sense of fun. I like to think that he'd recognize his influence on some of my own more convoluted linkages, including the introductions to Beetlejuice, Star Wars,and Volunteers.

    Among my favourite change-makers, James Burke turns 79 today. As for the ever-changing Reeling Back archive, the ten most recent additions are:

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP — Director George Roy Hill's 1982 adaptation of the John Irving novel wrestled manfully with the best-seller's over-the-top take on radical feminism. The usually manic Robin Williams showed remarkable restraint in the title role. (Posted December 20)
DARK STAR — Expanded from a film school project, this 1974 sci-fi comedy introduced genre fans to the considerable talents of writer Dan O'Bannon and director John Carpenter. Its space-faring crew of mad anti-heroes are right out of the underground comics of the day. (Posted December 18)

2010 — The sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, writer-director Peter Hyams based his 1984 feature on Arthur C. Clarke's second novel in the series. Here, a Russian-American mission sets out to find out what really happened when the Discovery reached Jupiter. (Posted December 16)    

BY DESIGN — On the cutting edge of a cinema trend, director Claude Jutra's 1982 domestic comedy told the story of a same-sex couple determined to have a baby. Patty Duke and Sara Botsford star as the prospective parents. (Posted December 14)

OUR FEATURE FILM FEST: 16 — In Part 16 of a 20-part series, Reeling Back continues The Greater Vancouver Book Feature Film Festival with restored notes on the nine features on view at the Terminal City Comedy Club. (Posted December 12)

ONCE UPON A FOREST — Its good intentions notwithstanding, this 1993 cartoon feature adaptation of an eco-friendly picture book misses the mark. In it, a trio of "furlings," consisting of a mouse, a mole and a badger, seek to mitigate an environmental disaster that greedy men have visited upon their Edenic Dapplewood. (Posted December 5)  

THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR — Prominent in the subgenre of films set in prehistoric times, director Michael Chapman's 1986 adaptation of Jean Auel's novel benefitted from spectacular British Columbia wilderness locations. Fresh from her career-making performance in Splash (1984), Daryl Hannah took on the role of Cro-Magnon orphan Ayla. (Posted December 3)    

LOVE YOU! — Before starring in the Hollywood blockbuster 10, Bo Derek worked as the producer on her husband John's 1979 attempt at elegant erotica. The X-rated tale of two couples experimenting with open marriage, it featured the porn film superstar Annette Haven. (Posted December 1)    

JOHN DEREK (feature) — During a visit to Vancouver to promote the world premiere of his 1979 adult feature Love You!, writer-director John Derek spoke to University of B.C. film students about sex, Hollywood executives and his personal effort to help screen pornography graduate into an art form. (Posted December 1)    

PAPER WEDDING (Les Noces de Papier) — Under the direction of her old friend Michel Brault, Québec screen gem Geneviève Bujold plays a middle-aged spinster who enters into a marriage of convenience with a political refugee. This 1990 drama captured the emotional drama within an issue that remains controversial to this day. (Posted November 28)