Wednesday, September 16, 2015
By MICHAEL WALSH
It began with the feeling that the "golden years" were not at all as advertised. When people said, "so, how are you enjoying your retirement?", there seemed to be an edge of pity in the question . . .
Then my mind would flash on the plague scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the one in which an ailing senior protests "I'm not dead yet!"
At its heart, the Reeling Back project is an act of retirement rejection. Faced with the realities of the aging process — did you know that producing scholarly papers on "mental deterioration in the elderly" is now its own industry? — and the need for new challenges to keep my own surviving brain cells busy, I launched myself into cyber-space.
This website's design is meant to recall my newspapering past. Its basic content is restored versions of film journalism from my working years. But wait, as the TV pitchmen say, there's more.
Just transcribing old reviews doesn't provide a lot of exercise for the brain. It's work, and boring work at that. I decided to write new introductions and afterwords to each posting. The "big idea" was to add relevance and some currency to the postings.
Because the format suggests a newspaper page, I set myself the additional challenge of linking most items to something happening on the date of the posting: a birthday, an historic event, a breaking news story. It's a daily workout, one that's proven to be surprisingly satisfying.
Ah, but here's the problem. The format has put my brain in a box. Or, more specifically, the five boxes on Reeling Back's home page. The format comes with the requirement of putting something new in each box on a regular basis, rotating the postings among them. There are days when I wonder if it wouldn't have been easier just learning how to do sudoku puzzles.
All things considered, it's a pretty good format. It's the brain behind it that could be better organized. (Now, there's a challenge.) Launched on October 4th, 2013 the first day of VCON 38, Vancouver's science-fiction convention, Reeling Back marks its second anniversary in just 18 days. It's grown to contain more than 500 postings.
This year's VCON 40 has as its theme Time Travel, and there will be a new, theme-related posting in all five boxes on October 2, the day the con begins. Until then, though, new material may be a bit spotty as I try to get organized for the challenges of my third year as a Netizen. The 10 most recent additions to the archive were:
AN AMERICAN TAIL — Director Don Bluth joined with producer Steven Speilberg to challenge Walt Disney Productions in the cartoon feature market with this 1986 animated musical, the story of a family of Russian mice who immigrate to the New World in search of a better life. (Posted September 14)
DON BLUTH (interview) — In an interview conducted during his 1982 visit to Vancouver for its International Film Festival for Children and Young People, animation director Bluth discussed quitting his job at Walt Disney Productions on September 13, 1979, his own 42rd birthday. (Posted September 13)
WARGAMES — Director John Badham's 1983 high-tech thriller introduced Americans to the idea of computer hacking as a national security threat. In his breakthrough role, Matthew Broderick plays a teenager who inadvertently demonstrates how easy it is turn a video game into a potential nuclear exchange. (Posted September 12)
SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE — Before she was famous, Molly Ringwald visited Vancouver to co-star with Peter Strauss in this 1983 space opera. Director Lamont Johnson's only 3D feature, it's a cheerfully cheesy mash-up of Star Wars with Mad Max. (Posted September 10)
HOWARD THE DUCK — Director Willard Huyck turned one of the most inventive comic books of 1976 into the most reviled fantasy feature of 1986. Now regarded as a cult classic, his picture tells the story of an alien waterfowl who takes up with an aspiring rock star in Cleveland. (Posted September 8)
NETWORK — Based on a savagely satirical screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, director Sidney Lumet's 1976 look at the future of network television was both popular and prescient. In his final role, actor Peter Finch played newsman-turned-pundit Howard Beale, "the mad prophet of the airwaves." (Posted September 6)
OUR FEATURE FILM FEST: 15 — In Part 15 of a 20-part series, Reeling Back continues The Greater Vancouver Book Feature Film Festival with restored notes on the 13 features dealing with issues of Law and Order. (Posted September 4)
KEANU REEVES: CANADIAN QUIZ — To mark actor Keanu Reeves's 51st birthday, Reeling Back offered this quiz recalling his Canadian roots and continuing connection to the Great White North. (Posted September 2)
EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY — Valley girl-speak was an established pop culture phenomenon when rock satirist Julie Brown took the idea to the next level with this 1988 sci-fi musical comedy. Under Julien Temple's direction, Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum played a couple who overcome their considerable differences to find love in the stars. (Posted August 31)
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY — Arnold Schwarzenegger, who broke through as a star presence in 1984's The Terminator, returned to the role in this 1991 sequel. The last movie in the franchise to be directed by James Cameron, it remains the best of the five features in the series. (Posted August 29)