Happy 50th Birthday Doctor Who: A Fan’s Tribute

Doctor LineupHow do I love thee?  Let me count the sonic screwdrivers.  As I write, the fiftieth anniversary special of the longest running sci-fi show in history is making its wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey way across tele and movie screens, proving that nothing outlasts a geek romance.  Fans make other fans.  It’s probably one of the biggest grass roots success stories in entertainment: a British indie gone big budget time travel-palooza.  But finding Doctor Who merchandise in major retail chains isn’t what has drawn and kept fans.  Doctor Who remains true to its roots—a character-driven adventure story with depth, quirky humor and two lumps of the mysterious.

What drew me to Doctor Who wasn’t some big marketing campaign but the persistent urging of a friend and longtime Whovian who kept saying I should watch the Shakespeare episode, being the literary geek I am.  First, I had to watch “The Christmas Invasion,” the annual holiday episode that perpetually revives the Doctor’s story and reminds us of who he is, especially if it’s a regeneration.  It’s no big surprise then that my Doctor is Ten.  I love asking the same of other fans.

Sorry, where was I? I just got sidetracked by the Doctor Who game on Google.

 Doctor Who is both old and new, familiar and reinvented with each episode.  No television show has surprised me as often with bold storytelling choices and ridiculously good acting.  Taken with a bit of cheese, Doctor Who is unique as a sci-fi adventure.  We’re not just treated to aliens but also meet the likes of Vincent Van Gogh in the same scintillating suspense story.  The Doctor is the perfect hero-never winning too easily but always making sure you know who he is and what he’s capable of.  He can ride a horse through a mirror or drive his spaceship into the sun.  Watching him frolic and barge his way through time and space, across cultures and history is like sitting in a TARDIS motion-simulator ride.

Doctor Who’s longevity comes in part from brilliant writing that is both episodic and overarching.  Even though I’m for Tennent’s Ten, my favorite series is the first of the 11th Doctor’s regeneration.  My mind was blown when bits of story came back to form a completed jigsaw puzzle at the end of “season” five.  Episodes like “Blink,” though stand alone, generate compelling foes like the Weeping Angels.  I’ve even turned my dad into a bit of a Whoovian.  The other day he astounded me by naming the first two words of the TARDIS acronym.  Even my mom saves me her TV Guides when she sees the Doctor on the cover.

With a new generation of fans adding to the numbers of long-time Whovians, America eclipsing England in their viewing numbers and world-wide Who fever, The Doctor’s days in the pop culture sun are long from over.  My trepidations of an older incarnation for Doctor number twelve are soothed by the promise of Moffat’s writing, the momentum from the touted revelations of The Day of the Doctor and the fact that no matter who is in the TARDIS, that big blue box will always take me away from the mundane world.  I am indeed the Doctor’s companion and I’ll be along for the ride as long as he travels.

Doctor Who 50th Poster

An Ode to the Video Store or Why the Death of Blockbuster Has Left Me Nostalgic

Video Tape DeathWhen I think about my childhood, I can’t help but remember frequent trips to the video rental store.  Browsing through wire racks of thick plastic display cases, I would make my way to my favorite tape and grab it like the warm hand of an old friend.  The newest releases only took up a small portion of the shelves, and the classics stood sentinel in their rows, familiar in their positions from week to week.  Movies traveled at a glacial pace from the theater to the store.  Disney still made hand drawn films and Don Bluth animation was better than anything DreamWorks ever dreamt up.

I’m saddened when I think that my daughter will never know that movie rentals come from anywhere other than an outdoor kiosk or a computer system.  Can you even get movies through the mail anymore?  She will never have the pleasure of browsing the local rental shop with friends before a sleepover or spending a happy summer hour contemplating the kids section for the oldie but goody she’s rented five times or the one she’s only rented four.  Redbox doesn’t stock classics.  If it’s not new, it’s gone.  Netflix won’t offer the same homey setup every time you view it or the chatter of the in-house TV showing The Land Before Time again.

Yes, with the end of Blockbuster comes the end of an era.  Video rental stores have gone the way of full-service gas stations and the five and dime.  They will be a sad piece of nostalgia we carry from our collective past, we children of the eighties and nineties and our parents.  I think of making those trips in search of entertainment with my daughter.  What will be our bi-weekly outings?  Certainly driving to Walgreens to find the Redbox won’t hold the same romance.  Trips to the Target five dollar DVD section?  Maybe.  Heck, I can’t even take her to Borders and say “old mom used to work here.” Now that is a whole other nostalgic-angst blog post waiting to happen.  I’d better quit while I’m ahead.  Oh, and I just want to give a shout out to Barb’s Video.  Yeah.  Those were the good old days.

P.S. Here’s a repost of a movie review that may ease our sufferings.  If nothing else, you can read the intro and see how attached I am to my video store memories.

Ghostbusters Jack Black

Be Kind Rewind

Or

Ghostbusters Will Never be the Same

A Film Review by Christie Hudon

Remember the golden age of mom and pop video rental stores?  Before the Blockbuster explosion I used to rent my tapes from Barb’s Video.  I loved walking into the familiar racks of the kids section and picking up one of my favorites-always in the same spot near the big white plastic Disney cases.  Sorry for digressing, but after seeing a video store featured on the big screen I’m kind of sentimental.  Be Kind Rewind, the latest from quirky filmmaker Michel Gondry is a nostalgia piece with an independent flair and a delightfully straightforward story.

Afterwards, I chatted with a fellow moviegoer who called the film an “off-beat comedy.”   I thought this was a perfect description. Be Kind Rewind is at times slapstick and other times sophisticated.  One moment you shake your head at the obvious plot device and the next you ponder the ambiguous ending.  It seemed crystal clear to me though that this was Gondry’s treatise on moviemaking.  You don’t need a budget worthy of a congressional bill, you need ingenuity.  We go to the movies to see creativity and heart and we appreciate those films.  I read between the lines and see the idea that the majority of what Hollywood has to offer has failed because they’ve forgotten this.

Be Kind Rewind is the story of Mr. Fletcher’s video store in Passaic, New York.  When Fletcher (played by Danny Glover) leaves town for the week and entrusts his store to his adopted son Mike (Mos Def) a disaster happens.  Mike’s bizarre friend Jerry (Jack Black) becomes magnetized (don’t ask, just watch) and erases all the tapes in Fletcher’s store.  In a desperate attempt to keep the customers happy, Mike decides to re-shoot the movies with the help of Jerry and a very old video camera.  What follows is a store full of strangely delighted customers and abridged homemade classics like The Lion King done with life-size paper cutouts and safari bed sheets.

One of several interesting aspects about Be Kind Rewind is the way the audience becomes involved in the making of the movie.  We see the remakes come to life with bad camera tricks, no sets or effects and minimal professional resources.  When we watch the creative process, the film becomes something more; a work that is compelling because of the efforts of those involved.

Along with all the camera gags, we also get a feel good story; in the middle of a poor neighborhood, people work together to make these films and save the store from being condemned and demolished.  Be Kind is a refreshingly enjoyable movie.  It makes you feel as if you could go out and shoot a film in your own garage and I think that’s just what Gondry intended. Be Kind Rewind Poster