Hello, friends. We have a question for you.

What is the first movie you remember seeing? More specifically, what is the first movie you remember seeing in a movie theater?

That’s our theme for today’s entry, the final Friday entry for the month of August. We invite you to comment below and tell us about those films. Are they still well-loved movies for you?

That theme is not all we want to talk about today, however. We found another theme between us. And it happened quite by happenstance. Through the many discussions we three nerds have had about film in the time it took us to decide to follow through with this particular project, we discovered something that we did not know before. Something that would have a year ago seemed like a happy coincidence, but now seems like “a sign”. It’s a silly thing to even consider now, but, perhaps the universe is now telling us that we were always meant to one day join forces and create this blog.

By way of explaining exactly what we’re talking about, we submit this snippet from our team Q and A. Aaron asked Karen the following question: Think of a movie that you like because of the experience of watching it for the first time.

Karen’s answer made Greg and Aaron both pause for just a moment:

“You’re going to laugh. No, really. The first film I thought of was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I’m not even kidding. Summer of 1991. I’m 12. A few months shy of 13. High school looms large and exciting and terrifying (but not for another year). I’m surrounded by my best friends on one of those star-lit, somewhat muggy, smell-of-the-fields-perfect Illinois summer nights. We’re at the Harvest Moon Drive-In running around, getting into trouble, crossing the highway for Pizza Hut, lying on blankets. Watching the opening night of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I’ve always been a sucker for historical (-ish) fiction on the screen, but add a cheesy love story to that? AND Kevin Costner? My 12-year old brain, surrounded by my friends on one of those perfect Illinois nights could barely comprehend how full of joy I was. Full of pre-teen angst, too. . . sure. But also, so much joy. And I will always have a soft spot for that film, forevermore.”

Greg and Aaron both loved this answer. They are both nostalgic and fond of this movie, too. But. . . they were both also there. At the Harvest Moon Drive-In. On the opening night of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Which, we suppose, is not so odd in a small town, but this factoid becomes prescient for us now because Aaron hadn’t met either one of the others yet.

This theme, this idea that we were meant to do this together really began to formulate for Greg while he answered the questions in our group Q and A. It seems that, totally and completely on accident, we had all asked (essentially) the same question of the others. These questions all rotated around the idea of trying to remember the first movies we had ever seen. It seemed to Greg (and we’ll allow him to expound on this idea more in his answers) that something cosmic was pointing all of us in the same direction.

Aaron asked Greg the same question that he asked Karen above. Greg’s response:

“Easy. Gotta be E.T.. . . No, wait. . . Raiders of the Lost Ark. . . No, wait. . . Jurassic Park. . . No, wait. . . E.T.. Seriously: E.T..

In 2016, I challenged myself to complete a Greg’s Top 100 movie countdown that would span the entire year. The whittling-down process consumed me for the first two months of the year, but, in my mind, I knew that E.T. would be right up there in the Top Three. The reason was, and still is, simple: E.T. was the first movie I saw in the movie theater. At the tender age of five. Even today, I have vivid memories of laughing, crying, being terrified (that damned cornfield scene. . . ) and insert any other emotion here. Other early memories of movies are checkered and scant at best, but I’ve never forgotten how I felt about seeing that little Play-doh-ey guy running around and then leaving us forever. . . little bastard. Since then, I go into every movie I see for the first time looking to feel something. . . anything. . . an emotion different than the one I first entered the theater or living room feeling. ‘That’s all I have to say about that,’ said Forrest Gump.”

Later in the interview, Aaron asked Greg the following question, a question that Greg had, by accident, already answered: What is the very first movie that you remember seeing?

Greg again: “Well, shit. I guess I need to read these questions through before I begin to answer them, because I already answered this one at the beginning. However, I will add another early movie memory to fulfill the requirement of answering the question. I am a horror lover through and through. I’d call it a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel guilty about scanning Netflix in the wee hours to find some schlock that I can pick apart ’cause it just ain’t scary enough. So. . . my mom dropped my brother and I off at Wing’s Cinema in Rantoul, IL when I was probably 6 or 7. He was a teenager. It was a Disney movie, and it was called Something Wicked This Way Comes. It was a film based on a Ray Bradbury novel about a couple of kids who visit a traveling carnival that has elephants and clowns and carousels, and on the side, it sells dreams for a stiff price. Yeah, there are evil spirits and nightmares and spiders. . . big ones. . . So, that night, and for about two weeks later, I checked under my bedsheets to make sure there were no tarantulas crawling around. I didn’t want to see a single one, let alone about a hundred! Oh, remember when I said this was a Disney movie? Yeah, I wasn’t kidding. Dudes…Disney went through a dark period in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I’m tellin’ ya’.”

Imagine Greg typing away that answer on his laptop, in his garage with a Captain and Coke. Now imagine the look on his face when he opened up the email from Karen that contained the following question: What is the first film you remember seeing in a movie theater? What is the first film you remember seeing in a movie theater that you loved? How do you think these films have affected the way you see the world?

Greg’s response: “I’m going to make a small joke that I feel is amusing and not intended to upset the other authors of this blog in the slightest: Clearly, all three of us should’ve read all of the questions and answers posed to each of us by each of the others before proceeding – ha! Aaron has noted that we all have a lot going on and we all are still swimming in the murky waters of starting up this endeavor, but, on a different note, all of our questions were rooted in a certain similarity that suggests the three of us were all on the same page about what this whole thing should be about, which further suggests that we were all three destined to do this together at some point in our lives – better now when we all still have our wits about us as we enter into our late 20s. . .”

Keeping in mind everything you’ve already read, imagine the look on Greg’s face when his answers were completed and submitted and then we discovered the little tidbit about all of us being at the Harvest Moon Drive-In at the exact same time a good year before we could all three meet each other right and proper. A thought that Greg already had in the back of his mind, that he had articulated and typed for one and all to see, was confirmed. The word for that is. . . we think . . . kismet.

More on that in a moment. Greg’s answer continues:

“Nevertheless, I will try and answer, with slightly different sentimentality, especially in part three of this question.

E.T. is the first film I remember seeing in the theater, and it impacted me profoundly. As I said when Aaron asked something similar, I can remember running the gamut of emotions during that in-house theater experience.

Because I felt so wildly ‘all over the place’ emotionally, I can vividly remember absolutely loving this experience and this movie thoroughly, so much so that it wound up at the top of my Top 100 countdown that I spent the better part of 2016 hammering out. Couple this with the fact that I spent a good chunk of the limited time I spent with my siblings watching movies that I wouldn’t have otherwise watched, E.T. was an excellent start to a hobby that ended up being a career for me. So there!

Part three, though, is an interesting follow up. How do movies change the way I see the world? I think I would have to dovetail a bit onto something I said in another question – there’s a reason somebody made these movies or wrote these screenplays – because, especially in the dramas and slice-of-life ‘essays’ for lack of a better term, these things do tend to actually happen once in awhile, and the writers’ and directors’ perspectives on these issues do much to lend us our own perspectives, especially when we are in need of perspective.

Greg too lost on the silver screen? Too slipped on a banana peel (Eckhart, Batman, 1989). Thinks too much that life is like a movie? Well, how is this different than those who lose themselves in music, or books, or stamp collecting, or model building, or video gaming, or sports, or lawn work, or chess? They are all escapes, no? I actually wish to modify what I said earlier about movies being the great escape. Movies are MY great escape, same as sports are for some, painting is for others, and so on.”

Aaron answered this question from Karen as well:

“Before I answer the question, an anecdote: Back in the early 1990’s, I saw a movie at a theater on the University of Illinois campus. I believe it was called The Thunderbird Cinema. Almost as soon as I set foot into the auditorium, I remembered seeing Fantasia there. There were wall adornments and decoration to the proscenium area that just gave me almost instant deja vu. But it wasn’t just Fantasia. I had memories of The Sword in the Stone and The Fox and the Hound as well. Most specifically, I recalled lying on the ground in the aisle and watching The Fox and the Hound as it loomed above my head larger than life. It was an odd memory to have because these three Walt Disney cartoons are movies that, up to that point, I had no real memory of ever having seen from beginning to end.

Later, I asked my mother about these memories. And she confirmed for me that my family frequented this movie theater when I was younger because, during the summer, when classes were not in session, they often did family films for $1. She even confirmed the memory of lying on the ground (apparently, we had been outside at a public petting zoo for a good portion of the day and I had reported not feeling well). So. . . there you have it . . . I guess discounted Disney movies are the first films I remember seeing in the theater (incidentally, The Sword in the Stone has, over time, become one of my most favorite animated Disney films), even though I was a teenager before I actually remembered it.

But. . . to give an honest answer to the question. The first movie I vividly remember seeing in theaters is Return of The Jedi. 1983. I was six. We saw it at Urbana Cinema (which used to be The Princess and, also, showed movies for a dollar). I had already seen the other two films, and was pretty well consumed by them, but the third film in the trilogy was the first one that I didn’t see on television. That I saw while it was still new. While other kids were still waiting to be allowed to see it. It was a big moment for me.”

As of this writing, it has not been confirmed if either Karen or Greg were there watching Return of the Jedi as well.

But, man, what if they were?

One more thing before we sign off today: we’re not sure that we truly believe that something cosmic has a hand in our endeavor. But it sure feels like it sometimes. And we know this: We’ve worked hard on this blog. We’ve had some great discussions. We’ve learned some things about each other (for example, in spite of our initial beliefs, Aaron is far more pushy than Karen). We’ve continued to nurture decades-old friendships in the name of what we love. We have inspired one another, and together, we have created something that is meaningful to us.

We are now a month into our project, and we’re having fun. It seems appropriate to take a moment to thank you for that. For coming along for the ride.

Be sure to check in next week for our first “Movie of the Month” and take a moment to sound off in the comments! What was the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?

Karen, Aaron, And Greg

“The Master would not approve.”

One of our readers randomly mentioned on our Facebook feed a movie that intrigued us here at Three Nerds and a Movie quite a bit. The movie is called Manos: The Hands Of Fate, and our reader states that she believes that this film is the worst movie ever made.
manos posterNow, we try to keep things positive here and don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about movies that we didn’t like, but we had to admit being intrigued. “Worst movie ever made” is quite a distinction.

A little research was in order. . . Written and directed by Harold P. Warren, Manos: The Hands of Fate was released in 1966. The movie itself stars Tom Neyman and John Reynolds as “The Master” and “Torgo”, respectively, and concerns an underground devil-worshiping cult that is accidentally stumbled-upon by a family lost while traveling. This appears to be the only movie that Harold P. Warren was ever involved in.

Consensus would agree that if this is not the worst movie ever made, then it is up there pretty close near the top. IMDB users rate the movie at a measly 1.9 out of 10. The Rotten Tomatoes aggregate critics’ score rates the movie at a 7%. This does, indeed, sound awful. But is it really “this isn’t even worth watching” awful, or is it one of those “awful movies” that is still pretty fun to watch? A lot of horror movies, especially in the 1960’s, fall into this latter category.

It should be noted, before we proceed, that Manos: The Hands Of Fate, despite its apparent awfulness, has achieved enough of a cult status to be made into a platform video game for iOS platforms, including Android phones. Here’s a screenshot:

manos video game

Can it really be that bad if they honored it with a video game adaptation? As we said, we’re kind of intrigued by this movie and may have to draw straws soon to see which one of us is “lucky enough” to get to watch this movie and give it a full review!

Okay. Bonus content this week from our team Q and A: Aaron answers a question from Greg. Karen and Greg answer an overly-complicated question from Aaron.

Aaron first. Greg’s original question: Since you’re such a huge reader, I’d suppose you dip your pen in ink once and again. If I’m wrong, this is a short answer to my question. But if I am right, what types of things do you write about? Ever tackle a screenplay?

Aaron responds:

“I told a teacher in third grade that when I grew up, I wanted to be ‘an author.’ Not a writer. An author (I was a mildly-pretentious little shit even then). I still have notebooks filled with the short stories I used to write in study halls. When I went to college, I knew that I wanted to do something related to writing. Or literature. Or English. There was never any doubt in anyone’s mind about that.

In creative-writing classes my freshman year of college, I discovered that I had a considerable knack for writing dialogue (more so than I did for long descriptions of what the trees looked like in autumn when the thunderstorms struck). Naturally, I gravitated to the theatre program, with an emphasis on playwrighting.

Skip a few years in there (I’m kind of embarrassed about some of the choices I made), but in 2001, I managed to secure a grant from a young playwright’s foundation. This required a lot of traveling (to workshop the plays I wrote in college theatre programs across the country) and a guarantee that I would submit a brand new play for grant-renewal consideration every October. I was 25 years old when I started this gig, and I managed to maintain it until early 2005, when I was offered a job as a script consultant for a major television network. The job required little writing (mostly editing other people’s scripts and whatnot) and I could do it from home via e-mail while I worked on stage plays. In 2006, I was offered the opportunity to create my own television series. I did. The situation went sourly south and I ‘retired from writing professionally’ in early 2007. So…from 2000 (when I started writing the play that would eventually secure the grant) until I retired, I worked solely as a writer, supplementing my income (a young writer needs comic books and beer after all) with part-time jobs when I needed them (including a stint as the manager of a single-screen arthouse movie theater, which may be the hardest job I have ever had in my life).

Typically, I write comedy. Usually kind of dark. I think my best works, though (such as the television series I created) are, at their heart, dramatic works, but the audience is laughing too hard to realize it.

Yes. I have attempted screenplays. I finished one in 1997 (a hitman comedy called Disarmed), but I lost the computer I typed it on in a divorce. I have a full screenplay adaptation of the novel Smoke (by John Ed Bradley) that I wrote for a class in college and have never done anything with because I cannot afford to purchase the rights to the original novel. I have seven episodes of a second television series I created, a project that got abandoned for reasons too complicated to get into.

Presently, I am too unfocused to finish full screenplays. But I have some ideas stored on my laptop that have been floating around for years. Short scenes. Snippets. Treatments. Things I’ve tinkered with over the last ten years. You and Karen have inspired me to start writing again. So, we’ll see. We’ll let time tell if I ever jump back on that horse again.

That horse bucked me off. And it hurt.”

Before we get to Greg and Karen’s question, it should be explained that the intention of the original question was to get Greg and Karen to namecheck a few movies in one example. More movies, more discussion, right? But Greg pointed out that this actually means that they had to answer eight questions instead of five. Aaron would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to them for making them do more work.

The original question, divided into four distinct parts:

Pick a movie for each of the following (and, briefly, explain): A) a movie that you really like that everyone else seems to dislike

Greg: Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2!!! Really, folks, I didn’t pick two. . . together, they make one movie. Also, it took a ridiculously small amount of time to come up with that answer. Those SNL guys each did some fun things on their own, but for my money, they were always at their best when they were together. I don’t really care how juvenile the humor (I own every single episode and movie and half-movie of the Jackass series, people…I’m not kidding), or how bad the acting, or how hard Kevin James tried to emulate Chris Farley in a role that was clearly meant for Matt Foley himself. Love both of ‘em and would watch ‘em anytime you wanna throw ‘em in the DVD player.

Karen: Jupiter Ascending. I love the Wachowskis. They’re great at world building and they paint with a sci-fi palette. Jupiter Ascending offers really pretty sci-fi with Eddie Redmayne in the creepiest role of his career, Mila Kunis with her biggest eyes on screen, and Channing Tatum as a dog-human with an accent. What’s not to enjoy?

jupiter ascending

B) a movie that everyone else seems to like that you didn’t particularly care for

Greg: Guardians of the Galaxy. I hate it. And since I prefer to write about things that make me and (hopefully) others happy, I will end the discussion here.

Karen: Get Out. I appreciated the talent, the message, the writing, and Jordan Peele blowing the lid off a genre. The movie just fell flat for me.

C) a movie that you love because you can completely relate to the protagonist

Greg: This is a good question. I recently re-watched Chef with Jon Favreau. I really enjoy that film. SO much so that I actually kinda wish I’d have included it in the Top 100. In fact, I’ve just given myself an idea to maybe write an ‘Honorable Mentions’ list someday. But anyway, Chef is a total feel-good-like-FerrisBueller’sDayOff-makes-you-feel-good type of movie. There really isn’t a bad vibe about this one at all, even when things aren’t going so well for our protagonist. Favreau finds a way to draw inspiration from dream-crushing heartache using well-written and uber-realistic dialogue, an excellent soundtrack, and food…my God, the food!
How do I relate? I’ve no grand vision of becoming a chef, though I think that would be fun to try and tackle someday. Instead, I like the idear of chasing down that dream of doing exactly what it is that makes you happy. I found that in my career, which makes me one lucky SOB. Now I get to write again as well (not that anything or anyone other than myself was stopping me from doing so). Also, Chef illustrated how important it is to have that strong support network by delivering his audience a shiny platter of well-prepared characters with an equal propensity to spread cheer and hope to our down-and-out dream chaser. Anyway, Chef. Loved it. Can relate to it. Makes me feel good.

Karen: Ten Things I Hate About You. “What is it, Asshole Day?”

and D) a movie that you watched once, really liked, but haven’t been compelled to watch again.

Greg: I suppose the best answer here would be a flick that, once the twist ending has been revealed, it kinda takes the fun out of seeing it again, right? Trouble is, even with those types of movies (The Usual Suspects comes to mind), you still wanna go back and check ‘er out once more at least to pick up on all the shit you missed the first go-‘round. Plus, in my case, I like to use obscure movie quotes to dazzle and impress the ladies (it doesn’t work, by the way) and I don’t learn those quotes by watching movies just once. And so. . . I figure the answer to this question is something a bit more vague, like TV-movie miniseries, for instance. Like, I can remember seeing The Stand once or twice in the early 90’s, but I don’t go running for it. I also remember really enjoying Pierce Brosnan in TV’s Around the World in 80 Days, but have seen it only the once. I don’t know, I guess I don’t have the best answer for this question. Most of the things I watch I give at least a second day in court before throwing them to the curb.

Karen: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Ultimately one of the most moving stories on screen, expertly acted and directed. But I can’t put myself through that again. If you’ve seen it, you understand what I mean.

Wow. We might have set a record this week for the number of movies we can mention in one entry, so we’re going to sign off for today. But we’ve left you with plenty to discuss: Have you seen Manos: The Hands of Fate? Is it really as bad as we think it is? What should Aaron write a screenplay about? Did Greg really make you want to sit down and finally watch Chef? Is Karen right about Jupiter Ascending?

Drop us a line in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

And be sure to check back in on Friday, when the 3 Nerds will spend some time discussing the first movies that they ever remember seeing!

Karen, Aaron, and Greg

Two Idiots & A Movie

I thought I’d tell you the story of two idiots and their incredible (and stupid) journey to see a movie. One idiot is me, and one idiot, to protect his identity from those who may know him, shall be henceforth referred to as…Larry.

I’m sharing this story with you all in the “gettin’ to know ya'” spirit of this month’s introductory posts. We’ve been discussing all month some of the things we like most about the movies – what genres we love, which actors we adore, etc. But, a-la Aaron’s Stardust solo entry, the circumstances under which we see movies, on occasion, make the movie going experience that much more unforgettable. A sentiment left out of many of our movie-going recollections that, in some cases and under the proper direction, might just make a good scene in the movie-story-picture-show of our own lives.

Once upon a winter’s eve, while we were still in high school, Larry and I wanted to go to a movie at Wings Cinema in Rantoul, IL. Remember that place, Central Illinoisans? It was most definitely a school night, and the forecast was for heavy snow that wasn’t supposed to start until much later in the evening. Why did my folks let me travel and take the risk? Because Larry lived on a farm and was coming with me and they trusted him a lot more than they trusted me to get out of a jam on the road should we find ourselves in one. In other words, they thought he was more skilled behind the wheel than I was. I’m pretty sure they liked him more than me, too. Anyway, the hole in their logic was that Larry didn’t have a license at the time (that’s another story, and also, the parental units didn’t need to know that when we begged to go to the theater).

We get halfway to the theater, which was probably twenty minutes from our homes in Gibson City, and the snow began falling. It was falling hours earlier than the weather people said it would fall, and it was heavy. Cell phones didn’t exist, except on Saved by the Bell, so our parents couldn’t call us to tell us to come home, and we were in the country, miles away from a payphone, so we decided we couldn’t ask for permission to stay out. So, the two idiots, Larry and myself, decided that clearly the best decision we could make was to forge ahead and see the movie. Mistake #1.

After having a great time together, as we usually did when we went out on an adventure (Larry and I, it seemed, couldn’t ever go anywhere together without having some sort of adventure, and they were usually dangerous), we set out for home.

In the two hours we were in that tiny little theater in Rantoul, it must’ve snowed six inches.

But the worst of it was over, and, luckily, there was little to no wind. The challenge would, therefore, be for us to navigate unplowed roads in town and REALLY unplowed roads out in the country.

We made it to where 136 turns onto the Elliot-Dewey-Fisher road. We made the turn. Mistake #2. I turned way too fast (mistake #3) and lost control and immediately ended up in the ditch at the intersection of 136 and the EDF road.

I was scared because we were stuck and the road was too high from the ditch we were in to get back onto it. But a lightbulb went off in my brain – Dad let me go out because I was with country Larry who would clearly know what to do! And he did! He said not to worry. All we needed to do was find a tractor-access point back onto the road, a culvert, drive onto it from the ditch, and everything would be fine. Now…us two idiots knew we couldn’t drive along in the ditch until we came upon one, so we decided the best, most logical decision would be to drive up into the field and then move along parallel to the ditch until we found one of these mythical culverts. So, we drove up into the field…a snowy, soybean field. Mistake #4. But country Larry offered to drive – without a license – so at least that pressure was off. Mistake #5.

Ever drive by a soybean field in the winter and notice the nice, evenly plowed rows that run perpendicular to the highway? For all you cityfolk out there, those rows are heaving humps of frozen dirt. When covered with snow, your car, should you have the misfortune of driving through one of these snow-covered fields, will sink to those plowed humps of frozen dirt and make for one bumpy ride.

As we went over the snow-covered humps of the long-since plowed bean rows, the car hopped and bopped along and us two idiots bounced higher and higher off of our seats, banging our heads into the ceiling, for almost half a mile. “We’ll find an access point in a sec. The tractors need ‘em to get in and out of the fields from the roads,” said the confident country idiot (Larry) to the shaking-with-terror city idiot (me).

What happened next went down as legendary to Larry and myself whenever we see each other and discuss the old days, and unbelievable to everyone to whom this tale was, and still is, subsequently told.

Up ahead, the country idiot saw something that made his eyes widen with fear. The rows of beans ahead seemed to be a lot “humpier,” to the tune of about six inches, than the ones we had been driving through to this point. “Oh no,” said Larry, making my stomach drop into my feet. “I think those are corn rows! If we drive through those we’re not getting out of this field!” Both of us were laughing and screaming at the same time, because we both knew that no matter what happened, we were going to die that night. Either from freezing to death in the field (nobody else was on the road, and remember: there were no cell phones, boys and girls) or at the hands of our idiot parents who would no doubt destroy us, but who also actually trusted us to go out during a snowstorm in the first place.

Larry impulsively made a massive U-turn (mistake #6), taking us fifty yards deeper into the field, clipping the edge of the corn rows, changing our bumpy ride into a car-heaving, this-must-be-what-it’s-like-to-drive-a-pimped-out-car-with-hydraulic-pumps moment of terror, while I pleaded with him to stop. He insisted that if we stopped the car, we’d would never get it going again. I knew he was right.

I was screaming and on the verge of tears, Larry was laughing hysterically, like John Candy as the devil in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and I told him as we were heaving up and down in the car that I had sandbags in the trunk to gain traction if we needed. This information served no purpose, and Larry started laughing even harder.

Now, I realize I’m not painting a very flattering picture of Larry here. But I’m the one who insisted on making this night happen in the first place, and I’m the one who landed us in this predicament. All these years later, I need someone else to blame for my own idiocy. Moving on…

Larry successfully negotiated the U-turn and we were on our way through the soybean field back towards the intersection where we first entered the field. A lone white car was suddenly spotted driving down 136, also about to make the turn onto the EDF road. We thought for sure it was a cop, and that we were officially screwed. Not only was it not a cop, but whoever it was, who by the way had to have seen us, didn’t slow down or stop to help us. But then again, did the two idiots deserve help at this point?

We were going to stop the car on the corner where we entered the field and hike to a farmhouse to face the music. We got about twenty-five feet away from our original entry point, just beyond our initial tire tracks, and we both spotted something we both clearly missed (mistake #7) when we set off to drive through a bean field in winter. There, in the middle of the ditch, very, very close to where we entered that ditch, was a culvert tractor path in the ditch that connected the field to the road. Without stopping, Larry drove us onto the EDF.

We drove back home in silence, and since Larry was sans license, we pulled over once along the way to put me back into the driver’s seat. It was understood without discussion that not a word of the incident would be mentioned to any parents, a sort of silent blood oath that held strong long after that night.

It was one hell of a night at the movies. An experience I will never forget. A journey that began with a desire to see what turned out to be a great movie and ended with a quest for survival of the elements and our parents. See what I mean? The experience of seeing a movie is sometimes as good or better than the movie itself! You gotta remember that!

Wait, what? Oh, I forgot to mention what movie we saw at Wings Cinema that fateful night? It was Dumb and Dumber.

“If I could only have one food to eat for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry flavor Pez.”

August 22 is a very important date for us in the history of movies we all agree are worth the nostalgia. In 1986, Rob Reiner’s fantastic coming-of age movie, Stand By Me, was released nationwide. It had actually opened in a limited release a few weeks prior, but that original release was only available in sixteen theaters across the nation. When it opened in 745 theaters on August 22, it was the second biggest box-office draw of that weekend. Before its run at the cinema was complete, it had pulled in an estimated $52,000,000 in ticket sales, a take that far exceeded the film’s small $8,000,000 budget.

What do you think, friends? Does Stand By Me stand the test of time? What is your take on this film? Let us know in the comments below!

For our bonus content this week, we present more snippets and excerpts from our Q and A. These three questions are all themed in that each of the people answering found them very frustrating!

Greg asked the following question to both Karen and Aaron: Give me the names of a coupe or three of your favorite filmmakers, be they actors or directors or writers, why you love them so much (briefly – don’t fall into MY trap of not knowing when to quit typing), and what sort of dream project you’d love to see them all work on together.

Both of them had considerable difficulty narrowing down the list.

Karen’s response:

“Dammit, Greg. Great question.

The first three filmmakers that come to mind are:

1. Cameron Crowe. I think Cameron Crowe is beloved, but under-appreciated as a filmmaker. I think people overlook the honesty of what he’s creating by focusing on the emotion in his projects. But it’s the combination of both that makes his work special, in my opinion. He has the ability to tap into Feelings (with a capital F) while telling you a story about your sister, or your dad, or your best friend, or your crazy cousin who everyone loves, but no one really gets. His films are love stories about love stories and music and family. He understands incorporating music into his films as a supporting cast of its own (anyone seen Singles lately???) I think his body of work may well be my favorite, regardless of genre.

“I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen.” Still one of the best movie lines ever written.

2. Spike Jonze. It’s because of Her. It’s not that I’m not a fan of some the rest of his work (except maybe Jackass, which isn’t my thing). It’s just that this particular screenplay smacked me right across the face when I saw the film in the theater. Hard. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea – I get it. But it spoke to me. If I had to choose a screenwriter that I love more, I would probably choose Preston Sturges or Aaron Sorkin. I pretty consistently love their work. The best of comedy in Sturges and witty dialogue in Sorkin.

3. Yorgos Lanthimos. I don’t think there is any filmmaker out there today who sees the absurdity of humanity as clearly as Lanthimos. And to translate that to the screen in the way he does is nothing short of masterful. After I watched The Lobster, I remember sitting up in the theater and thinking, (about dating and relationships) “Yep, pretty accurate.” Somehow this is conveyed perfectly through a story about people who must find a mate or turn into an animal. On paper, it sounds totally asinine. In the art of the film – absolute clarity in the absurdity.

It’s hard to think of the three of these men working together on any project. But when you consider Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky take on Open Your Eyes, then maybe, just maybe, it starts to come together. Based on interview clips I’ve seen Cameron Crowe give on making this film, I get the impression he still may have something a little edgier to give to his work in the future. I picture a think-y, dark, existential science fiction arthouse film. Set in the future. Mildly post-apocalyptic, but more about the human condition than the backdrop of destruction.”

And then, Aaron’s answer:

“My favorite filmmakers are a really hard list to narrow down. Seriously, Greg, this took hours.

After much deliberation, though, I decided on:

Jim Jarmusch. If I’m being honest, I think my own excursions into screenwriting have probably tried to emulate him too much. He does edgy, mildly-plotless, definitely-meandering, completely-relatable character studies (though there have been a couple genre films thrown in, such as Dead Man and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) on a super-low budget (and frequently, in black and white). I love his work because of how god damn ballsy it is. It takes guts to base your whole career on plotless, meandering movies.

Clint Eastwood. Yes, his politics are eyebrow-raising. He’s said a few things that are a tad on the side of whackadoodle, but he has never made a movie (as a director, I mean– those two orangutan movies he starred in are enjoyable garbage) that I haven’t loved. He has transcended genre (westerns, mysteries, thrillers, musicals). He has tricked people into caring about social issues (Million Dollar Baby). He has pinpointed the defining moments of the zeitgeist (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Letters from Iwo Jima, American Sniper). I love his work. And I think it’s safe to say that, on a contemporary level, he is my favorite mainstream director.

Charles Chaplin. I am a tremendous fan of the silent era, and I have a penchant for silent comedy in particular. Sir Charles Chaplin is not my favorite comedian of that era (that honor goes to Harold Lloyd), but he is, inarguably, the best filmmaker. It’s interesting that he is considered so far ahead of his time, when, in actuality, he was behind the times (most of his best films were made after the advent of “talkies”). But there’s innovation as well in refusing to conform, in being the only person still utilizing outdated formats and producing better work than anyone who previously used the format ever did. Charles Chaplin, with his crooked cane and clad in his suitcoat and bowler, may be the single-most-recognized figure in pop culture. There’s a reason for that: Charles Chaplin is the man.

Now that I’ve listed the directors: I would like to see Jim Jarmusch cast Johnny Depp as Charlie Chaplin in a silent, black and white film. An all-new script in the spirit and vein of Chaplin’s classics. Clint Eastwood can do the score, because he is also a damn fine jazz musician.”

Since Aaron and Karen had such a difficult time answering this question, it was only fair that Greg got a question difficult for him. This question, posed by Aaron, concerned remakes: Let’s pretend that you’re a famous filmmaker. Pick a movie that you would like to remake and explain what you might change to make it a better film.

Greg’s answer:

“Wow. Dammit, Aaron! Let me come back to this one in a minute and I’ll move onto number 4. . .

Ok, I’ve moved on and come back.

And now I’m moving on again. . . let me answer question 5 and I’ll see ya’ in a jiff.

Ok. I’ve just finished answering the final question. And now I’m good and cranky.

All of my favorite movies are ones that I would choose not to remake. When I heard about the Poltergeist remake a couple years ago, for instance, I cringed, yet watched anyway in disbelief that such a travesty could occur. But there is one movie that, to me, is perfect save for one scene that, if slightly different, would make this the perfect comedy. If I had the chance to remake Caddyshack (just wait, please) I’d eliminate the gopher entirely. There. I said it. It just doesn’t fit. Yes, the movie is silly and zany and crazy and goofy. But it is as such using great physical comedy and amazing one liners. The gopher just doesn’t fit. Silly, zany, crazy, and goofy do not all have to equal stupid, and 99% of Caddyshack proves this point. “So what happens to Bill Murray’s character, much of which revolves around the extermination of the varmint?” you might ask. An excellent question that deserves brief examination. His interactions with EVERY CHARACTER IN THIS MOVIE are PERFECT. So, instead of showing him preparing for the gopher battle, I’d just throw more interaction in there. Another scene with Chevy where he actually shows up to the pool or pond. A scene with dynamite down a gopher hole (but no gopher). In fact, all of the gopher extermination scenes would work just fine without the presence of a puppet gopher, to me. Show the holes, have the Scottish guy yell at him about gopher holes, and show Bill (aka Carl) trying to rid the planet of an unseen gopher. Seems silly to pick on such a lauded comedy for such a tiny thing, but Aaron asked, so that’s my answer.”

That’ll do, we think, for today. What are your thoughts? What is your favorite movie by Cameron Crowe? Does Greg have a point about Caddyshack? Is it just as timeless without the gopher? Is Aaron possibly the biggest nerd for loving silent film?

Join us on Friday for Greg’s first solo entry!

Karen, Aaron, and Greg

For Love of the Costner


Frank started developing this new theory of threes when it comes to certain actors.

It goes something like this. . .

Actor McActorson is only good when he/she: A, B, or C.

Examples he has provided to this end (so far):
1. Kevin Costner is only good in a movie when he has a beer, a golf club, or a baseball in his hand.
2. Mark Wahlberg is only good in a movie when he plays a Bostonian, a cop, or a druggie.

Eleventy billion conversations with Frank about film lead me to believe that he doesn’t really believe this to be true. I know for a fact that he enjoyed The Untouchables. And Mark Wahlberg is awfully darn likeable in movies like Date Night.


But since Frank posed this theory to me a few months ago in a moment of levity, it’s had me thinking about Kevin Costner and a handful of similar actors: enjoyed by (most) audiences, but often granted a tepid response by critics.

Personally, I love the guy. I would pay good money to watch him read a phone book. I think he has “the thing” that a lot of actors with career longevity have = I want to watch him on screen. And it’s not (just) because he’s a terribly handsome man, which he is. It’s because he has a god damned presence. I remember his movies. I enjoy his performances. I find him anything but wooden, as I seem to recall him being described once upon a time in a review far, far away. I was reminded again of how much I appreciate his ability to make movie magic when Frank and I caught a screening of Molly’s Game late last year. As Molly’s father, his character is protective, distant, and walled off. Totally Costner. As an actor, he does his job, and he does it toe-to-toe with the likes of Jessica Chastain. What is it about this guy that makes critics want to write lukewarm things about him when he isn’t. . . lukewarm?

An argument can probably be made that my enjoyment of Costner’s performances is tied directly to moments of nostalgia, as movies so often are for me.

>>> Seeing Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves at the drive-in one lovely, adolescent summer.
>>> Following Billy Chapman’s no-hitter in For Love of the Game and thinking fondly of my friend Beth Keller (who, along with being a beautiful human being, was also a kick-ass softball player at IWU and loves this movie).
>>> Watching one of his best performances in The Upside of Anger one afternoon in my awesome little apartment in Chicago and just loving the hell out of that moment of independence in my personal history.

Nostalgia, yes. Absolutely. But something else. . . Talent. Ability. “The Thing.” The power to bring me back to moments that I’ve loved.

Isn’t something like that special in and of itself? That ability to make an audience connect, and sometime down the road, look back at that very performance with heart-mushing nostalgia?


Rob Lowe also comes to mind when I think about these kinds of actors. Under-appreciated, with the ability to make fun of himself (And I don’t know if you know this, but he is Rob Lowe. The man never ages or loses that adorable twinkle in his eye. He doesn’t need to make fun of himself). Take About Last Night, one of my all-time 80s nostalgia favorites. To be fair, it’s a favorite partly because my sister introduced me to it at a tender and impressionable age while babysitting and making her delicious grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for me. But it’s also something else. Rob Lowe has great chemistry with Jim Belushi. He has great chemistry with Demi Moore. He embodies the youth of the 80s in a single character  – the hair, the attitude, the angst. The fun. Maybe evoking nostalgia is an acting gift that can only be appreciated many years later, when the nostalgia is possible. To the Kevin Costners and the Rob Lowes of the film industry, I’m grateful to you for allowing me to visit those moments in my life.

What say you, Friends? Are the RLs and KCs of film under-appreciated or appropriately-lauded? What are your “he/she is only good when 1, 2, and 3” lists?

“Whoever returns the bike is obviously the person who stole it. So they don’t deserve any reward!”


But you do.

It’s been a long week.

We had an unexpected surprise, though, with an actual question from a reader. And it worked out to be a perfect question, because it, coincidentally, coincided with what we planned to use for our bonus content this week.

Justin Dueringer, a reader in Lincoln, Illinois asked the following question via Facebook: Are you as excited about the new Halloween as I am? The 1978 original is my favorite horror movie. Thoughts about ignoring the several sequels and John Carpenter’s return? I love Halloween II as much as the first and am a little disappointed that that it is being ignored. It is a John Carpenter film as well, and, in my humble opinion, as scary and exhilarating as the original.

This is a great question, Justin! And we can tell you that we’re all a little excited about it (even Karen, who is not normally a fan of horror films). But the best answer to this question really needs to come from Greg. He is our resident expert on horror movies.

Greg responds:

I agree that Halloween II is pretty great. I love most the fact that it picks up seconds after the first one ends. That was kind of rare in the movies. Still is. Seen more on TV shows than anything else.

Also, Carpenter IS involved with the new one! He’s executive-producing it! In fact, he disliked the Rob Zombie ones, which partly influenced his decision to get involved again. Now, I’m not saying anything about anything, but I personally enjoyed the Rob Zombies as well. First one more than the second, but both were fun!

The new Halloween is directed by David Gordon Green (who also directed George Washington, a 2000 non-horror film that Aaron, in particular, really admires). It also stars Jamie Lee Curtis, reprising the role she made famous in the 1978 original. Halloween will be released in theaters nationwide on October 19, 2018.


Feel free to send us more questions, everybody! We’d love to answer them and really enjoy hearing from you.

Our bonus content this week actually dovetails quite nicely with Justin’s question. We have more snippets of our “behind the scenes” Q and A, and Karen asked both Greg and Aaron the following question: What director’s body of work do you feel is grossly under-appreciated? Do you think that’s a function of timing or poor critics’ consensus? Something else? Why do you love that director’s work in spite of critical consensus?

Greg responds:

Aiyeee!!! I’d say John Carpenter, because a lot of his work is seen from the outside looking in as “B-caliber,” but there’s also a shit ton of his work that most horror aficionados, and even the critical world, look at and say, “Wow! That’s a good fucking movie.”

The first Carpenter movie I ever saw was not Halloween, actually. It was Starman. This is when I was too young to know who John Carpenter was, so I didn’t really catch on that I was watching his work when I saw Big Trouble in Little China shortly thereafter, or Halloween and Prince of Darkness after that (when I wasn’t allowed to watch those movies because they gave me terrible nightmares, but I watched them anyway). As I started to remember names of actors and actresses, then directors, writers, composers, and so forth, and, as I developed an affinity for horror (best way to deal with what scares us is to face it head on, right, folks? I learned that from The Karate Kid – booya!!) Carpenter, to me, had a knack for creating visual horror as well as uncomfortable and almost surreal environments. Claustrophobia, isolation, eerie…all of these words can be used to describe a Carpenter flick. In the Mouth of Madness continues to be one of my faves of his for all of the above.

Starman and Big Trouble In Little China being the two exceptions to his horror body of work, those two flicks also proved that Carpenter could be an effective creator of drama in one case, and comedy in the other. Hard to say why the critics didn’t latch on.

I could tell you stories about the labor of love that was The Thing that give him and his special effects team an A just for the effort, and I could relay an anecdote or two about the making of Halloween that would make you sit up and say, “They did that how??” He knows how to get the work done, and somehow or other, his work has just always connected with me. Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness had some visuals that were just downright scary. Halloween is one of the most suspenseful movies I’ve ever seen…right up there with Hitchcock’s work. To be sure, Halloween is to this day critically revered, which doesn’t go along with your question, Karen, but to say the critics love this masterpiece and not the others of his body of work (which follow many of the same rules as Halloween follows) is not being fair to Carpenter.

Was it the timing of his work that made critics shy away a bit? I don’t know. But I do think his work is timeless. I am excited to see where the Halloween franchise goes now that he is involved as a producer again. I hope The Rock never remakes Big Trouble In Little China like he wants to. And someday, I hope Carpenter comes out of hiding and directs one or two final odes to the genre that he and his now-deceased rival Wes Craven helped create somewhere between Haddonfield, IL and Elm St. USA.

Aaron (whose tastes often run a little more obscure) responds as well:

Am I understanding the question correctly? Are we asking for a director that I love that has a massive audience following, despite being critically lambasted? I’m having a hard time coming up with one. Ridley Scott is a director who has done a good amount of work that I greatly admire. But he has also done work that I wouldn’t recommend. And a quick perusal of his overall ratings on Rotten Tomatoes reveals that the movies that are getting critical drubbings are deserving of a critical drubbing. Except for Legend. That movie is awesome.

On the other side of this coin, I reference him in one of my questions from Greg, but I feel personally that independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch does not receive the love and admiration that he deserves, neither critically or publicly. I don’t personally know many people who can even tell you who he is, let alone name a movie he made that they have seen. I recommend his movies a lot. Like westerns? Watch Dead Man. Interested in quirky, character studies that connect different stories thematically and tonally? Then, watch Mystery Train (for love of GOD, watch Mystery Train!). Are you someone who thinks that Bill Murray is incapable of dramatic acting? May I recommend Broken Flowers? Jarmusch is pretty well loved by critics, though. Only two of his films are listed on Rotten Tomatoes at less than 60% (and I’ll be honest and admit that I haven’t seen either one of them), but most of them are rated at 80% or more.

In the spirit, though, of trying to answer your question…There are a handful of individual movies that I really enjoy (including one that makes its way into my current list of top 20) that have very, very low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Those movies, in order of decreasing overall ratings, are:

The Sandlot 56%
The Ghost and The Darkness 50%
Natural Born Killers 47%
Three Amigos! 46%
Hook 29%

In related news, I think I just discovered an idea for a column entry: discussing why these five movies are worthy of higher praise than what they have received. Hook? Come on!

If we’re counting Central Illinois as the homebase for Three Nerds And A Movie, the one of us that lives furthest away is Karen, who has lived in Los Angeles for several years now. For Karen’s contribution to this week’s bonus content, we give her a chance to talk about this direct with a question asked to her by Greg: In California, the silver screen comes alive all over the streets. Not to mention that you now have unlimited access to flicks many of the rest of us in no-man’s land won’t have access to until long after you’ve already seen them, if at all. With the saturated movie market that is California, how do you be selective about what you spend your time and money on?


Ahhhh… LA. It can be a confusing place. A baffling juxtaposition of beauty and dirt, art and technology, authenticity and superficiality. But in LA, movies are pretty simple. There’s probably no better place to bask in the joy of film than the Tinsel Town pool of magically-delicious, movie gorgeousness that is Los Angeles. Here you can see an original 35mm film print of a classic film that someone just went and grabbed from the Academy archives for the afternoon. Things like that happen here. So many 35mm original print screenings. Crackles and pops in the audio, the muted artistry of color that was captured on an actual honest-to-goodness film camera. A vintage theater soaked in film history. I’m in love with it. LA has woken that up in me to some extent.

But back to your question: I think the answer is that I’m not selective. One of the things I wanted to do while living here was experience every possible movie/film/cinema/arthouse/whatever event/sitting/festival that I could. So I have. A few months ago, I checked out a midnight screening of a 35mm original print of Purple Rain at the Vista Theater with Frank.

purple rain

I love Purple Rain. It is absolutely, without a doubt, one of the Top 5 music films of all time. Prince wasn’t a great actor, but it didn’t matter. He owned a stage. He was a musical savant. And that pours out of the screen and rakes over you in a way that makes Purple Rain really meaningful to fans. Given that, the screening alone would have been enough to fill my little movie-loving, Prince-adoring heart with joy. But wait! There was more. On the docket was a Prince panel promising insight and a brief discussion on the film. Around eight people who actually knew Prince participated in the Q&A. Excitement! Joy! Rapture! One was a record producer who worked with him on the Purple Rain album. His long-time hair stylist. One of his photographers. The lead contractor who worked on Paisley Park. One of his clothing stylists (HELLOOOO, assless chaps???!!! – this was her). They all had intimate insight into his life. And because they live here, they could all just stop by for the evening, remember Prince, and check out a 35mm screening of Purple Rain. It cost $12 to attend this screening. $12!!! In a way, this represents the best of what LA has to offer – music and creativity and film and a lot of love all rolled into one. Basking in the warm glow of beautifully-restored vintage movie theater. There are few things better.

That’s all for today. Karen will see you Friday with her first solo entry for discussion.

In the meantime, sound off below in the comments. What’s your favorite John Carpenter movie? Is Hook a better movie than a lousy 29%? Are you jealous that Karen got to attend that Purple Rain screening? (Aaron sure is).

Be sure to subscribe and receive email notifications whenever we post new content.


On “Stardust” (sort of)


I dunno, man. You still have a stack of ten or twenty movies you’ve purchased that you haven’t even watched yet. You could build a sizable mancave with the books you have piled up next to the bed. And what about your comic books? You’re way behind on reading your comic books. Do you really need more stuff? 

These were the thoughts that went through my head as I stood over a $5 Bargain DVD bin at my local Wal-Mart with a copy of Stardust in my hand. I asked myself the typical questions, trying desperately to justify it:

Have you seen this movie? (Yes.)
Did you enjoy it? (Yes. Quite a bit.)
Will you ever watch it again? (Maybe?)
Are you sure about that, because you have expressed no desire whatsoever in watching it since you saw it for the first time back in 2007? (No. No, I have not.)

I ended up buying it.


Because Stardust is one of those movies that I have such a deeply- and emotionally-profound connection to that I would probably purchase it even if I had hated it. I have movies like that. Movies that I liked, but didn’t love, but own anyway because nostalgia, in all its varied incarnations, tends to drive me. A good chunk of the movies I have ever really loved are not just important to me because of how they made me feel, but because of the nostalgia that surrounds having viewed it for the first time. For example: I have anecdotes, a personal history, connected to seeing Ghostbusters for the very first time. Also, Poltergeist, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her LoverStrange Days made me stop pursuing a girl upon whom I had a back-breaking, boundary-less crush because I feared that she would think that I was a rapist (since I enjoyed the movie as much as I did)!

There are movies that I connect to people I no longer spend time with (The Red Violin). Movies I connect to loved ones who have died (Cool Hand Luke). Movies that I didn’t even finish that evoke such blissful memories of bygone days that I can speak of them like an expert during casual conversations (I’m looking at you, Gone With the Wind).

To me, “nostalgia” is a genre shelf in the personal video store in my mind. There are, obviously, shelves designated to specific genres, but there are also shelves devoted to movies I watch over and over and over, so that I can readily find them when the need arises. There are numerous shelves devoted to the movies I want to see and haven’t gotten around to yet. And a big shelf (perhaps, if I’m honest, the biggest), easily cross-referenced with all the others, where I store the movies that my bond with is more personal than just “I loved it and want to watch it again”. I gave in and bought Stardust because it was one of those films. On that latter shelf.

Have you seen Stardust? It’s a good movie, if not a little muddied in its attempts to be more than it is, but I would venture to say that it wouldn’t hold up as well on a second viewing. I did see it. And I did enjoy it. But I could tell you very little about it now, other than that it starred Robert DeNiro (as a cross-dressing space pirate, right?) and Michelle Pfeiffer (she was a witch?) and was adapted from a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman. It was a movie that I wanted to see when it came out because of those names attached to it (Gaiman is a favorite writer, DeNiro is a favorite actor, and Michelle Pfeiffer is– bar none– the most beautiful woman to ever walk the face of the Earth), but this was not the reason I had opted to see this film in theaters. There were ulterior motives at play. I had chosen this movie because Amanda wanted to see it as well.


Amanda was a girl that I had been spending quite a bit of time around, but mostly in the presence of others. My crush on her was more than a little embarrassing, and I was unsure if she liked me as well because I have never, ever, ever been very good at that sort of discernment. This outing, this trip to see this movie, was going to be the first time that her and I had been out in public by ourselves with no other motive than to keep each other company. It was our first date, so to speak, and it was a long time coming.

I had met Amanda four months prior. I had been hired to direct a stage play; she was hired as part of my backstage run crew. I thought she was adorable, but never acted on that impulse because it was a) completely unprofessional and I am b) inept. We talked quite a bit during the run of that show, but it ended with us going our separate ways to our individual lives. A casual “Maybe we’ll work together again sometime”, and then it was on to the next show and the next newly-hired stage crew. Four months later, she contacted me with a brief two-sentence message through MySpace (remember MySpace? LOL). Back-and-forth idle conversation for a couple weeks. Some exchanges of a more “getting to know you” variety. Next thing I knew, we were working on the same shows with the same people again and becoming fast friends.

Eventually, the notion of going to see this movie together came up (she doesn’t devour movies like I do, but a fantasy comedy in this vein is right in her wheelhouse) and our first date was set. Though I had to try to not think of it as a date lest I completely screw it up and never be allowed to see her ever again. Things were a little rocky at first– I had chosen a restaurant that she was too polite to tell me she wasn’t fond of. I had also viciously torn into a band I really didn’t like at the time, only to discover later that said band was her favorite band since music was only a bunch of caveman hitting rocks with sticks and more rocks. Despite this, we went to the movie and we enjoyed ourselves.

Halfway through the movie, she took my hand– a sign that even I could not misinterpret– and, later, we took a walk in a city park that we weren’t even supposed to be walking in (as it was after dark and the park was closed). During that bout of trespassing, I was helping her out of a swing on the playground and took the plunge with a kiss that she did absolutely nothing to protest against. Not a big, romantic end-of-movie-backed-by-swooning-orchestrals kiss, but a kiss just the same. As quick as that, I was vindicated in my thought that maybe, just maybe, she liked me, too.

Stardust came out in 2007. It is now, as you read this, August of 2018 and, three months ago, Amanda and I had our seventh wedding anniversary. We have two children together– incredibly clever six-year-old twin boys that I hope will one day be as obsessed with Star Wars as I am.


I don’t write as much as I used to. For years, writing, and the creation of alternate realities, was an escape from my own depression. My own (perhaps, in retrospect) alcoholism. My own tendency to self-destruct if I wasn’t doing something creative with my mind and the very act of holding a pencil in my hands. I’m happier now than I used to be, so my need to rely on that creative control in my own existence has waned. I’m happier now because of every second of everything that has transpired since seeing Stardust for the first time.

I do plan to watch this movie again. And even if it doesn’t hold up over the eleven years that have passed, I’m going to be able to justify the purchase. It will remain in its well-earned spot on the giant shelf of nostalgia films. Because without it, I might right now have nothing.

About This Author
Aaron can always justify one more movie in his collection. But Wal-Mart really needs to move that bargain bin to a section of the store he has no need to frequent. Home And Garden, perhaps?

“It’s so damn hot. Milk was a bad choice.”


Milk might have been a bad choice for Ron Burgundy, but choosing to read our blog won’t be.

When we decided to put this thing together, we ignited the creative juices by posing questions to each other about movies and our own experiences with them. In essence, each of us interviewed the others. We’ll be posting excerpts of those Q & As over the coming weeks to help get the conversations started.

Enjoy and comment!

Greg asked the following question to both Karen and Aaron: Why is this project/endeavor/joint blog so important to you? Said a different way, what exactly do you hope to accomplish?

Aaron’s answer was more personal:

My end goal is slightly selfish, to be honest. I’m a writer. I love to write. I used to make (at least, a partial) living as a writer, BUT…

I don’t write anymore as often as I used to. I almost ALWAYS find more pressing things to do. There are big, very personal reasons for that, but a large part of it, I think, is because I no longer do it for a living. When I was getting paid and had deadlines to meet, I was incredibly prolific. But my career took a negative turn that I had not counted on, and I became very disenchanted.

Long story short: I put my heart and soul (and almost two years of time) into a pet project and wound up getting screwed. I was younger then, less mature, and I didn’t handle it very well. Essentially, I quit a great job before I could be fired and decided to “retire” for a while to collect myself and regroup. Over time, I slowly learned something unpleasant about myself: that I was never writing for the right reasons. It was my living. I wasn’t writing for pleasure.

Now, here we are, more than a decade later. And I want to start writing again. For pleasure. For me. Because I enjoy it. Because I miss it.

A year or so ago, when I really began having such great conversations with Karen, the idea of doing a website of movie essays or reviews was suggested many times. I always nixed it, though, knowing that I was no longer disciplined enough to be consistent. Turns out that Karen had interest in doing a blog as well, was conscious of having a similar problem to mine, and she suggested that, mayhaps, we could do it together. We could keep ourselves in check with deadlines, encourage each other to continue writing, give each other feedback on how to improve. Karen suggested Greg as a third partner (which, also, let’s face it, alleviates the amount of work one person has to do even further) and I was right on board with that. I like Greg’s writing, I adore his sense of humor, and I have a deep respect for his opinions on film (even if, in my opinion, he ranks Pulp Fiction lower than it deserves).

So…that’s it. My goal: teach myself to, once again, write for pleasure. With additional support from two old friendd. If something comes from this, I’m all for it. But regularly writing because I want to is a sound enough goal without getting too far ahead of myself.

Karen’s answer was more fun:

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”

Basically, I just want to write about movies.

(Incidentally, the first person who comments below with the source of that quote will receive a prize that they will, undoubtedly, be disappointed with.)

Greg did not get to answer this question. Mostly, because he was not asked. Greg cannot be blamed for that.

But he was asked the following question, by Karen: I know from conversations and social media posts that you really enjoy your work managing movie theaters. What do you think we can do to keep people watching movies in theaters when the appeal of watching a film at home for convenience and cost sometimes outweighs the pull of the cinema for movie viewers?

Greg responds:

Ooooooo…..I’m gonna take some heat for this one, I guarantee it. How best do I speak my truth, while not being shocking, but also showing both sides? Ok…I spent the better part of a year building a theater in my basement. I rummaged through a garage storage room of actual movie-theater seats (with consent of the owners, people…with consent!) and pulled 8 fully-functional, bona fide movie theater rocker-style seats that I assembled in my basement. I had the basement re-carpeted. I bought more than a dozen poster frames, and framed my favorites from the past three decades and hung them all around the walls. I bought a new TV. I finally installed the bar I have been lugging around from home to home, literally since 1997. I hung all of my knick-knacks and memorabilia, including this fancy bar thing my dad got in Okinawa in 1960-something that he gave to his dad, my grandpa. I went all out. Speakers in the ceiling, etc. For me, I wanna stay home and watch the movies in my basement. I’ll Netflix the sons-of-bitches in six months when they become available and have a Captain and Coke while I do it (there may be alcoholic tendencies emerging in my answers to everyone’s questions. I deny these implications.) Moreover, I spend all day in the movie theater working, sometimes twelve or fourteen hours a day. And on weekends, no less. Ugh. Do I want to spend more time at work? Put another way: those of you who work in offices, factories, outside, inside, restaurants, bars…do you wish to stay in your office, factory, outside, inside, restaurant, or bar when you are finished working there? Not trying to be mean; just trying to illustrate a point. I love Taco Bell. But if I worked there, I guarantee I’d be done eating there after a week. I’m ready to go home. I’m old, I’m cranky, and I wanna go home.

But some of this is exactly what Karen is speaking about: why, if we can enjoy the same luxuries of the theater, would anyone want to leave and spend that money? I’ll tell you all the same three things I tell all of my customers who ask me Karen’s question on a daily…a DAILY…basis: 1) You’ve had a long day at (fill in the blank) and you want an evening out…a (great?) escape. Movies are a discretionary income expense. You don’t go to the theater because you have to, like the grocery store, for instance. You go because you want to have a good time and get away from it all. And, even if the movie you had such high hopes for sucks, the staff, the ambiance, the food, and the overall experience can make up for it and make you want to come back. At least, this is the case when I’m there, because I demand that my team produce this experience for our guests. 2) It’s pretty f****** cool when you watch a comedy with 100 people and 100 people laugh at the same time. It’s pretty f****** cool when you watch a horror movie with 100 people and 100 people scream (and then nervously laugh) at the same time. It’s pretty f****** cool when you watch a drama with 100 people and you can hear 100 people sniffling and blowing their nose into a tissue at the same time. The end. And 3) nothing…not even the setup I have in my basement, will compare to 16 speakers and a 75-foot screen. No matter what anyone has done in their own home, no matter how cool they say it is and how much technology they invested in. It isn’t the same. It isn’t possible. This, I know for a fact. I promise. I do this for a living. It is my livelihood. I know there is a difference between what they think they have at home and what they get at my theater. And also, if you are the type who complains to theater management that there is no surround sound in the theater during the entire movie like you have at home in your basement, I’ve got news for you: you’re doing it wrong at home. Look…once and for all…surround sound only kicks into the surround-sound speakers when there is surround sound to be heard from the film, ya’ goofs. If you hear sound from all surround-sound speakers throughout the entire movie at your home, then your 5.1, 7.1, or 11.1 is not configured correctly. We’re not wrong at the theater…YOU are doing it wrong!!! (said the moms to Mr. Mom when he dropped off the kids at school from the wrong direction)

That’s all for today, everybody. But keep an eye out for more supplementary content on Wednesdays. In future installments, Greg and Aaron will talk about remakes, Karen will give us some insights on life in Los Angeles, Aaron will go more in-depth about his history writing professionally, and all three of us will talk about the first movies we ever remember seeing.

We’ll see you Friday!

Aaron, Karen, and Greg


We’re a little verklempt

We were not expecting such an enthusiastic response so quickly.

Less than a week after posting the announcement of our new venture, we already have almost 100 subscribers of family and friends. That’s an exciting start to our little project!

Thanks so much for your interest and support.

Having said that, Aaron is busy putting the finishing touches on a new piece for Friday. In the interim, we thought we would take some time to explain what our regular format will look like. Later today, we’ll offer a glimpse “behind the scenes” at some of the content we created in order to get our project going. Be on the lookout!

First: format.

We decided from the get-go that we didn’t strictly want to be a review site (although we will be posting reviews from time to time). Review-only sites are a dime a dozen. And we’re honest with ourselves: we’re just three movie nerds from Central Illinois. Most people don’t really care whether we liked Deadpool 2 or not. (We did.)

So, we opted for film discussion, instead.

On the first Friday of every month, we are going to spotlight a particular film. It might be a classic. It might be contemporary. It might be last weekend’s number one draw. Either way, we’ll tell you about that movie. We’ll explain why we chose it. We’ll offer up some fun facts. We’ll each give our take, and then invite readers to offer up their insights. In subsequent weeks, each of us will present original content about a movie that is inspired by the original film.

What does this look like?

If our “movie of the month” is 12 Angry Men, then Aaron might write about 12 Monkeys (the number 12 is in the title), Karen might write about Network (the same director), and Greg might write about A Few Good Men (another courtroom drama).

rabbit hole

Essentially, we’re creating a cinematic rabbit hole of sorts. It may require us to get really clever with our connections. We may have to do some research in order to find a movie we enjoy that somehow connects. Most importantly, it will open up the door for discussion about four different movies every month.

And that’s where you come in. Naturally, you are invited to participate in these discussions. Leave comments about your own experience with our highlighted films. Ask questions. Point out something that we missed. Challenge us to defend our choices.

So now that you know the format, you should probably know that we are going to completely forego it for the first month. In August, we are going to introduce ourselves properly by writing about any movie that we choose. Those first entries might be a little more personal in nature. Our regular format will begin in September.

Once again, we thank you for your enthusiasm toward our endeavor. A lot of planning and discussion has gone into making this as fun as possible. We’re only a week in and it’s already worth it.

Be sure to check back later today for a peek “behind the scenes”!

Aaron, Karen, Greg

The Journey Begins

Welcome to our blog.

Please pardon our dust. We just opened, so we’re still remodeling. Working out the kinks. Finding a suitable rhythm that works for all three of us.

There are three of us here. We went to high school together and reconnected years later through the wonder of social media (perhaps proving, in a small way, that Facebook is good for something). Through many “what have you been up to?” conversations, we quickly realized that movies and film and talking about them were so ingrained in our individual personalities that it’s difficult to fathom that we didn’t spend more time together in high school.

Aaron graduated first, almost a quarter century ago. He still lives about thirty minutes from the small farming community where the three of us first met. He claims that his favorite movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but is well-known for changing that movie to Pulp Fiction without warning or provocation.
Butch Cassidy and the sundance kid 1968 George Roy Hill Paul Newman Robert Redford
Greg graduated the following year. He eventually wound up in Minnesota, where he still lives to this day. His favorite movie is E.T, The Extra-Terrestrial and never once have we ever heard him say anything that even remotely suggests that he may be changing his mind.
The year after Greg, Karen graduated. She lived in Chicago for a time, but now makes her home in Los Angeles. She has a hard time picking a favorite movie, but seems to have settled on Meet Me In St. Louis, prompting both Aaron and Karen to insist that Greg really, really, really needs to see this movie.
Regardless, though, of our current statistics and personal information, the three of us agreed on one thing right away: Film criticism today is steeped in negativity. As the three of us had our various conversations about film, we were struck by how easy it was to avoid talking about the movies that we don’t like. We also discovered that, in most cases, even a movie that we didn’t like had some redeeming quality. We have elected to adopt this approach to our endeavor. We want this to be an enjoyable site to visit. The real world can be kinda depressing; we get it. And you certainly don’t need us adding to it with long-winded diatribes about movies that we’d rather die than watch a second time. We’re gonna keep it positive here. So that it’s fun.

With that said, each of us, in addition to writing content for this site, have real lives. We have chores and responsibilities and jobs that demand our time. We have dogs to walk and cats to feed. One of us has children. But we want the content of the site to remain fresh and updated consistently, so we decided to work on a rotation. We’ll take turns. Our hope for now is that the site can be updated weekly with new content (written by one of us)– a review, an essay, an experience. This makes each of us responsible for only one week’s worth of content per month and will make all of us less stressed-out and cranky (SEE: previous paragraph, where we talk about how this is supposed to be fun!).

With both of the preceding things in mind, new content will begin on this site on Friday, August 10, 2018. The first person in our rotation will upload new content, hopefully inciting vibrant discussion amongst ourselves and our readers. The second person in our rotation will take the following week; the third person, the next. Easy, right? From there, we’ll continue our rotation. We will devote the first week of each month to a collaborative effort in which we highlight a specific film. There may be additional content throughout the week. We might all three review the same movie. Maybe we’ll make a list of recommend movies that fit a theme. We could even post movie-related opinions to questions posed by readers. Like we said, we don’t know. It’s up in the air. Still working out the kinks, remember?

At any rate, we’ve taken up enough of your time for one day. Be sure to check back here on Friday for new content. In fact, if you search for us on Facebook, you can “like” us, and we’ll let you know when new content appears.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!

Aaron, Karen, and Greg