The Last Munchkin Has Died

As a kid, watching The Wizard of Oz seemed like a big deal. The 1939 film was appointment viewing when it would come on TV, and pretty damn epic. I must have seen it a hundred times.

It's the end of an era, as the last surviving munchkin has died. Jerry Maren, who portrayed a member of the Lollipop Guild, was 98 years old. Maren was eighteen years old when he shot his scenes for The Wizard of Oz in the latter part of 1938 and early 1939.

The Last Munchkin

It's official.


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Oscar Category Fraud

Every year I tell myself the Oscars are nothing more than an irrelevant circle jerk, but every year I try and see every film nominated for best picture and end up watching the Academy Awards regardless. It's harmless silly fun, afterall.

I watched Fences last night and was blown away by the performance by Viola Davis. At one point I told my wife I'd boycott the Oscars if she didn't win for best actress. Then, following the movie, I went online and learned she's not even nominated for best actress. She submitted herself for best supporting actress.


This is a strategic ploy to guarantee Viola Davis an Oscar. Many refer to it as "category fraud". That's an accurate term for it, in my opinion.

Why the actress herself gets to pick her category is rather puzzling. Viola Davis's part in Fences is most definitely not a supporting one, and she actually won for best actress at the Tony's for the exact same role. There ought to be some metric by which supporting actress is measured, such as % of spoken dialogue in a movie or % of time on screen. The decision should not lie with the actress actor or studio.

Again, in the realm of things, this means very little, but it does taint the deserved award somewhat. Its akin to stretching a double into a single in order to hit for the cycle.


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I've Never Seen Top Gun

Is there a pop culture marker you completely missed? For example, are you in your 40s but have never seen Star Wars?

Against all odds, I have somehow never seen Top Gun. I'm willing to bet very few movie-watching guys in this country who are my age can make the same claim. It wasn't intentional, it just ended up this way.

Top Gun was released in May 1986 when I was 11 years old. At 11, I may have been slightly too young to catch the movie in theatres. How I never caught it on VHS is rather puzzling. I rented a lot of movies in the late 80s.


Then there comes a point where you avoid the movie on television, because if you're going to see Top Gun, you don't want any editing or ads. But for one reason or another, you're never compelling to seek it out. I've never had that moment where I thought "I need to see Top Gun so I understand all the references that have been flying about for thirty years".

My buddy Elvis drops a Top Gun reference as part of his daily lexicon. I know it's from Top Gun, but I sure don't know Top Gun.

Is there a pop culture phenomenon that somehow eluded you? And at this point, are you afraid to admit it?

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Creed and The Force Awakens

I recently watched Creed, the seventh film in the Rocky series. It reminded me a great deal of The Force Awakens, the seventh film in the Star Wars series. There will be no major spoilers below, but if you really want to see either movie knowing as little as possible, you may want to stop reading.

Rocky came out in 1976 and Star Wars came out in 1977. Both movies are beloved crowd pleasers that have spawned many sequels (or prequels), with #7 of each hitting theatres in 2015. Watching Creed, a film a thoroughly enjoyed, I was reminded of how it felt watching The Force Awakens.


Both are essentially remixes of the original in the series. Rocky? He's now Micky. Luke? he's now Obi Wan. Along the way you'll get the same beloved story with a score that instantly takes you back. And whether it's an appearance by the Millennium Falcon or Apollo Creed's boxing shorts, it's a time machine that gets your heart pumping.


It's the drug nostalgia and it makes you feel good.

Nostalgia - it's delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, "nostalgia" literally means "the pain from an old wound." It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards... it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It's not called the wheel, it's called the carousel. It let's us travel the way a child travels - around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.
~ Don Draper, Mad Men

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The Force Awakens (100% Spoiler Free)

I saw the new Star Wars film this afternoon. I'm not going to say a word about the film itself, just the experience, as it was a number of firsts for me.

This was the first time I purchased movie tickets in advance. I bought four regular tickets for today's noon showing about a week ago, and paid via Paypal. Because it's a Tuesday, the tickets were only $7.99 each.

This was also the earliest I had ever arrived at a film. The showing was at noon, but we all got to the theatre at about ten minutes to eleven. Only three people were in the theatre, so we put our jackets on four amazing seats and grabbed some grub at Tim Hortons. By 11:30, the theatre was jammed.


I had been dodging online spoilers for weeks, and I'm pleased to report I went into this movie knowing nothing more than you'd know from the trailer and poster.

Sweet nostalgia FTW!

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The World At War and Making a Murderer

I'm toggling between two stellar documentary series during my free time this holiday break. One is quite old, and the other is quite new.

The World at War is a British documentary series about World War II that aired in 1973-74. I only recently discovered this 26-episode series existed, and was delighted to find it all on YouTube. It's absolutely riveting, even if you know the outcome.

Making a Murderer is a Netflix documentary series that's unbelievable, and unbelievably good. Buy, borrow or steal yourself a Netflix login and watch this one. It's like Serial on television, only better.


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Ode to the Video Store Guy

My kids will never know a world without the internet. As far as they're concerned, it's always been there, a pervasive connection to a massive database of facts and myths. Periodically, I'll remind them that I didn't surf the web until university.

When I was 13, my buddies and I rented lots and lots of movies on VHS. We frequented a few different shops, including one that somehow remains open to this day, and we almost never knew what we were going to rent until we got there.

There was no or Rotten Tomatoes, so we relied on the video store guy. Each store had a very knowledgeable video store guy who watched everything and would recommend films depending on our tastes. I still remember the day he recommended we rent The Toxic Avenger.

It was the perfect movie for a bunch of 13-year old guys. It was horrible, but in a good way, with a little T and A sprinkled throughout. It was a Troma film, and led to a long period of Troma rentals. Class of Nuke 'Em High, Surf Nazis Must Die, if it was from Troma, we rented it.

I recently re-watched The Toxic Avenger, and it's as bad as I remember it. It's also as enjoyable as I remember it. If you're in the mood for an hour and twenty minutes of "so bad it's good" fun, you can watch The Toxic Avenger right here.

Thanks, video store guy.

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Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Poster Question

I just saw the official poster for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, and it's left me with one big question.

Here's the poster if you haven't seen it yet, then I'll ask my question...


Where the hell is Luke Skywalker?

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The Hateful Eight

So few directors can actually get me into a theatre these days, but Quentin Tarantino is definitely one of them. Without a doubt, he's my favourite director, and he's yet to disappoint me.

His latest film, The Hateful Eight, arrives in December. The teaser trailer was released today.

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Time Bandits

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