Posts Tagged ‘30 Day Film Challenge’

Happy 4th (Observed). Here we are at Day 26. Almost to the end. I may even miss all this posting.

Nah, I’m kidding. Duh.

For today’s post about a film adapted from somewhere else, I had a lot to choose from. Seriously, almost every movie is based on something else, or a sequel, or a reboot, or a reimagining. It would have been more of a challenge if they asked for a totally original movie. I honestly can’t remember the last one of those I saw.

For this, I decided to go with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the 2013 version, since I’ve never seen the original, but it’s pretty cool that a 1939 short story from The New Yorker has spawned two films, and apparently the term “Mittyesque” has officially entered the English language, referring to (according to Wikipedia) “an ineffectual person who spends more time in heroic daydreams than paying attention to the real world.”

The cool thing about the Ben Stiller version (and maybe the Danny Kaye one. Who knows?) is that he’s only ineffectual at the beginning, and he daydreams to basically cover up these inadequacies,  but as the story progresses, he becomes, as described by Patton Oswalt’s Todd Mahar from eHarmony described, “like Indiana Jones decided to become the lead singer of The Strokes or something.” By the end, he doesn’t have to daydream at all. The movie intertwines this transformation he goes through with the ending of his job at Life magazine and his attempts to woo Kristen Wiig, which, yeah, of course. In actuality, he’s also doing all this because he never really got over his Dad dying when he was 17, which forced him to get a job and be responsible rather than go out and have fun with his buddies. For a movie that is seemingly about a dope who spaces out a lot, that’s pretty deep.

Much deeper, it seems, than the original James Thurber story it is based on, although, again, I never read it. According to good ol’ Wikipedia, it’s about a man who is taking his wife into town so she can get her hair done and they can do their weekly shopping. Each mundane detail about the trip inspires a daydream in Walter’s head. When his wife complains about him driving too fast, he starts to imagine he is a Navy pilot flying a hydroplane. After driving past a hospital and putting on a pair of gloves, Walter envisions himself as a doctor performing a surgery that only he is capable of. This sounds like a pretty interesting short story, and is apparently one of Thurber’s “acknowledged masterpieces,” it wouldn’t be very cinematic by today’s standards. So, Stiller and company had to jazz it up a bit.

The story’s Mcguffin is that Walter must find famous photographer Sean O’Connell who has taken an amazing photo that is to be the cover for the final printed issue of Life Magazine, which is going all digital. Trouble is O’Connell doesn’t really stay in one place very long, but Wiig’s Cheryl playfully suggests that Walter “follow the clues” and track him down like a detective would, simply because she’s taking a class on mystery writing and it seems like a fun thing to do. Walter ends up in Iceland, then Greenland and then the Himalayas, and almost gets eaten by sharks and caught in a volcano. He finally finds Sean photographing a rare snow leopard. By the end, Walt has a pretty full resume to bring to his next job interview after Life shuts down. And best of all, he ends up with Kristen Wiig!

No offense to James Thurber, but this is what an adaptation should be. So many movies that are based on books get lambasted by the book’s fans for being too different, sometimes with good reason and sometimes not. In this case, you couldn’t take Thurber’s short story beat for beat and make it into a movie. Or if you did, no one would see it. First of all, I love the modern updates that they put in (eHarmony, Life Magazine, Cinnabon). More importantly, characters in movies have to change, otherwise why would we watch this? Walter becomes a better and cooler person, but not to gain the love of Cheryl, but to resolve his own issues. Not only because he never got over his Dad dying, but because most of his professional life has been spent in the background working at Life Magazine as the Negative Asset Manager. Negative Asset. The job title itself says it all.

But the point, as he discovers, is that he did that job so well that Sean O’Connell trusted him to do the right thing with this all-important negative that was to be the final cover, “the quintessence of life,” as Sean puts it. Sean doesn’t tell him what the subject of the photo is, but we find out at the end, along with Walter and Cheryl when they find a copy on a newsstand, that it is a photo of Walter, doing his job looking at photo negatives. Because there are no unimportant jobs. In the end, Walter Mitty done did good.


That’s all I got for today, come back tomorrow for Day 27. And check out the linktree while you’re out here.

Come on. It’s Saturday. Nobody is reading this, right?

At first, I didn’t know what to say for this one, a movie I wished I saw in a theater  So I of course turned to Google for some inspiration. A lot of the lists that are out there cover recent epic movies that definitely make for good theater experiences. I know that because I saw most of them. I did not see Inception in a theater, so I could say that but I feel like that would be taking the easy road.

The thing about those internet lists, on sites like Buzzfeed or wherever, is that they were made by people a lot younger than me, who were probably too young to see Jurassic Park in a theater during its initial run in 1993 (or maybe weren;t born yet, since I just did the math.) Not only did I see that in theaters many times, but I worked in a movie theater in 1993 and 1994. It was a small, two-screen theater that was trying to get people in, mostly so they could make money on concessions (Theaters rarely make money on the actual tickets, and this one never did.) So, a full year after Jurassic Park was released in theaters, my theater was showing it for a mere three dollars. The tactic worked, as it was almost always a sell-out, and if I was lucky enough to be on usher duty that night, I would go into the theater at the famous T-Rex scene and watch it with the people. I did the same thing when my theater showed Pulp Fiction for the adrenaline shot scene. The tension in the place was palpable.

It is with that firmly in mind that I decided not to pick a recent technical marvel, but a movie that I wish I could have experienced in the theater with other people the way I experienced Jurassic Park and Pulp Fiction all those nights almost 30 years ago. But what movie should I go with as a great experience when it was released in theaters? Something like The Exorcist, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Gone with the Wind? All great experiences, I’m sure, that no one had ever seen anything like before. But no, this is my pick and, as a fanboy, there’s only one movie I can go with.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

But let’s not stand on ceremony here, to quote Bane, one of my favorite movie villains, it was and in my mind always will be named just Star Wars. Truly, no one had seen anything like this movie in 1977; the space battles, the light-sabers, a villain as cool as Darth Vader, and this was way before George Lucas went back and dicked around with it. That’s the best thing about this movie: it was cool before all that. The argument could definitely be made that all that actually made it worse.

But the thing that I really wish I could have been around for (I was just over 1 year old when it hit theaters in May of 1977) was that people were walking out of the theater after seeing this movie, walking right back to the box office and buying a ticket for the next screening. Can you imagine doing that today? Well, I bet it was pretty rare back in 1977, too. That’s how cool this movie was back then, and still is. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, Star Wars is the second highest grossing movie of all-time, behind only Gone With the Wind, which came out in 1939, and let’s face it, there weren’t a lot of other movies to see back then. They also didn’t even have TV, so what the Hell were people supposed to do? Talk? So, basically, I’m going to call Star Wars #1 on a technicality. I mean, the movie changed the game. Let’s give it #1 just for that.

But aside from the money, what I really want is to go back to 1977 and cheer my ass off along with everyone else in that theater when the Death Star blows up, and then turn back around and do it again.


So, another one down. Come back for the holiday edition tomorrow! And linktee me!

Just made it in today…

This one isn’t necessarily a challenge because there aren’t depressing movies to pick from. There’s tons of them. The problem is that I don’t really want to write a lot about them. Call me crazy, but I kind of like being entertained by movies, not not saddened. I mean, I can appreciate a well-made depressing movie, like Schindler’s List or something,  but I prefer something like JoJo Rabbit, a hilarious movie with some heavy themes (His mom… Oh, man.), but overall, it doesn’t make me want to jump off a bridge after seeing it.

I also HATE HATE HATE when movies really try to tug at your heartstrings. Something like Million Dollar Baby, which was basically Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank making an incredibly boring, pointless movie just to try to win another Oscar. Other than “Women can box, too” why should I care about this story?

I was going to write about Requiem for a Dream, because when I think about depressing movies, that is the first one that pops into my head. But I saw it in theaters when it came out, and I was young and wanted to feel things, and I haven’t seen it since and have no desire to watch it or even think about it ever again. I’m annoyed that this challenge brought it back into my brain. Although, that refrigerator scene is pretty crazy.

I’m actually going with Into the Wild, which depressed me, but probably not for the same reasons it depressed a lot of other people. If you haven’t seen it, well, don’t bother, but here’s the skinny. Emile Hirsch, plays Christopher McCandless, a really smart kid who does a really dumb thing: after graduating from college, he takes his $24,000 life savings and donates it to charity because he wants to hitchhike to Alaska and live off the land. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this correctly, but I think he also burned everything in his wallet.

The tagline says that, on the journey, he “encounters a series of characters that shape his life.” That’s a nice thought, but… SPOILER WARNING, don’t read on if you want to see the movie someday

Seriously, don’t read if you don’t want to know how it ends.

Screw it. It came out in 2007, and the book came out in 1997. Chris dies, possibly from eating some poison berries  possibly from eating potato seeds which can be poisonous. Or possibly from something else, but definitely from being an idiot. From analyzing his skeleton, they think he weighed about sixty pounds at the time of his death, so it could have been a lot of things. He did have some food from an animal that he had killed, but he didn’t have any way to preserve it since he didn’t have a freezer because he gave $24,000 away and burned the rest of his money, so it went bad before he could finish it. According to his journals, he had decided that this living off the land crap was no fun and wanted to make his way back to civilization after a couple months, but the summer melt-off had caused the river to rise so he couldn’t cross the way he came, so he was trapped. Of course, since he also didn’t have a decent map he didn’t know that there was a way across if he had gone a half-mile further. But he turned around to live in his van. Well, die in it, basically. 

So, yeah, depressing. And how can the people he met shape his life when he dies horribly mere months after reaching his goal? Was there some message about life after death that I missed?

This is where my reasons for it being depressing may differ from the norm. I’m not really depressed because the kid dies at the end. I actually recall thinking, “That dickhead deserved it!” I know that’s harsh, but I feel how I feel. I get that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, Jack London and John Muir, but, Jesus, keep an emergency fund, something. As someone who never really had much money, the idea that this child literally burned what he had to go live in the woods is what depressed me. Also, working in a University for almost twenty years, I knew a lot of really smart young people who had ideas about the world that were a little different, and all I could think when I’d listen to them talk was, “You’ll figure it out.” Hopefully, none of them ended up like Christopher McCandless.

Maybe what really depresses me about this movie is that I wish I could look past the actual logic and say, “Wow, poor kid. He followed his dream, and it killed him, but at least he went for it.”  But I can’t. I just have a very low tolerance for pretension, and this kid was about as pretentious as you can get.  I kind of wish I could see it as a fun adventure that had an unfortunate consequence, but I can’t. It never should have gotten to that point (Well, ok, he shouldn’t have started the dumb journey in the first place), but if he had done a little more research, saved a little money in case of emergency, and, I don’t know, bought a map, he would maybe have survived long enough to make it back home and tell his parents that he was sorry for being an idiot.

I never read the book this movie is based on, but I have no doubt that it’s better, and probably makes the kid seem less annoying because they can delve deeper into his character. But watching this movie did depress me. It depressed me to know that there are dummies like this in the world. You want to live off the land, go for it. Are you tired of other people? I can totally respect that, so go live in the woods. But be smart about it. Do it the Captain Fantastic way.

Maybe that will be tomorrow’s movie…

Anyway, I’m tired. Go to my linktree. There’s a sale going on at Teepublic so everything is 35% off, if you want to check out the stuff in my storefront. Then come back tomorrow. Stay safe.

I saw this on Buzz Dixon’s Facebook and thought it would be fun. Because I don’t want to flood people’s Inboxes for the next month, I’m going to post this first one on my substack, and the rest of them here at mattdursin.com and my facebook, so you can follow along for the next 30 days or however often I end up doing it. I may not even last more than a week. Anyway, here goes:

I’m not sure what’s so challenging, except I might just get busy or run our of ideas, and some of them might not necessarily be films I find interesting or really want to write a lot about, but I usually have something to say about movies, so I’m sure I’ll come up with something. Maybe that will be the challenge.

Day 1: The First film You Remember Watching:

The Black Hole

This was surprisingly difficult (maybe even challenging?) because I at first assumed it was probably Star Wars, or Wizard of Oz on TV, or something along those lines. And perhaps it was, because this is certainly not an exact science, and my powers of recall are certainly not what they once were, but I have very distinct memories of the finale of this movie, and since it was released in 1979, when I would have been three, and Empire Strikes Back (which I know I saw in the theater several timeswas released in 1980, I’m going with this one. I also remember having nightmares about the finale of the movie, when the bad guy falls into the black hole and they show a really creepy close-up of his face. Maybe I thought that since he was in the back hole, he could come find me in my sleep. I don’t know. I was a very small, impressionable child. I also think I had some kind of V.I.N.CENT toy, which is probably worth a ton on eBay now.

If you have never seen this movie, the storyline is pretty simple, for 70’s sci-fi. Courtesy of IMDB.com: “A research vessel finds a missing ship, commanded by a mysterious scientist, on the edge of a black hole.” If you like that kind of thing, it’s worth the watch (In fact, go now if you want to, because I’m going to spoil some of it here. It’s over 40 years old. Do I really have to warn you?) That logline doesn’t really tell you anything about the movie, though, because despite the fact that the movie features Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine and Robert Forster, to me, the real star was V.I.N.CENT, the little robot who is basically R2-D2 and Spock (two of my favorite characters) rolled into one. In fact, in researching this post, I only just now discovered that he was voiced my Roddy McDowell, which makes him infinitely cooler. For those unaware, V.I.N.CENT is actually short for “Vital Information Necessary CENTralized,” which makes no sense at all, but was a cool name for a robot, I guess.

After the fearless crew board the Cygnus to suss out this black hole mystery, V.I.N.CENT is soon joined by another robot, B.O.B. (Bio-Sanitation Batallion, which makes even less sense as an acronym), a sort of beat-up version of himself who tries to warn the V.I.N.CENT and the crew of the impending danger. In the end, he sacrifices himself to save them, but dies kind of happy to have made a friend in V.I.N.CENT.

This is definitely what drew me to the film; the bullied robot who was physically and emotionally abused by his peers had found someone like himself, and he cared about him so much that he gave his life so that his friend could live on. This is really the only message I can take from this movie, because the human characters are honestly pretty lame cardboard cut-outs of sci-fi characters of the era. Little kid Matt Dursin did love seeing small, flying robots stealing the show. When you throw in the fact that the big evil was a bad-ass-looking robot named Maximillion, well, is it any wonder that when Transformers came along a few years later, I was hooked?

In retrospect, was he really that bad-ass looking? Or does he look like a coffee machine?

The real kicker is, despite the fact that I have fond memories of this movie (apart from the nightmares), and it is available to stream on Disney+, I have yet to watch it in its entirety since the early eighties. I remember the day I signed up for Disney+, being really excited to see The Black Hole on there, and turning it on. And then turning it off after about 15 minutes, wanting to see what else was available and figuring I would come back later. I’m not sure if it was the slow-pacing of movies of that time and my short attention span, or the fact that it wasn’t as fun as I remember, or I just didn’t really care. That’s basically how nostalgia works a lot of the time. I really am glad that The Black Hole is available to watch whenever I want, but I’m not sure I will ever go back and watch it. I mean, this country just went through fifteen months where we were basically trapped inside with almost no new entertainment, and I didn’t even think about watching this movie. When will I actually make the time for it? But if it was suddenly taken away for some reason, I would definitely feel sad. That’s how this stuff works, I guess.

The good news is, the 30-Day Film Challenge doesn’t say, “The First Movie You Remember Fondly and Watch Consistently to this Day.” It just asks the first one you remember watching. There was tons more Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers, Star-Blazers, Force Five and a crap load of other nerdy stuff for a young nerd like me to get into, so the fact that The Black Hole only cracked open the door is enough for me.

So, come back tomorrow for a long-winded post about a movie that starts with the first letter of my name. Will I pick M or D? That’s the challenge! Meanwhile, check out my linktree to find out what else I’m up to. There’s tons of podcasts I’m on here, comics I created here, and t-shirts and stuff I “created” here. It’s all for your consumption!

Thanks for reading and keep on keepin’ on.