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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

"Today We Celebrate Our Independence Day!" / Memories of my Grandpa Manny

First and foremost, happy 4th of July to all my American friends. Happy Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way out, You Ungrateful Colonials Day to my British friends, and Happy Super Bowl Sunday in July Day (AKA Rah Rah America Kicks Butt Day) to all of you who see this day that way (which really is what it is).

One of the things that my family thinks about on this day is the fact that on this day in 1958, 60 years ago, my grandfather Manny died of liver cancer. We didn't know much about him other than how he was the guy in the military uniform in this picture. In a lot of ways, that was better than knowing the painful last days of his life. There's no reason to relive them other than they were, so I'm not including them here.

That said, today, I found myself thinking about him, as this was the day of his death. Not many members of my family are dutiful cemetery visitors. As I talked about before, I went to visit my gram's grave after a visit from her spirit earlier this year (you can read about that HERE). However, I plan to go for his birthday on the first Sunday of August, when I'll also see his wife's (my nana) grave (it's been over 20 years on that).

My nana was always a strict Irish Catholic, so it was hard to think of her marrying a Jewish guy, knowing how important Catholic instruction was to her regarding our upbringing (it was said that he would have converted for her). Unfortunately, we caught her at the end of her life, so we never got to see her as younger and in love. For this, it was a shock to read his missives of love on the back of their honeymoon photos (you can see them all HERE).

Anyway, this day isn't about that for all of you, but to me, Manny is my heritage, even if I've never met him. You can see more of him HERE, if you're into old photos and the like. If not, you can skip ahead to the 4th of July stuff.

If you're into songs that reflect America, HERE is an old post of mine. They're not patriotic (think Billy Joel's "Piano Man), but when it comes to the "National Anthem," I prefer Jose Feliciano... especially to Fergie.

For most Americans, you're probably out picnicing and having fun with your fireworks (ours are getting rained out as we speak - the thunder and lightning have come and gone), or you are swimming (we already did, and that was great for a 95° day, though it did feel like Caddy Day in Caddyshack), then I hope you had a great day.

Maybe you're watching the Mel Gibson pretend to be American for the right to kick British butt in The Patriot (great movie by the way). Oh yeah, a really young Heath Ledger was in that, too. I'd recommend it if you're into war movies and all.

Then, there's the best ever 4th of July moment, Lou  Gehrig's speech. Who wouldn't want to be Gary Cooper getting a chance to act this out? By the way, if this isn't the best emotional black and white movie, then it has to be It's a Wonderful Life. Yeah, Pride of the Yankees is that good (especially since he wasn't part of the Steinbrenner Yankees, who made that team the Evil Empire).

So if we know today, Independence Day, for anything, it's probably these several things...

1) Lou Gehrig's speech and the greatest baseball season ever, which I wrote about last year HERE.

2) Thomas Jefferson and John Adams' shared death day.

3) That spat with the British.

4) The day Thoreau went to Walden.

5) Stephen Hiller, Russell Casse, Thomas Whitmore, and David Levinson saved the world in Independence Day, a gem of a movie from 1996.

Thus, I give you my 20 most important thoughts on that movie now.

1) Yes, kids, there was a time that Will Smith universally mattered. Of course, the last mass appeal movie he was in was Hitch in 2005. I liked the movie Concussion, but unless you're into an ESPN feature as a movie, then you might not. He was also great for a bit part in Anchorman 2, which is one of the funniest movies of all time. However, from his days as the Fresh Prince to Independence Day to Men in Black to the great beyond, he really doesn't have a niche to fill. He goes from awesome comedic action to serious action to serious movies. Then, he gets known for his kids, and well... he was more fun giving Carlton the biz. Nowhere is he better though than in this movie (though I respect his work in Fresh Prince for making him a part of our generation). Who wouldn't want to be this smack talking, handsome hero who gets to save the world?

2) It seems that 2005 was a good year for last good movies as it was the year Tom Cruise gave us the solid, scary War of the Worlds. You'd have to go back to Jerry McGuire a decade earlier to find a movie he starred in that I can watch again and again (let alone watch). There is his bit part in Tropic Thunder, which is a film that people either love or hate. Let's just say that they were trying to be offensive to almost everyone and succeeded admirably. Only Good Luck Chuck brings that much ire to a movie (in my wife's opinion).

3) Bill Pullman's President Whitmore returns him to the foray that he is best at - losing the girl. While losing Meg Ryan to Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle is OK (after all, they're both nice guys, but Tom Hanks? All of us would bow honorably to him... provided he doesn't have Da Vinci Code hair). At least he won the day with his bullet dodging Singles performance of losing Bridget Fonda to grunge rockin' Matt Dillon. The only good movie he gets the girl is Space Balls. I mean, he's a nice guy, and you'd want your daughter dating his younger self, but he's not box office smolder (then again, I'm not either).

4) The girl who plays Bill Pullman's daughter is Mae "The Duff" Whitman. She was pretty good in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is a good movie, but a better book.

5) If you're going to lose your wife, it's probably best to lose her to an alien attack, so the situation can help you want to kick E.T.'s butt off the planet, Hulkamania style. I'd be willing to kick E.T.'s butt in Trump's Space Force. Really. Who wouldn't?

6) Alien abduction jokes are always funny - unless you're Betty and Barney Hill.

7) Randy Quaid's Russell Casse proves that existence precedes essence (the key to existentialism) as he abandons being an alcoholic with post-traumatic stress from alien abductions long enough to fly a fighter jet and kick E.T.'s butt. When his weapons jammed, he had the presence of mind to fly straight at the alien ship's big gun to commit to the utilitarian course by martyring himself to save the world (thus dying a hero). Too cool!

8) All of those Roswell references before Roswell got big. By the way, this movie made me want to see Roswell when I drove cross country in 1998.

9) The whole Vivica A. Fox stripper with a heart of gold thing, where she's wonderful enough inside that Will Smith still wants to make her his bride. He may not get to fly on the space shuttle due to prejudicial thoughts, but at least she feels that she makes good money to feed her family.

10) If you're a stripper with a heart of gold and you're trying to escape from a fireball, then your dog will never die if you also have a post-toddler cute kid son with a backward baseball hat.

11) Stephen Hawking would agree that aliens coming to see us isn't a good thing.

“Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach,” he said. “Who knows what the limits would be?”

“Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”

12) Thus, it seems only too obvious that the stereotypical ditzy wannabe blonde with the dark hair, who is carrying a sign to welcome the aliens will be the first to go.

13) Independence Day marketed itself as having the test audiences go crazy when the White House blew up. That said, taking out NYC, too, made for some hella good special effects.

14) Does Harvey Fierstein's character have a purpose as anything other a stereotypical gay / Jewish man in a role that really doesn't do anything? How was that not left on the cutting room floor? Let's just say that this character wouldn't float in 2018.

15) Robert Loggia and James Rebhorn were meant to be generals. They play their parts perfectly.

16) In a movie with limited characters in different parts of the country, it's only obvious that they'll manage to connect with one another despite moving across time and space in a way that wouldn't even be possible if they went via wormhole.

17) Soon after Independence Day, another movie began its classic experience with New Mexico's Very Large Array and R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It." That movie was Contact, and it's one of the greatest movies every according to Chateau Glass's inhabitants. Truth be told, I watch that much more than Star Wars.

18) All of those environmental references aren't just political ideology placement. They actually reflect how in the book, the aliens die due to an environment that they can't inhabit. Go figure. They're still ideology I can get with, but ideology nonetheless.

19) I really like the modern twist on viruses with a computer enemy. That works really well within the context of the movie's at the time modern take.

20) Independence Day was the first movie I saw after coming back to America in 1996. I actually walked 1.5-2 hours each way in the heat to see the movie. It still holds up well. While it's not perfect (hokey scenes like the magical reunion at the end and some other ideology stuff placed in for "message" to the youth effect), the movie is a solid 9/10. For a 22-year old movie based on special effects and a now dated period of time to hold up that well puts it in one of my favorite movies of all time. 

I hope your holiday included a little bit or a lot of bit of it!

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