Monday, November 21, 2016

A Fistful of Happy Places

Conceived and used with the permission of Matthew Constantine and Brad Gullickson, the original dorks.

Everyone has a “Top 5.”  But Brad and Matt, along with fellow dorks, Darren, Lisa, and Bryan, choose to walk a different path, and amended that to “A Fistful…” with their blog and podcast, In the Mouth of Dorkness.  Topics range from “Heroic Kids” to “Spies” to “Summer Movies” to “Punches” to all things in between.  Always fun, often insightful, and something I have regularly pilfered for Warrior27.  As they say:  If you’re going to steal, steal from those you know relatively well, who will not sue you.

In the Dorks’ most recent episode—checkit, here—they counted down their top 5 “Happy Places,” and it was a great episode.  Of course, it got me to thinking, what are my favorite happy places, in film or television?  Define it as you will.  In my list, I have things that make me laugh, things that have a comforting atmosphere, and things that take me back to my childhood and that inner happy place we all harbor.  Here’s what I came up with. 

5.  The Flying Circus

I’m not one for comedies, and not one who laughs much.  I enjoy things, even funny things, but (as I say more than is necessary) I have a fairly narrow emotional spectrum—I rarely get too high and rarely get too low.  I prefer drama and action to overt comedy (sure, sprinkle some funny moments into those dramas, it’s vital to highlighting the really tragic things that can happen in a good film or television series). 
But, when I need a good laugh, there are some places that can guarantee me that, even if I’m feeling down.  Monty Python is one of those shows.  Ever since I discovered it on MTV, while in high school, and right up through today, the absurdity and incisive humor never fails to elicit rolling laughter from me.  John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, and Graham Chapman are perfect, if you’re looking for some riotous laughs.  And sometimes, that’s exactly what we (and I) need.

4. Dillon, Texas

I have yet to see the film, but the TV series, Friday Night Lights, is one of the best shows I have watched in recent years.  The acting, the writing, the drama overlaid onto these high school football players and the collection of classmates and family members that surround them was phenomenal (putting aside a bit of that second season).  But, one of the best aspects of this series was the characterization of Coach Eric Taylor and his wife, Tami.  If you were a player in trouble, you could go to Coach.  If you were a student having troubles in school, you could go to Tami, the guidance counselor.  And if you were a young man or woman in need of help outside these professional settings, the Taylors were the family you could, and would, go to if you needed help.  The Taylors—most epitomized in their relationship as husband and wife—were two of the most genuine and complex characters on network TV.  And the idea of being able to go to their house and hang out is a comforting idea, indeed. 

3. That bar where everyone knows your name

In high school and through college, Cheers was my favorite TV show.  We were so lucky in our junior year at the University of Maine, we could watch it five times on Thursdays, thanks to new episodes airing and the reruns on our local NBC affiliate out of Bangor and the Boston channel, from our cable package, which ran episodes in the early evening as well as after the nightly news.  It was a smorgasbord of hilarity, with Carla, Coach, Woody, Diane, Sam, Norm, Cliff, and the rest of the gang.  It’s on Netflix currently, and I’ve been dipping in and out when the mood hits.  It’s a show that always makes me feel good. 

2. Hobbiton

I read The Hobbit in second grade (went on to read it more than a dozen times since).  I read The Lord of the Rings when I was eleven or twelve (and read that a half dozen more times).  J.R.R. Tolkien was my favorite author, and Rings my favorite book, for many years, and Tolkien, along with his literary works, still holds a special place on my metaphorical bookshelf.  When Peter Jackson finally brought the land of Middle Earth to the big screen, I was overjoyed.  He got it so right (in the Rings trilogy, at least), and the opening of that first film, in Hobbiton, was amazing and beautiful.  Ever since that first time I read The Hobbit, I’ve wanted to live in a hole in the ground, with a round, green door and a brass knocker, just like Bilbo Baggins.  And after watching Jackson’s initial trilogy, that feeling became more entrenched in my psyche.  Hobbiton would be a lovely place to live. 

1.  Tatooine

Since I was five and first saw it in the theater, Star Wars has been a constant in my life.  First with the original trilogy, then the toys and comics, followed by magazines and novels, and even more comics, and more films (most of those ones weren’t good).  Star Wars overwhelmed and enamored the five-year-old me, and its hold hasn’t let up much in the intervening four decades.  Empire may be the “best” film of the series, but Star Wars (NOT episode IV, NOT Star Wars, colon, subheading “A New Hope”) was the first movie, the one that started it all, and it is THE movie of the trilogy that epitomizes everything I love about this series. 
And Tatooine embodies that happy place for me. 
I love the scenes with the Jawas, the first scenes with Luke—him gazing off at the twin sunset…so good—and the attack of the Sand People, leading to the introduction of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and, finally, the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Mos Eisley spaceport.  Watching Star Wars always takes me back to my childhood, like a shot, and to my time with good friends—Donnie and Tommy, Sean and Jason, and so many others—watching and playing and debating Star Wars and that galaxy far, far away.  Nothing hits my nostalgia button as hard as Star Wars does.  And there is no happier place in the galaxy for me than Tatooine. 


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