I Talk To The Trees

 

Sometimes, I feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield… I get no respect.  After I shopped for, prepared and cooked a scrumptious dinner – (Indian Curry with Chicken and Peas – here’s the recipe), we sat around the dinner table to enjoy good food and pleasant conversation.

We talked about our day which, for all of us, seemed to be very busy.  My wife had a full day planned and didn’t get to any of it as chore after chore  prevented her from carrying out her schedule.

I brought my laptop home to catch up on some video editing in between handling some finances and repairing a curtain rod that needed fixing. I worked all day long.

I then turned to my 90 year old mother-in-law who had thus far been silent and said, “What about you Laura? What do you have to complain about?”

“I don’t complain,” she replied, “Nobody listens to me anyway.”

I jokingly broke into song. #I talk to the trees but they don’t listen to me. I talk to the stars but they never hear me. The breeze hasn’t time…#  I stopped as I saw both my wife and mother-in-law staring at me with confused expressions.

“What?” I said, “That’s from Paint Your Wagon. It’s a famous song. Clint Eastwood sang it in the movie.”

Without missing a beat, my mother-in-law turned to my wife and deadpanned, “I hope he sang it better than that.”

No respect.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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As You Wish

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Some movies just have a special place in your heart or mind.  I found out that my mother-in-law had never seen The Princess Bride so we took the time last night to watch it. It is, for me, classic storytelling. And I never get tired of watching it. That is the sole criterion for me when looking to put together a top ten list of favorite films. That, no matter how many times I may have seen it, it never fails to draw me into its world when I see it again.

While my Top Ten list is an ever fluctuating and always incomplete thing, here are some of the films that I’ve seen multiple times and have not been bored by them yet.

It’s a Wonderful Life – is always at the top of my list. An average, good, decent man comes to discover how impactful his life has been.

The Shawshank Redemption – a riveting tale of perseverance and hope set in the bleakest of all places.

A Few Good Men – I’ve always been a sucker for courtroom dramas or legal thrillers. This one, about a military court-martial, never fails to entertain.

Pretty Much any Pixar film – Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Monsters Inc, Up, Ratatouille, Toy Story… the fact that they place the story and characters on an equal if not higher plane than their animation is what makes this team so successful.

Hacksaw Ridge – Films that depict actual events, when done well, will always capture my interest. This one particularly so because I learned that the filmmakers chose to leave some events out as they thought the audience would think them too unbelievable – even though they did actually happen. It is a remarkable story of courage and conviction.

Being There – a fanciful tale of a man whose only frame of reference to life has been what he has seen on TV. Peter Sellers is masterful in the role.

The Star Trek reboot – breathing new life into an old series whose audience appeal appeared to be waning is no small feat. That J.J. Abrams successfully did it, not just with Star Trek, but also with Star Wars defies all odds. Brilliantly conceived.

These are just a few of the films I’ve enjoyed watching and rewatching over the years. I’m sure you have your own list of favorites. But nothing Hollywood puts out can ever match the level of joy derived from re-watching your own life played out on the screen via your digitalized home movies.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Final Cut

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There was a Robin Williams film made in 2004 called Final Cut.  It was somewhat panned by the critics but generally liked by the movie-going public. In it, Williams played a man known as a “cutter.” In this futuristic reality, people would pay to have microchips installed in their brains that would record everything they saw and heard during their lifetimes. Upon their death, the chip would be extracted and given to a “cutter” who would then edit all that recorded information down to a viewable video summary of a life lived, cutting out any of the negative or emotionally troubling memories the surviving family members wish to forget.

In a way, it’s kind of what I can do for people – except for that creepy “install a microchip in your brain” element.  People bring me their films, video, photographs, audio recordings, etc. to digitalize them. Once they have been converted to a digital form, many clients take the extra step and have me edit out the unwanted aspects of their past – or edit in a missing aspect.

Do you have a family photo that is absolutely perfect except for the fact that Dad was behind the camera and therefore not in the shot? I can add him to the picture and blend him in so it looks like he was always there. Are all the videos of your children growing up painful to watch because your ex’s voice could be heard throughout as he “directed” the kids? Keep the images of the kids and replace the audio track with a more pleasurable musical score.

I often tell my clients that with today’s digital technology, we are limited by only two things.  Budget and imagination. If we can think it and afford it, it can be done.

I often check out this site when I want a good laugh. James Fridman has mastered the tools of the trade and people will send him their photos requesting specific changes. But it is how he interprets their requests that always makes me laugh.  Take a look here.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

My First Blog… Over 20 Years Ago

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You may not know this but Memories Matter isn’t my first trip around the blogosphere. It has been a full ten years since I retired as The Christian Critic. Between 1998 and 2008, I wrote movie reviews and film commentaries under the name of Michael Elliott.  My reviews were published in the website/blog Movie Parables and in a few syndicated columns scattered across small towns.

My very first review was the Leonardo DiCaprio 1998 film, The Man In The Iron Mask. After that, over the next ten years, I reviewed pretty much every major film that was given a national release in the U.S. In addition to providing the traditional critical appraisal of the film, I added a unique twist. I looked for (and always managed to find) a way to use the film or an aspect of it to make a biblical connection.

For instance, the familiar quote from Mr. Spock in the Star Trek series “Live long and prosper,” is more than Vulcan greeting… it is a biblical promise that can be found in both Ephesians chapter 6 and 3 John chapter 1.

In the Disney animated classic, “Pinnochio.” Jimmy Cricket tell us that “a conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to.” The line has even more poignance when you replace the word conscience with God. After all, “a still small voice” is how He is described in 1 Kings 19.

Writing the Christian Critic blog was a great time of spiritual growth and development for me because it forced me to look at the world through the filter of God’s Word. In addition to reading the Bible for understanding, I began to see more clearly how it can be practically applied to our lives. God did not give us His Word just so we could read it… It is meant to be lived.

That blog led to the publication of two books, Thus Saith Hollywood (vol 1 and 2). They are still available on Amazon and, come to think of it, in my studio… I think I still have a carton left somewhere.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Him Not Tarzan

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I was watching a show previously recorded on my DVR and when it was over, the system automatically switched to whatever was playing on the last accessed channel. In my case, it was the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) channel and what came on was what I thought to be the strangest Tarzan movie ever. He was racing through the jungle in shorts and a tee-shirt. No bare-chested, loin-clothed king of the jungle here.

Turns out it wasn’t Tarzan at all but a Jungle Jim movie. I know, right? Who the heck was Jungle Jim? The only jungle gym I knew was a metal monstrosity on our playground that we also called the monkey bars. Believe me, I climbed many of those in my days and managed somehow to avoid hospitalization.

A bit of research informs me that Jungle Jim was a legitimate action hero born of the comic books in the 30s and ably translated to the movies during the 40s and 50s. I can be forgiven for the Tarzan confusion because Johnny Weissmuller, probably best known for his Tarzan features, also played the title role in a series of Jungle Jim films, including the one I stumbled upon which was called The Lost Tribe. Looks like he may have packed on a few pounds since his Tarzan days, which perhaps explains the tee-shirt costuming. As a odd trivia side note, when the studio lost the rights to the Jungle Jim name but had Weissmuller under contract for three more films, they decided to shoot the Jungle Jim scripts anyway. They simply changed the name of Weissmuller’s character to… what else?… Johnny Weissmuller.

Anytime I think of Tarzan, I confess to having a bit of shame. I was tasked in junior high school with writing a essay on the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic novel. The problem was… I never took the time to read the book. Instead, I watched the movie and spoke in general terms about the character in my dissertation. I did my best to stay away from any plot specifics because I had no way of knowing if the movie was anything close to the novel. This of course was before the Internet which admittedly makes cheating so much easier.

Whatever I wrote was enough to allow me to pass the class although I can’t help thinking that it probably would have been easier just to read the book and write the essay based on what I read. Oh well… maybe next time.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Feeling A Little Blue, Berry?

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I love Mount Dora. Not only is it where I live and work, there is always something fun going on. This weekend, it is the 4th annual Blueberry Festival! Woo Hoo!  I know, I was skeptical at first myself. But this little “festival that could” has burst all expectations throughout the last four years as it has grown exponentially in its popularity.

You’d be surprised at how many products or events can be developed that feature this delicious little berry.  Or maybe you wouldn’t. I was.

I remember picking blueberries with my granddaughters once on one of those “how can we entertain the kids for an hour” moments. It was fun watching their excitement as they filled their buckets. You can have that same experience at the festival as a blueberry picking excursion has been announced at a local farm using the Mount Dora Fun Bus for transportation to and fro.

Within the festival itself, you’ll find booth after booth filled with examples of what you can do with the blueberries after you have picked them. Blueberry Pie, Blueberry Jam, Blueberry Muffins, Blueberry Craft Beer, Blueberry Wine, Blueberry scented soap, and the list goes on.

My problem is that I was born in the 50s and grew up in the 60s and 70s. There is only one blueberry reference that I will ever remember. And it is associated with one of the most obnoxious movie characters of all time.

 

The Blueberry Festival continues through today, April 29th. I urge you to stop by with the family. And take pictures or videos because… #MemoriesMatter.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Memories Matter Pie

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Date night with the wife last night. Woo Hoo! We went to see the traveling Broadway show WAITRESS, adapted from the movie of the same name. It is essentially about a unhappily pregnant waitress with an uncanny way of baking her dreams and emotions into her amazing pies. And it was utterly charming and enchanting. I can recommend it as an evening well spent. Kept me smiling and engaged from beginning to end.

On the way home, I had the opportunity to think of other movies that featured pies (kinda) in a significant way. Here’s what I came up with:

AMERICAN PIE: A raunchy teenaged sex comedy that was neither charming nor enchanting and yet made a pile of money at the box office. But while the pies in Waitress were mouthwatering, the American pie in this film was clearly aimed at a different part of the anatomy.

LIFE OF PI: A fantasy/allegory about a shipwreck, an Indian boy (Pi), and a tiger named Richard Parker. No baked goods were used but the lead character’s name was similar enough to bring it to mind. And the visuals were breathtaking.

And speaking of that…

PI: A psychological thriller by Darren Aronofsky which, in all honesty, I only watched in part as boredom and confusion compelled me to start channel surfing. But since Pi is the only word in the title, it made the list.

Finally, an oldie but a goodie…

NATIONAL VELVET: Starring Mickey Rooney and a young Elizabeth Taylor beating the odds when they enter their horse in England’s Grand National Sweepstakes. Again, there was no baking going on but the name of Elizabeth’s horse was “The Pie.”

Did I miss any? What are your favorite Pie or Pi movies?

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

The Christian Critic

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Michael is still attending the Advanced Training for Home Video Studio owners but will be blogging from the field while he is gone. Subscribe to his blog to have them delivered directly to your email.

Many of us took a break from the classroom and technical learning we’ve been engaged in and decided to let our hair down last night by going out to a movie. We chose for our evening’s entertainment the newest superhero film to hit the silver screen, Black Panther.

Just the act of going to a movie reminded me that it has been a while since I’ve visited a movie house to watch a new release. Lately all I’ve been doing is streaming to my TV or watching movies on DVD.  There was a time when I could be found at the theatre 3 or 4 times per week.  For ten years of my life I served as a film critic and reviewed nearly every mainstream movie that was released (between 1998 and 2008).

I published my reviews under the name of Michael Elliott (Elliott being my middle name) and was known as The Christian Critic. The name of my website was Movie Parables because the underlying purpose of my reviews was not to say whether the films were good or bad. Instead I looked for and always found a biblical truth that was reflected in the film I was watching. And I wrote about that. Some were immediately evident, others required some deep thought and study. But it was always there. As my mantra was back then: Art imitates life… but the Word of God IS life. Therefore, art must reflect God’s handiwork, either consciously or subconsciously, if art is going to be true to its own self.

The Movie Parables website is no longer in existence. But I did grow as a result of building it. Hopefully I managed to bless a few people along the way. And, as they say, old habits die hard. After coming back from last night’s film, I started thinking about how I would structure my review of it if I were still writing for the website. For what it’s worth, here’s my biblical perspective on The Black Panther:

The scripture that ran through my head as I was leaving the film was Proverbs 29:2

When the righteous are in authority and become great, the people rejoice; But when the wicked man rules, the people groan and sigh.  Pro 29:2 (Amplified Bible)

Righteousness, for me, has always been explained as following the standards of truth established by our creator. Wickedness would be the opposite; the ignoring or disregarding of those standards.

The time structure of the movie gave audiences the opportunity to see three different kings on the throne. One was a good but flawed man whose mistakes brought harm upon his village. Another was a man who could have been good had he not been driven by perceived wrongs done to him and people like him.  His actions were taken to further his individual agenda without regard to the consequences it would bring to the people his position called him to lead. The third was a man who saw the flaws of the first king and the dangers presented by the other. His goal was to right the wrongs he saw, protect the people he led, and assist his global neighbors as he could.

The latter sounds pretty righteous to me.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Spanky and Our Gang

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This is one of the framed pictures hanging behind my desk in our studio. I’ve actually lost count as to how many clients have pointed to it and said, “Is that you?”

I’m not sure if I should be offended. I would like to think that, at that age, I was certainly cuter than the guys in this picture but my clients wouldn’t necessarily know that. Neither would they know that the kids in that particular photo were born a lot earlier than I was.  What you are looking at are two members of The Little Rascals, aka Our Gang.

On the right is Spanky, played by George “Spanky” McFarland. On the left is Mickey, played by child actor Robert Blake. I still remember watching the Our Gang comedy shorts as a child… even though they predated me by decades.  Here are some random facts about this beloved piece of entertainment:

  • All told, 41 child actors appeared in over 220 short films… starting in the 1920s. Spanky and his gang didn’t come along until the second decade of this franchise’s existence. Over time, as children became too old for the franchise, they were simply replaced with younger actors.
  • Two unknown child actors both auditioned to become part of the Little Rascals cast back in the day. They were rejected. Their names were Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple.
  • Petey the dog was played by Pal the Wonder Dog who was also the model for the Buster Brown ads. When he was cast as Petey the director learned that the eye circle was made with permanent ink for the shoe advertisements. He decided to keep it on.
  • When Petey died, one of his pups inherited the role. But they painted the ring around the other eye.
  • The series was produced from 1922 to 1929 as silent short films. Afterwards, as sound was added, they entered into their most popular phase.
  • The Little Rascals characters that I remember most include: Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Petey, Buckwheat, Mickey, Froggy, and some other kids whose character names I can’t recall.
  • The theme song, “Good Old Days,” has become iconic in its own right. Written by Leroy Shield, it was inserted into the episodes in the 1930s.
  • It is said that the concept for The Our Gang comedies came to Hal Roach after a series of bad auditions from over coached child actors. He then looked out his window and saw un-coached children on the schoolyard just being themselves. That became the impetus for The Little Rascals. Kids being kids was what they were after.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-0885 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Feets, Don’t Fail Me Now

 

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Just so I don’t bury the lead, let me say right up front that my studio will be closing today at 2pm so I can keep a podiatrist appointment.  Let me tell you, when your feet don’t work properly, nothing comes easy. I’ll be back to working normal hours Thursday at 9:30am.

The title of this post comes from a phrase which I admittedly had to look up. I had heard it, of course, but didn’t know its origin.  Now that I do, I apologize for any unintentional offense it may cause as some like to point to its racist undertones.

As best as I can find, the phrase “Feets, don’t fail me now” (or something similar) originated from the vaudeville and minstrel circuits of old. It was used whenever a character would be facing a frightful situation and wanted to make a hasty retreat. It ultimately made its way into feature films and has been attributed to actors Stepin Fetchit and Mantan Moreland. However, the earliest documented film where the line was uttered that I found was a 1940s Bob Hope, Pauline Goddard comedy called The Ghost Breakers. In it, actor Willie Best played Hope’s valet who accompanied the two stars to a haunted mansion off the coast of Cuba. It was he who delivered the now clichéd phrase.

Best was highly regarded in his time.  He received over 77 screen credits, unusual for bit players of the 30s and 40s. Famed director Hal Roach once called him the “greatest talent he had ever seen.” Hope, while working with him on this film, said “he’s the best actor I know.” It is a pity more roles weren’t made available for him other than the stereotypical parts he was asked to play.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.