Tales of Rock -10 Greatest Rock Documentaries You Need To See

Few areas of life lend themselves better to the documentary format than music. The life of a rock star is undeniably fascinating: alien to the likes of you and I, a little scary at times, but undeniably desirable. They do and say outrageous things, they perform before baying crowds, they often end up doing something out of order – what’s not to love?

There are rock docs, though, and there are rock docs. These days everything merits a camera presence – an album launch, a tune on a film soundtrack, a tour which needs that little extra oomph to get it over the line. Candid footage is commonplace these days.

Some docs, though, will stand the test of time and have cemented themselves as classics not just of the subgenre, but of non-fiction film full stop. A good rock doc can capture a time and a place, shifts in society as well as the inner thoughts of some of the culture’s greatest icons. They’re a window not just into the stars themselves, but the worlds they inhabit and sometimes affect.

And if they’ve got a whole bunch of smashing tunes, well, that’s just an added bonus.

10. Amy

Altitude Film Distribution

 

The tragic tale of Amy Winehouse is hardly a new one in the music business – star after promising star has succumbed to the temptations of substances and the pressures of fame. Few have done so as publicly as Winehouse, however, whose 2011 death felt at the same time heartbreaking and somewhat inevitable.

Asif Kapadia’s documentary is a sensitively made look into the life of a star who looked like she could be one of Britain’s best in many years (and perhaps, even in such a short time, still was). It takes a simple biographical approach, but crucially builds a deeper image of Winehouse than the troubled and self-destructive hellraiser of her public profile. She was all those things, of course, but there was far more to her than that, as the tremendously affecting interviews with her family and close friends go to show.

For Winehouse novices, the film provides a great life and career retrospective that ably demonstrates why she’s so beloved; for those already enamored with the late singer, there’s great early and rare footage of a woman who wasn’t around for long but left an indelible mark on modern music.

9. One More Time With Feeling

This isn’t a watch for a cheery night in. The death of Nick Cave’s son in 2015 came after the majority of his 2016 album Skeleton Tree had been written, but he was yet to step into the studio with his band The Bad Seeds.

Naturally, the loss cast a shadow on the entire production. Rather than subject himself to press junkets and interviews, Cave and Andrew Dominick collaborated on the masterful One More Time With Feeling, through which the singer could explore and explain his grief, as well as give fans a sneak preview of the upcoming record. Skeleton Tree’s sparse, haunting songs made their debut in the gorgeously shot black and white film, and they capture their singer’s feelings of distress, emptiness, and ultimately hope, better than words ever could. Cave doesn’t spill his guts to the camera, but the performances, weary yet driven and brilliant, tell us all we need to know.

It’s one for the fans primarily, but the lush camerawork, beautiful music, and terrible but universal story can appeal to a far wider audience. It’s an exercise in grief, but a wonderful and strangely uplifting film, too.

8. Amazing Grace

AP/AP

Blessed with one of the greatest voices music ever produced, Aretha Franklin’s legacy was guaranteed long before she was immortalized in this 2018 film (shot in 1972, but held up by legal proceedings until shortly after her death). Sydney Pollack’s Amazing Grace is a masterfully made concert film and a gift for a younger generation who can appreciate the power of Franklin’s awe-inspiring talents the way an audience should.

Backed up by a community choir, Amazing Grace is a testament to the healing powers of song and faith. You don’t need to sit Franklin down and interview her to get to the heart of the woman. You simply need to watch her perform and listen to her sing. At this time especially, her voice is astonishing and appears effortless. Her early life was far from easy, and she has spoken previously of the release music gave her; Amazing Grace is her opportunity to give that back to the world.

There will be others who can sing with the same technical proficiency or range or control as Franklin, but it’s hard to imagine there will be many if any who can access so naturally the purity of emotion that Pollack unobtrusively captures in Amazing Grace.

7. The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson

HBO

An underrated figure in UK rock, Wilko Johnson was the guitarist for pioneering pub rock act Dr Feelgood. With his distinctly aggressive playing style and imposing physical presence (he played Ilyn Payne in the first few seasons of Game Of Thrones), he was hugely influential, a trailblazer.

When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, this was unsurprisingly an eye-opener for the taciturn axeman, and he allowed Julian Temple, key documenter of UK punk, to chart his final days. Johnson faces his mortality with trademark humor and an admirable calm, reflecting on his life and his achievements, and concluding it time well spent. He embarks on a goodbye tour, rocking venues like old times, bringing together friends and collaborators to say farewell to fans and well-wishers the only way he knows how.

Then, the twist – the cancer which seemed so final suddenly goes into remission, and Wilko is given another chance – more time than he knows what to do with. The film celebrates life in all its forms, but it’s clear that Johnson will go on rocking and creating until the real final curtain.

6. The Decline Of Western Civilization Part 2

New Line Cinema

The first film in the Decline series was a relatively serious look at the often-po-faced world of hardcore punk. For the follow-up, director Penelope Spheeris cast an eye on the hair metal scene of 1980s LA, where things were a little wilder.

The documentary is a riotous look at acts famous and otherwise, from the heavyweights of the rock and metal scene to upstart bands hoping to make it as big as their idols (spoiler: none of them do). Highlights include Ozzy Osbourne making a colossal mess in his kitchen as he concentrates more on his anecdote than pouring juice into a glass, and Chris Holmes from W.A.S.P, who floats around his pool drunk off his head while his disapproving mother watches on. They put on a brave face, the folks of the scene, but many are stricken with sadness (others still are outright creeps).

While there’s the suggestion that elements of the film are a put-on, Spheeris captures an accurate portrait of one of music’s most indulgent and tacky scenes. Everyone involved is keen to show just how rock ‘n’ roll they are, and to one end up making prize fools of themselves in the process.

5. Beware Of Mr. Baker

SnagFilms

Cream drummer Ginger Baker died in 2019, and while his passing is a great blow to the world of rock and jazz, after watching this captivating documentary, you’ll be amazed a man so gnarly was even capable of death.

Director Jay Bulger traces Baker’s musical journey from South London to South Africa, where he now lives on an imposing compound. Baker’s career is a remarkable one, having pioneered a jazz/rock fusion style with Cream, traveled to Africa to drum with Fela Kuti, and kicked and taken up heroin enough times to kill most ordinary men. Ordinary Baker most definitely is not, though: he is a fascinating but utterly cantankerous individual, ultimately clashing with and physically assaulting Bulger after a line of questioning is not to his liking.

The man lived hard and fast and achieved an incredible amount, and it’s great that his life story was aired in such an engaging piece of work. Formally inventive and ever engaging, this is proof if proof be needed that the devil has the best tunes.

4. 20 Feet From Stardom

RADiUS-TWC

A celebration of some of the music business’ unsung heroes, 20 Feet From Stardom is all about putting a name to the voices you’ve heard so many times, as Morgan Neville’s Oscar-winning doc digs into the world of backing singers.

Featuring the likes of Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, and other incredible performers whose names you may not know but whose vocals you’ve certainly danced to, 20 Feet From Stardom is a melancholic look at a business that can be so rewarding, and so frustrating, all at the same time. There are incredible anecdotes from those on the periphery of the world’s biggest rockstars, and superb performances, like Clayton’s isolated vocal track from the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. Many of those interviewed are jobbing musicians who accept their status, but it can’t help but feel cruel that their contributions so often go uncelebrated.

With talking heads from bonafide A-listers like Bruce Springsteen, this is a star-studded production, but more than anything else it’ll give you an appreciation of the sheer physical graft that goes into the singing business. You may just be harmonizing on a chorus, but it’ll take it out of you.

3. Gimme Shelter

20th Century Fox

An era-defining documentary, this still-harrowing film captures The Rolling Stones at their world-conquering finest as they tour their incredible run of records between the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It also pinpoints the moment the hippy dream died and something altogether more sinister settled into American counterculture.

Gimme Shelter serves as a concert film for a band who, at the time, may have been the world’s greatest. This ultimately pales into insignificance, however. The documentary is most famous for its recordings of the Stones’ 1969 concert at the Altamont Speedway, during which 18-year-old Meredith Hunter was fatally stabbed to death by a member of the Hell’s Angels, who the UK rockers had hired as their tour security. Co-directors Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin adopt a hands-off approach to their film making, simply observing the chaos that unfolds as a peaceful scene turns ugly.

The ‘60s ended literally and metaphorically around the time of Altamont, but if there are lessons to be learned, it’s a stroke of luck that there was a camera there to record the destruction.

2. Don’t Look Back

Leacock-Pennebaker, Inc.

D. A. Pennebaker’s 1967 masterpiece invented the rock doc and the myth of Bob Dylan in one fell swoop. Following the Nobel prize-winning songwriter on his 1965 UK tour, the documentary was one of the first opportunities an audience had to watch a rock star simply exist in his natural environment.

As a subject, Dylan couldn’t have been much better. He is riding the crest of a wave, writing and playing some of the best music of his career, and coming to the tumultuous end of his relationship with Joan Baez. He is captivating but unprecious with his public image: indeed there are moments in which he acts like a real jerk, one-upping Donovan with a bravura performance just because he can, and needlessly abusing a poor jobbing journalist. The opening scenes serve as a music video for the track Subterranean Homesick Blues, another of the film’s groundbreaking moments.

Dylan has been documented and hagiographed half to death by now, but Pennebaker’s passive camera catches him in the flesh, and at a pivotal point of an incredible career. Taking aside all it influenced, it remains a superb piece of work.

1. Dig!

Interloper Films

A friendly rivalry turns into an all-out indie war in Ondi Timoner’s wild documentary. The director shot over 10,000 hours of footage as two upstart bands, The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, came up together before dramatically falling apart.

The narrative comes down to jealousy, as the Massacre, arguably the better band, stew over their former friends’ sudden burst of success. Petty swipes turn to open hostilities as one band rises and the other turns in on itself. The subjects are fascinating, most notably Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe, whose musical talent is outstripped by his self-destructive street. He has the aura of a cult leader but the temperament of a stroppy child, and slowly alienates those around him and blows chance after chance at the big time.

Musicians from either camp have refuted the realism of the finished product, but that hardly matters when the documentary is this outrageously entertaining. Dig! may not hit as heavy as some other acclaimed rock docs, but few films can match the uproarious fun – and killer tunes – of this bonkers film.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder

When Tinder appeared in app stores across the world in 2013, everyone freaked out about the possibilities. We all remember where we were when we got our first Tinder match, it was like the moon landing for Millennials. In the early days, the only problem with Tinder was that you only found regular people while you were swiping away. That makes sense if you live in Oklahoma or whatever, but what if you happened to be in Los Angeles or New York? Shouldn’t you happen across Ryan Gosling or Madonna once in a while? Well after some snooping, we’ve put together what may be our most sought-after list ever: a collection of celebrities who use Tinder.

There are a bunch of reasons why a star might want to join Tinder. Maybe they feel the aching loneliness that overtakes all of us at night when we’re alone in our beds. Or maybe they have a new product they want to promote and think that chatting with normal folks will take their grassroots marketing to the next level. Or maybe they just feel like connecting with the little people. Whatever the reason for their Tindering, we’re happy to have these celebrities on Tinder. Hopefully, if you’re lucky, one day your celebrity dream crush will end up swiping right on you.

Vote on which celebrity you’d most like to find on Tinder, and if you’ve run into someone from the silver screen on your iPhone – tell us about it in the comments.

11,068 VOTES
Hilary Duff is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo:  Jason Meritt/Getty Images

When her first album in however many years was about to drop, the singer/actress took to Tinder to promote her new single meet some interesting people!

21,344 VOTES
Katy Perry is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Imgur

After breaking up with John Mayer (again), Katy Perry took to Tinder to meet a new ridiculously handsome and skinny boyfriend.

3923 VOTES
Leonardo DiCaprio is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine coming across the King of the World on Tinder. What do you even ask him? What was it like to date Rihanna? What does Martin Scorsese smell like? Real talk, we’d swipe left.

41,053 VOTES
Ronda Rousey is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo:  Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In an interview with USA Today, the toughest nerd on the planet said that it’s hard for her to meet people on Tinder, even though her friends seem to be having plenty of luck. Thank goodness she met Turtle. 

5872 VOTES
40 people have voted onBritney Spears
Britney Spears is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Twitter

When she appeared on Jimmy Fallon in 2014, the boyish host convinced Ms. Spears to join the dating app. But before you get your hopes up, it looks like she’s just using it to shill her perfume.

6599 VOTES
13 people have voted on Dave Franco
Dave Franco is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Imgur

Even though he feigned ignorance of the dating app when he joined with Conan O’Brien for a hilarious bit on the host’s show, we’re pretty sure Dave was using Tinder before he was going by “Jangus Roundstone.”

7754 VOTES
22 people have voted on Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: s_bukley/Shutterstock

We knew Lilo was a handful, but now she’s ragging on her baby bro’s Tinder use. But let’s be real, if we posted a screenshot of every friend/family member that we came across on Tinder, we’d never stop posting.

8588 VOTES
49 people have voted on Jamie Anderson
Jamie Anderson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Wikimedia

We’ve heard rumors that the Olympic Village is full of athletes with raging hormones, so it makes sense that Tinder was a big part of the Sochi games. It’s a no brainer that U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson admitted that using Tinder in the village was “next level” during the Winter Olympics.

9403 VOTES
3 people have voted on Nana Meriwether
Nana Meriwether is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Wikimedia

Former Miss USA, Nana Meriweather has never hidden the fact that she’s a fan of online dating. The beauty queen revealed that she was told by a friend that she should join the dating revolution and she even said, “It’s funny — the guys I’ve said yes to have all been like: ‘Are you real?’ I’m like: ‘Yeah, of course.’ Even pageant-title-holders get lonely.”

10447 VOTES
35 people have voted on Luke Hemmings
Luke Hemmings is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Imgur

Those 5SOS guys sure love getting on Tinder. Maybe they get bored counting money. Our favorite thing about this celeb’s Tinder profile is how upset fans are that an 18-year-old rock star might want to have a random hook up. 

11510 VOTES
40 people have voted onLily Allen
Lily Allen is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Wikimedia

Hey! Remember Lily Allen? The Smile singer fueled break up rumors by taking to Twitter to tell everyone that she was signing up on Tinder. Cut to a million dudes in London also downloading the app.

12618 VOTES
37 people have voted on Chelsea Handler
Chelsea Handler is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: Tibrina Hobson/Contributor/Getty Images Entertainment

Handler has been pretty outspoken about her love of Tinder, she’s even talked about enjoying “anonymous, random men.” The gauntlet has been thrown, gentlemen. 

13302 VOTES
29 people have voted on Ryan Lochte
Ryan Lochte is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: jdlasica/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

On his way to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics, gold medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte admitted that he joined Tinder after first hearing about the dating at app after the 2014 Games in Sochi. “I heard it took off in Sochi [at the 2014 Winter Olympics] and then people were talking about it and I was like, ‘Let me try this,'” he told Cosmopolitan. “So I got on it and I’ve been matching up with a bunch of gorgeous women who are smart, they have professional jobs and everything. I’m like, ‘Wow, this is perfect.’ So I’ve been on Tinder lately. So far I haven’t had any dates or anything. I’ve just been talking with a couple [women].”

14337 VOTES
46 people have voted onRene Swette
Rene Swette is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Twitter

Austrian hockey goalie Rene Swette was found on Tinder during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Swette’s job is to stop people from scoring, hopefully, he didn’t meet any Tinder goalies on his Sochi adventure.

15367 VOTES
35 people have voted on Andy Cohen
Andy Cohen is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Pinterest

This Bravo talking head isn’t above using Tinder. He told Page 6“You know … Where am I going to meet an architect who lives in Brooklyn besides Tinder at this point?” he said. “It’s the modern-day singles bar.”

16352 VOTES
14 people have voted on Conan O’Brien
Conan O'Brien is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Reddit
Conan O’Brien is also ranked #86 of 409 on The Funniest Stand Up Comedians of All Time

Or should we say…Chip Whitley? Mr. Cone-brien joined Tinder while palling around with Dave Franco and they ended up matching with the same woman. Honestly, we’d rather match with Conan.

17308 VOTES
8 people have voted on Ronnie Radke
Ronnie Radke is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Wikimedia

Even world class scum bags guys that sing for terrible metalXcore bands need to find love/a one night stand every once in a while

18256 VOTES
25 people have voted on Ben Flajnik
Ben Flajnik is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Reddit

Former star of The Bachelor, Ben Flajnik was caught on Tinder after his relationship with fiancée Courtney Robertson fizzled. Thankfully a fan took a screenshot of his profile so we could pretend that we were playing The Bachelor home game. 

19285 VOTES
26 people have voted on Eric Andre
Eric Andre is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Twitter

The outrageously funny, sometimes anti-comedy comedian and talk show host Eric Andre revealed on Conan O’Brien that he was Tinder. But he admitted that he was having trouble meeting people. We wonder why.

20305 VOTES
8 people have voted on Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Reddit

The purple-haired and perpetually tongue-wagging guitarist from Five Seconds Of Summer has been spotted on Tinder while on tour. Guess he didn’t have anything better to do while uh…(insert 5SOS lyrics here)

21279 VOTES
6 people have voted on Eric Stonestreet
Eric Stonestreet is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Celebrities You Could Actually Meet on Tinder
Photo: via Pinterest

In a 2014 interview with Howard Stern, the Modern Family star admitted to using Tinder to hook up with girls. He even told the long-running radio show host that he changed his profile depending on what town he was in

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

The Best Christmas Movies Of All Time

From Home Alone and Elf to classics like Miracle on 34th Street, I’ve made my list of great holiday films and checked it at least twice. Now, to all you nice boys and girls out there, we present the Best Christmas Movies ever!

Christmas has come to represent different things to people over the years, and the movies here reflect that in kind. If you’re traditional and feeling nostalgic, you’ll be pleased to see where It’s A Wonderful Life and Holiday Inn made it on our list of top holiday films. If this time of the year reminds you of sitting around the TV, eagerly awaiting those annual specials, look out for A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There’s horror (Black Christmas), comedy (Trading Places), horror and comedy (Gremlins), and even a superhero covered in tinsel somewhere (Batman Returns). For those with an independent streak to celebrate, check out Tangerine and Carol. Meanwhile, Netflix has made great strides in the Kris Kringle quadrant with The Christmas Chronicles and Klaus. And if Christmas means traveling somewhere you don’t want to be, stuck in a building with people you don’t like, have we got the ultimate movie for you: Die Hard! Ho ho ho, now we have a complete list of great Christmas movies.

Wondering how we put this Christmas movie list together? Every movie on the list is Fresh and plays around with the spirit of Christmas and the holidays as a central theme. Then we sorted them all by our ranked formula, which factors in the movie’s release year its number of reviews, to make the ultimate list of holiday films that melted even the most cynical critics’ hearts.

And now you’re ready to enter a wonderland of cinematic history, with the 58 Best Christmas Movies ever!

 

#58
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The 1947 holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street is transplanted to the 1990s with few changes in this family-oriented remake…. [More]
Directed By: Les Mayfield

 

THE PREACHER’S WIFE (1996)
60%

#57
Critics Consensus: Solid performances and a steady directorial hand help The Preacher’s Wife offer some reliably heartwarming – albeit fairly predictable – holiday cheer.
Synopsis: An angel wonders if love can be Heaven on Earth in this family-themed romantic fantasy. Rev. Henry Biggs (Courtney B…. [More]
Directed By: Penny Marshall

 

#56
Critics Consensus: Viewers seeking a fresh holiday viewing option — or those simply in the mood for Santa Kurt Russell — should find The Christmas Chronicles well worth a yuletide stream.
Synopsis: THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES, a holiday adventure from producer Chris Columbus (“Home Alone”, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”) and director… [More]
Directed By: Clay Kaytis

 

LOVE ACTUALLY (2003)
64%

#55
Critics Consensus: A sugary tale overstuffed with too many stories. Still, the cast charms.
Synopsis: All of London is in love — or longing to be — in Four Weddings and a Funeral writer Richard… [More]
Directed By: Richard Curtis

 

KRAMPUS (2015)
66%

#54
Critics Consensus: Krampus is gory good fun for fans of non-traditional holiday horror with a fondness for Joe Dante’s B- movie classics, even if it doesn’t have quite the savage bite its concept calls for.
Synopsis: When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does… [More]
Directed By: Michael Dougherty

 

Critics Consensus: While Christmas Vacation may not be the most disciplined comedy, it’s got enough laughs and good cheer to make for a solid seasonal treat.
Synopsis: This is the third in the “National Lampoon” series about the Griswold family. In this sequel, the Griswolds must deal… [More]

 

Critics Consensus: Still raunchy, still irreverent, and still hit-and-miss, this Harold & Kumar outing also has a Christmas miracle: The audience gets to see the sweeter side of the duo.
Synopsis: Following years of growing apart, Harold Lee (Cho) and Kumar Patel (Penn) have replaced each other with new friends and… [More]
Directed By: Todd Strauss-Schulson

 

#51
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A 1983 animated version of the Dickens classic, with Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck as the miserly… [More]
Directed By: Burny Mattinson

 

THE NIGHT BEFORE (2015)
68%

#50
Critics Consensus: The Night Before provokes enough belly laughs to qualify as a worthwhile addition to the list of Christmas comedies worth revisiting, even if it isn’t quite as consistent as the classics.
Synopsis: Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have been friends since childhood, and for a decade, their… [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Levine

 

HOME ALONE (1990)
65%

#49
Critics Consensus: Home Alone uneven but frequently funny premise stretched unreasonably thin is buoyed by Macaulay Culkin’s cute performance and strong supporting stars.
Synopsis: Home Alone is the highly successful and beloved family comedy about a young boy named Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) who is… [More]
Directed By: Chris Columbus

 

FROSTY THE SNOWMAN (1969)
73%

#48
Critics Consensus: Frosty the Snowman is a jolly, happy sing-along that will delight children with its crisp animation and affable title character, who makes an indelible impression with his corncob pipe, button nose, and eyes made out of coal.
Synopsis: This special release celebrates the 45th anniversary of an animated Christmas classic, Frosty the Snowman. First airing on CBS, the… [More]

 

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (2013)
71%

#47
Critics Consensus: The Best Man Holiday manages honest laughs out of broad humor, and affects convincing drama from a deeply conventional plot.
Synopsis: After nearly 15 years apart, Taye Diggs (television’s Private Practice), Nia Long (Soul Food), Morris Chestnut (Kick-Ass 2), Harold Perrineau… [More]
Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee

 

SCROOGED (1988)
71%

#46
Critics Consensus: Scrooged gets by with Bill Murray and a dash of holiday spirit, although it’s hampered by a markedly conflicted tone and an undercurrent of mean-spiritedness.
Synopsis: A darkly comic and surreal contemporization of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, this effects-heavy Bill Murray holiday vehicle from 1988… [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner

 

THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994)
71%

#45
Critics Consensus: The Santa Clause is utterly undemanding, but it’s firmly rooted in the sort of good old-fashioned holiday spirit missing from too many modern yuletide films.
Synopsis: Television sitcom star Tim Allen made his big screen debut with this light, family-friendly holiday comedy. Allen stars as Scott… [More]
Directed By: John Pasquin

 

BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)
71%

#44
Critics Consensus: The rare slasher with enough intelligence to wind up the tension between bloody outbursts, Black Christmas offers fiendishly enjoyable holiday viewing for genre fans.
Synopsis: Black Christmas is an effective, frightening above average slasher movie with a good cast and a frightening, surprise ending. Barb… [More]
Directed By: Bob Clark

 

THE REF (1994)
72%

#43
Critics Consensus: Undeniably uneven and too dark for some, The Ref nonetheless boasts strong turns from Denis Leary, Judy Davis, and Kevin Spacey, as well as a sharply funny script.
Synopsis: Caroline and Lloyd (Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) are a married couple constantly at each other’s throats, masters at crafting… [More]
Directed By: Ted Demme

 

Critics Consensus: The poignant humanity on display in Joyeux Noel makes its sentimentality forgivable.
Synopsis: Scottish, French and German troops declare a spontaneous Christmas Eve truce in the trenches of World War I in this… [More]
Directed By: Christian Carion

 

HAPPY CHRISTMAS (2014)
76%

#41
Critics Consensus: Intelligent, well-acted, and satisfyingly low-key, Happy Christmas marks another step in prolific filmmaker Joe Swanberg’s creative evolution.
Synopsis: When Jenny (Anna Kendrick), a hard partying 20-something moves in with Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), a budding novelist, her film director… [More]
Directed By: Joe Swanberg

 

#40
Critics Consensus: It may not be the finest version of Charles Dickens’ tale to grace the screen, but The Muppet Christmas Carol is funny and heartwarming, and serves as a good introduction to the story for young viewers.
Synopsis: Brian Henson, the son of Muppet founder Jim Henson, took over directing duties after the untimely death of his father… [More]
Directed By: Brian Henson

 

#39
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: It’s the season of joy, peace, and goodwill… unless you live in Bailey Downs. Last Christmas Eve, two teens came… [More]

 

LET IT SNOW (2019)
81%

#38
Critics Consensus: Comfortably cliché, Let It Snow wears its influences on its sleeve, but works anyway thanks an excellent ensemble and just the right amount of holiday cheer.
Synopsis: When a snowstorm hits a small midwestern town on Christmas Eve, a group of high school seniors find their friendships… [More]
Directed By: Luke Snellin

 

WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954)
77%

#37
Critics Consensus: It may be too sweet for some, but this unabashedly sentimental holiday favorite is too cheerful to resist.
Synopsis: This Christmas classic starring Bing Crosby is a romantic tale that takes place in a Vermont lodge- where it is… [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

 

#36
Critics Consensus: Anna and the Apocalypse finds fresh brains and a lot of heart in the crowded zombie genre – not to mention a fun genre mashup populated by rootable characters.
Synopsis: A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven — at Christmas — forcing Anna and her friends to… [More]
Directed By: John McPhail

 

#35
Critics Consensus: While You Were Sleeping is built wholly from familiar ingredients, but assembled with such skill — and with such a charming performance from Sandra Bullock — that it gives formula a good name.
Synopsis: This offbeat romantic comedy has some rather dark underpinnings that add, rather than detract from the fun. It is the… [More]
Directed By: Jon Turteltaub

 

BAD SANTA (2003)
79%

#34
Critics Consensus: A gloriously rude and gleefully offensive black comedy, Bad Santa isn’t for everyone, but grinches will find it uproariously funny.
Synopsis: The Christmas season just got a lot less joyous in this very dark comedy. Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton)… [More]
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff

 

Critics Consensus: The Man Who Invented Christmas adds holiday magic to the writing of A Christmas Carol, putting a sweetly revisionist spin on the story behind a classic yuletide tale.
Synopsis: The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer),… [More]
Directed By: Bharat Nalluri

 

BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
80%

#32
Critics Consensus: Director Tim Burton’s dark, brooding atmosphere, Michael Keaton’s work as the tormented hero, and the flawless casting of Danny DeVito as The Penguin and Christopher Walken as, well, Christopher Walken make the sequel better than the first.
Synopsis: In the second of the blockbuster Batman films, the legendary hero does battle against the mysterious Cat Woman and the… [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

 

THE BISHOP’S WIFE (1948)
84%

#31
Critics Consensus: The Bishop’s Wife succeeds thanks to the strength of winning performances from a stellar cast, which includes Cary Grant and Loretta Young.
Synopsis: A harassed bishop’s prayers are answered when an angel (Cary Grant) is sent from heaven to help him raise money… [More]
Directed By: Henry Koster

 

ELF (2003)
84%

#30
Critics Consensus: A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell’s funny and charming performance as one of Santa’s biggest helpers.
Synopsis: For his sophomore stab at directing, actor/writer/director Jon Favreau (Swingers, Made), took on this holiday comedy starring Saturday Night Live-alum… [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

 

#29
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: War hero Dennis Morgan becomes the object of a publicity stunt staged by magazine publisher Sidney Greenstreet. The corpulent print… [More]
Directed By: Peter Godfrey

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951)
85%

#28
Critics Consensus: The 1951 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic is perhaps the most faithful film version — and Alastair Sim’s performance as Scrooge is not to be missed.
Synopsis: Widely considered to be the definitive of the many film versions of Charles Dickens’ classic novel is this 1951 British… [More]
Directed By: Brian Desmond Hurst

 

Critics Consensus: A sharp black comedy about a chaotic family holiday gathering, A Christmas Tale is always involving, thanks to an impressive ensemble cast.
Synopsis: The devastating reverberations of a profound tragedy echo through generations of a long-suffering French family in this emotional family drama… [More]
Directed By: Arnaud Desplechin

 

GREMLINS (1984)
85%

#26
Critics Consensus: Whether you choose to see it as a statement on consumer culture or simply a special effects-heavy popcorn flick, Gremlins is a minor classic.
Synopsis: “Don’t expose him to bright light. Don’t ever get him wet. And don’t ever, ever feed him after midnight.” This… [More]
Directed By: Joe Dante

 

TRADING PLACES (1983)
87%

#25
Critics Consensus: Featuring deft interplay between Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, Trading Places is an immensely appealing social satire.
Synopsis: The “nature-nurture” theory that motivated so many Three Stooges comedies is the basis of John Landis’s hit comedy. The fabulously… [More]
Directed By: John Landis

 

BETTER WATCH OUT (2017)
89%

#24
Critics Consensus: Carried by its charismatic young cast, Better Watch Out is an adorably sinister holiday horror film.
Synopsis: This holiday season, you may be home, but you’re not alone… In this fresh and gleefully twisted spin on home-invasion… [More]
Directed By: Chris Peckover

 

TOKYO GODFATHERS (2003)
90%

#23
Critics Consensus: Beautiful and substantive, Tokyo Godfathers adds a moving — and somewhat unconventional — entry to the animated Christmas canon.
Synopsis: Tokyo Godfathers, the acclaimed holiday classic from master director Satoshi Kon (Paprika, Perfect Blue), returns to theaters in a brand-new… [More]
Directed By: Satoshi KonShôgo Furuya

 

KISS KISS, BANG BANG (2005)
86%

#22
Critics Consensus: Tongue-in-cheek satire blends well with entertaining action and spot-on performances in this dark, eclectic neo-noir homage.
Synopsis: A murder mystery brings together a private eye, a struggling actress, and a thief masquerading as an actor…. [More]
Directed By: Shane Black

 

Critics Consensus: Rare Exports is an unexpectedly delightful crossbreed of deadpan comedy and Christmas horror.
Synopsis: It’s the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an ‘archeological’ dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus. But… [More]
Directed By: Jalmari Helander

 

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)
89%

#20
Critics Consensus: Both warmly nostalgic and darkly humorous, A Christmas Story deserves its status as a holiday perennial.
Synopsis: In the 1940’s, in the town of Hammond, 9-year-old Ralphie wants one thing for Christmas — an official Red Ryder… [More]
Directed By: Bob Clark

 

LITTLE WOMEN (1994)
92%

#19
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a powerhouse lineup of talented actresses, Gillian Armstrong’s take on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women proves that a timeless story can succeed no matter how many times it’s told.
Synopsis: This newest version of Louisa May Alcott’s tender novel is considered to be among the best as it chronicles the… [More]
Directed By: Gillian Armstrong

 

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)
90%

#18
Critics Consensus: The first collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, Edward Scissorhands is a magical modern fairy tale with gothic overtones and a sweet center.
Synopsis: Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands opens as an eccentric inventor (Vincent Price) lovingly assembles a synthetic youth named Edward (Johnny Depp)…. [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

 

KLAUS (2019)
94%

#17
Critics Consensus: Beautiful hand-drawn animation and a humorous, heartwarming narrative make Klaus an instant candidate for holiday classic status.
Synopsis: When Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) distinguishes himself as the postal academy’s worst student, he is stationed on a frozen island above… [More]
Directed By: Sergio Pablos

 

Critics Consensus: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a yule-tide gem that bursts with eye-popping iconography, a spirited soundtrack, and a heart-warming celebration of difference.
Synopsis: This stop-motion animagic version of the classic Christmas tale adds a bit of a twist when Rudolph encounters an abominable… [More]
Directed By: Maury LawsLarry Roemer

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (2011)
92%

#15
Critics Consensus: Aardman Animations broadens their humor a bit for Arthur Christmas, a clever and earnest holiday film with surprising emotional strength.
Synopsis: The 3D, CG-animated family comedy Arthur Christmas, an Aardman production for Sony Pictures Animation, at last reveals the incredible, never-before… [More]
Directed By: Sarah SmithBarry Cook

 

DIE HARD (1988)
94%

#14
Critics Consensus: Its many imitators (and sequels) have never come close to matching the taut thrills of the definitive holiday action classic.
Synopsis: It’s Christmas time in L.A., and there’s an employee party in progress on the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Corporation… [More]
Directed By: John McTiernan

 

REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940)
100%

#13
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: With a deft blending of humor, sentimentality and romance, this Preston Sturges-penned comedy centers on the romance between a caring… [More]
Directed By: Mitchell Leisen

 

BABES IN TOYLAND (1934)
100%

#12
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Two bumbling apprentices to the master toymaker of Toyland try to raise money to help Little Bo-Peep and her sweetheart… [More]

 

TANGERINE (2015)
96%

#11
Critics Consensus: Tangerine shatters casting conventions and its filmmaking techniques are up-to-the-minute, but it’s an old-fashioned comedy at heart — and a pretty wonderful one at that.
Synopsis: A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart. (C) Magnolia… [More]
Directed By: Sean Baker (II)

 

CAROL (2015)
94%

#10
Critics Consensus: Shaped by Todd Haynes’ deft direction and powered by a strong cast led by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol lives up to its groundbreaking source material.
Synopsis: In this adaptation of the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith, Therese (Rooney Mara), a young department-store clerk… [More]
Directed By: Todd Haynes

 

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944)
100%

#9
Critics Consensus: A disarmingly sweet musical led by outstanding performances from Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien, Meet Me in St. Louis offers a holiday treat for all ages.
Synopsis: Sally Benson’s short stories about the turn-of-the-century Smith family of St. Louis were tackled by a battalion of MGM screenwriters,… [More]
Directed By: Vincente Minnelli

 

LITTLE WOMEN (2019)
95%

#8
Critics Consensus: With a stellar cast and a smart, sensitive retelling of its classic source material, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women proves some stories truly are timeless.
Synopsis: Writer-director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) has crafted a Little Women that draws on both the classic novel and the writings… [More]
Directed By: Greta Gerwig

 

Critics Consensus: The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stunningly original and visually delightful work of stop-motion animation.
Synopsis: Despite having recently presided over a very successful Halloween, Jack Skellington, aka the Pumpkin King, is bored with his job… [More]
Directed By: Henry SelickTim Burton

 

Critics Consensus: How the Grinch Stole Christmas brings an impressive array of talent to bear on an adaptation that honors a classic holiday story — and has rightfully become a yuletide tradition of its own.
Synopsis: Chuck Jones’ animated version of the classic Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas originally aired on television in… [More]
Directed By: Chuck JonesBen Washam

 

#5
Critics Consensus: Deftly directed by Ernst Lubitsch from a smart, funny script by Samson Raphaelson, The Shop Around the Corner is a romantic comedy in the finest sense of the term.
Synopsis: The Shop Around the Corner is adapted from the Hungarian play by Nikolaus (Miklos) Laszlo. Budapest gift-shop clerk Alfred Kralik… [More]
Directed By: Ernst Lubitsch

 

HOLIDAY INN (1942)
100%

#4
Critics Consensus: With the combined might of Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Irving Berlin working in its favor, Holiday Inn is a seasonal classic — not least because it introduced “White Christmas” to the world.
Synopsis: Music by Irving Berlin, songs by Bing Crosby and dancing by Fred Astaire all add up to a really delightful… [More]
Directed By: Mark Sandrich

 

#3
Critics Consensus: Irrefutable proof that gentle sentimentalism can be the chief ingredient in a wonderful film, Miracle on 34th Street delivers a warm holiday message without resorting to treacle.
Synopsis: Edmund Gwenn plays Kris Kringle, a bearded old gent who is the living image of Santa Claus. Serving as a… [More]
Directed By: George Seaton

 

#2
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Christmastime is here. Happiness and cheer. And for Peanuts fans everywhere, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without this classic holiday… [More]
Directed By: Bill MelendezPhil Roman

 

#1
Critics Consensus: The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, It’s a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing.
Synopsis: This is director Frank Capra’s classic bittersweet comedy/drama about George Bailey (James Stewart), the eternally-in-debt guiding force of a bank… [More]
Directed By: Frank Capra

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to Phicklephilly LIVE on Spotify!

Conan the Barbarian

 Philadelphia, PA – 1970s

I always loved comic books as a kid. I liked the artwork and the stories. Something that many people don’t know is that Marvel Comics were always written at a college reading level. So reading comics is a good thing.

I was never really into superhero comics because I just felt that those stories had been played out by the 1970s. I loved horror comics like The Unexpected, Tales from the Crypt, The Witching Hour, etc. The stories were always fun, and many had cool twists at the ends of them.

But my favorite comic series of all time was Conan the Barbarian. What I loved about the character is the same reason my father always loved Batman. He was just a regular guy. No superpowers. Just his strength and wits.

Whereas Batman was a millionaire playboy who donned a costume to fight crime with his cool car and gadgets, Conan solved most of his problems with a broad sword.

Here’s a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conan_the_Barbarian

Conan lived in a savage world, filled with other barbarians, crazy kings, wizards, scary monsters, and hot women.

I wasn’t good at sports and was kind of a nervous wimp as a kid. I would disappear into my fantasy world of comics for hours on end as I listened to my records. I liked Conan because he was buffed, brave, and nearly indestructible. He was constantly pitted against those who wanted to destroy him and rule the world. He solved pretty much every problem he faced with a swift swing of his broad sword. He didn’t even have a costume. Just a necklace, a pair of shorts, and sandals. That, and his trusty cutlass.

There’s only way to deal with the coils of the Man-Serpent!

Being a timid kid I wished I could solve my problems with the bullies and teachers in school in much the same way as Conan faced his adversaries. On top of all of that, Conan was always surrounded by attractive scantily clad women. What teenage boy wouldn’t want to be Conan the Barbarian? A kick-ass warrior and a chick magnet? Count me in!

Red Sonja

Red Sonja - Wikipedia

Valeria

Arnie and Sandahl Bergman (Valeria) from the movie Conan the Barbarian. | Conan the barbarian movie, Conan the barbarian, Sword and sorcery

Belit

Fan Casting Ruth Kearney as Bêlit in Conan the Barbarian on myCast

All babes, that could kick ass side by side with Conan!

Conan was a beast and a ruffian, but he always had a soft spot in his hardened heart for the fairer sex. But I digress…

The series began in 1970 and were based on the stories by Robert E. Howard. So it was some hardcore sword and sorcery stuff originally written in the pulp paperbacks and now had been brought to life in the Marvel series.

The stories were amazing, filled with twists, turns crazy battle sequences, and loads of huge monsters of every kind imaginable. The writing was on point and I owned them all! But the best part of the series in the first 22 issues, was the incredible artwork by Barry Smith.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Windsor-Smith

Other than Neal Adam’s Batman, and Johnny Romita’s Spiderman, Barry Smith was my favorite comic book artist. The way he drew Conan and the other characters made you feel like you were living back in that time and place. It really added to the realism of the stories from that period. Each panel on every page was like a little piece of artwork. If you get a chance, please look up the art of Barry Smith. Conan was the only comic he ever drew. It’s what made those first 22 issues so incredible. That coupled with the great stories made for an amazing storytelling experience. I’m going to look for a compendium of those early issues and read them all again!

Being an insane fan of the American hard rock band, Aerosmith I would listen to their music while I read the comics. I loved guitarist Joe Perry and guess who Barry Smith’s Conan looked like?

Yep… Joe Perry.

Alison Lucas (goldilox1964) on Myspace | Aerosmith, Joe perry, Rock and roll

So it made me love them both even more!

I was a wimp and Conan and Joe were superheroes to me. They both had long black hair and rocked out the only way they knew how. Conan with his broad sword, and Joe with his guitar!

I would vanish into the music and stories in my bedroom and wished I could one day become one of these guys. I would sneak a little flashlight into my room at night and read the comics in bed. The trick was to place the flashlight in your armpit and then you could hold the comic while the light shown on the pages.

So Conan and my other comics helped me survive my adolescence.

 

1983 – California

I was working at Merlin McFly’s in Santa Monica as a cashier at the kitchen. I was the guy you came to if you wanted to order food at this magic-themed bar and grill.

I wrote about my experience there last year:

California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Merlin McFly’s

And here…

Chinese Chicken Salad

Anyway, I was standing there like any other night taking people’s food orders and just doing my thing. It was maybe around 7 pm and night when this tall gentleman walked up in a green polo shirt to place his food order. The first thing I noticed was his huge biceps.

“Can I get a Merlin McFly Burger and a Southwest salad?”

“Yes, Sir!” I nervously wrote down his order on a ticket to give to the cooks behind me. Thinking quickly, I reached for the only piece of paper I could find. It was a laundry receipt that was in a bag of freshly washed blue cloth napkins we used to line the baskets of fried appetizers.

Here’s the Packing List for 100 Blue Visa Napkins

I pushed a scrap of paper and pen toward this customer and spoke:

“I loved you as Conan the Barbarian, may I have your autograph?”

“What’s your name?”

“Chaz!”

The man begins to write my name and sign the paper.

“I spell Chaz with a Z!”

He makes a quick correction and slips the paper back to me.

“Thank you! We’ll call you when your food is ready, Sir!”

There he was, the living personification of my comic book hero. The actor and bodybuilder who brought my hero to the silver screen standing before me ordering a burger.

But at that moment I saw this guy:

Conan!

Conan holding his “Problem Solver!”

It was such an exciting event to meet one of my heroes.

To be honest, I’ve never felt that any Conan the Barbarian films ever captured the true spirit of the early Marvel Comic books. Conan was never as popular as many of the beloved superhero characters that people adore today, but that never mattered to me. Conan will always live in my heart as a fond childhood memory that belongs to me.

Here’s the back of the slip with Arnold’s autograph!

Just think, back then I would never have guessed Arnold would become a character even more famous than Conan, (The Terminator) but also later become the governor of California!

On a final side note, my father once met his wife Maria Schriver in Atlantic City and got a chance to speak with her at an event. He told her how much I loved her super cool husband and his movies!

Every Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Ranked From Worst to Best

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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The Space Between Us – Part 1

Philadelphia, late 1960’s.

Ever since I was a little boy, I loved the space program and all things having to do with the universe. I always liked science and nature.

On Sundays my dad would take my sister Janice and I to a book store where he picked up his copy of the New York Times. We lived in a neighborhood called Lawndale and the store was over in Cheltenham. It was a 15 or 20 minute ride from the house.

I remember one time we went there and there were a half dozen flatbed trailers in the parking lot. On each trailer were these giant dinosaur models. But, get this… you could put coins in  a machine on the thing and it would make you a miniature model of the dinosaur you were standing at the foot of. It was incredible. Of course my dad got us one of each.

(They were made out of wax and plastic. It was almost surreal to me at the time. If I can find any info on this, I’ll write about it in a future post.)

Creepy Classics

1960s Tyrannosaurus Rex Wax Mold-A-Rama Injection Mold Dinosaur Small Variation | Tyrannosaurus rex, Tyrannosaurus, Dinosaur

1960s Tyrannosaurus Rex Wax Mold-A-Rama Injection Mold Dinosaur Small Variation

I will have to say this here being a student of science. Notice how back then people thought T-Rex walked upright like a guy in a Godzilla suit dragging his tail behind him? When it’s painfully obvious if you look at the bone structure of the T-Rex he’s built more like a bird. The genuine article leaned forward and his tail stuck out for balance.

More like this rendering:

Growing Up Tyrannosaurus Rex: Researchers Learn More About Teen-Age T.Rex

Since this story is about science I felt it needed to be said!

My dad read the NY Times every Sunday for as long as I can remember. We had the Evening Bulletin delivered to our house every day by the local paperboy, but he would buy the Times for himself every weekend. It was a behemoth of a publication. Easily 100 pages. This is when print was king and the Times was probably the greatest paper in the country. (Maybe the world!)

I once asked my father why he read that paper and he told me that he felt that the Times told the unbiased truth when it came to the news. It was a high brow intelligently written paper that brought you news from around the world. He felt that it gave him everything he needed to know each week.

He’d be chatting with the staff and browsing for books, and Janice and I would wander around the store looking at all kinds of different books. I loved walking up and down the aisles looking at all sorts of different books!

My dad would sometimes say no to getting us a toy. But he never said no to getting us a book.

I loved looking at all of books and comics. Normally, my sister and I would come home with something on those trips.

We always had lots of books growing up. My father was an avid reader and always had a book going. He was a self educated man. He read about everything. He would pick a subject and read all he could about it. I always thought that my dad was a really smart guy, but he would always dismiss it by saying that he was just older. But I knew he got smart from reading so many books. He wanted to better understand the world and its historical events to better navigate his own life. He used to say that the three greatest things in his life were my mom, us kids, and his books.

He passed in 2016, but I wonder what his reaction would have been to discover his son had become a published author?

He used to say that books and knowledge gave him the tools he needed to better navigate the world and the people and events in it. That habit trickled down into us kids, and we all learned so much from him. Don’t get me wrong, my mom liked to read too, but she was more into Agatha Christie and works of fiction. My dad liked non-fiction. Mostly history, biographies, and science. He did love science fiction and read all the great works by Clark, Asimov, and Heinlein. He enjoyed authors who took a more scientific approach to their writing rather than the fantasy stuff of say… Ray Bradbury. He always liked stories about stuff that could maybe happen in the future. That’s why he always liked Batman better than Superman. Superman was an alien from another planet with incredible powers. Batman was just a regular guy. Batman was cool, because Batman could be a real guy! You could never be Superman, but if you had the money and skills, you could maybe be Batman!

I remember he got me a huge poster and I hung it on the wall of my bedroom. It was of our solar system and I would always look at it think about our galaxy. Here’s a guy who took me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. We loved space and all things science fiction. I used to stand on my bed at night and just stare at that poster. I always thought it would be amazing to travel to the stars. But I was afraid of heights, so that was off the table.

We had stacks of books about science and nature. I remember my sister and I would get these little paperback digest sized books about animals. I especially loved those books. Each one had a different subject. Fish, Reptiles, Amphibians, Insects, and Spiders and their kin. I asked dad what the word kin meant, and he told me that they were all in the same family. Just like us. Reading all of these kinds of books as a kid were not only fun and informative, but they made you smarter, and you didn’t even realize it was happening. I don’t remember many of my friends in the neighborhood having many books like that growing up.

I loved space, aliens, space travel and science fiction movies growing up. My father was a huge fan of the Apollo program as it began to take shape in the 60’s. We followed it together and would watch the launches on our black and white TV.  I remember I was in first grade for Apollo 8.

But, bigger and better things were coming.

A promise President Kennedy made to the American people just eight years before. His words ring true today now more than ever.

I’ll never forget the night of July 16th, 1969. I was in bed, and my father came and woke me up and brought me downstairs. I remember sitting on the floor in my pajamas next to his chair, and watching as the Apollo lunar module touched down on surface of the moon. The moment I saw Neil Armstrong step carefully down the ladder as the first man on the moon.

A glorious moment in human history.

I always felt bad for Alan Shephard who stayed behind in the ship orbiting the moon, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. But they needed Alan pick them up and take them back to Earth.

But in that moment as the astronauts looked back upon that blue marble surrounded by blackness, they maybe thought…All life as we have ever known it is right there. All of the people, animals, fish, birds, insects, plants… everything was on that blue marble.

Except for them. They were out there.

As usual, I was struggling in school. It’s not that I wasn’t bright, I just didn’t like school and it’s inhabitants. My dad tried to challenge my mind at home, so he bought a bunch of books. Space, History, Science, Biology, Anatomy, and Animals.  They were this amazing series of books on nearly every subject. But it was all written in terms a kid could understand.

Here’s an example.

The How and Why Wonder Books!

How and Why Wonder Books

How and Why Wonder Books

He would assign me chapters to read at night when my regular homework was finished. I also read them in my free time and on the weekends.

Initially it felt like a punishment. To me it was a punishment. More schoolwork?

But what I later realized is, that learning was fun. The world is a fascinating place if you have the right materials and most of all, the right teacher. I would read the assigned chapters, and then my dad would give me a list of questions I had to answer on a yellow legal pad. (Yes, I was tested to see if I retained the information.) I didn’t like this forced learning, but after a while I began to feel a certain pride in learning all of these things. If for nothing else than to become a smarter person.  A boy who knew more about the world around him.

He figured if I wasn’t going to pay attention in school, then by god, he was going to fill my head with as much good information as he could jam in there. He knew I had the head for it. But I didn’t realize it at the time. But after a while it got easier, and the books became more interesting to me. I was under 10 years old, and I knew all of the stages of gestation, even though I hadn’t a clue what sex was yet.

Reading those books and being tested was simply the beginning of all of the things my father taught me. Those books and all of the other books he gave me on a regular basis made me an avid reader where I later excelled in school. I’m happy to report that I’ve never said no to my daughter in regard to a book, and she’s a brilliant reader. So my sisters and I have tried to replicate all of the good things our parents taught us, and discarded the bad. Why hold onto it? They were mistakes. Focus on the triumphs, and go forward.

Sometimes on a Saturday, my mom would take the girls into town. When you lived in the suburbs back then, you referred to center city as ‘going into town’. They would be gone half the day shopping at the big department stores. Gimbels, Lit Bros, and Strawbridges.

Saturday morning meant one thing to me as a kid.

Saturday Morning Cartoons.

When I was a little guy, (Like four or five) I was so into Saturday morning cartoons, that I knew what show was coming on at what time, and what to watch next on what channel.

I couldn’t even tell time yet. However, back then there were only a few channels. VHF: 3, 6, 10 & 12. UHF: 17, 29, & 48. That was it.

One of the cool things about a Saturday with dad instead of mom was lunch. I remember he would be sitting at his place at the dinner table in the kitchen. The sun through the windows would illuminate his paper.  If I was hungry, he would make me a dish called, ‘Junk’.

Junk consisted of Planter’s cocktail peanuts, (When they were perfectly salty and greasy) a handful of crispy pretzels, and three or four slices of American cheese (New Yorker) tossed in a little green cereal bowl. That was placed on a folding snack table in front of my TV chair, and I was good to go. Wash it down with some Hawaiian Punch and you’re all set.

You’d think that wasn’t enough for a growing boy, but I was a fussy eater, and I loved that combination. I didn’t realize that I was basically eating bar snacks for lunch. It was awesome, and I loved it. We all did!

I was finished lunch one Saturday and dad and I are discussing some of the things I was learning from the books he gave me to read. I was struggling with some of the laws of gravity, inertia, and centrifugal force.

My dad came up with the idea that he should do what he always did; lead by example. Anything worth doing was worth overdoing. So he came up with a plan.

He went into the basement, and when he returned he produced a bucket of water.

Now, I’m a little kid. There’ve been times I’ve done things, or brought things into the house that I shouldn’t have. Boys always pull stuff like that. But here we were in the living room and he’s got a big bucket of water. Every cell in my mind tells me that mom doesn’t want anything like that in the living room. Kids spill stuff all the time. A glass of juice is one thing, but a bucket of water would be a solid call for corporal punishment.

But dad’s explaining to me the laws of gravity, rotation and centrifugal force. If dad’s here we’re good. Mom’s not home so it doesn’t matter. He’s got all the power in regard to what you should, or shouldn’t do in my mom’s nice living room.

My dad proceeds to swing the big bucket of water back and forth. I’m watching with startled eyes as he begins to swing it higher and higher. Then, without warning he swings it all the way over his head like a pinwheel. I’m talking Pete Townsend windmill moves. Frankly I’m amazed that none of the water is coming out of the bucket as he swings it in a circular motion over his head. It doesn’t make sense…

Until it does.

I see it. Now, I get it.

Centrifugal force, a fictitious force, peculiar to a particle moving on a circular path, that has the same magnitude and dimensions as the force that keeps the particle on its circular path (the centripetal force) but points in the opposite direction.

Rad, man!

Later, mom and the girls came home from shopping in town, and no one was the wiser.

 

More tomorrow!

 

 

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