Friday, December 25, 2015

Holiday Happiness: Hey Arnold

This past Wednesday was a near perfect day. I started off by getting in a 5:30 AM workout followed by polishing off the magnificent tome of an autobiography, Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. This was a personal record as I conquered the 624 pages of informative, inspiring, educational and hilarious anecdotes, onset accords and more in just two weeks. The book covers Arnold's entire life from growing up in war affected Austria, his strict but loving parents, getting into bodybuilding, moving to America, amassing personal wealth through construction and real estate to getting into movies, working with President's, meeting future wife Maria Shriver and her political family, running for governor, going public about his secret love child and coming back to the movies. As a lifelong fan I learned quite a bit, things like his Mr. America defeat to Frank Zane in 1968 would forever haunt him as an example of being overconfident and under prepared. Or that after making so much money in real estate, his next investment was a $140 million 747 that is leased out to airlines. Or how he still wasn't sure if he'd run for Governor of California until he went on Jay Leno the night he announced he would. Some of his life philosophies are shared through like staying hungry, being useful, setting goals and accomplishing them through research, education and reps, rep, reps.

Of course later on Wednesday I met an even bigger personal hero, one Jean-Claude Van Damme! It was nearly surreal chatting and joking with The Muscles From Brussels and even more life affirming when he said I was in shape and told me to take my sweater off so we could flex in our tee shirts for photos. Again, seeing Bruce Lee and Van Damme as a kid got me into martial arts and fitness, positive thinking and trying to be the best version of myself I can be. I will be forever grateful. If that weren't enough awesomeness for one day, I met up with some buddies for a Korean BBQ dinner, one of the great meals, if you eat meat. While my former spot has changed names, decor and slowed in service, it was still a terrific time conversing and joking while grilling up lots and lots of meat.

While some people Jingle some of the way, I was going to Jingle ALL the way. Yes, the day was capped off with a 35 mm screening of Arnold's holiday classic at The New Beverly Cinema, where he searches for the season's hottest toy Turboman and goes up against snooty employees, conman Santa Claus', an old school cop, skeezy Phil Hartman and an unstable mail man played by Sinbad. I remember seeing the film back in 1996, owning the VHS and then the Director's Cut on DVD. Experiencing it on the big screen, as usual, makes you see it in a different light. I'd forgotten how go go go the film is as once Arnold starts looking for the doll, it's more or less non-stop for 90 zany minutes. Future Anakin Skywalker Jake Lloyd shows off some acting chops here, especially for a kid while Hartman's eligible bachelor neighbor is surprisingly creepy for a family film. Kind of sad was the fact that in the film, characters trample, mace, fight and connive one another to get what they want but if you've seen any videos from Wal-Mart on Black Friday, you know that is now the world we live in. Brian Levant directs from a Randy Kornfield script and employs a terrific supporting cast of familiar faces like Sinbad, Hartman, Rita Wilson, The Wild Wild West's Robert Conrad, Richard Moll from Night Court, young Lloyd, James Belushi, Chris Parnell and Revenge of the Nerds' Curtis Armstrong. There was a solid turnout for the flick and the crowd was very enthusiastic, laughing, cheering and cringing at some of the cartoonish physical stunts.

At home I've been watching End of Days after learning that the tale of Y2K and the devil taking over the world came to The Oak after a dry spell following open heart surgery to fix a genetically defective valve. Apparently Hollywood had gotten so used to Arnold being a self made superman who took care of the job on and off screen, they couldn't believe he was human and needed surgery. The phone stopped ringing and execs wondered if he could handle the rigors of action filmmaking or secure insurance for shoots. Like 1996's Jingle, End of Days was released over Thanksgiving weekend of 1999 and grossed a similar $66 million in the states on it's way to $211 million globally. The Peter Hyams directed film is very 90's and not a fantastic title in Arnold's filmography but he plays a gruff yet likable character and there's some pretty big action going on along with plenty of memorable Arnold screams and grunts along with a few funny lines. Of course Jericho Cane's introduction scene is one of Arnold's best, where he's hungover and contemplating suicide before making a breakfast shake that includes beer, Pepto Bismo, Chinese food, coffee and a slice of pizza off the floor. Twas truly a great day, should have bought a lottery ticket...

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