About Dr. Josh Misner

Mindfulness researcher and author, Father of four, Communication Professor

School’s Out for Summer

School Front

I pulled up to the curb of my son’s school, just like I had the previous 719 times, save for a handful of times when the occasional flu bug or “self-esteem day” kept my son home from school for the day. The warm June sun peeking up over the Idaho mountains gave promise to a beautiful day ahead.

When we left the house, I hadn’t given much thought to our morning, as it was like any other. We woke up 30 minutes before we had to leave, showered, chowed down some breakfast, grabbed our stuff, and bolted out the door. As usual, we negotiated the iTunes playlist that would govern our 20-minute drive to school.

So, why was today so different? Continue reading

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Open Letter to Hollywood: Enough with All the Sequels and Reboots (Seriously, Knock It Off)

Image result for sequels

Hollywood, we need to talk.

And when I use Hollywood, I’m referring to pretty much all U.S. television and movie production. It’s easier to use the one word than to list production companies, locations, and whatnot.

In the communication and media courses I’ve taught for at least the last decade, I have borne witness to profound dialogue on the state of creativity within mainstream entertainment. Many refer to the experience of consuming the last two decades’ worth or so of TV and movies as “weathering a drought of imagination and originality, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.” Others bitch about too many sequels and unnecessary reboots, usually based on significantly older movies. Over the span of my teaching career, I’ve listened to students wax eloquent on this topic, but now, I need to speak up.

Hollywood, you’re blowing it.

What was once a powerhouse of the American economy and a bastion of unbridled creative imagination has become a bland, hollow shell of its former brilliant self, and if y’all don’t do something about this soon, then someone else will. That ‘someone’ may be a film industry in another country (i.e., South Korea, India, Nigeria, China, etc.).

To examine this trend in more detail, let’s take a little trip back to the 1980s (where’s McFly and his Delorean when you need him?). As I was drafting up a tongue-in-cheek article on what I consider the best year for family movie night flicks from the 80s, I noticed a pattern emerge. Here some bar charts from that article:

Number of movies

 

Number of sequels

In the first chart, you’ll note that subjectively ‘good’ movies peaked in 1985 and then start to trail off. When I compared the first chart with the second, which shows the number of sequels released per year, I did not see the same trail; in fact, sequels increased after the peak of creative, original movies in 1985.

Could there be a correlation? My gut tells me yes, but I’m not alone. One of the most common conversations I see in social media comments on new movie trailers for reboots of 80s movies (and even some 90s movies) or sequels to movie franchises that should have remained buried in recent history, is that theater patrons are growing frustrated with the lack of creativity coming out of Hollywood.

Exhibit A:

There were 43 sequels released in 2017 alone, and of those, 21 of them were the third movie in the franchise or higher. Four of the 52 release dates of 2017 (which were major movie-going weekends) saw nothing but sequels on the agenda.

Exhibit B:

Chart courtesy of Melody Lau, CBC

Look at that pie chart, Hollywood. You know what kind of pie that is? That’s a shame-berry pie, and you’re going to eat every last bite. While you chew on this delicacy of self-induced humiliation, we, your viewers, want you to think about what you’ve done.

A mere one-fifth of the highest grossing movies of the last year were original story lines. That’s 20% for those of you who freak out about fractions.

One. In. Five.

In other words, if I mortgage my house once a month so I can take my kids to the movies and maybe have enough left over for us to buy popcorn, then I might average seeing roughly TWO original movies a year! In the mid-1980s, arguably one of the best eras for movies in modern history, audiences had the option to see 84-88% original content, while today, we have 20% or less.

Pardon my French, Hollywood, but you’re kind of an asshole.

You’re the drunk at the bar, retelling the same stupid high school football story every night. You’re the uncool dad who tells his kids’ friends the same knock-knock joke every time they come over. You’re the lousy Facebook friend who somehow posts the same dumb-ass memes day-in and day-out.

Up until now, we’ve been the bar mates who let you slide because we feel sorry for you, the kids who’d rather go over to their friends’ houses instead, and the Facebook friends who unfollow but don’t unfriend you because we still think  you might have a sliver of decency left in you somewhere.

There are 330 MILLION people alive in the country as of now. Each and every person has a story to tell, and I’d wager we could find something fascinating and interesting in every one of them. I found a statistic that suggested 55% of all the Americans who have ever lived since 1776 are alive today, which means that, if the number is accurate, then we also have an additional 300 million interesting stories to tell of Americans throughout history.

Let’s place that in a context. Sixteen million people alone served in WWII, and of them, roughly half a million are still alive. Think of the amazing stories they have to tell! And if you think war movies are overdone, then what about women like my wife’s grandmother who welded ships in San Francisco during the war? If the idea of a badass woman welding in a shipyard isn’t interesting enough, then do a bit of research on other American events that have yet to have their stories told with a reasonably decent budget: the Trail of Tears, escaping slavery in the pre-Civil War South, settling California and life during the gold rush, the building of Las Vegas, completion of the transcontinental railroad, and the list goes on and on.

That’s only nonfiction historical stories, which means that’s only ONE BLOODY GENRE! We have yet to explore the power of the human imagination in fiction. A quick Google search tells me that there have been nearly 130 MILLION books published throughout history. Each one could potentially be made into an interesting movie, thereby ruining the experience for those who originally read that book.

The cynic in me reminds me that not all those books are good and that I’ve read some really crappy books. I’d even wager the vast majority are not suitable to make into movies, but if we assume a mere 1% of all books have a story worthy of telling, that’s still 1.3 million stories to pick from. Even at 0.01% (1 in every 10,000 books), that’s still an overwhelming number of original stories from which to choose.

So, why then, dearest Hollywood, do you keep turning the sausage crank on a machine that continues to churn out an utter crapfest of rehashed, stale ideas, year after year?

Most of us know what’s up—you’re scared. When you invest millions of dollars with the hopes of making enough to recoup the investment and still make a decent income, that’s scary. We get it – it’s a business, and sequels and reboots seem safe. But y’all have been taking the safe route far too often, and that fear of failure is seriously hampering your ability to provide your adoring public with the good stuff.

On the other hand, we easily recall the last-straw movie that probably pistol-whipped you into this fear:

Image result for howard the duck

But consider Howard the Duck a hard lesson learned. Business is a gamble, and in a subjective taste-based business like film and television, not all creative ventures are going to work.

In the 1980s, movie production was just as risky a business (I laughed way too hard when I typed that), but those risks were taken willingly and knowingly as part of the game. Simply put, original content was prized over sequels and reboots, or at least, so it seemed. Somewhere along the line, I think studios lost their nerve, sense of adventure, and embrace of the unknown.

I think it’s fair to suggest that I speak on behalf of pretty much all the moviegoers in the U.S. (and maybe even abroad) when I state that it’s well past time Hollywood started taking risks again. You have plenty of talent, gobs of budget, and MORE than enough source material from which to draw inspiration. Simply stated, no more excuses.

It’s not too late to walk away from the reboot of Big Trouble in Little China, and you don’t need to follow through on making a sequel to The Goonies. After all, Stranger Things more than proved you can recapture the spirit and feel of a beloved film like The Goonies without having to dig up the exact same characters and risk something even more heinous: ruining the franchise.

It’s time to give originality a shot, like you did in your past, Hollywood. It’s okay. Forgive yourselves for Gremlins 2, and please, enough with the sequels and reboots.

The Best Year of the 1980s, According to Movies, Is…

goonies-header

Lately, I’ve been a bit obsessed. I wrote a parents’ guide to 80s movies to watch with their kids, and in writing it, I became re-inspired to watch many of them with my own family. As I took note of which movies we were instinctively drawn toward, I began noticing patterns that I had not noticed previously.

In reflecting on those patterns, I started noticing trends that had to do with movies from the 80s, and those trends eventually started blossoming into a hypothesis, which I would then share with literally anyone who would take the time to even half-listen to my ranting.

Ask my wife; she’ll confirm it.

The first trend I noticed the most was that a LOT of our favorite movies seemed to be centered around 1985, plus or minus 1-2 years. In other words, I started getting the suspicion that 1985 may have been the greatest year for movies, and in leading up to 1985, movies increasingly got better, while after 1985, movie quality steadily declined.

The second part to my budding theory was that Hollywood steadily increased its reliance on sequels as cash cows, which, for the most part, really sucked, because what made the 80s really great in terms of movie-making was the sheer volume of originality when it came to film. I mean, come on – think about some of our favorite 80s movies, and then ask yourself if they would have a cookie’s chance in a toddler’s hand of being made today.

Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo? Not a chance. Howard the Duck? Nope. Then again, perhaps it was the extreme, almost obscene originality of Howard the Duck that made studios a bit gun-shy to produce anything THAT far out of the proverbial box.

This leads me to the third part of my theory, which is that the American movie industry is currently experiencing a drastic creativity crisis. Too many sequels. Too many remakes of previously original and beloved films. NOT ENOUGH ORIGINAL IDEAS.

So, as a professor and researcher, I decided to test my theories. Now, this is NOT a rigorous or peer-reviewed research study, so yes, I admit it is flawed.

We don’t need to nitpick those flaws to death in the comments. Even with the flaws, I would wager that the results remain pretty close to the same in the end.

Anyway, here’s the methodology I used:

  • Using IMDB.com (Internet Movie Database), I pulled up database results for the most popular movies of each year. These results are sorted by the bestselling movies. Here’s an example link.
  • I scanned the list for each year and wrote down every last one of the movies that I either have already seen and enjoyed with my kids or movies that I know for a fact they would enjoy but haven’t yet seen. I used a LOT of leeway here so as to include as many movies as humanly possible and ended up including a lot of movies I might not actually ever watch with them, but they are still beloved classics by others. Generally speaking, once you get to the #150-200 mark of each year’s list, you’re getting to the softcore porn movies, films even Lifetime wouldn’t show, and straight-to-video stinkers.
  • I compiled a list for each year, from 1982-1988, which provided me with three years on either side of 1985 to examine any emerging trends. Then, I counted the number of quality (i.e., watchable and enjoyable) movies for each year, followed by counting the number of those movies that were sequels.

Without further fanfare, let’s look at the data. First, here is a chart showing the number of enjoyable movies for each year:

Number of movies

Whoa. That’s pretty telling.

Now, here’s the number of sequels among all those delicious movies:

Number of sequels

Numbers don’t lie.

My first theory, that 1985 was the pinnacle of creative, original, family movie night friendly films, was pretty accurate. As for the years leading up and away, well, 1983-1984 and 1986-1988 were pretty great years for movies as well. However, among those good movies were an increasing number of sequels, creating the trend or the norm that plagues Hollywood today. My man, Roberto, wrote an incredible article (and pseudo scientific article) on the impact of sequels here.

This now begs the question of whether that trend continued into the 90s as well, and maybe that’s a task I need to tackle once I get the write-up done for a parent’s guide to 90s movies for family movie night.

In other words, to be continued…

 

In case anyone is curious, here’s the list, ordered by descending popularity at the box office. Sequels are highlighted.

List of 80s Movies

50+ Essential Horror Movies: A Guide to Introducing Your Kids to the Genre

Previously on this site, I began with making a case for why parents should institute a family movie night tradition, after which I followed up with my [imperfect and incomplete] list of 89 movies from the 80s that could make a great starting point for such a tradition to unfold.

In that list, I specifically excluded two types of movies—Star Wars and those within the horror genre—because I believe they deserve their own lists.

Before we jump into the horror genre, allow me to provide context. After all, a lot of parents might stop reading at this point, wondering why in the deep-fried holy hell parents would even want to introduce their kids to the horror genre.

Well, for this movie-loving father figure, horror is where my love of film originated.

The horror genre provides a benefit few other film types can offer a view: catharsis. What is this mystical and semi-obscure idea? Continue reading

89 Essential 80s Movies for Parent-Child Movie Nights

Disclaimer: I was 5 (and a half) in 1980 and 14 (and a half) when we rang in the new year in 1990. That stated, get comfortable, because there’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to 80s flicks.

As mentioned previously in the origin story for this site, and as painfully obvious as the site’s title implies, I watched a fully rounded metric buttload (2.205 times larger than a SAE buttload) of movies as a kid, and as stated above, the 80s encompassed more than half of my childhood. Therefore, it’s understandable that I have a lot to say about my beloved childhood films, and even more obvious is the fact that I love to share those experiences with my kids.

Stated plainly, I watch a LOT of 80s movies with my children. When we first started, I wasn’t sure how they would take them. After all, if my father had ever sat down to watch  a movie with me during the 80s and busted out one of his childhood favorites, that would mean I would have had to sit through some black and white movie from the early 1950s. Image result for hard pass No offense to classic movie lovers, but no thanks. With that in mind, when I offered to watch one of my faves with my young children, I was concerned that they would view them with the same level of disdain.

Boy, was I wrong and glad to be so. Movie nights featuring films from the 80s are far and away my kids’ favorites, so below, I am offering an essential lineup of films to watch with your kids, including three items: 1) Quick quote (first thing to come to my mind), 2) My take on the significance of the film, and 3) My kids’ reactions to the movies. I’ve also included links to IMDB.com for each movie in case you want to learn more about them, such as looking up who’s in each movie, trivia, quotes, soundtrack info, etc., along with any other pertinent links where applicable. Continue reading

Why You Need a Family Movie Night Tradition

A typical Friday evening as a 20-something single dude:

Meet friends for greasy bar food. Drink copious amounts of alcohol. Sing karaoke badly. Dance even worse. Lose memory. Make decisions likely to become regrets the next day. Repeat as necessary.

A typical Friday evening as a 40-something father of four:

Transform the living room, starting with a mattress base, surround ourselves with the arms of our favorite stuffed animals, and top with no less than fourteen pillows and six blankets. Make a bucket of coconut oil and sea salt popcorn. Ensure steady supply of gummy cola bottles, Dots, and/or various forms of chocolate. Drape myself with a Snuggie. Gather and organize remotes, power up the television, close the curtains, turn out the lights, and make memories while cuddling my children. Continue reading

The Raised on Movies Origin Story

The year was 1985, which, by the way, I contend is one of the best years of the 1980s as far as movies are concerned (likely the subject of a later post). I was heading into public school for the first time, entering fifth grade. Image result for 1985Prior to my mingling with the heathens and sociopaths I expected to find in the public school system, I had spent the previous four years being indoctrinated into a private Christian school system, which was really about 20 kids under the same roof, all homeschooling together at the same time and place.

Continue reading