Search This Blog

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Matinee - Top Gun

Do you remember the first time that you ever used a VCR?

I imagine for a select few of you out there, you probably have never used a VCR.  Some of you are so used to DVD players and Blu-Ray players that you probably don't even know how a VCR even works.

But back in the 1980s, that was all that we had to use in order to watch movies and record television shows.

I actually have a funny story to tell you in regards to when my family got their first VCR.

The year was 1988, and as part of an anniversary gift for my parents 23rd wedding anniversary, they got a brand new television set (which weighed between 50-75 pounds thanks to the wooden frame around the television set, as was the style back in the late 1980s), and their first VCR to go with it.

And for the longest time, I was the only one who knew how to program it.

I was the first to figure out how to set the clock on the VCR. You could always tell whether a clock was set on a VCR, because if it wasn't, you'd see the time display constantly flashing at 12:00. Thanks to me, I was able to program the correct time on the VCR without any trouble.

Did I mention that I was only seven years old at the time?

Because I managed to set the clock without any trouble, I was also able to figure out how to record shows, and set the timer to record a program while I was out of the house. Thanks to my keen ability to figure out the VCR on my own, I managed to record my favourite cartoon shows, sitcoms, and music videos from Muchmusic.

Of course, as a result of my overusing my parents VCR, I was also the first one in the family to BREAK said VCR just four years later. Whoops. Guess I must have put one too many tapes inside of that thing, huh?

Ah...remember the good old days in which you had to purchase a head cleaner for the VCR to ensure that your tapes didn't become lunch for your VCR? I do.

Of course, now that we're in the DVD/Blu-Ray era, VHS tapes and VCR's are seemingly a thing of the past.

In a way, the VHS era was a much simpler time. A time when we could walk over to the video store to rent movies. A time in which action movies had lots of action and romance. A time in which Tom Cruise was once a respected actor and not just someone who treated Oprah Winfrey's sofa as a trampoline.

Don't you remember the days?

And yes, there's a reason why I brought up Mr. Cruise in this blog entry.

You see, when the TV/VCR combo was finally hooked up and everything was ready to go, we realized that we didn't really have any movies to watch on it. Knowing that there was a convenience/video rental store just around the corner from my childhood home at the time, my sisters decided to head over there to rent a movie for us all to watch.

That movie was the 1986 film, Top Gun, which starred Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, and Kelly McGillis, just to name a few.

And I remember being extremely disappointed at the choice of movie at the time. I didn't even watch the movie with the rest of my family, because at the age of seven, Top Gun bored me to tears. I mean, yes, the airplane flying was sort of cool, but other than that, I wasn't interested. I just retreated to my little corner of the living room with my stack of Archie Digests and read happily away while the adults of the room watched the movie.

It really wasn't until years later that I started to really appreciate the movie for what it was. When my parents finally got themselves a DVD player almost twenty years since they got their VCR, I ended up buying them the DVD of Top Gun for a Christmas present, and they watched it a second time. This time though, I watched the film from start to end, and found that I really did end up liking it after all.

Maybe I can strike that to maturity on my part. Who can say?

Anyway, can you believe that Top Gun was released twenty-five years ago? That is absolutely shocking to me. What's even more shocking are the plans to re-release the movie in 3D sometime in 2012. I personally have mixed feelings about this one. Yeah, a re-release would be great for people who may have missed out on seeing it on the big screen (like myself as I was only five at the time it was released), but I think the whole 3D craze is just a wee bit overused.

The movie was directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson. It quickly became the most popular film of 1986, and this quote was ranked #94 out of AFI's listing of the Top 100 Movie Quotations of All Time.

The soundtrack was also something to celebrate as well, with the album being one of the biggest selling soundtracks of the 1980s. With songs like this one...

...and this one...

...the music of the film certainly added depth and poignancy to the film's storyline.

That storyline being all about two men and their experiences as students at the Top Gun school in NAS Miramar.

United States Naval Aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) is reckless, defiant, disobedient, and marches to the beat of his own drum. Radar Intercept Officer LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Edwards) is a sensible, cautious family man with a wife and young child. Despite their differences, the two manage to form a really close bond with each other, and they end up working very well together as partners. Part of the reason why both of them were selected to go into the Top Gun program was because of the fact that they worked together well (and partially because of the fact that their colleague, “Cougar” gave up his Wings Of Gold after a mission where Maverick managed to hold off enemy MiG-28s after Cougar became too shaken to respond).

During the film, the reason behind why Maverick flies recklessly and dangerously, and why he has little to no regard for rules is made clear. Back in 1965, his father's plane was shot down during the Vietnam War, and although all signs of the incident pointed the finger of blame at Maverick's father, he refuses to believe that it was his fault.

The day before Maverick and Goose enroll in the Top Gun program, the two of them decide to go to a bar to celebrate their enrollment when they notice a woman sitting nearby. Goaded on by Goose, Maverick decides to hit on the woman (McGillis) in a rather...unusual way.

Now, on the surface, this might have been a sweet moment. And it probably was. What Maverick didn't know was that this woman would come into his life in a rather unusual way. And when Maverick and Goose reported for their first day of training at the Top Gun program, Maverick is absolutely shocked to learn that the woman he tried to pick up at the bar is Charlotte “Charlie” of the instructors at the academy.

Cue the “Hot For Teacher” guitar riff!

During the flight training, Maverick's reckless flying seems to make him friends and foes. LCDR Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Michael Ironside) is simultaneously annoyed and fascinated by Maverick's style, and he is actually bested by Maverick in a combat training exercise (even if Maverick DID break a couple of rules while doing it). 

He also serves as a rival to LT Tom “Iceman” Kasansky (Val Kilmer), who brands Maverick as being dangerous with his outright disregard of the rules. Perhaps the most surprising reaction comes from Charlie. Charlie seemed to take great pleasure in chastising Maverick in class, and basically paints Maverick as the poster child of “what not to do” in combat.  Secretly though, Charlie admires Maverick's tactics, and when she and Maverick were alone together, she admits that she hides her real feelings for him from the other students. Soon after that, Charlie and Maverick enter into a relationship with each other.

During his training, Maverick happens to cross paths with chief instructor CDR Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerritt). Maverick effectively challenges Viper during flight exercises, but on one such mission, Viper maneuvers Maverick into a position in which Jester could shoot Maverick from behind, which he had hoped would teach Maverick that teamwork was much more important than individual abilities.

It seemed as though things were going well at the Top Gun program. Maverick and Goose were well on their way to completing the program and graduating. With Goose looking forward to spending time with his family and Maverick in a new relationship, it seemed nothing was going to stop them.

It started off as any normal day. Maverick and Iceman both chased Jester through the skies on another mission, both attempting to get a lock on their target. But Iceman broke off from Maverick, and Maverick found himself flying through the jet wash of Iceman's aircraft, and this caused the engines in Maverick's F-14 to flameout. The jet goes into a flat spin, and unable to recover from it, Maverick and Goose are forced to eject. Sadly, in the ejection, Goose ends up getting knocked out cold, and when his chute lands in the ocean, he drowns before Maverick can get to him.

Goose's death was a moment that deeply affected Maverick. In many ways, Goose was his best friend, and the idea that he watched him die without being able to do anything about it. I couldn't even imagine knowing how he felt. The board of inquiry cleared Maverick of any wrongdoing in Goose's death, but it did nothing to change how Maverick felt. He had lost his friend, and in that, he lost his edge. He even considers leaving the Navy over it because his self-confidence was shattered. It wasn't until a pep talk from Viper that changes his well as learning a secret about his father's death that would change his own perspective forever.

But I'm not gonna reveal it. You're gonna have to watch the movie yourself.

But I can totally get where Maverick was coming from. Sometimes it takes just one event for someone to lose complete confidence in themselves, and feel completely lost. In Maverick's case, it was the death of his friend that sent him in a downward spiral. In my case, it was prematurely leaving college without a degree that did it for me. Granted, in my case, my situation was one where regardless of whether I stayed or not, my end result wasn't what I had hoped. But somehow I'm still doing okay. I could be doing better, but I try not to focus on that. Instead, I try to look at who I am now, and what I can be doing to accept that, and gain more confidence in myself.

It's a never ending struggle. But knowing that Maverick had to undergo the same struggles and came out of it a better person...well, it gives me hope. And if anything, I can now look at Top Gun with a better appreciation at age 30 than I ever could as a kid.

No comments:

Post a Comment