On May 15, 2024

It was 30 years ago today

I never dreamed of being a writer, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

It was an early morning in 1994, and I was standing in the composition department of the Mountain Times, having been hired the prior year as a part-time graphic artist. Computers were just coming onto the scene, and while I was keen to get behind one, because of my lack of technical skills I was relegated to the camera room and paste-up boards (two areas of production that the computer eventually killed). 

At the time, two local writers, Barbara Carris and Mike Peters, had a combined movie review column called “Reel to Reel” — a he said/she said sort of piece. Each week the two would attend a local film and then give dueling opinions about whether or not it was worth seeing. It was a fun idea that provided a local departure to the “canned” movie reviews that were offered by national media outlets.  

On this morning, a discussion was being held about Mike’s announcement that he no longer would be able to write his half of the review due to other commitments. Subsequently, the editor and publisher decided to begin an immediate search to find a replacement. 

Before I realized what I was saying, I had interrupted the conversation to volunteer myself for the position, explaining that creative writing was one of my stronger subjects in college and that I went to the movies every week anyway. Truth be told, I was simply interested in making some extra money. 

Because I already worked there and they were desperate for a solution before the next deadline, they agreed to let me fill in. The thought was that I could lend a hand until someone more suitable arrived on the scene. 

That week I was scheduled to attend a screening of “Major League 2” starring Charlie Sheen. Not wanting to be in the dark about the “Major League” franchise and committed to doing the best job I possibly could, I decided to rent the original “Major League” film on VHS (remember, this was 30 years ago).

After watching the video, I made a plan to catch the sequel the following night. I took copious notes during the film, trying my hardest to pick up on any subtle nuances that I could later turn into intelligent sounding points. In all honesty, I was deathly afraid that someone was going to see through my disguise, pegging me as some punk kid who didn’t know the first thing about writing a movie review (which is exactly what I was). 

I wrote that first review on notepaper with a pencil and transferred it to the computer when I got to work the next day. 

Barbara and I wrote the “Reel to Reel” review together for several more weeks until she quietly dropped out after her life also filled with other demands. From that point forward, the column was mine. 

Initially, I wrote the column as a standard movie review, but after a few years and a couple hundred mass market films, I began to bore of the format. Personally, I hate knowing anything about a film before I go see it, so it felt strange to write a column that I would never want to read. That’s when I started to interject interesting or humorous stories that occurred while I was at the theater, while giving the details of the film less and less attention. 

And that’s also when I changed the name of the column to “Reel to Real” — the emphasis now being on the “real” part of the writing. Soon, I broadened this approach to include any event that seemed interesting enough to write about. And before I knew it, I had unconsciously created an entirely unique column — more of a human interest piece that creatively segued into a brief opinion on a popular film.  

After a few more years and with this format securely in place, I decided to change the column’s name once again. “The Movie Diary” seemed a more appropriate label since most of what I write about revolves around the world that I live in. Movies just happen to be the common thread that keeps the stories tied together. 

And for some strange and crazy reason, folks out there seem to enjoy it. This little column snuck up on me and became a poignant part of my life. Perhaps it snuck up on a few of you as well.

So, with all that said, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who reads or has read this column over the last 30 years. It’s always been a pleasure and an absolute honor to have people value what you do, and hearing from readers over the years is one of the main reasons I keep it up. 

I think it’s fitting that this week’s film is “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” since one of the most profound moments in my life (and one of the main reasons I fell in love with film) happened during the last scene from the original “Planet of the Apes.” When Charlton Heston stops on the beach and sees the Statue of Liberty deteriorating into the surf (which alerts the viewer to the fact that he’s on Earth and not another planet), my young mind was blown. From then on, I was addicted to the power of film. 

If you’re a fan of the series and impressed with the other recent reboots, give this new selection a try. It’s a little loose on the story elements, but still a worthy addition to the franchise. 

A reliable “B” for “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” now playing in theaters everywhere. 

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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