Keep Your Neutrons Flowin'

This is a blog about all the nerdy crap we love but are afraid to admit in public.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Top 6: Remakes That Don't Suck

Without question, I think remakes are awful. Not necessarily the quality of the film itself, but the sheer audacity, NAY!, the balls to deem it prudent to remake a movie that is already good. Especially nowadays, no movie made since the invention of cinema is safe from the money-hungry clutches of the uncreative. I am not looking forward to this weekend's "A Nightmare on Elm Street," despite enjoying the remakes of "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th." The reason is, most remakes just pale in comparison, I'm looking at you, Gus Van Sant's "Psycho." This all being said, there have been a few examples of the remake being as good (if not better) than the original. These are the top six remakes that are okay.

VI - 3:10 TO YUMA (2007)
Fifty years after Delmer Daves' minor classic, James Mangold did a slam-bang action-rich version of the story of a poor farmer charged with transporting a wanted criminal to a station to make sure he boards the eponymous train. Starring famous angry men, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, the 2007 remake of 3:10 succeeds in making a western that speaks to modern audiences. Not since "Unforgiven" has there been such an enjoyable entry to the genre. It upholds the western film trope of honor among men, even enemies, while still having fairly raucous action sequences that the original didn't attempt. Mangold does pretty drastically change the ending, for good or bad, that makes the film an interesting counterpoint to its source material.

Most people probably didn't know that the Oscar winner was a remake of a Hong Kong think-piece when it came out, but it is. I actually saw the original, "Infernal Affairs" long before "The Departed" came out, picking it up at Blockbuster when I was in the throes of my John Woo-inspired Asian action phase. I was slightly disappointed as it wasn't a double-pistoler, but it definitely had something about it, as the two lead characters, a cop posing as a criminal and a criminal posing as a cop, face their moral, professional, and personal dilemmas. Martin Scorsese's fantastic redo has the same amount of pathos, but what makes it better in my opinion is that it fleshes out all of the supporting characters into much more memorable and indelible figures, specifically Jack Nicholson's mob boss character who is present in the Chinese film, but is much less defined. I went to see "The Departed" three times in the theaters, so yeah, I like it.

IV - THE THING (1982)
John Carpenter's favorite filmmaker is Howard Hawkes and has actually remade two Hawkes films: "Assault on Precinct 13" (1976) is essentially a remake of "Rio Bravo" (1959) and this film which is a remake of Hawkes' production "The Thing From Another World" (1951). Carpenter dropped a reference to the first "Thing" in "Halloween" and a few years later was given the opportunity to mount a remake. As fun as the earlier film is, Carpenter's film eclipses it by heightening the sense of isolation, the paranoia, and of course the viscera. The special effects by Rob Bottin absolutely make the film what it is. The creature can look like anything and can assimilate anyone, evidenced at the end when it manifests as six people and pieces of a couple dogs. Compare that with James Arness in a head application from the original. Also, Kurt Russell is a badass. Nuff said.

The samurai genre from Japan is very closely tied to America's wild west. They both depict men of action displaying their own codes of moral conduct in a relatively lawless environment. I was tempted to put "A Fistful of Dollars" which remade "Yojimbo" on here, but I decided to go with the earliest example. "Seven Samurai" is one of the greatest movies ever made. It's an epic by every definition of the word. It's also 3hrs 27min long. John Sturges' western is not as fantastic a movie as its predecessor, but it's very accessible and it's a great deal of fun. It is also one of the first examples of a heroic team. Up to this point, the western hero was a loner and an outsider who has to save a town/woman/family/horse/whatever, but "Magnificent Seven" gives you seven such characters to choose from, each with their own backstory and personality. It starred Yul Brynner and started the careers of universal cool guys Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn.

The idea of this seemed blasphemous. George A. Romero made a modern classic in 1978 with his adventurous satire against consumer culture and for some unknown music video director (Zack Snyder) to touch it went against everything I held dear. And then I saw it. While not as thoughtful or profound as the original, Snyder did a phenomenal job of taking Romero's original concept and making it about family and friendship, as well as making it a horrifying ride. For me, the film works best as an action movie that happens to be about zombies, rather than a "scary" horror film. It's full of gun fights, explosions, chases, and running around. It's a fun romp through a post-apocalyptic America. Plus, it turned me on to Richard Cheese's brand of lounge covers of metal and rap songs. So thanks.

You might think such an old film couldn't possibly be a remake, but you'd be wrong. John Huston's classic noir flick (arguably the first in the movement) that stars Humphrey Bogart as private eye Sam Spade was actually the third attempt at making Dashiell Hammett's novel to the screen, made once in 1931 and again in 1936. Both were disappointments, but the last one was an unqualified success. I haven't actually seen the first two so I can't compare all of them, but I will say that this is the instance where remaking something works best. Why should GOOD movies be remade? Why not remake ones that suck or fail for one reason or another? Maybe one day there'll be a remake of "Howard the Duck" or "Teen Wolf" that improves upon the underwhelming performances of the originals? I'd be all right with that. Let "Maltese Falcon" be the model; if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but if it is broke, fix the shit out of it until it's good.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cigarette Burn Pictures

Hey all, do you like independent film, silly videos, new content every week, and essays about the inner workings of a soon-to-be-huge production company?

If you do, (and really who doesn't?) head on over to Cigarette Burn Pictures site and say hi to Rob, Monty, and Steve, three of the best, most stand-up guys you'd ever want to know.

Check out their latest masterpiece, "Son of a Beach."

You're welcome


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Defending "Victory of the Daleks" - aka Another Doctor Who post no one will read

I'm a huge nerd and have been keeping up with the UK transmission schedule of the new Doctor Who season so I'm about two weeks ahead of anyone who just watched "The Eleventh Hour" premiere last night on BBC America. If you've seen episode 3, "Victory of the Daleks," read on. If not, I'd suggest waiting until you've seen it.

It’s sort of disheartening to hear how several podcasters didn’t think much of this episode, in particular I refer to Tom’s recent review for Two-Minute Time Lord. This is crushing to me as I felt it was a great episode, certainly much better than last week’s “The Beast Below.” What I liked so much about it is that is was FUN. When’s the last time we’ve honestly had any fun with a Dalek episode? Yes, I realize they’re the scourge of the universe, the Doctor’s sworn enemy, the annihilators of Gallifrey, but they’re just so darn stuffy. Even “Dalek” which we can all agree is the best new series Dalek episode, and arguably one of the best ever, is awfully dour. With each subsequent appearance since then, my interest in the Daleks has gone down exponentially. “Victory” is the first one since “Dalek,” where they haven’t been portrayed as a nigh-omnipotent plague and I haven’t then rolled my eyes at the very sight of them. Each and every time they show up, it’s an all-out melodrama, complete with Captain Jack proclaiming “We’re dead” and cowering behind something in Torchwood. The Daleks stopped being menacing. The reverence we’re meant to have for them was gone. By that point, they were no longer a threat in my eyes. How many times can they be destroyed en masse just to come back as large and in charge as ever?

But this one is different. The Daleks are running scared. Their numbers have dwindled. There are only three at the beginning, and even after the upgrade and cleansing of the impure, there are only five. And the “end of the world” aspect, the Bracewell bomb, is really just a means for them to get away. They are victorious, but they succeed by retreating. THAT’s the kind of villain I want. They’re wily and opportunistic as well as being unfeeling and ruthless. Say what you will about the new Dalek design, but like everything about the Moffat era thus far, it’s a bold move. The Daleks have been different every single time you see them in one shape or another. Here they have again evolved but there isn’t a human-hybrid or a Davros’ head in the bunch. They’re just plain old Daleks again, if a little beefier. They have cleansed their race, a further allusion to the Third Reich.

One criticism I completely disagreed with is that this episode wasn’t “Doctor Who” as it was back in the day. Now, I wasn’t there from the beginning. I’m 25 years old. I was born two months after the last episode of the Twin Dilemma was transmitted, AND I’m American, so admittedly, I don’t have the history with the show that a great many fans have. But over the passed year since I discovered the series, I’ve been watching as many adventures, both new and old, as Netflix will allow and what’s great about it for me is that, it’s ALL new. Every time I watch an adventure, it’s new Doctor Who. It’s all happening now. Victory of the Daleks is 100% in line with the classic series and the bulk of the new series. It’s everything between Turn Left and End of Time that seems incongruous. It’s like we’ve forgotten that the Doctor is a HERO and not always a TRAGIC hero. Tragic’s overdone.

Was it a perfect episode? Absolutely not. For starters, the stuff with the professor didn’t really work for me. While the performance of Bill Patterson was very good, I wasn’t ever sold on the ramifications of his coming to terms with not being human. Sadly that’s the bit that was too long. I think there needed to be greater build up to the Doctor’s near-frothy blowup at the Dalek. I would have liked to have seen more of them being “helpful,” beforehand. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t there talk that this was supposed to be a 65 minute episode? Clearly a lot was cut out of the beginning. The Doctor ended up on the Dalek saucer way too soon. This could have easily benefitted from a few extra minutes if not a whole second part for development’s sake. Like “The Beast Below” before it, “Victory of the Daleks,” suffered the most from poor direction on the part of Andrew Gunn. The camera was almost never where it needed to be. The Doctor/Dalek confrontation would have been excellent if we could have seen it properly. Also the pacing of the two episodes, especially last week’s, was very off.

That all notwithstanding, “Victory of the Daleks” did come away as a victory for me. It’s an adventure, it’s a swashbuckling, Flash-Gordon-y throwback to a simpler era. I think if we can glean anything from the first three episodes of Steven Moffat’s era, it’s a deliberate attempt to reconnect with the 1960s, down to the TARDIS’ control panel which looks to me like what science fiction films of that decade thought the future would be like. If this whole season were in black-and-white, I don’t think it would feel the least bit out of place. Like the WWII era movie serials on which its clearly based, this episode stands as a rip-roaring, high-flying good time that possessed wide-eyed kidness that the latter RTD years sorely lacked.

You're welcome

Top 6 Returns!

I saw Kick-Ass today, which is a film about people becoming real-life comic book heroes, except instead of having super powers, they shoot and stab people to death. This is not going to be a review of that film, though I did quite like it. What it did get me thinking about is how unfun it would actually be to do all that stuff, realistically. Even in a movie depicting "real" superheroics, there are a huge number of liberties taken into the "That'd never happen" category. So here the "triumphant" return of the top six will be - FANFARE -

The Top 6 Reasons It's Stupid To Try To Be A For-Reals Superhero

VI - The Idiotic Costumes
Have you ever worn spandex? Does it look good? Even if you're super hot, it's unlikely spandex is flattering to your every nook and cranny. Have a particular part of yourself you'd rather others not focus on? Too bad! Everyone's gonna see it now that you've become a super hero. And you're going to get laughed at. Hardcore. There's always the scene in every hero movie, and particularly in Kick-Ass, that depicts the bad guys ridiculing the good guy the first time they see him/her. Your weakness better not be the sound of laughter or you're fairly well sunk.

V - No Downtime
In order to find crimes you either need a series of security cameras feeding directly into your secret hideout that depict what's happening throughout the city (or whatever your chosen turf is) or you need to spend all your time walking around looking for crimes to stop. Crime doesn't stop because you're tired or bored. Patrolling has to be the most annoying part of a superhero's day. Street crime happens so fast, how can you be sure you're in the exact spot at the right time? It involves an enormous amount of coincidence, which I'm sure most of us don't have the patience for. Logistically, given constant movement, you'd probably stop one crime every two months. And that crime would probably just be a pick-pocketing

IV - Lack of Fightable Crime
Superheroism depends and awful lot on criminals who are stupid enough to commit their crimes out in the open. Most crimes nowadays are either internet or fraud-based and don't actually include much dark alley shenanigans. And why are old women always walking home at night through dark alleys in the first place? Don't they know that's where jackbooted thugs amass and take turns playing the murder game? Anyone who'd fall prey to that type of stupidity is probably going to do it again even if you save their life. Then, all things being equal, not saving them is really just helping Darwin along.

III - Lookie-Loos
If I know anything it's that people are two things: Discourteous to retail employees, and nosy as hell. Even if you're a "stick-to-the-shadows"-type hero, you'll probably get a lot of people looking at you and wondering what the hell you're doing. You lose the entire element of surprise if you get a group of passersby pointing at you as you lie in wait for the unsuspecting criminal. If I were a bad guy, which I am not, I'd surely want to steer clear of any large congregation of citizenry. I'd probably go around them or turn around and walk the other direction. Even now, if there's ever a massing of people looking at something, I'll go somewhere else. For all I know there's a superhero just around the corner waiting to punch me in the face. I don't want to get punched in the face.

II - Physical stamina and lack thereof
To say nothing of agility, speed, and strength, the sheer amount of fighting you'd have to do would put a tremendous strain on your body. Most professional fighters train for months at a time to ensure they're in peak physical form before getting into the ring, or octagon, and slug it out. And usually they're wrecked afterwards. Imagine going out night after night and, perfect conditions applied, stopping two crimes a night. Just two! You'd be battered and bloody and probably get a concussion before having to sit in a bathtub for six hours so you can do it all again. Your utility belt would have to be full of Icy Hot and 5-Hour Energy. Exhaustion would set in long before your heroic vow was fulfilled.

I - Death
You would die. Flat out, die. Probably by getting shot, but possibly also stabbed, bludgeoned, impaled, strangled, crushed, or devoured by angry guard dogs. But mostly shot. Oh baby, would you die. Probably the first day, too. You'd be all, "I'm Action Guy, and I want you to leave that young Episcopalian alone," and they'd be all, "Just walk away, freak show." Then you'd do the Adam West chuckle and say something witty and strike a fighting stance. And that's when the guy would pull his gun and shoot you in the chest. And you'd be dead. If you happen to be "Getting Shot Man," then you'll probably be used to stuff like this happening, but that doesn't necessarily mean you won't still die when they throw a grenade, or drop a piano, or suggest you read "Twilight" so you can pick up all the Nazi references, confusing you long enough for them to poison you with a strychnine-laced crossbow bolt fired from across the street.

Basically, don't be a superhero.

You're welcome.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This is why these movies suck

I have absolutely no affiliation with this guy or his site, he just has the best reviewing style I've ever heard. Enjoy.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

From One Extreme to the Other

First of all, I ask you all to read this.

As I've stated in my very recent WonderCon blog, I am a fan of Kevin Smith, but I've been less enchanted with his recent filmic output. That all being said, I'm always prepared to give Mr. Smith the benefit of the doubt and usually side with him. This argument, however, I not only totally disagree with, but it actually has angered me to the point where I needed to blog while at work.

The function of film criticism is to provide an educated evaluation of a film product on either an entertainment or culturally relevant level, sometimes both, while giving a nod to the proficiency by which the film is executed, technically or otherwise. I have always been a firm believer in the profession of film criticism as viable in and of itself. Some of my favorite DVD audio commentaries are by critics providing an intellectual and historical context for the film. Listening to Roger Ebert discuss "Citizen Kane," Stephen Prince dissect "The Seven Samurai," or especially Sir Christopher Frayling speaking in minute detail on the films of Sergio Leone, was not only interesting and entertaining but greatly enhanced my enjoyment of those films in subsequent viewing.

Ever since I started watching films as art and not just entertainment, I've turned to film critics for analysis on a deeper level. Not every movie, but many of them, the ones I wanted to know more about. This is the part of Kevin Smith's argument that might have the most validity. Mindless movies don't really need to judged through the same microscope as ones trying to make a point or are particularly stunning. But I've read plenty of reviews of "stupid" movies that actually say things like "It doesn't break new ground but it's enjoyable," which is the first thing a film should do. If it doesn't educate or amaze, it should at least entertain.

Kevin Smith is upset that the same criticism used for the weighty movies was used on his film "Cop Out," saying it wasn't "Schindler's List." Obviously not, that's ridiculous. No one went to see "Cop Out" and thought it was going to be anything like "Schindler's List," but it still needs to fulfill one of the those three tenets I mentioned: educate, amaze, or entertain. "Cop Out," if you're to believe the critics, didn't really do any of them, the third being the most important, but should those critics be barred from sharing their opinions because it's just a movie called "Cop Out." If so, it's up to the studio or filmmaker to inform us that the movie is not good enough to warrant proper criticism. Until filmmakers start going on record to say they've made a stupid movie but we should go see it anyway, it's up to the critical community to do so.

Smith also makes the point that if critics aren't going to pay to see the films, they shouldn't be allowed to give their opinion on it and affect the box office returns. He says 500 random Twitter followers should be given the same opportunity and that their opinions are just as valid. I submit there is a world of difference between an opinion and an EDUCATED opinion. In a perfect world, everyone would have the same level of film knowledge or ignorance as everyone else and their opinions would hold the same amount of water. Only in math and science can we use the "all things being equal" scenario and not in real life. People come from different backgrounds and experiences that temper their views of everything, film included. Personally, I'd rather hear what educated film experts think than someone who watches "The Hills" and "Jersey Shore." If the movie caters to that crowd, then chances are they don't listen to or read reviews anyway.

To my mind this all comes down to Kevin Smith not taking rejection of any kind well and being overly sensitive. A bad review isn't always a personal attack on the filmmaker, in fact usually it isn't. Critics were very divided on Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island," but no one who gave it a bad review said anything about Scorsese either as a man or as a renowned director. If Smith is as proud of "Cop Out" as he claims, and it indeed was the highest grossing film he's ever made, then it shouldn't matter that the film only received a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, right? Smith has famously had a love-hate relationship with critics over the years, but that hasn't stopped him from giving bad reviews himself publicly of both Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia," and Woody Allen's film, "Scoop," the latter a guest hosting stint for Roger Ebert on "At the Movies" a few years ago. He might have paid for those movies, granted, but he's still giving a public review based on his years of filmmaking and watching experience.

In 2008, "Zach and Miri Make a Porno," was poised to be Smith's highest grossing film and was getting mixed but largely favorable reviews. It ended up with a 65% rating on RT, garnering it a "Fresh" certificate, and was getting very good buzz from studio people. Then the movie came out and was indeed his most financially successful film of all time, though not as much as he and people around him were hoping. Some might call that a success, but Kevin Smith didn't. I listened to an entire episode of SModcast, the podcast Smith does with his friend and frequent producer Scott Mosier, where he spent the entire time lamenting how awful it was that the film didn't perform better and basically how he fell into a deep depression because of it. So what makes this guy happy? He's up in arms when critics don't like his movie but the public at-large does, and when the critics mostly like it, and indeed a lot of non-critics do too, he's depressed because it didn't make AS MUCH money as he wanted. Disappointment is a natural reaction, but to expect a critical and monetary hit every time out is not only naive, it's unrealistic. For the record, I spent the money, being a fan, and I didn't like it. So my opinion on this should therefore be more valid than all the critics who saw it for free and praised it.

I really like Kevin Smith and will continue to do so, but all of this serves to show that he's been surrounded by fans for far too long. If all he wants is for people in his community to have an opinion on the work he does, then he shouldn't be working in Hollywood.

Smith finishes his rant by saying:

Just my observation based on 15yrs of doing this and a decision to change the way I approach it from now on. Not trying to burn it all down; I just feel, from now on, I'll be going another way. The people who're criticizing me the loudest are easily 10, 15 yrs my junior with less experience writing about film than I have making 'em.

I've got longevity on my side now. I've been doing this since 93: so 17 years. I'm a veteran of the film biz. And as a veteran - not just some spectator with an opinion - I think I know what's better for me & my career than total strangers whose Google-able history proves they've NEVER had my best interests at heart. So I'm gonna listen to THOSE people? Nyet. Listening to me, not them, has gotten me THIS far.

It's not the job of the film critic to have the filmmaker's best interests at heart. That's why they just comment on movies and not advise careers. It's their job to have the movie-going community's best interest at heart and take their expertise and put forth a concise reading of the film and offer a recommendation or a warning. Only that. It's up to the viewer or reader to decide if that review has changed their mind, good or bad, about the movie and make the choice based on that. And speaking as one of the youngsters 10-15 years his junior who don't know nearly as much about film as he does, I can say that it's us who were and in many cases still are his biggest fans and want to see Smith's output go back to the edginess and realism that his early films had.

So I'll finish by saying this to Kevin Smith: You are always going to be one of the fathers of my love of film and I will follow your career until it ends, but if you don't want critics to give negative reviews, stop spending all your time on Twitter and make a good movie again.

You're welcome.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Con Crazy

WonderCon, like its big brother Comic-Con, is an interesting sort of beast. Nerds of all ages, races, faiths, sexual orientations, and perversions flock to these events in hopes of catching a glimpse of someone who represents the thing they idolize, but also to congregate with others like them. It’s definitely a place where everyone gets along based solely on solidarity. San Diego Comic-Con is enormous and there are lots and lots of movies, tv shows, and video games trying to entice their target audience to buy into it; basically a big trade show. WonderCon, on the other hand, is only really really big and the bulk of the floor is made up of comic book sellers or publishers, with the other media represented only marginally. This Con really hones in on die-hard fans and weeds out a lot of the riff-raff.

Saturday was a full day of walking the exhibition floor. It was about half the size of the one in San Diego, but I would say it was more focused. Comic-Con is a massive explosion of pop culture and promotional material while WonderCon is a bit of promo but is mostly independently owned comic book and merchandise sellers. Which is great and all, but if you aren’t in the market for action figures, t-shirts, or vintage comics, it’s only so interesting. Still, there were plenty of odd little artist and craftsman booths to occupy my brain. What really make these conventions great are the panel discussions.

As I already mentioned, the Kevin Smith Q&A was a great treat, but just as inspiring to me was a panel I attended Saturday morning with eight of DC Comics’ top writers. As someone who aspires to write for a living, I’m always eager to hear other writers talk about their process. I’m also a huge DC fan, so to hear the people who write the books I read is pretty fantastic. The big problem you run into with any Q&A or panel is crazy or stupid people asking crazy or stupid questions. Since most people who’d go to WonderCon are familiar with this, the questions tended to be respectful and topical, if leaning toward the fanatic side. At Comic-Con, the questions were a mix bag of good ones, awful ones, and “Security.”

Which brings me to the nature of fandom. A great many people who go to these conventions are die-hard fans of one thing and they show it by dressing up and outwardly deriding fans of other things. This makes no sense to me. I don’t like Star Trek, but I’d never make fun of somebody for liking Star Trek because I know full well it’s no less nerdy than half the crap I like. Yet to overhear some conversations, it’s like the Jets and the Sharks, but if those gangs were in totally different cities. I wore a Flash t-shirt on Saturday which is about as close as I come to dressing up in costume, but there were people with full-on, professionally made outfits that look like they could easily be put in a movie.

Stormtroopers and bounty hunters from “Star Wars” were big this year, as were Justice League people, but I also saw a guy dressed like Bumblebee from “Transformers” in a fully articulate plastic shell that for a second I thought was a remote controlled robot. And these people, called “CosPlayers” don’t just wear the clothing, they embody the characters they represent in every way, which is somewhat off-putting. And also there’s the matter of being, *ahem* suited to wearing the costume. For every Super Girl or Wonder Woman who were knockouts, there were three others that were TKO’d, if you pardon the bad analogy. But, for having the guts to wear them in the first place, I must applaud them.

Saturday night I wanted to see the screening of the new episode of Doctor Who (not surprising) and in order to get good seats, we decided to go in to the room two panels early. The first we heard was for “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” cartoon series, which I’d never seen. The panel began by showing the 1979 theatrical trailer for “The Empire Strikes Back” as this is the 30th anniversary of its release. That was pretty amazing and made me miss that movie, which I sold last year. Then that feeling slowly went away when the rest of the panel consisted of talking about the cartoon series which was heavily steeped in the prequels, which if you don’t know are the worst things ever created by human beings. But there were people in the room who lived and died Star Wars even in spite of the crap. I got bored.

That was followed by the DC panel for Brightest Day, the immediate follow up to the excellent Blackest Night which just ended last week. The panel basically consisted of introducing the writers and artists of the main book and ancillary titles and then having the audience ask questions that couldn’t be answered for fear of spoiling anything. I’ll probably read these books because I read the previous ones, but it’d be nice if they didn’t have to make so many of them. I can’t afford it.

Now, I am a fan of Green Lantern and the DC books, but it was clear that a good many people in the room were Doctor Who fans waiting for the screening and not enjoying the DC panel one little bit. I overheard them griping about how stupid the panel was and making little rude comments about the things being discussed. This makes zero sense to me. Why hate on something other people like just because it isn’t the same thing you like? I could get on my soapbox now and spend five pages lambasting people in this country for their intolerance and their “Us vs. Them” attitude about everything and how it actually hurts the fabric of our nation when individuality comes in the form of exclusion and hatred, but I won’t do that. I’ll just say it doesn’t make sense, ESPECIALLY in this case. Doctor Who is an alien who flies through space with a human and makes things safe for all the planets of the universe; Green Lantern is a human who flies around space with aliens and makes things safe for all the planets in the universe. Why the hate? They aren’t told in the same way, surely, but they are definitely kindred.

I won’t go too into detail about the actual Doctor Who episode given that it doesn’t hit screens here in the U.S. until April 17th, but I’ll just say that it was fantastic. The new actors and head writer are setting up a great new series of adventures and it looks great.

For my blog entries, I usually like to end with a conclusion paragraph to tie everything up and put a little bow on it, but as I’ve been working on this far longer than I should because I’m deliriously tired, I’m not going to do that. Sufficed to say, I had a good time, the convention was fun but different than Comic-Con, and fans express their love and unlove of things in strange and excessive ways. Not articulate, but accurate.

You’re not as welcome as you usually are.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wonder Con: Day1

After a horrendous LAX experience, and I guess we all need at least 3, my WonderConning was off to a rocky start. That could be a blog unto itself, but as none of it was particularly nerdy, I’ll refrain.

By time we finally arrived at the convention hall it was nigh on 4:00pm and the prospect of a wasted day looked sadly like an inevitability, however there was a Kevin Smith Q&A at 6:00 and I thought if anything can put me right, an evening with Kev could.

After arriving in the ballroom very early, we were treated with episodes of “V,” “Fringe,” and “Human Target,” which were dumb, weird, and better than expected, respectively. Then we had a wait, our fiftieth since arriving at the airport at 7:00am. The tiredness was creeping toward the “pass-out-or-break-down” stage, when a guy came out to introduce “the man himself,” Kevin Smith. I saw Kevin Smith last summer at San Diego ComiCon from about the 200th row and while he was funny and I enjoyed myself, I wasn’t terribly moved by him. This time we were sat about 10 rows from the front and in fact he was directly in front of me the whole time.

Kevin Smith is one of the three filmmakers that directly influenced me during my impressionable late-teens and without him, I surely wouldn’t have gone into movie writing, let along blog-writing. Without putting too much emphasis on it, “Clerks” is the reason I wrote my first script, which sucked incidentally. I heavily immersed myself in Smith’s “Askewniverse” and quoted those films with my equally irritating college friends ad nauseum.

Still, in recent years, I’ve grown apart from Smith’s work as a filmmaker. As of last Thursday, I’ve sold all of his dvds, save “Clerks” itself. I’d moved on in my movie tastes, off of the likes of Kevin Smith and onto Stanley Kubrick. I wasn’t the emo 18 year old anymore. His films represented a specific time in my life and for the most part don’t hold the same feelings they once did.

Even though I had moved on from the man’s film work, I was and am still an avid fan of him as a personality. For the passed 111 episodes, I have listed to SModcast, which is a hilarious conversation Kevin has with one of his friends, usually his longtime producer, Scott Mosier. SModcast is often ridiculous and always entertaining, and it’s patently obvious that Kevin enjoyed SModcasting as much as I enjoy listening. He’d become less of a filmmaker in my eyes and more a commentator of popular culture. Was I selling the man short?

Friday night’s Q&A was definitely illuminating for me. Amid the usual kids asking dumb questions and Kevin responding with a barrage of lewd comments and stories, someone asked him out of all the many things he does (write, direct, edit, etc.) he enjoys the most. Kevin’s response was a bit of a shock. He said very simply that making movies doesn’t hold the same power over him as it once did, that now he enjoys interacting with people, via Q & As, Tweeting (or Twittering, I never know what the proper verb is) and especially SModcast. He enjoys the continual conversation with people those outlets provide for him. It’s the immediacy he craves.

He said that while he still loves film and enjoys making it, “it’s not religion anymore.” He also said that he looks at his film “Zach and Miri Make a Porno,” and it seems inauthentic to him. It was made by a guy who didn’t entirely believe what he was saying. All of this is very clear to me, as I wasn’t so much a fan of “Zach and Miri.” It felt forced. He made his name by making stories of foul-mouthed working class heroes, but couldn’t accurately depict that anymore. And that made me sad initially. One of my heroes didn’t speak to me anymore. But he felt the same way about it.

To hear this type of honesty coming out of a filmmaker is refreshing. Kevin Smith has always been overly forthcoming with details of his sex life or bowel movements (a story he told at the end of the night involved both having a two hour shit and trying to have sex with his wife for the first time high) but I’d never heard him be that frank about his career or where it’s headed. This is a man who thoroughly enjoys his life and what he’s doing. He’s at a point where people come in droves to hear him speak and listen to and read his every thought willingly and filmmaking is just another outlet.

There’s always going to be a new crop of young, whiny kids who discover “Clerks” or “Chasing Amy,” get inspired, and become Kevin Smith fans, and that will ensure that he’ll be relevant for years and years to come, which is really all he wanted in the first place. I can only hope to be so lucky.

You’re welcome.