Comic-Con – Day Two

Yeah, I’m about done. That didn’t take long, did it? I guess as I get older I have less and less patience for what I consider to be bullshit. All the endless crowds and lines and asshole people have conspired to drain just about all the fun out of this experience. Such a shame.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have had me some fun. Yesterday I got to see Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillian in person, and that was a blast (my wife especially enjoyed the Fillian part – she loves her some Captain Hammer/Malcome Reynolds), and seeing the cast and writers from Family Guy and American Dad was great, but it’s everything surrounding those things that wore me out. By the time we were out of there, I had nothing left in me. And this morning, when I got up, I knew I couldn’t face another round offighting people and standing in lines, so I’m going to miss the Hereos and Lost panels. Not that I could have gotten into those anyway since people started lining up last night at midnight to get into those. I am bummed.

Plus, my wife is even more tired of it. She had planned on trying to get Dean Koontz’s autograph and sit in on his panel, but now she doesn’t even want to go back into the con at all. I hate that, because I knew she was really looking forward to that, and knowing that her fun has been taken away tarnishes the experience a bit for me.

Anyway, today I’ll I’m going to do is go the Starkville/Tenth Wonder panel, and then possibly see if I can find the Geekscape podcast, and then I’m going to leave.

I don’t think I’ll be coming back to the con for at least a couple of years. It’s just too much, and my patience is too little. Here’s hoping Dragon*Con proves to be a more enjoyable experience.

Comic-Con – Day One

Dear lord, my feet are sore, and I think I nearly drowned in geekness. Yesterday was a Preview Night, with most of the time taken up by just getting our four-day passes (why they don’t mail them is beyond me, especially given the chaos of that process), but once we had our passes we went into the con and checked it out. First off, it is HUGE. I think the building is about five or so city blocks long, but after winding your way through throngs of people it might as well be five miles. My wife and I wandered a bit and bought a few shirts before she bugged out while I stuck around the do an interview with Jonathan London (http://www.geekscape.net). The walk out of there and back to our hotel felt like it took all the strength that I had left in me.

Once I was back in the room, I settled in at the small table, opened the program guide, and began to map out what panels I wanted to see. It was a healthy list. I then eat a burger, took a shower, and went to bed.

This morning my feet felt pretty good, which surprised me. My wife decided to rent a car so that she could tool around San Diego and perhaps go to Tijuana while I geeked out. Traffic nearly kept me from making it to my first scheduled panel, which was a solo discussion given by J. Michael Straczynski about professional writing. Luckily, I made it, and It was fantastic. On a down note, though, the recording I took of it is really quiet. I’m hoping that I can pump up the volume of his voice so that it is easier to listen to without also pumping up louder bits. We shall see. I then went to another panel (not as good), was somewhat forced to sit through another panel (meh), but then got to sit in on a fairly interesting talk. The recording on it was better. But, by the time that one was over, so was I. I managed to make it throuh one more, but that one was strictly for me. It was a spotlight panel on Bill Willingham, the writer of Fables, one of my favorite comics.

Once the panels were done I wanted to roam around the con floor a bit to pick up some new books and such. And, I managed to find a few good ones, but it took me hours to find them in the midst of everything else. Some cool finds just aren’t worth the pain.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day, but this time I’m going to take it easy. I’m going to skip a panel in the late morning and just try to get in early enough to get a seat in the Joss Whedon panel, which will be followed by panels for American Dad and Family Guy. I’m hoping I’ll leave tomorrow in better shape than I’m in now. Otherwise… ooff.

And with that, I bid you all a good night…

I can now call myself a published author

Yep, that’s right. I actually made a sale. One of my short stories was accepted by the online sci-fi magazine Ray Gun Revival (www.raygunrevival.com), and it will be published soon. The pay was small, but the validation and encouragement more than make up for it. I’m really excited. I’ll post more when I know more. So, for now, know that I’m one happy guy.

Also, I’ll be off this weekend to Comic-Con in San Diego (which in German means a whale’s vagina – true story). I’ve been looking forward to this since I failed to go to last year’s Comic-Con. I purchased four day tickets for my wife and myself as soon as they were available. I’m hoping to sit in on a lot of panels, and maybe get an interview or two that I can play on my podcast. Wish me luck! Either way, I know I’m going to have a good time. I’ll also be snapping pictures like crazy, so expect to see some of those.

Anyway, bye for now!!

A Saturday movie night

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My wife is a good woman. She works hard, she takes care of me and the pets, and she shoulders so much responsibility silently. So, a little while ago, I told her that she needed to take some time for herself. “A night out,” I said. “Go get a hotel room, enjoy a day at the spa, and then relax. Treat yourself.”

Surprisingly, she took me up on it, so tonight I’ve been all on my lonesome. I left work, picked up some Chinese food, and came home to a house full of dogs needing to go outside and potty. Not my usual Saturday night.

So, having the night to myself, I wondered what I should do. My default move is to watch a movie, and that was the direction my mind immediately headed. As I opened my DVD cabinet, I looked at my choices, but in the end it really wasn’t a choice at all. I’d been meaning to rewatch the movie for weeks. Now, two and a half hours later, I’m so glad I did, because it is as good now as it was when I first saw it in the theaters.

I’m talking about “Superman Returns”. For me, it is just about the best comic book movie ever made, with only the original Christopher Reeves “Superman” even coming close. It is grand, moving, heartwarming, and invigorating. I love nearly every frame of the film, and I’m not ashamed to say it. A lot of people seem to take pleasure in hating the film, but I don’t. It is clear that Bryan Singer wanted to make a love letter to the character of Superman, and this movie is just that.

Now, a lot of people ask me what it is that makes me love it, and the first thing I point to is Brandon Routh. I think he is amazing as Superman. His Clark Kent hits most of the right notes, from the bumbling way he walks around to the way he pushes up his glasses, but it’s as Superman that he really shines. There is such a… vulnerability to his portrayal, yet also a deep strength. He seems like a man lost, yet wanting desperately to belong. Every look and gesture shows how hard he’s trying to not feel like an alien, an unwanted visitor. But, when he has to turn on the power, he does that too in an amazing way. Just fantastic. I can see Reeves in his performance, and I think that’s wonderful.

Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane is good. Yes, she looks too young for the part, but she’s also able to capture her confusion over how she feels. In one minute she’s headstrong and willful, and yet as soon as Superman reaches out for her, it all melts away, leaving her as vulnerable as he is. Their scene together on the roof of the Daily Planet nearly makes me cry, especially as they are soaring over Metropolis.

Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor is spot-on. He gets a lot of negative remarks, but I thought he played the part just as well as Gene Hackman did. Spacey is a little more manic, and Hackman was a bit more smarmy, but in the end both of them were crazy, and that is what matters to me.

As for the more esoteric bits, let me first say how much I love the score. John Ottman did a fantastic job. He took John William’s theme, and then he carried it right to the moon. The soundtrack is just filled with sweeping moments and tender elements, and I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the Superman theme sound so romantic. It is one of my favorite soundtracks to listen to when I write.

But, I really think it is the way Superman is shown on the screen, the way he sounds, that drives it all home. Singer made sure that when Superman takes off, it isn’t just him blasting into the sky. He ascends. When he’s flying over the Metropolis skyline, you can hear his cape flapping gently in the wind. It all seems so… peaceful, so powerful, so angelic. There is nothing brutish or excessive in his movements. He is a god made flesh, and – though I know it sounds strange to hear it – I feel comforted by him. I can’t explain it any better than that.

Sam Van Hollgren, former co-host of the Filmspotting podcast, said in his review of “Superman Returns” that it was nearly a religious experience for him, and it was all for the same reasons I listed in the previous paragraph. I couldn’t agree more. I know it’s silly, especially for an agnostic such as myself. Maybe it’s the chorus in the music, and maybe it’s the way the sun spills around him as he’s flying into the sky, and maybe it’s because I know Superman has a good and noble heart, but watching “Superman Returns” is as close as I’ve ever come to feeling something of the divine.

So, Mr. Singer, Mr. Ottman, Mr. Routh, and Ms. Bosworth, thank you. You’ve given me a movie I know I will watch again and again, and I desperately hope that you’ll get the chance to make another one. Maybe this time more people will see what I saw.

Still the best romantic comedy that mankind has ever produced

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I don ‘t mind saying it. I’ve always been a romantic sap, and I will always be a romantic sap. It is just part and parcel of who I am. And, I’ve never hidden this fact from anyone, either. All who know me knows that my inner core is really just a squishy ball of sentimental mush.

So, when I heard that they were putting out a new DVD for “When Harry Met Sally,” I of course had to pick it up (why they didn’t also release it on high def DVD is beyond me, but such is life). I think I’ve had every release of this movie, and that will most likely continue through to whenever they release it again. I *love* this movie. A long time ago, before I met Krista (my wife, for those who don’t know), I used to watch my VHS copy at least every other week, if not more often. The tape had to be worn near to breaking by the time we met and fell in love. That movie got me through some very lonely times, and when my heart was at its emptiest, Meg Ryan would come along and make me feel good again. Her character made me feel whole. When I watch it now, wrapped up in the love that I feel for my wife, I get an entirely other sensation from it – that of someone who hopes the characters on the screen will find what he has found. And, of course, they do. Every time. It is just a magical movie, and I always cry when I watch it.

Which I did tonight, which is why I’m making this post. My DVD came in the mail, and even though I’ve got work tomorrow, I stayed up late and watched the movie all over again. It’s what us saps do.

“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

They just don’t make movies like that anymore…

“Transformers – The Movie” (2007)

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Holy moley. The wife and I went to see Transformers tonight, and we were both completely blown away. Now, we’re both fans of Michael Bay films, and neither of us apologizes for that, so I figured going in that we would at least have a good time. I am also a fan of Transformers from way back in the day, when my bedroom was full of G.I. Joe’s, He-Man action figures, old ROM comic books, and more than one Transformer. So, I had that going for me too. I never imagined, though, that I would love it as much as I did. The action was rampant, the humor was spot-on, the story was serviceable, and the CGI work was the best I’ve ever seen. There were a few moments here and there when it would drag, but I loved it from start to finish. Bay did an incredible job of grounding the movie in our world, giving the rampaging robots a sense of place and scale. The cartoons never really made me realize just what sort of spectacle they would be, these titanic robots blasting each other across a cityscape, but this movie did in a major way. The humans felt and looked so small and delicate in their midst. This movie is big, loud, bombastic, explosive, over the top, and I drank in every second of it. This is what Michael Bay does best, and he was the perfect choice for directing it. I catch a lot of grief for liking Bay as much as I do, and I don’t mind it. Films like this only drive it home even further why I do. He doesn’t apologize for making the sorts of films that he does, and I don’t for liking them. Sometimes the brain wants refined cinematic dining, and when it does I feed it that. Sometimes, though, it wants a heaping helping of summer slugfest sausage. Bay serves that up for me piping hot and ready to gulp down. Transformers is the best summer action movie I’ve seen in years, and I absolutely cannot wait to go and see it again this weekend.

My rating – 9/10

“Stranger Than Fiction” – A quick movie review

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Go ahead and file this in the “Late To The Party” file…

I loved “Stranger Than Fiction.” It isn’t as quirky a film as what you would get with a Charlie Kaufman scripted movie, which this one seems to want to be on occasion, but that in no way lessens its power and impact. For those who have not seen the movie, the basic gist of is this – Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), a mild-mannered IRS agent, one day begins to hear a voice in his head, as though someone is narrating his life, and the rest of the movie follows Harold as he attempts to unravel the mystery of what is happening to him (hint – he’s a character in a novel that’s being written with him as its fictional protagonist, and the voice he’s hearing is that of the writer, played by Emma Thompson).

The performances by all involved are very well done, especially Will Ferrell and Dustin Hoffman, and the entire production is first rate, but the reason I’m writing this post is because I wanted to mention my favorite aspect to the film – the fact that, at no point in the movie does anyone stop to say, “This is absurd. How can a character in a novel exist in the real world? How is that possible?” I know that some reviewers dinged the movie for just that reason, that lack of character incredulity, but for me it is a marvelous thing. It reminds me that far too often movies and books and TV shows get too wrapped up in trying to explain the reason for the story that they forget to actually tell the story. They worry that the audience won’t believe what it is they are trying to do, and so instead of trusting us to go along with it, they spend precious minutes and pages trying to reason it out and force it to make sense. And, frankly, a lot of the time that just isn’t necessary. We, the audience, know we aren’t watching a documentary. We went in knowing we were going to watch a piece of fiction. You don’t have to lay it all out there for us. Just tell you story, and if you do it well enough, we’ll hang with you. Some people feel differently, and that’s fine, but I am grateful that this movie exists, even if only to serve as an example of how a strange story can be told without all of its strangeness being wrung out of it by the end. It is a lesson all writers should learn, and one I look forward to employing myself. Thanks for showing me that it’s okay to trust the audience. Most of them are good people, and I should know. I’m one of them.