9/28/09

Harvey Pekar In Real Life


If you've never seen the highly praised HBO film, "American Splendor" starring Paul Giamatti, you should. It's the brilliantly told tale of a comic book writer who made a name for himself writing comics about...himself.

No superheroes, no magic powers...just his life as a file clerk at a VA hospital. Did I mention it's a true story? Well it is, and we get to see not only the actor portraying him, but the real life man behind the story, Harvey Pekar, along with some of his quirkier friends and family members. (My absolute favorite being the "genuine nerd" Toby Radloff, who became something of a real life celebrity after his appearances in Pekar's comic, also named, "American Splendor".)

Genuine Nerd Movie Trailer



The film is in the same spirit of, "Be Kind, Rewind", "High Fidelity" and, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" in the sense that it doesn't want to glamourize humanity or clean anybody up. But even with a straight-forward non-sugar coated look, the film still feels populist and uplifting, even if it wants to pretend that it's not.

Long story short, it's a really endearing flick that will make you want to just...be yourself. I can't believe I have this whole life philosophy built around being a geek and I didn't know Toby Radloff existed before last week. Anyway...

The man the film is based on, the writer, Harvey Pekar visited Ball State last week and I was lucky to hear him speak and be in the same room with him three times. He was just your average Joe, maybe a touch more neurotic, but dang if he wasn't just as lovable and quirky as you think he's going to be when you're watching the movie.

I wrote a little motivational piece on what I learned just being around him for Five Sprockets. Here's the LINK.
I really enjoyed Pekar's take on everything. From writing to life, he's just so no-nonsense. It's so new to hear someone admit what they want out of life, but also not be completely self-obsessed about it. Anyway, it was a really amazing week that left me with a lot to digest. if you've ever felt like a loser, wanted to be a writer, loved comics, or thought you were a nerd, you must watch this movie.


9/24/09

Why I Love Sigourney Weaver

One of my classes in grad school this semester is all about obsession. As a geek and unabashed fangirl, obsession is kind of...my life. Disney, theme parks, Star Trek, Movies, Action Heroines...I am familiar with the practice of digging for all the background information that could be found on any topic that I love. Geeks, it's our way, we're natural researchers.

So in celebration of one of my largest obsessions, action heroines, I'm re-releasing some previous material from my old ForcesofGeek.com column here on my blog. This is a chunk of my ode to Sigourney Weaver that I wrote over a year ago, and I still hope to use it as a chapter in a book of essays on action heroines someday soon. (When there is a rip in the space time continuum that allows me to go back in time and do two things at once.)

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Alien was only Sigourney Weaver’s third film role. Her third film role, and it was her first starring role. Not only did she manage to kick off her career by starring in one of the biggest and most influential sci-fi films of all time, but she also managed to turn around and brilliantly spoof the roles that women are often relegated to in the 1999 comedy gem, Galaxy Quest. (Which initially looks like the ultimate Trek spoof, but turns out to be the greatest non-Trek cinematic love letter ever written to Roddenberry's franchise.)

Weaver has played both strength and weakness convincingly throughout her career. Maybe it’s thanks to the fact that her breakout performance was that of one of our most definitive action heroines that gave her license to do whatever else she wanted to with her career and not be typecast. Once you’ve played such a convincing hero, does anyone ever have the right to accuse you of playing a female stereotype? Sure, they have the right. But then, you could just punch them in the face because you’re so buff from training for your roles.

Sigourney Weaver is immensely beautiful, but she’s not traditional movie star beautiful by today’s standards. She is realistically beautiful. Like someone you might run into on the street and think to yourself, “Wow, they’re striking.” This as opposed to what you might think running into Ms. America. (Which, depending on how spiteful you are, might range from rolling your eyes all the way up to making some kind of Barbie Doll quip. Not that I’ve thought this through or anything…)

Weaver’s beauty is unprocessed, which makes her strength just that much more believable on film. Let’s keep working with the Ms. America analogy, shall we? Can you imagine Ms. America with a grenade in her hand screaming at an Alien queen? Would you believe that? I wouldn’t.

Not that pageantry doesn’t have a place in the world. I myself once competed in Junior Miss, I won the Judges award, which is based on talking, my main talent in life. It’s just that one doesn’t typically associate pageant style with action heroine strength. The very idea is the wacky contradiction that brought you, “Miss Congeniality”. (Please, feel my sarcasm...)

But you take someone like Sigourney Weaver and put her in that situation, and the tension is palpable. Because you BELIEVE it. She is able to transform herself physically for her roles since she’s not starting from a silicone-injected/hair extension-ed canvas. She is a realistic woman and has more dynamic range as an actress because of that fact.

Then there’s the underwear thing. Weaver is frequently in her underwear as her character, “Ripley”. But again, because she doesn’t look like some kind of a bouncing, be-wigged caricature of womanhood, it’s not offensive or gratuitous in the least. At least, not to me.

To me, that just makes the character of Ripley much more vulnerable, so much more human. Pair that with the fact that the entire cast of the sequel, Aliens, also appears in their underwear and it just becomes the great equalizer. “See? We’re all wearing underwear. We could all be eaten by aliens because we’re puny humans…look how puny we are, standing here in our underwear.” It’s a wincing vulnerability. What’s worse than being eaten by an alien monster? Being eaten by a alien monster while only wearing your underwear.

The character of Ripley is tough, but she’s not untouchable. She panics and she screams, which gives her a more real-world quality. Yes, I’m aware I just pronounced an alien-fighter as feeling “real world”. But these are not always traits that make it into the more modern action films.

There’s a whole trend out there of calm and collected action heroines who barely flinch when fired upon. (A la Angelina Jolie in everything.) This is okay (I heart Tomb Raider), and it’s partly due to the boom of superhero films we’ve experienced over the last decade. It’s just a different style.
But I think it’s Weaver’s terrified performance in Alien that keeps it from feeling like grade B schlock. If she were immediately tough when confronted with a big slimy alien with many mouths, we’d think, “Yeah right.” And roll our eyes.

But watching her fight for her life makes you so uncomfortable, that you can’t help but picture yourself in that situation. That’s exactly how a horror movie should make you feel.
Sidebar: Think of all the horror films that didn’t feel scary even though they had impressive effects. Why weren’t you scared? Likely because you didn’t believe in what was happening onscreen. It’s the difference between the original “House on Haunted Hill” and the remake. Sidebar over.
Here’s something else to chew on. Is the character of Ripley a horror vixen, an action heroine, or a sci-fi star? She allows us to be afraid and vulnerable via her experiences, and again, she’s in her underwear a lot. So that qualifies her for horror vixenhood.

She wields giant guns, has some pretty wicked arm muscles, sweats, and doesn’t “take no crap from nobody” which obviously makes her an action heroine.

Lastly, she outsmarts aliens and pilots spaceships. There you have it, she’s also a sci-fi star.
There are so many reasons to love Sigourney Weaver, especially in the realm of geekdom.
There's her voice work from Futurama, again, her comedic genius in Galaxy Quest, and her classic role from Ghostbusters. (In which, I'd like to note, she was smarter than any of the men appearing in the film, barring Spangler, of course.)

Weaver is one of my ultimate geek role models for a plethora of reasons, too many to mention here on ye olde blog. How about you, what do you love about her as an actress?

9/17/09

Star Tours II

Very exciting post over at http://www.loadedcouchpotatoes.com/ about the second iteration of the SUPER FUN Disney ride, "Star Tours".

Read the post HERE.

Wooooooo!

If you've never been able to enjoy this ride, you can read my review of the ride HERE.

(You may notice some strange facts about the author that don't match up with what you know about me...I was getting some unsavory comments from someone on that site at one point, so I changed my information for a while to be harder to find there. Cover officially blown I guess...)

And here's the complete ride video, though I'm sure I've posted it before, I'd say this news earns it a second post! I just rode the WDW version of this a couple of weeks ago, and no matter how old I get...it's still giddy fun. You may also notice a certain Mr. Paul Reubens as the voice of the pilot droid. Just an added geek bonus. And our friend who wrote the article about the second Star Tours ride pointed out to Jake, Josh and I that George Lucas makes a cameo in the ride at the very end. Can you spot him?

9/15/09

Script Report, Photos To Share

So, I'm sure my regular followers (That's you Heather) may have noticed a slowing down in ye olde blog here. Well, I've been slammed, but in a fantastic way. All those exciting projects are alive and KICKING, which means I'm hardly ever standing still or sleeping.

But I can share a little bit with you. Here is today's script report over at Five Sprockets. The longer I write for this site, the more I fall in love with it. It makes developing any ideas a piece of cake for anyone, amateur or professional. It takes the mystery out of how to get things done and literally walks you through each step of any process for FREE. Writing a book, a script, making a movie, pitching something professionally. It has everything.

Okay, enough advertising...I just really love it. Here's the recent script report and you can find my movie release reports on fivesprockets.com every Friday and these script reports every Tuesday.

Also, Jake was shooting for the TV show Pet Pals this past Sunday at an event in Carmel called, "Dog Day Afternoon". I tagged along because it was Sunday and I knew Dana would be there, and hey...an entire day full of cute animals, what's not to love? Well, I ended up taking pictures all day for the Pet Pals website because they had forgotten a still camera. Here's a picture of Jake working and below that a slide show of some of the photos I took that day.

And here's the album of cute critters!


Find more photos like this on Pet Pals TV - Devoted to Pet Adoptions and Happy Pets

9/9/09

My Top 15 Most Helpful Robots in Film and Television

What robots lack in social graces, they more than make up for in handiness. They’re practically walking Swiss army knives. Here they are, in no particular order, in what reads like a list straight out of a pageant from outer space…the 15 most helpful robots in film and television...

9/8/09

Interview with Werner Weiss of "Yesterland"

For those of you that don't know, I'm a huge Disney geek. I try to get to one of the parks at least once a year, to refuel creatively (A technique my husband and I learned from Jeff Baham, webmaster of http://www.doombuggies.com/) It's sort of one of my five pillars of geekdom.

9/7/09

Cory Doctorow Interview and More

Just thought I'd drop a quick line to let you know that my interview with Cory Doctorow can be seen in the Autumn issue of, "Orlando Attractions Magazine". I originally interviewed him for an article I did on the 40th anniversary of the Haunted Mansion for Geek Monthly this summer. But there was so much of that interview that I couldn't fit into that one article. I needed to find it a home of it's own! You can pre-order the issue HERE.

9/4/09

The Top 15 Unconventional Leading Ladies of Film

The women on this list are all weirdos in one way or another, and that's why I love them so.
Here's to characters that don't fit the mold and make you think twice. Different can be good you know. Nay, great. And these women serve as excellent fictional reminders of that old cliche sentiment. In no particular order, they are...

Joaquin and Crispin

Bear with me...

I've been listening to Pandora.com where I have a Johnny Cash station. So they played some songs from Joaquin Phoenix's performance as Johnny Cash in, "Walk The Line". (Love Johnny, love the movie, love the music, love it all.)

SO. I decide to Google Joaquin and see how he's doing. He's always been a favorite actor of mine, all the way back to, "Space Camp". (Yep, he's in it. Go rent it, it's a throwback classic.) Ever since his strange Letterman appearance, he sort of dissapeared, which is a shame for all of us. This has been alarming to some people, but I feel okay about it. Why? Because he's clearly mid-mockumentary or art project or film or performance art.

Exhibit A, as we all know, is that Casey Affleck, a close personal friend of his is filming a "documentary" about Joaquin's attempted leap to the rap business.

But Exhibit B, though it can only be counted as peripheral at best, is Crispin Glover. Glover made a now notrious appearance on Letterman in 1987, clearly in character. People thought he was insane or on drugs. Here is that appearance.



Here is a trailer for a movie he did that was released not too long after his appearance...



How this can remain a mystery after the existence of the movie and the appearance together is a mystery to me. It's obvious, right?

So Joaquin is doing the same thing, or so I choose to believe. It's the weirdos who make the best, or at least the most intersting, performers.