Posts Tagged 'hollywood'

Comic-Con

Comic-Con is huge, reminding me of some ancient festival dedicated to the complex and overlapping mythologies of geekdom. The lengths at which people were willing to worship their favorite idol are really something to marvel. If you dress in a perfectly rendered, home-made Boba Fett costume in 85 degree heat, you’re clearly proving your devotion to the gods of Lucas. Thus far, I’ve counted 17 Jokers (16 like Heath Ledger, including one in a nurse’s outfit and one guy who dressed like the Jack Nicholson joker), 3 Jack Sparrows, and countless stormtroopers. Other noteworthy costumes include a couple that dressed like Shrek, two guys that turned themselves into TIE fighters by taping cardboard panels to their arms, a whole family dressed like the Incredibles, and one chick dressed in a very realistic Princess Leia Tattooine bikini.

I have to confess that I’ve never been into American comic books. Even as a kid, superheroes struck me as a bit silly. I’ve never been an especially devoted viewer of Star Trek. And after George Lucas pissed on my childhood when he released The Phantom Menace, my love for Star Wars has gone sour. You could say that I’m a geek agnostic who found himself in the Vatican during Easter mass. I suspected that I’d find little to make me fall to my knees. But I was wrong. There was booth after booth filled with indie comics. Chris Ware, Gary Panther, Lynda Barry, R. Crumb. Book upon book of beautifully bound copies of some of the coolest graphic novels around. I bought a couple tomes by Adrian Tomine who was kind enough to sign it. The geek was out.

Next I went to a panel for something else I can very geeky about, the British series Spaced. And for a series that’s just coming out on DVD this week, the line was unreal. It went down the hall, around two corners, doubled backed a few times before spilling outside and down the stairs. My press pass apparently meant nothing; I had to line up like everyone else. So I followed the line until I ran into a couple Cal Arts friends who were outside but not down the stairs. I cut in line. The guy behind me was dressed in a leather trench coat, white face paint and plastic fangs. While I was talking to my friend, I ran into Greg Mottola, who directed Superbad. He worked on a failed FOX TV show that I toiled on as a Post PA. You can always tell the quality of a person’s character in Hollywood by whether or not they talk to the PAs. Greg always did. He mentioned that he probably was going to direct Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s new movie Paul.

In spite of my fears, I did actually get a seat in the far corner. Pegg was on hand along with co-star/co-writer Jessica Hynes and director Edgar Wright. If Comic-Con is list a great religious festival, then these panels are like communion. Fan questions were detailed, affectionate and occasionally churlish; one guy with a hat that looked like a frog all but demanded that the make a movie about a reoccurring character on Spaced – Tyres. Other questions included the possibility of doing a third season. Pegg said that they all wanted to do it but were afraid of making their own Phantom Menace. Wright asked about is upcoming adaptation of half-forgotten Marvel superhero Antman. His super power? He can turn into an ant. That’s it. But if one person can make that concept interesting (and I assume funny) it’s Wright. He was cagey about the project aside from saying that he finished a draft. Pegg was asked about becoming the next Doctor Who, which he just laughed off. And of course, they were asked about Wright, Pegg and Nick Frost working together again to follow up on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Pegg said that they all wanted to complete their “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy.

Later after scarfing down some Baja Fresh, I walked into the end of a presentation for George Lucas’ latest assault on my childhood, an animated series about the Clone Wars. The animation was a stiff and wooden as the dialogue. I’m not surprised that Lucas turned to computer animation. Machines always captured his imagination more than, y’know, boring old human beings. And the evolution of his movies is a slow erasing of humanity from the screen. With Clone Wars, he dispenses with humans altogether.

The next panel was Entertainment Weekly’s “Visionary Filmmaker” panel, which had the unlikely grouping of Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow, Zack Snyder, and Frank Miller. Smith looked huge, wearing what looked like a sweatshirt muumuu. Judd Apatow wore a Ghostbusters T-shirt that I think was being handed out for free on the convention floor. Zack Snyder looked exactly the kind of person who liked to give swirlies to nerds in high school and Frank Miller who was clearly loaded was dressed like a card sharp.

When asked why he first got into movies, Smith was short and sweet, “I just wanted my cock sucked.” He continued through out the panel to hurl one-lined and banter with Apatow, cracking everyone up. He’s clearly a better panel member than filmmaker. Zack Snyder proved my suspicions as being someone with great visual flare but with a rather shallow intellect. His answers were consistently stumbling and halting that more often than not trailed off with, “…I don’t know.” After one painfully flubbed response, Kevin Smith chimed in, “Hey, at least you got that visual thing down.” Everyone though, especially Smith, was floored over his upcoming Watchmen footage, screened at a panel I missed to go to Spaced. Frank Miller looked generally bored and didn’t bother answering many of the questions beside a couple snarky asides about Dark Knight.

After that, I went to a party thrown by a leading internet company. The party-goers were mostly a different species than the comic-con going geek. These guys were in sales and marketing and dressed in Hollywood-slick. In the past five years, Comic con has gotten big and increasingly slick thanks to the recent attention of Hollywood. Geeks and geek buzz have made movies like 300 and Hellboy II big hits. The shift here isn’t that comics have gotten more Hollywood. It’s that Hollywood is now catering to the geek and as a result movies have become more like comic books.

Adventures In Hollywood: Dirty Harry

So, the other day, I get an invitation at work to go to a screening of Dirty Harry at the Director’s Guild in honor of its DVD re-release. It promised that oodles of famous people would be there, including Clint himself. Of course, I signed up.

The day of the event was an immensely annoying one. Weird tech failures. Pigeons paid tribute to my newly washed car with little white bird bombs. Work associates had hissy fits about things that have already been resolved. And to top it off, traffic from Santa Monica to Directors Guild in West Hollywood, even by low expections of rush hour traffic in Los Angeles, was unbelievably awful. Old women in walkers literally hobbling past my car. Every attempt at finding a better route merely got me even worse traffic. By the time I got there, I needed a beer. So after checking in, I made a bee-line to the wet bar. I didn’t realize til a full half-hour later that not only had I blown right into the VIP lounge, but that I didn’t have the requisite black paper wrist band to enter. I dressed reasonably nice and I suppose my single-minded determination for alcohol must have convinced everyone that I was a producer or agent.

So I knocked back a few beers. Free beer always tastes better when it’s ill-gotten. I saw Chris MacDonald who was holding court. I knew him from a ill-fated TV show I worked on that got yanked after five episodes. I tried to get his eye, but he seemed to be ignoring me, no doubt assuming that I was an agent or producer. I ate as many of the DGA hors d’oeuvres as I could. The mozzarella and sun-dried tomato on a stick was quite tasty. I talked to one guy who just finished work on G.I. Joe, who told me about Harrison Ford getting a hair cut on set; I introduced my self to Paul Haggis and somehow didn’t tell him that I thought Crash was the cinematic equivalent of George W. Bush — racist, cynical, and utterly undeserving of its laurels, and I inadvertently insulted Steve Guttenberg by mentioning his discotastic starring role in Can’t Stop the Music. If you’re out there Steve, sorry.

Having downed three beers and three dozen satays, I saw Clint make his regal entrance. Soon after, we all headed for the theater. There I found my co-worker who was apparently denied access to the VIP lounge. I told him about Steve Guttenberg. The lights dimmed, Clint, looking exceptionally well preserved for his 78 years, said some self-deprecating things about his hair to the audience.

And then the movie started. If Crash is the cinematic equivalent of the Bush admin, then Dirty Harry is the equivalent of Richard Nixon — seemed fascist at the time but now seems almost moderate. Sure, Harry Callahan is a shoot first, read Miranda Rights second kind of cop, but he’s grudgingly tolerant of gays in the early 70s, is concerned about the common good, and is unsparingly honest (unlike Nixon). Indeed, his one big mistake in the movie was that he is unable to lie on his police report. If he, like pretty much every other cop in the world, fudged the report to not include the whole police torture scene, a criminal wouldn’t have walked and you wouldn’t have had a second half of the film.

When the film was over, as custom, the studio handed out schwag. Usually its a T-shirt, or a picture book, or a back pack. Occasionally there’s something really cool like an iPod but not this time. I don’t get invited to parties that cool. No, instead I got a model of Dirty Harry’s trademark 44 Magnum pistol, done in chocolate. The perfect gift not to take through airport security.

Odds and Ends

New hipster phrase: Scongress. As in a contraction for “sexual congress.” Example: “Me and my lady had some mad scongress last night. It was off the chain.” I called it. I will demand royalty checks from anyone who manages to get the word into a major advertising deal or big budget Hollywood movie.

Movie Pitch Idea: A shot by shot remake of Gus Van Sant‘s Psycho. If there’s any big name Hollywood producers out there, look me up.

Another Movie Pitch Idea:
An eight hour reconstructed ‘making of’ Andy Warhol‘s Empire. A single fixed camera shot, detailing Warhol and Jonas Mekas hanging out, reading magazines, eating Campbell’s soup while waiting to swap out film magazines. In the background is the Empire State Building. A guaranteed blockbuster.



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