Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fanboys of Summer

Imagine if you will a magical place, where those usually shunned from society are courted by the biggest players in Hollywood. Where grown men and women wear costumes - NOT on Halloween - and are embraced for it. Where a baseball stadium sits empty and quiet while a convention center is filled with rabid fanaticism.

Yes, it's COMICON!

This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of traveling to San Diego to attend an event built for fans of comics and movies, by fans of comics and movies.

I was fortunate because a classmate of mine had his 508 film (you remember that, fall semester, last year?) accepted into the ComiCon Independent Film festival, which meant that he had a couple of free passes. And so, with a comfy auto and a pretty good working knowledge of the city of San Diego, I was tapped to be the "+1" to this prestigious event.

There's a lot that could be said, but I think, in this instance, the pictures say more than words ever could.

Quick run-down of the pics
1. me yelling at C3-PO
2. me with Princess Leia, Jabba the Hutt slave edition
3. me getting attacked by sexy zombie babes
4. me with fellow USC students who made the trip
5. me captured by Boba Fett
6. one of the many ads for the HIGHLY anticipated (in my mind) movie District-9
7. COMICON banner
8. me with Sawyer's LaFleur Darma jumpsuit from LOST

For the record, since we had the screening of my friend's film to attend I wasn't able to see any of the panel, especially the preview screening for James Cameron's upcoming movie AVATAR.

But, as you can see, the day was more fun than a ride in the Millennium Falcon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Me fail English? That's unpossible!"

A great injustice and incredible took place last week that is so despicable the only word I can find for it is......unpossible.

It is unpossible to imagine that "Family Guy" became the first animated sitcom to get an "Outstanding Comedy Series" Emmy nod since "The Flintstones" in 1961. And though I could up to North Hollywood and shout my displeasure at the front door of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, I believe my diatribe would fall on slightly more receptive ears here.

Now, I will admit that right now, in 2009, the average "Family Guy" episode is probably funnier than the average "Simpsons" episode, but that does not excuse the Academy from setting a historical precedent just because they need a ratings grab for their failing award show.

Because clearly, that is all that this nomination is. It's the Emmys wanting more viewers so they've expanded the field to include a wider audience - the Oscars are doing the same thing by having 10 Best Picture nominations next year (I have my own thoughts about the Oscars, especially which categories I think they should cut, but I'll save that for another day). "Family Guy" earn this distinction is as blasphemous as building a monument to Jesse Jackson while uttering "Martin Luther who?" (my words, not his). MacFarlane gave the appropriate tip of the cap to "The Simpsons" after finding out "Family Guy" had gotten the nomination and he said "The Simpsons" should have won in the 1990's.

And to be clear, it's not as though "The Simpsons" went home empty handed in their heyday. Matt Groening an Co have trucked home enough Emmys to fill Mr. Burns' mansion since their first nomination for "Outstanding Animated Program" in 1990. The show has gotten plenty of respect for its writing, voice talents, musical score, etc. BUT, having been the most culturally relevant animated show since "The Flintstones", they definitely should have had the distinction of being the 2nd animated show in TV history to earn a nomination for "Outstanding Comedy Series".

Maybe I'm so fired up because "The Simpsons" was my first true love in a long, tumultuous affair with sweet madame TV...causing me to abandon the fresh air and sunshine of childhood for the cool, comfortable surroundings of the basement at 156 Montclair. And though saying that "The Simpsons" is the genesis for my even being out here in the Land of La-La might be a bit of stretch, it certainly played a major role. I would say that "The Simpsons" is probably why I have a better sense of humor than I do a mean breaking ball. Who knows? If the family at 742 Evergreen Terrace had never entered my life I might have been a middle reliever for Sweet Lou's bullpen....(which, in its current state, could still be a possibility).

I could go on for pages and pages about why I love "The Simpsons" (and very well may in future posts), but for now I just had to let off some steam.

Besides, I'm really not THAT pissed off. "The Simpsons" are like Coca-Cola or the '96 Bulls team - they are the best their ever was or will be with absolutely no debate (thought the idiotic media will always insist on trying).

I'm especially at ease because "The Simpsons" already got the last word over 17 years ago. In the episode "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?", Homer is given $2000 because working at the nuclear power plant has drastically reduced his sperm count, and Mr. Burns decides to silence him with the $2K settlement, but fools him into thinking he's won the "Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence". The award is presented at a ridiculously overdone awards show, and after seeing the over-the-top opening musical number, Bart and Lisa have this exchange:

LISA - This awards show is the biggest farce I ever saw.

BART - What about the Emmys?

LISA - I stand corrected.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Land of the L O S T

One of the perks of living in Los Angeles is the myriad amount of opportunities to attend panels or Q&As with people working in the industry, and this week I had a particularly cool experience.

An anonymous friend (who likes fantasy sports and says "MERCY" at any opportunity) took me to an alumni panel of two of the writers and producers of the hit ABC show "LOST": Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis.

It was especially cool b/c this writing duo was also tapped to pen the new "TRON" sequel for Disney, which allowed them to speak about writing for TV and feature films..though obviously TV is their strongest suit so far.

Since it was an industry thing, most of the discussion and questions focused on writing, writing techniques, etc. But it was clear that anytime they gave examples from LOST everyone really ate it up. I thought that was funny, everyone trying to be "oh, i'm a professional writer, and will ask questions that reflect that." - an attitude I was probably most guilty of having.

Probably some of the best fanboy moments were when Adam and Edward talked about how the show "canceled itself" and they both talked a bit about the final season, promising that "there's a point". I was happy to hear that, because as much as I may have enjoyed The Sopranos final cut to black, I think if LOST did that I would flip out like Ben Linus' alcoholic father.

Another great little insight was when the duo discussed the scene in "The Lie" when Hurly recounts to his mom the entire history of the show in a desperate confession. They mentioned that originally the scene was almost purely comedic but as they wrote his speech and read it aloud it became clear that it was also very heartfelt and a crucial moment for the character and the episode b/c Hurly needs his mom to believe him. They said they were definitely surprised by the change in tone but that it ended up working better - something that often happens in writing.

They also had a few other cool stories about how they came out here, how they got their start, and all that stuff. All in all it was a pretty cool night.

I feel like any events like these that I get to go to are important to help me stay focused. When you get into a routine of working, class, or internships (plus when you spend time going to the beach, as I have a lot this summer), it is possible to temporarily forget I've moved thousands of miles from friends, family, and deep dish pizza to be here in L.A. to try and make it in the entertainment industry.

Hearing stories from successful people is great because they keep me motivated, remind me why I love this stuff, and probably, most importantly, save me from getting LOST.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I Think It Was the 4th of July

Above are some photos I took in the harsh light of day on the 5th of July, deciding to make sure there was some documentation of the extremely successful 4th of July BBQ I threw at my place in Venice.

I wish I had some photos of the actual party, but I was much too busy playing beach football, grilling like a pro, and downing a few beers (okay, maybe more than a few, but I was staying in Venice all night so there was no need to stay sober).

But indeed, it was a very good, very fun, and very patriotic celebration - from the bountiful American beer (Sam Adams Summer Ale mostly) to the recession-conscious $10 flag bunting I made myself (the Fashion District is one of L.A.'s best-kept secrets - full of street meat and cheap fabric). I was really pleasantly surprised by the high turnout: its not always easy to get people to come to Venice on busy holiday weekends...parking is INSANE.

But they did come, tons of classmates and their friends - not to mention a few cast and crew from some past projects. I probably went through almost 20 burgers and 30 hot dogs and brats. Not to mention the fact that almost everyone who came brought some beer and when I came out to clean the next morning I barely found a drop of alcohol left; so, indeed, a good time was certainly had by all.

It was fitting, too, as the 4th of July represents an anniversary for me: it's been one full year now that I have been living in Venice. Last Fourth I had just pretty much moved in and had reservations if it would be the right move. Now, a year later, I couldn't be happier living in Venice and am planning to stay for at least another year.

Aside from the obvious perk of living near the beach, one of the other things that is so great about Venice is that its a real neighborhood, or, even beyond that, a COMMUNITY. In a town like L.A. where people are often blase about civic pride, there is a definite attitude that I've found in Venice that sets it apart. Perhaps its the gritty Dogtown roots or the curious mix of rich condo-dwellers and drugged-up beach bums, but this area has a feeling all its own.

It also might be the fact that a seemingly lot of ex-Chicagoans live in Venice. I see more Bears fans on the streets and bars of Venice than I have anywhere else in L.A.

Don't worry though, I'm not getting too attached. Let's just say that Venice makes living 2,100 miles from a home a bit more....tolerable. Nothin' beats Chicago.