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Cell Phones? In MY Theatre? Meh, No Sweat

Jeremiah

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It’s no secret I’m a cranky bastard. I remember once at a Royals game, I turned to friend of mine, Al, and I said, “You know what bothers me, Al?” To which he said, “Everything bothers you, Jeremiah. You’re the most bothered man I know.”

I say this to tell you this: I don’t give a rats ass if you text in movie theaters. Do I find it annoying? Yes. Do I wish you would stop it? Of course. Would it send me into a vitriolic rage so epic I would wish a pox on both your houses? Meh.

Look, put away your damn phones. You’re in a public screening room; people paid good money for an experience, so don’t be a dick. Also, put the thing on silent. There’s an entire production number before the trailers reminding you to silent the blasted contraption.

Movie critics and movie lovers alike will rant and rave about how cellphones need be confiscated before entering a movie. The Alamo Drafthouse, for example, famously has a zero-tolerance policy for cell phones and texting during the film. I’m actually okay with that. At the same time, I don’t think every theater needs one.

Movies are supposed to be empathy generators. For an hour or two we walk in someone else’s shoes; may they resemble us or maybe we’re nothing like them. At the end of the movie we’ve hopefully, at the very least understand them and by extension people we know like them, or ourselves, a little better.

Yet when someone takes to social media and goes on a tirade about how cell phones are killing the movie going experience someone will inevitably bring up the extreme example of “What if it’s an Emergency?” To which the self-righteous ranter will reply, “Leave.”

Fair enough. But still who cares?

Look, everyone has had a bad movie going experience. It’s a sad fact of life. Not all ball games are fun and sometimes going to the movies means sitting next to the guy who chews his popcorn with his back teeth. It’s the price you pay for going out in public with other people.

You know something? I bet you that while you may have had someone text or talk in a movie you went to, you probably don’t remember the movie it happened at. Or maybe you do, and if the movie was any good, it was still good even with the jack ass on the phone. The art is stronger than the cell phone.

I had a friend, Eric. We used to watch movies together all the time. That rat bastard would almost never shut up. No matter the movie good, bad, classic, he had jokes for every occasion. It wore on me sometimes, and sometimes it helped. Yet, when I think back, I don’t remember the anger or Eric’s jokes. I remember the movie and how it made me feel.

The art is stronger than the cellphone. I’ve had people text in movies. But I didn’t care because who the fuck cares about that rando I think that fat guy is Tom Cruise! If the movie is any good the memory trumps the inconvenience because good movies are so rare and great movies are rarer still.

Although there was one time where I do have a vivid memory of an dickweed on his cellphone. I had the privilege to see Godfather: Part II in theaters, on the big screen. It was, predictably, a-god damn-mazing. About the time we get to the pivotal moment where SPOILER ALERT Fredo gets shot, someone’s cell phone goes off. And it goes off for like a good minute. The audience is visibly perturbed but we soldier on because the moment is about to happen, so forget that guy.

But then this little rat fuck behind him decides to take a cue from Falling Down and kicks the back of the guy’s seat. Hard. And now it’s a thing. Because the cellphone guy, who’s with his wife and kids, has just turned off his cellphone; and the bearded Shemp kicks the back of his chair again.

Cell phone dude stands up. So does Osh-Kosh-McDumb fuck. Now I have a memory of the time there was almost a fight because an idiot and a moron decided they needed to have a dick measuring contest. Oh by the way, saw Fredo getting shot. Missed Michael being told though. So, thanks ass wipe.

Art is stronger than the asshole with a cellphone. What the douche in black did though was turn it from a thing and turned it into a moment, a true distraction. He pulled us away from the Corleones and made it all about him. That guy peeves me more than cell phone guy.

The phone guy, forgetful, possibly rude. Whatever. People who text during movies, nincompoops, the lot of them. Are they being selfish? Yes. But before you come at me with “I paid good money!” They did too. I could give a fuck about people on cell phones and texting. Welcome to the modern world. It’s something people do. It’s also part of why we go to the movies.

I saw Independence Day in theaters when it first came out. My sister worked at the theater and she came in during the movie to see how we were doing. Before she left she asked us if we noticed anything odd about the screen. My Mother and I shook our heads. She pointed to a small white spot on Will Smith’s head. “Someone threw a gummy bear at the screen yesterday and it melted on.” So my memory of Independence Day includes Will Smith marching about with a Gummy Bear tattoo on his forehead.

So back to the original point: I could give a fuck about people on cell phones and texting. Welcome to the modern world. It’s something people do. I’d prefer it if you weren’t texting or talking. But there’s a fifty to seventy foot screen with larger than life images who I find infinitely more interesting than your insignificant self.

To the ranters and ravers who say the other people are murdering the movie going experience-have more faith in the art. The art is amazing. Trust.


Featured image courtesy of CC0 Public Domain

Jeremiah lives in Los Angeles and divides his time between living in a movie theatre and writing mysteries. There might also be some ghostbusting being performed in his spare time.

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Air Capital Comic Con Sticks To Its Roots

Dan

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The comic convention used to be exactly what it sounds like: a way for the “Marvel Zombies”, “Batmaniacs”,  “Shellheads”, and “Wingnuts”  who braved the comics shops of the world for their monthly dose of multi-colored, multi-panel heroism; to get together with their own people. They traded old comics and new ones, wore homemade costumes, and argued over nonsense. The guests were artists and writers of the comics themselves, and the con was a chance for them to meet the people who loved their work.

But slowly but surely, the TV and movie conventions began to merge with the comic cons. With most of the con-goers belonging to multiple fandoms, for many, it was a no-brainer for them to consolidate. The nerds of the world rejoiced as they could at one stall meet the creator of Batman and in the next meet the Adam West who played him on TV. But, slowly but surely, the movie and film stars became the attractions at these cons. While no comic-con has truly shaken its comic book roots, it can be hard to find one today that still maintains that old school purism. But don’t fret true believers, there’s one in Wichita, and I attended it last weekend.

Air Capital Comic Con was co-founded in 2013 to help give the city of Wichita a yearly comic convention of its very own. Since then, it has only grown. The fans in Wichita that for years had to travel hours to Kansas City or Oklahoma City to scratch their nerd itch now only had to drive downtown. But Wichita is not a large city, and the convention itself reflects that.

Taking up a single exhibition hall iatWichita’s Convention Center, it’s easy to walk from one end of the con to the other. I felt strange walking by some of the same booths as I wandered around and took everything in. But size matters not, as they say, and the number of guests in attendance would no doubt be in line with a con twice the size of Air Capital.

The guest list, as I alluded to before, was almost entirely pulled from the halls of comics. Creators from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, Boom! and the indie scene made for a stacked roster for fans to mingle with. Big names included Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight, Dream Thief),  David Gallaher (High Moon, Box 13),  Steve Ellis (Skinwalker Studios), Alexis Zirrit (Space Riders) and Kevin Nowlan (Tomorrow Stories, Superman vs. Aliens). But it was not all old school, as the con also invited multiple high profile cosplayers as well, such as The Hive (Resident Evil Cosplay Collective), Children of Proteus (Aquatic Steampunks), Deadpool’s Chimichanga Shack., and the local chapter of the 501st Legion.

The vendors and artists in attendance ranged from toy shops and comic stores to cosplay gear and jewelry, to a “psychic cartoonist” named Lord Julius Pandhandle. The actually quite healthy Wichita writing scene (cough) was in attendance as well, with bestselling fantasy author Tamara Grantham, sci-fi scribe Tim Hunter, and master William Schlichter all meeting, greeting, and signing books alongside newer writers like AR Crebs and Dakota Caldwell (in character as his book’s main villain).

The attendance was a mix of the old, hardcore nerds who’d met Stan Lee when he wore gold medallions, parents bringing their kids for a day out in their best Spider-man costume, and teenagers dressed as anime characters hanging out with their people. And there was something for everyone. Local game shops and developers had a board gameplay area, and Wichita’s video game bar and e-sports org helper put together a huge array of consoles from the NES to the PS4 for people to play to their heart’s content. On the upper balcony, panels ran every few hours discussing things like villains and the comics industry. It even hosted a nerdy version of The Dating Game.

Overall, it really was a good con. I’m spoiled in that my home city of Indianapolis hosts multiple huge cons, including GenCon, every year.  And Air Capital isn’t near that big or exciting. That is no slight, however. I loved the heart that Air Capital Comic Con had, and the real sense that it was part of a thriving community. There was no flash or glitz, just passion, and good old-fashioned nerdiness. They know there is nowhere to go but up, and they maximize everything they can.  If you’re in the area next November or are wanting to add a stop for a promotional tour, you won’t find a better home than Air Capital Comic Con.


Images courtesy of Air Capital Comic Con

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All Hail the Porg

Kori

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With an official trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi finally dropping earlier this week, the internet has been a flurry with writers stampeding to try and determine the “true” meaning behind several tantalizing scenes. And everyone else fell in love with a Porg.

The Porg, a newly created species for the Star Wars universe, are said to be native residents of Ahch-To, the island Luke Skywalker has been hiding/meditating on since Kylo Ren killed all of his students and totally embraced his inner Edgelord. While the Porg weren’t the only new species we caught a glimpse of in the trailer, (seriously, what is that glitter Flareon supposed to be?) they have rapidly become an internet darling and are launching a thousand memes of their own.

This isn’t by accident. The designers at Star Wars were obviously determined to introduce the newest, cutest thing ever, and they used psychology to do so.

Shrewd and diabolical design and marketing? Maybe. Do I still want one? You bet your biscuits I do. I and you aren’t alone. In fact, the Disney team was counting on this. It’s no coincidence there is now a conveniently accessible line of Porg merchandise already available to buy, and right in time for the holidays.

Funko Domination has begun!

Of course, the meme machine that is the internet has been busy, churning out delightful design after design.

 

Now naturally, there are those who do not find the Porg or their kids, the Porglets to be cute. Maybe they’re contrarians, or maybe they just don’t know joy in their lives. They can take solace in the fact that there is plenty of other Star Wars merchandise in the sea, and that there are no plans for Disney and Lucasfilm to follow in the steps of the Ewoks and make a Porg movie.

Yet.

(Disney, please, I’m begging you, give me a Porg movie.)


Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm

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Top 5 Essential Films for Your Collection: Comedies

Jeremiah

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One of the most asked and debated questions in the cinephile community is “What movies should I own in my DVD collection?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself, so I did as any writer does and decided to make my own list of essential movies one should have in their DVD collection. Notice the words ‘dvd collection’; I’m talking hard copies here. And it’s worth mentioning that these are not the only five movies one should have in your collection; nor is it in any way saying you have to own all five.

My aim with this series is to hopefully introduce you to some films you may never have heard of or, even better, cause you to reevaluate the ones you have seen. Lists are useful for helping broaden one’s base of knowledge, organizing one’s thoughts, and starting a discussion, after all.

Each entry in this article series will revolve around a specific genre or topic. Because (thankfully) movies are constantly being made, I had to set a cut-off date. What I consider The Essentials will be made up of films released before 2015.

These are the top five comedies that I think are essential to your collection. Comedies are difficult to critique simply because what is funny to me is not funny to you. Keep in mind that if a film is left off, it does not mean I don’t think it valuable or funny. Mel Brooks and Jacques Tati are not on here, and I would never argue that they are not essential.

Again, these are not all the essential movies, just some of them.

Groundhog Day (1993) – Harold Ramis

Groundhog Day is, in many ways, one of the more perfect comedies ever made. It’s also one of the best romantic comedies ever made. It’s also a perfect example of a movie being deeper than it first appears. Either by accident or design Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin’s screenplay hints at, explores, and illustrates essential moral, philosophical tenants in such a way it’s easily missed upon the first couple of viewings. Lines like “I’ve killed myself so many times I don’t even exist anymore.” or my favorite “I’ve come to the end of me, Rita. There’s no way out.”

Billy Murray, “Plays the perfect bastard.” as Roger Ebert once noted.  An egotistical weatherman who becomes trapped in his own personal Punxsutawney purgatory; inexplicably relieving the same day over and over. His early attempts to bed his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) fail miserably. As each day repeats itself, time becomes abstract, and Phil begins to question not just mortality but his own morality. He becomes a better version of himself, and that’s the version Rita begins to fall for.

The ending is wonderful in its ambiguity. It has the appearance of being a nice and tidy crowd-pleasing Hollywood ending. But much like the movie itself, there’s a possibility there’s more than meets the eyes. Groundhog Day is the rare comedy that’s hilarious, moving, and thought-provoking.

 

Mean Girls (2004) – Mark Waters 

Mean Girls is a sharply written comedy about girls coming of age in high school. It’s also one of the more transformative and lasting comedies made in the last two decades. So much of the movie has entered the popular consciousness that many people can cite it or quote it without having ever seen a frame of it.

Cady (Lindsay Lohan) is the new girl at school. She soon befriends a couple of outcasts Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese). Together they plot the downfall of The Plastics, a trio of the most popular girls who rule the school: Gretchen (Lacey Chabert), Karen (Amanda Seyfried), and Regina (Rachel McAdams). Of course, anyone who’s ever seen a spy movie knows Cady begins to lose herself as she more and more is drawn into the mind games and gossip wars with The Plastics.

It’s Heathers mixed with Clueless and yet it’s still wholly original. This is because Tina Fey grounds the characters and the comedy. There are flashes of her trademark surrealism such as Mr. Duvall (Tim Meadows) ripping off his shirt during a school riot. But Cady, Regina, Janis, and the rest are richly drawn characters. The Plastics start off as the villains of the piece until ultimately it’s revealed there are no villains. They’re just teenagers. Maybe that’s why Mean Girls has endured; it’s about teenagers not the idea of teenagers.

 

The Heat (2013) – Paul Feig

The Heat is hilarious. It’s the type of funny that I really can’t tell you why I laughed. I just did. Like Groucho Marx sitting on the balcony of the opera and saying “Boogedy Boogedy!”. Sometimes funny is just funny. There’s nothing particularly new about The Heat, a buddy cop odd-couple comedy, but it never feels tired or forced.

Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is the straight-laced by the book FBI agent.  While Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) is the disorganized slob, who doesn’t remember when she last saw the book. Paul Feig and his screenwriter Katie Dippold allow McCarthy and Bullock to riff of each other. The two have gangbuster chemistry. McCarthy is like Lucille Ball and Jerry Lewis rolled into one as she barrels through the movie. Bullock doesn’t play the straight woman so much as a dry tense coiled spring. McCarthy is constantly bursting where Bullock is always just about too.

The Heat never pretends to be anything other than what it is. It’s as pure a comedy as you’re likely to see in a while. Sometimes a movie doesn’t need to be about something; sometimes they just need to be great at what they’re trying to do.

 

Coming To America (1988) – John Landis

Eddie Murphy co-wrote and starred in what remains one of the seminal comedic classics of our time. Coming To America was and is a reminder of the immense talent and imagination of Eddie Murphy. Landis may have directed it but this is Murphy’s baby from start to finish.

The notion of African royalty coming to America only to find himself just another black man in America is daring by any generation’s standard. Coming To America explores the multitudes of black experiences of varying classes while never losing its goofy zeal and manic asides. There’s even a fairy tale love story between Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and Lisa (Shari Headley) that never overplays itself.

Murphy and his co-star Arsenio Hall play multiple characters, but these aren’t caricatures. Murphy and Hall’s characters walk that fine line between broad and nuanced. They do such a good job that when the movie came out many were shocked that it was them and not different actors; especially because some of the characters they invented were white. Coming To America is an astonishing comedy both in breadth and laughs.

Trouble In Paradise (1932) – Ernst Lubitsch

Of all the names sadly lost to the current generation of film lovers, one of them is Ernst Lubitsch. More than a master of comedy he was a master of storytelling and characters. He made several masterpieces The Shop Around the Corner, To Be Or Not To Be, and Ninotchka to name a few.

Trouble In Paradise is a pre-code romantic comedy unlike any other. Preceding the fact that it is both deeply romantic and sensual it is also deeply insightful about how its characters and to some degree about us in the audience. Gaston Marceau (Herbert Marshall) is a renowned thief and conman. One night he seduces and attempts to rob Lily who is also a thief and con-woman. The two laugh and fall instantly in love over their shared amorality.

Gaston and Lilly plot to rob perfume magnate Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis). Things take a turn when Mariette begins to flirt with Gaston.  Mariette is neither gullible or as dimwitted as Gaston had thought. Trouble In Paradise is the rare instance of an honestly believable love triangle. Lubitsch handles all of this in sublime visual style allowing the eroticism between Gaston and Colet to pulsate through the screen. A masterwork for any time period it’s proof positive that comedies can be funny, sexy, and smart without having to sacrifice one for the other.


Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Pictures

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