Why I Didn’t Care About No New Footage and Other Comic-Con Thoughts

This was my 5th year at San Diego Comic-Con. And as each year comes, I think to myself, “Maybe this will be the year that I’ll get cynical. Maybe this time, I’ll see what others complain about.” But…

I am still head-over-heels in love with Comic-Con. And it just keeps getting better.

I love Comic-Con. I love the people. I love the cos-play. I love the long lines and crammed ballrooms. Some people find that surprising, like when they find out I actually love public speaking or theatre and improv. And I get it; I’m an open introvert with social and generalized anxiety. You would think large crowds, tight spaces, and lots of noise would be the last place I would be, since I can’t even make a phone call without breaking into a cold sweat. But the truth is, I’ve always found comfort in crowds. It’s because I can assess and respond in a situation quickly based on others around me. Is that like, a superpower? It should be.

This year, Cory and I actually didn’t know if we would make it until literally 2 days before. But thanks to some inside knowledge and a little luck, we were good to go. But because of the uncertainty, and the whole wedding thing, we did not put in for the hotel lottery. No, instead we decided to rough it and walk from our apartment, which is a little over 1 mile straight up from the convention center. “Up” being the key term there. While a mile walk isn’t bad, at a typical con, we’re each lugging 15-20 lbs worth of stuff. Still, not too bad, right? Except that the way back is uphill. Not steep, but a long, grueling incline that catches up with you. We had to do it, though.

Since we really didn’t know if we were going until the last minute, we didn’t take a lot of time to plan. The one thing we knew we wanted: The Star Wars panel.

Thursday afternoon, after an okay panel on pitching, we decided to check out the line, around 1 pm. And it was massive. For those unfamiliar with the convention center and Hall H, the line weaves in and out of tents alongside the building, then crosses the street and lines the sidewalk all the way around to the back of convention center, where it then goes up the sidewalk along the marina to the Hilton, then back down the gate to the Embarcadero, where it loops up and down the lawn and basketball courts before starting again back on the sidewalk of the marina down toward Seaport Village. It can be literally miles long. When we got in line, it was behind Joe’s Crab Shack on “the island,” or the Embarcardero. All things considered, it was a good spot – soft lawn, shade from the trees, breeze from the bay. Cory and I were kind of at a loss — we weren’t expecting to be in line so early. Luckily, the girl ahead of us and the man behind us offered to watch our things if we left for food or panels. Then, we made friends with the brother and sister nearby. Before we knew it, we were a hearty little group of six, sharing blankets and stories from cons past. We stuck together, taking turns going into the Con, seeing panels, grabbing food, etc. We got our wristbands (the guarantee of entry to a certain point) around 11 pm. One super generous member of our new gang offered to hold our spots for the night. He’s a good guy.

The next morning, after a missed alarm and a mile jog downtown, we found our friends, bought breakfast, and waited. We eventually got into the cavernous Hall H before any panels started, and there, the six of us settled in for a long day to get to ….

The Star Wars Panel —

Yes, it’s true. They didn’t really reveal anything new. They showed some (amazing) behind the scenes footage, and I know it was picked apart on the Internet minutes after its release.

So there seems to be 2 schools of thought here: the panel was either a big fake-out or the greatest experience ever.

As someone who lived it, I’m here to tell you – It was the Greatest. Experience. Ever.

It’s easy to get excited about being the first to see new stuff. And hey, I’ve been there, too. It is great – you feel special. For like, 3 minutes. But it doesn’t take long for the whole world to catch up to where you are. Even this year – they premiered the latest Batman Vs. Superman trailer. I was not there. I WAS, however, on the convention floor, near the DC booth when the stars came over right from Hall H to sign autographs. And they showed the trailer. On a loop.

Now listen, if you’re going to do a panel in one of the big rooms, you gotta bring something. The Game of Thrones panel earlier on Friday was pretty lame-o for several reasons, but mainly because there was literally nothing new to show. Nothing new to talk about. There are no more books. They maybe *just* started filming. They’re still figuring it out. And it was boring.

JJ and Co tantalized us by bringing out a real puppet who walked across the stage. They staggered bringing out the new stars, giving the crowd a chance to ask questions to each group.

They carefully kept Harrison Ford until the very end.

Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford
Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford

And I’ll admit, at this point, I was starting to feel a little disappointed. I had desperately hoped for a truly mind-blowing experience and I just didn’t have it. Even with Harrison. I knew the panel was coming to an end and I wasn’t sure if it was worth it. Until JJ made the big reveal.

A surprise concert, behind the convention center — right where this whole journey began.

During the panel, Mark Hamill mentioned that everyone seems to have a Star Wars story. I mean, he’s right. I wrote about mine. And that, that was the point of being there. In a line with thousands of other people. Sitting on the lawn for twelve hours. Making friends. Saving spots. Bringing coffee and doughnuts. Sharing anticipation and excitement. This is what Comic-Con, at its best, is about. Yes, there’s swag and celebrities and new teasers. And yes there are comics and toys and art and memorabilia.

But this is about sharing your love of something with others who love it just as much as you do. It takes what could be a very isolated feeling and propels it into a universe of those who feel the same way, turning loneliness into acceptance and a sense of belonging. That’s freaking awesome.

So no, I don’t care there wasn’t any “new” footage or trailers. I had an amazing experience with new friends that will forever bond us together. And I can’t wait until next year.

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Singin’ in the Rain: Some Things Never Change

Since the Oscar nominations were announced, I’ve been reading a few of the trillions of lists put together by various entertainment outlets. 24 of the Most Unforgivable Oscar Snubs, 10 Oscars That Were Whiter Than White. 33 Reasons The Lego Movie Is This Year’s Best Picture. Et cetera. But one list that was truly fascinating was EW’s 51 Performances Oscar Never Recogonized.

Typically, any list over 25 is questionable. But, I gave it a look anyway. First of all, it was greatly aided by having a video clip of each performance — no easy feat, and extraordinarily helpful in a list like this. Now, when watching awards shows, my dad is known for spouting tidbits and facts like a living, breathing, iMDb. So I’m kinda used to hearing things like, “You know, he was nominated for this film, but won for a different film eight years later,” or “This film lost to that film in 1976.” But seeing a cohesive list of performances that didn’t just lose an Oscar, but were never even considered is kind of startling.

They listed some incredible performances, many of which weren’t appreciated when released, or seem to have held up better over time, or were simply overshadowed. One of those many performances was Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain.

And that, of course, got me thinking about Singin’ in the Rain. This was a film I discovered “later in life,” maybe when I was 17 or 18, but I fell for it immediately. I mean, it shouldn’t be a surprise, really. It’s a musical and a movie about making movies. That’s pretty much gold for me.

What strikes me about Singin’ in the Rain is how the general representation of celebrity, stardom, and Hollywood, is still ALL true. The movie was made in 1952 about 1929, yet here we are in 2015, and nearly everything is still exactly the same.

My case:

– The Red Carpet Interview

In the film’s opening scene, we’re brought into a red carpet premiere of the new Lockwood-Lamont picture. A crowd is anxiously awaiting each celebrity arrival, screaming names and begging for autographs. This scene is narrated by Dora Bailey (played by Madge Blake), who is essentially Ryan Seacrest. She oohs and aahhs to her radio listeners as different celebrities exit their vehicles and prance down the carpet….. speaking of…

– The Celebs

You may not know the actors being caricatured  in this opening scene, but it almost doesn’t matter. The It girl, the attention seeking drama queen, the perfect Hollywood couple. We can fill in our current celebrities to match the labels.

– The Actor’s Interview

When Don finally arrives, he gladly conducts his red carpet interview. When asked about his beginnings, he weaves an elaborate tale, full of fancy schooling, serious roles and heaps of luck, while we see the truth — his low-class upbringing, his less-than-high-brow work in vaudeville,  his desperation trying to make it in LA. It’s  a tale celebrities still spin today, if not quite to that extreme. Oh sure, today it’s a lot easier to dig up old yearbook photos and embarrassing commercials, but we still have to do the digging. We always take what celebrities say with a grain of salt, knowing they rarely ever tell the whole truth.

– Studios Scrambling Over the Next Big Thing

The real challenge in Singin’ in the Rain is when this new technology arrives allowing movies to record audio, bringing in the Talkie Era. Shown at the premiere after-party, almost everyone believes it’s a fad. But when studios start buying into it, it doesn’t take long for Colossal Pictures to jump on board. The studio head halts production so the new technology could be installed.

Studios are so insane about being on top of the “the next big thing.” The same thing happened with Technicolor, HD, 3D — you get it. Nobody wants to be the last one, so when they rush into the new technology, there are always…. let’s call them growing pains. And they’re hilarious.

Probably my favorite scene in the entire film is when they start filming with the microphone and eventually screen an early version with sound. Anyone who has ever tried seriously filming a movie on your own will understand that scene. It feels all too real.

Ultimately, I think my argument here is trying to prove that we tend to dismiss “old” movies (be they made earlier than the year we were born, a musical, or –gasp– black & white), yet most of them are still completely relevant and totally entertaining. They may not be filled with lightning-speed editing or quick-and-punchy dialogue. Yes, Singin’ in the Rain has some cheesy moments. (Between you and me, I always skip the final dance sequence.) But overall, it’s a phenomenal film that holds up so well.

Give it a chance, people.

#LearnfromtheClassics