Join Me This Weekend at the Lakefront Film Festival!

Posted on July 25, 2019 at 6:11 am

Copyright Lakefront Film Festival 2019
I’m looking forward to this week’s Lakefront Film Festival, which opens tonight with one of the year’s most endearing films, “Blinded by the Light,” from the director of “Bend it Like Beckham,” based on the true story of a Pakistani/British teenager from an immigrant family who finds his true spirit through the music of Bruce Springsteen.

On Saturday, I’ll be on two panels, one with other movie critics and one about comic books and movies. Please join us!

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SDCC Day 5

Posted on July 22, 2019 at 12:08 am

Copyright Playstack 2019
It went so fast!  Today started with a demo of the new Dr. Who VR game. The first time I tried VR at Comic-Con they made the most of the ghostly images that was all they could produce by making the story fit those pictures.  This game is many, many leaps forward, as the doctor (voice of the 13th doctor from the series, Jodie Whittaker) is missing but has left some clues and a way to McGuyver a communications device. I was not a good player in part because I am a terrible gamer but in part because I was enjoying the level of detail and wanted to look at everything. Developed by immersive entertainment studio Maze Theory, led by former Activision and PlayStation veterans, Doctor Who: The Edge Of Time will launch on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, HTC Vive and Vive Cosmos in September 2019.

I also attended a panel on time travel in science fiction, featuring legendary authors Larry Niven, Greg Bear, and David Brin. They agreed the primary motivation for time travel is “make it didn’t happen.” Niven said the lesson to be learned from time travel stories: “Don’t waste your lives just wishing.”

I made it into the legendary Hall H (Comic-Con’s biggest venue) for the “Mayans” session. Comic-Con attendees got an exclusive look at the first 15 minutes of the show’s second season, which includes an ultra-violent shoot-out. The actors said they treasure the opportunity to work together, and to have a chance to take often-stereotyped characters and give them depth and complexity.

And then the annual conclusion, the “Starship Smackdown,” where a group of very funny sci fi nerds debate which is the greatest fictional spaceship of all time with a combination of intense knowledge of minutiae and a very silly sense of humor (which is pretty much the theme of Comic-Con). There’s always a lot of spirited argument, but the winner is usually the Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon. They know their stuff.

I’ll be posting links to some of my writing elsewhere, so stay tuned for more.

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SDCC Day 4

Posted on July 21, 2019 at 2:05 am

I met with specialists in computer animation — stay tuned for the full interviews. I especially enjoyed speaking to Richard Dorton, a motion capture actor who likes to say, “If you’ve played a video game, you’ve killed me.”

I didn’t make it into “The Good Place” panel–the line extended almost back to Los Angeles–but that made it possible for me to go to a session that is always one of the highlights of SDCC , the Quick Draw, with Disney animator Floyd Norman, MAD’s Sergio Aragonés,  and Scott Shaw responding to all kinds of very silly suggestions about what to draw, each trying to outdo the other. Original “Not Ready for Prime Time” SNL star Laraine Newman showed up to play a word game and it was delightful. The following panel was cartoon voice actors, and Newman, who does a lot of voice roles, most recently in “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” stayed on for that.  The best part was that when they told stories the panelists slipped in and out of many different voices.

Leslie Combemale’s annual “Women Rocking Hollywood” panel, with women producers and directors, is always one of my favorites, and more will be coming on that later. It was very heartening to hear how many projects these woman are working on, from “Queen Sugar,” to “Walking Dead” to an upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic with Jennifer Hudson, the choice of Franklin herself.

The best part of Comic-Con every year is the costume competition, called the Masquerade, celebrating its 45th anniversary. This one was one of the best, with spectacular entries covering iconic figures from “Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, the Avengers, and James Bond.

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SDCC Day 3

Posted on July 20, 2019 at 9:01 am

One difference from previous years — nearly every event I attended had someone say, “This is so timely” or “This is of course a metaphor for the political issues we face today.” Of course that has always been true one way or another in the world of science fiction and fantasy. But the heightened conversations about the political issues of 2019 make just about everything seem like political commentary.

I began with the annual Black Panel, moderated by Milestone Media’s Michael Davis, with Black Panther writer Don McGregor and RUN-DMC’s Darryl McDaniels, who told the group that popular arts like music and comics can make a unique difference in communicating and bringing people together: “The arts succeed where religion and politics fail.” He said that hip-hop was a response to the false narrative of disco, which made it look like New York was “Studio 54, diamonds, Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and sex. It took young brothers and sisters to tell the world. It was spoken creatively. We didn’t have to write about fun. We could write about the issues that affect us all.” He called on everyone there to participate: “Everything that was on that record is still happening. It’s your responsibility to tell the world what is going on.”

Women from the Costume Designers Guild appeared on a panel to talk about the “Doom Patrol” universe, and what made this presentation special was that it was like seeing each costume go down the conveyer belt from the head designer to all of the people involved in bringing that vision to life. As a fan of “Drop Dead Diva,” it was a special thrill for me to get to see the moderator, April Bowlby, who plays Elastic-Girl on “Doom Patrol” but to me will always be Stacy on “Drop Dead Diva.”

I attended press briefings for upcoming series “Boys” and “Carnival Row” (more on that coming) and panels on the history of EC Comics and cartoonists at MAD and the New Yorker (a surprising number publish in both).  Stay tuned.

 

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