12/30/09

The Year in Geekdom - 2009

This really was an epic year for Jake and I. We were lucky to not only enjoy a lot of recreational geekdom, but also to plant some seeds for many future professional geek ventures. I'm officially 25% Master of Creative Writing, have enjoyed many fun freelance writing assignments and creative side projects this year and began my fledgling career as a voice-over artist.

All in all, I have to say, settling into my geekdom truly paid off in ways that I really couldn't have anticipated. I guess that just goes to show you, being yourself (no matter what) can really pay dividends, both professionally and personally. So please, do follow your geeky white rabbit down the nerd hole this year...you won't be sorry.

I made a list, and in no particular order, here are...

12/29/09

The Women Film Critics Circle Awards

I'm proud to be a part of the WFCC and I'm ashamed to say that I missed voting this year. Something that won't happen next year. The best thing about the WFCC is the fact that it provides a forum for the discussion of the still under-represented women in the film industry.

You can find hundreds of forums for fans of multiple genres of film and plenty of "film" sites that critique women's appearance alongside the films they appear in as though that's just the accepted status quo. Giving out awards like, "hottie of the day", as though reviewing film and the immature ogling of women must go hand-in-hand.

So the fact that a network like this exists is beyond helpful in an industry that not only objectifies women, but also many people, people groups, and ideas on a regular basis. Some say it's just the nature of the business, but the WFCC begs to differ, and dissenting and intellectual voices can make a difference in an oversaturated critical world that often links itself inextricably to the use and abuse of female sexuality for no other reason than the fact that it can. The WFCC offers an alternative viewpoint and perhaps a more finely tuned criticial lens with which to view film.

It's not that the members of the WFCC always agree with one another, you may even notice a small disclaimer in the awards this year regarding this fact. It's the idea that they are determined to keep these important discussions alive and keep asking the tough questions while calling filmmakers out on two-dimensional and unrealistic female characters. But the WFCC isn't just the stereotype police, they take the time to notice the well-done films and characters and to reward female filmmakers for their excellent works.

So here are this year's awards. Whether you agree or disagree, you are invited to join in on the discussion in the comments section here or over at the WFCC website at http://wfcc.wordpress.com/

THE WOMEN FILM CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS 2009

BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN
*TIE
Coco Before Chanel
My One And Only

BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN
Julie & Julia: Nora Ephron

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]
Sunshine Cleaning: Megan Holley

BEST ACTRESS
Abbie Cornish: Bright Star

BEST ACTOR
Ben Foster: The Messenger

BEST YOUNG ACTRESS
Sidibe Gabourey: Precious

BEST COMEDIC ACTRESS
Meryl Streep: Julie & Julia

BEST FOREIGN FILM BY OR ABOUT WOMEN
Seraphine

BEST FEMALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE
American Violet
Amreeka
The Baader Meinhof Complex
Inglourious Basterds
Lemon Tree
The Messenger
My Sister's Keeper
Sweet Crude

BEST THEATRICALLY UNRELEASED MOVIE BY OR ABOUT WOMEN [Includes films released on DVD or TV, or screened at film festivals, in recognition of the limited opportunities available for films by and about women on screen]
Grey Gardens

BEST EQUALITY OF THE SEXES
Julie & Julia

BEST ANIMATED FEMALE
Princess And The Frog: Anika Noni Rose as Tiana

BEST FAMILY FILM
Up

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Gertrude Berg [Posthumous]: Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg: Aviva Kempner, director

ACTING AND ACTIVISM: Emma Thompson - For her work on and off screen against sex trafficking

*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women:
Precious

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America
American Violet

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For best exemplifying a woman's place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity
An Education

COURAGE IN ACTING [Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]
Isabella Rossellini: Green Porno

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD [Supporting performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]
Olivia Williams: An Education

BEST DOCUMENTARIES BY WOMEN:

GROUNDBREAKER: The Beaches of Agnès, Agnès Varda

ABOVE AND BEYOND: American Casino, Leslie Cockburn

COURAGE IN FILMMAKING: Tattooed Under Fire, Nancy Schiesari

WFCC TOP TEN HALL OF SHAME

Antichrist: The cinematic equivalent of nails down a chalkboard. Pretentious pornography, satanic sex, and Willem Dafoe as an artsy New Age femocidal sexorcist.

Deadgirl: Again the theme is vile sexual violence to women. In this case, the woman is dead and the men can do what they like with her And they do. This film brings out the worst of male fantasies towards women, and it wasn't a pretty sight.

Downloading Nancy: The sexual violence towards Nancy, even though she asked for and seemed to want it, was difficult to absorb.

Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past: Matthew McConaughey as cardboard cutout misogynist, in one too many phone-it-in rom-coms featuring toxic bachelors.

Pirate Radio: Horrible male characters who treat women like a floating meat market.

Precious: If this film were a poor 'white trash' family/community, it wouldn't have received the applause that it did. The point is that it promotes prejudice against blacks, fat women, unmarried women, less educated women and a whole lot more. That it is successful screams out for another film from the same neighborhood where the family is kept above the fray of stereotyping, by a strong unmarried mother.

Twilight Saga: New Moon: Bella (lead human female) is completely pathetic, the whole giving up one's soul thing. How sad is it when a gal in a small town picks two boys she likes, one is a vampire and one is a werewolf.

Up In The Air: 'Just think of me as yourself, only with a vagina.' Oh, puh-leez! Who was this corporate female predaor [Vera Farmiga] supposed to be, this gorgeous, available babe with no back story and the magic ability to pull two sexy black dresses from her rollaway with no prior notice?!?!?

Two words: Judd Apatow. Some more words: perfect, beautiful women exist to save overweight schlubby men from their otherwise inevitable fate as complete no-hopers.

Worst Full Frontal Male Nudity 2009: Observe And Report's comedic flabby flasher. Ha Ha.

*Please Note: The WFCC Top Ten Hall Of Shame represents the 'don't tell me to shut up' sidebar contribution of individual members, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Circle. Also, members may be objecting to particular characters in a film, and not the entire movie.


*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: Adrienne Shelly was a promising actress and filmmaker who was brutally strangled in her apartment in 2006 at the age of forty by a construction worker in the building, after she complained about noise. Her killer tried to cover up his crime by hanging her from a shower20rack in her bathroom, to make it look like a suicide. He later confessed that he was having a "bad day." Shelly, who left behind a baby daughter, had just completed her film Waitress, which she also starred in, and which was honored at Sundance after her death.

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: The daughter of a laundress and a musician, Baker overcame being born black, female and poor, and marriage at age fifteen, to become an internationally acclaimed legendary performer, starring in the films Princess Tam Tam, Moulin Rouge and Zou Zou. She also survived the race riots in East St. Louis, Illinois as a child, and later expatriated to France to escape US racism. After participating heroically in the underground French Resistance during WWII, Baker returned to the US where she was a crusader for racial equality. Her activism led to attacks against her by reporter Walter Winchell who denounced her as a communist, leading her to wage a battle against him. Baker was instrumental in ending segregation in many theaters and clubs, where she refused to perform unless integration was implemented.

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: Karen Morley was a promising Hollywood star in the 1930s, in such films as Mata Hari and Our Daily Bread. She was driven out of Hollywood for her leftist political convictions by the Blacklist and for refusing to testify against other actors, while Robert Taylor and Sterling Hayden were informants against her. And also for daring to have a child and become a mother, unacceptable for female stars in those days. Morley maintained her militant political activism for the rest of her life, running for Lieutenant Governor on the American Labor Party ticket in 1954. She passed away in 2003, unrepentant to the end, at the age of 93.

12/28/09

Rest in Peace, Dan O'Bannon


In all the hubub of the holiday, the sad news of Dan O'Bannon's passing was lost in the shuffle. Which is, in a way, characteristic of what happened to O'Bannon throughout his career. He was never a celebrity of the showbiz scene, and perhaps that's because he was truly one of "us". Just another geek. And I don't say that to marginalize him in any way. I say it with pride, to claim him as one of our own. He made it in the industry, able to channel all that passion and knowledge into a formidable career. And if he can make it, so can any of us. In fact, we may all want to consider striving to be more like Dan O'Bannon than Steven Spielberg or George Lucas.

I'm sorry to say I had never even heard of him until my Dad gifted me with the deluxe box set of Alien a few years ago. I'm a special features junkie, my whole family has always craved behind-the-scenes info, so when my Dad saw the box set, he passed it onto me quickly.

When Dan O'Bannon popped onscreen, I thought I had kind of died and gone to geek heaven. He was so blissfully uncool, relating his harrowing tales of trying to make it in the film industry. Sleeping on friends' couches, living with frustration while his freshman efforts were scoffed at, and continuing on no matter what criticism or trouble he faced. Because what he loved more than anything in the world was to tell a story and get a reaction out of an audience. There was nothing arrogant about him, he shared credit, he had no shame when talking about weeping the first time he saw Alien on the big screen. He was so incredibly easy to love.

Only later did I find out that he was also responsible for another one of my kinder-traumas, the apocalyptic sci-fi horror film, Lifeforce. He also did the surprisingly well-done Invaders from Mars, which seems like it should be silly now simply because of the time and budget with which it was made. But it lives on like the kid's version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In fact, movies like The Faculty borrowed heavily from that film. I still get a kick out of watching it.
O'Bannon was charming and down-to-earth. He was the perfect example of why "geek" is a way of life. Geeks can never become cool, because they can't help themselves. They can become successful and respected and well-loved. But we will always be those child-like, some would say over-enthusiastic people. And when one of us breaks through the way Dan did, there's just no looking back. Dan was grateful for his success and gracious about it.

Watching O'Bannon talk with a gray head of hair was probably exactly like watching him in his younger days. (When he was quite the handsome fellow.) He never changed who he was and his trademark style was all over his amazing screenplays. He was a master of tension and suspense and he consistently payed homage to the comics and films that he loved as a child, never willing to separate his work from his inspirations and therefore never creating anything he needed to be ashamed of, whether something he worked on became a timeless hit or a cult classic.

He will be sorely missed and I'm truly sad I never had the chance to sit down and talk with him about any of his work or his life.

Dan O'Bannon
1946-2009


12/25/09

Merry Christmas

Have a great holiday, in the spirit of unlikely pairings!



P.S. Jake got me a ukelele for Christmas. I think my head is going to explode with joy.

12/22/09

Zombie Girl - Interview with Co-Director Aaron Marshall


As the year draws to a close, I'm still cleaning out ye olde freelance closet. That means some
articles written for publication that hit the floor are getting a second life here on my blog.

This one was written in August and due for publication around Halloween...

It's an interview with the co-director of the endearing documentary Zombie Girl. I call it a must-see for any film geeks, fans of the zombie and documentary genres or aspiring filmmakers. Consider watching the trailer first (if you've never seen the documentary) before reading the interview.

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Interview with Aaron Marshall

You may have heard of the documentary Zombie Girl. It’s the Austin-based film about a 13 year old girl who set out to make a full-length feature film. A zombie movie she wrote called, Pathogen. It’s gaining notoriety in the public eye after winning a handful of awards and making a memorable appearance at Comic-Con this July. (The Zombie Girl screening was completely full.)

The plot may sound quirky, but Zombie Girl has more to offer than an interesting premise. Sure it’s fascinating that a teenage girl made a horror movie. But after the initial impression fades, you're drawn into the world of Emily and her parents. A sense of awe develops for their practical approach and sheer dedication to an almost impossible task.

Someone who knew nothing technical about filmmaking got the job done, despite the multiple roadblocks that filmmaking inevitably presents. Out of all the people in the world who want to make films, thirteen-year-old Emily Hagins did it. Thirteen. Was it innocence or bravery that lead her to undertake such a daunting task?

Aaron Marshall, one of the film’s three co-directors says, “Emily just dedicated herself to it, and she’ll be the first one to tell you that her film is not this perfect work of art or anything. She just realized that the only way to learn is to make mistakes and grow from it.”

The documentary began after he and his co-directors noticed a casting call posted in Austin that needed kids to play the flesh-eating undead, “That in and of itself was probably the most unique casting call we’d ever seen. We started by contacting her and her parents to find out more and see if we could maybe talk to them and a week later we were sitting there at her auditions.”

Following Emily, while she made Pathogen presented special challenges. Marshall said the main struggle was resisting the urge to help. “We would see her make a mistake sometimes and go, ‘Oh, she’s gonna regret that later.’ which she did and then learned from them. That was probably the most important thing was that we knew if we stepped in and just told her how to do something we’d be robbing her of the learning experience.”

Zombie Girl also showcases the fact that technology has made such a leap that kids everywhere have all the tools to make a feature film, quite literally at their fingertips. From sophisticated Mini HD cameras to the editing software that comes standard on many home computers, kids can now learn by doing in an industry that was once reserved only for those who went to film school.

Marshall says that was an intentional focus, "Zombie Girl is an example of what is going on out there with cameras nowadays. Emily’s story is extremely fascinating because she’s a girl and she chose to make a zombie movie and that itself is maybe a little rare. But kids making movies is not. There are lots of kids out there doing it and its really exciting. Zombie Girl is going to shed some light on the fact that kids today are getting started in making movies at a much younger age. I definitely want people to take that from the film.”

That shouldn’t take anything away from Emily’s accomplishment. Availability of technology doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone can (should or will) pick up a camera and become a filmmaker. It just means they can get started earlier if they're so inclined.

In fact, Marshall can vouch for Emily’s artistic progress since Pathogen. “She just finished last week (at the time we spoke in early August) her second film. It’s a mystery/ghost story. She shot it over last summer and has had to work (finishing the film) around her school schedule. Emily is pretty…level-headed, so I think she’ll just keep taking it all one step at a time. She’s still in high school, she’s still making movies, I don’t know where she’s gonna go, but I do know that her goal is to just keep making movies for as long as she can.”

The documentary is at times funny, but it’s not always easy to watch. Like any good documentary, there's plenty of real conflict. In this case, it's the stress of making a full-length feature and the toll it takes on Emily, her schoolwork, and her family. Making a film is a huge stressor on even the most experienced professionals. You can imagine what it might do to a thirteen-year-old and her parents.

The end result is a motivational tale for any aspiring artist. Marshall himself was affected by the process of making the documentary. Marshall says, “As a direct result of, Zombie Girl I did end up writing a horror script. Before it had never really been my genre, but getting deeper involved with Emily and in editing Zombie Girl, I was watching more zombie movies and it’s been a bit of an inspiration.”

The film takes a step away from the typically glamorous portrayals of filmmaking to prove anyone can get themselves behind the velvet ropes of a world that seems reserved for the elite. If they're willing to invest their time and efforts making the independent film they want to create, instead of banging on industry doors.

Outside of its motivational aspects, it also plays as a sort of parenting fable, where the nurturing effects of supportive parents can be directly linked to a child’s drive and ability to succeed in reaching their goals. The key relationship in Zombie Girl is the one between Emily and her Mother, who does everything on Pathogen from special effects to feeding extras to holding a home-made boom mic throughout much of the filming. While most parents are content to let their kids burn through the hours playing video games as long as they stay quiet, Emily's mother teaches her a valuable lesson about following through, especially when things become overwhelming.

Marshall talks about the two main ideas of Zombie Girl that took shape during filming and editing, “There are a couple of things that you can take from watching the film. One is, no matter what goals you have, just (taking) the idea of pursuing your passions and your interests and dedicating yourself to stuff and just being able to make things happen, you know, work hard at it. Also just the role of the parents in helping to nurture their children and helping them follow their dreams and how important that is to have that as well.”

Marshall says the main goal for Zombie Girl now is some kind of distribution deal. “We like the movie, we like the message, we want as many people to see it as possible, that’s kind of our goal, just get it in front of as many eyes as possible. We’re hoping for distribution to get it out there.”

With Emily having just finished her second movie, it’s almost certain that we’ll continue to see her making films well into the future. (I know I'll like be following her progress.) No doubt Emily’s story is just one of many young filmmakers coming up in an exciting time in the history of a relatively young medium. (After all, when compared to the fine arts, film is only about a century old.)

Zombie Girl is more than just an entertaining documentary about the making of a horror film. It’s a record of a new time in filmmaking, a “how to” manual for parents who want to know the best way to encourage their children, and a motivational tool for anyone who ever felt like they couldn’t do something because they didn’t know where to begin.

As with every good documentary, the target demographic is…everyone. Marshall explains, “It’s a movie that will very much appeal to genre lovers everywhere… all of us genre lovers can see a little bit of ourselves in Emily. But I think it can also appeal to any field of interest, it’s about a mother and daughter working together to accomplish a goal. I’m still excited about it here four years into it. It’s still a movie I enjoy watching and I still think it’s a good story.”

Once you watch this, you'll realize there really are no excuses for not doing whatever you want to do with your life. It's entertaining, it's funny, and I'm not gonna lie...perhaps I shed a tear or two watching Emily standing at her premiere in the famous film landmark, the Alamo Drafthouse.

This is a talented young lady who reminds us all that the only person really stopping you from accomplishing your goals, more often than not, is yourself.

www.zombiegirlthemovie.com

UPDATE: Emily totally "made it". 

12/21/09

Did You Hear About the Morgans? - minor spoilers


This movie is getting slammed by critics everywhere. Rather harshly, I believe. I saw it this weekend with my best friend, and I tend to avoid reading any other reviews of movies before I write my own. But one arrived in my inbox today, so my policy went briefly out the window.

However, I think this movie is the perfect segue to a subject I've been wanting to talk about in regards to film reviews for a long time. For starters, it's the notion that critics should go into seeing a film with a fairly blank palette...

12/15/09

Vikings, Sea Monsters and Mel Gibson...no, seriously.


This week's script news over at fivesprockets.com. Read it and weep. Oh, how I LOVE you Universal monsters...but especially you Gill Man. In fact, my second ever freelance writing assignment was a eulogy for Ben Chapman, the original Gill Man himself as seen in this picture. In fact, I can remember watching the original, "Creature from the Black Lagoon" as a kid, and between that and, "African Queen", and seeing, "Jurassic Park" in the theater at the age of ten, my love of the jungle adventure genre was born!

On a random note...it's just occuring to me how often I write eulogies...weird.

Ten Points for Vulnerability

I guess since I'm in graduate school for creative writing, I should probably start to share some of that every now and then, huh?

The Year I Looked My Best
A fictionalized account of the unnattractive side of youth and beauty...
Read More

And here's a Haunted Mansion inspired short fiction...

When the Lights Go Down in the Haunted Mansion
What if the animatronics of the Haunted Mansion weren't just parts and electricity? I wrote this for a live reading, so it may lose a bit without being performed...
Read More

My One and Only - Movie Review



My One and Only is a movie that quietly came and went this year. I received a copy of it for the end of the year Women's Film Critics Circle awards voting, and out of all of the films I received, this was one that I wanted to watch immediately. I'm a bit of a documentary freak, so this was a welcome genre break for me...

12/14/09

Director of Confessions of a Superhero Responds to Dennis Interview

Matt Ogens, the director of the captivating and entertaining documentary, Confessions of a Superhero, sent me an email after I posted my last entry. He wanted to let his side of the story be known, and of course, I am more than happy to oblige...

12/8/09

Catching up with Superman - Christopher Dennis of the documentary Confessions of a Superhero


I did this interview with Christopher Dennis last May. It was slated for publication in Geek Monthly this summer, then again most recently for the Digital Subscriber's issue in November.

This was, hands down, my favorite interview. Dennis was a genuine joy. Sincerity is a quality sorely lacking in today's world. He and his colleagues have it in spades.

Speaking of which, the article will also catch you up on a few of the other superheroes from the documentary. Please enjoy. Heaven knows, the world needs a Superman.

~

If you’ve seen, Confessions of a Superhero you already know the name, Christopher Dennis. If you haven’t seen the quirky documentary about struggling actors in Los Angeles, perhaps you’ve heard of, “The Hollywood Superman”.

You may have seen him on Jimmy Kimmel Live as part of a troupe of performing superheroes. You may have seen him posing for photographs with tourists in front of the iconic Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Then again, maybe you’ve never heard of him at all.

12/7/09

Still Remembering Bea



Hard as it may be to digest, we're already coming up on the end of the year. You know what that means? Retrospective city. Everywhere you look, from the internet to those horribly obnoxious entertainment shows (that I watch with deep shame on a fairly regular basis) you can expect to find lists of those celebrities who have passed away in 2009. The worst one for me, that's still stinging, was Bea Arthur. I'm still thinking of her, still mourning the fact that I will never meet her, and so I thought I too would jump in on the retrospective action and publish my eulogy for Bea here. It was originally posted on forcesofgeek.com...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve been resisting writing about this since I heard the news last Sunday. I quite literally don’t know how to deal with it. I got the news via text message and I started crying, in a very public place. This is worse than the feeling I had when Majel Roddenberry passed away. You see, Bea Arthur was the one famous person I really and truly wanted to meet.

I’ve always had a place in my heart for strong women, and most of that place has been occupied by various action heroines and comic book characters. So Bea Arthur being thrown into that mix might strike some people as odd, seeing as how she dominated in the genre of television comedy. She never threw a punch or knocked out a bad guy. But her wit was lightning quick and her comedic timing was absolutely razor sharp.

She was the queen of strong women on television. She was a powerhouse. She could reduce you to absolute tears of laughter with a single facial expression. She was so smart with her comedy that she could slay an audience with a single line.

Like most women my age, I grew up watching Bea on The Golden Girls with my grandma. I own all seven seasons, my Golden Girls t-shirt is my favorite item of clothing, and the show gets played on regular rotation at my house. Sometimes it’s just on as background noise; the mere familiar sounds of it comfort me as I cook dinner or do chores. I have my favorite episodes, and my favorite moments and lines. They don’t call it a cult classic for nothing. You see, fans like me are not rare. I know at least a handful of them in my close circle of friends.

Sure, Golden Girls is fodder for a lot of jokes today, a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, particularly at the expense of Bea Arthur. Because she just never fit into anybody’s mold. She didn’t technically belong anywhere. Her voice was “too deep”, she was “too tall”, and the criticisms go on and on. She made people uncomfortable, and that’s what she thrived off of, it’s where her comedy came from. She took what was surely her source of pain and made it into her gift, and her income.

So it makes sense to me that she’s just a joke to a slew of people, and not in a good way. I guess it’s that high school boy hiding inside of the general public that just can’t resist taking a stab at her appearance or her stature. Pardon me if I'm a bit defensive...I told you, I loved this woman.

Bea once told a story on a Golden Girls behind-the-scenes special feature about trying to be a jazz singer, and how she got laughed off the stage because of her deep voice. That would crush most people. Forever. But not her, she figured out right then and there that she was meant for comedy and she just went for it, metaphorical guns blazing. That, to me, takes great strength. Years later, she finally got the opportunity to sing on the show, and she did a beautiful rendition of Irving Berlin’s stunning, “What’ll I do” that will take on a whole new meaning to me now. Naturally, she still found a way to make it into comedy gold.



I’ve been putting off writing about this, because it’s so hard for me to find the words. I know how kooky I sound. It’s all very, “Leave Britney alone!” I know that. And I’ve written about the Golden Girls many times before, usually defensively, trying to convince people that it is a truly great show and not something to be mocked. (You can find my most impassioned plea HERE.)

But what can I honestly say? All I could do would be to trip over myself begging for you to genuinely give Bea a chance. But actually, I think everyone really loves her, even if they feel they have to in secret because they don’t want to admit flipping to the Lifetime channel to watch her in re-runs.

She was so intelligent about choosing roles, even post-Golden Girls. She lent her voice to a classic episode of Futurama and managed to literally give me chills with just her voice. She had me grabbing my sides with her cameo on Malcom in the Middle, and I didn’t even like that show. I hated it actually, but hey, for Bea...

She, like every other legend of comedy, knew how to draw all of the attention from the audience at all times and every scene she was ever in, she stole completely. What made her even better? She knew this about herself, and she was gracious with her larger than life presence. She wasn’t a scene hog. She wasn’t a diva. She even chose to leave the Golden Girls after the seventh season, when it likely could’ve gone on for much longer, because she was afraid she didn’t have it in her anymore. So maybe it wasn’t humility, but perhaps that which lies at the heart of every true comedian, self-consciousness.

Whatever it was, I can’t tell you how sorry I am to have never experienced it in person. I can’t tell you how much more I will cherish my worn down DVD’s of my favorite television show. Now, every time I crack up at one of her scathing looks to the also departed Estelle Getty, I’ll feel a twinge of sadness. Because there’s just nobody like her. There are no young Bea Arthurs out there, no up and coming character actresses that even come close to her genius. It’s a different world now than it was when she came up in the entertainment business. You have to look a certain way, for the most part, to get anywhere now.

Can you imagine anyone on television or in the music industry looking the way people did even 20 years ago?

But I’m getting off topic. The death of Bea Arthur is a tragic loss, even if it was to be expected. I’m just beside myself. I know that’s completely irrational, but I feel like I lost my grandmother. Because really, wasn’t Bea the third grandmother we all secretly wished was ours? Maybe that was just me…

I’m just doing a really awful job of this. I’m a writer, I’m supposed to know what to say, exactly how to put it. But I can’t. So I guess I’ll just say how I really feel, despite how obnoxious this makes me sound.

Bea, you have no idea how much I respect you. How much I wish I could make a dent in the world even one tenth the size that you did. To break barriers, to inspire such raucous laughter, to take such great strides for women in the entertainment industry, and to so completely get over myself the way I’m sure you had to after facing the criticisms that you did in this world.

You will be sorely, sorely missed, even by people from a generation born after Golden Girls started airing. You didn’t realize it, but you were an absolute legend. You affected our lives, deeply. An entire generation of little girls grew up watching you, and you taught us that it’s better to be smart than to be a bimbo. That there’s a place in this world for women who don’t fit the mold and that it’s very important to always have a good comeback. For that and more, I am genuinely thankful, and I’ll continue to draw inspiration from your legendary comedy for the rest of my life.





11/24/09

Script Bits - Werewolves, Robots, and Lawyers


This week's Script Bits is up over at FiveSprockets.com


You can catch Script Bits every Tuesday and the Movie Release Report every Friday over at FiveSprockets.com, which is quite handy when you aren't sure what all your options are for weekend movies.

Screeners of, "The Men Who Stare at Goats" and Michael Moore's, "Capitalism: A Love Story" just arrived today and I'll be posting a review of, "My One and Only" here soon. Hooray for holiday breaks that allow you to catch up on film reviews and awards voting!

11/23/09

The Best Action Heroines


I can almost say I wrote the book on them...

But for now it will have to be, "I wrote the blog on them."

With my background in film studies and my regular participation in the Women's Film Critics Circle, (..and okay, my slightly unhealthy obsession with action and adventure movies...) I thought now was as good a time as any to do something with my lingering pet project, a book in progress on action heroines of film.

Since I'm still not even really half done, I figured I'd put it out there to the world as a blog in progress with chapters. Nothing like "Born For Geekdom", which features regular entries. More like an online collection of essays.

This will give it room to grow, but it won't languish in darkness any longer. I find that I'm most productive when there's a plan in place, so this works quite well for me!

http://www.bestactionheroines.com/

My very talented friend, Aron Deppert, designed the banner, just as he did for this website. Many thanks to him for sharing his talents!

Geek Tattoos

I want to talk about why geeks and tattoos go hand in hand, or if you'll allow the cliche, ink in skin. I recently got my fifth tattoo, the Rebel Alliance symbol from Star Wars on my right elbow area. I also have a Star Trek symbol on my right forearm, the Next Gen communicator symbol minus the background circle. I have plans for a Beauty and the Beast inspired quarter sleeve and eventually, I'd like to have 3/4 of my right arm covered.

What most people want to know is why? What will you do when you are old and wrinkly? What if you get a job that doesn't allow tattoos? (You cover them up!) All common questions, all completely understandable. Curiosity is only natural.

Here are several things to know about people who love tattoos and why they get them. This is, of course, not true of all people who have them. But you can think of it as my personal mission statement on the matter and all of these points are true for me...

The Geekly Reader

When I was in grade school, we had a weekly tradition. It was the "weekly reader", a small newspaper they handed out designed to teach us how to consume the news in a responsible way. I think.

That or it was just an excuse to keep us quiet for a half an hour. Either way, I loved that time each week. Recently, I've been noticing little bits of news here and there that would be of interest to my fellow geeks, but maybe isn't enough for an entire blog. So I present to you today, The Geekly Reader.

Item #1 - Bigfoot DNA
One of my favorite shows, The SyFy Network's Destination Truth recently had their mid-season finale. If you don't know, the show features a clever host, Josh Gates, who is a sort of real life Peter Venkmen searching for definitive cryptozoological evidence.

Translation? It's a monster hunting show. And I LOVE monsters, perhaps a symptom of growing up with all the Godzilla movies, JAWS, and too much National Geographic. They rarely make any kind of significant finds, but as a lover of the adventure genre, the exotic locations and real life dangers coupled with Gates' quick wit and self-deprecating sense of humor are enough to keep me watching.

But this time, they may have found something. The hair of a Bigfoot. I'm actually quite the skeptic about these things, and this season the show has been edited in a way that's far trickier and even a bit more suspicious than it ever has been before. So I'm not biting quite yet. But I also don't like to lump the odds of finding a new species of animal in with the idea of ghosts and aliens, which I find entirely implausible. (And if ghosts are real, I'll likely be haunted tomorrow just for saying that.)

Still, it's all very exciting for the monsterphile in me. Take a look at this clip. It's the Destination Truth team returning from the Himalayas with their evidence to get some answers.



Item #2 - Hilarious Starbase Indy Rules

Jake and I are going to our very first Star Trek convention. Hard to believe we've never been before, but it's true. As I was looking over the rules this week, they really struck me as...well, funny. They're so geek specific that I thought I'd share some of them for your entertainment.

"ABSOLUTELY NO MOCK FIGHTING! Weapons or props may NOT be wielded or
brandished in a reckless manner that could cause harm...If you are posing for a photo, you are permitted to hold out a weapon or prop, but remember, posing does NOT require you to move or wave the item! Again, please be aware of your surroundings and move away from the flow of traffic.

Please be courteous of other attendees and ensure props and costumes do not impede the flow of traffic in the hallways, panel rooms, or dealer's room. Please move out of the flow of traffic when
posing for pictures.

Oversize items- costumes, props, wings, etc. may not be permitted in certain areas of the convention (e.g. Dealer's room) due to traffic flow and safety issues. Please do not wave props around or point them at people.

Cosplay props such as gourds, wings, musical instruments, etc, however they must comply with size restrictions.


Limited metal decoration on the costume itself. Metal must have dull edges and not pose a threat to the wearers, con attendees, and the convention area."

Anyway, the list goes on and on and on, and you just KNOW that the reason these rules exist is because geeks like us take our Trek and Wars way too seriously, and this has likely caused real fights in the past at conventions. I would LOVE to see a record of police reports talking about all the over-enthusiastic Vaders and Klingons of the convention scene that have ended up in the clink. Or how someone's Amidala costume blocked a fire exit. You KNOW it happens.

Item #3 - Dino Chicken Is Coming For You!
I saw this over a week ago and got so excited that I had to call my Dad the next morning. (We do that for anything exciting having to do with NASA or science in general.) The findings in this report are nothing short of amazing.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

I think Spock would say that there's only one logical conclusion for the soft tissue still being intact within the bone...the bones are not as old as most scientists think they are. I'd wager they're about...oh, a few thousand years...yeah, I said it, I'm a New Earth Theorist. Scientific flame war...ignite!

That's all for this week's Geekly Reader, and we haven't even talked about the water on the moon, or the Hobbit movie inching toward it's shooting dates, or, or....

11/14/09

How to Geek Out


This is a post that's been up over at Ehow.com where I have over 100 articles published. But the site has recently changed it's rules and will now disallow opinion articles, which means many of mine will be coming down. So any relevant to Born For Geekdom will have a new home here! Here's the article, "How to Geek Out". It's a popular phrase today, so how exactly does one follow this command? Read on...


Intro


If you've been holding back on your geeky obsessions because you've been afraid that it would make you immature, you've been robbing yourself of one of life's greatest tools. Geeking out can help you relax, provide you with free therapy, lead you into community, and can actually help you set your feet on the path to living your dreams. Here are 5 easy steps to help you get all the benefits from your inner geek. And we all have an inner geek.


Step 1

Lose your inhibitions. I mean, not all of them. Don't break any laws, and try to stay away from public nudity. But anything about yourself that you find embarrassing, whatever it is, just let it go. Your inhibitions could be the very reason why you aren't following your dreams or feeling fulfilled.

Step 2

Reconnect to your childhood. I'm a geek for lots of things, Star Trek, movies, Disney, comics...I geek out over at least a dozen "silly" pursuits. The truth is, they're all things I loved when I was a kid. So if you're feeling less than inspired, go back to what it was that you really loved in your most formative years, before you had to think like an adult and learn to live with self-doubt. Even if your passions have changed as a grown up, remembering what it was that affected you emotionally as a child can help you reconnect with how to be inspired all over again.


Step 3


Channel your inspiration. What do those things make you feel like doing? Do you want to share your passion? Maybe you could geek out as a Sci-Fi columnist. Do you feel particularly inspired to create? Maybe you should be a photographer or a painter. Start following your inclinations. When you feel inspired, try to figure out what it is that you want to do with that without censoring yourself, just let it out!


Step 4


Find other geeks. Get inspired by the way other people have followed their passions. But no copying, okay? Ask them how they got where they are today and use that information to make your own way. I know a professional pirate. No kidding, that's what she does. She dresses up as a pirate and makes appearances, and she's paying the bills with this. There is a way to make a living geeking out. There is a way to take your geekdom into the real world. Don't be a scary shut-in geek who doesn't use his/her geekiness for the benefit of others. Share it! It's a gift.


Step 5


Don't ever stop. One geeky thing can always lead to another. My love of sharing cool stuff as a kid lead to my desire to be a film critic and a writer as an adult. And I am constantly finding cool new things to geek out over, which usually leads to some strange new adventure or unexpected gig as a magazine writer and interviewer of very cool people. Which is something I never would've planned for myself, but it happened through a natural progression of following the geek trail. So keep looking for inspiration and keep acting on whatever it is that catches your fancy!


Oh, and just FYI, consider this a bonus tip...


Don't get confused. Geeking out and being unhealthily obsessed are two different things. A healthy geek lives and operates in the real world, so no month long LARPing excursions, okay? I mean, you've seen, "Mazes and Monsters" right? Learn from Tom Hanks!

11/5/09

Kevin Smith's New Book


A very nice gentleman over at Titan Books was kind enough to send me a copy of Kevin Smith's new book for review here at BornForGeekdom. I actually read the book a few weeks ago, and have sort of been putting off reviewing it. Because I'm scared. Let me just admit it right off the bat, I'm scared of die-hard Kevin Smith fans. They can get mean. They can get vicious, just check the AintItCool talkbacks in regards to anything Smith-related. Personal threats typically ensue.

So allow me to just disclaimer myself into oblivion here first...

11/2/09

Halloween Geek Style and Sexy Costumes Gone Too Far?

If you'll recall, one of my sisters is quite crafty when it comes to the holidays. She did some fabulously unconventional Valentine's Day cookies last year. When she told me she did a Star Trek pumpkin this year, I thought, "Oh cool, I wonder which symbol she chose." But oh no...she did a ship flying by a planet.





Also, Jake and I finally found some halfway decent costumes. But so help me, next year we will be Troi and Riker!

Also, I have to just make a commentary on costumes for women that I'm sure echoes a million others right now, but good grief, trying to find a non-trashy costume nowadays takes a ridiculous amount of effort. Thank goodness for Tina Fey, who made this spot-on commentary in her script for, "Mean Girls".

To quote the film, "Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it."

Oh, but we can.

If you'll notice, the only Leia costume I could find that wasn't embarrassingly trashy-looking still had two gigantic slits up the side. Which is not only obnoxious, but completely innacurate to the costume of the film. Annoying. So I had to wear bike shorts and white tights underneath.

And I've just been wondering ever since, what equals sexy to the costume industry, the American public, and women everywhere? What are they peddling and why are so many women buying? The short list is...

1.) Super short skirts.
2.) Lots o' cleavage.
3.) Sterotypes. (Beer wench, Sexy Nurse, other characters frequently mentioned in male fanstasies.)
4.) Hyper-sexualized versions of pre-existing characters. I even saw plenty of trashy versions of Disney princesses this year.

And I HATE thinking that I'm just being reverse judegmental, so let me clarify. I am not anti-sexy. Sexy is great. So is attractive, beautiful, feminine, mysterious, and on and on. But come on, there's only one reason why a woman would put on a Snow White costume that looks like it should be appearing in a pornographic movie. To get attention, and to get a specific kind of attention from a specific audience. Men.

Jake summed it up well when I asked his opinion on why these costumes are so prevalent now. He said that he thinks men (not him per say, remember, this is his expert opinion) see those costumes and think, "easy". I think women think they're being sexy, but I think if you're looking through the man goggles, the real message is, "easy access". Easy to look at, nothing in the way, no effort required. No need to talk to the girl, you can just look across the room and take in the visual buffet. Kind of creepy, no? I'm recalling a phrase, "pearls to swine".

I saw a little girl in a cart at the Wal-Mart while I was hunting for a Star Wars costume that wouldn't bare my midriff, and one that wasn't the infamous slave bikini. She was looking at the pictures of the Disney Princess costumes for adult women, and I wondered what exactly was going on in her mind right then? Was she doing that instant analogy thing that kids so often do? "Okay, if the Snow White I know and love is dressed like she is in the movie, and that's a costume for grown up women, that's what it means to be a grown up. That's what it means to be pretty."

She probably wasn't thinking that. She was probably thinking, "Candy, candy, candy, candy..."

So what's my point? I don't know. I guess partially it's that I'm a prude. Partially that I wonder what the popular opinion of "sexy" is and why. When did this fad take off? Are the "adult" stores losing business to Wal-Mart on Halloween? When did I get so old?

Hypothetical of the day: What if we lived in a world where the more clothing a woman had on, the sexier she was, because it represented more of a challenge somehow, or a mark of intelligence and taste? The wishful thinking of a feminist I suppose.

I love the idea that Halloween is the one night of the year when we can all shake off our inhibitions and be what we really want to be, whether that's a character from a film, a book, someone from history, or what we want to be when we grow up. I also know that it can be helpful, figuring out what we dream about, what we think is attractive and why. That process can be a key component to figuring out what makes us tick and what will make us happy. So I'm not at all insinuating that we shouldn't notice someone attractive or consider when we feel most attractive.

My real question is, why is that look the majority of what you see on Halloween from women, and what does that say about what women want to be now?

(You should probably read these sentences in an increasingly fevered pitch of anxiety.) Have we lost our ability to connect with what WE, as women, think is sexy? Has society just completely succumbed to the idea that we should be what the majority of people think is attractive? Where's the creativity in Halloween today? Are popular Halloween costumes a scary litmus test on American sexual culture?

Probably not. Trust me, I know that I overanalyze and am often accused of old-ladyness. I know this to be true. Halloween is probably just a time to dress in a way that you otherwise can't the rest of the year, to wear a mask, to put on the costume of the modern equivalent to the Wild West Saloon Girl. A time to work it, a time to own it, a time for fun.

But I, for one, have certainly had my fill of beer wenches and sexy nurses for the year. How about you?

10/28/09

Why I Still Love Huey Lewis...and always will


When I was a kid, I simply could not fathom the idea that there were people who didn’t like Huey Lewis and the News. Mr. Lewis was one of my favorite celebrities. In my eyes, he was right up there with Michael J. Fox and Patrick Stewart. While other girls were obsessing over the “New Kids on The Block”, I was steadily crushing on him instead. And I couldn’t understand what all those other girls saw in all the regulars from Tiger Beat.

After all, my Huey was the voice of a generation. He was the genius behind the “Back to the Future” theme song. He was a music-video super star. I mean, have you seen the video for, “Happy To Be Stuck With You”? (That song, by the way, was played in my wedding ceremony with the slide show before everyone’s walk down the aisle. And it was perfect.)

So not only did he leave his stamp (and a cameo appearance) on one of the classic film franchises of all time, and grace the small screen regularly in entertaining videos, but he was also a good role model. A good role model from rock and roll? "Impossible!" you say. Well, you're wrong.

It was the eighties, while everyone else was singing about sex, drugs, and rock n’roll, Huey was just singing about the latter. Thanks to him, I STILL believe that it’s hip to be a square. You just try finding another top 40 hit that talks about staying fit, watching what you eat, not cheating on your spouse, and getting a nice haircut. Go on…I dare you.
But two disturbing things happened to me when I was a kid that caused me to raise an eyebrow over my beloved Huey and his merry band of back-up singers.

Trauma the first: I was watching, “Amazon Women on The Moon” one day. (If you don’t know what that is, I will let you find out for yourself.) In a Twilight Zone-ish side plot, a man is magically transported into his television and his wife has the remote. As she changes channels to attempt to free him from his entertainment prison, he takes a zany adventure through many t.v. shows and films.

At one point, he ends up as one of “the News” in the Huey Lewis video for the smash hit, “If This Is It”. (I can call it a smash if I want to, it’s my blog.) I remember seeing that and thinking, “Whoa…lucky guy!” Just as I was thinking that, the man turns to his wife while everyone else is singing and starts talking about how he’d rather be anywhere but in a Huey Lewis video. I brushed it off as peculiar, but it did set me to wondering.

Trauma the second: A year or so later, I was at the mall with my family. I saw one of those sandwich boards sitting in the middle of the food court. You know the kind, nothing fancy, plastic letters, white background, and more often than not some sort of food stain.
On that sandwich board, very unceremoniously, was an announcement about Huey Lewis and the News coming to play the mall. My first thought was, “How do I get myself to THAT concert?”

My second thought was, “Wait a minute, what is Huey doing playing in a mall? (Long thoughtful pause) He should be playing giant stadiums. They should be doing, “Duran Duran” sized tours. Right? RIGHT?!”

For some kids, the beginning of the end of childhood arrives via some accidental information about where babies come from or what holiday entity may or may not be real. (I dare not publish anything more specific.) But that was it for me. Right there.

The thought that the masses didn’t love Huey Lewis plunged me into the depths of a highly philosophical line of questioning. I was born a populist, a happy person. So Huey Lewis typically suits my mood. Always has and at age 27, I feel confident enough to say that it always will.

But at that moment, little Audrey was suddenly aware that there were people in the world who wouldn’t get Huey's brand of happy. Also, I wondered, what had made Huey uncool? When had the transition happened and why hadn't anyone told me about it?

I was so bummed that I never even asked my parents to bring me back to see him in all his glory. Because Huey Lewis playing a mall just didn't feel right. It’s not where he belonged. It's not the way I wanted to see him, like some sort of caged rock and roll animal. That would be like taking Stevie Wonder and making him the featured performer on “The Lawrence Welk Show”. It’s kind of just...wrong.

As the years have gone by, I’ve continued to be baffled by people’s lack of appreciation for Huey Lewis and the News. I can understand when we laugh at videos from the 80's or old hairstyles, but the honest truth is, the man made good music. And good music never goes out of style.
Huey deserves our respect. He and the News made happy rock, rock without angst, but rock still loaded with what I believe Jack Black would call, "face-melting greatness". When a Huey Lewis song comes on, you just can't help but feel good or sing along. That’s a feat of no small proportion for any artist, whether you like to feel happy or not.

I often question why they aren’t working anymore, and I wonder when will the day come that people wake up and realize that Huey has been unfairly stigmatized? There was Huey’s appearance in the film, “Duets”, which I know he caught flack for.

I hear people talking about the band sarcastically now and again on one of those endless cable clip shows about the eighties. And it still irks me. I kid you not, I actually really get to feeling defensive. It's easy to mock anything from the eighties, but some things just shouldn't be lumped in with Zubaz pants and flourescent everything and El DeBarge.

But even if the world today doesn't know what to do with Huey Lewis and his upbeat message and his short-haired rock and roll…I know a place where he’ll always belong. Forever in my Ipod and safe in my heart. I still love you Huey.






P.S. I just watched some of these videos for myself and I can honestly tell you, my heart still kind of skips a beat when I see him...

10/21/09

10 Life Lessons on Art and Creativity from Don Hahn (and Don's "How To Create" List)

I hate this picture of me. But I didn't feel like asking
Mr. Hahn if he was willing to wait for me to refresh
my hair and makeup. Or hire a stand-in...
Am I the only one who lives in cyclical phases of obsession and inspiration? Anyone else out there watch movies like they're studying for a test?

Let me give you an example of this obsession that leads to kind of a crazy story.

A couple months ago, I entered a major, "Beauty and the Beast" phase. I'm loving the color palette of the film. I'm using still frames as a desktop background. I'm listening to the soundtrack a lot. You get it.

These bouts of obsession can also include things like wanting to bake french bread or Google famous stained glass windows of the world.

Typical phases for me include all the Indiana Jones movies, WWII History, Disney animation, black and white musicals, the history of the Haunted Mansion, Bollywood films and a few other reoccurring themes.

On Sunday, I decided to watch, "The Haunted Mansion". Then I watched it with commentary, something I'd never done before. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The next day, I had tickets to a Heartland Film Festival seminar. Who was the first speaker of the day? It just so happened to be Don Hahn, Oscar-nominated Disney producer who worked on "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Haunted Mansion". These in addition to his other works "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and many more. The man is prolific, to say the least. A man whose name I learned, whose voice I had only heard for the first time on the Haunted Mansion commentary the day before.

Twilight Zone theme music, aside...

How I didn't know who he was and didn't know he would be there and somehow managed to prepare for the event will always mystify me. The presentation he gave on creativity that day even touched on themes of obsession.

I looked back through my notes and decided to share 10 Life Lessons on Art and Creativity from Don Hahn... 


1.) Study your inspirations and love them.

If you love something, and it catches your eye, heart, attention, whatever...go with it. Study it, live with it, dissect it and don't even be afraid to imitate it.

All the greats have done this, including Disney animators who regularly draw on other artist's work for inspiration. No pun intended. (i.e. Hirschfeld caricatures for the design of the genie in, "Aladdin".)

Hahn's words on this, "fill your cup."

2.) Use everything to tell your story, including a setting.

Don't forget, the landscape details of your story can be just as revealing as the characters. The first time you see Cruella DeVil in, "101 Dalmatians", she's in silhouette behind a door with a glass pane that resembles a spiderweb, instantly and symbolically signifying danger.

3.) Simplify your story.

If you can't tell your story in one or two sentences, go back and start again.

EX: Lilo adopts Stitch, who she thinks is a dog, but who is really an alien. Chaos ensues.

Simba is traumatized by his father's death, runs away, and must seek the bravery it will take to go home and defeat the evil that rose up in his father's absence.

See? Simple stories.

4.) We want to create because we all want to make something worthwhile and leave a mark, and that's reason enough.

If you are creative, don't feel bad about it. Just go with it.

5.) Try and fail and try and fail and try and fail, just don't quit.

Here, Hahn showed all the rejected concept sketches for, "The Beast' and played Elton John's original demo for, "The Circle of Life". None of these things were even close to their end results, but if Disney animators and legendary musicians wrestle with the creative process, you will too.

6.) "Don't expect everyone to cheerlead you in your creative endeavors."

There are naysayers, and that's okay. Not everybody has to believe in you. You can't always be seeking everyone's approval. You shouldn't waste energy trying to get it. Spend your energy working instead. Just work and keep going, no matter what people say.

7.) In storytelling, first impressions are everything.

They "mean something, you can't un-ring a bell." Remember that when you're shooting or writing. Make your introductions count.


8.) Follow your first creative instincts, because your instincts are raw emotion, and emotion informs art.

Hahn spoke about the way that legendary architect Frank Gehry used to make sketches on napkins, and more often than not, his finished designs ended up looking almost identical to his first sketch.

9.) Make the effort to collaborate.

People who aren't willing to collaborate won't see their work improve, won't learn, and likely won't succeed.

10.) "Great artists borrow, great artists steal!" After this, he showed a multitude of slides demonstrating this. "The Bathers" done by Renoir, repainted by Cezanne, repainted by Picasso, done again by Matisse.

Norman Rockwell's paintings all started out as well-known photographs, Disney animators looked to artists who were already very popular (European artists such as Kley and his mastery of motion and animals, such as the picture to the left.) to define style. Animators even drew over top of live action film for Cinderella and Alice In Wonderland.

It's not the idea that makes you a great artist, it's the way you make it your own that makes you special and distinct. In other words, you don't have to re-invent the wheel, just do your own thing with it.

Here are a few more gems I took away in quote form:

"Prepare and practice, don't shuffle through life, live it."

"Surround yourself with what inspires you to perform."

"Spend the same amount of time expressing yourself as you do taking in impressions of the world." He talked on this a lot, saying that we take in so much information in a day. Artists have to find an outlet all of that, or we become pent up. I definitely agree.

I made a mental note to find a way to write and film as much as I take in other writing and film. Can you even imagine how much work you could get done if you lived by this rule?

"It's okay to follow dead ends." He also really drove this one home, saying that not everything pans out into a finished product and you shouldn't let that deter you from following those little mental tributaries, they're always worth it.

Here is a numbered list he gave us, and this is exact. It's called:

"Don's, 'How To Create' List"

1. Create lots of stuff - don't be precious with your art.
2. Organize it
3. Edit out the junk
4. Present it to the audience
5. Weep openly in a bathroom stall
6. Listen and adjust
7. Repeat last three as needed

His point? Move FORWARD. If something is painful to hear, so be it, but that's no reason to guard yourself. Often when things are painful or difficult, that's right when they're getting better and improving.

The takeaway for me from the entire day, but especially from being lucky enough to hear Don Hahn speak, is to just keep going. In fact, if I felt weird before for decorating based on Disney rides and for listening to music some would consider immature and for feeling like a slightly obsessive personality, now it will probably just get worse...

If you ever have the chance to hear him speak, don't pass it up. And do take a look at his website, which I'll post a link to below. He's that type of person who's just brimming with useful information. If you have any creative aspirations whatsoever, you should definitely geek out over his films and books.


P.S. He also showed an amazing animated short titled, "Lorenzo" which is INCREDIBLE and he is currently working on the feature length stop-motion version of, "Frankenweenie" with the man, Tim Burton himself. Cool news, eh?

I'll also post a second entry later showing many of the images that Don used in his presentation, he gave us a list of artists to look at that have inspired many Disney animators, but some of the art he introduced us to was incredible. I haven't reacted to art this way since I first discovered Mary Blair on the special features of the, "Cinderella" DVD.

10/14/09

Sherlock Holmes, Meet Mr. Spock


Well, I've finally gone and done it. No turning back now. I have written the first little seed to my first Star Trek story. Next Gen, of course. I fully intend to flesh this out, a chapter a day until it's done, just the way that Louisa May Alcott finished "Little Women". It's a shame she never wrote about space...

Anyway, here's the link to my little seedling, it's just a tiny little thing now, a spark of an idea. So be gentle.

They say, "write what you know", and boy howdy...do I know my Trek. So theoretically, this should be far easier than any writing I've ever done before. I'm no stranger to writing about Trek, just new to the fiction genre. Here are some links to a few other Trek (and even a Holmes) article. Also, if you click on the Star Trek tag underneath this blog entry, you can read several blog entries I've written on Trek.

How to Live like a Star Fleet Officer
Any good Trekkie worth his/her salt will know what a Star Fleet officer is. For the rest of you, a Star Fleet officer is known as the best and brightest that the fictional future has to offer.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1390132/how_to_live_like_a_star_fleet_officer.html

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Why You Should Be Watching This Show on DVD
Bad writing is KILLING the art-form of storytelling via television! What lessons can this show from the late 80's/early 90's teach us about what good writing can do?
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1062651/star_trek_the_next_generation_why_you.html

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
And you thought, "Spaceballs" was the only space comedy from the eighties.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1559577/star_trek_iv_the_voyage_home_1986.html

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" Stories: 5 Reasons to Read Them
There are still plenty of good reasons to be reading these stories.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1514859/sir_arthur_conan_doyles_sherlock_holmes.html

10/12/09

7 Classic Halloween Cartoons

You know, I put one of these up the other day and then took it down. Because I always feel a little weird about not putting up original content. But to be honest, Halloween is something that I majorly geek out over. So why not? It counts! Here are some of my favorite Halloween videos, and you can bet I'll do the same thing for Christmas...

10/8/09

The Battle Cry of a Grown Up Geek


I wrote this for a now defunct Forces of Geek column in January 2009. But I took a look at it again tonight as I'm starting to consider my thesis in graduate school. I dusted it off, made some changes, and low and behold I kind of had a mission statement not only for this blog, but for my entire life.

 
Hi, my name is Audrey, and I’m a huge geek.

I didn’t name my blog, “Born for Geekdom” for the way it rolls off the tongue. It’s not the most convenient turn of phrase.

But my whole philosophy on life has developed around the idea that although geeks may sometimes be socially awkward or full of useless knowledge, we have absolutely all the fun in life.

We're extremely passionate about what we like and why and we want to share that with anyone who will listen.

Years of teasing have worn down our inhibitions, which leads us to go on all kinds of madcap adventures to theme parks, conventions, movie premieres and the like without a second thought.

Sure, survival in grade school and middle school were tough. Like so many others that have come out as full-fledged geeks since, I was forged in the burning fires of a painful geekhood.

Yes, bringing, “Aliens” to a slumber party had tragic results when all the other girls showed up with romantic comedies.

Sure, bragging about all my knowledge of the Klingon home world didn’t score me bonus points in the gym class locker room.

Today, the physical signs of my geekdom are mostly gone. My giant “Scooter and Skeeter” glasses are no more. (Giant pink and purple frames with a stick-on unicorn on the lower left lens.)

My teeth may not be perfect, but thanks to braces they’re a far cry from the set of chompers I was working with as a child. (They would’ve made Gollum recoil in horror and politely suggest braces.)

I don’t know why, but I didn’t match my clothes. Ever. I had weird hair. Everything from a bowl cut to some seriously Vulcan bangs. To top it off, I was a late bloomer. So while all the other girls in my class were becoming experts with curling irons and hairspray, I still looked like a 9 year old boy with feet too big for my body.

I was loud, which sometimes saved me. Random outbursts of accidental class-clownery sometimes put me in the smart-aleck category, and the time I got sent to the office for not being willing to stop impersonating Roseanne Barr kind of lent me a brief rebel sheen. Soon after such incidents, my over-eager, what I would now call “Mary Catherine Gallagher-ness” usually put me right back at the bottom of the social food chain.

But, in my life, the end results of such early humiliations have been desirable. My penchant for all things once considered “uncool”, such as black and white movies and all things science-fiction, have found me a decent place in my modern community. (Nobody knew the INTERNET was coming and soon the geeks would close ranks. Ha!)

What I thought was a curse as a kid turned out to be an amazing gift as I grew older. It didn’t take me as long to “find myself” because I grew up learning not to apologize for what I liked. The teasing gave me a thick skin and I ended up with some seriously amazing friends, because no superficial people would come near me.

I tried new things frequently because I had nothing to lose; I was already being teased anyway. As time wore on and high school came and went, nobody cared anymore. The negative geek stigma left me, but all the benefits of my early geekhood stuck.

I’ve based the beginnings of my extremely humble career on the idea that I am a full-fledged geek. I am Trekkie, hear me roar! I am obsessed with things I am way to old to care about (cartoons) and I find myself suffering long bouts of intense inspiration with things that might seem strange to others, such as my cyclical relationship with the Haunted Mansion. I don't write for the New Yorker or Literary journals, but I do regularly appear in Geek Monthly magazine and guest in publications like Animation World, Orlando Attractions, Haunted Attraction, and so on.

I also lucked out with a fabulously geek chic husband, one who can follow me down every ridiculous rabbit hole that I end up distracted by while attempting to maintain normal adult status. For example, while talking to him on the phone today, I rambled on passionately for a good ten minutes about why Worf and Troi should've ended up together and not Troi and Riker...see? Did he tell me to get a life? No way. He joined in...and that's love.

I peddle myself as a lady geek, and usually list it in my byline. Lots of people use that shtick today, so I often wonder if identifying myself as such is all but white noise. Nowadays, “geek” is a brand that can sometimes be achieved by a pair of drugstore glasses and the espousing of some superficial pop culture knowledge. And don’t even get me started on the woes of modern lady geekhood…

So why do I do it? Because, I’m proud. Because it’s true. Because I couldn’t always be proud of it as a kid, but you better believe I can be now. And you should be too.

10/2/09

Audrey Visits the James Dean Festival

I visited the James Dean festival for the first time ever recently. The day was a hoot, the people were really fun and sweet, and we threw this together just for fun. We get fairly sarcastic just for laughs, but everyone participating in the video laughed and joked with us and had a great time.

(There's some audio mishaps at the end there, but I was just too lazy to fix it after another whirlwind week of graduate studies...)


Audrey Visits the James Dean Festival from Jake Williams on Vimeo.

9/29/09

Harvey Pekar In Real Life


If you've never seen the highly praised HBO film, American Splendor starring Paul Giamatti, you should. It's the brilliantly told tale of a comic book writer who made a name for himself writing comics about...himself.

No superheroes, no magic powers...just his life as a file clerk at a VA hospital.  The film leans into the layers of storytelling. Not only the actor portraying him but the real-life man behind the story, Harvey Pekar.

We also meet some of his quirkier friends and family members. My absolute favorite being the "genuine nerd" Toby Radloff, who became something of a real life celebrity after his appearances in Pekar's comic, also named, American Splendor.

Genuine Nerd Movie Trailer




9/24/09

Why I Love Sigourney Weaver

One of my classes in grad school this semester is all about obsession. As a geek and unabashed fangirl, obsession is kind of...my life. Disney, theme parks, Star Trek, Movies, Action Heroines...I am familiar with the practice of digging for all the background information that could be found on any topic that I love. Geeks, it's our way, we're natural researchers.

So in celebration of one of my largest obsessions, action heroines, I'm re-releasing some previous material from my old ForcesofGeek.com column here on my blog. This is a chunk of my ode to Sigourney Weaver that I wrote over a year ago, and I still hope to use it as a chapter in a book of essays on action heroines someday soon. (When there is a rip in the space time continuum that allows me to go back in time and do two things at once.)

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Alien was only Sigourney Weaver’s third film role. Her third film role, and it was her first starring role. Not only did she manage to kick off her career by starring in one of the biggest and most influential sci-fi films of all time, but she also managed to turn around and brilliantly spoof the roles that women are often relegated to in the 1999 comedy gem, Galaxy Quest. (Which initially looks like the ultimate Trek spoof, but turns out to be the greatest non-Trek cinematic love letter ever written to Roddenberry's franchise.)

Weaver has played both strength and weakness convincingly throughout her career. Maybe it’s thanks to the fact that her breakout performance was that of one of our most definitive action heroines that gave her license to do whatever else she wanted to with her career and not be typecast. Once you’ve played such a convincing hero, does anyone ever have the right to accuse you of playing a female stereotype? Sure, they have the right. But then, you could just punch them in the face because you’re so buff from training for your roles.

Sigourney Weaver is immensely beautiful, but she’s not traditional movie star beautiful by today’s standards. She is realistically beautiful. Like someone you might run into on the street and think to yourself, “Wow, they’re striking.” This as opposed to what you might think running into Ms. America. (Which, depending on how spiteful you are, might range from rolling your eyes all the way up to making some kind of Barbie Doll quip. Not that I’ve thought this through or anything…)

Weaver’s beauty is unprocessed, which makes her strength just that much more believable on film. Let’s keep working with the Ms. America analogy, shall we? Can you imagine Ms. America with a grenade in her hand screaming at an Alien queen? Would you believe that? I wouldn’t.

Not that pageantry doesn’t have a place in the world. I myself once competed in Junior Miss, I won the Judges award, which is based on talking, my main talent in life. It’s just that one doesn’t typically associate pageant style with action heroine strength. The very idea is the wacky contradiction that brought you, “Miss Congeniality”. (Please, feel my sarcasm...)

But you take someone like Sigourney Weaver and put her in that situation, and the tension is palpable. Because you BELIEVE it. She is able to transform herself physically for her roles since she’s not starting from a silicone-injected/hair extension-ed canvas. She is a realistic woman and has more dynamic range as an actress because of that fact.

Then there’s the underwear thing. Weaver is frequently in her underwear as her character, “Ripley”. But again, because she doesn’t look like some kind of a bouncing, be-wigged caricature of womanhood, it’s not offensive or gratuitous in the least. At least, not to me.

To me, that just makes the character of Ripley much more vulnerable, so much more human. Pair that with the fact that the entire cast of the sequel, Aliens, also appears in their underwear and it just becomes the great equalizer. “See? We’re all wearing underwear. We could all be eaten by aliens because we’re puny humans…look how puny we are, standing here in our underwear.” It’s a wincing vulnerability. What’s worse than being eaten by an alien monster? Being eaten by a alien monster while only wearing your underwear.

The character of Ripley is tough, but she’s not untouchable. She panics and she screams, which gives her a more real-world quality. Yes, I’m aware I just pronounced an alien-fighter as feeling “real world”. But these are not always traits that make it into the more modern action films.

There’s a whole trend out there of calm and collected action heroines who barely flinch when fired upon. (A la Angelina Jolie in everything.) This is okay (I heart Tomb Raider), and it’s partly due to the boom of superhero films we’ve experienced over the last decade. It’s just a different style.
But I think it’s Weaver’s terrified performance in Alien that keeps it from feeling like grade B schlock. If she were immediately tough when confronted with a big slimy alien with many mouths, we’d think, “Yeah right.” And roll our eyes.

But watching her fight for her life makes you so uncomfortable, that you can’t help but picture yourself in that situation. That’s exactly how a horror movie should make you feel.
Sidebar: Think of all the horror films that didn’t feel scary even though they had impressive effects. Why weren’t you scared? Likely because you didn’t believe in what was happening onscreen. It’s the difference between the original “House on Haunted Hill” and the remake. Sidebar over.
Here’s something else to chew on. Is the character of Ripley a horror vixen, an action heroine, or a sci-fi star? She allows us to be afraid and vulnerable via her experiences, and again, she’s in her underwear a lot. So that qualifies her for horror vixenhood.

She wields giant guns, has some pretty wicked arm muscles, sweats, and doesn’t “take no crap from nobody” which obviously makes her an action heroine.

Lastly, she outsmarts aliens and pilots spaceships. There you have it, she’s also a sci-fi star.
There are so many reasons to love Sigourney Weaver, especially in the realm of geekdom.
There's her voice work from Futurama, again, her comedic genius in Galaxy Quest, and her classic role from Ghostbusters. (In which, I'd like to note, she was smarter than any of the men appearing in the film, barring Spangler, of course.)

Weaver is one of my ultimate geek role models for a plethora of reasons, too many to mention here on ye olde blog. How about you, what do you love about her as an actress?