Monday, February 22, 2010

Star Wars, Comics, & Ray Park: The Day I Had The Best Idea Ever

I know, I know, I owe you guys some movie reviews; but since there's only five of you or something, I don't feel all that bad. We're gonna take a little detour towards What Happened To Me This Weekend instead.

Also, this post is sponsored by Your Mother Buying You Pizza.

Last Friday, I was sitting on the internet -- doing something very productive and responsible -- when my Twitter alerted me that I had a message. I'm sure I finished whatever productive and responsible thing I was doing before checking it. The point is-- the message was from a friend who'd seen a message that actor and all-around hotstuff Ray Park would be at some place called Frank 'n Sons comic store on Saturday, the 20th. Who was I to ignore a call of destiny like that? Saturday, the 20th, was the next day. So I went right to the business of looking up this Frank and something place. The name actually came up as Frank 'n Sons Collectible Show and turned out to be AN ENTIRE WAREHOUSE OF COMIC RELATED GOODS.

I found this part out when I drove there and an hour and a half later was greeted by a gigantic warehouse, a gaggle of Stormtroopers (official term for multiple Stormtroopers in one area, fun fact), and the equally gigantic traffic pile-up its lack of parking space created. Eventually, though, I found some overflow and strode by way back to the quite obvious celebration.

After loitering outside to see if I could see anything really exciting worth sticking around for, I decided to head into the building proper and check this thing out.

As it turns out, a "collectible show" is kind of like a convention that is open regular business hours. Walking into the entrance, past vendors of hot-dogs and tacos, I was immediately greeted with the fact that I couldn't go anyway because thirteen people wanted to stand back and take photos of Darth Vader. So, exactly like a convention.

They'd basically put all the Star Wars event stuff right in the entryway so it was easy to find and also sure to create as much of a human traffic pile-up as possible to the point where you have to physically force people around you to go in another direction. So... exactly like a convention.

... and I got a picture of Darth Vader. I mean, hell, why not, I was stuck there, wasn't I?

Notice how all my pictures are slightly out of focus and yellow-tinted? exactly like a convention!

Also, this girl who I bothered for a picture for reasons obvious to my family members.

Following this Celebration-flashback moment, I decided to get myself a look-see at what the rest of the building held in store. Ha, get it-- cause it's a store. Anyway, I started to do a loop around the entire outside. The place is basically filled to the brim with booths of varying sizes pretty much filled to bursting with trading cards, illegal movies, comic books, action figures, anime posters, figurines, old Barbie dolls, a surprising amount of Disney Princess propaganda, and, of course--

... tables for the gamers.

Evidence of all that other stuff, now showing:

In the milisecond it took to take this picture, the screen went from showing all the rangers to just Tommy's face. I know, I like it better this way, too.

Hahahaha. ... Twilight Barbies suck.

... yeah, I definitely only took that picture to do that.

This is probably my favorite action figure ever. As a child, I know I wouldn't have needed anything else in the world once I had a zombie Spiderman holding his own detached leg. I mean. Really. We were all missing out in our younger years, and we didn't even know that this empty hole we felt but couldn't ever reach was just waiting for zombie Spiderman holding his own detached leg.

(He's got a leg off.)

"What's with all the Belle stuff?" you might ask.

"Seriously, get back to the Star Wars part."

"I'm so eff'n serious, take your freaky obsession with Beauty and the Beast and get off the internet."

Well, too bad. Those were for my sister. And so is this:

But not this. This is just for some girl who knows my sister:

And this is for me:

And this is OF me:

By now you might have guessed that I had company. That's right. Sometime while I was wondering around, the girl I'd invited and then forgotten to tell her where I'd be standing to wait for her found me anyway. Her name's Taryn and she has the debatable pleasure/no other choice but to work with me at our mutual non-paying office. But Taryn didn't find me until after I-- Oh, damn. I seem to have left out part of the story.

Okay, forget all that shit about dolls -- but not the first part, because that was real -- just the-- you know what. Remember when I was doing that circuit all the way around? Well, I finished it. And I ended up back where I started. (There's something depressing and philosophical in that)

That place was here:

Staring at some dude's cool artwork. There were three... possibly four or more of them there -- all with tables set up to display their art. Mostly people show off trade cards at these sorts of things and sell them for a lot more money than I imagine trade cards are worth, but since they also take custom orders and sit there and work on them in front of you so you can see how painstakingly awesome it takes to make one of them... I guess they get away with it. Unlike me getting away with that sentence.

The point is, I struck up a conversation with these fine gentlemen and usurped most of the space in front of both of their tables with little to no shame. We learned all about each other, and I got a free comic book series out of calling myself a writer, so I'd say it went pretty well. In fact, I spent quite some time there. Standing right there. Looking right at this view:

Do you see anything notable about this picture? No, it's not the head of the man using a tiny-ass paintbrush to paint a kick-ass picture of Darth Vader. Here, let's give you a more obvious and slightly less camera-blurry try:

Is that... I don't know... RAY PARK STANDING RIGHT THERE? HOW LONG HAS THAT BEEN GOING ON? -- that's pretty much what my brain did once I realized that's whose ass I was generously staring at whenever I glanced up to get a feel of the room. Somewhere, somehow, Ray Park had ninja'd himself into the room and there was already a line of people forming who'd become aware of this fact slightly faster than I had.

This was also about the time Taryn showed up, so I suggested we get into that line. It wasn't very clear where it ended, so we transfered ourselves around the area several times -- once, I awkwardly opted we not stand at the very end because then we'd have to bustle past the other, less known actor who I had no desire to pay for a signature from, much less anything for him to sign. Up to this point, I hadn't had anything for Ray Park to sign, either, but I solved that by purchasing an over-priced trade card from that artist whose head you observed in that other photo if you weren't too busy recognizing Ray Park's ass before I could.

So it's now the part of the show called: Watch Me Get Closer to Ray Park Like A Stalker Getting More Courageous Right Before He Hits A Stresser And Resorts To Physical Measures (I'm going to regret my sense of humor should any of Mr. Park's associates ever Google this and get just the right combination of letters in the short summary you get from your search queries)

At which point, it was my turn, and there WAS a picture taken, but it's for posterity and not, in fact, sharing on the internet. You guys can all shut it, because you already got that dorktastic picture of me wearing the sunglasses from Watchmen, so. Yeah.

On a more normal, well-adjusted note, Ray was a doll and he shook everyone's hands and politely pretended I didn't look like a pale, exerciseless wonder when he asked if I practiced martial arts after I told him his combat skills were kickass. I dodged past the topic by also informing him that he was, quote, woefully underused in Heroes, to which he agreed. We then decided that there was still hope for him next season because he was (useless spoiler warning format) not dead. Since this was Heroes we were talking about, we probably could have come to this conclusion even if he WAS (useless spoiler warning format for something not even a spoiler) dead. Unless they decided Sylar didn't have enough screen-time or they needed another uselessly dramatic real-death to make up for all the uselessly dramatic just-kidding deaths. Again, Heroes.

I walked off afterwards in a kind of glow of happiness having to do with how I didn't just blurt out OMGIAREFANCANITOUCHYOU, and because Taryn wanted to get a look around the place. We'd made a second circuit, and she'd bought me a corn-dog before my brain decided to alert me that I SHOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING HEROESMUSH RELATED. HeroesMUSH, as it were, is the community of awesome and yet rightfully scary internet friends I have that roleplay Heroes related things with me. This community likely fuels my last ill-omened attachments to the fandom far better than the show itself could do. Plus, one of them had told me about Ray Park being here in the first place, so I rightfully owed them. Plus, I wanted to see all their text-faces when I showed them later.

So, I flipped open my notepad I keep in my purse and cleverly scrawled out a 'hello' to them on one page. Then I added the internet's version of a heart because, why not, and poor Mr. Park probably wouldn't realize what it was until it was too late anyway.

Now, the dilemma here was that 1) I'd already been in the autograph line and would look odd jumping in it again, and 2) I'm frightened of things.

Taryn got to watch as I inched my way closer and closer, debating inwardly about whether or not I'd actually do this thing and did I feel it was worth the potential surprise and admiration of my friends to suffer the potential embarrassment of being called out for budging in line a second time. If I'd known the reaction HeroesMUSH would have then like I do now, I probably would have done something a lot racier. The point is, I didn't know, and 2) I'm frightened of things.

Somehow, someway ( much like how Ray Park got into this building in the first place ), I wiggled my way towards the front of the line and waited until everyone was distracted by some asshole busting into the line to film some celebratory handing over of a honorary membership plaque to insert myself into the front of the line like I'd been there the whole time. I apparently did this with enough authority because, while being filmed, Ray glanced over to me, apologized for being a second, and said he'd be right with me. On the one hand, huzzah, I'd successfully infiltrated the line. On the other hand... I was clearly forgettable enough to get away with it.

Some Asians dudes who'd also sort of busted their way into the line looked like they were about to overrule me, though, as the cameraman waltzed off, and they'd even opened their mouths and started to talk -- when I started to talk LOUDER. That's right, I, who am 2) frightened of things, thrust out the notepad and asked very quickly and importantly if I could just get one more fast picture and would he hold this for it. He glanced at the writing first, though, which was wise of him, and asked me what it was for. I blurted out about how it was a greeting to my friends so he took me at my word and flashed his best 'saying hi to your friends' face, which I am fairly positive is the face the creators of emoticons meant when they invented :D.

Everyone on the game basically flipped the fuck out at the sight of this picture and it now adorns the front page to the game. I'm fairly certain I've never been more happy to have had the courage to do something in my life. Also, I'm keeping that page in my notepad and assaulting every Heroes star I can run across to make this awesome moment into an awesome trend.

Oh, and here's Stalker Watches Ray Park Get A Plaque, for your viewing pleasure:

It's like an old-time flip-book, ain't it folks?

Afterwards, I basically chilled out with the artists some more -- which included having Ray Park ninja himself right next to me at one point (amazingly, I stayed calm and just sort of nonchalantly glanced over at him) -- and got a bunch of business cards and the booth number of a guy who's so fantastically British that the BBC sends him real Doctor Who memorabilia. I'm seeing it already, my next birthday: A real jacket worn by David Tennant... what's that? An apartment? Who needs it! I'll be the best Doctor ever.

But yes. I spoke a lot, Taryn listened a lot, and then we watched that kid actor take cute pictures with the Mandalorians.

The name Daniel Logan sprung to mind just now. So maybe that's Daniel Logan. Which doesn't sound foreign enough for the odd accent he has that I couldn't place.

Basically, after that, the shindig was over because I'd spent so much time chatting up the same two-three artists, so Taryn and I split ways and I walked back to the car and drove the hour and a half home dying to already be there so I could share my :D picture with the rest of the internet. And now it's with you guys. I hope you feel as special having witnessed that as I did taking it. Now get out of here and find out for me where Brea Grant will be in the next week.

Oh, and here's the card. It will now go in a place of honor next to my one of Biggs signed by Garrick Hagan. Are we sensing a pattern? I love patterns.

Now I'm going to go complain about this Joaquin guy who Quality Checked the second lava cake out of my Dominos' order.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Movies: My Run To The Oscars, The Shortlist

This announcement is a bit overdue, but here it is:

A while back, after seeing an article in Entertainment Weekly about "25 Movies You Should See Before The Oscars", I then and there decided to make a Run To The Oscars (March 7th, 2010). In previous years, I was interested but not very invested in the Oscars because, after Return Of the King swept up, annihilated, chewed up, spit out, and then liberally mocked the competition during its year, I really didn't see many of the movies nominated. Most of what I had seen fell into the sci-fi/fantasy categories, meaning they'd be up for Sound Editing or Costumes, if that, and then were never spoken of again.

This year, though, I have a list. A list which is now narrowed in a bit more that the actual nominees have been announced. It runs as such:

The List as it appeared in the Entertainment Weekly article
I've gone ahead and added what they've been nominated for, if anything, so I can keep that in mind while watching.

Up in the Air (George Clooney for Best Actor, Vera Farmiga for Supporting Actress, Anna Kendrick for Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Motion Picture, Adapted Screenplay)
Avatar * (Art Direction, Cinematography, Best Director, Film Editing, Original Score, Best Motion Picture, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects)
The Hurt Locker * (Jeremy Renner for Best Actor, Cinematography, Best Director, Film Editing, Original Score, Best Motion Picture, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Screenplay)
Precious (Gabourey Sidibe for Best Actress, Mo'Nique for Supporting Actress, Best Director, Film Editing, Best Motion Picture, Adapted Screenplay)
Inglourious Basterds * (Christoph Waltz for Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Best Director, Film Editing, Best Motion Picture, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Screenplay)
Invictus (Morgan Freeman for Best Actor, Matt Damon for Supporting Actor)
An Education (Carey Mulligan for Best Actress, Best Motion Picture, Adapted Screenplay)
Up (Animated Feature, Original Score, Best Motion Picture, Sound Editing, Original Screenplay)
A Serious Man (Best Motion Picture, Original Screenplay)
The Messenger (Woody Harrelson for Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay)
Julie & Julia (Meryl Streep for Best Actress)
A Single Man (Colin Firth for Best Actor)
Crazy Heart (Jeff Bridges for Best Actor, Maggie Gyllenhaal for Supporting Actress, Original Song)
The Last Station (Christopher Plummer for Supporting Actor, Helen Mirren for Best Actress
Nine (Penelope Cruz for Supporting Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design, Original Song
Star Trek * (Makeup, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects)
District 9 * (Film Editing, Best Motion Picture, Visual Effects, Adapted Screenplay)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Animated Feature, Original Score)
The Lovely Bones (Stanley Tucci for Supporting Actor
(500) Days of Summer
It's Complicated
The Young Victoria (Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup)
Bright Star
The Informant

Because some of these films are still in theaters, or not released on Netflix until later March, the list will likely remain incomplete, so I'm focusing in on the really important ones so far. Actually, I made the mistake of starting with all the ones I was interested in seeing outside of wanting to complete the list, so... the next few weeks might lack in inspiration unless I'm really surprised.

The ones I've currently watched have *s next to them, and their individual reviews will follow. Till then, here's a short, hopefully frequently updated Shortlist you can use for easy reference:


Avatar * B. A grade for pure visual effects, if anything else. The plot is tried, but no untrue, but the greatest criminal activity is the highly underused but potentially huge characters. B is really for beautiful, beautiful, Beautiful.

The Hurt Locker * B+. Gritty, intense, with a brilliant sense of pacing inside individual scenes that doesn't quite make it to the whole picture. Very real deliveries from all actors. I support Jeremy Renner's nomination in this.

Inglourious Basterds * B-. Inventive storytelling, gratuitous use of violence, humorous caricatures that somehow still fill the screen. Yeah, it's Tarantino. Very brutal in its uncut gore, unforgiving, but a good round of fun if you don't take things personally. Holy crap, Christoph Waltz for his role. You'll never love and hate to be creeped out by another bad guy more.

Star Trek * C+, B. Fantastically fun, full of action and gumption. Unfortunately, also full of a less charming and more pushy-brat Kirk. Between him and an equally angsty Spock, there's no time for anyone else. Also, death by lens flare.

District 9 * A. The set-up and documentary style pulls you into an every day story about illegal aliens, from space. Earthy yet otherworldly, meaningful and visual. A fresh cast of faces you won't have to recognize from other films.

"Up" is currently in the queue.

1 month and 7 days left.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Life: I Believe I Can See The Future; Because I Repeat The Same Routine

At 7:00 AM this morning, I was in my car, illegally planted by the curb, eagle-eye watching the cars parked in a more legal fashion along both sides of my street in furtive hope that one of them would soon leave, allowing me to squeeze into its vacated spot. At least once, I was not fast enough spinning my car around to the other side and someone pushier than me waltzed in instead. By 7:40, I was camped out behind the car of a woman walking towards it with her purse, with my blinker insistently informing anyone hopefully waiting behind me that this one was friggin' mine.

The funny (read: not) part of this, of course, being that I would be moving my car again later the same morning to drive to work. By the time I returned home, the dance would begin again. It's really the only thing so far that's regularly frustrated me about living here. Because the roomy parking lot directly next to our building requires you to be out by morning, we're forced to play this ridiculous game battling too many cars for too few metered spaces out on the street.

As for the rest of the life, the blogposts have slowed because I've been gathering enough to even say. Life has become a repetitive schedule of familiars, and mostly all in the good way.

My mornings see me in one of two offices where I go about trying to find things to do or people to pay me to do them. More than half of those days, I'm out by 2 PM, home by 3:30 PM with the help of some lovely traffic, and it isn't usually too terrible making a few rotations around the block before a parking spot becomes available. This, however, does not usually endear me to wanting to move it again until I utterly have to.

The rest of my time has become divided between two options, both of which are centered around their ability to give me internets. They are as follows:

1) The Starbucks I Can Walk To From My Apartment

Not wanting to move my car makes this walking-distance business a favorite. However, guilt compels me to buy something when I go there so, it costs me money. Also, when it rains, I'm not so much encouraged to go out walking. However, since the latter only applies to APOCALYPSE WEEK, it doesn't quite count.

APOCALYPSE WEEK, as it were, was a full week of rain. Rain, not so bad. Torrential downpours of biblical proportion... slightly more so. You can't even see the rain right in that picture, but I assure you is it going almost straight sideways and at speeds that could stab you in the neck. Rain like this drives Californians crazy, as it turns out, and I'm fairly certain that half of the state remained cradled in their homes out of fear during that week because traffic was terrific, ignoring that you were thundering through huge slippery puddles and had a visibility of little to none.

It was, actually, this WEEK that allowed me to discover option #2, nestled in this shopping mall connected by this courtyard which I'm positive looks better when it's not raining but I haven't bothered to take another picture so you're just gonna have to deal.

2) Borders That Has Free Parking

That's right. Free. Parking. In a garage. And for this, I will forever love them. Not to mention that they are comfy, not powered solely by their A/C, and are full of books which I love a good deal more than coffee, which I do not like at all. Borders is not without its down-points, however.

For instance, though I discovered this perfect cozy spot on a windowsill behind some bookshelves where all anyone could see of me was my feet and I felt secret and alone... there was no outlet in sight. Okay, there was an outlet. But it didn't work. So I'm not counting it. Therefore, no outlet. Approximately one and a half hours after sitting down, I was forced from my comfort zone to find a source of electricity.

In Borders, you have about two options (if you want seating... which, I don't always get around to). The first is the coffee shop below which is quite like Starbucks and where you will be surrounded by a similar crowd all going for the same spots. It is also here that you're apparently presenting yourself to be approached by anyone in the vicinity willy-nilly.

The second option are the chairs along the stairs where you can probably get an outlet if you manage to claim a seat on the outsides near the pillar. I like these chairs. Mostly because I'm allowed to turn them around backwards and use the railing as a foot-rest.

This position is especially endeared to me now because it allowed an Encounter. This is what I'm counting as my first real Celebrity Sighting because the first one was someone I didn't know, and the second one was someone no one else knows. So that kind of defeats the purpose.

No, this one was bona-fide. Because, I was chilling out in my seat with my feet up on the railing and my computer in my lap and, you know, something really epically important on my screen, when a tall lanky form bounded up the stairs. Perhaps he was followed or lead by the attendant he later began talking to... I don't know, why would I be watching the attendant... the point is, I thought I recognized the face despite that it was being partially blocked by a cleverly worn hat. In my sheer surprise, I yanked my headphones off to see if hearing the voice would cement it. And it did. The face? Matthew Lillard. I'm so very sure of it. Check out this tiny-ass, highly questionable evidence.

I whipped open my backpack to take instant proof of this sighting only to find I'd cleverly left my iPhone at home where it would do me loads of good sitting on my desk like a shiny paperweight. So I had to snap this one with my phone where I was instantly reminded that I hadn't turned the sound off because it resonated the store with its extremely obvious "shutter" sound. After this, I was pretty much too paranoid to look up to see if I'd been pointed out for my paparazzi-impression. So I just watched. And lamented that I wasn't obnoxious enough to harass someone who looked like he was in a hurry and didn't feel like being noticed like he wasn't a normal person on a hunt for a good book.

Unfortunately, Borders closes at 9PM. This is early. Not only is this early, but it is part of their new 'winter' hours. These hours are so very new that, without fail, every time they make an announcement over the PA about how they are closing in half an hour and it is eight-thirty someone near me makes a surprised exclamation about how they're closing early. Without fail. Either that or, like me, they are just so irritated by this fact that they feel they must announce it out-loud in similar surprise.

So days sort of blur together as one giant choice between deciding whether to go to Starbucks, freeze, but have one more precious hour of online time, or go to Borders, be comfy in a chair but have to leave in a herd by nine.

Oh. Though, there was this one nice day where my sister and I decided to go to Sprinkles to get her a celebratory birthday cupcake. Then she said we should find a nice place along the beach to sit down and eat them. So I plunked down in the passenger seat with the cupcakes in my lap and we drove for a while... a really, actually, incredibly long while. Apparently, no place all along Malibu was satisfactory because we ended up not on the coast at all but entering Camarillo before the day was over. I comically asked my mother what she'd like from this venture into our old place of living but, since we only stopped right at the limits to get gas and turn around, the snapshots are all out the window of various places along the beach instead.

Enjoy anyway. Because they're just that pretty. And I don't feel like saying anything about them.

Actually, one more thing.

This is what I did on Saturday while other people I happen to know were, like, shoveling or something. I was planted in the lovely courtyard outside the walkable-distance movie theater I just discovered, ruminating over my first 3D movie experience (AND HOW MUCH IT COST ME) and sipping on this delicious Coldstone Cake N' Shake.

You may now commence being jealous.

Then you can reassure yourselves by checking your bank account and being secure in the knowledge that you are less broke than me. I guarantee this is true.