Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Super 8: Home movie.

It took eight and a half hours for me to formulate my first written reaction to Super 8 – and even then all I could muster via Twitter was, “Can’t be impartial about Super 8: I’m too in love with the inspirations and the way it captures the era of my childhood. Fantastic.”

And that’s why this isn’t really a review of the movie. Other people have said the things I think – the best reflection, I think, being the opinion that what makes J.J. Abrams’ blatant homage to the likes of E.T. and Stand By Me and The Goonies and Jaws work so well is its complete sincerity, delivered without clever winks, nods or half-smirks.  And I agree with the most positive reviews, although I admit that while I utterly loved it, I  the story also never gave me that lump-in-the-throat moment I had expected.

So why did I love this movie so much?

There’s a bit in Wil Wheaton’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives where he writes, “If you’ve seen E.T., you’ve seen houses just like the ones I grew up in.”

I felt that way all through Super 8.

Those houses where the folks of fictitious Lillian, Ohio lived in 1979? I’ve been in them. They were my friends’ houses and my relatives’ houses and our neighbors’ houses, whether here in Stark County or up in Akron or across the state in Upper Sandusky or down in Columbus.

Those nerd-cluttered bedrooms, with science fiction magazines and movie one-sheets and those tiny, square glass Testors model paint bottles and the National Geographic space-shuttle cutaway posters and yes, even the occasional 8 mm movie camera and film reel? Those were the coolest.

Super 8 was filmed in and around Weirton, West Virginia, about 90 miles from here, but from Lillian’s downtown to its industrial mills to its surrounding hills and railroad tracks and nearby river, it just felt so much like an actual place in my memory; like I’d been there – driven through it or knew a kid who moved there or went there once with my parents for some reason. (Geography lesson: The movie places Lillian in an impossible Escher-eqsue way, noting on a map that it’s in the southwest corner of the state, but mentioning Belmont – all the way in the southeast corner – as a neighboring county. I’m OK with that, though: It fits the J.J. Abrams mystery mold perfectly.)

And I felt that way about so much of the movie – the characters, the dialogue and the more everyday aspects of the story: There was a genuine sense of the era and the emotions without feeling like the overt, time-period-as-story-element approach of something like Dazed and Confused or The Wedding Singer.

It felt very much – even though I don’t mean this in a specific my-street, my-school, my-childhood kind of way – like home.

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June 12, 2011 Posted by | Current Affairs, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

BackTrekking

(This post about Star Trek is spoiler-free, just in case you’re worried about that sort of thing. Although Rosebud’s a sled.)

Jenn and Kelsey and I finally got to catch a matinee of the new Star Trek on Sunday, so to everyone who’s been telling me, “GogogogogoGOALREADY,” well, I did. And I had a great time and I want to go see it again.

My interest in Star Trek has always fluctuated. Despite the love-of-all-things-outer-spacey that I got from Star Wars when I was six, I only had a vague interest in the original Star Trek series, which the Cleveland independent TV stations aired either late at night or on weekend afternoons which, when I was a kid, were like television Dead Zones. Honestly, I was much more into Lost in Space, probably by default since it was usually on just after I got home from school.

I remember sort of wanting to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but I never did catch it in the theater. (Years later, I learned just how good a thing this was. Missing it, I mean.) The next Trek, though, The Wrath of Khan? That one I did beg to go see, and it blew me away: kick-ass space battles, ooky brain-munching worms, and a climactic escape that still gives me goosebumps. I saw the next four Treks in the theater (although Trek V was in a second-run double-feature, and mostly we were there to see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade again), and as everyone says, the even-numbereds were the keepers. (The shockwave just effing slamming into Sulu’s ship during the opening sequence of The Undiscovered Country is still one of my favorite heartracers ever.)

When Generations came out, I went to see it on opening night with some friends based mostly on enthusiasm for The Next Generation and its incredible final episode “All Good Things,” earlier that year. We liked it at the time, but it didn’t hold up for long, really, although Malcolm McDowell is still entertaining as hell. First Contact was a great rebound, though, and it’s the only one of the Next Gen movies that I think I’ve watched more than once on DVD. Neither Insurrection nor Nemesis have any memorable bits as far as I’m concerned.

As far as the TV shows go, as I mentioned, I only ever really got into Next Generation. Jenn and I watched DS9 for about half the first season. Ditto for Voyager. Never even gave Enterprise a shot.

The J.J. Abrams angle, though, had me interested in the new movie from the start. I’m a big fan of Lost and Fringe, and my wife and I followed most of Alias and Felicity. Heck, I even thought Cloverfield was decent.

After one viewing of the new Star Trek, I loved it. And I think it’s for real love, not another Generations fling where it’s just the newness of the thing that makes me go Wow. And Jenn and Kelsey liked it, too, which I think is a good sign: I expected Jenn to be entertained enough, but it was great seeing my daughter – who’s never watched an episode of the original series and who hasn’t regularly seen Next Generation since before preschool – walk out of the movie excited about it and ready to tell her friends.

I thought the casting was damn near flawless, the dialogue and chemistry brilliant, and the story pretty darn good, and I can’t get over how successfully Abrams and writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci managed to not only pay tribute to and preserve all the best parts of the existing Trek characters and universe, but come up with a way to reinvent the franchise without actually rebooting it and kicking all the old storylines to the curb.(Yes, there’s bad science and at least one pretty sizable moment of improbability, but if you want to play “What Are the Odds of That” then ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you Exhibit A: “Hold your fire. There are no life forms aboard. Must’ve short circuited.”)

And the opening sequence of the movie is practically a standalone mini-epic that outdid both of the last two Trek films in their entirety.

I’m all for a sequel or two, but I really hope this doesn’t spark the notion that there needs to be another Trek TV series. It seems unlikely that you’d get this big-screen cast interested in it anyway, and they’re a huge reason the movie succeeds. This version of the universe was born big and it needs to stay that way.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Television | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kudos for coolness.

Check it out: The guy who just did my new “Collect All 21!” cover, Kirk Demarais,  gets a nod from J.J. Freaking Abrams in the latest issue of Wired.

April 22, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, geek, science fiction, Web/Tech, Weblogs | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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