Monday, July 25, 2016

Report from Comic-Con 2016

Long time no blog!

I didn't take my laptop with me to SDCC last week, so you'll be getting this year's report from Comic-Con in one big installment. Enjoy!

Day 0: Return to Bloom County

Took the Gold Line (which was packed - barely room to breathe) down to Union Station and then took the Amtrak down to San Diego. My buddy Erik and I arrived without incident and then hitched the trolley over to the Town and Country hotel. Check-in line was remarkably short. The T&C is undergoing a refurb; our room wasn't one of the refurbed ones but it was still nice and suited our purposes very well.

We made out way to the convention center to pick up our guidebooks and lanyards. Once that was done, it was down to the exhibitor floor so I could drop a couple copies of my Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema book at William Wu Books, booth 5627. On the way, we happened to see a signing by Berkeley Breathed, creator of Bloom County - he was signing copies of the latest book, and there was virtually no line. We jumped in and got the book signed, and I was able to thank him for all the years of entertainment the Bloom County strip gave me.

After that, we stopped by Shout Factory to find out about the MST3K signing scheduled for Saturday. While there, I picked up the latest MST3K boxed set, which has one of my favorite episodes, The Incredible Melting Man. I also got a set of Scream Factory buttons, some free postcards, and some bonus MST3K DVDs. Nice!

By this time, we were famished, so it was over to La Fiesta. My favorite shrimp dish is no longer on their menu, but I got shrimp fajitas instead and was happy (the big margarita also made me happy).

We headed back to the hotel and got in our swimsuits for the pool, and no sooner had we jumped in when we found out it was closing time for the pool. Well, at least we got to cool off a bit and sluice off the heat of the day.

Day 1: A Visit to Pepperland

We got up early and headed over to the convention center - we really wanted tickets for the Yellow Submarine screening, as neither of us had seen that movie in a long time. The "everything but Hall H" line was huge and not especially well managed. The Sails Pavilion was supposed to open at 9 for drawings but we didn't see any action until 9:45. The actual drawing for the movie tickets was a bit odd - they seemed to have lumped it in with another drawing, and after a while we were told that they'd just give us the tickets (more on this in a bit).

We chose to not look a gift horse in the mouth and split up for the day. I went to a panel about the psychology of The Joker, which was good except for this pretentious wanker who kept talking about Nietzsche. Then I did a bit of shopping and got a vintage Horror of Party Beach tie-in comic and The Killing Joke graphic novel (we already have it but our copy is a first edition that my husband keeps under lock and key). Got some good swag, including various buttons and a free paperback of Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes.

Erik and I met up at a panel about movies from 1986 - it was neat to remember how many good movies came out in that year. Because one of the movies was Blue Velvet, I got some laughs by declaring Inland Empire the best choice for a Lynch "gateway" film. After that we did a bit more shopping and then had an early-ish dinner at The Field (where I had fish and chips).

We then headed to the Horton Grand Theater for Yellow Submarine - we got free Hot Wheels designed to look like the title vehicle. I was a bit sad to see that the theater was barely half full. Now I know why they just gave us the tickets. That's too bad, as shared enjoyment of the creative arts is what Con should be about. Anyway, the movie looked and sounded great (it's been remastered) and we enjoyed ourselves enormously. We made it back to our hotel in time for a lengthy dip in the pool and then crashed for the night.

Day 2: At the Con with Con Men

My morning was more or less free, so I slept in a bit and then headed over to the convention center to to a bit of shopping. Seeing as today was my day to see the Con Man panel at Nerd HQ, I stopped by the show's booth and got a Season 1 blu-ray; I saw that the prop lanyards they had extras wear earlier this month (I was in crowd scenes) were on sale. I  mentioned that I'd been an extra and the gentleman at the booth kindly threw in the lanyard for free!

At noon I popped up to the Sails Pavilion for the signing of Scales & Tales, an anthology whose proceeds go to the Southwestern Herpetologists Society, Kitt Crusaders, and Star Paws. I then headed over to Nerd HQ to hang around while waiting for the Con Man panel. I have to say that while it was hot the entire con, Friday was easily the most brutal day in terms of the heat; I made my sweltering, sweaty way over to the New Children's Museum and bought a "Reynolds/Washburn 2016" poster from the Nerd HQ merchandise booth. I know what'll be hanging on my home office wall soon!

The Con Man panel was great fun. In attendance were Nathan Fillion, PJ Haarsma, Mindy Sterling, Alison Haislip, Nolan North, Liam McIntyre, and Casper Van Dien. I asked a question about upcoming seasons of the series (I was the lady in what Mr. Fillion called "the lovely hat"), which also afforded me the chance to thank the attendees for giving fans a chance to be extras and participate in the show. After the panel there was a photo op with the panelists, which I of course participated in.

I was famished after all this so I made my way to SmashBurger and had the best lemonade ever and a burger and fries. Then it was back to the convention center for a panel about upcoming horror films and then one on e-publishing, which gave me the opportunity for a bit of networking. Then it was back to the hotel for a much-needed shower and some sleep.

Day 3: Knew Your Father, I Did!

This was the day we were most nervous about. Erik and I got up early and wended out way through the line - our goal was to get tickets for the MST3K signing at the Shout Factory booth, as this was a rare chance to meet up with the MST3K creator Joel Hodgson. Making our way to the booth at a very brisk walk (you get yelled at for running) was nerve-racking, but we made it and got signing tickets. Goal accomplished!

We trolleyed it back to the hotel to get into our costumes, both MST3K-oriented: Mr. B Natural for me and Torgo for Erik. Over the course of the day, Erik and I both got enthusiastic comments on our costumes; when we went back to the Shout Factory booth for a photo with Tom Servo and Crow, a lot of MST fans wanted our pictures as well. We had a big lunch at Brian's 24 (the BLT was to die for) and at 5:15 went to the signing. In attendance were Joel Hodgson, Felicia Day, Jonah Ray, and the two gentlemen who'll be voicing Crow and Servo (their names escape me at the moment). I got a poster signed by all of them; I made sure to tell all the new people (especially Jonah Ray, who is getting a lot of stick from jerk fans) how much I was looking forward to the new season; I got to shake Joel Hodgson's hand, thank him for the enjoyment the show has given me, and tell him that the love for MST3K is being passed on to the next generation (my son loves the show).

We immediately headed upstairs for the MST3K panel, which was still some time away, but we wanted to avoid the clusterfuck that was the 20th reunion panel a few years back. We sat through some other panels and then it was time for the MST one. There was a lot of great news: the show will be on Netflix and former cast members Kevin Murphy, Mary Jo Pehl, and Bill Corbett will be back. We got to see artwork for the new sets and designs. When it was time for Q&A I asked if the new season would have short films (it won't) and Erik asked if it would retain the relatively family friendly vibe of the past (it will). Our costumes got a lot of applause.

Day 4: Hanging with Friends and Browncoats

We slept in, got packed, and dropped our bags with the bell captain. We did a bit of shopping and then met our friends Mary and Jeremy at The Field for brunch. After brunch, Erik headed over to Nerd HQ for the Sherlock panel while I went over to the Marriott for a meeting of the California Browncoats, the highlight of which was seeing a picture of slippers shaped like Serenity! Now, that's some merchandising I can get behind.

Our last event of the day was a signing by Juliet Landau, who was promoting the film she's working on about vampires, A Place Among the Undead. Juliet is a lovely, sweet person, and chatting with her ended the day on a high note.

Then it was time to retrieve our bags, make it to the train station, and journey back home.

Another successful Comic-Con!

Random observations:

  • Except for the Thursday morning boondoggle, the RFID checkpoints seemed to work OK, at least as far as i could tell. Not clear what purpose they served, but oh well. I did like getting the badge mailed to me instead of having to pick it up.
  • Weather was disgusting on Wednesday-Friday, especially Friday. Absolutely hot and miserable. Those who want to relocate the con to Vegas, take note.
  • Joel Hodgson is a lovely man. I want him to be my honorary uncle.
  • Jonah Ray is incredibly tall and seemed very happy when I said I enjoyed his turn at the recent MST3K reunion show.
  • Stadium seating at Nerd HQ worked well - the lighting is still annoying, though. I wish they'd go back to Petco, though I appreciated the fact that Nerd HQ at least listens to complaints and tries to remedy them, unlike some other organizations I could name (cough CCI cough).
  • Good cosplayers this year. If nothing else The Force Awakens has given people a wider range of characters to cosplay.
  • Nathan Fillion has, as far as I can tell, not bothered to get a haircut since Castle got the ax, and this is not a bad thing. That's one luxurious mane he's rocking these days.
  • My one regret is that I could not be in three places at once to do the MST3K signing/panel, the Joss/Nathan Dark Horse signing, and the Ash vs. Evil Dead panel. Why did so much awesomeness have to happen at once?

And now, some pictures:

Jayne Cobb cosplayer

If Chris Evans gets tired of being Captain America, Mr. B Natural is happy to take on the role!

Yours truly with some of the cast of Con Man.

Gabrielle cosplayer

Professor Umbridge cosplayer

Nathan Fillion hosting the Nerd HQ Con Man panel

Xenomorph cosplayer

Not sure if this was an actual member of KISS or a cosplayer

Mr. B Natural posing with Crow and Tom Servo

Mr. B Natural and Torgo with Crow and Tom Servo

Elle Driver cosplayer

Hagrid cosplayer

J. Jonah Jameson cosplayer gives us the inside scoop

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Kelly's Big Score: Leaning Tower o' Paperbacks Edition

So today was the annual L.A. Vintage Paperback Show. I had a blast and came home with:

The Scarf - Robert Bloch
The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World and No Doors, No Windows - Harlan Ellison
Swamp Sister - Robert Edmond Alter
Seconds - David Ely
The Screaming Mimi - Frederic Brown
Nero, Butcher of Rome - Ernst Eckstein
The Drowner - John D. MacDonald
Lilith - George MacDonald
The Light at the End - John Skipp and Craig Spector
The Magic Christian - Terry Southern
The Butterfly - James M. Cain
Fireworks - Jim Thompson
The Terrorizers, The Annihilators, The Threateners, The Demolishers - Donald Hamilton (only three more books and I'll have the entire Matt Helm series!)

And lastly, a bunch of gothics, all featuring covers with illustrations of women in their nighties fleeing creepy old houses, with titles like The Rose Window and The House on Rainbow Leap.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Today's mood

Yes, I'm a little busy these days.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Review: The Witch

My review of The Witch, a terrific little horror/spooky historical film set in 17th century New England, is up at Horrorview.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: The Hateful Eight

My review of Quentin Tarantino's latest, The Hateful Eight, is up at Horrorview.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Listen Up: Rufus Wainwright sings "Hallelujah"

From time to time, readers of The Day After Yesterday have asked me about the music that plays a key role in the novel; specifically, they've asked if the Winter Roses album or a few of the songs exist.

Sadly, they don't. I wish they did—I'd like nothing better than to have a CD accompany print copies or a free download of the songs for ebooks—but I have no songwriting or musical skills.

However, today I ran across a song that captures perfectly the feel of the Winter Roses album (the lyrics aren't applicable, though their overall mood is).

So here for your listening pleasure is Rufus Wainwright's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

Today's Mood

Decorating Casa del Cozy for the holidays...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Review of A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema

The blog She Treads Softly has a rave review of A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema. Take a read, and browse the extensive archives of book reviews while you're there.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Kelly's Big Score: Christmas Can't Be Far Away Edition

Well, this weekend was time for our annual jaunt up to Solvang for the Julefest parade and a whole lot of shopping and eating. Didn't go too crazy at The Book Loft this year, but did come home with:

  • A Scot Ties the Knot - Tessa Dare
  • Perchance to Dream: Short Stories - Charles Beaumont

Some of you may be unfamiliar with the name Charles Beaumont, but you should recognize his work - he was a writer for The Twilight Zone, for which he adapted a number of his short stories.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Frights: Just Plain Scary

My apologies for missing last week's Friday Frights - had a migraine.

But here we are with the last installment, some stuff I find just really creepy and scary. I watch and and read a lot of horror, but little of it actually scares me. These things did.

The Shining by Stephen King
King's tale of a fragile family isolated in a haunted hotel is somewhat overshadowed these days by Stanley Kubrick's adaptation, which is a shame. There's no denying that Kubrick's film is creepy and beautiful, but it lacks the emotional heart that makes King's book resonate even after the thrill of its terrors has faded. More frightening than the ghosts and hedge animals that prowl the Overlook Hotel's halls are the fact that a flawed, well-intentioned man will have his weaknesses exploited so he can harm the people he loves the most. Now that's scary.

John Carpenter's film set the precedent for dozens, maybe hundreds of horror films, but few if any have ever been able to touch it. The unease of the film sets in long before darkness has fallen and the unstoppable Michael Myers is carving up babysitters. There's a peculiar emptiness to the suburban town where the terror takes place, so we know early on that final girl Laurie is all alone, even though she's ostensibly surrounded by neighbors who could help.

"The October Game" by Ray Bradbury
A man who's trapped in an unloving family plots a most gruesome revenge one Halloween night. Last line: "Then, some idiot turned on the lights." Just go read it, you will not be disappointed. The EC comics adaptation is well worth seeking out as well.

"Hush" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The fourth season of Buffy had its ups and downs, but there's no denying that "Hush" is a highlight not just of the season but of the entire series. Silent, cadaverous demons known as "The Gentlemen" have come to town, and steal everyone's voice so they can start carving out victims' hearts in peace and quiet. Though the episode has a great deal of humor (mostly deriving from characters attempting to communicate without speaking), the horror is present as well, from the ghastly, grinning Gentlemen to victims' frantic attempts to cry for help after their voices have been taken. Essential viewing, even if you don't care for the series.

Hope you've enjoyed the Friday Frights!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Frights: Tales of Ordinary Madness

The worst horrors come not from boogeymen or werewolves or vampires, but from the mind. Yes, our minds are tricky things that can plague us with terrible things, and nowhere is this more clear than in these tales.

It's clear from the opening frames of this influential horror film that something is wrong with Carol (Catherine Deneuve). She appears to be in a fugue-like state as she goes about her job as a beautician, but her beauty and passivity keep others from inquiringly too deeply about what goes on in her head. Slowly we come to realize that Carol is, in fact, deeply disturbed. The clues pile up: her reactions of fear and loathing to anything dealing with men and sex, her fascination with a crack in her apartment's wall, her nightmares/fantasies that hands are coming out of the walls to clutch at her, her withdrawal into catatonia as food rots in the kitchen, and more. We're never directly told the cause of Carol's state of mind (though we can make some educated guesses). It's a fascinating, elliptical film, whose influence in use of sound in particular can be felt in movies to this day.

The Yellow Wallpaper 
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's famous short story takes us into the mind of a woman who is, by her own admission, suffering from "a slight hysterical tendency" (and possibly from postpartum depression). She's more or less confined to a single room and forbidden any reading material or visitors, as her patronizing husband deems these too stimulating and will impede her mental recovery. But the narrator soon becomes fixated on some particularly ugly yellow wallpaper in her room, and the more she ponders it, the further her mind unravels. The ambiguity of the story makes it all the more intriguing and worrisome.

Assorted films by David Lynch
Lynch's films often feature protagonists in considerable mental distress, at the mercy of the horrors their minds foist on them. There's the last days of Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, as she free falls through the toll of years of sexual abuse. There's the in-denial split personality of Fred Madison in Lost Highway, who's running from the consequences of his murderous jealousy. There's the consumed-by-guilt actress who conjures a fantasy to avoid facing the fact that she's had her lover murdered. And let's not even get into the psychodramatic horrors of Eraserhead. Despite the surrealist trappings, these stories are very much tales of ordinary madness, and in their own way, horror movies.

Next week: Humor and horror!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Frights: Beautiful Horrors

Horror films don't by necessity have to be ugly-looking. Some excellent movies combine fear and dread with some of the most stunning visuals you'll ever see.

Masque of the Red Death (1964)
One of the many adaptations of Poe stories done in the 1960s, Masque of the Red Death is exceptional for several reasons. It features a nicely evil performance by Vincent Price which, while not rising to the heights of 1968's Witchfinder General, avoids the hamminess that marred some of his genre outings. Price gets good support from Hazel Court and Jane Asher as, respectively, his wife and a young innocent he's bent on corrupting. The screenplay does a good adaptation of the story, combining it with another Poe tale, "Hop Frog." And most of all, it looks gorgeous, thanks mainly to cinematography by Nicolas Roeg. While the plot is (as with all Poe adaptations) slight at best, the use of color is a feast for the eyes, with even such simple things as candles looking lovely in shades of deep green, with the colored rooms and costumes, and, most hauntingly, the various figures of death in all their colors. Watch the trailer.

Suspiria (1977)
Dario Argento's classic is a triumph of style over substance. A young ballerina (the always underrated Jessica Harper) arrives at a German dance academy, and soon discovers that the entire faculty is a coven of witches. Said coven is basically an excuse to show inventive murders, but the film's great triumph is its look. Its use of color (with scenes bathed in gorgeous green, blue, or red light) and use of light (deepest black punctuated by flashes of light both worldly and unworldly) make us believe in the supernatural goings-on even when the screenplay can't. The whole movie has a fever-dream quality that stays with you long afterward.
Watch the trailer.

Les Yeux Sans Visage (1960)
Georges Franju's haunting, melancholy film takes a much quieter approach to horror than the other two films mentioned above. A Parisian doctor kidnaps young women so he can use transplants to restore the beauty of his daughter's face (which was badly scarred in a car accident). The daughter (Edith Scob in an iconic performance) wears a white mask that hides her face except for her eyes, which convey the girl's deep sadness as transplant after transplant fails and her father's attempts become more misguided. The haunting black-and-white cinematography at times gives the film a fairy-tale quality and at other times is coldly clinical in its portrayal of just what the father is doing. Recommended for any horror enthusiast.
Watch the trailer.

Next week: Get out your toys in the attic - it's time for some tales of ordinary madness.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Frights: Old-School Spookiness

Hello and welcome to the first of this month's Friday Frights, a weekly celebration of the horror genre.

This week I want to call out some nice, old-fashioned horrors. They're spooky and eerie and a bit genteel, but don't worry — I'll bring on the crazier stuff in future installments.

The Changeling
This sublime ghost story came out in the early 1980s and was buried in a glut of horror films, but it's got a considerable cult following. George C. Scott is John, a composer whose wife and daughter die in a roadside accident. Three months later, the still-grieving John is trying to move on with life; he takes a teaching position at a college and rents a gorgeous old mansion so he'll have the peace and quiet he needs to create. Unfortunately, peace and quiet are in short supply as he is wakened each morning by rhythmic banging noises and experiences other strange phenomenon. It's soon clear that the mansion is haunted by the ghost of a child, and the screenplay cleverly gives John a reason to stay in the haunted house, as he hopes to help the child to ease his grief and assuage his guilt at being unable to save his own child. But John uncovers some nasty, buried secrets and learns why the child's ghost is not at rest.

The Changeling's scares may bore some modern audiences, especially those used to jump cuts and gore shots. There's almost no blood, though there is a fairly upsetting scene of murder. What makes the movie work so well is its melancholy tone and its sympathetic characters, particularly John. Recommended, and it's the sort of movie you can watch with your folks.

The Monkey's Paw
This classic short story by W. W. Jacobs has been imitated countless times, but is premise never gets old. That's because it offers a dark take on the ultimate wish — to bring a loved one back from the dead. A nice old couple obtain the titular monkey's paw, which has the power to grant three wishes. The couple wish for cash, and get it — as an insurance settlement when their son dies in a horrific accident. The grief-stricken mother uses the paw for her second wish — for the son to be alive again. But will this wish be fulfilled in the way she hopes? Read it and let me know what you think.

Carnival of Souls
This low-budget wonder, made by film-makers who usually did educational and training films, opens with a carful of boys challenging a carful of girls to a drag race. The girls' car goes off a bridge and into a river, and a considerable time later, sole survivor Mary is found on the muddy river shore with no clear recollection of how she survive the accident. Mary almost immediately starts driving to a far town to take a job, and along the way finds herself haunted by a mysterious, cadaverous man and drawn to an abandoned lakeside pavilion. While the story of Carnival of Souls is slight and its ending has been stolen so many times that it will no longer be the jaw-dropper it no doubt was back in 1962, it's still remarkable in its use of sound and especially imagery, some of which is still being imitated in movies to this day. It may not surprise you, but it will definitely stay with you.

I hope these works get your October off to a good start!

Next Friday: Beautiful Horrors or, When Scary is Pretty

Wednesday, September 30, 2015