Monday, November 24, 2008

30 Years of Memories

I'm addicted to Halloween-- the holiday and the movie, a seminal horror classic that spawned seven sequels and a remake (and sparked my love affair with Jamie Lee Curtis). So it should come as no surprise that when I heard about a 30 Years of Terror convention marking the three decades since the original film's release, I was determined to go and experience it for myself. My best friend Ashley gamely accompanied me to this geek-fest, which took place primarily in Pasadena, CA. (This area stood in for Michael Myers' slashing grounds of Haddonfield, IL in the first two films and in last year's remake.) On Friday the 31st (Halloween) we took a 6 hour (!) bus tour covering locations from various "Halloween" films and other horror classics; on Saturday we went to the convention center to meet cast and crew from all 9 films. While Friday's tour was something of a debacle (originally they weren't going to break for "lunch" until 6pm, and was it really a good idea to schlepp out to Hollywood at day's end-- perilously close to rush hour?), Saturday was a pure delight.
The stops on Friday included...
The Myers House (from Halloween, henceforth "H1," and Halloween II, henceforth "H2"; you get the idea). It's been repainted blue (really quite nice looking) and moved up the street from the original location. Our tour guide thought we could take pictures on the porch, but apparently she'd been misinformed as an angry employee came out and started yelling at us. Some things are more scary than Michael Myers! Nearby was Nichol's Hardware Store from H1, which is a Pasadena landmark.
The alley and Mrs. Ellrod's house from H2. I'm glad I'm tall as I was able to see over the fence and look at the window where Michael peered in at Mrs. Ellrod.
The street where Laurie and Tommy took their walk-- and where the ill-fated Ben Tramer (mistaken for Myers and hit by a car) burned to death. In typical fashion, Ashley announced that she was going to "reenact" the burning and started waving her hands around and going "Woosh!" I don't think I'll ever watch that scene the same way again.
Michael's elementary school and Haddonfield High from the remake, which are actually right across the street from each other. Pasadena in general is a beautiful town. Ashley kept talking about how she wanted to live there someday.
Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis)'s house. It still looks the same and the owners even provided us with pumpkins for photo ops. I loved sitting in the same spot as Jamie Lee.
The Strode and Myers houses from the remake. The new Myers house was also Angela's house on My So Called Life.
The cemetery from H1. I heard some fan reciting the groundskeeper's lines word for word, which was funny.
Sierra Madre, where scenes from H2 and H3 were filmed. We saw the Buccaneer bar from III as well as the storefront where the annoying Silver Shamrock mask commercials played in the movie. (It's now a Domino's.) The highlight of this spot by far was watching Dick Warlock and his son Lance reenact the "Boom Box Boy" scene in H2. (In the film, Warlock's Michael Myers bumps into a boy carrying a boom box, played by his son in an in-joke cameo.) Everyone laughed as Dick walked forward in that very purposeful Myers way. Lance kept bumping into cars on his way over to Dick and joked, "It was the 70s, there were no cars back then!" It was also funny to watch confused locals wondering why a crowd was filming an old man bumping into someone and walking.
The Doyle and Wallace houses from H1 and 2. The Wallace house looks totally different, but the Doyle house is instantly recognizable for its front landing. Ashley got me to say "The keys, oh, the keys!" and dig in my jeans while she took pictures. (She's heard me imitate Jamie Lee's frantic squealing in H1 for years.)
On Saturday was the convention itself, where we met...
Dee Wallace from the remake, "ET," "The Howling" etc. She was very nice. You had to buy one thing to get a photo with her and when I told her I was getting the Frighteners trading cards ($5) she said, "Good choice, a low cost item and you still get what you want!" She joked to Ashley that she should marry me and Ashley replied, "He doesn't like girls." "I like girls," I protested. "I can, um, go both ways." "Aww, a switch hitter!" Dee laughed. It's not every day that Dee Wallace comments on your sexual orientation, but there you have it.
Scout Taylor Compton, the new Laurie. Ashley had just bought the hoodie she wears in the movie, so she complimented her on that. She was so unbelievably nice and took pictures with us and signed my soundtrack, all for free. Just a really great girl. Her Gothy looking boyfriend was there with her, which was cute.
The security guard from Halloween II. He wasn't very talkative, and unfortunately he hasn't gotten any thinner! But everyone else from that film was super nice. Gloria Gifford, Mrs. Alves, was really sweet. We joked with her about how Haddonfield Memorial is America's worst hopsital. Ashley and I explained our feelings about the "forgotten children" when we watched the movie a couple nights earlier. "It was an abandoned hospital offscreen," she said, and I cracked, "It was an abandoned hopsital onscreen." Good point," Gloria said. She also signed a "Haddonfield Memorial Hospital prescription" for me and wrote "Time's up" (one of her lines in the film) on it. Tawny Moyer, Nurse Jill, was nice, and explained how they did the famous "knife raising" scene, in which Michael stabs her in the back and lifts her up and off her feet. There were wires attached to her and crew working a pulley to lift her up just offscreen. Finally, Leo Rossi, Bud, was a very nice guy, and his wife was sweet, too. I know I shouldn't be surprised when people are different from the characters they play, but it still struck me how the guy who played the horndog douche bag in H2 was such a standup guy in reality! (Funnily enough, at one point on the bus tour they played Bud's dirty rendition of "Amazing Grace" from the movie: "Amazing Grace, come sit on my face / Don't make me cry, I need your pie.")
Lew Temple from "Halloween" 2007 and "The Devil's Rejects." One of the things I loved about this convention was how people I wasn't necessarily dying to see turned out to be some of the greatest and most fun. Earlier we met Tom Towles, the sherrif from "House of 1000 Corpses" and one of the cops in "Halloween" '07, who was also quite pleasant. Lew had a cowboy hat on and chatted us up about random stuff. Ashley's friend actually directed a short film that Lew had seen, because he's friends with its star Brian Austin Green. He also talked to us about the "Banjo and Sullivan" CD that came out for "Rejects" and how Fatboy Slim remixed a song for European clubs(!) He signed my "Halloween" soundtrack with his asshole character's line "I wouldn't want to bum the freak out." (Ironically, Temple appeared in a rape scene that was cut from the theatrical version of the movie. When I got the "unrated" DVD, I found the sequence so disturbing and repulsive that I traded it in for the original cut.)
Jenny Greg Stewart, the new Lindsay. She was so cute and, not surprisingly, so little! She told us her mom only let her watch the scenes that she was in. When Tyler Mane first did a scene with her and Tommy, they didn't recognize him, but he took off the mask and then they did. I asked her if it was true that she was genuinely scared in the first scene with Michael, and she said yes, but in later scenes when crew checked to see if she was "okay," she told them, in a very adult voice, "Guys, I'm just acting." (This is why I love kids.)
We sort of tried to talk to Daeg Faerch (young Michael in the remake), but he was really quiet and barely looked up from the phone he was playing with. We ended up just talking to his (vaguely creepy) stage mom. We did see him later talking to Kristina Klebe (new Linda). She said, "You've gotten so big!" It was cute.
I only met Danielle Harris (from H4, H5, and the remake) for a second, on her way out. I didn't actually think she seemed all that friendly, but then again I sort of caught her at a bad time. In any case, Scout was by far my favorite of the "new" Halloween girls.
John Graham (Bob in H1), who's actually gay. I told him I knew one of his friends back in NYC, who was amused when I said, "You know John Michael Graham??" "Well, that's how you knew my name," John laughed. He had the original glasses from Halloween with him and let me put them on for a photo, which was great. I told him how, when I saw the Halloween re-release a couple years ago, some queeny guy shouted, "Take the glasses off!" He thought that was funny.
Alan Howarth (who collaborated with John Carpenter on scores for the first three Halloweens and did his own for parts 4 and 5) was fun to talk to, and was sitting with his gorgeous model/actress daughter. Howarth told me that they were instructed to set the Halloween III jingle to "London Bridge" because it was copyright free. He also said that the music for H2 was all laid over an original tape of the Halloween score, which made sense to me as that soundtrack plays like an 80s remix of the first one. We later saw Howarth perform some Halloween music live, which was kinda neat-- he had a keyboard, synthesizer, and a Mac onstage with him. Tommy Wallace (who worked on the first two films and directed the third) was very nice, and seemed pleased when I told him H3 is actually my friend Roman's favorite film in the series, and that I rather like it, too! Ashley told him that his TV movie It scared her so much she had to sleep in her parents' bed-- at age 13!
We also talked with Nancy Loomis, who I'd met a couple years before at a convention in Worcester. We'd talked about teaching, so I asked her about that again. She's now interested in studying to direct theater professionally, and continues to sculpt.
William Forsythe was a cool guy; Ashley actually thought he was flirting with her a bit and got that vibe from some of the other actors, who were probably happy to see a cute blonde girl at the convention! I told Forsythe he was great in Devil's Rejects and asked him if it was true he got hurt just before filming the Halloween remake. He said it was already in the script that he'd have a cast on his arm, but he broke his leg and had to ask for a leg cast to wear, too. "I think it worked for the character," he explained, "because then he was really like a cockroach." "The ultimate mooch," I agreed.
The very last person we met was Leslie Easterbrook, who played one of the cops in Halloween '07, Mother Firefly in The Devil's Rejects, and starred in the Police Academy movies. She looked good; she seems to have slimmed down a lot since Rejects. I caught her by the elevators and introduced myself; she was very warm. She asked me where I was from and asked how the bus tour was. "Honestly, it was kind of a debacle," I said (it really was, I just left out the boring details and concentrated on the locations for you guys). Ashley was next to me and agreed. "They weren't even planning to give us a lunch break originally," she said. "You two are the first ones to be honest about that," she said. "Must be 'cause you're from New York!" As we left the convention center, I saw her sitting with fans smoking a cigarette. It was such a funny image I wish I'd snapped a picture. Overall, the convention was a very cool chance to see the sites of Halloween and meet the people involved-- almost all of whom were extremely personable.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gossip Watch: Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving in the Upper East Side, and Gossip Girl served up a heap of drama to go with the turkey and pumpkin pie. (Apologies for all the horrid puns I'm sure to make in this recap.) Blair was in fine form all episode, working herself into a tizzy at the thought that her mom was getting engaged to Cyrus (Wallace Shawn); guess the "truce" didn't last! Her moments with maid Dorota were particularly fun; "Who do you work for?" she amusingly demanded, when Dorota clearly knew more about Eleanor and Cyrus then she was letting on. I also love that Dorota's ring tone is "I'm a Slave 4 U." Blair and Dorota flee the house to boycott Thanksgiving, and when Dorota asks where exactly they're going, Blair snaps, "I don't care if we have to wander the streets all day like characters from a Jane Austen novel, I won't stand for this!" (Only on Gossip Girl do teenagers make so many literary references outside of English class.) Meanwhile, Nate had to deal, once again, with his huge douche bag of a father. Seriously, between the embezzling, cokehead dad and the cold, enabling mother, this kid has the world's worst parents. Daddie Dearest emerges from hiding and asks Nate to come live with them outside of the country. But the FBI is snooping around, asking Vanessa what she knows about Nate, so she enlists Chuck's help (!) to stage an intervention of sorts with their estranged pal. This nicely served as a way to reunite all three characters, and in the end, shockingly, Dad actually did the right thing and turned himself in. Of course Nate had to convince him to do so; it's classic "kids parenting the parents" television. Dan similarly helped his own father see the light regarding wayward Jenny, who began this episode hiding out with Eric at Serena/Lily/Chuck et al's place. In a rather heartfelt storyline, Rufus finally told Jenny how much he loved and missed her, and this softer approach made her see the light at last. "I don't want to not be your daughter," she said, tearing up her emancipation papers and crying. (And, OMG, I totally cried, too.) But before this warm and fuzzy reunion could happen, we had some intriguing dynamics with Eric and Serena's own family. First Bart gives Eric a tip regarding his little-seen boyfriend Jonathan-- implying that he's sleeping with his coach(?!). When Eric asks Chuck about this WTF-worthy comment, Chuck explains that his father retains a private investigator to look into the lives of everyone he knows. Eric thinks this is a little creepy and weird ('cause it is), and Chuck decides to show him Bart's secret safe, filled with all sorts of forbidden goodies. "Are those actual bars of gold?" Eric asks in disbelief. I half expected there to be a girlie mag and a slingshot in with this stash of midlife adolescent escapism. Chuck leaves Eric to pore over the spoils, and he finds three leather bound files on himself, Serena, and Lily. Of course, this is hardly a shock to us, since we know from an earlier episode that Bart had a file on Lily with some sort of Big Shocking Secret in it, but now Eric's even more freaked than before. (Side note: the boy dyed those off-putting blonde locks. I heartily approve.) He brings the files to his mom and Serena, who are suitably aghast. Lily confronts Bart and he simply says he was protecting them, but Lily rejects the excuse and takes the kids out of the house. (Seems like everyone's abandoning Thanksgiving today! Good thing Mickey D's is open.) Of course, the file does serve a function for Serena, who hands it to that icky Aaron character that she's enamored with. (God knows why.) He ran into Dan earlier at Convenient Plot Point Junction-- sorry, the grocery store-- and had his suspicions raised when Dan balked at the comment that "Serena doesn't drink anymore." See, apparently Aaron's sober, and Serena immediately downplayed her hard-partying past to win his approval. (All this for rat-faced stalker boy. Blech.) At least Blair sees the folly in this, urging Serena not to settle for someone who won't put her first to begin with. But Aaron's newfound desire to be exclusive sets Serena's heart aflutter, so she first lies, then admits the truth and hands Aaron the convenient attache case. But he says he doesn't need to look at it; he wants to know everything about her firsthand. ("Fuck that," my friend Patrick commented. "I'd want to read the file!") So, unfortunately, this bit of intrigue hasn't broken them up-- at least, not yet. (Le sigh.) Meanwhile, Lily and Eric visit the same diner where they wound up last year, and we learn a bit about Lily's secret: she was in "a sanitarium," much like Eric was. He's upset his mother didn't tell him this, but she maintains that she wanted to be strong for him. Eric says he looks forward to hearing more about it when she's ready. (Again with the kid parenting.) It's a sweet moment between them. "How did you get to be so wise?" Lily asks. "The nanny," Eric cracks. (Love that kid. Since he and Jonathan appear to be dunzo, I hope he gets another, worthier boyfriend soon-- one who's actually cute!) The pair decide to leave the diner and go to Rufus and Dan's, which also provides a reunion for Vanessa and Jenny. I couldn't remember why exactly Vanessa was even mad at Jenny, but apparently it was because of Nate. He and Vanessa rekindled their flame earlier, with Nate saying he hadn't heard from Jenny "in weeks"; Jenny says the same thing about Nate, and Vanessa insists they shouldn't "let a boy come between us," anyhow. Famous last words: next thing we know, Vanessa's found the letter Nate sent Jenny several episodes back (she's yet to read it since running away from home for two weeks). Vanessa opens and reads it, discovering that Nate felt he "had to stay away" from Jenny because of Dan, but didn't want to-- and couldn't stop thinking about her. The plot thickens; maybe Vanessa will actually turn out to be kind of interesting? (I hope so, because I've pretty much given up on her being the one that dies.) Back in Blair land, the girl's pleasantly surprised to find her gay dad (John Shea) back to visit, with Eleanor insisting she needed his approval for "the man who could become your stepfather" before accepting Cyrus' proposal. What's more, he has his famous pumpkin pie (the one Cyrus horrified her by criticizing earlier) in tow. All together now: Awwwwww. But while there's plenty of bonding going on at the end of the hour, there's the Vanessa bit of intrigue, too, along with Bart creepily idling outside Dan's apartment in his limo. "You know how I said I didn't want to know why Lily was in that sanitarium?" Bart asks someone on the phone (which is very helpful for us viewers). "I changed my mind. I want to know everything." Dum dum dum!!!! (Side note: why does everyone refer to it as "a sanitarium"? All I could think about was the movie Halloween. Was Lily across the hall from Michael Myers?) So concludes another kinda-heartwarming, kinda-dark and weird Gossip Girl Thanksgiving, with previews promising an "unmissable" episode in two weeks. Yep, someone's gonna kick the bucket... and my money's on Bart.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gossip Watch

Trying something new this week with a recap of every one's favorite ludicrous teen soap opera, Gossip Girl. I'm not ashamed to say I love this show, especially living in New York which is practically one of the characters. And I love Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick). Looove me some Chuck Bass. Can't quite explain it; objectively he's the least attractive of the male leads, and yet there's just something about the guy. Maybe it's his outrageous wardrobe. Maybe it's the way he always talks through his nose. (With regards to Joel McHale.) Maybe it's that he always acts like he owns everything and everyone he comes in contact with. All I know is that if Westwick is unlucky enough to ever cross paths with me, I will probably end up doing something that will embarrass us both in equal measure. Anyway, on to the recap. Last night's episode continued the spiraling "Jenny goes rogue" plot line. Jenny spent the episode trying to get her clothing line off the ground, with mostly disastrous results. Her would-be partner, Agnes (Willa Holland, who I loved on The OC but who played a total bitch here-- and seriously, what's with the name "Agnes"? Was she born in 1945?) was by turns unreliable and treacherous. Jenny tries to go it alone with a potential agent, only to have Agnes catch wind and burn her entire collection in a barrel conveniently placed by her apartment. (I found it hard to believe that she could scoop up every piece in the whole collection at once, but whatevs.) "You're out of your mind!!!!" Jenny screamed. I know it sucks, little J, but how often do you get to scream those words? Not very. Meanwhile, Blair spent the episode trying to sabotage her mom's new relationship, having instantly decided that the guy (the always wonderful Wallace Shawn) was inappropriate. Blair really is one of the show's best characters; she always gets the best dialogue. Although it was amusing that part of the plot revolved around her 18th birthday, since Leighton Meester looks like she's been on the wrong side of 18 for several years. Anyhoo, this subplot came to a sweet end when Shawn's character won her over, with the help of Cyndi Lauper (!). As for those two star-crossed, currently off-again lovers, Dan and Serena? Well, Dan became convinced that he was the next Deepthroat or something; asked by New York Magazine to dig up dirt on Bart Bass, he stumbled onto some sort of shady real estate scam-- and when he pressed Bart for details, the guy let it slip that someone died, too! Fortunately, Chuck appealed to Dan's decency and he killed the story, while also giving Bart a copy of his thinly veiled account of Chuck's inner turmoil. Finally Bart, who up to now has earned the World's Shittiest Dad title, talked to his son and told him he never blamed him for his mom's death. It was another sweet moment in an episode that demonstrated the heart that (occasionally) boosts Gossip Girl beyond mindless escapism. Serena's storyline was less heartfelt and more mind numbingly saccharine. Up until now I'd been willing to tolerate her "cute" flirtation with a former summer school pal, Aaron; but his "free spirited" philandering, transparently manufactured "scruffy" look, and meant-to-be-sweet-but-actually-just-creepy gestures really got my goat in this episode. At one point he showed Serena a cheesy "installation" involving curtains and photos of her that he'd spent all night constructing; "where does he hang her teeth?" I wondered aloud. These scenes are watchable because Blake Lively is both gorgeous and lovable, but I'd love for her to ditch this rat-faced hipster trash. I sure wouldn't kick Penn Badgley out of bed for the likes of him! At episode's end, Jenny was making the predictable decision to seek emancipation from her parents, even while Dan urged Rufus to get her back home by any means necessary. I'm not sure how I feel about the way this Jenny arc is headed; she's an essentially sweet girl but the writers have gotten her mired in so many bad decisions and cliched rebellion (i.e. her horrendous bangs and raccoon eye shadow) that I'm afraid the character as we know it may never recover. At least next week's ep looks promising: Serena's underused gay bro Eric is back, with newly darkened hair, and so is Blair's suave gay father ("Lois & Clark's" John Shea, who happens to hail from my hometown of Springfield). Just as long as the title is better than last year's lamentable Thanksgiving ep's "Blair Waldorf Must Pie," we should be all set.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rest in peace, Michael Crichton

Over the summer I did a post on Jurassic Park, one of my favorite childhood films. I was saddened to hear this week that JP creator Michael Crichton, a best-selling author noted for his cautionary science fiction (and for creating TV's hit ER), died after a long battle with cancer. He was 66. I remember reading about Jurassic Park's genesis in the movie "making of" book. (I took that book with me everywhere that summer of 1993; it's worn and falling apart now.) Crichton said that he had the idea to do something with dinosaurs, but wanted to wait until the "craze" died down. It never did, so finally he just decided to write his book! Of course, no one could have predicted how the novel and subsequent film adaptation would bring interest in dinosaurs and palentology to new heights. I remember reading the book in preperation for the movie; I was only ten at the time and I felt proud of myself for reading such a long book! While the novel is darker and more complex than the fast-paced movie version, it laid the foundation for an adventure that really did thrill audiences the world over. As someone who spent hours poring over toys, books, and trading cards related to Jurassic Park and its sequel, The Lost World, I really have to say: thanks, Michael. You were a brilliant creative mind and you will be missed.

I don't have much to add...

Except to say wow. I truly am proud to be an American right now.