167: Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope

I’m a geek, a nerd, a fanboy, or whatever you want to call it. I am not ashamed of it, nor should I be. Some people like other things and I like Star Wars. However, I have never been to the San Diego Comic-Con. I have been to Star Wars Celebration VI, so that cancels out some of that shame. The annual San Diego Comic-Con functions as a sort of sanctuary for people like me: people who like things other ‘normal’ people might frown upon. Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope provides a glimpse into the world of Comic-Con, a world that is totally incomprehensible for many.

A word of warning: this is in no way a historical record of the San Diego Comic-Con. Some history is provided at the beginning and a comment may be included here and there about the old days, but that’s all you’re going to learn about the Con itself. This is a love letter to the people attending the convention and not the convention itself.

In Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope we follow several people who attended San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. There is the veteran salesman from Mile High Comics who laments the change in focus from comics to entertainment in general at the convention. Then there is the costume builder who wants to show off her newest creations based on video game Mass Effect. Two aspiring comic artists travel to San Diego to try their luck at landing a job with a comics publisher. And finally a young couple of which the male half has a surprise for his girlfriend. We see how these people go about their days at the convention in search of whatever they are looking for.

Spurlock paints a loving picture of Comic-Con. He obviously likes the convention and he wants other to do so as well. He enlists a great number of people (famous and non-famous) to provide context in front of a white screen. They tell you the convention is a great experience for everybody there and that you can actually be yourself (or dress up as somebody else) without feeling you have to check yourself at every moment. Having been to Star Wars Celebration I can certainly sympathize with that sentiment. It is a wonderful experience to not have to check yourself at the door and finally geek out for three or four days. Of course, in a perfect world these would not have to be necessary, but we’re not entirely there yet.

There is one small complaint I have for Spurlock (who actually doesn’t appear at all). There is not enough of the documentary. At nearly ninety minutes I feel some of the people we follow don’t get enough room to tell their story. For example, the story about the comics seller who has to contend with a change in climate at the convention is a very interesting one. The convention has been focusing a lot more on movie and television promotion and less and less on what the convention was built on: comics. Sales have been declining and with the emergence of digital comics it would be interesting to see how that story played out. Maybe something someone can take on as a subject for a future documentary?

On a whole I really enjoyed Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, although I don’t really understand the title. There is not all that much Star Wars in the movie to begin with and the title feels more like pandering than something inspired. Don’t let that deter you from watching this fine documentary, though. Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to attend a San Diego Comic-Con, until then Phoenix Comic-Con will do.

> IMDb

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093: Clerks.

Clerks. is one of those movies that I hold very dear to my heart. It is about a guy who is at a place in his life where he really doesn’t want to be and that is how I felt when I watched Clerks. for the first time. I actually caught on to the Clerks. bandwagon when Chasing Amy was released, which was about three years after Clerks. I am not an early adopter, but certainly a lifelong fan.

I was so impressed with Chasing Amy—and still am—that I wanted to see more from this young filmmaker from New Jersey who seemed to be creating this whole universe for him to play with. Like a no-budget George Lucas, if you will. When I watched Clerks. I was mesmerized. Not because of the acting performances, or the cinematography. It was the rapid-fire dialogue and editing that caught my attention immediately. Kevin Smith seemed to understand exactly what was going through the minds of these characters. Later we learned that this was no surprise, because he practically lived that life himself.

In Clerks. we follow a day in the life of Dante Hicks, a lowly clerk in a convenience store. He is called on Sunday to take over a shift for a co-worker, something he decidedly doesn’t want to do. And in hindsight something he should not have agreed to do, because the day goes by anything but quietly. He has to deal with his deadbeat friend who works at the video store next door. His ex-girlfriend comes to town and is getting married. He learns the number of men his present girlfriend has been with. And on top of that he is about to miss his weekly hockey game. And he isn’t even supposed to be there!

Clerks. has a real live-in feel to it. It was shot on stock that was probably thrown in a dumpster somewhere, the sound is often atrocious and the scenes were shots on location in a real convenience store, so that brings a whole other level of grit to the shoot. (Clerks. was mostly shot at night, by the way, with lights blowing out the window to make it look like it was day.) This level of real grittiness lends a great deal of authenticity to the absurd dealings that go on in the store. At one point a man comes in and starts warning people who smoking is bad for you by putting a cancer-ridden longue on the counter. What happens next I won’t divulge. There are a lot of moments in Clerks. where you think, “Dante, close the store, get out of there and go to bed. This is totally not worth it.”

A lot of these moments involve his friend Randal, who easily steals the movie. His foul-mouthed comments on the world seem to channel Kevin Smith directly. The things he says to his customers should’ve gotten him fired long ago, but somehow he gets away with it. He makes a woman wait while he orders tapes from a distributor. Not just any tapes… porn tapes with great filthy titles and that in front of the woman and her kid. All to just not have to work a single minute on this useless Sunday. Equally useless are Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith as Jay and Silent Bob, two drug dealers that hang out in front of the store lurking at women and harassing people. These two guys went on to become a staple of a View Askew-niverse and are considered pop culture icons.

Clerks. spawned an ill-fated sequel in 2006 that never managed to live up to the legacy of its predecessor. It never had the gritty quality of the original, and although it tried to replicate the great pop culture debates from Clerks. (Contractors on the Death Star is a classic), it didn’t feel as fresh and effortless. Same goes for the sordid nature of some scenes. Forget the sequel and visit (or revisit) Clerks. You won’t be disappointed.

> IMDb