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2011/07/24

Comic-Con 2011 Explained

By Jav Rivera

NOTE: A portion of this article is written as a personal blog, which I invite you to read.  If, however, you are only looking for information pertaining specifically to Comic-Con 2011, scroll down to the section titled "Exactly What Is Comic-Con?"  I apologize for straying from this website's regular format.


Heading To Comic-Con 2011

As a filmmaker, there have been moments in my life when I found myself stuck in a rut, creatively and motivationally.  In those moments, I have learned that I was typically in a place where my fire had died.  These reasons could be because of a lack of a challenge, frustration with a workmate (or boss), or any number of other problems that can occur during a project.  It’s also well known that cast or crewmembers sometimes take on a project for the money and other times for artistic reasons.

I readily admit that the path of my career has been lead by artistic reasons.  In my long-term jobs (i.e. company positions), I look at the needs of the department and determine if my skills will help fill in those gaps.  And when I take those jobs, I hope that I can also push the department further than they ever thought possible.  When those goals have been reached, I then look for more goals.  Sometimes, however, the company decides they aren’t ready to progress anymore, for whatever reason.  It’s then that I start to feel like I’m working.  Days feel longer, workmates become obstructions, and bosses appear lazy.  And for the most part these are all over-exaggerations of the truth, but it’s how I feel when I’m not being challenged.  This is also the time when I feel like my time with the company has reached its pinnacle.  And sometimes I stay longer than I should in hopes that things will improve.  And sometimes I stay because I want one more paycheck.  And that’s the last of it for me, when I know I’m sticking around for the money.

When I leave a job I’m always left with the feeling of a man without purpose.  A hollow tree, leafless and with dying roots.  Finding that reason to grow and smile again can be more challenging than even someone like me can handle.  And so on Wednesday, I found myself looking for hotels and travel tickets to San Diego where the 2011 Comic-Con was taking place.  And Wednesday evening I started to feel something I hadn’t felt in months: excitement.  But the trip didn’t come without its own challenges.

Gotta Get Up, Gotta Get Out

Thursday morning came and I woke up with a smile.  Knowing that at 7:20AM my train from Los Angeles to San Diego would be pulling away from the station.  I got up from bed and did my usual morning routines and as I exited the bathroom I looked at the clock, which read 6:35.  I grinned until I remembered that I wanted to leave by 6 to have enough time to drive to the station, park at the overnight lot, print my ticket at the station’s kiosk, and casually walk to the train.  Apparently I set my alarm for 5:30 instead of 4:30.  Oops.  As I rushed to dress and head out the door, I kept repeating to myself that leaving by 6 was more time than I actually needed and that the drive to the station was only 20 minutes away.  I thought, “I’m still good, I’m still good.”  As it turned out, the drive took 30 plus minutes because every slow driver decided to get on the far left lane.

I got to the station at 7:05 but the overnight parking lot was not marked properly and took me another 7 minutes to find it and park.  I hauled ass to the long hallway.  Midway I asked an employee where the kiosk was because if there was a closer one, it was nowhere in sight.  She pointed me to the end of the hallway.  I ran to the end (past Track 1) and got in line to ask where the nearest kiosk was.  Fortunately the man in front of me had a later train and let me get ahead of him in line (thanks dude!).  I told the lady at the booth that my train was at 7:20 and could use some help.  Well, she didn’t disappoint.  She not only pointed to where it was but also jogged me over and did all the button pushing and sent me on my way with a good luck (thanks lady!).

I ran all the way back to Track 12; I have asthma, by the way, and was already past my limit. It was 7:17 the last time I checked the time.  Midway through that hallway my breath gave out and I couldn’t run anymore.  I kept walking as briskly as I could but in my mind I was already convinced that I missed my train.  I ran up another long hallway, this time with an incline. I get to the top of the incline and wave like a madman to one of the conductors.  He waved to me as if he was saying, “Yeah-yeah, Idiot.  You’re gonna make it so stop waving.  Just hurry up.”  I hopped on the train and found a seat.  I checked my phone for the time and it read: 7:19.  The train didn’t wait any longer than 7:20 before is it started to pull away. Whew.

As I was trying to catch my breath to stop wheezing, a little girl in the next seat asked in the most innocent of voices, “Are you going to Comic-Con too?”  And just like that, all my frustration and anxiety washed away.  I grinned and said yes.  I was back in my happy place and my original excitement for the convention returned (thanks little girl!).

Exactly What Is Comic-Con?


Okay…I got to San Diego and found my hotel and headed to Comic-Con 2011!  Having never been there, I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t even know what to do.  I learned very quickly that there are two main parts to this convention: the show floor which is basically a collector’s paradise where new and vintage comics, graphic novels, collector toys and the like could be bought.  And like most trade shows, main companies like Hasbro, Marvel, etc. had areas displaying their latest video games, toys or gadgets.  This was less intriguing to me since I’m not a gamer nor a collector.  But I did, however, enjoy the displays and crazy costumed fans walking around.  My favorite was this cute brunette with a cavewoman outfit, but we don't need to get into that.

Show floor at Comic-Con 2011
After walking around this massive area for more than an hour, I decided to finally look at the program that I received with my badge.  There was so much more to be discovered.  Workshops and discussions were spread throughout the day.  Some covered specific topics like voice acting and how to get into the business.  Others showcased up-coming projects with some of the cast and crew present to take questions from the audience.  This was more up my alley.  

My first day, I visited various workshops and ended in Hall H, which is apparently famous for having previews of the biggest films yet to be released.  The area itself is amazingly huge.  It was always busy and yet never full. And this is where I recommend any film lover to plant themselves.  Both Friday and Saturday were spent in Hall H from morning to evening. I remember as I walked into Hall H on Friday, my eyes widened when I looked at the screen and saw Steven Spielberg.  A few moments later Peter Jackson joined him to discuss their new upcoming film, The Adventures of Tintin.  And by the way, pretty much every film I'm about to mention had incredible previews and promising results so keep an eye out for these projects.

The day followed with incredible previews and Q&A sessions with Edgar Wright (producer of Attack The Block), Colin Farrel (star of remake Fright Night), Aziz Ansari and Nick Swardson (co-stars of 30 Minutes Or Less) and Marc Webb, Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield and Rhys Ifans (director and stars of The Amazing Spiderman).  Aziz and his cast mates were especially entertaining during their Q&A sessions. If you can find a Youtube video of that session, I highly recommend watching it.

Saturday, Hall H had several fun projects to preview including Twixt (directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Val Kilmer), which is an interesting concept and conceivably a disaster waiting to happen.  Basically, Coppola's idea is to mimic the days of symphonies when a conductor would change the music's composition on a whim depending on the audience's reaction.  Using technology, Coppola wants to do an exercise going to various locations to present Twixt as a re-editable film - changing the scenes to fit an audience's taste as it is being played.

Francis Ford Coppola at Comic-Con 2011
Val Kilmer at Comic-Con 2011
I was more interested in the next film, The Immortals, directed by Tarsem Singh, who also directed The Fall (which was covered in a previous article here on 2FL).  The Immortals sees gods and men fighting side-by-side against the titans.  It's the first time gods have been depicted as young and as fighters.  It's also one of the most visually stunning previews I saw at Comic-Con.

It was then followed by a preview for Knights of Badassdom (directed by Joe Lynch and stars Peter Dinklage and Summer Glau).  The film follows a group who participate in a LARPing (Live Action Role Players) event.  Things turn bad when a magic spell goes wrong...or right depending on your point of view.

The best part of my Comic-Con experience was the energy for all these projects.  Even the films that I had no interest in had a certain excitement because of how sincerely thrilled the cast and crew came across.  The crowd was a huge element to that energy.  If there’s one thing I would say about the attendees is their holds no bar honesty.  Some may even say they're brutally honest.  If they don’t like something they make sure you hear it.  But on the other hand, if they love something, you’re going to hear it three times as loud.  This excitement is great for filmmakers anywhere young and old. 

The person that stood out the most for me was Tarsem Singh.  He is known for being extremely visual and the topic kept coming back to his style and his imagination.  It is this that made me realize what I need to do if I want to gain attention as a director.  I have ideas galore but none of my visual style has ever been explored in previous projects.  The energy and focus I lacked was now fulfilled.  The next step is a plan of action.  But finding that spark was just one of the reasons I wanted to visit Comic-Con. 

Film preview and Q&A session with Tarsem Singh, director of The Immortals
My True Reason For Visiting Comic-Con 2011

Another reason and really the main reason I visited Comic-Con, however, was much more personal.  In 2005, I left Wisconsin to move to Austin, Texas.  A week or two before I left, my close friend and former college schoolmate, Raz came to visit.  I remember that final hug before he drove back to Chicago where he lived.  In 2010, I moved to Los Angeles and even though it moved me further away from the mid-west, it brought me closer to my Chicago buddy.  Raz has been a Comic-Con attendee for several years and this year he had a booth in the Artist's Gallery section of the show floor.  Raz illustrated my children’s book Luna (www.jav-rivera.com), and has since gone on to establish an incredible style and prove to many that he’s a phenomenal artist waiting to be discovered.

Raz Ortiz and his first collection of drawings entitled "Drawn Amuck!"
Raz Ortiz's table at Comic-Con 2011
Comic-Con was a great trip for me but the highlight and the true spark I needed was in the arms of my dear friend Raz.  Seeing him surrounded by other artists at a world famous convention was inspiring.  Not only was it nice to hang out with him and have dinner with his friends and work colleagues but it was also a great motivational experience.  As I laughed with him like we used to back in our college days, I thought about how easy things can be if you can just laugh.  And to him I thank endlessly for reminding me that despite almost missing a train or getting frustrated by a job, the true reason to smile is a good friend.

If you would like to view Raz Ortiz’s work (and you should), visit www.razillustration.com

2011/07/18

Jude Cole: I Don’t Know Why He Acts That Way

By Jav Rivera

I distinctly remember driving home from work when I heard “Worlds Apart” on the radio.  It had a catchy acoustic guitar and incredible vocal harmonies.  It was on the verge of sounding more like music for grownups but from someone with young blood.  I later found out the song was from singer, songwriter and guitarist Jude Cole’s album, “Start The Car.”  It was around 1994 and I must have been about 18 years old.  I was surprised when I found out that the album had been released two years prior.  I thought, “Why wasn’t Jude Cole a huge name by now?”

"Start The Car" album released in 1992
Having stopped using the radio as a means of discovering new music since Junior High, I suppose I had lost touch with popular music.  And I suppose Jude Cole wasn’t what the majority of the public was used to hearing, especially with the increasing popularity of grunge music and gangsta rap.


Jude Cole began releasing his solo albums in the late 1980s starting with his self-titled album.  In 1990, he released “A View from 3rd Street” which garnered his biggest hit “Baby, It’s Tonight.” It also contained two of my favorite Jude Cole tracks, “Prove Me Wrong” and “Heart Of Blues.”

"A View from 3rd Street" album released in 1990
1992’s “Start The Car” was the follow up album and contained my personal favorites, “Worlds Apart,” “Right There Now,” and “First Your Money (Then Your Clothes)” all of which are uniquely Jude Cole.  The entire album is solid and showcased Cole on the verge of perfecting his sound of blues-influenced pop music. 

In 1995, he released his best record to date (in my opinion) entitled “I Don’t Know Why I Act This Way.”  It is on this album where he began to experiment with his already established sound and venture into new territory.  Tracks like “Lowlife,” “Move If You’re Going,” and “Joe” are examples of hiding dark lyrics behind pop-friendly music.

"I Don't Know Why I Act This Way" album released in 1995
The track "Joe," a song based on a war veteran, was famous for using his close friend Kiefer Sutherland to read the lyrics while Cole sings. 


Jude Cole has collaborated with several other musicians including Sammy Llanas (of The BoDeans, who appeared on albums “Start The Car” and “I Don’t Know Why I Act This Way”), Randy Newman (as the score’s guitarist for the film “Maverick”), and James Newton Howard (as the score’s guitarist for the film “Grand Canyon”).  He also appears on albums from Beth Orton, Jewel, Ted Nugent, and Travis Tritt.

In 2000, Jude Cole released his latest album entitled “Falling Home.”  The album sees Cole go back to his pop-rock roots with tracks like, “I Won’t Bleed,” “Raining On The Moon,” and “Inhale.” 

"Falling Home" album released in 2000
Cole is also known for his lovely ballads, which can be found, on all of his albums.  Some of his best include, “Any Dark Day,” “You Make It Easy,” “Believe In You,” “Take The Reins,” and “Open Road.”

Jude Cole hasn’t released an album in over 11 years and no information can be found about whether or not he’s retired.  He did, however, co-found the Ironworks Music record label with Kiefer Sutherland.  He also manages the band Lifehouse and has co-written music with them.

It’s been 17 years since I first heard Jude Cole on the car radio and I know I’ll be enjoying his music for decades to come.  I can only hope that some of that music will be from new releases.  Jude Cole, why do you have to act that way?  Come back!

For more information on Jude Cole visit www.judecole.com or www.ironworksmusic.com. Most of his music can be downloaded on iTunes here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/jude-cole/id500214

TRIVIA: In 2005, Cole hosted segments for the entertainment television program Extra.

2011/07/10

Pushing Daisies

by Jav Rivera

Come for the pie - stay for the characters!  For two seasons Pushing Daisies was one of the most visually stunning television series on the air.  Watching it again on Bluray, the show is even more compelling.


The handsome and talented Lee Pace stars as Ned "The Pie Maker," owner of the best pie joint in town, The Pie Hole.  Since he was a child, Ned was granted the gift (or curse) of the touch of life & death.  After he finds his childhood love, Chuck (Anna Friel), in a coffin after being murdered he uses his gift to bring her back to life.  But as he discovered as a child, touching her again would kill her permanently.  That, of course, leads to an unusual relationship, much like Ned's relationship with Digby (played by Orbit and Orion), his childhood dog who he brought back to life after a car accident.  (For the full rules of Ned's gift visit: http://pushing-daisies.wikia.com/wiki/Rules).

Anna Friel and Lee Pace
Pace and Friel are in great company with one of the best ensemble casts since NBC's television series, Cheers.  Ned is convinced by detective Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) to use his gift to help him solve murder cases.  Meanwhile, Chuck must hide from her aunts Lily (Swoosie Kurtz) and Vivian (Ellen Greene) who still think their niece was murdered.  Telling them the truth would put Ned in an awkward situation since he fears of being ostracized for his gift.  Kristin Chenoweth rounds out the cast as Olive Snook, Ned's nosey waitress who's obsessively in love with him.


But it's not just the main cast who make this series work.  From narrator Jim Dale to Field Cate as young Ned to Sy Richardson as the Coroner, each actor involved adds so much to every episode.

Orbit or Orion, McBride, Pace, Friel, Kurtz, Greene, and Chenoweth
This has to be one of the best examples of what TV should and essentially could be if you stray from standard formats.  Creator Bryan Fuller and his team made bold choices by developing flawed characters, unusual mysteries, amazing costume design, and incredible art direction.  The visuals are an obvious standout but leave it to Fuller not focus entirely on special effects and set design. Instead, he shows the value of great characters and character development through intriguing stories.

McBride, Friel, and Pace undercover
Despite the talent behind the series, the show doesn't take itself too seriously.  The added element of quirky humor and hilarious references (see image above) make the show that much more fun to watch.  Of course, all this work to create such a unique show cost too much for ABC to continue the multi-award nominated and winning series (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0925266/awards).  It's a poor excuse to lose such a great series but understandable in a business frame of mind.

Pushing Daisies can be found on Bluray and DVD, however, it's recommended to buy (or rent) the Bluray version for the benefit of all that eye candy scenery.  For more information on the series visit their IMDB page: www.imdb.com/title/tt0925266

TRIVIA:  For most of the series, Ned wore a pair of black Converse Chucks. His love interest is, of course, Charlotte 'Chuck' Charles, who has worn a red pair, as well as a green pair, in other episodes. 

2011/07/04

The Ethereal "Icebook"

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by children every day and am kept close to pure, unrestricted imagination, but I’m always drawn to art that has quirky, even magical qualities. Luckily, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by some grown-ups who are generous with their wonderful imaginations too, and often share the captivating art that they create or find. It was through this sharing that I was introduced to the Icebook, a stunning miniature pop-up book theater created by husband and wife team Davy and Kristin McGuire.



Davy dreamed of creating a live performance with scenery that would mimic a giant pop-up book, so he and Kristin went about designing a book-size demo model that they could show to prospective investors or anyone else interested in furthering their live theater idea. Not having created anything like the demo model before, they went through a long process of trial and much error. Kristin experimented with making the pop-up images, and after holding one up to a lamp one day and seeing the effect the light and shadows had on it, the current Icebook project took shape. While Kristin continued to cut out and sometimes draw the paper backgrounds herself, Davy focused on the projection aspects. Using themselves as actors against a rudimentary green screen, these images, along with film footage that is back-projected, were meticulously pieced together to create the charming animation in the film.



Compositing - The Ice Book from Davy and Kristin McGuire on Vimeo.


The result is an enchanting miniature show that has been showcased in Ireland, England, and Holland. It will be in Scotland next year, and is available for screenings at other events as well. Visit the Icebook website at http://www.theicebook.com/Home.html to read much more about the fascinating process behind this project.