The Chronological Spielberg: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

et I don’t think there’s a person my age who doesn’t have some pretty strong feelings about E.T. I was born the year after this movie came out, so it always existed in my brain. Back in my day movies tended to live on in my mind morso because of regular viewings on cable instead of tape rentals. But, I do have two very distinct memories of watching this movie. The first time, I was pretty young, maybe five or six, possibly seven. It was one of the few childhood Christmases I remember where my aunt, uncle and cousins who lived in Indianapolis all came and stayed at our house. Grandma also came in from Cleveland, so her whole family was in one house. That might have been the Christmas I got my Nintendo, but I know that we all sat down together, dimmed the lights and watched E.T. on VHS. That’s a great memory that still lives on in my mind.

The other important viewing of E.T. came in 2002 when the film was re-released to theaters with some extra scenes and all the guns edited out. I was 18 or 19 at the time and had been dating my future wife since early November of 2001, but since neither of us had a car or much money, we tended to just hang out around campus or maybe go out for some coffee. Eventually we decided that we should probably go out an official date, so we hit up one of the local Mexican places, caught the movie at the local, privately owned movie theater and got coffee at The Mean Bean. It was a wonderful date and I think we both really enjoyed watching the movie again.

Even with those two very fond memories, E.T. isn’t the kind of movie I purposefully revisited on a regular basis. I’d see bits and pieces of it on TV and I bought the DVD release of the 20th Anniversary when it came out, but I don’t believe I’ve seen that movie again since that 2002 viewing. The film lives in my brain in a weird, incomplete space where I have pretty solid memories of E.T. appearing, the frog scene and the bike stuff leading up to the end, but not all the doctor and sciencey stuff. I think it bums me out, so I forget it.

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the deal with the movie if you’re unfamiliar or don’t remember too much. The film opens with a spaceship landing in the forest. We don’t know why they’re there, but they seem to just be looking around and taking samples. Some folks show up and scare the aliens away, but one of their own gets left behind. That alien, eventually dubbed E.T., finds his way to a house inhabited by Elliot, his older brother Michael, his younger sister Gertie and his recently divorced/separated mother Mary. Elliot and E.T. form a bond as the two become good friends and also form an empathic bond. We soon discover that E.T.’s not doing so great and wants to contact his people, so Elliot, Michael and their friends do what they can to save their new, weird friend.

The beauty of the film is its emotional heart. Every member of Elliot’s family has an emotional center that seems related to the others, but different. Mary loves her children, but also has a broken heart from her husband’s leaving with another woman. Michael is the only one who understands this and wants to protect her. He actually speaks a line that’s kind of the heartstone of the film early on to Elliot when he says something like, “Why don’t you grow up and start thinking of other people for a change,” to Elliot. Gertie does this in a more child-like fashion while Elliot’s entire arc revolves around the idea. That’s really what this film is about: empathy in all forms.

On a quick side note, I just realized something really great about this movie: the older brother isn’t a total jerk. Isn’t that how most of these 80s movies go? There’s always a jerky older brother who gives his brother crap and the two don’t even seen to be related. I don’t have any siblings and I understand that they don’t always get along, but it seems like, especially in movies like these from this time period, that dynamic was never more complicated than “the older brother’s a jerk.” Michael has a lot of depth and it shows in the film. I love the part where he’s so excited to hear about E.T. being okay that he jumps up in excitement and bangs his head on the ceiling. That’s a great bit.

And the movie is jam packed with great bits. I was especially blown away by the first 10 to 15 minutes of this movie which all seemed like a big homage to Spielberg’s previous hits. Of course you start off with a spaceship (Close Encounters Of The Third Kind) that leads into the shadowy introduction of the film’s hero (Raiders Of The Lost Ark) and also something of a chase scene where you don’t really get a good look at the pursuers (Jaws). In fact, I didn’t realize this until I was looking through the film’s IMDb Trivia Page, but you don’t really see an adult’s face aside from Mary’s until the scientists show up. And guess who the villains are? Yup, adults. Spielberg might have stumbled upon the idea of keeping the shark hidden in Jaws because of technical difficulties, but he took that idea and used it in his other films.

Speaking of film connections, E.T. is a really interesting companion piece to Close Encounters because of the similarity of content but looked at from different angles. They’re both about people dealing with the reality of aliens but in very different ways. While Richard Dreyfuss’ Roy practically loses his sanity trying to get to the aliens, which doesn’t happen until the end of the film, Elliot finds his right away and goes from there. Another interesting bit of info I came upon while reading the Trivia page is that E.T. started as more of a horror movie where a family is terrorized by alien creatures. He went the nicer route and wound up using the nefarious elements for Poltergeist which he produced for Tobe Hooper to direct, but the two movies kind of work together as different sides of the same coin. Maybe I’ll give that movie another watch and see how they compare while E.T.‘s still in mind.

Aside from that, I’m going to do my best to get to the next Spielberg film in a more timely fashion. I’m going to watch at least Spielberg’s part of The Twilight Zone movie which I don’t always enjoy watching because I’m constantly comparing every frame to the original episodes in my brain. From there it’s on to my personal favorite Indiana Jones movie, Temple Of Doom. After that, I think I’m going to hit up the two episodes of Amazing Stories that he directed (“Ghost Train” and “The Mission”) before moving on to two movies I’ve never seen: The Color Purple and Empire Of The Sun. Should be a fun ride!

Casting Internets

Last Sunday I went down to Toy Fair and covered the show for CBR. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Anyway, you can click this link and read all the coverage I wrote.

I think DC was shortsighted and foolish for hiring homophobe Orson Scott Card to write a Superman story. I think it’s fantastic that people are standing up against it, people like my pal Brett White and Patrick over at Geeks Out. The comments that I read on the page made me sad for humanity.

My pal Sean T. Collins was featured over on a site called The Setup which features creative folks talking about what kind of place they do their work in and with what equipment.

Speaking of Sean, our mutual friend Ben Morse interviewed him about Gossip Girl over on The Cool Kids Table. I have no idea what any of it means, but it’s interesting.

 

I’ve written about my unabashed love of Fall Out Boy, so I’m pretty excited to hear they’re back together. Better yet, they’ve got a new album coming out on May 7th called Save Rock And Roll. As if all that wasn’t good enough, the first single “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” is damn catchy. (via Rolling Stone)

 

I think the Young Justice freak-out is a little premature (I’m guessing Cartoon Network just wants to keep DC Nation to an hour) but I’m also pretty excited about Young Justice: Legacy” a video game set in continuity and written by the show’s creators. I’m not a big RPG guy but I think I can get into this if it’s like that PS2 Justice League game or the X-Men ones that were good for a while.  (via CBR)

Whoooa. Charles Band cleaned out his warehouse and found a ton of vintage Wizard Video clamshell cases and Atari game boxes. They’re selling four a month for the foreseeable future, but for $50 each! Yowza.

I used to watch Dragonball Z after school and have a box of DVDs from the old Anime Insider library after that magazine was shut down, so I was pretty interested in reading about the first new DBZ movie in 17 years heading to IMAX theaters on SuperHeroHype.

Diablo Cody’s films don’t really speak to me personally, but I like reading her interviews like this THR one about directing while also pregnant and being a mom to a 1 year old. Sounds exhausting.

Walter Hill talked to Hero Complex about making Bullet To The Head with Sylvester Stallone and a potential Warriors remake, so it’s a must read for me and mine.

Charles P. Pierece’s Esquire piece about how a religious faction somehow overtook a major political party is instigating and insightful.

After just watching Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, I’m pretty excited for any Scott Adkins movie, especially one co-starring Randy Couture who has proven to be a ton of fun to watch in the Expendables movies. The story sounds pretty heavy, but we’ll see how it works out. (via THR)

Nick Kroll and Bill Burr are going to guest on New Girl as Nick’s family members? Holy nuts, that’s amazing. The episode will be amazing, the outtakes will be fan-friggin-tastic. (via THR)

Mark Neveldine of Neveldine & Taylor fame is doing a solo flick called The Vatican Tapes, I’m pretty excited about this. (via Variety)

 

Feeling a little violent? Want to watch pixelated carnage? Then dig this video of Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion going yard on the first level of the original Double Dragon! (via Topless Robot)

500days of summer glen brogan

I’m having trouble focusing after checking out Glen Brogan‘s (500) Days of Summer piece for an upcoming art show. It’s pretty erect.

I’ve become a huge fan of the Black Keys in the past few years, both their music and the guys themselves. I love drummer Patrick Carney’s attitude towards this whole fame thing, including his recent dust-up with Justin Bieber’s fans on Twitter. Laughed out loud at the one about the Keys being a one hit wonder and Bieber being around a long time. (via Rolling Stone)

I feel the same way about The Real World that Andrew Seigel does. Read her Vulture piece to see how alike we are!

 

I’ve always thought of Eric Clapton as a professor of guitar (partly because he reminds me of my friend’s prof dad), so listening to him talk about his history with a Gibson guitar is right up my alley. (via Rolling Stone)

Over the past few years I’ve become a big fan of digital media, but my one complaint is the lack of a secondary market for things I no longer want/need. As such, I’m interested to see what Amazon does with this patent for re-selling digital content. (via THR)

Ron Marz‘s comparison of binge TV viewing on Netflix and the comic book market makes me wish more than ever that there was a Netflix for digital comics.

After reading Please Kill Me and becoming a fan of Legs McNeil, I’m very interested in reading the entries on his list of the ten best rock books of all time.

Remembering OverPower

overpower card backI’ve had OverPower on the brain lately and it’s all my friend Brett White’s fault. He started tweeting about the collectible card game that launched in the mid 90s and I’ve been reminiscing ever since. Back when the game launched in 1996 I was 13 and super into comic books. My aunt did PR work for one of the malls in Toledo and told me about a comic book, card and collectible show that was going on in the aisles of the mall. My parents drove me out and after buying a few random Image books — Shaman’s Tears #1 and a Shadowhawk comic both caught my eye because of their shiny foil covers — I was shocked to find something, something I had never seen or heard of before: a deck of OverPower cards.

At this point in my life I wasn’t into CCGs, but my friends were. They were all in Boy Scouts at the time and the older kids introduced them to Magic. At that time it seems like just about everyone was getting in on the CCG racket, which probably explains OverPower’s existence in the first place. I don’t remember off the top of my head which deck I found, but it was cheap and I might have actually picked up two of them. I took them in to school and showed them to my friend Geof who was one of the guys into Magic. He was the closest thing I had to a friend who liked comics, having a subscription to a Superman comic or two if memory serves (he would go on to accompany me on my nearly weekly trips to the comic store in high school because I gave him a ride home). Soon enough our other friends were getting in the cards and we started trading and whatnot.

Here’s the strange thing, though: OverPower cards actually became pretty popular among the guys in my class for a few months. The more popular kids (I’m sure it’s shocking to learn that I wasn’t necessarily in the cool group) started buying up decks and booster packs. I should note here that I don’t know much any of us actually played the game. Geof and I faced off quite a bit, but I don’t really remember playing with anyone else. There was even something of a racket going on with a few of the more enterprising kids happening upon what were considered really good or valuable cards and selling them to the highest bidder among the more obsessed of us. I remember Wolverine being a good card and some kid getting $10 or $20 for it.

The first few series’ were all focused on Marvel characters, but I got really excited a few years down the line when it was announced that DC was getting in on the action. I bought those cards up like crazy. One of my favorite parts of collecting OverPower cards — along with pretty much all the comic based cards I collected over the years — was checking out all the cool artwork. I’ve been looking around online to see if I can get a good deal on some cheap unopened boxes (no luck so far) and have been riding all kinds of nostalgia waves seeing these cards. It’s wild, I remember even some of the much later cards.

overpower Booster BoxEventually, I realized that buying cards wasn’t the best use of my money, though and the OverPower cards went the way of my sport and non-sport card collections: boxes in my parents’ basement where they sit to this day. I need that money for important stuff. No, not dating, I had more comics to buy!

To bring things back around full circle, Brett White and his co-host Matt Little bought their own unopened box of OverPower cards and did an unboxing for an upcoming episode of their excellent podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics. I’m excited for the episode, it should bring back even more memories.

Here’s a few final, random thoughts. First, I asked my parents to bring out my boxes of OverPower cards when they come to visit this weekend. There are three of them! Second, I realize now that I really should have raided the InQuest library for OverPower cards after the magazine folded and all that stuff went up for grabs. And three, I have no idea how the rights would work for something like this, but I’m all for an OverPower app. I know they have them for other CCGs. Someone make this happen!

Christmas Stories: 12 Of My Favorite Christmas Records Of All Time

It doesn’t feel completely accurate to say that my wife and I like Christmas music. We freaking love it. We both come from homes that celebrated old school classics as well as newer material. As a result we have a pretty solid and impressive collection of Christmas music. In fact, we actually have an iPod dedicated specifically to Christmas music. When my wife got a new iPod, we took her old mini (which very appropriately is green), cleared out all the old stuff and loaded it up with holiday tunes. As soon as Thanksgiving’s over, we pop that bad boy on and dig those tunes until Christmas. I figured it would be a good time to lay down a list of some of my favorite records to listen to around this time. Hit the jump to dig these crazy tunes. Continue reading Christmas Stories: 12 Of My Favorite Christmas Records Of All Time

Casting Internets

I’m still insanely behind on my link reading, but I figured I’d get these particular ones from the past month or so out there for all to read…and to unload a bit.

My pal Rob Bricken left ToplessRobot.com for io9.com. I will definitely miss coming up with crazy lists and writing them for him. Onwards and upwards good sir!

Speaking of Topless Robot, I wrote a few lists for them recently. This one’s about the craziest mini-monsters in horror, this one’s about Green Lanterns we want to see on the delayed Green Lantern Animated Series and this one’s about evil monkeys.

Speaking of me writing stuff, in addition to my usual CBR duties covering Image and doing daily posts for Spinoff Online, I also launched a collecting column over on CBR called Toying Around, I’m pretty psyched about it, here’s the latest one.

While on the subject of things seen on CBR, I was really excited to hear about IDW reprinting Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents material. Everything that guy did should be in trade format if you ask me.

Would it be awesome to have Robert Plant’s level of talent where you just go over to a friend’s house and make a record without really meaning to? (via Rolling Stone)ironmenvs-hulkI would very much like to see Ulises Farinas draw all the comics, much like he draw all these Iron Man armors going up against the Hulk.

I know it’s well past the election, but I finally caught up on a few political pieces I really found interesting. First off, director Adam McKay’s HuffPo piece pointed out to everyone that, even though he wasn’t outright saying it, Romney’s politics are almost exactly the same as George W. Bush’s.

I also found Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone piece on the big/small government argument is essentially moot considering how huge Bush made the government when he was in power. When will people start actually listening to facts? tyler stout mondo reservoir dogsMan, Tyler Stout’s Reservoir Dogs poster for Mondo is pretty amazing.

The HMAD review of Don Coscarelli’s John Dies At The End makes me really excited about seeing that flick.

John Carpenter talked to Hero Complex about They Live! What an awesome movie.

One of my favorite parts of the year is when Tom and Lorenzo do commentary about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Here’s part 1 and part 2. Fun stuff.

Elmore Leonard did the Proust Questionnaire over at Vanity Fair. That guy is so damn cool.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never actually read anything by Harlan Ellison, but I will read his new DC graphic novel with the amazing Paul Chadwick called 7 Against Chaos (via Blastr)

I liked this Hero Complex piece about Adventure Time, then again, I like pretty much anything having to do with that wonderfully weird show.

Some idiots want to secede my hometown of Toledo back to Michigan. What a great use of one’s time. (via The Detroit News)

I like the idea of a new Kurt Cobain documentary, though less so when I find out Courtney Love’s partially involved. I don’t trust that lady. (via Rolling Stone)

Ron Marz’s Shelf Life column over on CBR focused on his days at CrossGen which actually sound a lot like my days at Wizard: a lot of people from all over the place coming together and doing some great work. He wrote a second CG-centric post that I have yet to read, but am excited to.

On Voting And Whatnot

I did not vote in the previous presidential election. In the past I had voted for George W. Bush and considered myself a socially liberal conservative (or, as I often say, I’m socially liberal, but financially conservative). I liked JOhn McCain, but his choice of running mate spoke highly of his decision making abilities in a negative way and I was concerned about Barack Obama’s lack of experience. To be honest, I also thought people were just voting for him because they thought he was cool. When it came time to vote I just couldn’t make up my mind (and also wasn’t registered in this state after moving here from Ohio, for what it’s worth). I didn’t want to use my ignorance as an excuse to vote for the wrong guy and thus sat that one out. Some people think this is a travesty. “You must vote, it’s your right as an American!” And that’s true, at least the second half, but I don’t think enough people really contemplate their candidate’s positions on the issues. These choices have meaning and should not be taken lightly. Hit the jump to read the full post or just hold off and wait til I start writing about toys, comics and movies again. You won’t have to wait long, I promise. Continue reading On Voting And Whatnot

Ambitious Reading List: The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake By Aimee Bender (2010)

Well, I finally quit trying to read Devil In The White City. I probably should have stuck with it and charged through, but there was just something about that book that didn’t hook me into coming back for more. I liked what I read, but I kept thinking about finishing this Ambitious Reading List and even starting the next one and just couldn’t sync with it. So, I put it to the side, knowing I’ll return to it some day, and then moved onto Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake, a book I really loved by an author I have a little bit of experience with. You know what that means, story time!

When I was in college at Ohio Wesleyan University, I was part of the English board (or whatever it was called). I think I got involved because my creative writing professor, Robert Olmstead, asked me if I’d be interested so I went with it. I don’t know if it was an election or what, but there I was. We had various authors come to OWU, do readings and sometimes even sit in on our workshop classes. Aimee Bender was one of those authors. For whatever reason Professor Olmstead asked me to write and do an introduction for her, which made me nervous because I get all kinds of anxious when I have to speak in front of a crowd, even if it’s just a handful of my fellow classmates. Anyway, I did my research (I think this was pre-Wikipedia, so I had to go to more than one website), gave the intro and Bender said it was one of the best ones she’d ever heard. I don’t know if she was just being nice, but it was nice and I appreciated it.

I can’t remember if we read any of Bender’s work for my workshop class or if I just listened pretty well during her reading, but I was drawn to her style. It’s very introspective and colorful and usually involves some fantastical elements inserted into normal life (at least the two novels of hers that I read). At the time it was also really inspiring because I felt like I was working towards a style similar to hers. A few years back I finally read her first novel, An Invisible Sign Of My Own, which I remember liking, but don’t remember many details of. Back when all the Borders closed down, I was at one and happened to see her latest novel The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake and had to buy it. Man, I’m glad I did. I had a wonderful experience reading this book.

The idea here is that, a young girl named Rose realizes she has the ability to taste the feelings of people making her food, but it’s really more about Rose, how she deals with this ability while also growing up the world AND dealing with her normal-on-the-surface-but-not-really family. See, Rose’s dad wanted a normal family, likes lists and wants everything simple and normal, but that’s not how life really is, especially the lives of the people in his house. Rose’s mom has this deep longing to find herself and deflects many of those feelings by loving her children intensely. Meanwhile, Rose’s brother is pretty shut off from the world, burying himself in books and science, but also has something odd going on that I won’t spoil, but turns out to be pretty crazy.

The book also deals with normal things like growing to understand the adult world, first loves gone bad and the responsibility many children feel to their parents. The beauty of Bender’s writing is that she can so seamlessly infuse these normal, relateable human moments with some pretty crazy elements. Being a comic book fan, I think I might have been a little more primed for this kind of book which shares a basic premise with John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew. I’d be curious to find out if people not in that camp would be able to get into the slightly off kilter world of this book.

Reading this book was a little like looking at a series of mirrors for me. I could relate to pretty much every character in this book on a very personal level that surprised me. It might just be a matter of happenstance, that the fears, insecurities, hopes and dreams running around in my head were so well represented in this book, but it’s there. One character’s desire to just fade away, another’s desire to tackle the world, the mom’s desire to find something outside of her family that fulfills her and even Rose’s appreciation for a simple dishwashing job. All those things are bouncing around my head at any given day, so it was a pleasure to see these things on the page.

I can’t recommend Bender’s work enough. As I mentioned when I wrote about Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, there are a lot of similarities in styles between these two women. It’s funny, while reading Bones I noted that Sebold’s style reminded me of Bender’s and this time, while reading Cake, Bender reminded me of Sebold. If you’re looking for an author who looks at things from a different perspective and explains them deftly with an expert use of language and sense memory, give The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake a read.

With Bender’s book crossed off the list, I’ve now moved on to Please Kill Me and am about 150 pages into this 430 page beast. I’m learning all kinds of stuff, some pretty crazy things and keeping track of records I want to check out. What a wild time. And after that? Well, I’ve already got my next Ambitious Reading List read to roll. It’s another dozen books of all different shapes, sizes and topics. I’m pretty excited, should be fun.