Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Geek is Chic - An essay by Tony Brown

We live in a great age for being a dork, geek, nerd, weirdo, or whatever you want to title someone who is less than cool.

It's definitely a great time to acknowledge and claim your dorkiness. Be loud. Be proud. It's ok to be different and not fit in. It's obvious, as you can see from this blog that I'm an advocate of this dorkdom. But, I must warn you that these things move in cycles. By the time that you are confident enough with yourself to not hide your dorkiness, it may no longer be the case that geek is chic.

Let's take a closer look at this phenomenon.

1980s – The 80's were a good time for being a geek. Seriously, there were loads of movies about the geeks and nerds overcoming the cool kids – Revenge of the Nerds, The Karate Kid, Meatballs, The Never Ending Story - or the weird kids doing awesome stuff – Goonies, Stand By Me, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters – or the dorky guy getting the girl – Can't Buy Me Love, Loverboy, Pretty in Pink.

You also have the freaks, dorky kids, and jocks coming together in The Breakfast Club and the awesomeness of Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties, Punky Brewster, the kids in Mr. Belvedere (wow), and c'mon the Cosby family is pretty dorky.

All these movies, shows, characters are embraced and some loved and looked up to.

The 80s, though, are far from devoid of coolness – just check out popular music at the time. And, would you rather be Johnny or Daniel, Emilio Estevez or Anthony Michael Hall, Ferris Bueller or Cameron Frye? Cool is still number one, but the weird kids are getting a lot more cred.

Fast forward to the 1990's

Wow, maybe it’s the fact that I grew up in the 90s, but being cool was everything.

I would like to attribute the downfall of the dork genre of the 1980s to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. How cool where they? Shit. They were animated, lived in the sewer, and some weird anthropomorphic turtles, but they were miles cooler than me. Weapons, partying, pizza, saving the world, movies, music- they had it all.

Other coolness of the late 80s/90s – things we aspired to be like:

Kids would adorn all their possessions with New Kids on the Block pins.

Top Gun

Quentin Tarentino movies

Die Hard – just a regular cab driver, sure.

Bill and Ted – they were idiots, but that didn't matter.

Tim Burton Batman movies

And even seemingly dorky characters like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Harry and Lloyd are cool.

The best examples from the changes of the 80s geek heyday would be the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Saved by the Bell. Here the dorky characters – Carleton and Screech – are superdorks, there to be laughed and shown what not to be. You want to be like Will, Slater, and Zach. They get the girls, get the laughs, and win the games. It's pretty simple.

And I think the high point of this Coolness is also its downfall, which will also be the downfall of 2000s geek culture as you will soon see. I'm talking about Clueless. It was just too cool for normal people. Do people really act like that?

One last thing about the 90s, even movies about dorks like She's All That, are more about the dork becoming cool than the dork being cool.

On to the 2000s – I think the marked difference here is unlike the 80s when dorks and geeks were embraced and underdogs became winners, I think in the 2000s, especially at the end, it is actually cool to be a dork. Geeks are cool. Much of this has to do with new technology and ways of sharing information. You have blogs where it's not just the magazine editors and journalists sharing what is cool, what is in. You have facebook and twitter where one person's opinion is just as important as the next.

The biggest examples of the embracing and celebration of geekdom would have to be Harry Potter, Lost, and Lord of the Rings. It not only allowed, but expected that you follow these things to a level beyond dedication. It's cool to know Harry Potter's home address and the House ghost of Hufflepuff and the name of Desmond's boat and Driveshaft's hit single, and the father of Gimli and the seven sons of Feanor. We have LOTRs trivial pursuit and Harry Potter Scene it.

Another great example of how geek is now chic is Judd Apatow. Freaks and Geeks was a bit too much for people in 2000, but in the second half of the decade, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad (and Michael Cera in general) are loved.

You got movies like Napoleon Dynamite and pretty much any Wes Anderson movie

Look at TV too – full of geeks. The Office, Chuck (more of the 80s brand of geekdom), Arrested Development, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, well at least her friends, quiz shows, heck Glee, a show about a high school glee club won the Golden Globe. The whole premise of The Big Bang Theory is being dorks and being weird.

Even in music it's ok to not be cool. American Idol and youtube has a lot to do with this. Normal people like Kelly Clarkson and straight up nerds like Clay Aiken are adored by all.

It's clear that geeks and dorks and weirdos are loved and embraced. It's ok to be yourself. It's cool to be smart. It’s alright to not fit in, in fact it's cool.

But, don't get too excited fellow people lacking coolness, they trend will soon be changing. The time for geekiness will soon be on its way out. And like Clueless was the apex for the coolness of the 90s, Juno is the apex and downfall for the dorkiness of the 2000s. Lots of people loved Juno. It brought this not fitting in, being different, being a nerd to a much wider number of people. I'm not really one for thinking that once underground stuff gets exposed it is not longer relevant and loses something. I'm more thinking that Juno was just too weird for its one good. It was cute, but really, who talks like that?

It went too far, beyond being cool to being forced and dumb. People like people they identify with, which is why shows like American Idol and reality tv are so popular, but how much will be too much? Soon there will be a reaction to this geeky coolness. Watch out.

Oh, and I'm writing this because I'm going to stick out the dorky wave as long as I can and have some real dorky brackets coming up in March, not as dorky as the LOTR/Star Wars bracket, but what can be that utterly dorky?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Best Fantastic Four Covers

I'll give you a break from Lost and a break from lots of reading to present to you the Best Fantastic Four Covers.
Below you will find the best Fantastic Four covers. There are a lot below, but considering there are over 550 issues, I think this was a good amount. Criteria to make the list were coolness,
what? or wow! factor, originality, and just anything that makes it stand out over the others.
I would like you to vote for your three favorites and then I'll create a poll from your favorites to
find the best ever Fantastic Four Cover.

Fantastic Four #7 - Great inclusion of the Wanted poster here, cool how that is the readers only view of the Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four # 8 - It's clear that Jack Kirby is still figuring out the best ways to illustrate these characters, but the concepts and placements are awesome.

Fantastic Four #16 - Great Dr. Doom/FF in peril cover. I also like the magnifying glass showing us Ant-Man

Fantastic Four #61 - This may not be as epic as many FF covers, but the Sandman holding everyone is pretty dang cool.

Fantastic Four #92 - Great mingling of text, sensationalism , and art. You can feel the Thing's sadness in the poster pic and his anger in tearing it off.

Fantastic Four #112 - Thing vs Hulk on all black, -nuff said indeed

Fantastic Four #120 - This cover recalls old horror movies and old comics for that matter with its caption, but the art is a great introduction to the new herald of Galactus

Fantastic Four #191 - I really enjoy media and posters references in comic covers (see 7 and 92). This is a great example

Fantastic Four #213 - Part of a wild story arc where Ben, Sue, and Reed were hit with a Skrull aging ray at the same time fighting off The Sphinx, Galactus, and his new herald Terrax.

Fantastic Four #232 - This is the first issue of John Byrne's epic FF run (232-293) and the first of many of his covers you'll see on this countdown. Playing of the oft used idea of the FF being pawns.

Fantastic Four #249 - The caption says it all. The FF are getting dominated like never really seen before.

Fantastic Four #257 - Awesome Galactus/Death Cover here, works really well with Galactus pondering his fate and place in the galaxy in this issue.

Fantastic Four #258 - Nice "breaking the 4th wall" here by Dr. and his reflection in his glove is awesome too. (interesting mirror of 92) The Fantastic Four actually not appear in this issue at all.

Fantastic Four #262 - Nice cover with Reed on trial and a myriad of Fantastic Four friends and foes in the background.

Fantastic Four #276 - I really like the black and white cover here. The villain here is unknown, but you can see the effects she has on Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl. The best part are the eyes of the witch.

Fantastic Four #280 - Any cover with crucifixion will naturally be pretty cool. (see Uncanny X-Men 251) This is the beginning of a great story arc where we finally see the Invisible Girl change into the Invisible Woman.

Fantastic Four #395 - Pretty simple cover here, the back story is that in issue 374, Wolverine cut the Thing pretty badly with his claws.
Fantastic Four vol 3 # 26 - This is definitely a cover that will make you stop and pick it up to see what is really going on. Dr. Doom in an FF uniform with Sue looking on longingly? What?

Fantastic Four vol 3 #44 - The whole faces in the background is a comic cover convention used often, so I am more of a fan of the depiction of captured Annihilus. Great use of color, something that couldn't have been done just a few years earlier.

Fantastic Four vol 3 #67 - Bomb-ass Dr. Doom cover.

Fantastic Four #500 - Great painted cover here for the anniversary issue. Doesn't Sue like extremely like Michelle Williams from Dawson's Creek and Brokeback Mountain?
Fantastic Four #520 - Nice cover here with Johnny Storm as a herald of Galactus

There you go. Vote for your top 3!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lost: Best Episodes Season 4

Lost Season 4 was an interesting one. Due to the writer's strike, there were only 14 episodes, with 3 of them being the season finale "There's No Place Like Home". I think this season was the most all over the place, lacking consistency. I can't even really come up with any true prolonged story lines. I guess the big themes were the Oceanic Six and figuring out what was up with the boat. Despite the lack of cohesion, and maybe because of it, there were some real strong individual episodes.

New Characters: Daniel, Miles, Lapidus, Charlotte, Matthew Abaddon, Keamy


4. Episode 2- Confirmed Dead

Island: Locke and Jack's groups have now split. Jack and Kate find Daniel and Miles and Lapidus and Locke finds Charlotte.

Flashback: Flashbacks of the "Freighter Folk" – Daniel, Miles, Charlotte, Frank, Naomi

It's highly possible I like this episode because it focuses on the Island and not the Oceanic 6. I was very skeptical at first of introducing new characters to an already large character pool, but Daniel and Miles have since become two of my favorite characters. The short flashbacks were enough to give you an idea of the characters and leave you wanting to know more about them, especially Daniel, and rather quickly integrate these characters into the show.

3. Episode 7 - Ji Yeon

Island: Sun wants to go to Locke and his group because it's becoming clear that the freighter is not there to save the survivors of 815. To prevent them from leaving, Juliet tells Jin Sun had an affair.

Flashback/Flashforward: Interwoven flashforward of Sun having her baby and flashback of Jin running at errand to deliver a gift to the maternity ward for Mr. Paik

The best part of this episode is obviously the interplay between the flashback and flashforward. By this time the Oceanic Six has been relieved to be Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid and we know there are 6 of them. The flashes this season have been flashforwards, so we assume Jin and Sun made it back and Jin is rushing to get to the birth of his baby, not some random for Mr. Paik. This is a poor description-watch the ep if you can, but all of this is put together very well, and the big reveal in the end is that Jin is actually dead. Ouch.

Oh and Michael is revealed to be Ben's spy on the boat.

Episodes 12,13, 14 – There's No Place Like Home

Island: Lots – At the end of episode 12 everyone is all over the place, but then Kate, Sayid and the Others free Ben, Locke goes with Ben to move the island, the Oceanic 6 get to the boat just in time for it to blow up after Ben kills Keamy, Ben moves the island, the helicopter crashes and is picked up by Penny's boat, they decide to lie

Flashforward – The Oceanic 6 when they first get back and then When Jack wants to go back and is met by Ben at Jeremy Benthum's (Locke) casket.

Ok, lots of shit going on in this episode, much like season finales of season's 2 and 3. One of the cool things is that we already know who the Oceanic 6 are, but at the beginning of this episode, they are all in different places with different people who are not in the Oceanic 6, so you are really wondering how things work out. Things were actually tied up pretty well, with the whole island moving thing being the "What the?!!" moment that will drive the next season. I think the episode was stretched out a bit too long, especially after the island vanished.

1. Episode 5 – The Constant

Island: Sayid and Desmond got back with Lapidus to the freighter, but Desmond is going crazy

Flashback: Desmond in 1996

Many people will tell you that this is the best episode of Lost ever, and there are many elements that make it a prime candidate for that title. The flashbacks/current time are threaded together perfectly, with Desmond being "unstuck" in time. You have the Minkowski guy as sort of a narrator for what is happening to Desmond. You have a young Daniel Faraday, giving some good back story on him, but again leaving you wanting more. You have some cool stuff about time travel and time travel rules. And all this chaos is going on during the first appearance of the freighter, which is pretty dang weird itself. The best part is definitely the Desmond/Penny love story.

I love to say Lost has not exactly excelled when dealing with love and romance. Cases in point:

Season One – Whatever the Case May Be - Jack asking Kate about the toy plane, Kate: "It belonged to the man I loved. It belonged to the man I killed."

Season Two – Shannon asks Sayid why he always has a gun, Sayid: "I only carry it because I have someone to protect"

Season Three – Sawyer to Kate "You taste like strawberries"

But this time the romance is done very well. You got the 1996 meeting compared to the 2004 phone call, and the love saves Desmond. Sounds cheesy, but Penny is his Constant. It took the best parts of Flashes Before Your Eyes, Catch-22, and any other Penny/Des flashback. Brilliant.

Best Lost Season 4 Moments

Penny/Desmond phone call in The Constant , obviously

I have a soft spot in my heart for catfights (There's a chance they might….kiss) so I have to mention the Charlotte/Juliet catfight in The Other Woman

Locke, Hurley, and Sawyer playing Risk in The Shape of Things to Come when at first you think it is something serious

Sun at Jin's grave in Ji Yeon probably Sun's best scene

Jack's delivery of "You're not even related to him!" in Something Nice Back Home, I wish I had a clip for that, check that, I wish I had a phone ringer with that. Sick.

Hurley's speech about Charlie and why he's going with Locke in the season premier The Beginning of the End and then his apologizing to Jack for going with Locke

Penny and Desmond reuniting again in the season finale There's No Place Like Home, but I actually think Sayid's reuniting with Nadia was much better.

Jack: We have to lie

And what may be my favorite scene of the season, because it stands out as peaceful and calm amid all the chaos and anger and sadness, this scene from Ji Yeon with Bernard and Jin fishing. Check it out.

That's all I got for Season 4, no stock market and I'm not sure if I'll have a Season 5 review because I don't have that season on DVD.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lost Best Episodes Season 3

Lost Season 3 Best Episodes

I believe Season three was an obvious step down in quality for Lost. There was too many stories going on and lots of episodes only contained one story while totally forgetting about others. The pace was a lot different, things were just not as suspenseful. The whole being prisoners of the others was just not as entertaining as the island. I'd say like Season 2, there were two main story arcs, one at the beginning – Jack, Kate, and Sawyer being prisoners of the Others/repercussions of the hatch explosion- and one at the end – mystery parachute lady/Charlie dying/Others coming – and then in the middle character building episodes usually focusing on a single character, but unlike season 2, these episodes for the most part were pretty weak, and as you'll see by my picks for best episode, the ending arc was by far the best part of the season.

5. Episode 20 - The Man Behind the Curtain
Island: Ben takes Locke to see Jacob then shoots Locke and leaves him for dead
Flashback: Flashbacks at multiple points in Ben's life, culminating in the gassing and death of the Dharma initiative.

This episode answers a lot of questions about Ben, who by this point in the season is one of the show's main characters. This episode also raises more questions about Ben, the Others, and the Dharma Initiative. There are lots of connections to season 5 when the island goes back in time. Not too much really happens other than the flashback, but you can see Ben's hold on the Others slipping and the importance of Richard Alpert.

4. Episode 11 – Enter 77
Island – Locke, Sayid, and Kate find another Dharma station – the Flame, staffed by Mikhail and Bea (in secret). In the end, Mikhail kills Bea and is taken hostage by Locke and co. and Locke blows up the station.
Flashback: Sayid is captured by one of the people he formerly tortured.

This is the earliest episode I have on the season 3 countdown, so this shows you how much I like the whole Hydra sequence. Like almost every great Lost episodes (as seen by Seasons 3's top 2 episodes) this one contains a nice trek. Locke, Sayid, and Kate are looking for the Others in order to save Jack and stumble upon this new Dharma station. I think this is a great use of the Others, because you really don't know who Mikhail is or how much of what he is saying is true. Lots of questions are raised again, especially with Locke blowing up the place. This episode, though a little quicker than previous seasons, harkens back to the great suspense of classic Lost. You really want to know what will happen, and in this case, it happens quickly and is action packed.

3. Episode 21 – Greatest Hits
Island: Jack and Sayid make a plan to kill the Others and get off the island
Flashback: Charlie's "greatest hits"

Episodes 21-23 can really be seen as on big story and this is the beginning of it. It is setting the scene for the big action to come. This is one of the best uses of flashbacks, showing Charlie's top 5 life moments in flashback form. It is kind of corny, but works well in the end. I was never a real fan of Charlie until watching this episode, definitely the best Charlie ep.

2. Episodes 22 & 23 – Through the Looking Glass
Island: Charlie and Desmond get into The Looking glass and disable the jamming equipment. Charlie dies. Sayid, Jin, Bernard, Sawyer, and Hurley kill the Others trying to take them out. Jack leads the survivors to the radio tower and gets the phone to work. It looks like everyone is going to be saved!
Flashback/Flashforward: You think it is a flashback, but then "We have to go back!"

Lots of action, good use simultaneous stories here. The big events are Charlie dying and Jack phoning the boat. But then, before you even know that the survivors are saved, you know that things are not good back home and Jack wants to go back. Everything that happens here definitely sets up the stories in season 4. Great scenes with Ben and Jack and Charlie.

1. Episode 17 – Catch 22
Island: Desmond has a vision of Charlie dying and someone he believes to be Penny coming to the island. Desmond, Charlie, Hurley, and Jin trek into the jungle guided only by Desmond's vision
Flashback: Desmond was a monk? Is that why he says "brother" so much? Desmond meets Penny.

This one gets the nod as best episode of the season mainly because it is just one episode while Through the Looking Glass is two. So much happens in this one hour and I think it is almost perfectly crafted. It is all about the trek, which I mentioned earlier. It balances humor, fear, excitement, and suspense very well. The dramatic irony is great, as you are in the same position as the characters. It builds to Charlie not dying and the person being found in the parachute not being Penny. This really gets the ball rolling for the end of season 3 and most of season 4. The flashback, though simple, shows why it is so important for Desmond not to be a coward and to be good enough for Penny.

Season 3 Best Lost Moments
Charlie dying in Through the Looking Glass
Charlie and Desmond's boat conversation in Greatest Hits
"We have to go Back!"

Sun and Jin reuniting in the water after she jumped off the boat in Glass Ballerina – lots of emotion
The first inkling that Desmond can see the future in Further Instructions and his great fashion statement wearing Hurley's large tie dyed shirt and nothing else
Seeing the Eye Patch Guy on the camera for the first time in The Cost of Living
Hurley getting the van started in Trisha Tanaka is Dead
"The Pigs are walking" Animal Farm citing by Arzt in the Expose flashback, saying that Jack, Kate, Locke are making too many decisions for the rest of them. And one note on Expose, it was an OK episode, but I really liked it as a recap episode, reliving some of the important island moments through someone else's eyes.
Jack and Sawyer man hug it out after Jack finally comes back to the beach in One of the Them
Great syncing of the end of Catch 22 and the first meeting of Desmond and Penny in flashback
Sawyer Kill Anthony Cooper in The Brig as well as an interesting Locke/Richard Alpert conversation, which like a lot of Alpert stuff makes more sense after season 5
Shaggy, same age Richard Alpert in The Man Behind the Curtain
Sayid's leg neck break in Looking Glass
Also in the final episode Jack's not giving up the phone to Ben which he thought killed Jin, Bernard, and Sayid, and later Jack learning that those three were in fact not dead

Character Stock Market:
Desmond – moving up very quickly
Charlie – Moving up
Hurley – fat
Juliet – lots of people telling you to buy, but I would not
Jack – some ups some downs
Kate – slowly losing ground
Sawyer – moving up
Bernard – surprisingly moving up
Jin – large increase in value
Ben – man, buy even though you don't like it
Sayid – steady
Claire – don't bother