Hey folks, Harry here… and I’ve had a lot of reader mail about a recent article that Patton Oswalt wrote about “GEEK CULTURE coming to an end?” due to the lack of exclusivity and how now that anyone can be a geek if they dedicate themselves to it – thanks to the instant knowledge and accessibility to so much of “Geek” culture as Patton perceives it.
However – there’s a few things that bug me about the article. You should know that I’m very friendly with Patton, in a… we know each other, there’s history. The moment that I knew Geek culture was completely out of control, was when Patton was the voice of the star character of a PIXAR film. Geeks win.
Patton is an incredibly talented comedian – and I’m betting on certain specific areas of Geekery, he’d school my ass up and down both sides of a New York block. But, his big picture? Well, it is comedy. It makes me laugh. However, there’s a good many readers that took it completely seriously. It was if Patton had seen the lighthouse signal and rode through cyberspace screaming about the BRITISH.
But it is the end of a year, that is giving birth to the Geekiest year that I think I’ve ever even dared to imagine. But that’s not thinking long term. Let’s go back to the birth of Geek Culture.
It didn’t start with Star Wars. That’s the atomic bomb that set off the modern Geek Army that has encircled the globe. But it began with the forming of the first Science Fiction societies & fanzines were formed. It started when 17 year old Julius Schwartz and 16 year old Forrest J Ackerman got together with their friend Mort Weisinger and started publishing a Fanzine called TIME TRAVELLER. Ackerman & Schwartz were many things, but these guys were a quality and a level of Geek that very few living Geeks can rival. Right now, the greatest living Geek in my estimation is Ray Bradbury & Ray Harryhausen. If you get it, you get it, if you don’t… I’m dearly sorry.
Now throughout those men’s lives, they pushed the agenda of Geekery to the forefront of culture. Those men were geeks. Stan Lee is an astonishing geek. Get him talking about 30’s & 40’s films and you’ll spend one of the best days of your life. I know, I’ve done it. But the thing is… We live in the world these men envisioned when they read Jules Verne and H.G. Welles. When they watched the birth of UNIVERSAL STUDIOS and all the great studios – and they dared to let those film fever pitch their dreams to such a degree that they all became the founding fathers of modern Geek culture. There’s hundreds and hundreds of others. Fans that became wild hyper amazingly functional geeks that created companies like ILM, DIGITAL DOMAIN, DREAMWORKS, WETA… The folks that made modern geek film culture like Landis, Lucas, Spielberg, Carpenter, DePalma, Bogdanovich, Friedkin, Dante…. Those guys live and breathe film, cinema and pop-culture.
As I’ve gone about meeting most of the shapers of the modern geek world, I find that the latest wave of Geek Cinema innovators… Well, they all worship and love all those guys and more.
My generation… People born beginning around 1963 – 1982 (I know that’s a wide range, but people in that age range had a similar experience). We’re the crazy folks that have changed the world.
One of my best friends for talking about this specific topic. The evolution of Geek Culture is a fellow by the name of Ernie Cline. Because we both keenly had a very similar series of obsessions, he freaks out at me though, simply because my childhood was spent in the birth of modern Convention and Fan culture – as my father was one of the Original Dealers traveling the country finding Geek Treasures to sell to a burgeoning Geek Culture.
Patton bemoans the death of the culture because everything is accessible. Tell that to folks that try to collect MONDO TEES posters. Hell, I’m a geek that has a massive collection, brought on by my deep love of CITIZEN KANE and Kane’s collecting habits. I mean. Charles Foster Kane… he was a geek. Orson Welles? Man was on the cover of a SUPERMAN comic, pulled the greatest radio prank in history and was the voice of THE SHADOW?
To me, most of the GEEKS I know and hang out with are folks that like to live good. That aspire to better their lives so that they can be a better geek. That doesn’t mean that you have to be at a financial status to be a geek, but it doesn’t hurt. BUT – here I am. Self-proclaimed HEADGEEK – and what was I talking to Quint about last night?
What was I tweeting about?
I was tweeting about how I wished there was an INFRA MAN toy. I’d done a search for a couple weeks on Ebay, and was shocked that I couldn’t find something. So as I was talking to Quint, I was continuing my search for an INFRA MAN toy. I really desperately want one. Why? Well, I love INFRA MAN. Saw it in a theater in the 70s and it blew my mind. Seriously. Holy shit.
Then, once I created AICN – and Roger Ebert had me on his show as a guest host a few times, well… my fondest memory from working with Rog, was the CULT MOVIE show we did together, where we both traded geek cult cinema – and one of the picks was INFRA MAN. I honestly had a Geek spaz moment live on television. When Roger stopped telling folks about INFRA MAN, and he turned to begin the cross-talk… My hands shot up to click my wrists like INFRA MAN… and Roger’s face exploded with delight, because… well, if you love INFRA MAN… you’ll do that when someone mentions INFRA MAN.
Other than Ancient Gods, CHINESE SUPER HEROES are few and far apart. Generally, they believe in personal development that would make BATMAN kind of common day. Just look at the SHAW BROTHERS films. Anyway, INFRA MAN was the SHAW Bros’ attempt at doing the Superhero thing. The result was this sublimely brilliant crazy fucking movie that I dearly love.
Anyway, in the quiet – post Christmas tabulation of “Did I get what I want” – I suddenly had a flash in my mind of an INFRA MAN toy.. It instantly conjured childhood acting as INFRA MAN on my fortress tree house and at the exact moment, I thought of Roger’s delighted expression as I geeked out.
So that’s why I want the toy. After a bit of looking, I found this video online. You can find it yourself, if you’re good. But it was a YouTube video about one collectors 3 year quest for an INFRA MAN toy. Over the course of the video I learned that some collector contacted a company and paid them to make him the toy. They did… but they made 100 extra. So there’s only 101 INFRA MAN toys in the world. And the skull faced Viking helmet baddie? They made 101 of him too. They’re awesome toys. INFRA MAN has detachable fists!!! Awesome sauce.
OK – So as a result… At least until I attain my fucking INFRA MAN toy – Geek culture is fucking alive. NOW – there is a chance that by me using the lack of an INFRA MAN toy’s readable accessibility, could in fact inspire someone to make not just the toy… But the leather jacket in ridiculously large sizes… and an INFRA MAN motorcycle helmet – and what about all the monsters this time?
If you’re a geek that can attain anything and everything you want… You’re a bad geek. The basic spirit and fire in the belly of a geek – is a desire for that which you do not yet have. And the best geeks create the things they wish existed. That’s why I was producing a JOHN CARTER OF MARS movie with Jim Jacks. To me, it was all about showing people a type of science fiction that has never existed cinematically. For me, JOHN CARTER OF MARS could have been BEN HUR of Science Fantasy Romance genre. We wanted that kind of quality to it. That level of detail and antiquity. When it fell apart, I was not destroyed. I could never believe that I would succeed where so many far greater folks had failed. That story is a tough nut to crack… but now DISNEY is giving it a go – and I hope to God they knock it out of the fucking park.
Because, my entire life. The whole of it. I have wanted to see a JOHN CARTER OF MARS movie. Well… At least 3 days after I first saw EMPIRE STRIKES BACK the opening day… and my Dad handed me the book – and said, “THEY SHOULD MAKE THIS!” They should.
The film that Patton Oswalt is Nostradamusing into existence is actually being written right now. The film that takes everything he loves and shows it in a cohesive, kinda brilliantly conceived meta-verse… Well, that’s Ernie Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE. Donald Deline is producing. (He’s also the absurd awesome man that is producing GREEN LANTERN and YOUR HIGHNESS right now) I can’t wait for the world to read Ernie’s book… I just hope Warners gets what it is they have, and actually finances it so it can actually be what it has the potential to be. Which is a film… that like what Roger Rabbit did to an entire generation of Animation geeks… this is a story and a device that allows one to create a future geek universe that actually makes a shitload of sense.
How can I say this? Because since reading the manuscript back early this summer, several things in the script have come to pass. And they are little scary things.
GEEK CULTURE is in an amazing place.
It’s actually getting kinda scary here in Austin. The geek fervor here is just kind of amazing. The sheer number of blogs and websites that are being birthed out of here… well, it is crazy. Tim League and I blame each other for bringing so many cool events to Austin, but personally… I blame Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle, who blames my Dad in a lot of ways… But like with every scene… there’s so many contributing factors. Would we be the geeks we are, without the influence of Gilbert Shelton upon Austin? Or Jack Jaxon? What about those geeks that ran the University of Texas’ SATURDAY MORNING FILM CLUB that indoctrinated me to so many of the film fetishes that I’ve pursued to their exhaustive ends.
GEEK ANTHROPOLOGY is so much fun. To find who was programming the Paramount theater on the night that they double featured SCHLOCK THE BANANA MONSTER and the original STAR WARS… I saw SCHLOCK before I saw Monty Python’s work. But they came almost immediately next.
I was chatting with Randy Cook via Skype the other day. We became friends on THE LORD OF THE RINGS set, once I started reenacting the movements of his Stop Motion dinosaurs from Ringo Starr’s CAVEMAN. Anyway we were chatting, and his lovely little daughter was sitting at the kitchen table with him, and Randy, smiling at the camera asked her, “What were you for Halloween?” and the little girl smiled her baby toothed grin and squealed… “I was Gwangi!” - Yes, Randy Cook is raising a beautiful blonde daughter that was once GWANGI as a small girl in 2010. Geek culture is fine.
GEEK CULTURE takes care of its own. We’re a community. If you have Geek Values you cherish and wish to take root – we as a culture now have given you the power. You can throw Backyard Film Parties for your Neighborhood with a very reasonable investment.
The coolest thing about GEEK CULTURE is the sharing of it. That’s the primary lesson we take from Forrest J Ackerman’s life. The sharing of our obsessions lead us to new things.
Everything might be available, but you’ll always need guides to take you through it. That help open up your interests and that reward you so frequently that you discover more about the things we love.
One of my father’s dear friends in the collectibles business was a fella by the name of BOBBY MOREHEAD. He was a friend of Frank Zappa’s back in the day. Anyway, Bobby lived on the exact opposite corner of the block that I grew up on, and long before the internet – my father and he found each other. Bobby was gifted with the ability to find amazing things and to geek out about the knowledge contained in the stories behind objects. Same as my father. Well, Bobby had a ton of Circus Freak stuff from the 1800’s & early 1900’s. As a result, I’ve known about Chang & Eng, the original Siamese Twins. After the Famous Monsters convention that I went to this year, I came back with the new issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND – and on the back cover was an ad for a place on 6th Street in Austin called MUSEUM OF THE WEIRD (Totally not related to Disney’s in development MUSEUM OF THE WEIRD movie and future attraction at Disneyland) and I saw a painting there of CHANG & ENG that reminded me of the stories I knew about them and I told my wife. She wound up purchasing this painting for me – and it is now here in the living room. The result was me doing further reading on Chang & Eng. Who knows what that one geeky bit of trivia will lead me. I’ve already begun rolling around notions – but hell, surely someone is doing that story already.
We don’t need computers to become self-aware and create derivative watered down versions of things we’re passionate about. That is constantly happening And to the seasoned and hardened geeks that go through geek culture trying to label the references in everything. Then bemoaning the lack of originality. One of my father’s college professors, who taught a class on film – told him & Tobe Hooper & Tsui Hark… all of whom were there, that there’s just a few basic story variations throughout the history of man. It’s all about the characters you build, the environments you put them in, the perils they overcome and how it ends. I think folks will find that Hollywood, writers, television producers, video game creators… they’re all drawing upon the history of pop culture.
Pop Culture has always had it’s success and failures. That’s one of the reasons I love AMADEUS so much… F. Murray’s Salieri is such an awesome Mozart geek. It is very much about the feelings of critics versus the popularity of a genius ahead of his time. You know… just like everyone that recognizes the genius of Edgar Wright’s SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD. We’ll be proven correct in time. Of this I have zero doubt.
GEEK CULTURE is fine, I say this because the same folks that didn’t love TRON for the past 28 years – are the leaders of the minority vocal opinion on the film. I know this to be the case because we bitch at each other till the wee hours of the night about it. We call each other names and we feign hating each other for each others’ estimation of the film, and then we laugh about the argument and just how crazy we get about it. This is as it should be.
Having access to everything isn’t the key, the key is having the time to appreciate it. That is a luxury. As I type this, I’ve been watching Jean Pierre Melville’s ARMY OF SHADOWS about the French Resistence against the Nazi Occupation of France. It is amazing. Before that was ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS – both Criterion BluRays.
The notion that everything is available is also a grotesque statement. We’re all waiting for THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED to be unleashed from the Jerry Lewis Prison. I’ve heard of a 3 hour + version of Robert Altman’s POPEYE that Robert Evans allegedly has. Additional musical numbers and more. That shit ain’t available. Patton? You seen the new Luc Besson flick with the pterodactyl in Paris and some smoking hot French babe nudity with a MUMMY!!?!? What about SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO – to see that right now you have to fly to Japan… and speak the language. And there are geeks that have done exactly that – and they totally rule the roost on that front. BUT I HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET! And that’s all that counts. I have my Yamato Flashlight Wave Motion Gun right next to my computer to remind me everyday to see if it is on BluRay yet. And I have to go to obscure websites for that information.
The number one thing that’ll save Geek Culture is a reminder that the coolest things already exist and warrant finding. Everytime Quentin Tarantino comes to Austin with a week of films – there’s a host of titles that I’ve never heard of. When I program BNAT, I do the same. Mainly so I can finally see them the proper way.
But then, I’m the sort of geek that has always had a circle of friends, but I was also popular in other scenes. Cuz I shared that knowledge instead of hoarding it. To me, I celebrate the films that have come before, that were almost made, and that could’ve been had the studios believed as the filmmaker had.
We’re still not entirely there. I mean, we haven’t even really touched upon H.P. Lovecraft yet in any sort of greater GEEK awareness level. We’re all hoping to Cthulhu that UNIVERSAL will realize that it has the chance to change horror for the better and forever with Guillermo Del Toro’s AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS… but it still, even with Cameron producing, will be a fight. Because it still hasn’t been done in a manner that has left him available for the masses.
Oh sure, it’s been turned into a geek culture item. Bumper stickers and plushies… but it still isn’t in a 3800 screen release pattern in 3D IMAX R RATING. We still haven’t seen a single Alfred Bester novel on screen. Nobody has really cinematically cracked cyberpunk at the level it could be. Nobody has translated the EC Science Fiction & Pirate & WWI Flying stories to screen. We have not yet seen a Basil Wolverton inspired animated feature. There’s so much that we have to mine.
We still don’t have a great FANTASTIC FOUR movie series that last for 20 years. Same with most comic characters. We’ve just been flashed a nipple of the potential that can be made.
I mean. You saw BLACK SWAN – you know Darren Aronofsky has the reins of the next WOLVERINE Movie – that it is a standalone and it will blow our minds like that first time you had really tremendously great sex. And you know it. You can feel it. I even found myself watching a video of Hugh Jackman shrugging off an errant Cricket pitch and I saw his physique that he has right now – heading into that movie – and HOLY SHIT – he isn’t even shaped like the previous incarnation of WOLVERINE. He’s bulked up. Looks amazing. And now he’ll have a director, that he absolutely trusts from THE FOUNTAIN, taking him on an incredible Japanese WOLVERINE story that will blow out minds. You know it.
And we have to wait.
A good geek is always waiting. Painfully so. I find myself dying to see COWBOYS & ALIENS after the sneak at BNAT – to see a great Harrison Ford performance again? To see him with Daniel Craig being badasses? Speaking of Craig, now that MGM has money – we’re going to get Sam Mendes making a Craig BOND flick.
Then there’s the geek miracle that is coming. The one where Bill Condon makes the TWILIGHT Series awesome with his imminent brilliant 2 part conclusion. I can’t begin to explain how he’ll do it. But it’s Bill, he can’t help but be brilliant.
GEEK culture is flourishing – and those douches at the gym in the Boba Fett shirt. They won’t beat you up, they’re one of us. Speaking of which, does anyone know if GOOGLE really took their name from Tod Browning’s FREAKS song?
So folks – do not worry – GEEK Culture is powering forward. We’ll always have the battles with the money people that finance the prevalence of quality geek product – and you’ll always have a ready supply of geeks to let you know whether or not their looking forward to it.
As for all those knowing glances between hardcore geeks… So long as BNATTERS have Jeff Mahler – we are a tight group, there can only be 200 a year – and yet tons apply. The reason I keep it intimate is so that it remains intimate. I constructed it to be hard to get into. Why? Because it makes it that much more special for the ones that attend.
Then there’s what I get to do with FAMOUS MONSTERS this year. Giggle.
You could watch for your whole life, non stop, and not even see 15% of everything filmed that is cool. Same with books, music, art, food and life experiences in general. To geek about these things with one another, to be able to find a friend no matter what hour you’re obsession has kept you up pursuing… that’s the dream man. We’re living it.
Some guy on Twitter the other day was jealous about me watching something on Netflix, so I told him… Dude, it is on Netflix. But the guy was in South Africa, where Netflix doesn’t go. I made a joke about him being in Prawn Country and he threw out some little known facts about living with Prawns… and a cultural Geek experience was given. That is what we have now. The ability to put on WITHNAIL & I – tweet it, then folks start talking with you about it. Sometimes famous, sometimes just a geek like me. No matter…
Patton, the cynicism of L.A. Geekery can be poisonous. Move to Austin. Seriously. Geek culture is in the Renaissance - the last Renaissance lasted 300 years… we haven’t even hit a full 100 yet. You’ll see.