tulips inside, snow outside

Oh climate change. Snow on April 15th, +20 Celsius on April 14th. I’m sure everything will be fine, really. Let’s just plan for the apocalypse anyway.

Eatin’ some fruit salad, drinking some stupidly weak coffee, another day at ECW HQ to start rather soon. I’ve been feeling under the weather and a bit stupid and lazy lately, so my apologies for flaking on writing a PLL finale recap yet, and for being so behind on my V-D.net posts. But I’m mere moments from getting my head in the game again. Cue that song from High School Musical. Or this much better song from an album I can’t stop listening to.

sleepy helllloooo

I’ve basically forgotten to ever, ever, ever blog here, but I am still alive, I promise. Today has been the sleepiest so far — for some reason, I’m sleeping in like a teenager these days? — but here’s what is up:

With the return of TVD next week — episode 100! — I’ll be back reviewing/recapping The Vampire Diaries at Vampire-Diaries.net, and one of my new year’s resolutions is to post at a regular time! No lateness tolerated! So, expect ‘em by Sunday midday, folks, and shame me on the internet if I’m late.

ALSO I’ve begun recapping Pretty Little Liars for Heroine TV! Read my posts on the first and second episodes. I’ve also popped on to co-host Lucia’s podcast, talking about Downton Abbey and Reign — history! edutainment! — and I’ll be talking PLL and Ravenswood with Lucia and Tash, hopefully later tonight.

On the book writing front, Vee and I are working on Love You to Death — Season 5 and PRETTY SOON we’ll have a cover to show you, which we hope you will think looks as SUPER COOL as we do.

I think that’s it?

xo

Love You to Death Season 4 is out!

It’s the official pub date! Exciting times to see the book out in the world, and people have been awesomely tweeting/instagrammin’ pics of Love You to Death Season 4.

Vee and I have been posting all our bookish news over at the new sites for the series LoveYoutoDeathTVD.com

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Some highlights!

  • HeroineTV‘s Lucia had Vee and me on her podcast to talk all about the book, our writing process, and our thoughts on the upcoming seasons of TVD and The Originals. Listen here!
  • Reviews are up at ScreenFad.com and AngelizedFirst.com
  • And over at the Televixen, Melissa did a Q&A with us, and is offering a copy up for giveaway!

Wanna know where you can buy it? Places like Amazon.com, PowellsAmazon.caChaptersIndigo.caBarnes & Noble and it’s available in both print & e-editions!

Already have a copy? Well, if you felt like reviewing it or rating it or blogging about it or anything-ing it, that would be so very awesome of you. Every little bit helps us get the word out about the book, and help us when we’re pitching a LYTD season 5…

Thank you thank you for all the kind words and congratulatory tweets today and in the past few weeks! So excited about the book, for everyone to read it, and — most of all — to get not one but two TVD-verse shows back on air this Thursday.

Get that capslock button ready for twitter insanity.

xo

 

TIFF13: Oculus, How I Live Now, Sarah Prefers to Run

More TIFF13! In this batch, a triumvirate of lead female roles that are wonderfully complex and unusual!
JE3_7854.NEFOculus

directed by Mike Flanagan (who did the Q&A along with the writer and the producer)

Amy Pond! Starbuck! A creepy-ass haunted mirror! Part of the Midnight Madness programme at TIFF (but seen by me on a sunny Tuesday afternoon), Oculus is a fun horror-thriller about a sister and brother duo dealing with the torment unleashed by the evilest mirror in the history of mirrors. The film interweaves the past (the siblings at 10 and 12 when Shit Went Down) and the present (the siblings at 21 and 23, with Kaylie determined to Set Things Right), and the movement between the timelines is wonderfully creepy and integral to the way the mirror sucks the life outta ya. I don’t like gore, and there was very little of that in here — just enough to make me close my eyes and cover my head with my scarf once or twice. Mostly it’s just TENSE TIMES. A lot of fun, if you’re into this sort of thing, and the young cast — particularly Annalise Basso — was great. And a word of warning: if your plants die, then you should probably kill all the mirrors in your house. Just in case.

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How I Live Now

directed by Kevin MacDonald (who was not there, but sent along a little note that Saoirse Ronan read; the Q&A was with the totally stunning and eloquent Saoirse, George MacKay, and a producer whose name I do not recall!)

Little did I know that after Oculus‘s red-haired 10-year-old girl who is fierce and awesome would I get another ginger girl of equal awesomeness in Harley Bird as Piper. (I wish my name was Harley Bird.) How I Live Now is adapted from the Meg Rosoff novel (which I have not read): Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) arrives in the English countryside to stay with her cousins, but it’s not long before everything goes to hell in a handbasket thanks to the outbreak of war and the imposition of military rule. It’s beautifully shot, with strong performances from the whole lot of the kids, and at times it’s harrowingly realistic in terms of what living in a war-torn world would be like. Of course, loads of people are living in a war-torn world right this second, and How I Live Now sticks us North Americans/Brits in the shoes of those already displaced (which is such a weak word for having everything you know taken from you) by war. All that said, it’s not all glum and horrifying. (Though I was reminded of 28 Days Later…minus the zombies.) There’s a beautiful love story too, as well as the personal evolution that Daisy experiences, ending up a far cry from the lost-in-her-head, super styley city girl who arrives in the first act of the film. Two thumbs up for me!

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Sarah préfère la course (Sarah Prefers to Run)

directed by Chloé Robichaud (who did a Q&A after the film, along with Sophie Desmarais, who plays Sarah)

I seem to like every single movie I see, but I really liked Sarah Prefers to Run, and Sophie Desmarais was so understated and pitch perfect and [insert all the adoring adjectives here] in the film. Twenty-year-old Sarah likes to run. (And she’s fast.) Despite her mother’s misgivings, she moves to Montreal to run for the McGill track team, living with her former co-worker Antoine (who is an effing great character). It’s a simple film, plot wise, but incredibly rich in exploring Sarah’s choices and experiences and ‘interior life’. There’s a humour to it and a subtlety to the story and performances. Sophie Desmarais makes this quiet, plain, focused woman mesmerizing. An incredibly well made movie. See it if you can!

Only three films left! How will I spend my time when TIFF is over?!

TIFF13: Beneath the Harvest Sky, We Are the Best!, “Method”

 

My TIFF13 marathon continues! My thoughts on Beneath the Harvest SkyWe Are the Best, and “Method” below — spoiler alert: I liked them all!

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Beneath the Harvest Sky

directed by Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly (who were in attendance along with cast members Callan McAuliffe, Emory Cohen, Aiden Gillan, Sarah Sutherland, and Zoe Levin)

Two best friends in small-town Maine, nearing the end of high school. One a ‘good kid’ with promise (Dom, played by Callan McAuliffe), the other a shit disturber named Casper (Emory Cohen), and both want to get the hell out of the town where the future holds two options:  farming potatoes or selling drugs. I loved everything about Beneath the Harvest Sky: the friendship between Dom and Casper, the supporting cast was effing brilliant (including Aiden “Littlefinger” Gillan and a one-scene role for Carrie Preston), the film was beautifully shot. Tense, funny, sweet, tragic, and full of a barely contained rage from Emory Cohen’s Casper. In the Q&A afterward, it was hard to separate the actor from character with him; apparently when they went to prep the film in the small town in Maine (there was a potato farming family, La Joies, in the audience, who’d consulted and helped on the film), Emory made pals with all the locals — teens and drug dealers — and they all knew ‘Casper.’ Saying “he’s one to watch” seems, like, really corny and cliche, but…watch him. (He was also in The Place Beyond the Pines, which I will now be checking out.)

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We Are the Best!

directed by Lukas Moodysson (who was there for the Q&A)

After the dark/tragic/had a little cry of Beneath the Harvest Sky, the sheer fun of We Are the Best! was just the thing. It’s the early 1980s. It’s Stockholm. And Bobo (center above) and Klara (right) are 13-year-old best friends and misfits at school. Because they are punks, and punk is not dead, despite what you might have heard. With zero musical skill, they form a band and rope a third girl into it, the seriously talented Hedvig (left). It’s a boatload of fun, and just gets so many aspects of that age, of being female and the expectations to be pretty above anything else, of friendship tensions in a group of 3, of parents and how super embarrassing/awesome they can be — all in a subtle and honest way. The three leads (Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, and Liv LeMoyne) are all so spot-on with their performances, that I kind of doubt they are actually teenagers now; I think Lukas Moodysson probably time-travelled to capture this excellent, raucous moment in their lives. I sincerely hope it gets a release here so everyone can revel in the wall-to-wall Swedish punk music and joy of being a 13-year-old misfit.

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“Method,” part of Short Cuts programme 3

directed by Gregory (The) Smith

Hey that lady looks like my sister!! Oh it is. Sarain had a great time filming this short, and Team Sarain (me, Sarah Deeee, and Erin S., all coincidentally wearing black blazers and looking like a proper uniformed entourage) saw it on the big screen along with five other shorts, most of which were amazing. (One short was not. Time is relative, and watching it felt like an eternity. But let’s focus on the good!) “Method” is up on YouTube (and embedded below), so take 8 minutes and give it a watch. Sarain is particularly funny in it, in my humble and totally unbiased opinion. Other highlights from the Short Cuts programme 3: “Jimbo,” and “We Wanted More” (which features Orphan Black‘s Kira, and which totally freaked me out).

Next up! Oculus, How I Live Now, Sarah Prefers to Run

And then my last three, which I’m seeing tonight/tomorrow: Concrete Night, The Double, Omar

Shattering Conventions with Bob Calhoun

cover_indexIt’s a special day here at the Calhoun Tribune because Bob Calhoun, author of Shattering Conventions and Beer, Blood and Cornmeal, has kindly answered some questions I had about his new book about “Commerce, Cosplay, and Conflict on the Expo Floor”! And he’s agreed to let me tell people he’s my cousin.

Where did you get the idea for a book about a year of convention-going?

I go to a lot of conventions without even trying to really. My day job sends me to prospect research and fundraising conferences. I go to Comic-Cons and toy shows for fun. The more I started to think about it, the more I realized that Americans are a conventions-going people. The tradeshow industry brings $3 billion into San Francisco alone. I think Vegas rakes in over $20 billion from cons. We choose our presidents at conventions before we chose them at the ballot box. The whole country was founded at a convention by men dressed up like sweaty Whovians. It seemed like tromping around different cons—random cons even—and then writing a book about what goes on at these things would make a pretty good book.

One of the chapters I found hilarious/interesting was about the Star Trek Creation con; there’s a part where you write that you were waiting for Captains Kirk and Picard to say something of consequence. There’s an interesting mashup of celebrity culture, commerce, and community at that kind of con — what are your thoughts on it?

Most conventions or tradeshows are about introducing something. At MacWorld, it’s the iPod, the iPhone, iPad–some new Apple product. At the Democratic Convention it was Barack Obama. The political conventions also vote on new planks in the party platform too. However, the “Star Trek” cons are going to go on whether there’s any new “Star Trek” or not. Hell, the Trekkers just denounced the latest “Trek” movie at a “Trek” con. That’s like Apple users trashing the next model of the iPad at MacWorld. Seeing Shatner and Stewart at a “Star Trek” con is more like seeing the Pope than what goes on at other tradeshows. “Star Trek” cons are religious revivals for the relatively rational.

Since conventions are inherently designed to bring people with a shared interest together, and you had a different goal in mind (i.e., writing this book), at which con did you feel the most like an interloper? Or are you aces at adapting to new groups of conventioneers now?

The convention I felt the most out-of-place at was the Twilight con in Portland — even more than the Republican convention I went to where I stood only a few feet away from Mitt Romney. A political convention will have a certain space for adversarial reporters. I was writing for Salon at the time, and the GOP gave me a press pass. They knew what I was going to do with it. Likewise, the Democrats give press passes to the Breitbart people.

But I had no such cover at the “Vampire’s Ball” at the Twilight con. I was the only man there who wasn’t one of the werewolves from the movies or working for the hotel. There was a point where I was observing the dances with werewolves where I realized that I was the weird one there, not the Twihards. They gathered to be with other people like themselves, and there I was, spending a whole year going to places where I didn’t belong. And I was doing this on my dime. I didn’t have a book deal in place at that time. Talk about obsessive!

I’ve only been to San Diego Comic-Con once (in 2011), and it was a far cry from the 1992 con you describe. Do you bemoan the loss of the old SDCC? What do you think about that tension between celebrating a shared interest (geek culture, for instance) and commerce and the hype machine of major studios?

I do, but there is something to be said for the Dionysian revelry that is the current Comic-Con. You don’t know why in the hell you went there, and don’t know where the hell else you’d rather be all at the same time. And you know, I was just at this year’s Comic-Con in July, and Neal Adams had a table right in the middle of the floor. He’s a man who revolutionized comic book art as much as Jack Kirby or Frank Miller with the Batman and X-Men books he did in the 60s and 70s, but he’s just sitting there, jawing with the fans the way I did with Jack Kirby way back in 1992. If thousands of other people want to camp out on the San Diego waterfront hoping to get into Hall H to catch a glimpse of Tom Hiddleston dressed up as Loki, power to them.  I’ll hang out with the guy who drew Loki in issue 180 of “The Mighty Thor.” That old Comic-Con is still there somewhere. It’s like the nerd version of “Field of Dreams.”

Was there one con that got away? The white whale of cons, so to speak, that you wished you could’ve gone to?

There are several. Where do I begin with that one? There was the furry con in San Jose, which I really should’ve gone to because it’s right there, about 45 miles away from me. Then there’s World of Concrete in Vegas. My life won’t be complete until I attend World of Concrete. They have crazy jackhammer competitions at that thing and also concrete art contests where people make sculptures out of poured concrete. Sure, most of the people there are in professions that use a lot of asphalt, but you know there are attendees who are just obsessed with concrete. These are people who actually like watching pavement dry. I’ve been to a bunch of cons since finishing this book, so I’m thinking of doing a quickie eBook sequel called “Shattering Conventions: Eclectic Boogaloo.” I want to be sure to get into that furry con for that one. There’s a Brony con in Sacramento this weekend that I’m thinking of going to. When I started working on “Shattering Conventions,” Brony cons weren’t even a thing and now there’s one in Sacramento.

Switching topics entirely: your previous book, Beer, Blood and Cornmeal (which I had the pleasure of working with you in small part at ECW) is a featured prop in the Braverman house on the (super excellent TV series) Parenthood. If I’m not mistaken, you didn’t watch the show until they chose the book to be on there — have you been converted? Is it a super-accurate portrayal of your corner of the U. S. of A.? Do you think it’s Zeke or Camille who read your memoir of Incredibly Strange Wrestling?

I’m actually going to say that Sarah Braverman is the one who brought “Beer, Blood & Cornmeal” into the Braverman house. She’s the one who’s always dating musicians and artist-types, so I figure that she probably went to the Incredibly Strange Wrestling shows that I used to be a part of that I write about in that book. This also might be wishful thinking on my part though because I’ve always found Lauren Graham easy on the eyes. As far as the show’s accuracy goes, I work for UC Berkeley, and I had to drive to the office when the transit workers were on strike a few weeks ago.  I ended up parking in front of a house that totally looked like the Braverman house. I kept expecting Zeke to yell at me for crowding his driveway.

Can I tell people you are my cousin to increase my Calhoun-cred?

I tell people you’re my cousin to increase my Calhoun-cred, so feel free.

Visit ShatteringConventions.com for more on my cousin Bob’s book, which is available in print and e-editions. Follow Bob on Twitter @bob_calhoun.

Calhoun at TIFF13: Hateship Loveship, Therese, Metalhead

Last year I somewhat impulsively bought a handful of TIFF tickets, saw a handful of films, and was happy as the day is long. This year I decided to Elevate That Course of Action and bought a “my choice” 10-pack of tickets, made my choices, and then got addicted to ticket buying and got two more single tickets (so far….).

Though the festival started on Thursday, my participation started yesterday, on a rainy rainy Saturday. Some general observations:

1 – In my experience, this appears to be a well run festival again this year. Volunteers know what is up, are friendly and chipper despite loads of people asking them loads of questions and being all rain-soaked. And I like that every audience claps for the volunteer-thank-you ad before each film. Applause well earned.

2 – When you impulsively decide to add a third film in the middle of the other two (meaning you’ll be in a theatre or line from 11:00 am to 8:30 pm), bring snacks! I was wondering whether I would faint from hunger as the line for Therese let into the Princess of Wales theatre, when two cupcake fairies were standing there handing out free mini cupcakes in adorable little boxes. Mine was carrot, so it was basically health food. Like manna from heaven. Thank you, Short & Sweet Cupcakes! Um, other businesses: if you want to give out free delicious snacks to people in line, I say go for it.

3 – I saw Sara Canning, a.k.a. the Ghost of Aunt Jenna, walk by as I was headed out of the Scotiabank Theatre, and she looked lovely. Her film The Right Kind of Wrong premiered at TIFF, and I hope it is less about the charming qualities of a stalker than the preview suggests. (Just because he’s cute doesn’t mean he gets to act like a creeper.)

Onwards to the films!

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Hateship, Loveship

directed by Liza Johnson (who was in attendance, along with the screenwriter and producer, for a Q&A apres the movie)

This is an adaptation from an Alice Munro story, updated to present day (from ’40s/’50s) and to a midwestern U.S. setting — but it felt to me 100% Alice Munro-y. Kristen Wiig plays Johanna — a live-in maid who comes to stay with a grandpa (Nick Nolte), his granddaughter (Hailee Steinfeld), and the dead-beat dad (Guy Pearce) plays a key part in the story — and Wiig’s performance is wonderfully subtle. The character has a very tight leash on herself — for the most part — and a lot of her reactions play out with the teeny tiniest smirk or twitch. Loved it. It has a very sustained tone, and having not read the story I truly did not know how things would play out. It avoids sentimentality, and no one feels like a stock character. Recommended!

therese_01Therese

Directed by Charlie Stratton (also in attendance along with cast members Elizabeth Olsen, Jessica Lange, and Tom Felton for a Q&A after the premiere)

Another adaptation! (I must be a book person.) Emile Zola’s Therese Raquin has (I learned yesterday) been adapted for the stage and for film many a time; The Postman Always Rings Twice is also based on it (thanks for the fun fact, Ms. Lange!). In the Q&A afterwards, someone asked how the director managed to avoid making a Stodgy Costume Drama, a pretty funny question but one that was spot on. Therese is tense and suspenseful, yet also hilarious in moments, and there is quite a good dose of steamy sex times! (It is, after all, concerned with adultery.) Everyone was great in it — Tom Felton plays the sickly and spoiled but well intentioned son of Jessica Lange’s character, and Elizabeth Olsen is the titular Therese, an illegitimately born girl basically indentured to her aunt and cousin in 19th century Paris. Charlie Stratton mentioned that one of the things that drew him to directing this story is how your allegiance changes from one character to another over the course of the story. First you root for one, then another — and it’s very true and very appealing. Full-on enjoyable, and recommended.

metalhead_01Metalhead

Directed by Ragnor Bragason (in attendance along with Thorbjörg Helga Dýrfjörd / Þorbjörg Helga Þorgilsdóttir,* who plays the lead role of Hera, for a Q&A after the premiere)

In case you did not guess from the director’s and actor’s names, this film is from Iceland! Set in a small Icelandic community in the 1980s, the story follows Hera and her parents in the wake of her brother’s death in a farming accident, which Hera deals with by taking on Baldur’s Metalhead persona. Perhaps what I liked most about this film was that Hera was not ‘likeable’ — she was messy and complicated and destructive. It reminded me of this “I Hate Strong Female Characters” post: she’s a complex human being like real human beings are! Other performance/character of note is Hera’s dad, Karl, played by Ingvar E. Sigurdsson: he brought me to tears (and also he is a pretty handsome dude!). I am not a Metalhead, but having worked on many a heavy metal book at ECW, I am proud to say I laughed like a banshee at the Ronnie James Dio joke.

*There are two surnames listed for the actor who plays Hera on the TIFF page; the second has an imdb profile, the first is what’s used in coverage of Metalhead… covering my bases. Maybe she got hitched and changed her name?

More TIFF TK — the rest of the films I’m seeing are: Beneath the Harvest Sky, We Are the Best!, Oculus, How I Live Now, Sarah Prefers to Run, Miracle, Concrete Night, The Double, and Omar.

Oh, and on a nerdy note, during the Therese Q&A, Tom “Draco Malfoy” Felton said “Hogwarts” and it was the best.