2007: a Comic-Con Odyssey

Or, How I learned to stop worrying and love sleep deprivation, huge crowds and wonderful toys

Thirty minutes earlier: I ask the driver if he knows where I'm staying.

"Yeah, Alvarado or something, right?"

"Doesn't sound like you do know." I check the directions in my pocket. "Okay, yeah, Alvarado Canyon."

"Oh ye of little faith."

Now: "You're on Alvarado Street, right?"

"Alvarado Canyon. Is that the same thing?"

No, says the other guy in the car.

"Me of little faith, right?"

I should point out that I would trust this particular driver with my life. But not, on this evening, with my directions.

This is relevant to Spike and Mike's Sick & Twisted festival of animation, and not just because that's why I'm still awake.

The first time I saw Sick & Twisted, I didn't like it. Aside from the Beavis & Butt-head shorts, it was mostly poorly animated student films about people taking a shit and wiping their ass on the cat, or something similar. Toilet scenes are not inherently funny, and if you think they are, you probably have at least one male relative who'll let you watch him crap. Leave the rest of us alone.

But when I worked at the Laemmle Sunset 5 movie theater, working the midnight shows, I got to meet a fellow named Brian Gaughan who ran the merchandise stand. Far from being twisted himself, he's now a stable father of two.

He still does work for Spike, and it's out of loyalty to him that I'm here, rather than at the Flash Gordon costume contest downtown.

Sick & Twisted has changed over the years. Spike now does a thing at Comic-Con called "The Gauntlet," in which cartoons that are booed heavily get yanked in the middle, and those that are cheered become part of the show.

Based on the show, these are the rules for getting cheered:

. A cum shot, or the promise of one, guarantees success.

. Any short that begins with a baby crying gets booed.

. A poorly animated animal movie will only get booed until it shows a horse fucking a bird. Then it gets a huge ovation.

. Shorts about anthropomorphic food dying a horrible death when a person eats it will always go over well.

. Any cartoon that gets booed at first can recover if an act of brutal violence occurs.

. Graphic sex is a sure thing. Graphic defecation, not so much.

. Anyone getting their ass beat is popular.

. Hip-hop is a minefield with this crowd. Use it—or Ebonics—very sparingly, if at all.

Anyway, this year's was a much better show than the old ones. One may not always agree with the gauntlet concept, but one must recognize it's better than Spike's judgment alone.

Meanwhile, back in the 1:30 time frame, Mr. Gaughan's Wild Ride has concluded. I try to buy a toothbrush from the vending machine, but while it accepts and registers the first dollar, inserting a second causes the first one to get spit out. I don't have the energy to debate this point with man or machine.

Five hours later, up again to have breakfast with Kevin Bacon, whose plane is delayed. Bacon's adversary in the upcoming movie Death Sentence, Garrett Hedlund, is there instead. He seems nice. A chef cooks custom omelets for all the press in attendance. I stow some of those mini-boxes of Froot Loops to have for lunch later. Been years since I've eaten this stuff—used to be only three colors, right? When did they add neon green to the mix?

*     *     *

You're not supposed to use the term "3-D" when describing those movies that pop right out of the screen when viewed with special glasses. The preferred term is "stereoscopic." That is what we are told at a Comic-Con press presentation for Real D, the new "stereoscopic" format that has been used so far on Chicken Little, Monster House, The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D and Meet the Robinsons and might one day be used on a movie that's actually good. That movie could be Beowulf.

Coming out in November in 3-D, 3-D IMAX and plain old regular (not the way to see it, if you can help it), this is a performance-capture animated film, à la Polar Express. The obvious question on most people's minds is probably "OMG will this be like the Zombi kiddzors in PolarXpress LOL?????" First off, one way overstates the "zombie kid" thing —Polar Expresswas stylized to look like a children's-book illustration, and did it fine. The Steve Tyler elf was the only really creepy character.

But this is a mixed bag. Beowulf himself is a character who solves the classic action-movie dilemma of whether to hire a muscular actor or a good one. Pudgy Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast) is given the body of He-Man to play our hero. On the other hand, Anthony Hopkins' King Hrothgar looks exactly like Hopkins, and Angelina Jolie looks like herself, but possibly even hotter. Hrothgar's queen, though, is clearly supposed to be attractive but isn't; she looks mannequin-like. And she's not the only one. The characters who look like the actors who play them are great, but the rest look a bit like the humans in the Shrek movies.

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