Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy Cronenberg Day!

In honour of director David Cronenberg's 70th birthday today, I wanted to share my experience with the man from all those years ago...

David Cronenberg & Me (1992)

On a wintry February evening in 1992, three girls - Mellissa, Agnes, and myself headed down to TheatreBooks in downtown Toronto to meet the illustrious and mysterious Canadian director, David Cronenberg. Best known for helming such amazing horror films as Scanners, Shivers, Naked Lunch and my personal favorites, Videodrome, Dead Ringers, and Crash...then there's Rabid and The Brood, and...well, you get the picture. Cronenberg has recently branched out and done more "mainstream" work like Eastern Promises, but I'll always love his earlier stuff, and I've seen it all.

When I was about 15, I discovered Dead Ringers and then proceeded to go through Cronenberg's whole back catalogue, imbibing his flesh symbology and amazing visuals like a religion. He was my introduction to horror films, and I can't think of a better way to get one's toes wet in the genre. Cronenberg makes horror so chilling, and his situations are so possible, no matter how insane, that much like Clive Barker, he draws you into his intense world like a virus crawling through your bloodstream.

David was signing his then-new autobiography, Cronenberg on Cronenberg, which I believe came out in Canada first. All three of us girls had devoured the tome earlier and throughout the car ride down, we chattered about our favorite of Mr. C.'s films and what he might be like.

We arrived at Theatrebooks and all lined up, eager to meet him. Mellissa was first, and asked him his opinion on directing, since she was a budding director. Agnes had mostly come along for the ride and was the official photographer, but didn't have much interest in actually meeting the man.

Then it was my turn.

I'll admit it, I had a bit of a crush on the man. His work was just so amazing, and after reading the autobiography, we all agreed it felt like we all were able to get a bit of insight into his head and thought processes.

I can't remember what, if anything I said to him, but I was able to squeak out the correct spelling of my name and asked for a photo to capture this special moment. Agnes pointed the camera at us, and David very kindly said, "You should pop down a little, so you're in the picture better." I squeezed in a little closer and grinned as Agnes snapped the photo. (Note the gift at Mr. C.'s right hand - a small token of my fannish appreciation - pretty much everything I wanted to say folded neatly into a tiny gold box.)

After meeting THE David Cronenberg, we were all on a total high and wound up going to a late screening of Wayne's World. There is a line in this masterpiece (and I say that with all seriousness!) uttered by one of Wayne & Garth's crew:

"Have you guys ever seen that scene in Scanners where that dude's head blew up?"

to which we shrieked SO loudly in excitement over in the theater, I was afraid we'd be thrown out. But we were excited, and happy...and sixteen. Looking back, this picture makes me smile, because I realize my fangirling days have been happy and plentiful. Happy Birthday, Mr. C. Long live the not-so-new-yet-still-awesome flesh!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Thoughts on the Toronto ComiCON 2013

Today, I attended the Toronto Comicon at the Convention Centre. After the painful ordeal I suffered a few months ago that was FanExpo, I didn't expect much from this convention.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised.

Toronto ComiCON 2013

My enjoyment may partly have to do with how prepared I was this time. For one, I purchased my ticket in advance online. Instead of waiting in a stuffy parking garage, I waited in a relatively temperate indoor warehouse room. We were still herded around like cattle, but at least more like organically grain-fed cattle. Having arrived before the con began, it was a relatively brief wait and soon after eleven o'clock we were whisked into the main hall.

Toronto ComiCON 2013

The con was mainly held in a large hall at the back of the convention centre. Other talks - celeb Q&As, special presentations, etc. - were held in smaller, satellite rooms around this larger room.

Like most newer cons, the hall was a "one-stop shop" that housed all the dealers, an "artist's alley" (much like the one at the massive the San Diego Comic Con), and the celebs. Thankfully, unlike some other cons, the celebs were sequestered in an area far enough away from the action and the "nerdchandise" so as the congestion was kept to a minimum. Handlers kept the crowds moving so there were no bottlenecks of looky-loos around the celeb area holding up traffic.

Unlike previous experiences, the staff and volunteers seemed somewhat knowledgeable and highly organized. The crowd control in the lobby was ideal, with volunteers manning both sides of the long hallway between the main room and the satellite rooms, with one-way traffic running in either direction. This really helped the flow of people and kept congestion to a minimum. I did wish there were more visible signs to tell you which way traffic was supposed to run, but the volunteers were very polite in redirecting you to the correct "lane" when you strayed.

Toronto ComiCON 2013 Most awesome dolls EVER!

There are several aspects universal to any convention. Let's take a look at how ComiCON fared:

The Celebs

LeVar Burton at Toronto ComiCON 2013 LeVar Burton (aka Geordi LaForge)

The big draw to this con was the near-entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation making an appearance. Sadly, the delicious and delightful Wil Wheaton was nowhere to be found. For me, TNG just isn't TNG without Wesley Crusher.

Toronto ComiCON 2013 Sign on Patrick Stewart's table

The cast were all signing autographs in the main hall and for a mere [insert insanely huge amount of money here], one could actually go and see the full-ish cast Q&A. Although TNG is my absolute favourite of all the Trek series, I just couldn't fathom shelling out a huge amount of dough to hear the actors say what they probably would in the extras on a DVD box set.

There was a bit of an "incident" that happened to me today that left a rather sour taste in my mouth. I'm nearly certain this wasn't ComiCON's fault, but what happened to me today should never be part of the fan experience of any con. In all of my many years of con-going - both here and in the United States - this is the very first time this has happened to me.

And may it be the last.

Having wanted to document the con for those that couldn't attend and enjoying photography, I had thought to take my delicious Nikon D40 along for the ride. You will notice from these photos that it's a darling little camera that takes quite good photos. Having met the majority of the cast of TNG at various other cons, but never "Jean-Luc," I wanted to get a little shot of the Captain himself, Patrick Stewart, as a memento of today.

Let me preface this by noting that there were no prominent signs noting anything about photography or the limitations of photographs around the celeb area. As I approached Patrick Stewart's booth, I prepared my camera to take a little shot of him, to add to my vast collection of celeb shots I've gotten at other cons. The moment I lifted my camera to my eye, an overly officious, young "handler" barked, "You can't take photographs close up!" and proceeded to shine a bright light into my eyes, blinding me.

Yes, you read that right. Without forethought, the man essentially assaulted me with a penlight. The act temporarily blinded me and shocked me, but what if I were an epileptic? Would he do this to a child with a camera? There were five million other things he could have done to prevent me from taking a (very innocent) photo of Mr. Stewart, but he chose the most heinous and brash thing possible.

Several times, I queried as to what the issue was in taking a photo, but the man never gave me an answer, merely telling me I would be "thrown out of the convention" if I tried it again.

Fans are not paparazzi, they are fans who have paid good money to see their favourite celebrities in what one would hope would be a safe and positive atmosphere.

Thankfully, this occurred near the end of my day and I was able to recover from the shock relatively quickly. But I wondered - was I the only victim of this insensitive handler? I've written various diatribes on the idiocy of actors not wanting their photos taken at a public convention where they are making a paid appearance (or worse, charging for unposed photos), but I will not go into that again here. Suffice it to say, I was incredibly shocked and miffed at the rudeness of this handler. Perhaps he should rethink his position in "public relations."

All this being said, this incident was thankfully the only negative blip on my con radar for the entire day.

Sean Astin at Toronto ComiCON 2013

On the sunny side of celebs, the other big Comicon draw was actor Sean Astin. The moment he uttered his first line of "Aw, bummer!" in The Goonies, I became an instant fan. His portrayal of my beloved Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings films only served to cement his brilliance in my fangirl heart. Naturally, I made it a point of heading over to one of the smaller satellite rooms in time to hear his full Q&A.

Sean Astin at Toronto ComiCON 2013

Sean was both delightfully amusing and incredibly interesting. He spoke of his family, his career, and most pertinent for me, the actor's process. He was so fascinating to listen to, I am even more keen to read his book, There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale. He made a point of engaging his audience, telling a young boy that he had seen his hand up and that he would call on him next, soothing the boy's anxiety. Then, halfway through the Q&A, Sean got the whole audience as one to get up and do the "Harlem Shuffle." Having never seen, yet heard of this phenomenon, I still had a blast participating. Sean was engaging without being pompous; intelligent without being snobby. A true delight that I hope I have a chance of meeting sometime in the near future. For now, seeing Sean's Q&A was good enough for me.

The Dealers & Artists

Although I didn't buy anything, I was highly impressed by the sheer selection of items and the variety of stuff being displayed.

Toronto ComiCON 2013

Creepy to some, cute to others (including me!), Homemade Horrors created absolutely stunning creatures so creatively and lovingly rendered, I seriously considered taking one home with me. Would I have a bit more of a disposable income, this little bat would've definitely been sitting by my side as I write this.

Toronto ComiCON 2013

Not only is this little guy precious, he's also practical! His wings are wired so they can be posed in various ways and he has a clip on his body so you can give him "batty-back rides" and take him with you wherever you go!

As of now, the artist has an DeviantArt here, but a website is coming soon. She's only just started selling these little darlings, so here's hoping they catch on quickly. She is so talented and her creations are so unique, I know they will do well.

Toronto ComiCON 2013
Note the tiny, Mona Lisa smile playing on this Borg's lips…it must be Hugh!

Overall, the con was well organized, in a space large enough to accommodate the massive crowd and a good variety of dealers. Although a lot of them cancelled (sadly many of the horror ones), to potentially do another con in the U.S., there were still enough celebs to satisfy fans. Heck, I could've listened to Sean Astin for another hour!

After such a horrendous time at FanExpo, this was a definite welcome change that one hopes will continue into the next FanExpo and beyond.* A solid 8 in my books, and a very pleasant weekend surprise.

* NB: Having read some of the early Facebook comments, it seems not everyone had such a pleasant experience. Many people suffered the same fate I did at FanExpo, not even getting into the con itself. Here's hoping these kinks can be worked out for the next FanExpo, which will be held simultaneously in both halls of the convention centre in August.