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Friday, August 15, 2003


American Splendor: A Must See Film
Last week, I got to see American Splendor's Harvey Pekar and his wife Joyce Brabner speak at the Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica. Apparently, B & N didn’t publicize the discussion very well because there were only about twenty people who showed up. Harvey was just as morose as he is on the pages of his comic books so I wasn’t disappointed. There was ample time to ask more than one question, so one of my questions was about my personal favorite Jack T. Chick. Harvey said that Chick amused him but that the Chickster didn’t influence him. This didn’t surprise me because both Pekar and Chick are gloomy in their outlook but in very different ways.

For those of you who don't know, American Splendor was made into a film (one that did very well at Cannes and Sundance). I went to an advance screening in Santa Monica last night. Now first let me segue into a rant. Those of you familiar with me know that I hate it when people talk during a movie. Usually I am the first one to tell the offending party to quit talking. I’m a muscular jock-type and usually telling a person once is all that it takes. I’ve never had to deal with this situation with serious films; the types of people who attend these films tend to be older and tend to know that it’s rude to disturb other moviegoers. This wasn’t the case with American Splendor and I was caught flatfooted. First, there was some clown who didn’t turn off his cell phone, even after it ran once. Second, someone kept tapping something. Third, a couple near me was talking. Usually, I don’t hesitate to tell people to shut up but this was different. I employ a utilitarian calculus: I usually don’t tell people to be quiet until their talking becomes more disruptive to moviegoers than my telling them to be quiet. Also, there is a deeply ingrained principle of mine not to confront another man when he’s with a woman—it’s something I try to avoid if possible. So I and a couple other people would periodically “shhh” the couple. Unfortunately, this couple could not take a fucking clue. After the movie was over, I heard the couple talking and realized that these two didn’t even know each other; they had struck up a conversation during the movie. Telling by the looks of the two, they didn’t get out much. What should I have done? Email me if you have any ideas.

Anyhow, back to the film. I thought it was quirky and a lot of fun to watch. It’s a great film. I think comics are an underutilized medium and Pekar has contributed to making comics a more expressive medium. The acting is good and the story was funny and moving at times. The paper of record has a good review. On the topic of comics, Tom Tomorrow’s latest book The Great Big Book of Tomorrow: A Treasury of Cartoons is out; he sent me an advance copy but I had it sent to a friend because I was moving so I haven’t read it yet. Salon had an interesting profile.

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