There’a new batch of “Holiday” specials every year–every television show that lasted more than one season has a Christmas episode, and celebs and personalities adore putting together hour-long love letters to their own awesomeness and throwing in some X-mas trappings…
Some specials are honestly good–or at least that’s how we REMEMBER them, and no one can tell us different (Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, Grinch, etc…)
Some suck Santa’s jolly red ass…and others….well, others are just–“special”…
Those are the kind of Holiday specials we’re going to be focusing on today–good or bad isn’t really a consideration, instead, we’re gonna explore specials that being a nerd may not be essential to like, but it’s gonna be a big help. They’re from tv shows or feature characters that are beloved to our community–OR they’re so weird and esoteric that only a nerd would bother finding them, much less watching them.
If you are NOT a nerd (first of all, welcome–nice to see you), please do not be offended if you also like some of these specials–we don’t mean to imply anything.
As we all know, Halloween is a hodge and a podge of various cultural and religious traditions. The Jack O’ lantern, the holiday’s cheerful, grinning orange mascot is based on an old Irish legend of a man who was so evil he was kicked out of Hell. Jack was sentenced to wander for all eternity, with only a burning coal inside a hollowed-out turnip to light his way. Upon their arrival in America, the Irish found that the pumpkin was a far more user-friendly carving medium for their disturbing little tradition.
Trick Or Treating also has Celtic origins: On the festival of Samhain, the spirits of the dead walked the earth, and people would leave food out for them, hoping this would keep the dead from vexing the living.
It became an American tradition in the early 20th century as a way of keeping the young from vexing homeowners. Essentially, the adults of America made a deal with the nation’s children: “Stop breaking and burning our cities every October 31st, and you can go to any home you want and get free candy”. America’s youth accepted, and Trick Or Treating has been practiced in nearly every American community for almost a century.
Today, we explore the nerdiest of Halloween traditions: The Halloween horror movie marathon.
If you grew up in the 80s, you know that four actors form the Nerdcore Four — Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Michael Keaton and Bill Murray. These four actors have totaled almost ten billion dollars in box office receipts while playing unforgettable characters like Indiana Jones, Peter Venkman, Batman, Han Solo, John McClane, and Beetlejuice.
They have saved the world from asteroids, a beret wearing 100 foot tall Marshmallow, the dark side, Nazis, Alan Rickman, dancing gophers, and so much more.
How do we celebrate them? We put together four lists (which will run over the next few months) that will look at each member of the Nerdcore Four and discuss their careers and their most signature roles.
Up first is Harrison Ford — who can next be seen in Ender’s Game. Ford first made his name tussling with Ewoks in Star Wars, replicants in Blade Runner, and Kate Capshaw while playing Indiana Jones during the 80s before carving out a respectable career as a leading man in more grounded fare like The Fugitive, Witness, The Patriot Games, and 42.
Which role truly defines this legendary cinematic hero? Is it Indy over Han? Vice versa? Maybe Rick Deckard over both? We’ll have our say after the jump.
I could be unbelievably corny and opine that we’ve “Come A Long Way, Baby…” And regardless of how hackneyed a comment that would be, it’s the simple truth: Nerds and Geeks (use whatever term you like–the differences between them are a subject for another article) are at the vanguard of modern pop culture and entertainment: Scientists are celebrities, comic book heroes are movie stars, supermodels talk of their love for video games….This is the world Nerds built….
And this list celebrates some of it’s greatest architects.
Honored here are actors, comedians, filmmakers, physicists, TV personalities, and writers. All are card-carrying geeks, and all have contributed something unique to this wonderful Nerdiverse of ours. In the interest of communicating exactly what makes each of these personalities worthy of inclusion here, I have included a quotation from each of them (and links to their respective Facebook Pages in their names).
Anyhoo, let’s proceed with the list proper–starting at number ten with:
The Holy Grail of Nerd Cinema….the team-up we always thought would remain the province of comics, cartoons, and video games–but would NEVER actually happen in the movies–is upon us!
There will be a Superman/Batman movie in 2015! Creatively titled: Batman Vs. Superman, it’s apparently the sequel to the recently released Supes reboot Man Of Steel. That means Henry Cavil will once again be donning the red and blue super-suit….
But what of the Dark Knight?
With Christian Bale out of the Bat-Business, who will take up the cowl and cape of Gotham City’s shadowy protector?
So far, the rumor mill has come up with only one name: Tyler Hoechlin (below)
If you’ve never heard of him, don’t worry–it just means you have enough self-respect to avoid MTV’s Teen Wolf series.
I honestly don’t know jack about this guy….maybe he’s brilliant–maybe he’ll be the best Batman since Michael Keaton. Anything’s possible….
Until an actor is officially announced, we will continue to do what nerds always do, and yammer on about our dream choices to portray the “World’s Greatest Detective”.
When you really think about it, musicals are actually quite a nerdy genre:
Not only do they have their die-hard adherents, as anything qualifying as “nerdy” must, but even the most mundane musicals have an element of the fantastical to them. Think about it: Musicals are populated by people who think it’s perfectly normal to break into song for literally any reason, people for whom an intricately choreographed dance number is an everyday occurrence….
Does anyone ever stop to think about just how WEIRD that is? (well, Joss Whedon did, but I’m getting ahead of myself)
Some musicals, of course, take this a step further, and draw from the various franchises and genres that we, as nerds, know and love for their inspiration. Others are just totally batshit insane, thus making them quite appropriate for a card-carrying nerd’s movie library. It is such musicals that we honor here today.
I have deliberately left out musicals that have so far only been stage productions. Not that I have anything against live theatre, but such musicals are so numerous as to warrant their own list. Instead, I’ve decided to stick to film or television (and in one case: neither) productions. These media are much better known to nerddom, anyway–no offense, Theatre Geeks!
So clear your throats, and prepare to sing along with:
10. Phantom Of The Paradise
One of Brian de Palma’s very first films, Phantom of the Paradise is unique to say the least. “Weirder Than Tits On A Bishop” would be more to the point. It’s a celebration/brutal satire of 1970s pop music tropes, and the music business in general in the form of a musical based on a combination of Phantom of the Opera, Goethe’s Faust, and Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey. The songs were written and performed by ’70s musical wunderkind Paul Williams, best known for scoring The Muppet Movie. Williams also plays the film’s villain–and he gives one of the most disturbing performances in cinema history: Directing a sex tape for your grandparents is less unsettling than Paul Williams as evil record producer “Swan”. Above is the film’s trailer, with a voice-over by one of the most influential directors and nerds in Hollywood: Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim, Ant-Man)
9. Sweeney Todd
As awesome as Tim Burton’s cinematic adaptation of the famed musical tale of the semi-legendary murderous barber and the gruesome uses his accomplice, a baker of meat pies, found for his victims is, it’s a bit too mainstream to warrant a higher ranking on a list like this. I’m not judging which musicals are the BEST, merely the NERDIEST.
Still, Burton‘s Sweeney Todd has it’s share of nerd cred: “Burtonverse” fixtures Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter make the roles of Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett their own (and have surprisingly good singing voices). The film is a casting director’s wet dream, with every role filled superlatively: Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall stand out as the draconian Judge Turpin and his repugnant toadie Beadle Bamford (yes, 3 members of this cast played Harry Potter characters!) Plus it’s visually magnificent, wickedly funny, and boasts some truly infectious musical numbers.
Oh, and blood. LOTS of blood.
8. Cry Baby
Sweeney Todd wasn’t Depp’s first musical–it was just the first he actually SANG in. Back in 1990, Johnny starred as Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker in John Waters’ 50s retro musical Cry Baby. The nerdiness of this film may be a tad less apparent than some of the other entries, but John Waters’ fandom is zealous, if relatively small: Cult comedy nerds may not be the most vocal or visible branch of the nerd family tree—but trust me, we’re there! This hilarious film boasts a number of truly eclectic cameos and supporting roles: Including Traci Lords, Iggy Pop, Susan Tyrrell (remember that name, you’ll hear it again soon), Willem Dafoe, and Ricki Lake (Glenn Milstead, AKA “Divine”, was originally part of the cast, but sadly passed away before filming began).
7. Cannibal! The Musical
Cannibal! The Musical, thanks to legendary independent film studio Troma (the fine folks who gave the world the Toxic Avenger franchise), who distributed this odd little film, put the names Trey Parker and Matt Stone on the radar….last I heard, they had this cartoon thing on basic cable, and some stage show about Jehovah’s Witnesses, I think.
Would have thought they’d have amounted to more given how awesome this film is: Cannibal! tells the story of Alferd Packer–supposedly the first American ever to be tried for cannibalism (Packer DID exist, but Parker and Stone‘s historical accuracy is dubious at best). A VERY young Trey Parker plays the titular cannibal, with Stone and their perennial sidekick Dian Bachar in supporting roles. Parker wrote and performed the music, and the whole thing is far more fun, likeable, and sweet than a movie about eating human flesh should be. Fans of South Park will recognize little tidbits that would later pop up in the show: Matt Stone’s character is where the series got Kyle’s big red Jew ‘fro, and a line in the song featured above is referenced in South Park: Bigger. Longer, and Uncut when Kenny’s heart is accidentally replaced by a baked potato.
6. Little Shop Of Horrors
The original Little Shop of Horrors made bad movie history when infamous schlock filmmaker, Roger Corman, produced and directed it in just under 3 days–merely to prove that he could make a movie from start to finish in under a week.
Two decades later, that story of the little skid row flower shop and the man-eating plant behind its doors became a blockbuster Broadway musical, and was soon adapted into a film by “Muppeteer” Frank Oz. It’s quite simply one of the most purely enjoyable movie musicals ever made, due largely to the brilliant performances of Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, and Steve Martin, seen above in the iconic role of dentist/domestic abuser Dr. Orin Scrivello, DDS.
5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Yes, friends: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, adapted from the stage musical The Rocky Horror Show (see what they did there?) in 1975 by director Jim Sharman, writer Richard O’Brien, and producers Lou Adler and Michael White. It’s a devious satire of Middle-American values crossed with an homage to classic horror and science-fiction cinema. Everyone knows the plot: Girl and Boy go for drive, Girl and Boy meet Alien Transvestite, Alien Transvestite creates Muscle Man in vat of chemicals, Everybody has sex, Alien Transvestite and his creation killed with lasers by the help, Castle flies off into space, THE END.
Oh, and there’s a lot of really kickass musical numbers in between the sex and the death somewhere.
RHPS is probably best known not on its own merits, but due to the following it has developed: For 38 years fans have been going to midnight showings across the globe where they watch not only the film, but a “shadowcast” in front of the screen in full costume (well, the GOOD casts do it that way 😉 ) miming the actions of the characters. The audience itself also gets into the action: Throwing things (carefully!) like toast and toilet paper at the prescribed times, and yelling call-backs and insults at the screen (an RHPS tradition from decades before MST3K or Rifftrax). In all seriousness, at least ONE trip to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror should be on everyone’s bucket list.
4. Shock Treatment
It’s likely many of you have never heard of this musical by the writers and producers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s equally likely that if you have heard of it, you’ve heard it’s a sequel to Rocky Horror. That isn’t entirely accurate. The filmmakers refer to it as an “Equal, Not A Sequel”. Many of the same characters, actors and settings from Rocky Horror are present, but it isn’t really a continuation of Rocky’s story line: You could see Shock Treatment without ever knowing Rocky Horror exists, and you wouldn’t miss a thing.
Anyhoo, I personally prefer Shock Treatment to its far more famous predecessor: RHPS had a few better actors, and arguably superior production values–but Shock Treatment has much better songs, and a generally “nerdier” vibe. Long before things like Reality TV or The Truman Show, Richard O’Brien envisioned a town that WAS a TV studio itself….where citizens actually lived in shows and the audience just slept in their seats. Again, Middle America is satirized–but it’s not its puritanical morals that are attacked, but its mindless consumerism and obsession with television. I grant you the plot does wander, and lacks Rocky Horror’s cohesiveness: But the superior music makes up for these flaws. (FUN FACT: That’s Rik Mayall of The Young Ones taking the Polaroids)
3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling
I almost didn’t include this. I wanted to stick to movie musicals, and besides: I’m a lukewarm BTVS fan at best (Angel and Firefly are another story). But our dear and fluffy editor insisted….
And he knew what he was doing! I love this in ways I cannot properly communicate with language. Once More, With Feeling is a work of sheer genius, and the best part is you don’t need to know barely anything about Buffy to enjoy it. The flashback at the beginning is comprehensive enough to bring non-fans up to speed. Here’s the skinny: The town’s under the influence of a song and dance-loving demon accidentally summoned by Dawn Summers. The citizens are breaking into musical numbers at random….just as they would in a musical, except they realize it’s abnormal. Buffy and the Scoobies are affected as well, leading to some great numbers from the show’s best loved characters. Joss Whedon outdid himself with this episode: He could have had a very successful career as a songwriter. Once More, With Feeling has become one of the most famous and beloved BTVS episodes, and has even been performed by live casts on stage!
(PS: Sorry for the subtitles, but getting a clip of anything owned by Fox in its original form on YouTube is like pulling teeth–this was the best I could do…the alternative was a mere slideshow)
Before he was the “Man Behind The Music” of Tim Burton’s film library, Danny Elfman fronted a New Wave/Ska fusion pop band called Oingo Boingo.
Before that, he composed and performed the music for an experimental musical theatre troupe in L.A. run by his brother RichardElfman called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (hence the name)
Around 1980, when Danny decided he wanted to move from live theatre to music, he and Richard put together a movie version of everything the Mystic Knights was…sort of a “swan song” for the troupe, and Forbidden Zone was born. This utterly mad film follows the adventures of the unbelievably dysfunctional Hercules family, who discover a portal to a parallel universe called the Sixth Dimension in the basement of their new house. The music is a cacophony of conflicting styles, from jazz to rock to minstrel shows to Jewish Vaudeville–yet somehow it all works together, a testament to Elfman‘s genius. The cast includes the aforementioned Susan Tyrell and the late Herve Villechaize (yes, Tattoo from Fantasy Island) as the Sixth Dimension’s queen and king, and Danny himself as Satan (yes, SATAN). Unfortunately, early ’80s audiences didn’t quite get what the Elfman brothers were attempting here, the movie faced accusations of racism for its use of blackface, and it performed poorly at the box office…..Fortunately, the “Midnight Movie” crowd adopted it a few years later, and it’s developed a sizeable and rabid following.
1. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog
Our #1 is neither a movie nor a television show, but holy balls is it NERDY!!!
Joss Whedon’s internet sensation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog is nothing short of magic. It’s less than an hour long, but it easily out-nerds (if that’s a term) any feature length musical on this list. Neil Patrick Harris is Dr. Horrible: A budding supervillain torn between his devotion to evil and world conquest, and his crush on the pretty redhead at the Laundromat who runs a homeless shelter (if you never understood why nerds love Felicia Day so much, it’s because you never saw her in this). Horrible works out his frustrations on his video blog, and in song, as he works to gain the notice of legendary supervillain Bad Horse, and deals with the humiliation of constant defeat at the hands of Captain Hammer: World’s Douchiest Superhero (Nathan Fillion–obviously having the time of his life) who’s also dating his girl!
I won’t spoil the ending, but try to remember: This IS a Whedon production….
There was a time when what could arguably be dismissed as “kids’ stuff” (comics, cartoons, toys, video games) had little or no chance at being adapted into successful, never mind respectable movies. Hell, to make Superman – the most famous and universally recognized comic book character on Earth – into a film people took seriously, they had to put Marlon Brando in the cast and get the author of The Godfather to write the script.
Things have changed: Nowadays studios drool over the chance at getting their mitts on nerdy properties. The children who grew up with cartoons, action figures, and comic books are now the adults buying movie tickets and DVDs/Blu-Rays. Marvel is close to becoming better known as a film studio than a comics publisher, video game flicks are no longer a running joke in the movie business, and cartoons designed to sell children overpriced hunks of plastic are now fodder for summer blockbusters.
Now, however much we as nerds want to see Michael Bay die in a fire for what he did to our sacred Transformers (or what he’s currently doing to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), it’s impossible to argue that the man made serious bank for Paramount. Sure, Bay might bathe in the tears of geeks, but the financial success he’s had is opening doors for live action adaptations of many of the programs we grew up with (some of which probably won’t completely suck). GI Joe: Rise Of Cobra may have been underwhelming, but its long-awaited sequel is proving to be a smash hit with audiences, critics, and nerds alike. A Robotech adaptation is reportedly in the works, and there’s been a great deal of talk about a Masters Of The Universe live action film that might actually take the subject matter seriously.
But what about the shows from our childhoods that are not quite as well-remembered? Shows that were largely forgotten by all but hardcore ’80s nerds? Could any of them possibly be resurrected as serious, profitable, well-received live action films? Well, here are ten we think might have a shot:
Of all the various subjects we like to think we know something about on this site, one I believe we can speak with clear authority about is “Bastards”. I mean, come on–the word itself is in our name! And there’s nowhere that one can find more obvious, clearly defined, and truly repugnant Bastards than in the films of the 1980s.
Movies of this era, for the most part, had a moral clarity to them you simply can’t find anymore: Within about five minutes of viewing you’ll know, without any reservation, who the good guys and bad guys are. Back then, Heroes were Heroes–and Villains were Villains, and there was rarely, if any, ambiguity about who was which.
And if you’ve seen as many ’80s flicks as I have–and have nothing resembling a career or social life to get in the way of such vital research–it won’t be long before you notice certain patterns regarding cinematic “Bastardy” (I hope that’s a word). The zeitgeist of the time period was utterly blatant about setting up certain kinds of people as inherently, irredeemably despicable–and once you catch on to this, you can spot the villains (or at least assholes) in such films unerringly and almost instantly.
Therefore, I have, as a handy reference for the aficionado of ’80s cinema, prepared a list of ten different varieties of characters who seem almost (if not entirely) incapable of decency, kindness, good will, or charity. These individuals are doomed to an existence as soulless blackguards who deserve nothing but scorn and derision–simply because of their careers, social standing, appearance, or familial roles.
(NOTE: Just so we’re on the same page, in no way should this list be taken to suggest that these individuals are morally repugnant outside of the fictional world of cinema–and the societal mores of the 1980s….thank you)
Ah, the humble Transporter! The most ubiquitous and well-known technological innovation of the Star Trek universe…better known than even phasers or warp drive. It’s not just Trekkies and sci-fi nerds who know the Transporter: You can say the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty!”to anyone on the street, and they’ll know immediately what you’re talking about–despite the fact that those words were NEVER uttered in that order on the show. If the random person you say this to points out that Kirk always said “Scotty–beam me up!”, congratulations: You’ve found a fellow geek. Go get some coffee and debate Kirk vs. Picard.
Developed by the original Trek writers as a way to get around the budget problems of landing the ship each time an episode took place on a planet, the Transporter has been the source of some of the franchise’s most interesting stories, and raises a number of fascinating philosophical questions: Like, who REALLY comes out on the other side? A Transported person is reduced to atoms, sent instantaneously to another location, and then reassembled…But is that really YOU? Or is it an exact duplicate that has all your memories and believes it’s you? There’s no way to be sure. You could have died when the beam dematerialized you…and NO ONE WOULD EVER KNOW!
Well, now that I’ve ruined your day, take a look at ten delightful, innovative, thought-provoking, and sometimes disturbing examples of how the Transporter can be more than just a means of getting from point “A” to point “B”. Including ways the infernal machine can really piss in your Cheerios.