Blasphuphmus Video On The Internet!

Blasphuphmus Radio has been growing and developing in recent years, and as technology becomes cheaper and more affordable, we have tried to find ways to use them effectively.  With that in mind, we are proud to present our newest venture, our very own YouTube channel!

Blasphuphmus Video On The Internet

As we have had many opportunities to meet and record musicians, occasionally some video of the event would manage to be captured.  However, there have been few places to put these video pieces in the past, and the few times they’ve been posted, they have been lost in the deluge of visual media.  Now, there is a one-stop solution to the question, “What kind of videos are available from some of my favorite Blasphuphmus Radio episodes?

These videos include great collaborations with Ricardo Wang of What’s This Called?, Miss Rikki of Closet Radio, Johnathon Boober, not to mention all the cool bands they booked, or the ones I hosted myself.  Every time I turned on a camera and filmed something, these videos wound up here.  Think of is as a curated collection of great moments in radio, and all you have to do is subscribe!

Blasphuphmus Video On The Internet

These are just a few of the samples of things that are forthcoming from Blasphuphmus Radio.  As we enter our 15th year, we’re hoping to really change up the way we bring you all the great things you know and love.  It has been a real privilege to be able to do all the things I’ve done over the years, and it is with your support that I have been able to do it.  Now, you can help me, by subscribing to our channel on YouTube.

Now: let the images speak for themselves.

Enjoy!

Moon Children

Crossing The Field Of Innocence
Crossing The Field Of Innocence

The trappings of childhood are usually designed to prepare us for becoming adults, and the toys and books and clothes that we grow up with often stand in for the equivalents we adopt later in life.  The people we meet – and the relationships we forge as children – set the tone for the way we interact with the world as we get older.  We’re fortunate that adults are put together just as well as kids are, only with different toys, books and clothes to surround themselves with.

This, in a nutshell, is the central thesis of Moonrise Kingdom: regardless of the age we reach, we are really no more insightful about the world than our children, and our relationships are just as simplistic and/or complex.  There will always be a parent or mentor above us looking to chastise / be jealous of us for doing what we think is right.  In many ways, this is a thread that you can pull through all of Anderson’s work, to the point that even his working adult name is diminutive, both in the shortened form of “Wes,” and in that he will always be Ander’s son; he will always be a fully grown child.  Even Anderson’s co-writer for this film, Roman Coppola, is Francis Ford’s son, bringing this thematic element to the construction of the movie itself.  While Anderson often blends the world of the film and the world that created the film, this aspect of metatext might be the reason to include a narrator that talks directly to the audience, as well as interacts with these childishly adult characters.

Perhaps the most childish are the adults that spend a good portion of the movie searching for Sam & Suzy.  Laura & Walt Bishop live in what appears to be a giant dollhouse, and they play at parenting and being lawyers the way kids do.  Laura’s temper and violent physical outbursts toward her husband perfectly match the actions of an angry and confused 12 year old.  Conversely, Walt is quiet like a shy little boy, entirely reserved from years of coping with his abusive girlfriend.  This has led to his inability to do accomplish anything; he makes suggestions that he will ride a motorcycle or chop down a tree, but never engages in either activity.  The only time they engage each other is when discussing law, an act that mitigates this stunted arguments of adults acting like children; otherwise, they are physically separated, each in different rooms / depths of focus / beds.  They each play roles neither are particularly good at, nor do they fully understand.

Randy is probably the most childish, playing boy scout well into middle age.  His interactions with children are all based in camaraderie, delivered as friendly leadership moments among peers.  He offers no real guidance when they do wrong, and instead gives suggestions for how they can follow the letter of scout law more closely.  His own ability to wear this identity himself is much like his uniform: ill-fitting.  He is trying to teach the young scouts how to remain as such forever, but their own survival skills seem to have come from elsewhere.

Captain Sharp is no better; his policeman’s uniform resembles that of a little league outfit (right down to his ball cap), and as neither he or Randy have children of their own, they struggle to break out of the rolls they set for themselves when they were kids, and yet have no real idea how to do this.  You can easily imagine Captain Sharp saying “Police Officer” when asked what he was going to be when he grows up, and has thus been one ever since, not knowing there are possible alternatives.

At the center of all these childish adults are Sam & Suzy, each of them comfortably taking on the roles of a couple where not even their parents can do so.  They plan their individual escapes with an inventive amount of detail and preparation, and quickly consummate their budding relationship, something the adults are unable to do.  Their physical and emotional intimacy creates a counterpoint for the distance that exists between everyone else.  Unlike the childish cigarettes that Randy wields, held in the most dainty of manners, Sam smokes a wooden pipe.  Suzy reads to Sam – who listens attentively – where her parents can barely talk to each other without using a bullhorn.  The children seem particularly skilled in assuming their roles in this relationship; Sam’s training as a scout has made him the perfect at surviving in the wilderness away from people, while Suzy’s rage and intelligent sweetness makes her a perfect complement in sharing intimacy and fending off danger.

Both manage to pantomime adult mating rituals with comic outcomes, but the results carry more sweetness and beauty than any other examples of affection that are shown in the film.  Getting to know each other’s tastes, dancing to pop music, and even their first awkward motions toward physical contact not only mark a counterpoint to the Suzy’s parents, but is a perfect analog for the experience of dating everyone goes through.  We all feel far too young when we first experience someone physically, and we each feel as if we’ve wandered into some uncharted territory, on the ledge of a precipice or ocean, and in spite of what anyone may already have called it, there is an urge to shout out our own names to make this world our own.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” Captain Sharp asks Sam after he and Suzy are “rescued” by the bumbling search party, and this offers a little insight into the plight of the adults in this film.  Longing for a time when their lives could be simplistic – like when they were children – only drives their childish behavior more.  They each live with regrets they can never take back, and this motivation leads to their desire to stymie the progression into adulthood they think these children are foolishly making.  What they are ignoring, however, is that Sam and Suzy are already grown up; any effort the adults make is too late.  What scares the adults in this film the most isn’t that the kids are growing up to fast, but that they themselves haven’t even attempted to do so.

What sells Sam and Suzy’s adult behavior in terms of the films assembly is the careful use of cinematic tropes and references that not only correspond with the time period of the film, but include the deft incorporation of a narrator, played expertly by Bob Balaban.  The unnamed narrator not only breaks the fourth wall by addressing us directly while also appearing as a character in the film, but his careful monitoring of the environmental elements that are at play make him very well equipped to move between our world and theirs.  It his this character who not only fills us in on what is happening, but does the same for the adults when they are at a loss as to how to find Sam & Suzy.  In much the same way that Greek plays unfold, The Narrator both describes the action, but intercedes upon this action, and Balaban’s performance in this capacity as an actual meteorologist is perhaps the only true grown “adult” in the film.

Meanwhile, Sam, Suzy and the other scouts perfectly adapt their behavior to match those of the movies they are imitating, weaving elements of westerns, 50’s romantic dramas and war films into their perceptions of how they should behave.  The adults, however, continue their childish pursuits of a High School drama, until the storm strikes, at which time they try to step out of their roles to become adults the children really need.

More than anything else, the film is a mash note to the biggest influence in Anderson’s life: Young Adult novels of his childhood.  While there are some elements of this in his film version of the children’s book The Fantastic Mr. Fox, as well as certain elements of The Royal Tennebaums (Margot essentially re-enacts a bit of the storyline of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler when she runs away as a child to live in a Museum), Moonrise Kingdom takes the ideas from this and a number of similar books (My Side Of The Mountain, Bridge to Terabithia, etc.) and remixes them with an Andersonian sense of how they all influenced his own childhood.  It’s clear that Anderson never managed to grow up, or, rather, spent his youth already grown up and had to wait in real time for his own body to catch up.  This has very clearly left an indelible impact on him, and it is no wonder that this movie is set in the ’60’s, when Anderson himself was born.  We are being asked to see this as a melting pot where his great loves – film, books, and the blurred line between childhood and adulthood – was born.

As with any Wes Anderson movie, the details in this film are flawlessly assembled.  There is a hand-made quality to everything he does, so much so that even the few CGI moments seem painless by comparison to the way some directors use the effect.  His Ozu references are just as beautiful as his nods to Encyclopedia Brown, and his musical selections are not only dead perfect, but work in a sort of Peter And The Wolf manner, helping track characters and story elements deftly and beautifully.  While it is impossible to say if this is my favorite film of his, perhaps that is not the point.  This is another chapter in the story he is constantly telling, a new iteration of a story that seems to share qualities with every film before it.

While you could never argue that each film is identical to each other, a simple glance at any scene from any of his movies screams Anderson in a way that is immediately identifiable, and it is this that I have come to love from a man who has a love of making movies that is only outmatched by his completely self-conscious desire to control every element of their artifice, and remind us that yes, we are not only watching a film, we are watching a Wes Anderson film.  And a damn good one, too.

Gimme A Head With Hair

It Looks Like Thousands Of Strands!
It Looks Like Thousands Of Strands!

So far, Pixar has had an incredible batting average with their filmic output, releasing hit after hit that appeal to multiple generations.  Using a wit and sense of humor that is simultaneously family friendly without condescension, they have brought the computer animated film out of the realm of niche-market and brought it into the realm of the blockbuster.  It was no small surprise that kids would find Toy Story or Cars endlessly re-watchable, but its quite a feat to string along the parents, too.  Even people without kids, and film nerds who love to hate on everything, have to admit that Pixar have done what few other animation studios could ever accomplish: create an output that is both popular in its time and well after the fact.

My love of Wall-E was, sadly, hard won.  I spent a lot of time avoiding Pixar, merely because they seemed marketed towards “kids.”  However, after much soul searching, I realized I was exactly their target market, and have now come to love the ones I’ve seen.  However, Brave has created in me some doubt.  What came across as a Scottish adventure featuring a female lead, became a mother / daughter bonding flick that was better suited as a Disney Channel afternoon film, rather than a theatrical release.  By ingraining the characterizations with stereotypes and anachronistic motives – and relying on a very overt metaphor to convey the central thrust of the film – the few adventurous moments came across as if they were tacked on, rather than the backbone of the story.

Brave revolves around three central stereotypes and a cast of ancillary Scots that fulfill more sitcom-inspired relationship dynamics than three dimensional characters rendered by top of the line computers should be able to.  Both of the parents appear to be cut from modern American behavioral cloth: the perfectionist, commanding, family leader, Queen Elinor, and her oafish, loud, butt-of-most-jokes husband, King Fergus.  The father makes no attempt to understand anything more than what is immediately ahead of him, while the mother is constantly concerned with her daughter’s future.  It’s suggested that this is because the daughter will eventually marry an important prince, and thus bring peace to a land that could break out into war at the drop of a hat, but as it turns out it’s very easy to talk the entire kingdom out of this.  (In fact, their daughter Merida convinces everyone in Scotland that they don’t need to follow tradition at all, in what amounts to a couple of minutes in the middle of the film, thus leaving the family problems to take up the real story arc being followed.)

Ultimately, the film is about Elinor wanting to control Merida, Merida wanting to control her own life, and her father being just clueless enough that he foolishly thinks they will work this out between themselves without the help of magic.  The arguments and fights between mother and daughter are so predictable that when Merida runs away, we feel that we’ve seen this story play out hundreds of times, and when she brings in a witch to help convince Elinor to be more understanding, it seems so incredibly swiped from the Disney trope-of-the-week bin that you have to wonder if this is even a Pixar movie anymore.  Perhaps even more ham-fisted than the hodge-podge of plot-predictability is the use of the most literal metaphor I’ve seen in years: Merida’s mother is actually a bear for the majority of her time on screen.  Get it?  The fact that any girl has not referred to her own mother as being a “bear” since the era that is depicted in this film was probably considered to be one of the references “for the adults.”

What saves the film are the advances in computer animation, something that has always been an element of Pixar’s films.  It’s true that the hair & cloth look more like the real deal than either ever have in any computer animated film.  The range of the color pallet is fantastic; this is a vivid, compelling film that looks great on the screen.  The sound design is some of the best ever realized in a theater, and there is a lot of evidence to point to that illustrates these technical achievements.  The short before the feature – La Lune – is probably one of my favorite Pixar films, period.  It uses a very simple premis, all of the technical know-how up the studio’s sleeves, and practically nothing else, to create a fantastic gem that is unfortunately overshadowed by the feature that follows it.  In many ways, Brave comes off as a film that wanted to show off all the new toys that Pixar has developed, but forgot to call the writers that usually work on their films to punch up the story.

Probably the most disappointing aspect of the movie are the blatant stereotypes: fiery daughters, heavy accents, an intelectual shortfall among the men, and a general amount of oafishness is added to every scene, and every Scottish gag and jab is thrown in time and time again.  Pixar has never been afraid of adding a liberal layer of jokes overtop the emotional thrust of their stories, but in Brave the effort seems directed at making the subject of the film the butt of every joke, and the emotional components of the film seem whiney.  Pixar has made the claim that this is their first “fairy tale” film, and thus many of the tropes therein are most certainly going to bubble to the surface.  But there are only so many negative Braveheart references that any viewer can take before you feel beaten over the head with the Scottishness of everything.  Yes, it is set in Scotland.  We get it.  Stereotypes do exist for a reason, true, but they are not a replacement for good story and characterization.

And the stereotypes are not just limited to Scottish jokes.  Men – middle aged, at least – are constantly poked fun of, and it is suggested that this oafishness is merely a male trait that must be put up with.  Women fare no better, coming across as short-tempered and demanding, with no ability to see the point of view of others without having to go through an ordeal to learn that lesson first.  In many ways, the film suggests that mothers and daughters all follow one path: mom cares for daughter, daughter becomes ungrateful, mom becomes a bear, daughter helps mom overcome this by growing up a little herself, and they both spend their days living out a sort of Gilmore Girls fantasy friendship where they finally see eye-to-eye.  In much the same way that Disney films tend to reinforce pop gender stereotypes, Brave presents the same sitcom gender roles that have been present for the last 30 years or so.

This is not to say that Pixar has lost all hope.  In spite of its shortcomings, Brave is incredibly well made, and La Lune is entirely worth the price of admission on its own.  But as Pixar’s first fairy tale, and their first film with a female lead, I was hoping for something closer to Mulan and less like Freaky Friday.  They spend a lot of time setting up that Merida is accomplished with a bow and arrow, and yet aside from some great trick-shots the typical “school’s out” scene, Merida’s marksmanship does not help save the day.  Her fiery, impulsive nature gets her intro trouble constantly, and its suggested that tempering her adventurousness is what will guide her in the future.  In fact, it becomes clear pretty early that, rather than a fun adventure fairy tale, its actually a pre-teen coming-of-age story.

And there is always a market for a movie like this, undoubtedly.  Brave will find an audience, and I’m sure it will even do well in the future.  The open mocking of men, “ethnic humor” (as they used to call racial stereotypes in the 80’s), and flashy visuals have always appealed to wide audiences, and there is no question that in this post-modern age of micro-markets the film will eventually find a comfortable resting place in the media landscape that surrounds us.  (I’m sure The Disney Channel is already clearing space in their after-school line-up to house Brave for a few months after it’s had a good theater run.)  Still, for what was marketed as a good adventure fairy tale with a female lead, we instead I got a 90+ minute TV comedy about how hard it is to be a teenage girl, how inept men are, and how mean mom can be.

Oh: and hair that looks pretty realistic.  Ish.

Required Viewing.

Filmed in the UK in 1977 & 1978, this film contains an overview of the bands that were fairly well known at the time, and starting to get recognition outside of their friends and their local scenes.  Definitely slanted, and more from the perspective of scenesters and friends of friends, the BBC try to make sense of this youth culture the only way they know how: by making an hour long documentary about it.  Most likely the first film made to cover this ground.  Well worth watching.

Super-Hero TV & Film

I just picked up watching The Cape again, now that I can stream it all from Hulu for free.  I caught a few episodes when it was new, and was excited to see more.  Of course, before I could really remember to get caught back up, it was already canceled.  So much for that.

Still, a short and sweet 10 episodes should be a nice break until I can find my next televisual obsession.  You can expect a longer post, with more detail about it’s varying qualities, when I make it through all the episodes.

In the meantime: I’m considering a longer essay on the nature of Super-Hero TV and Movies, especially given that there is a glut of them in the here and now.  I’m thinking of a long overview of the “genre,” how it has evolved, what sets it apart from other film genres, etc.  It seems that, like every other genre, there are certain things happening in this genre that are not happening in other films, and it may be worth investigating.

My question becomes: what would you consider “essential” Super-Hero TV and Film?  What shows and movies cannot be omitted from such a project?  What are your favorite Super-Hero TV shows and Movies?

Dante’s Explorers

Escapism As Plot
Escapism As Plot

Your average movie critic would categorize Joe Dante as a low-rent Steven Spielberg, and unfortunately, there is enough evidence in his films to support this badly-made assertion. Both Gremlins and InnerSpace have that Spielberg-ian flavor to their form and execution, and the fact that Spielberg took Dante under his wing early on only adds to that notion. But where Spielberg seems to be able to mine the Hollywood Mainstream for blockbusters and money makers, Dante seems only able to skirt the edges in ways that earn him little cash. A quick glance at their respective filmographys will instantly reveal who is the household name and who isn’t; as it stands, the closest thing to a blockbuster Dante had was his Spielberg-produced horror movie, Gremlins.

But Dante’s films tend to be more nuanced, and function on levels that most of Hollywood fare don’t (or can’t). While on the surface, Explorers seems to embody the Spielberg-ian notions of Wish Fulfillment Fantasy and Childhood Nostalgia, in a much more direct sense, Explorers is a film that explains how to navigate your High School years through the development of fantasy coping mechanisms.

The overall plot of the film is typical of youth-oriented adventure movies: a trio of friends build a spaceship in their backyard, using circuit designs dreamed by Ben (Ethan Hawk), constructed by Wolfgang (River Phoenix), and named by Darren (Jason Presson, the only one of the primary actors to not have a big Hollywood career afterward). When they iron out all the kinks in their ship, they realize that they’ve been called by a pair of aliens in deep space, whom they go to visit, where the real fun begins. Eventually they return from their heroes’ journey wiser, experienced, and having made it through the “underworld” relatively unscathed. Odysseus himself could not have planned the trip better.

The main character of the film, Ben, is immediately characterized as an outcast. The target of bullies and being raised by a single parent, his refuge is the world of Sci-Fi. Film, books, comics, anything otherworldly helps him cope with his everyday misery, while he secretly pines for a rich girl (Lori) that he can never obtain for obvious (class) reasons. In their own ways, Wolfgang and Darren are similarly outcast; Wolfgang is immersed in Science, to the point that he can think in no other terms, while Darren obsesses over his scooter and his Walkman, attempting to ignore the realities of his own drunken father at home. Using the resolve they gain from their media obsessions and interests, they manage to find a way to survive through the complex world of High School when it’s clear that they just don’t fit in.

However, once these three kids take the first step into their Odyssesian “underworld,” they find themselves crossing the threshold of the very media Ben is obsessed with in the first place. First, they create an energy sphere out of thin air, as if it has been called forth from the very media Ben idolizes. Once it has been created, it literally moves “through” the very books and Comics that Ben collects. (As if the idea of an energy sphere was trying to return to the world it came from.) Later, the sphere takes Wolfgang on a Journey Through The Center of The Earth by “accidentally” tunneling through a mountainside they happen to be experimenting upon. After they finally build their ship (a creation comprised of things they find in a disused junkyard, where the mainstream casts off things no longer important), they choose to make their first destination the local Drive-In (Darren: “Where’s all the action on a Friday Night?” Ben: “The Drive-In!”).

However, the film takes a decidedly strange turn once they get there. Not only do our young heroes start interacting with the Drive-In screen itself, the movie they watch starts to interact back. (Not only with them, but with us.) What’s playing on the screen is Starkiller, a fictional film within a film, and an obscure George Lucas reference, too. (Luke Skywalker’s original name, in the early drafts of the first Star Wars script, was Luke Starkiller.) The hero of this film, Starkiller (played expertly by Robert Picardo, in one of his two roles for Explorers), not only embodies everything that a Sci-Fi, B-Movie, Drive-In character should, but his reaction shots all revolve around things that are happening outside of his own film. Interacting with media, in the world of Explorers, works two ways: you get out of it what you put into it.

When the boys finally allow the craft they’ve built to take them to the stars, they encounter a pair of aliens who act as if they have stepped out of a Sci-Fi films themselves. (Robert Picardo plays Wak, effectively stepping out of Starkiller and into Explorers. It’s only fitting that he plays a hologram in Voyager, to further toy with this tension.) Both Wak and Neek learned English from our own movies and television, too. As Ben and his companions get to know Wak and Neek, they discover that the aliens are just as obsessed with media junk culture as they are.

After meeting Ben and his friends, Wak and Neek project, onto themselves, the boys, every available surface, and in the air all around them, screen after screen of TV shows, commercials, and old movies, all blending and mixing into a melange of cultural noise. Ben and his friends stare, transfixed, but Wak and Neek feel comfortable literally wandering through these images from which they have sprung. But where Ben is obsessed with the more obscure selections our culture offers, Wak and Neek soak up anything and everything they see. The more steeped in the mundane and everyday Wak and Neek become, the more and more they resemble your average American. (Ben: “They don’t make any sense.” Wolfgang: “That’s the way that they think we talk!”)

In the end, in a sort of cinematic sigh rather than a dramatic crescendo, Ben and his friends discover that there is almost no difference between themselves and the aliens they’ve met. Wak and Neek went into space to meet aliens too, inspired to do so by Earth media they’re obsessed with. Only, in their case, they get caught in the end by their own father. (Wak and Neek’s father manages to do an incredible Ralph Kramden impression in an all-alien dialect, pure Dante-nonsense at its finest.)

When the boys return to Earth, the occasion is even more anti-climactic; rather than the triumphant, heroic return of three space travelers who have touched the stars, met alien life, and made it home to tell the tale, they accidentally crash into a lake, to no welcome or fanfare, and have to escape from their home-made vehicle in much the same way that your work-a-day Astronauts might after a water landing. The crushing reality of their experience is so overwhelming that their craft is sucked instantly to the bottom of the lake, irretrievable.

Sort of.

As Dante is quick to point out, the ending that exists is not the one he wanted. Between budgetary constraints and studio pressure, the film was never properly “finished.” Further difficulties in distribution, promotion, and release made the movie even more obscure at the time it came out, disappointing Dante further. (Especially after the phenomenal success of his previous film, Gremlins.) But the ending that is tacked on, no matter how nostalgic and sentimental it might be on the surface, suggests in a subtle way that the “happily ever after” vision we see is actually anything but happy once run through a Dante-filter.

Ben, Wolfgang and Darren are able to do something no other human has been able to, but only by clinging to childhood obsessions and dreams in order to do so. Ben is smarter and more perceptive than those in the Mainstream because, unlike Wak and Neek, he only indulges in certain obscure elements. He has learned how to traverse the media landscape in a way that he enjoys, and enables him to accomplish that which no one else can. But at what cost? He can never tell anyone of his outer space adventures, and most likely, will not be able to recreate them, either. These dream achievements are incredible and fantastic, but become less and less fulfilling when you have to turn the movie off and return to real life.

This is most poignant through the love-interest subplot with a girl named Lori. Ben never manages to succeed with her during the film proper, in spite of several attempts to do so. (With hindsight, I’m actually surprised how much Lori reminds me of my first crush, but that’s another story.) Finally, in the closing minutes of the film, he is able to connect with Lori, not only emotionally, but physically. (They kiss during a flying dream-sequence.) This connection, though, only occurs in his dream; it happens shortly after Ben falls asleep, bored to death at school, a place he hates, and where he is characterized as being unsuccessful.

And this becomes the final “message” that comes through at the end of the film: only in the media that Ben consumes (manifest “dreams” themselves) can Ben achieve what he most desperately wants. In real life, he is alone, an outcast, with only his mostly absent (and out-of-touch) mother to watch out for him. The girl he wants is out of reach, in a literal and symbolic sense (she is always just beyond his physical reach in the film, either separated by actual space or by mirrors and energy fields), who he can only connect with through flights of fancy. (The most interaction he has with her in the real world is through a photograph, again a piece of media.) His friends may share his dreams with him to an extent, but their own interests are vastly different from his own; they can fly with him, but in the end, they fly alone, away from Ben and Lori as they cruise through Ben’s closing dream. The credits even start rolling before Ben’s dream can conclude, leaving this perfect childhood fantasy to never have to suffer from the teacher waking him up to ask another question he can’t answer. (The credits themselves start to intrude into the dream Ben is having, yet again muddying the barrier between reality and fantasy, and which is which.)

That is not to say that there is no joy in watching Explorers. The movie is a repository of cinematic references and childhood nostalgia that will really hit home for anyone obsessed with Warner Brothers cartoons, old Sci-Fi films, or someone who is looking for an adequate third to follow a Goonies / Stand By Me double feature. But don’t be surprised if the meta-content starts to contort your perspective on this particular feature, or that the sad realities of growing up come crashing down on you as you start to put together exactly what Mr. Dante was trying to tell us.

What delighted me as a child is an all-to-horrific reminder in the here and now, of how painful growing up really can be, and the things you have to leave behind in order to do it successfully. Cheery stuff, no?

Wilhelm Weirdness

Here’s a little something that I found last night that is exactly up my ally: The Wilhelm Scream sound effect, and it’s history.

My friend Steve sent me the DVD for The Middleman, a short lived TV show on ABC Family that is to Comic Book Fiction what Buffy is to Vampire Fiction. The primary creator and writer is Javier Grillo-Marxuach, with more nerd credentials than I thought possible. (Not only does he write comics, but he was one of the writer’s and producers for the first two seasons of Lost. As I hadn’t heard of The Middleman before (how, exactly, I missed it is a mystery to me), I turned to the above-linked Wikipedia entry for more information, one of the first things I noticed was the short sentence, “Every episode used the Wilhelm scream in some way.” I couldn’t let a quick reference like that go un-Googled, so within a few minutes I had the whole story sorted out.

The short version: In 1951, a Warner Brothers movie called Distant Drums used a set of recorded screams that became popular among sound effects editors. As the years wore on, the scream became an in-joke among those editors, who would go out of their way to sneak it into films in any way they could. It is claimed that the effect appears in over 140 films. Sooner or later, film nerds began to catch on: George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, and Joe Dante were some of the first people to revive it’s usage, and the tradition has been picked up by Tim Burton, Quinten Tarentino, and Peter Jackson. As more and more film nerds become hip to the effect, it becomes used even more often, only perpetuating it as a sound chiché. It’s only fair, then, that when something as pure-geek as The Middleman starts being produced, you’d have to pull out all the stops and put it in every episode. At least Javier is following in a good TV tradition too: Wilhelm has screamed in Maverick, The X-Files, Angel, The Family Guy, and in commercials for both Dell and Comcast.

(I can only imagine that this kind of obscure referencing could have only contributed to ABC Family just scratching their heads before giving up and canceling something this idiosyncratic. Perhaps that’s why it is so appealing.)

For those of you not exactly sure if you can place the effect in film, some kind person has created a great YouTube video that collects some of the best useages of Wilhelm in an easy-to-digest 3 1/2 minute form. If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then really, what will?