Monday, July 22, 2019

My First Comic Con - July 2019



While I was living back home in Michigan, every July for the past eight years or so, I closely monitored the Twitter updates, and media articles about all the activities related to the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). I knew that once I moved to California, I would have to try to attempt to attend one day. In late Spring of 2018, it was revealed that a sci-fi project that I was very familiar with, Dune, was going to have a new adaptation done by one of my favorite directors, and it was going to star Timothée Chalamet. Once I learned this, my interest in getting personally acquainted with Comic Con immediately took on new urgency.

I registered with Comic Con in July, and waited for badges to on sale in November. The first round of sales is a pre-sale that occurs in late October, for those who attended the most recent Comic Con, it's a head start on those who skipped the most recent con, and those who have never attended, or haven't attended in a while. Thankfully, in early November, I was able to buy a badge for the Friday and Saturday. Although when I was granted access to the site, all 4 days, including the preview day was still available for purchase, I only wanted to do two days to start. Now after attending my first comic con, I will add on the Thursday, so I can have more time to visit the exhibit hall and off-site activities.

Thursday, 18 July -

I arrived in San Diego around 3:30 pm. Checked into the hotel that I won the lottery for - Hampton Inn San Diego Downtown. It's along the Pink shuttle line, but it's an easy 28 minutes walk (for me) to manage. The shuttle takes approximately 30 minutes. I walked around the San Diego Convention Center to familiarize myself with the logistics of the convention, as well as the off site activities (which I unfortunately was not able to take advantage of). I did have a Stranger Things fan party to attend, and luckily I was one of the first ones there and got in rather quickly and easily. I hung out for just over an hour as I had planned. Needed to get back to the hotel to be well rested for my first Comic Con day.

Friday, 19 July -

On Wednesday I learned that I might be able to get put on a guest list at the studio entrance of Hall H, but that confirmation would come on Thursday. As promised, confirmation arrived and I did not have to deal with the intimidating insanity of the Hall H line (more on that later). I am extremely grateful to my Hall H Guardian Angel (GA) and I have a new friend because of their compassion, professionalism, and empathy for my predicament. My day started off learning where I needed to stand in line on Saturday morning, and then I went into the convention center to pick up my pre-sale items (several of which I wanted to wear during the con). After collecting my lanyard, comic con guide, and bag, I proceeded to the rest of the Exhibit Hall and to say I was overwhelmed is a serious understatement.


It is stimulation overload when I first entered into the exhibit hall. You just let your eyes guide you and your feet take you where you naturally gravitate towards. It's similar to shopping at a mall, the weekend before Christmas with a very specific list of things to buy and only so much money. My eye glazed over many of the fabulous exhibits there as they were interesting, but since I was not a fan, nor familiar with the product, it was easy to just look from afar with a smile and I kept moving to the next exhibits. I would say that the majority of loyal SDCC attendees are such hardcore fans, that at least 80% of the exhibits there will appeal to them. For me, I would estimate that maybe 30% of the exhibits appealed to me. And that's fine because of that 30%, those exhibits had 110% of my attention. I put so much money into the badges, which is like $70 per day, I spent approximately $110 on pre-sale items, and the hotel and parking fees, that I had a strict $100 spending budget for the exhibit. My total comic con trinkets spending wound up to a mere $62. Huzzah! This includes reimbursing my GA who nabbed the last remaining Dune boxes for us while I was trapped in Hall H.

I participated in a Star Trek Discovery 'beam up' exhibit, which was a lot of fun. But for this ONE activity I wanted to participate in at 10 am on Friday morning, I waited in line for about an hour. This was OK, it goes with the territory. Star Trek has a lot of fans and it's just something that you do at Comic Con: wait in line. But I have my limits, and there are only so many hours in the day. Can you imagine waiting in line for 1-2 hours for several exhibits each day of the con? That's why people attend all four days so that they can play the wait in line game for as many exhibits as possible. That's fine for some people, but thankfully for me, I'm only interested in doing this for a select few exhibits, and Star Trek was the only one worthy of my line waiting attention this year. Now, had Warner Brothers been on the ball and had Wonder Woman and The Joker at their exhibit, instead of focusing on their TV shows I don't give a damn about, I would have lined up for them. Warner Brothers is expected to return to SDCC next year, as they are the studio for Dune (hint).

Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne entering Carnival Row Ballroom 20 panel stage

Ballroom 20 screen

By 1 pm, I was loaded down by stuff I collected, so I headed back to my hotel for a breather before I dealt with the line for Ballroom 20, another conference room for popular panels that is a beast to get into. The new Amazon Prime series, Carnival Row, starring Orlando Bloom was scheduled at 4:45. After my break, I headed back to the convention center to get in line for Ballroom 20. This is a 3500 seat auditorium, so it can fit half of Hall H. The most popular and highly anticipated TV programs are presented in this conference room. The line was quite impressive and when I was directed to the end, I was exasperated. But alas, I was informed by one of the volunteers that this line was nothing and that I would definitely get in. So word to the wise, if you plan on attending Comic Con in the future, and don't like the length of a line (other than Hall H), don't let that concern you too much, just ask volunteers around you and they will assure you that you'll be able to get in. If not, they will also tell you so. I had a good seat in Ballroom 20, just one seat off from the aisle (my preferred seating). I could see the stage clearly, but had to rely on the large screen for up close views of the faces of the people on the stage. We saw several impressive clips for Carnival Row, cementing my interest in seeing this show when it comes on in late August.

After I left Ballroom 20, I went into the exhibit hall once more realizing the Saturday was going to be monopolized by Hall H, so I quickly walked through it again to pick up a few more things. My suggestion about how to navigate the con is to ID the exhibits you MUST participate in and plan to wait in line for however long you desire. Then after that, walk through the con per each zone, directly in the middle of the path, looking left and right to see what's on both sides. Some exhibits that weren't on your radar may stand out, and you go there and you may find something that you didn't realize you wanted. It's all about pacing yourself and know what you like. If you don't READ comic books, there's no need to go to the comic book section. If you love limited edition comic art, then focus on that section and look for interesting art to buy. If you NEED a Funko exclusive, enter the lottery and hope you win. I entered autograph signings and exclusive lotteries and didn't get a thing. So, that saved me money.  I left the exhibit hall around 6:30 to go get dinner in the Gaslamp area. I was back at the hotel by 8:30 as I needed my rest to get up early for my Hall H adventure. (more after the cut)


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Quick Film Review: Stuber (B)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Quick Film Review: Midsommar (A)

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Quick Film Review: Anna (B+)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Quick Film Review: Aladdin (A)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Quick Film Review: Godzilla - King of the Monsters (B+)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Quick Film Review: Brightburn (B+)

Closing down Fassinating Fassbender


On the eve of the red carpet premiere of the latest X-Men film, Dark Phoenix, I find myself reminiscing about the actor who played Magneto in these films, Michael Fassbender, and how I dedicated nearly 10 years being a devoted fan of his. I managed a fan blog, Fassinating Fassbender (FF), and it was so well received that I impressed him and his management enough to be granted an interview with him at the near height of his new found fame in 2010. However, in 2018, I decided to stop writing on the blog and focus on other things in life, and in writing things for this blog, ToZ.

As I received an email notice yesterday informing me that it was time to renew the domain for FF, I thought about it for a full day, and then decided that it was time to just pull the plug. My intentions were to keep it up and running for archival purposes for the next several years. But I'm interested in moving on now and not looking back. Of the nine years of writing great articles for FF, I decided that the one article that was worth preserving was my brilliant interview with Michael. So with that, I copied the interview, and the fan comments to ToZ and on it's own page.

If you're interested, please go to this link: http://www.theatreofzen.com/p/archive-article-fassinating-fassbender.html

Just two years ago I would have gone through hell and back to try to attend the world premiere red carpet of the latest X-Men movie, but now, I can't be bothered with it, and I truly find that sad.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Quick Film Review: Rocketman (A-)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Quick Film Review - John Wick 3 (Grade: A)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Finally, A New Job!


On this day, the 22nd of April 2019, two years and six months since I moved to Southern California, I have accepted a full-time job offer with the company I have been a contractor at since December 2017. The peace of mind that I have long sought, and the security of my future has now finally been given the opportunity to come to fruition. There were a few times during my first year in the LA area where I wondered if I did the right thing in moving here. The job search was getting scary and demanding. I had not one, but two God awful jobs that were so terrible, I had to quit with very short notice. But after so many bad years at home in Michigan, I was determined to make a fresh start here in the LA area and I did. I'm with a large and well respected health care provider, and to be employed with this company all but assures that I'll have not only excellent access to health care, but at an excellent 'discounted' employee rate. This is so important, especially at my age and being single. My title is Compliance Consultant, and I'm finally out from under that administrative assistant umbrella that I have been getting sucked back in every other role.

I have a professional job title, professional responsibilities, an excellent salary with an excellent organization. This is finally happening in 2019. If I could go back in time and tell my 2009 self that I will be OK and succeed but in another state, I would do it because I was hurting so badly back then. I speculated that just past the two year mark of moving here, things would finally settle in for me.

Next big target: My own apartment. This won't happen until late 2020 after my trip to Italy and paying off my car that summer.

Thank you celestial beings for looking out for me!!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Quick Film Review: Captain Marvel - Grade A

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Good, The Bad, and The Ridiculous Oscar Season

I've been pretty occupied for the first two months of this year so much, that I have failed to post an update here at ToZ. See, I've been busy as a Film Independent member watching films to participate in the Spirit Awards voting (Feb 23rd), as well as preparing for my Oscar Fan Experience that I have been excited about since I found out on January 2nd. However, my fan experience was significantly dampened when I learned that my favorite young actor, Timothée Chalamet, did not earn a well expected Oscar nomination for Beautiful Boy. Without rehashing that disappointment, it did deflate my interest in the red carpet, but I still attended and had a very good time. What follows is a brief summary in separate sections.

The Spirit Awards


My friend Tracy and I (she also joined me at the Oscar fan experience) attended the member's screening of the Spirit Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday where we ate great food and sat in the nice office space of Film Independent. I have not had the pleasure of sitting through an entire awards show ceremony in years, let alone with a group of fellow cinephiles and actual voters. But it was a lot of fun seeing how our votes either came to fruition, or if they did not, we were still pleased with the amazingly smart and diverse group of winners. The Spirit Awards are what the Oscars should emulate if politics and pettiness did not rule over that group.

Oscar Fan Experience Bleacher Seats


I won a First prize award sponsored by People magazine for two seats in the bleachers along the red carpet. The fun of that experience could not be more enjoyed without a good friend with me. The process to get officially approved was intimidating (had to provide personal information on myself in order to pass a background check), but of course we passed quickly enough. Communications from the sponsor was thorough and gave the impression that it would be a unique opportunity for film fans to enjoy the red carpet festivities of a ceremony that is the finale of a six-month award campaign season. Ever since I was a kid, I have been interested in the Oscars, so it was so exciting to be a part of this with People magazine. The fan experience for 740 fans included a half dozen activities of leisure and pampering before the show began, and we got a gift bag (kinda flimsy if I must admit; a bit disappointing), and we were very well fed.

The red carpet itself was amazing to experience, just so much fun seeing all the nominees, all the other A-list stars, industry movers and shakers, and a cast of entertainment industry folks, all glammed up to attend the show. The red carpet lasted for 3 hours, and our butts were getting numb sitting there (even with a nice People seat cushion). We could not stand up as to avoid blocking anyone's view. It was tight, which made the really uncouth fans (like the crazy girl behind me) who were prone to uncontrollable screaming, to scream so loudly and without a sense of self-control and self-respect. She was the worst part of an otherwise fun experience.

After the red carpet ended, we were escorted to the El Capitan Theater for dinner and to watch a 15 minute delayed Oscar telecast. This was to allow us to watch the show in its entirety because it started immediately after the red carpet and it took us about 20 minutes to get situated and have over 700 people go to the theater. The buffet was excellent, all the food was good. But we should have been given something to hold our food, like a cafeteria style food tray. However, because I wasn't in the mood to watch/support this year's Oscar show (see below), I ate my food quickly while watching Queen perform and I saw Regina King win. With that, I finished up, and left. I was able to make it home at 6:30, just 1.5 hours after the red carpet ended.

I'm very grateful to be a winner for the bleacher seats, and I do look forward to entering contests again in the future. I just hope that I'm in a more celebratory mood to be actively interested in the Oscars if my favorite(s) are actually nominated. Way too many snubs this year, and films and performances that didn't move me much, were honored instead.

The Oscars (sans Timothée Chalamet)


Since last September at TIFF, when Timmy made a great impression in Beautiful Boy, we expected him to get his second Oscar nomination; just a year after his first historic Oscar nom for Call Me By Your Name. But on January 22nd, when the Oscar nominations were announced, Timmy did not receive that expected nomination and it greatly upset me. Not to the point of tears, but just frustrated none the less by what I strongly believe was a deliberate action by The Academy in pumping the brakes on 'the boy' and forcing him to stay in a lane that none of us knew existed. Be that as it may, and without slamming the talent who did receive an Oscar nomination, and the films celebrated by the Oscars, I'll just say this: The Academy nomination process is not as organic and democratic as we're lead to believe. What the academy wants as its winners represent how they want society to view the academy. Like the old adage, 'You are what you eat'; the Oscars are, 'We are what we nominate and deem as the winner'. As perfect as timing would have it, this tweet below explains how the academy membership is at the present:




So, it's clear how they vote, what they find as worthy of being nominated, and what is actually worthy of taking home an Oscar in the respective categories. Of all the 24 categories, I will say that I was utterly shocked that Glenn Close did not win the Oscar. Olivia Colman won, and I cannot fault her as I thought she could win it as she was superb in The Favourite (but, gee, another Brit playing royalty). Glenn won so much praise and awards for The Wife, and it's her 7th nomination at 71 years old, surely she was going to win, but, yet again, the Academy brilliantly does what I call, 'Elegantly cruel'.She was even dressed up all in gold, just like an Oscar.

I am so glad this Oscar season is over, it was particularly dirty, long-winded, and frustrating. It was so much fun being a part of the Oscar red carpet experience, and being a voting member of Film Independent to honor the very type of films, and female directors that the academy thinks are too minor and irrelevant to honor. It's a mind trip seeing both sides of the coin, Indies vs Blockbusters within 24 hours, but I can tell you, I'm more of an Indie kind of gal.







Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year - Reflections


It is now the year 2019, one year before we go into the 3rd decade of this still young century. Ten years ago, in 2009, my life was a complete shambles. My sister died in mid-2008 and I was still in mourning; I was laid off for the third time in six years; I found low paying, back breaking work that was literally beneath my skill set and educational background, but rent demanded I set aside pride and do whatever work I could to pay bills. My credit rating was completely fucked, I refilled my last prescription of muscle relaxants so that I could relax and get good sleep so that I could be strong and focused for the next day's bullshit. I sent out so many resumes and went on a few interviews, but nothing. The recession destroyed Michigan, and my spirit. It was then that I decide that I would have to move out of state for my personal and career well being, and spiritual growth and happiness.

Ten years later, I wake up this New Year's Day in California, and I'm so incredibly grateful that I survived some of the toughest years as an adult. I'm amazed that I'm not addicted to drugs or alcohol, because I have had so many missteps and mistakes with my career that I recall quite easily. Sometimes things have to happen in order for destiny to force you to make an out of the box decision regarding your life. I've seen too many unkind, unprofessional, uncouth, backstabbing, stupid people ascend to the levels of success that were just a dream to me, and it gutted me. But alas, I dealt with the shocking bullshit and I'm here, now, I'm happy. I still have some goals to accomplish, but for the most part, I'm glad to be alive, healthy, and still a nice person who is patiently waiting for the final puzzle pieces to add to my life.

The year 2019 is going to be good and fun, here are just a few events and goals I'm looking forward to:
  • Securing full-time employment. I'm a contractor at an excellent organization, I may be offered a full-time job in my current department, or get one in another department. This is the year I secure a benefited position with a company I can retire from.
  • Becoming much more dedicated to the practice of yoga, and meeting some other fitness goals including losing 10-12 lbs. I want to run in a 5k race in the next 12-18 months.
  • I'll be attending the Palm Springs Int'l Film Festival next weekend
  • My family is coming to visit me in April
  • I will be attending Coachella for the first time the week after my family visits.
  • My long overdue trip to Italy is in May
  • I will be attending Comic Con in San Diego in July
So at least the first half of the new year will be quite exciting for me, and I know the second part will be fun as well.




If you're reading this and your life has seriously sucked in recent years and you have a black cloud hanging over your head like I did, you need to sit down and think about what you need to do to make yourself happy. There are things that have happened to you and will happen to you that will be completely out of your control. But what you can control is how you respond to those events. Get in the driver's seat and guide yourself as to where you want to be in a year from now, or even further down the road. Some plans take time and cannot manifest overnight. 

Don't get caught up in material desires, just deal with the most basic things that you can afford right now and take care of yourself. Even during my most darkest days, I treated myself to a day at the museum, or my favorite sushi meal, or went to see a movie. I plotted and planned my big move to California for five years, and with very, very hard work (as well as going back to college for a graduate degree), somehow, I was very confident that I would succeed. Do you know why? I was so far below what my expectations were for how I wanted to live my life, that there was only one way out of my situation but UP.

I'm committed to making 2019 a great turning point in my life where I will reflect back in 2029, and be in a position to write about what a great year 2019 was for me ten years ago!