I caught on the Sundance Channel the other night about twenty minutes of Faintheart, a 2008 film about a couple of British guys who spend all their free time taking part in historical battle reenactments. This from a review I found on the Film4 site: “Vito Rocco’s Faintheart acknowledges what those of us who hang around looking shifty in comic shops have always known: geeks aren’t just friendless soap-dodgers carrying around eight-sided dice and tiny paintbrushes for getting orcs’ eyes right, but heroes in search of the right fight.” I intend to rent it and watch the whole thing, but the glimpse I caught got me to thinking about the best movies, TV, and fiction about fans, our audacious and bodacious band of brothers [and sisters, of course], from the Star Wars 501st to cosplayers to fan-fic’ers.
Sometimes I think drawing up a Top 10 list is the equivalent of flinging the doors open to scornful disagreement, but here’s my stab at this one. Don’t tell me how mishandled rating these entries from 10 to 1, just let me know what I’ve left out, so that I can promptly view or read it.
10. Bimbos of the Death Sun. Sharyn McCrumb skewers the weekend science fiction/fantasy convention and its attendees both professional and non- in this lighthearted mystery novel. A famous fantasy novelist “whose towering ego more than compensates for his 5′ 1″ height” is murdered. The cops wonder, who would want to kill him? The con organizers wonder, who wouldn’t? Enjoy also the sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool.
More after the jump…
9. “The Big Bang Theory.” Think there’s no way physics can be fun? This award-winning show begs to differ. Hyperintelligent Caltech Ph.D.s Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper share an apartment and cope with challenges at work and at play. Sheldon’s inability to grasp sarcasm makes his fandom even more assertive: there are right and wrong answers to questions like who’s the better Dr. Who or which Silver Surfer is the real Silver Surfer. It also shows that you don’t need to be self-conscious about your nerdiness–that sometimes it’s actually cool to embrace it. Except when it comes to Wil Wheaton… Bazinga!
8. Genshiken. Nine-issue Japanese manga series about a group of college friends who join the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, a fancy name for a club that doesn’t actually do much of anything except sit around and argue about manga, gaming, anime and cosplay. Japanese fans turn out to be just like us . . . you’ll meet your friends and your enemies as the series progresses through Kanji Sasahara’s college career and dreams of becoming a manga editor. Anime available as well.
7. Darkon. Intelligent documentary following the Darkon Wargaming Club, a fantasy live-action role-playing (LARP) group in Baltimore, Maryland. The film won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the 2005 SXSW festival. Delves into all the angles of wargaming, from the creation of weapons and props to the players’ wives and kids to the reasons they love staying in character for days at a time. An intriguing, respectful salute to a little-understood pasttime.
6. Misery. Who but Stephen King could conceive of this “number-one fan”? Read the bestselling book or see the excellent film directed by Rob Reiner and resolve never, ever, to become a famous novelist. James Caan played the lead role in the movie. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia from IMDB.com: “According to William Goldman’s book Four Screenplays, the main character role, Paul Sheldon, was offered to William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, and Warren Beatty, all of whom declined.”
5. Clerks. Kevin Smith’s first film was elevated to cult status by fans who sympathized with the main characters, harried clerks in a New Jersey strip mall whose chaotic work lives nonetheless allowed time for in-depth discussions about the moral niceties of destroying the Death Star.
4. “The Simpsons.” A vast body of work such as “The Simpsons” deserves nothing but our gratitude and homage. I’m placing it here at #4 only because not every episode includes Comic Book Guy.
3. Trekkies. Some Star Trek fans protested that only the most outrageous examples of fandom were portrayed here, but as one supporter of the documentary wrote, “StarTrek fandom isn’t about being cool or stylish, it’s about enthusiasm, about devotion and about being what you want to be.” Touching, thought-provoking, and hilarious, it’s the ultimate Star Trek convention.
2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Michael Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel, an honor which surely beats out anything else on this list. As the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe and the world, the Golden Age of comic books has begun. The novel follows–in glorious, literary prose–the lives of two young collaborators who contribute to the explosive popularity of the 1940s pulp comics phenomenon.
1. Galaxy Quest. The top fan movie ever. No one shall convince me otherwise. Twenty years after the 1970s TV series “Galaxy Quest” is cancelled, its gallant crew continues to appear at fan conventions, store openings, and other “events,” either unable or unwilling to escape their past. When beleaguered aliens who believe the show chronicles historical events come to seek their help, the crew must marshall all their fading knowledge of the show–and call on their fans for life-saving help–in order to survive the threat. Hilarious, poignant, and reverent of the fan condition everywhere. Check out the 2009 Deluxe Edition DVD. Huzzah!
So, what did I leave out? Let me know!