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Birthday Quest 2018, Part 6 of 6: House of the Cool Cats

Garfield @ Fairmount!

#11 of 11, “Cool Cat”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

My wife Anne and I have a tradition of spending our respective birthdays together on one-day outings to some new place or attraction — partly as an excuse to spend time together in honor of our special days, partly to explore areas of Indiana (or in neighboring states) that we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

In brainstorming my options this year, I returned to the idea of the Garfield Trail. Thirty to sixty minutes northwest of Jim Davis’ offices at Paws Inc. near Muncie, a dozen Garfield statues stand in front of various businesses in nine cities and towns as tributes to his entertainment value, to his merchandising power, and to some of the personal accomplishments that make those locales proud. In my mind the Garfield Trail was not just a basic road trip to view some roadside attractions, but a live-action side quest. No controllers, no trophies, no monsters to fight, the rules are made up and the points don’t matter —- just the two of us, a series of “levels”, and a checklist of eleven items to “collect” (minus one Garfield down for repairs)…

Our grand finale awaited us in the town of Fairmount. Yet another Indiana town that dates back to the mid-1800s and once prospered from the Trenton Gas Field around the turn of the 20th century, Fairmount today is largely a commuter town, a popular living space for folks working elsewhere nearby. Garfield creator Jim Davis was raised there and still lives and works not too far away.

Some in Fairmount might argue Davis isn’t their most famous son. After we completed our Garfield collection, a few feet to our right was another familiar face waiting to welcome us to town.

James Dean standee!

You might remember him from such films as East of — wait, we already did that joke.

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Jon Schnepp 1967-2018

Schnepps + Payne!

Once again, photo courtesy of the Department of Not Sure Why We Didn’t Just Take Their Photo When We Met Them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Anne and I attended the 2016 Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, whereupon…

…We also had the pleasure of meeting director Jon Schnepps and producer Holly Payne, the minds behind the recent documentary “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?”, the astonishing true story of that time Nicolas Cage, director Tim Burton, and writer Kevin Smith tried and failed to make a, uh, truly unique Superman film together. I’ve been wanting to see this for months even though I’m afraid to see it for myself.

We chatted for a minute at their table. I can’t remember a single thing about the conversation except that they were good people not that different from us. The last time I saw him in person was later that same weekend as we were wandering around the town’s “Super-Con” — the Superman Celebration’s equivalent of an exhibit hall for toy shops and comics dealers. During our lap around the building, we passed by Schnepp — no guards, no entourage, no disguise — standing at one table, rifling through their back-issue box like any ordinary average Joe who hadn’t made an actual film, accumulated Cartoon Network credits to their name, or once filmed themselves being wrestled to the ground by an unchecked, filthy rich studio exec.

After I watched writer/director/producer Schnepp’s candid, illuminating documentary about a massive failure of a Hollywood production, I eventually remarked

We rarely get complete stories as to why a given high-profile film turns out awful, let alone a tell-all about one that collapsed under its own bloated before it could harm the innocent public. Copious interviews with would-be director Tim Burton, several attempted screenwriters including but not limited to a candid and incredulous Kevin Smith, producer Jon Peters checking in from some bizarre mental plane far removed from our own, fans, pundits, and other crew members who put in hundreds of hours of labor before someone realized they were collaborating on a fiasco and had to be stopped. It’s a shame Nicolas Cage himself couldn’t chime in with his thoughts because I suspect they would’ve made Peters seem rational by comparison.

Cage’s absence notwithstanding, I had to respect the force of will it must have taken to coax such revealing cautionary tales out of the participants themselves. I never took the time to watch Schnepp’s signature work on the Adult Swim series Metalocalypse (my loss, I’m guessing), but from the strong showing in that documentary alone I’d assumed we would see more great things from him in the future.

Then came the events of the past week.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During AND After the “Ant-Man and the Wasp” End Credits

Ant-Man!

“PARDON ME. DO YOU HAVE ANY GREY POUPON?”

Millions of viewers who depend on Marvel movies for all their fantasy escapism needs went home shell-shocked after Avengers: Infinity War slaughtered far, far too many of their favorite heroes and threatened to turn the Marvel Cinematic Universe into just another super-hero realm of perpetual misery like Dawn of Justice or the upcoming, dreadful-looking Titans. Now, in Ant-Man and the Wasp, two heroes who weren’t invited to Thanos’ big coming-out party are here to remind everyone that there’s still hope to be found in this world, along with heroism, teamwork, and happy endings…as long as you don’t stay for the end credits.

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“Incredibles 2”: Further Feats of the Fantastic Five

Incredibles 2!

The expressions every time Emily Blunt gets top billing over some quote-unquote “A-list” dude.

Writer/director Brad Bird’s 2004 The Incredibles remains one of my all-time favorite Pixar films, and not just because it was about superheroes. I could relate to a film about an aging guy who considers himself talented but thinks he should be doing something better with his life, but whose family had much more important concerns than his, and everyone has to dive deep into their conflicts but come out all the stronger for it as a unit. And a film where there are spectacular chase scenes. And just so happens to draw on seventy years of mainstream super-hero culture.

Fourteen years later Incredibles 2 brings back Bird and the family to pick up where they left off. But are the viewers in the same place fourteen years later?

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” End Credits

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom!

Can scaly and sweaty live together in perfect harmony?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in 2015 we saw Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, groused a little, but ultimately thought:

While the human interactions grow increasingly awkward and superfluous in the final hour, I’d have to be a humorless, eightysomething stick-in-the-mud to rebuke the film’s grandest spectacle, the great big Godzillatastic dino-bashing showdown that so blatantly aims for the kid’s heart in all of us. I have to wonder if it was the first scene they wrote, and then the rest of the screenplay was reverse-engineered purely to make it happen by any plot device necessary. I wish life had found a way for the rest of Jurassic World to match that same giddy zeal, or the heartwarming cleverness of too-brief scenes like the baby triceratops petting zoo or the one touching moment where The Land Before Time meets Where the Red Fern Grows. And it’s a shame the wink-wink self-parody gags are short-lived. On average, though, this stockholder-pleasing sequel is thankfully a bit more fun than flipping through a museum gift shop catalog.

Once again it’s time for a trip to the deadliest theme park known to man, but at least this time they’re not selling tickets to future civilian casualties. With the next chapter Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Spanish director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, Penny Dreadful) revisits the blockbuster-thriller foundation that Steven Spielberg laid down in the original with gusto, succumbs to bouts of sequelitis, but finds ways to make at least a few dinosaurs exciting all over again.

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” End Credits

Mr Rogers!

Our lovely spokesmodel Anne introducing today’s feature presentation.

Among the many deficiencies in my childhood, I regret Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was not required viewing in our house. In the days before VCRs, DVR, and the Internet, our family’s TV schedule was strictly divided between myself, my mom, and my grandma. I was allowed to pick stations each weekday morning before 9 a.m., after school, and on Saturday mornings. Sadly, the kindly Fred Rogers had the misfortune of airing opposite Grandma’s soap operas and/or game shows. By the time I discovered him while channel-flipping, I was somewhere in my preteen phase — too old to respond to his low-key gentility, not quite old enough to watch him ironically, and nowhere near the kind of adult who could appreciate what he did or how he connected to millions of other, better-off kids.

My wife Anne, on the other hand, used to watch him all the time. As a youngling she watched him, Sesame Street, and other PBS all-stars all the time. He spoke directly to kids, the Viewers at Home. He wasn’t there to bedazzle them with whimsy or lull them with escapist conflicts or sell them toys. He taught, he explained, he knew, he felt, he sympathized, he loved. For some kids he seemed like the only adult who every really got them, who even tried to get them. He fell just short of absolute godhood, but to many, calling him “father figure” doesn’t begin to describe his impact on their lives.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, then, is a rare instance of Anne taking me with her to the movies for once.

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