Thursday morning I was saddened and shocked to learn of the unexpected passing of Tom Spurgeon, the longtime comics journalist, dedicated mind behind the Comics Reporter news site, and co-founder and executive director of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, an uniquely high-caliber arts festival that Anne and I attended both in 2015 and in 2017. I never had the pleasure of chatting with him in person and kick myself now for being too sheepish to try. Spurgeon was only 50, a year older than Anne and far, far, far too young.
“YouTube rapper” is among the myriad 21st-century phrases that strike fear and uncertainty in middle-aged fogies like me and makes us want to hastily close our browser windows and go seek refuge in MeTV reruns. I’d seen the stage name “Awkwafina” here and there in credits for such films as Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, neither of which I’ve seen yet, but I know zilch about her earlier works or online career. To be fair, most musicians whose entire resumes are less than a decade old are strangers to me. I figured I’d reach that age sooner or later in life, and knowing I’ve arrived there kind of sucks. I take heart that at least I’ve maintained a patient politeness with today’s bizarrely chosen entertainer names and I do try to suppress knee-jerk responses such as “In related news, I now wish to be known by my rapper name, Coo-Laid Mann.”
It’s been six years since the last time I had the chance to attend an advance movie screening (2013’s Broken City, for which I still want recompensated). Our city’s only verified art-house theater holds an occasional drawing for free screenings, which I keep losing. That changed this past week when I was a lucky winner invited to see Awkwafina star in the new A24 dramedy The Farewell, which I’d never heard of prior to the theater’s emails.
Thus my son and I found ourselves in a full house on a Monday night, snugly within an audience of whom the majority were over 65. This crowd was the most senior citizens I’ve seen in a theater in years. I’m pretty sure I knew more about Awkwafina than they did. Halfway through the movie the 80-something lady on my left fell asleep. At one point my son noticed someone behind us was listening to music on earbuds. On the bright side, no one in the rows ahead of us played on their phones during the movie.
Generational differences can be a funny thing.
…so, uh, spoilers for this heartbreaking entry in the title, obviously.
28 hours past the event itself, I’m two sentences into this and have already had to stop typing twice to compose myself.
Some introverts treasure those few places where we can feel like we belong. I mean in the physical world, not just online.
Comfortable spaces where we feel less weird and have reasons to hold up our end in a conversation instead of retreating from it. Areas where we can find common ground with folks who don’t think of us as strangers, who might even attempt eye contact despite how unnatural it can feel. Benign territories where the sight of a familiar face is a boost to our spirits, where mere recognition is validation, the baseline brownie points of existence. They admit they see me; they don’t slam the door in my face; ergo, I matter.
I’ve had a few of those places in my lifetime. That list doesn’t seem to be expanding much as I get older without becoming any more outgoing, which is a thing that happens for some folks as they age but hasn’t yet been the case with me.
I’ve been offline most of today, but upon returning late Saturday night was saddened to hear of the unexpected death of actor Scott Wilson at age 76. Most folks today know him as Herschel from seasons 2-4 of The Walking Dead, the kindly farmer and sage of the ensemble, often the conscience during the toughest of times when he wasn’t dealing with critical injuries, grieving the loss of teammates and family, or suffering the cruelty of the Governor. Barely an hour before his passing, news had broken at this weekend’s New York Comic Con that he would be returning this coming season for a flashback, most likely in connection with Andrew Lincoln’s farewell episodes and hopefully not as his surprise twin brother Murschel.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in 2015 my wife Anne and I undertook one of our most action-packed Wizard World Chicago experiences to date. It was the year we met more actors than any other, the year I attended more comics panels than any other, and a rare year in which the two of us had to split up a few times in order to see everything on our personal to-do lists. While I attended a Friday panel starring other, younger actors of relatively recent renown, Anne sped straight for a photo op with the legendary Burt Reynolds, that unparalleled star of the silver screen and beloved macho man of our childhoods.
We were shocked to hear this afternoon about his unexpected passing at age 82. As the photo proves, Anne had the chance to meet him, but I’m sorry I missed out. Even sorrier tonight.
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.