By FILMCRITHULK
September 26, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
"Mr. Da Vinci, I love your work."

1. AN UNASSUMING MAN

WE’RE AT COMIC-CON.

RIAN JOHNSON SITS AT THE CENTER OF A PRESS TABLE BEFORE THE THRONGS OF JOURNALISTS. JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT SITS TO HIS LEFT, EMILY BLUNT SITS TO HIS RIGHT. A JOURNALIST STANDS UP IN THE BACK AND PROCEEDS TO ASK MR. GORDON-LEVITT ABOUT HIS REMARKABLE YEAR, SPECIFICALLY ALL THE TOP FLIGHT DIRECTORS HE’S WORKED WITH. IT IS AT THIS MOMENT THAT JOE, WHO HAS SPEND MUCH OF THE CONFERENCE SMILING AND JOKING IN A RELAXED STATE, SUDDENLY SITS UP A STRAIGHT AND TAKES ON A TONE OF UTMOST SERIOUSNESS. HE SAYS:

“I do think that having a 2011 where I worked with Rian and Chris Nolan and Steven Spielberg, I couldn’t ask for a better year leading up to the year I directed for the first time. I do think those directors have a lot in common. I think Rian might be a little less known at this point, but I think they can all stand beside each other.”

WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT: RIAN JOHNSON SINKS DOWN IN HIS CHAIR, COMICALLY-YET-GENUINELY HIDING IN EMBARRASSMENT FROM THE SHEER MAGNITUDE OF THIS ASSOCIATION. THE ROOM LAUGHS, BUT IN THAT SINGULAR GESTURE IT ALL BECOMES SO CLEAR:

RIAN JOHNSON IS THE MOST UNASSUMING TOUR-DE-FORCE DIRECTOR ON THE PLANET.

WHEN MOST PEOPLE THINK ABOUT TOUR-DE-FORCE DIRECTORS THEY OFTEN PICTURE THEM WALKING AROUND ON SET, COMMANDING THE FIELD LIKE A BRAZEN GENERAL. OR PERHAPS THEY PICTURE THEM AS SOME SELF-POSSESSED MAESTRO, CONDUCTING AN ORCHESTRA WITH RECKLESS ABANDON. WHATEVER THE IMAGE, THE POINT IS THAT WE JUST ASSUME THEM TO BE THE KIND OF PEOPLE WHO PARADE THEIR AUDACITY, CHUTZPAH, AND PASSION AS IF IT WAS INGRAINED INTO THE VERY FIBER OF THEIR BEING. BUT THE TRUTH IS MOST OF THE GREAT FILMMAKERS ARE SIMPLY QUIET, THOUGHTFUL, AND KIND INDIVIDUALS. WHEN HULK USES THESE ADJECTIVES IT IS LIKELY THAT YOUR FIRST THOUGHTS DRIFT TOWARD A GUY LIKE STEVEN SPIELBERG, WHOSE WILD SUCCESSES ARE MOSTLY GARNERED FROM HIS SENSE OF CHILD-LIKE WONDER AND HUMANE DISPOSITION. BUT THE TRUTH IS EVEN A MASTER LIKE STANLY KUBRICK, WHO WAS RENOWNED FOR EXACTING AND SOMEWHAT-PRICKLY BEHAVIOR, WAS IN ACTUALITY MUCH MORE OF A QUIET TINKERER RATHER THE DEVILISH TYRANT SOME WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE.

THE REASON THAT HAVING A DEMURE DISPOSITION WORKS SO WELL IN THIS PROFESSION IS RELATIVELY SIMPLE: FILMMAKING IS THE ART OF CONSTRUCTING A VISION. ONLY IT IS A VISION THAT HAPPENS TO BE SOLELY LOCATED BETWEEN THE EARS OF THE PERSON DIRECTING IT. BUT IN ORDER TO BRING SAID VISION TO LIFE, A DIRECTOR NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO COMMUNICATE IT CLEARLY TO EVERY SINGLE PERSON THEY ARE WORKING WITH, WHILE STILL SOMEHOW GETTING THE BEST WORK OUT OF THEM TOO. SO WHEN LOOKING AT FILMMAKING IN THOSE STARK TERMS IT BECOMES PRETTY OBVIOUS THAT POSSESSING THE QUALITIES OF BEING QUIET, THOUGHTFUL, AND KIND WOULD BE A GOOD WAY OF ACTUALLY GOING ABOUT ALL THAT.

LUCKY FOR US, THEY DON’T COME MORE QUIET, THOUGHTFUL, AND KIND THAN RIAN JOHNSON.

LET’S ALSO BE UPFRONT ABOUT ONE THING: HULK THINKS RIAN’S MOVIES HAVE BEEN GREAT. THROW OUT ANY POSITIVE ADJECTIVE YOU LIKE. SMART, ENTERTAINING, INCISIVE, VISCERAL. CHANCES ARE HULK FEELS THIS WAY ABOUT THEM. BUT BEYOND THE WORK ITSELF, THERE IS ALWAYS THE CURIOSITY ABOUT THE PERSON BEHIND THE MOVIES. THE MIND THAT CRAFTS THE ART CAN SOMETIMES BE EVEN MORE COMPELLING.

FROM MERE OBSERVATION, ONE CAN TELL THAT RIAN IS TRULY AN UNASSUMING MAN. HE IS NOTICEABLY SOFT-SPOKEN, BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN HE IS AT A LOSS FOR WORDS. IN FACT, HE’S PERFECTLY ARTICULATE. HE DOES NOT RESPOND TO COMMENTS WITH REACTIONARY VIGOR, NOR DOES HE SPEND AN INORDINATE AMOUNT OF TIME COMING UP WITH CALCULATED RESPONSES. HE SIMPLY TOWS THAT IDEAL LINE BETWEEN CAREFULLY CHOOSING ONE’S WORDS AND AN ORGANIC RESPONSE. AND ALL THE WHILE HE’S JUST SO DAMN NICE ABOUT IT. HE GOES OUT OF HIS WAY TO THANK PEOPLE. HE HOLDS DOORS FOR YOU. FOR A PROFESSION WHERE YOU HAVE TO SPEND MOST OF THE DAY WORKING OUT A VISION THAT’S LOCKED IN YOUR OWN HEAD, HE IS SURPRISINGLY AWARE OF THE WORLD AROUND HIM. THERE SEEMS TO BE NO EVIDENCE OF SOLIPSISM HERE.

WHAT IS EVEN MORE TELLING IS THAT EVERYONE ELSE SEEMS TO COME TO THE SAME CONCLUSION. PERHAPS THERE IS SOME ACKNOWLEDGMENT TO THE FACT THAT HIS OVERWHELMING SWEETNESS IS IN NO WAY BETRAYED BY HIS BASIC PHYSIOLOGY. HULK OVERHEARD A PERSON MEETING HIM FOR THE FIRST TIME REMARK “Good golly, he’s adorable.” AND YUP, HE IS TOTALLY ADORABLE. AT FIRST, EVERYTHING ABOUT RIAN SEEMS TO BE GENTEEL. HIS PRESSED SMILE. THE WAY HE OFTEN SEEMS TO BE PEERING OVER HIS DELICATE, RECTANGLE FRAMES AS HE TALKS. THE NO-FUSS WAY HE MOVES ABOUT A ROOM. BUT IT WOULD ALSO BE MISTAKE TO THINK OF RIAN AS BEING “SHY.” LIKE ANYONE, THE MORE HE IS PLACED WITH COMFORTABLE SCENARIOS — FAMILY. FRIENDS. COLLABORATORS. FELLOW-PASSIONATE FILM LOVERS — THE MORE HE BECOMES HIS ROUNDED, HUMAN SELF. AND THE THE MORE PLAYFUL HE BECOMES. THE MORE HE PUTS THIS WONDERFUL, RAZOR-SHARP WIT. EVEN IN FRONT OF THE SWARM OF JOURNALISTS, CAMERAS, AND ADORING FANS THAT WILL SWARM HIM IN THE NEXT FEW HOURS, THAT COMFORT STAYS INTACT. HE IS SIMPLY A MAN MOST HIMSELF WHEN HE TALKS ABOUT THE THINGS HE ADORES.

LUCKY, FOR US THE MAIN THING HE LOVES IS CINEMA.

HULK IS ABOUT TO USE A PHRASE THAT SEEMS TO EVOKE ALL SORTS OF REACTIONS, BUT FOR HULK THE ONLY POSSIBLE REACTION IS A POSITIVE ONE. HULK WOULD SAY THAT RIAN JOHNSON IS “FILM SCHOOLY,” BUT IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY. IT’S NOT AN EASY THING TO ARTICULATE. IT’S NOT JUST THE WAY HE CAN NAVIGATE THE CRITERION COLLECTION WITH EASE, BUT LIKE ALL THINGS IT IS ABOUT HIS AFFECTATION. HE’S GENUINELY EXCITED TO SHARE IN THE DISCUSSION OF FILM. AND THAT WHOLLY INCLUDES THE ABILITY TO LISTEN, NOT SIMPLY TO ORATE ON IT. HE RECOMMENDS JARMUSCH’S DOWN BY LAW WITH SINCERITY, BUT HE DOESN’T MISS A BEAT WHEN HULK REFERENCES GIANNI DI VENANZO AND HIS COLLABORATION WITH FELLINI. BUT THE CONVERSATION NEVER ONCE FEELS LIKE A GAME. ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN IN THAT SCENARIO KNOWS WHAT HULK IS TALKING ABOUT. IT’S THE GAME OF WHAT DO YOU KNOW, REALLY? AND MOST FILM PEOPLE THANKFULLY PHASE IT OUT BY AGE 26. IN TRUTH, IT’S GAME HULK COULDN’T HOPE TO WIN ANYWAY. HE’LL PLAY COY AND RATTLE OF A LIST OF PEOPLE WHO COULD PUT HIM TO SHAME, BUT JOHNSON HAS THE KIND OF ENCYCLOPEDIA-LIKE KNOWLEDGE THAT WOULD ALLOW HIM TO RUN CIRCLES AROUND HULK. BUT LUCKILY, NEITHER OF US HAS ANY INTEREST IN EXPLORING SOME CINEMATIC TETE-E-TETE. IN FACT, IT’S THE FURTHEST THING FROM HIS MIND. MORE THAN ANYTHING JOHNSON DELIGHTS IN THE JOY OF TALKING ABOUT IDEAS.

HULK WOULD LIKE TO TRY AND CONVINCE YOU THAT ALL OF THIS MATTERS.

IN FACT, HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT JOHNSON’S SENSE OF CINEMATIC HISTORY AND HIS CARE FOR THE IMPORTANCE OF THEME MATTER MORE THAN EVER NOWADAYS. WHEN HULK LOOKS AT THE LANDSCAPE OF UPCOMING FILMMAKERS THEY SEEM TO BE GLOWING ABOUT THE ADMIRABLE LIKES OF CAMERON, CARPENTER, JACKSON, AND EVEN MICHAEL BAY. HULK JUST LIKES THE WORLD BEYOND THOSE GUYS TOO. WHILE JOHNSON’S WORK CERTAINLY POSSESSES THE SAME LEVEL OF ENERGY AS THOSE FAMOUS HIGH-OCTANE FILMMAKERS, HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT HE IS MILES AHEAD WHEN IT COMES TO CARE, TACT, AND MESSAGE. AND THAT’S BECAUSE AMIDST ALL THAT PROPULSION, THERE IS A REAL CARE FOR THE FORMAL AND DIRECT AESTHETIC. WHEN HULK LOOKS AT JOHNSON’S WORK HULK SEES THE CONSTANT INFLUENCE OF FILMMAKERS LIKE RENOIR AND BRESSON, WHO WERE UTTER MASTERS OF FRAMING A SHOT FOR THE UTMOST TENSION, EXAGGERATING COMPOSITION FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT, AND EMPHASIZING THE VISCERAL EXPERIENCE OVER THE DETACHED ONE. THIS BECOMES CLEAR AS YOU LISTEN TO JOHNSON TALK ABOUT THE THRILL OF GETTING THE PROPER CLOSE-UP EXACTLY RIGHT:

“You don’t know it prematurely, it takes trial and error. But you sure know it when you see it and that’s better than anything, really. I feel like a perfect close-up can sometimes save entire movies.”

THIS IS THE KIND OF STATEMENT THAT MAKES OTHER FILMMAKERS SWOON. IT SHOWCASES UNDERSTANDING AND CARE FOR THE MOST BASIC TRUTH OF CINEMA. NO CAMERA MOVE IS MORE POWERFUL THAN SUBJECT’S FACE. IT’S WHY RIAN CAN MAKE THESE PROPULSIVE, FAST-PACED, COOL MOVIES BUT NEVER ONCE BE MISTAKEN FOR BEING “COLD.” HE RESPECTS THE POWER OF EMOTION AND THE THRILL OF THE CLOSE-UP TOO MUCH. THERE IS THIS INEXORABLE BEATING HEART THAT SHOWS IN HIS WORK.

NOW, HULK HAS GONE ON AND ON HERE IN GLOWING TERMS AND IF YOU WERE TO TELL ANY OF THIS TO RIAN JOHNSON’S FACE HE WOULD LIKELY TURN BRIGHT RED, REFLEXIVELY SHRUG, AND USHER UP A HUMBLE/HURRIED THANK YOU BEFORE RETURNING THE NICEST COMPLIMENT YOU’VE EVER HEARD. THIS IS NOT SOME ALLERGIC RESPONSE TO PRAISE, BUT INSTEAD AN HONEST DISPLAY BASIC DECENCY. HE IS, AFTER ALL, AN UNASSUMING MAN. BUT REALLY THAT’S JUST MORE OF A REASON FOR HULK TO COME OUT AND SAY ALL THIS. BECAUSE IT’S EARNED. BECAUSE IT’S REAL. BECAUSE HOLLYWOOD IS A BUSINESS WHERE PEOPLE CAN GET COMPLIMENTED TO DEATH IN THE FACE-TO-FACE ARENA AND THUS TO STILL HAVE THOSE BASIC, HUMANE QUALITIES TO SOMETHING SO HUGE IS ACTUALLY IMPORTANT. SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CONDITIONED BY YEARS OF BEING COMPLIMENTED THAT TO SOME OF THEM IT JUST BECOMES NUMB… ESPECIALLY WHEN A LOT OF THOSE PEOPLE DON’T ACTUALLY MEAN IT. AND SO IT IS THIS HULK’S OPINION THAT JOHNSON DOES POSSESS ALL THOSE UNIQUE, SUPERLATIVE QUALITIES. IT IS THE REASON HULK WANTED TO WRITE THIS COLUMN. IT IS THE REASON HULK GOES ON AT LENGTH ABOUT ALL THIS.

HULK BELIEVES THAT RIAN JOHNSON MATTERS.

AND AS HE STANDS BEFORE COMIC-CON IN FRONT OF A MASSIVE CROWD AT HALL H, HE IS HERE FOR ONE PURPOSE: TO UNFURL HIS LATEST FILM LOOPER ON AN UNSUSPECTING PUBLIC.

AND BOY ARE YOU IN FOR SOMETHING SPECIAL.

2. ON JUST WHAT THE HECK THIS COLUMN IS ABOUT

WHEN HULK WAS FIRST ASKED BY ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY TO COVER COMIC-CON FOR THEM, THE VERY FIRST IDEA HULK HAD WAS TO DO A BIT OF “EMBEDDED REPORTING.” HULK USES QUOTES THERE BECAUSE HULK IS NOT, NOR HAS EVER BEEN, A JOURNALIST. HULK IS JUST SOME HULK WHO WRITES GIANT ESSAYS ON CINEMA AND LUCKED INTO THIS PARTICULAR SITUATION. HECK, PART OF THE REASON IT EVEN HAPPENED WAS BECAUSE HULK HAS NEVER BEEN A JOURNALIST BEFORE AND IT ALLOWED FOR SOME OUTSIDER-AS-INSIDER APPROACH TO ALL THIS AND THAT IS PRECISELY WHAT HULK HOPES TO ACHIEVE. BUT SINCE HULK RESPECTS THE PROFESSION MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD (SAVE TEACHING), PLEASE CONSIDER THIS AN ATTEMPT TO DO IT JUSTICE… JUST IN A REALLY WEIRD WAY.

SO THIS WAS THE SPECIFIC GOAL OF SAID “EMBEDDED REPORTING”: TO FOLLOW AROUND A FEW HIGH-PROFILE MOVIE FOLKS AS THEY DO THEIR WHOLE HALL H/COMIC-CON THING AND TRY TO PUT IT IN SOME INTERESTING CONTEXT. AND LUCKILY FOR ALL OF US, HULK’S NUMBER ONE CHOICE SAID YES. SO FOR TWO DAYS HULK FOLLOWED AROUND RIAN JOHNSON AND THE LOOPER GANG AS THEY HAD THEIR OWN UNIQUE EXPERIENCE AT THE CON, MANY OF THEM FOR THE FIRST TIME. WHAT FOLLOWS IS AN OUT-OF-ORDER, HIGHLY-DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THOSE TWO DAYS, IN WHICH HULK TRIES EXPOSE THE COMIC-CON EXPERIENCE FROM THE FILMMAKER’S SIDE, BUT ALSO TAKES A FEW TANGENTIAL MOMENTS HERE AND THERE TO PROVIDE CONTEXT WITH SOME SPRAWLING HULK-STYLE ESSAYS ABOUT THE LOOPER GANG’S WORK, LIVES, GENERAL AFFECTION, AND EVEN SOME ESSAYS ON THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY ITSELF.

IT’S ALSO 27,000 WORDS… SO… YEAH… GRAB A BAGEL OR SOMETHING?

3. THE COUSINS JOHNSON

GOING INTO THE COVERAGE, HULK WAS PLANNING ON DOING THAT STANDARD RESEARCH THING WHERE HULK WOULD ASK RIAN QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS FAMILY AND THE WAY THEY INFLUENCED HIM… THAT ENDED UP BEING WHOLLY UNNECESSARY.

***

IT IS THURSDAY EVENING, JULY 12TH. 4:45 PM

HULK SAUNTERS PAST THE CONVENTION CENTER OVER TO THE HILTON BAYFRONT HOTEL. THIS IS WHERE MOST OF THE MORE INTIMATE INTERVIEWS AND PRESS EVENTS OF THE SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON ARE CONDUCTED. HULK WALKS BY MOST OF THE SECURITY, AS THE KEY TO DOING THIS IS TO SIMPLY LOOK LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING… UNFORTUNATELY, HULK DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HULK IS DOING. AND AFTER ABOUT THREE MINUTES HULK GETS LOST AND CONFRONTED WITH CURIOUS LOOKS BY SECURITY PEOPLE. THE MEET IS SUPPOSED TO TAKE PLACE IN “AQUA 310” AND THIS DOES NOT HELP REALLY BECAUSE THE FLOORS ARE ALL NAMED AFTER DIFFERENT SHADES OF BLUE. PLUS, SOME OF THE ON-SITE STAFF IS EMPLOYED BY COMIC-CON AND SOME OF THE STAFF IS THE HOTEL STAFF AND WHILE EVERYONE IS REALLY EAGER TO HELP, NO ONE SEEMS TO KNOW WHERE TO DIRECT ANYONE. EVENTUALLY, HULK GETS PLAIN OLD LUCKY AND FINDS THE ROOM BY SHEER, DUMB LUCK.

HULK ENTERS A 50 x 40 ROOM FILLED WITH 8 ROUND TABLES, WHERE VARIOUS MEDIA SUBJECTS ARE ALL IN EQUALLY-VARIOUS STATES OF BEING INTERVIEWED. IN ONE OF THE MIDDLE TABLES, HULK SPOTS RIAN AND ANOTHER GENTLEMEN THAT HULK DOES NOT KNOW YET. THEY ARE TALKING TO A FEW REPORTERS IN “ONE-ON-ONES,” WHICH JUST IS SHORT FOR A ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW… OKAY, THAT DIDN’T REALLY WARRANT AN EXPLANATION, BUT HEY WE’RE BEING THOROUGH. HULK LEARNS THEY ARE WRAPPING UP SOME PRE-INTERVIEWS FOR THE APPROACHING PANEL ENTITLED “THE CHARACTER OF MUSIC” ABOUT COMPOSING AND ITS AFFECTATION AND RELATIONSHIP TO CINEMA. SINCE THEY’RE BUSY, HULK DECIDES TO SIT QUIETLY IN THE CORNER AND STARTS JOTTING DOWN NOTES ABOUT THE ROOM. AFTER FIVE MINUTES HULK IS DONE TAKING NOTES AND JUST STARTS DRAWING DOODLES INSTEAD.

IT IS AT THIS POINT THAT RIAN FINISHES UP AND MAKES HIS WAY ACROSS THE ROOM, HAVING RECOGNIZED HULK IMMEDIATELY (IT HARD TO MISTAKE THE 12 FOOT TALL GREEN MONSTER?). HE SAYS A FRIENDLY HELLO AND WE CHIT-CHAT FOR A FEW MOMENTS ABOUT THE RELATIVE CRAZINESS OF THE CON: THE CROWDS, THE BIG PANELS,THE THINGS WE WANT TO SEE. OUT OF NOWHERE, RIAN TAKES A CANDID SNAPSHOT OF HULK WITH HIS COOL 35 MM CAMERA (THE 35MM REFERS TO FILM, IT’S THIS THING THAT MOVIES USED TO BE SHOT ON). THE MOMENT IS NOT ONLY A FUNNY ROLE REVERSAL, BUT AN INDICATION OF THINGS TO COME. YOU SEE, RIAN LOVES PHOTOGRAPHY (WHICH MAKES SENSE) AND HIS JOURNEY TO DOCUMENT COMIC-CON IN VISUAL FORM ALWAYS SEEMED TO RUN PARALLEL TO HULK’S OWN EFFORTS. JUST AFTER THE PICTURE, HULK WAS INTRODUCED TO TALLER GENTLEMAN WHO SAT BESIDE RIAN AT THE TABLE EARLIER.

TURNS OUT THE MAN IS NATHAN JOHNSON: MUSICIAN, ARTIST, AND COMPOSER ON ALL OF RIAN’S FILMS.

HE IS ALSO RIAN’S COUSIN.

Posted with permission from Rian Johnson[/caption]

THESE SORTS OF FAMILIAL RELATIONSHIPS IN THE FILM BUSINESS ARE BOTH A PRESENT REALITY AND MUCH MORE RARE THAN YOU WOULD THINK. WE ALL KNOW THOSE FAMOUS ACTOR FAMILIES OUT THERE, WHO SEEM TO TREAT THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY AS LESS OF A DREAM CAREER AND MORE A FAMILY TRADE/LIFESTYLE. BUT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT HOLLYWOOD IS POPULATED WITH THE KINDS OF LONESOME DREAMERS WHO CAME FROM WHATEVER-ENDLESS-VARIETY-OF-SITUATION-PAST, WITH THE GOAL OF WORKING OUT THAT INDESCRIBABLE CREATIVE THING THAT DRIVES THEM (CUE KERMIT PLAYING “THE RAINBOW CONNECTION”). FLOWERY-SENTIMENT ASIDE, IT’S STILL A TRUTH. AND WHAT STRIKES YOU SO DIRECTLY ABOUT THE TWO OF THEM IS HOW THEY MUCH THEY FEEL LIKE NEITHER OF THOSE OPTIONS. THERE IS JUST THIS QUIET, GENUINE, FOCUSED DIGNITY TO THE BOTH OF THEM. AND AS WE MAKE OUR WAY FROM THE BAYFRONT TO THE MAIN CONVENTION CENTER FOR THE PANEL, RIAN AND NATHAN JUST BANTER BACK AND FORTH IN THAT WHOLLY CASUAL AND FAMILIAL WAY. IT’S NOT JUST THAT THEY ARE COMPLETELY COMFORTABLE WITH ONE ANOTHER, BUT THAT THEY ALSO SEEM TO HAVE A GENUINE AFFECTION FOR THEY OTHER.

FOR ANYONE SEARCHING FOR THE ARCHETYPAL ORIGIN STORY OF HOW THIS FAMILIAL COLLABORATION CAME TO BE, YOU ARE IN LUCK BECAUSE IT IS MADE CLEAR JUST A FEW MINUTES LATER. NATHAN AND RIAN ARE BOTH INTRODUCED FOR THE AFOREMENTIONED PANEL ON “THE CHARACTER OF MUSIC” AND ARE GREETED TO CHEERFUL APPLAUSE. ALL THE PANELISTS ARE GROUPED INTO A COMPOSER/CREATIVE COLLABORATOR DUO MAKING UP FOUR GROUPS TOTAL. AFTER SOME IMPRESSIVE VIDEO DEMONSTRATIONS OF EACH OF THE PANELISTS’ WORK THEY ARE ALL ASKED THE SAME ICEBREAKER QUESTION OF HOW THEY CAME TO THEIR CURRENT PROJECT (WHICH IS A WEIRD ICE BREAKER QUESTION BECAUSE IT IS EFFECTIVELY ASKING THEM TO START AT THE END OF THEIR STORIES). THEY GO DOWN THE LINE AND GET THE STANDARD “I knew so and so, who knew so and so” ANSWERS AND THEN IT FINALLY COMES TO NATHAN:

“We used to spend summer vacations together when the families would meet up for about two weeks. Rian and I would just make movies and play music together… And then we never stopped.”

HEARTFELT. DIRECT. HONEST. IT’S THE KIND OF ANSWER THAT ELICITED MASSIVE CHEERS FOLLOWED BY AN ADORABLE “Awwww!” WHEN THE TWO COUSINS PUT THEIR ARMS AROUND EACH OTHER IN A PLAYFUL HUGGING GESTURE. IT WAS AT THIS EXACT MOMENT THAT HULK COMES UP WITH THE APPROPRIATE TITLE OF “THE COUSINS JOHNSON” FOR THE TWO OF THEM (YEAH, YEAH, IT’S A NOT-SO-SUBTLE NOD TO RIAN’S SECOND FEATURE THE BROTHERS BLOOM). INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, THE PANEL WENT ON FROM THERE AND SOON DESCENDED INTO CHAOS. HULK DIDN’T ENTIRELY KNOW THIS AT THE TIME, BUT COMIC-CON PANELS BRING THEIR OWN UNIQUE BRAND OF CRAZY. HULK WROTE ABOUT IT ALL HERE IN THIS “ANATOMY OF A COMIC-CON PANEL” PIECE, BUT HONESTLY IT TURNED OUT TO BE ONE OF THE MORE DIGNIFIED PANELS OF THE ENTIRE WEEKEND…. HOORAY?

WHEN THE PANEL ENDS THE COUSINS JOHNSON ARE MOBBED BY A SIZABLE GROUP OF FANS TO SIGN THEIR VARIOUS STUFFS AND BE TOLD RATHER COMPLIMENTARY THINGS. HULK ISN’T TRYING TO MAKE THIS SOUND LIKE THE BEATLES AT SHEA STADIUM OR ANYTHING, BUT HULK WANTS TO CONVEY HOW WEIRD IT IS TO BE QUITE LITERALLY SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE. GOING BEYOND MERE CLAUSTROPHOBIA, IT BRINGS UP ALL SORTS OF INTERESTING QUESTIONS OF FUNCTIONALITY: HOW LONG DO YOU SPEND WITH SOMEONE BEFORE MOVING TO THE NEXT PERSON? HOW DO YOU GRACEFULLY START WALKING IN THE DIRECTION YOU NEED TO? WHILE THESE QUESTIONS REPRESENT THE HEIGHT OF “NON-PROBLEMS” HULK INSTEAD WANTS YOU TO THINK ABOUT THE DELICACY INVOLVED. BECAUSE THESE FANS ARE INVESTED. AND THEY ARE, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, YOUNG. AND WHAT MIGHT NOT MATTER TO YOU IS ACTUALLY EVERYTHING TO THEM. AND THESE PARTICULAR FANS KEEP TALKING ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY LOVE RIAN’S MOVIES AND WANT TO EXPRESS JUST HOW MUCH IT HAS PERSONALLY AFFECTED THEM. THEY ARE HURLING COMPLIMENTS LIKE HAPHAZARD GRENADES, BUT THEY ARE STILL POURING THEIR HEARTS OUT. AND IF THERE IS ANY KINDNESS IN US AT ALL, THEN IT IS SOMETHING TO BE GENTLE AND UNDERSTANDING ABOUT. OF COURSE, THE COUSINS JOHNSON ARE BOTH THOSE THINGS. IT BECOMES SLIGHTLY MORE PROBLEMATIC WHEN THE SONY P.R. REPS NEARBY START HANDING OUT SOME NIFTY LOOPER POSTERS AND MORE AND MORE PEOPLE START SHOWING UP.

AFTER IT ALL FINALLY DIES DOWN A BIT, RIAN JUST SORT OF STANDS THERE WITH A THOUSAND-YARD STARE AND MARVELS, “People are being so kind.” … OF COURSE THE UNASSUMING MAN WOULD SAY THAT. BUT HEY, IT’S COMIC-CON. EXCITEMENT IS NOT ONLY ALLOWED, BUT PREFERRED. IN FACT, THE ENTIRE ECONOMIC MECHANISM OF COMIC-CON IS BUILT ON THE EXPECTATION OF THAT EXCITEMENT. STUDIOS EVEN HAVE TO BET ON IT. THEY NEED THAT GROUND SWELL, THE MOVEMENT, THE EXPOSURE, ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO COME OUT OF ALL THE MONEY AND EFFORT PUT INTO STAGING THIS STUFF… AND SOMETIMES IT EVEN WORKS! HECK, WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT EXCITEMENT IS ACTUALLY THE CURRENCY OF THE CON. CALL HULK CYNICAL FOR SAYING THAT, BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT FOR ALL THE CORPORATE INVOLVEMENT, THE MARKETING, THE PROMOTION… THE PASSION OF THE FANS IS STILL 100% GENUINE. CYNICISM IS EASILY BEATEN BY ONE SIMPLE FACT:

MOVIES MATTER HERE.

SO BEYOND ALL THE FALSE PRAISE ONE ASSOCIATES WITH A TOWN LIKE LOS ANGELES, ONE MUST ACCEPT THAT THE PRAISE AT COMIC-CON IS REAL TOO. SURE, IT IS YOUNG, OVER-EXUBERANT, AND OFTEN UNKEMPT, BUT THERE’S A WONDERFUL, HUMANE MESSINESS TO IT ALL THAT IS PART OF THE CHARM. THIS IS THE LAND OF ACCEPTANCE. AND AT THE CORE OF THAT IS THE MOST EARNEST RELATIONSHIP: THEY SIMPLY WANT THEIR WORDS TO RESONATE TO YOU BECAUSE YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY MADE SOMETHING THAT RESONATES TO THEM.

THE OTHER THING HULK HAS TO MENTION HERE IS THAT THIS MOMENT STARTS WHAT WILL BECOME A LONG SERIES OF INTERACTIONS CONCERNING NATHAN JOHNSON’S JACKET. NOW, HULK IS FAR FROM FASHION-CONSCIOUS (INSERT PURPLE PANTS JOKE), BUT OVER THE TWO DAYS HULK COUNTS 23 SEPARATE PEOPLE ASK HIM ABOUT THIS JACKET. THERE IS A REASON FOR THIS. IT IS THE COOLEST F—ING JACKET YOU’VE EVER SEEN. HULK SOON LEARNS THAT IT IS A ONE-OFF DESIGNED BY HIS FRIEND KRISTEN MEYER AND THAT WAS RE-CUT FROM A VINTAGE JACKET THEY FOUND. IT IS EVEN SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED WITH ELBOW PATCHES TO GIVE HIM THE NEEDED FLEXIBILITY TO PLAY GUITAR. HULK COULD GO ON SOME WELL-RESEARCHED TANGENT HERE ABOUT FASHION, BUT SCREW THAT. THE POINT IS THAT IT LOOKS BADASS AND EVERYONE WANTS IT.

AS EVERYONE STARTS EXITING AND HEADING DOWNSTAIRS, HULK GETS CAUGHT UP FOR A BRIEF MOMENT AND ENDS UP WATCHING THE THE COUSINS JOHNSON GO OFF DOWN THE ESCALATORS. JUST AS HULK IS THINKING ABOUT CATCHING UP, HULK SEES NATHAN PUT HIS HAND ON RIAN’S SHOULDER IN A THIS EMOTIONAL, GENUINE MOMENT OF… SOMETHING. TO BE HONEST HULK WASN’T SURE WHAT IT WAS. IT COULD HAVE BEEN REASSURANCE? HAPPINESS? RELIEF? MAYBE ALL THOSE FEELINGS AT ONCE? WHATEVER IT WAS, THEY BOTH SEEMED TO INSTINCTIVELY UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER. WITH A MOMENT LIKE THIS, HULK JUST FELT MORE COMFORTABLE LETTING THEM GO OFF THEN RUNNING FORCING AN AWKWARD GOODBYE. WITH THE BIG DAY TOMORROW THERE WAS NO REAL NEED TO PRESS ANYTHING AT THE MOMENT.

AND ALL THOSE LINGERING FAMILY QUESTIONS?

SURE, HULK COULD HAVE EXPLAINED TO YOU ALL THE REGULAR BEATS OF OUR FILMMAKER’S STORY. THE ONES ABOUT A MAN BORN IN MARYLAND, WHO THEN MOVED TO CALIFORNIA. HULK COULD HAVE TOLD YOU ABOUT HOW HIS FAMILY LIFE INSPIRED AND THEN INFORMED HIS PERSONALITY. OR HOW HE LATER WENT TO U.S.C. FILM SCHOOL AND WHAT THAT EXPERIENCE WAS LIKE. HULK COULD THEN TRANSITION INTO THE PART OF THE STORY WHERE HE WENT OFF TO MAKE HIS FIRST INDEPENDENT MOVIE AND HOW THAT LITTLE FILM CHANGED EVERYTHING.

THAT STORY WOULD TRUE, BUT THERE’S ANOTHER KIND OF TRUTH THAT IS PERHAPS MORE IMPORTANT. IT’S THE TRUTH THAT COMES OUT WHEN YOU CAN STARE DOWN AN ESCALATOR AND SEE TWO COUSINS WHO LONG, LONG AGO DECIDED TO MAKE MOVIES AND MUSIC TOGETHER.

AND, LUCKILY FOR US, THEY NEVER STOPPED.

4. THAT HIGH SCHOOL NOIR MOVIE

BACK IN 2006 HULK ATTENDED AN INDUSTRY SCREENING WITH VERY LITTLE KNOWLEDGE OF THE FILM THAT HULK WAS ABOUT TO SEE.

THE FILM WAS CALLED BRICK

AFTER JUST A FEW SHORT SCENES THE HAIR ON THE BACK OF HULK’S NECK STARTED TO STAND ON EDGE. HULK’S MIND RACED: “WAIT… IS HE DOING WHAT HULK THINKS HE’S DOING??? YES… HE’S ACTUALLY DOING IT… AND GOOD GRAVY, IT’S WORKING!” AND BY THE TIME THE FINAL CREDITS ROLLED HULK WAS KNEE-DEEP (WHICH WOULD BE UP TO YOUR WAIST) IN ONE OF THOSE HOLY S—!!! BRAND EPIPHANIES THAT CAN ONLY COME WITH THE ARRIVAL OF A NEW CINEMATIC VOICE.

IF YOU’VE NEVER SEEN THE FILM, HERE’S THE DEAL: BRICK IS HIGHLY-STYLIZED NEO-NOIR THAT TAKES PLACE IN A HIGH SCHOOL. AND IT’S NOT A JOKE. IT’S PLAYED BLISTERINGLY STRAIGHT. THE CHARACTERS HURL RAPID-FIRE, TONGUE-TWISTING DIALOGUE AT EACH OTHER WITH RECKLESS ABANDON. THEY TAKE TURNS EXUDING COOL, SULTRINESS, MENACE, ALL THE MARKERS OF REAL NOIR AND DO IT IN A WAY THAT BARELY EVEN TOUCHES IRONY. PLOTS THICKEN. DANGER SETS IN. INTENSITY HAPPENS. AND BY THE END OF THE EXPERIENCE, JOHNSON’S HAIR-BRAINED SCHEME OF MOVIE DOESN’T JUST WORK, IT WORKS LIKE GANGBUSTERS. THE FILM CRACKLES LIKE FIRE IT’S SO ALIVE.

IT’S NOT LIKE HULK IS ALONE IN THIS OPINION. THE FILM WON SPECIAL JURY PRIZE FOR ORIGINALITY OF VISION AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AND WENT ON TO MAKE WAVES WITH SEEMINGLY EVERYONE WHO ACTUALLY WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO SEE IT. BUT HULK ISN’T SUCH A FAN OF THE WAY WE LAUD FILMMAKERS BY MERELY CITING A LIST OF AWARDS OR BOX OFFICE DOMINATION OR SOME SORT OF “PROOF” THAT A MOVIE IS DESERVING OF PRAISE. YES, WE DO THIS BECAUSE IT’S A TANGIBLE MARKER THAT MAKES IT CLEAR TO SOMEONE ELSE, BUT IF YOU DON’T MIND HULK WOULD LIKE TO TAKE A MOMENT TO ARTICULATE WHAT MAKES RIAN’S WORK SO SPECIAL.

BEYOND THE FACT THAT HIS MOVIES ARE GOOD ON THE INDEPENDENT MERITS FOR WHICH WE JUDGE CINEMA, THERE IS A NEW GENERATION OF FILMMAKERS OUT THERE WHO SEEM TO BE EMBRACING WHAT HULK LIKES TO CALL “CINEMATIC AMPLIFICATION.” EDGAR WRIGHT IS SORT OF THE KING OF THE STYLE, JOSEPH KAHN USES IT QUITE NICELY IN DETENTION, AND TARANTINO USES IT TO A CERTAIN EXTENT (BUT USUALLY WITHIN HIS OWN “MOVIE WORLDS”). WHAT THE TERMS MEANS IS THAT THESE FILMMAKERS USE THE UBER-SPECIFIC CINEMATIC LANGUAGE OF GENRE CONVENTIONS NOT TO DIRECTLY REFERENCE SAID CONVENTIONS THEMSELVES (THOUGH SOMETIMES THEY DO), BUT REALLY TO JUST INFORM OR HEIGHTEN THE AFFECTATION OF THE STORY. MEANING THEY ARE SIMPLY USING THIS VERY SPECIFIC CINEMA LANGUAGE TO “AMPLIFY” WHATEVER EMOTIONS AND STORY IS GOING ON IN THE SCENE.

NOW TECHNICALLY YOU COULD ARGUE THAT ON THE MOST BASIC LEVEL THAT’S JUST FILMMAKING AND WE’RE ALWAYS USING CAMERA LANGUAGE TO CREATE MEANING AND AMPLIFY THE MEANING OF THE SCENE, BUT THIS VERSION IS A BIT MORE OBTUSE AND WHOLLY SPECIFIED TO THE CONVENTIONS OF GENRE. THIS MAY SOUND COMPLICATED, BUT LET HULK EXPLAIN:

HISTORICALLY, WHEN A FILM USES A SPECIFIC KIND OF CINEMATIC LANGUAGE ASSOCIATED WITH GENRE OR SPECIFICITY IT IS ATTEMPTING SOME SORT OF SEND-UP; A DIRECT REFERENCE TO BE LAUGHED IN THE NOT-SO-COY WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE SORT OF WAY. THE MOST INFAMOUS OF WHICH INCLUDED THE SOMEWHAT RECENT “SCARY/DISASTER/(TERRIBLE) MOVIE” FRANCHISE, WHICH MOST CRITICS USED TO CALL THE DEATH OF CINEMA (THIS WAS BEFORE WHATEVER-IS-THE-CURRENT-DEATH-OF-CINEMA MOVED IN). WHILE WE TYPICALLY IGNORE THESE OBVIOUSLY CYNICAL FILMS, THE MAIN REASON OTHER FILMS DON’T ATTEMPT THE SAME KIND OF SANS-CONTEXT GENRE APING IS BECAUSE A SUDDEN, INCONGRUENT TONE SHIFT CAN SPELL DEATH TO THE AUDIENCE’S INTEREST. A TONE SHIFT LIKE THAT TELLS THEM INSTANTLY TO “NOT TAKE THIS STUFF SERIOUSLY” BECAUSE IT’S JUST SO DAMN EASY TO TIP THE SCALES INTO THE TRAPPINGS OF THE GENRE’S STYLE THAT YOU CAN LOSE ALL SENSE OF FOOTING AND REALISM.

AND WHAT THE “CINEMATIC AMPLIFIERS” HAVE MANAGED TO DO IS ACHIEVE A BALANCE BY COMPLETELY GROUNDING THE STYLE ITSELF IN CHARACTER. MEANING ANY POINT A MAIN CHARACTER FEELS A DIRECT EMOTION, OR HAS A CERTAIN REACTION IT CAN TRIGGER A CORRESPONDING CINEMATIC GENRE CONVENTION TO MAKE IT WORK. AND THIS WORKS ALL TOGETHER BECAUSE THE FILMMAKERS ESTABLISHES EARLY ON THAT AT ANY POINT THE FILM CAN FEEL LIKE THIS OR ANY KIND OF MOVIE. THEY ESTABLISH THAT A FILM IS OPERATING IN AN “AMPLIFIED” WORLD.

THIS IS NOT AN ATTEMPT TO REDUCE THE WORK OF THESE DIRECTORS TO MERE GENRE-APING, BUT REALLY JUST TO CLARIFY THAT THESE FILMMAKERS HAVE A REMARKABLE UNDERSTANDING OF THE TONE OF THE WORLDS THEY CREATE AND IT AFFORDS THEM A LOT OF EMOTIONAL NAVIGATION. AND HULK BELIEVES THAT THERE IS PERHAPS NO BETTER WAY OF CLASSIFYING BRICK THAN AS “AMPLIFIED NOIR.” AGAIN, IT JUST CRACKLES IT’S SO ALIVE. TO THIS DAY, HULK STILL CRINGES AT SICKENING CRUNCH OF THE KICK TO THE KNEE CAPS. STILL TREMBLES FROM THE IMAGE OF THE HAND SHAKING IN RESPONSE AS THE CAR ZOOMS BY WITH AN OPPRESSIVE WHOOOOSH. THESE MOMENTS AREN’T CINEMATIC REALISM, BUT THEY INFORM AN IMPORTANT CHARACTER REALISM AND VISCERAL EXPERIENCE. THIS IS AN AMPLIFIED MOVIE AND RIAN IS IN PERFECT CONTROL OF EVERY FRAME.

AND BEYOND THAT FACT, BRICK ALSO HAPPENS TO BE A GENIUS IDEA, TIGHTLY-WRITTEN, WELL-ACTED, WELL-REALIZED, WELL-EDITED, INVENTIVE, FUNNY, AND ENTHRALLING…[BREATHES] AND ALL THAT PLUS THE CONTROL OF CINEMATIC AMPLIFICATION IS WHY THE MOVIE ACTUALLY SUCCEEDS.

THE OTHER OBVIOUS REASON IT SUCCEEDS IS BECAUSE OF THAT JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT GUY.

5. JOE

NOW… THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT IS GOING TO MAKE HULK SOUND LIKE A CRAZY PERSON, BUT IT WAS SUPPOSEDLY PASSED DOWN FROM MALCOLM MCDOWELL TO A 70’S CLASSIC SCREENWRITER WHO HULK ONCE HAD A CONVERSATION WITH SO LET’S ACCEPT THAT AT FACE-VALUE. ANECDOTE GOES LIKE THIS: WHEN MALCOLM MCDOWELL WAS PROMPTED BY THIS SCREENWRITER GUY WITH THE QUESTION OF “What makes someone a movie star?” HE TOOK A MOMENT THEN RESPONDED RATHER CRYPTICALLY:

“Movie stars were cats in a past life.”

HULK LAUGH! IT MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO LOGICAL SENSE, BUT WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT LONGER THERE’S A WEIRD POETIC QUALITY TO THE STATEMENT THAT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE. WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT HOW CATS HAVE THAT GRACE, THAT POSTURE, THAT CUNNING. HOW THEY ARE OFTEN DOTED ON AND MEANT TO BE PLEASED. HOW WHEN THEY STARE AT YOU WITH THEIR BIG, OTHER-WORLDLY EYES, WHICH ALWAYS SEEM TO FILL UP A ROOM AND INVITE YOU RIGHT ON INTO THEIR THOUGHTS… YEAH, WHEN CLASSIFIED LIKE THE WHOLE MOVIE STARS BEING CATS SUDDENLY MAKES SENSE.

WELL FOLKS, JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT IS A F—ING CAT.

***

IT IS FAIR TO SAY THAT BRICK CAME ALONG AT AN OUTRAGEOUSLY PERFECT TIME FOR “JOE” AS WE’LL COME TO CALL HIM. BACK THEN, HE WAS BEST KNOWN EITHER FOR HIS DISCONCERTINGLY-COMPETENT PERFORMANCE AS A WISE-OLD ALIEN TRAPPED IN A YOUNG BOY’S BODY ON 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN OR FROM THE HIGH SCHOOL-CENTRIC MODERN DAY RIFF ON SHAKESPEARE KNOWN AS 10 THINGS ABOUT YOU (SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT. IT DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE HULK ADORES THIS FILM). AND SO WHILE HE WAS ALREADY EMBODYING THIS KIND OF LIKEABLE EVERY-TEEN FIGURE, HE HAD JUST BEGAN THAT CLASSIC TRANSITION INTO THE KINDS OF “SERIOUS YOUNG ACTOR” ROLES THAT ARE SO DAMN COVETED IN THIS INDUSTRY. THE ONE THAT ABSOLUTELY TURNED HEADS WAS 2004’S MYSTERIOUS SKIN. THE FILM IS ONE OF THE MORE HONEST AND DIFFICULT APPROACHES TO THE LONG-LASTING EFFECTS OF SEXUAL ABUSE THAT HULK CAN THINK OF AND GORDON-LEVITT IS ABSOLUTELY FEARLESS IN THE ROLE.

WHILE NEVER ACTUALLY SAYING SOMETHING LIKE “It got me the job” ON BRICK, JOE SEEMS TO IMPLY THAT THE SEQUENCING OF THE MOVIES WAS INCREDIBLY NECESSARY. WITH HIS PERFORMANCE IN BRICK, HE WAS TRANSFORMED INTO SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE HAD SEEN BEFORE. HE WAS STILL HAD THAT INHERENT INNOCENCE, BUT IT WAS USED TO A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT EFFECT. THAT INNOCENT GUY WAS PUSHED INTO DARK CORNERS WHERE HE HAD TO ACQUIT HIMSELF. THE CHARACTER OF BRENDAN IS SMART, FIERY, AND UTTERLY DRIVEN. THE MOMENT WHERE HIS FIRST FIGHTS ERUPTS OUT OF HIM IS ALMOST SHOCKING IN THE WAY IT COMES TOGETHER. AND THEY WAY HE MANAGES TO ELICIT THAT SURPRISING BADASSITUDE IS REMARKABLE. FROM THE EXHIBITION OF THIS ENTIRE ROLE, HULK FIRMLY BELIEVES THAT IT WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR WHOLE NEW ARC TO HIS CAREER.

NOW JOE COULD BE ANYONE.

AND WHAT STARTED WITH BRICK, TURNED INTO A PRETTY GLORIOUS RUN: THERE WAS HIS WONDERFUL TURN IN AS MEMORY-IMPAIRED JANITOR TURNED INSIDE MAN IN SCOTT FRANK’S THE LOOKOUT. HIS EMPATHETIC, LOVELORN RUBE IN (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. HIS DESTRUCTIVE, TIDY-WHITEY-CLAD TAKE ON THE TITLE CHARACTER OF HESHER. HIS HEART-BREAKING PERFORMANCE AS YOUNG MAN FACED WITH THE TRAGIC REGULARITY OF CANCER IN 50/50. NOT TO MENTION THE SUAVE, SUIT-WEARING, HALLWAY-SCALING DREAM THIEF IN INCEPTION. NOLAN WAS SO IMPRESSED WITH HIM IN THAT FILM HE BROUGHT HIM BACK FOR A SUPPORTING ROLE OF CERTAIN PROMINENCE IN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. AND LET’S JUST TOP OFF THAT SUNDAE WITH THE FACT THAT HE HAS A SUPPORTING ROLE IN STEVEN SPIELBERG’S FAST-APPROACHING LINCOLN… NEEDLESS TO SAY, BUT ACTORS HAVE HAD WORSE RUNS. AND FAR BEYOND MERELY BEING DUMB-FOUNDED BY THE CALIBER OF FILMS HE’S GOTTEN TO WORK ON, HULK LOOKS OVER THAT LIST AND IS MORE STRUCK BY THE REMARKABLE DEXTERITY REQUIRED OF THOSE ROLES. IT’S REMARKABLE.

IT IS ALSO AT THIS POINT THAT HULK HAS TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND THEN QUICKLY SKIP OVER THAT POPULAR STORYLINE WHERE WE HAVE TO PRAISE “THE CHILD ACTOR WHO SURELY OVERCAME THE PERILS OF IMMINENT DOOM” BECAUSE ALL CHILD ACTORS ARE DESTINED FOR HORROR OR SOMETHING. HULK DOES NOT WANT TO DO THIS BECAUSE IT ONE OF THOSE HOLLYWOOD CONVENTIONS THAT NEVER REALLY FELT TRUE TO HULK. YES THERE ARE FAMOUS CASES AND YES, THE PERILS OF SCHEDULES AND TAKING A KID OUT OF SCHOOL AND PUTTING HIM IN SOMETHING AS WANTONLY DESTRUCTIVE AS HOLLYWOOD FILMMAKING CAN HAVE A PROFOUNDLY NEGATIVE EFFECT, BUT TO PUT IT SIMPLY: SOLID PEOPLE WITH A SOLID FOUNDATION CAN USUALLY MAKE IT THROUGH THOSE KINDS OF THINGS. IT’S JUST THAT A LOT OF THE KIDS BEING PUT IN TO THE SYSTEM DON’T HAVE SOLID FOUNDATIONS. HULK DOESN’T WANT TO TURN THIS INTO SOME NATURE VS. NURTURE ARGUMENT, AS THAT’S NOT HULK’S INTENTION, BUT THE WHOLE KID-ACTOR-WILL-TURN-BAD PERCEPTION IS REALLY OUT OF WHACK WITH REALITY. THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES JOE UNIQUE IS THE FACT THAT HE WAS SIMPLY A GREAT YOUNG ACTOR WHO HAS ADMIRABLY TRAVERSED EVERY STAGE OF CAREER AND HAS NOW WORKED HIS WAY INTO WORKING WITH THE VAUNTED HOLLYWOOD ELITE.

HOW DID HE REALLY DO THIS?

FAUSTIAN DEAL WITH THE DEVIL!

NO…. SORRY…HONESTLY, THE REASONS FOR THESE SORTS OF THINGS ARE SOMEWHAT NEBULOUS. YOU CAN GET INTO SOME THEORY ABOUT INNATE TALENT OR SOMETHING, OR YOU CAN MINE THE GLADWELL SCHOOL OF THINKING AND JUST FIGURE THAT JOE HAS PROBABLY LOGGED MORE HOURS OF ACTING THAN ANY PERSON HIS AGE ON THE PLANET (HULK WOULD ACTUALLY SUBSCRIBE TO THIS THEORY). BUT THERE’S A PART OF HULK THAT LIKES TO BELIEVE IN GOOD OLD FASHIONED IDIOMS LIKE : GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE. AND JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT REALLY SEEMS TO BE GOOD PEOPLE.

THE FIRST THING THAT STRIKES HULK ABOUT TALKING TO JOE OR WATCHING HIM INTERACT WITH HIS COLLEAGUES IS THAT HE IS SO DAMN ATTENTIVE. THERE ARE PLENTY OF TRADITIONALLY “NICE” ACTORS IN HOLLYWOOD. TONS OF THEM. THEY’LL ALL BE KIND, FRIENDLY, INCLUSIVE, ALL THAT GOOD STUFF. BUT BEING ATTENTIVE IS A DIFFERENT ANIMAL. BEING ATTENTIVE IS RESPECT FOR OTHER PEOPLE AND WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY. BEING ATTENTIVE IS THE COMPLETE REMOVAL OF SELF-CENTERED-NESS. BEING ATTENTIVE MEANS BEING A MODEL HUMAN BEING. BEING ATTENTIVE MEANS BEING AN ADULT.

WHICH MAKES IT SO MUCH FUN THAT HE READILY OFF-SETS THAT ADULT DISPOSITION WITH THIS MASSIVE KID-LIKE ENERGY. IT’S LIKE HE INSTINCTIVELY KNEW HE HAD TO HAVE ONE THING FROM HIS CHILDHOOD STAY A PERMANENT CASE OF ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT AND HE PICKED THE BEST POSSIBLE OPTION. HE’S POSITIVELY JOYOUS MOST OF THE TIME AND WHEN HE’S HALF-WAY THROUGH AN ONSLAUGHT OF A PRESS DAY, HE IS STILL FILLED WITH THE KIND OF ENERGY RESERVED FOR 10 YEAR OLDS ON A PLAYGROUND. IT’S NOT DISRUPTIVE OR ANNOYING OR ANYTHING. INSTEAD, IT’S INCLUSIVE AND INFECTIOUS. IF YOU EVER WANT BOTH A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF WHAT HULK IS ALLUDING TO THEN PREPARE TO SEE HIM JOE AT HIS MOST LOVEABLE. FOR INSTANCE YOU MIGHT WANT TO HOP ON SOME BASTARDIZED JAPANESE HULU WEBSITE OR SOMETHING TO FIND HIS CLIP OF HIS SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE APPEARANCE, IN WHICH HE DID A HILARIOUS RE-IMAGINING OF DONALD O’CONNOR’S IMMORTAL “MAKE EM LAUGH” PERFORMANCE FROM SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST AUDACIOUS THINGS HULK’S EVER SEEN ANYONE ATTEMPT AND EVERYTHING THAT “LIVE TV” SHOULD REPRESENT. AND POLISH ASIDE, HE RELIES ON COURAGE AND ENERGY AND JUST NAILS IT.

YOU COULD EVEN CALL IT CAT-LIKE.

BUT PERHAPS THE BEST BEST THING ABOUT RIAN AND JOE IS THAT THE TWO SEEM INEXORABLY TIED IN THE BEST KIND OF WAY. RIAN’S CAREER BEGAN WITH JOE’S ADULT REINVENTION AND THEY CONTINUE TO WORK ALONG THE SAME PATH. THIS IS TECHNICALLY THEIR THIRD FILM TOGETHER (JOE HAS A WONDERFUL BLINK-AND-YOU’LL-MISS-IT CAMEO IN BROTHERS BLOOM, ESSENTIALLY “HANDING OFF” THE FILM TO THE NEW LEADS). AND NOW HE’S BACK TO THE FULL SCALE-LEAD IN LOOPER. BETTER YET, A ROLE THAT WAS WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR HIM. THE FUTURE FOR BOTH OF THEM IS EXCITING AND THE TWO REMAIN ONE OF THE MORE COMPELLING DUOS HULK CAN THINK OF.

A FEW PEOPLE DO HAVE LINGERING QUESTIONS THOUGH…

6. ON SOPHOMORE EFFORTS

RIAN JOHNSON’S SECOND FEATURE, THE BROTHERS BLOOM, REMAINS THE KIND OF CRIMINALLY UNDER-SEEN GEM THAT STILL NEVER QUITE SEEMS TO GET THE RESPECT IT DESERVES. WHERE THE TANGIBLE QUALITIES OF BRICK RESONATED WITH PEOPLE IN THE KIND OF WAY THAT GOT THEM DOWNRIGHT EXCITED FOR THE FUTURE OF CINEMA, BLOOM OFFERS SOMETHING A LITTLE MORE… NUANCED. NOW, IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT APOLOGIZING BECAUSE A FILM DOESN’T HIT THE FRIGGIN’ ZEITGEIST MIGHT BE THE EPITOME OF HAVING TOO HIGH AN EXPECTATION, BUT WITHOUT GETTING INTO THE NITTY-GRITTY OF WHY HULK WILL SIMPLY STATE THAT HULK STANDS BY THE BRILLIANT POINT OF BLOOM WITH JUST AS MUCH FERVOR.

… OKAY, FINE. HULK WILL BITE AND GET INTO THE NITTY-GRITTY. HERE’S HULK’S THEORY ON WHY THE BROTHERS BLOOM IS UTTERLY BRILLIANT, BUT YOU’LL SEE WITH THE EXPLANATION THAT IT MIGHT BE PERHAPS A BIT TOO EASY TO MISS OUT ON WHY:

ABOVE ALL ELSE, AUDIENCES WANT CON FILMS TO BE FUN. IT’S A SWELL ENOUGH GOAL FOR ANY FILM, BUT WITH CON FILMS IT’S ALMOST A REQUIREMENT. SO THINK ABOUT HOW CON FILMS ALWAYS WORK: THERE’S BAD GUYS AND NOT-SO-BAD GUYS. LIES. DECEITS. NARRATIVE TURNS. AND IN AN AGE OF “KNOWING THE WHOLE DAMN STORY BEFORE YOU GO” THE CON FILM IS ONE OF THE LAST BASTIONS WHERE THE AUDIENCE PURPOSEFULLY REVELS IN SURPRISE. BUT FOR EVEN THE MOST IN-TUNE AUDIENCE MEMBER, THE CON FILM IS STILL ALL ABOUT TREATING PLOT AND CONSEQUENCES LIKE A GAME. AND IN THAT GAME, THE RESULTS ARE ALWAYS THE SAME: THE NOT-SO-BAD GUYS WILL ALWAYS FIND A WAY TO WIN. THE CURTAIN WILL PULL BACK AND THE GRAND SCHEME WILL BE UNVEILED. AND THEN EVERYONE CLAPS AND GOES ABOUT THEIR DAY BEING ENTERTAINED. BLOOM GOES RIGHT AFTER THE HEART OF THIS CON DYNAMIC, SO MUCH SO AS TO HAVE ITS MAIN CHARACTERS STATE THIS EXACT CONCEIT TIME AND TIME AGAIN. BUT FAR FROM JUST BEING A PIECE OF META COMMENTARY, THE FILM ALSO GOES ONE STEP FURTHER AND ACTUALLY PACKS AN EMOTIONAL WALLOP.

(PLEASE NOTE: NON-SPECIFIC, YET TONAL SPOILERS OF THE FILM FOR THE REST OF THE NEXT… UH… 3 PARAGRAPHS. HULK WILL INDICATE WHEN IT’S OVER). FOR ALL THE INVENTIVE CONNING, HILARITY, ZANINESS, AND GOOD-OLD-FASHIONED FUN IN BROTHERS BLOOM, IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THERE ARE ALL STILL ALL THESE PREVALENT HINTS OF CUT-TO-THE-BONE DANGER HIDING UNDERNEATH IT. AND FOR MOST OF THE RUNNING TIME IT IS PRECISELY THIS DANGER THAT MAKES THE FILM WORK IN TERMS OF GENUINE SUSPENSE. AFTER ALL, A LACK OF TANGIBLE DANGER IS THE REASON ALL THE OCEAN’S SEQUELS TEND TO FALL A BIT FLAT. WE ARE SO FAMILIAR WITH ALL THE CONNING TRICKS THEY USE SO WHEN THEY COME OUT ON TOP IT MERELY FEELS LIKE A RETREAD OF ALL THAT HAS COME BEFORE. THE CAT IS ALREADY OUT OF THE BAG SO-TO-SPEAK. ESSENTIALLY, THE EMOTIONAL STAKES OF THE OCEAN’S FILMS WERE NEVER RAISED IN ACCORDANCE WITH OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE DEPTHS OF THE TEAM’S INGENUITY. BUT BLOOM IS A DIFFERENT ANIMAL. IT’S CONSTANTLY REMINDING YOU THAT EVERYTHING IN THEIR WORLD IS ABSOLUTELY DANGEROUS. THE DIAMOND DOG IS ALWAYS LURKING AS IT WERE. THUS, THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE STAKES IS ALWAYS RAISED WITH THE PLOT ITSELF. THIS ALSO RESULTS IN THE KIND OF DUPLICITY AND LACK OF TRUST BETWEEN EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING THAT BECOMES SO DAMN PALPABLE YOU COULD CHOKE ON IT. BUT THE MARK RUFFALO CHARACTER, EVER THE BELIEVER IN THE SANCTITY OF THE CON, ALWAYS ASSURES US IT WILL WORK OUT. THUS WE, EVER THE GOOD AUDIENCE MEMBERS, BELIEVE IN THE INEVITABLE TRIUMPH OF SAID CON. THERE’S A REASON THE BROTHERS THEMSELVES LIKE TO PULL OFF THEIR OWN CONS BY GIVING THE MARKS THE KIND OF EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE WHERE THEY WON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT BEING SUCKERED. IN THE END, FEELING GOOD AND CLAPPING AT THE MARVEL OF THE CON IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT.

BUT BLOOM ULTIMATELY GOES FOR SOMETHING A BIT MORE EMOTIONAL, SAD, AND TRANSCENDENT. WHILE THE FILM DOESN’T ROB US OF THE CEREMONIAL CLAPPING MOMENT, NOR DOES IT PULL THE RUG OUT FROM UNDER THE AUDIENCE IN ANY UNFAIR WAY, BLOOM STILL ENDS WITH A BIT OF A STOMACH-PUNCHING EMOTIONAL “OOF!” AND WHAT MAY SEEM JUST LIKE A SAD MOMENT AT THE END IS ACTUALLY SOMETHING THAT GETS AT THE VERY HEART OF THE CON DYNAMIC ALL TOGETHER. THE FILM IS ACTUALLY COMMENTING ON HOW THE CON GENRE ALWAYS TRIES TO GIVE US GREAT, HAPPY SHINING MOMENT, DESPITE THE REALITY THAT EXISTS UNDERNEATH THE GAME: THE DANGER, THE SHADOWY FIGURES, THE SACRIFICE, THEN THE RAMIFICATIONS OF LIVING IN A REAL WORLD THAT ARE JUST TOO EXTREME TO IGNORE. WHICH IS FAIR BECAUSE CONNING IS ALWAYS ABOUT THE BATTLE FOR ENTERTAINMENT AGAINST THE MORE HORRIBLE TRUTHS JUST BENEATH THE SURFACE. LIKE THE FACT THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE THIEVES. THEY ARE HURTING PEOPLE. THAT THE STAKES ARE REAL. WE JUST BELIEVE IN THIS LITTLE GENRE UNDERSTANDING THAT MAKES IT ALL OKAY. EVEN IF BLOOM (AND CON FILMS ALL TOGETHER) POSIT THAT NO ONE CAN EVER TRULY BE ANGRY AT THE CON IF THE EXPERIENCE THEY ARE GIVEN IS A ROUSING ONE, THE ENDING ESSENTIALLY HINTS AT SOMETHING DIFFERENT. IT ESSENTIALLY TELLS US THAT THE CON FILM IS A LIE. OR IN THE VERY LEAST, A HALF-TRUTH. THE PROBLEM IS THAT WE’VE BECOME SO ENAMORED WITH THE LIE THAT WE WILL WANT TO BELIEVE IT NO MATTER WHAT REALITY ACTUALLY SAYS. AND THEN THE FILM ASKS US (IN AN EMOTIONAL, NON-OBVIOUS WAY) TO CONFRONT THAT VERY DUPLICITY IN OURSELVES.

[TAKES BREATHER] HULK KNOW. THIS SOUNDS LIKE PRETTY HEADY STUFF, BUT LIKE THE BEST OF CINEMA BLOOM EXPLORES THESE IDEAS PURELY THROUGH THE MAIN CHARACTERS’ RELATIONSHIPS AND ORGANIC PLOTTING. BUT THERE IS NO DENYING THAT IN GOING TO THE HEART OF WHAT THE GENRE IS ALL ABOUT AND DOING SO IN THIS PARTICULAR WAY, THERE ARE STILL GOING TO BE THOSE WHO SIMPLY WALK OUT OF A HAPPY FILM FEELING SAD. AND FOR THEM, THIS BECOMES AN IRRECONCILABLE EMOTIONAL GAP BECAUSE CON FILMS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT FUN. BUT FOR HULK, THE FACT THAT BLOOM IS REALLY ONE OF THE FIRST CON FILMS TO TAKE “THE LIE” HEAD ON AND IN SUCH A POIGNANT, BEAUTIFUL WAY MAKES IT JUST TOO POWERFUL TO IGNORE. AND WHAT’S MORE IS THAT HULK BELIEVES THERE IS A SILVER LINING OF SOLACE IN THE ENDING TOO. HULK’S BELIEVES THAT THE MAIN CHARACTER’S ENDING GESTURE OF OVERCOMING HIS OWN TRAGEDY, OF FIGHTING SO DESPERATELY AGAINST THE LIE HE KNOWS TO WELL, ALL IN THE EFFORT OF PROVIDING SOME MEASURE OF CLAPPING-CATHARSIS TO ANOTHER PERSON, IS A LIFE-AFFIRMING GESTURE THAT SHOULD ALSO BE OUR OWN. THE FILM DOES NOT LET US IGNORE THE REAL CONSEQUENCES OF THESE ACTIONS, BUT THE FILM ULTIMATELY BELIEVES IN THE POWER OF CONNING AND IT’S AFFECTATION (AND SOMETIMES THERE ARE NO CONS QUITE LIKE THE MENTAL JUMPING JACKS WE WILL DO TO FIND A SILVER LINING IN TRAGEDY). SO WHAT THE FILM LACKS IN GIVING US WHAT WE WANT, IN MAKES UP FOR IT BY GIVING US AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE GENRE AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF OURSELVES IN A WAY THAT WE ACTUALLY NEED. AS IS OFTEN THE CASE WITH THE BEST OF ART, BLOOM GOES AGAINST THE NATURE OF INDULGENCE TO SHARE WITH US A RATHER HUMAN TRUTH. IT’S A BIG MESSY EMOTIONAL AND IDEA-DRIVEN WEB, BUT IT IS THIS HULK’S OPINION THAT THIS IS PRECISELY WHAT MAKES THE FILM ABSOLUTELY F—ING TRANSCENDENT.

[END TONAL SPOILERS!]

IT SHOULD PROBABLY BE MENTIONED THAT BOTH BRICK AND BROTHERS BLOOM ARE TECHNICALLY “SMALL FILMS.” THEY CERTAINLY DON’T FEEL LIKE IT, AS THEY CREATE WHOLLY DISTINCT WORLDS ONTO THEMSELVES, EACH WITH WITH THEIR OWN CINEMATIC LAWS OF GOVERNANCE (REMEMBER, CINEMATIC AMPLIFICATION!). BUT IN TERMS OF HOLLYWOOD DOLLARS THEY WERE BOTH STILL SMALL RELEASES. SURE, BOTH WENT ON FIND THEIR LOVING AUDIENCES, EARN SWELL AMOUNTS IN THE DVD MARKET (WHICH WE HAVE TO START CALLING STREAMING/ON-DEMAND MARKET NOW, RIGHT?), AND CREATE A VIABLE CACHE, BUT NEITHER FILM WAS EVER REALLY DESIGNED TO BE A PART OF THE BIG HOLLYWOOD BOX-OFFICE GAME.

THAT IS ABOUT TO CHANGE WITH LOOPER.

7. OPENING THE LOOP

THE MOVIE IS A COOL, FRENETIC, 60-MILLION DOLLAR SCI-FI FILM THAT CONCERNS BOTH TIME TRAVEL AND SPECIALIZED MOB HITMEN CALLED “LOOPERS.”

… THAT’S ALL YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PLOT TO BE HONEST, AS HULK URGES YOU TO GO IN AS BLIND AS POSSIBLE. IT’S NOT BECAUSE THERE ARE CRAZY TWISTS AND TURNS FOR WHICH YOU HAVE TO BE SPOILER-FREE, BUT BECAUSE IT’S THE KIND OF THE DELIGHTFUL EXPERIENCE WHERE SEEING THE WAY THE STORY, WORLD, AND CHARACTERS UNFOLD IS A BIG PART OF THE JOY OF BEHOLDING IT.

SO PERHAPS A MORE INTERESTING CONVERSATION TO HAVE ABOUT LOOPER IS THE FACT THAT WE ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH A 60 MILLION DOLLAR BUDGETED MOVIE IN AN AGE WHERE THOSE BARELY EXIST ANYMORE. HULK KNOWS THAT STATEMENT MAY ELICIT A BIT OF A SHRUG FOR YOU, BUT HULK WANTS YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT NOT HAVING THESE KINDS OF MID-BUDGETED, RATED-R MOVIES MEANS WE TRULY STARTING TO LIVE IN A WORLD WITHOUT SMART, NON-OVERBLOWN, ADULT-GEARED CINEMA. WHY NOT?

THE REASON FOR THIS MAY BE A LITTLE TOO INSIDE BASEBALL, BUT LET’S GIVE IT A GO.

STUDIO-APPROVED BUDGETS AND SALE PRICES NOW COME WITH CERTAIN CEILING LEVELS THAT THEY LIKE TO AVOID GOING OVER AT ALL COSTS: 1 MILLION DOLLARS FOR BUYING INDEPENDENT MOVIES. 8 MILLION DOLLARS FOR “INDIE” MOVIES OR LOW-NEEDS GENRE STUFF. 30 MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE BOTTOM TIER OF BIG RELEASES (ALSO USUALLY GENRE). THEN THE LEVEL JUMPS TO 120 MILLION DOLLARS FOR STANDARD BLOCKBUSTERS (ALWAYS PG13). AND THEN 200+ MILLION DOLLAR+ FOR BIG PRE-ESTABLISHED OR PLANNED FRANCHISES (ALSO ALWAYS PG13). THE REASONING FOR THESE CEILING LEVELS HAS TO DO WITH BASIC COST MANAGEMENT AND WHAT IS ASSUMED TO BE THE NATURE OF PREDICTABILITY. MEANING STUDIO FINANCIAL GURUS BELIEVE THEY CAN ESSENTIALLY MITIGATE THE LOSSES OF “A BAD FILM” THAT DOES POORLY AT THE BOX OFFICE BY CAPPING CERTAIN MOVIE BUDGETS AND RATINGS AT THOSE RESPECTIVE LEVELS. THE THEORY BEING THAT THOSE WILL PROBABLY RECOUP THAT INCOME THROUGH ANCILLARY REVENUE STREAMS (FORESIGHT, TV BUYS, RENTAL DISTRIBUTION, ETC.) NO MATTER WHAT.

WHAT MAY SEEM REASONABLE AND FINANCIALLY-CONSCIOUS TO THE OUTSIDER HAS ACTUALLY HAD A PRETTY CRAPPY WAY OF DICTATING THE STAID KINDS OF MOVIES YOU’VE SEEN IN THEATERS THE LAST DECADE. SAY WHAT YOU WILL ABOUT HOLLYWOOD, BUT IN THE DAYS PRIOR TO THE 80’S YOU COULD REALLY ARGUE THAT THE STUDIO’S MANTRA WAS SIMPLY TRYING TO MAKE THE BEST FILMS POSSIBLE AND THEN THEY JUST TRIED TO BOOK THEATERS. DID THESE MOVIES USUALLY HAVE TO BE ACCESSIBLE? SURE. ESPECIALLY IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF CINEMA. BUT THERE WAS STILL A SENSE OF CRAFT TO THEM. A SENSE OF PURPOSE. AND THE MAIN REASON FOR THAT WAS ACTUALLY ECONOMIC. FOR DECADES AND DECADES, MOVIES DEPENDED ON “THE LONG-PLAY.” MOVIES COULD BE IN THE THEATER FOR A WHOLE YEAR. POSSIBLY LONGER. SO THEY HAD TO BE GOOD TO KEEP AUDIENCES IN THEIR SEATS, KEEP TELLING THEIR FRIENDS, AND KEEP COMING BACK. THE SIMPLICITY OF THIS ECONOMIC MODEL MEANT MOVIES HAD TO BE GREAT.

BUT WITH THE RISE OF THE BLOCKBUSTER IN THE LATE 70’S, ALL OT THAT CHANGED. THE GENUINE POSSIBILITY OF BIG MONEY MEANT BIGGER FINANCIAL INTEREST, THUS GIANT MEDIA COMPANIES SWARMED HOLLYWOOD AND SLOWLY FORMED THE MEGA-CONGLOMERATES WE HAVE TODAY. AND AS SHORT-TERM PROFIT FOCUS BECAME MORE AND MORE IMPORTANT TO THOSE IN CHARGE, THE LONG-PLAY MODEL DOESN’T FLOAT ANYMORE SO SLOWLY ADOPTED TO THE TO OPENING-WEEKEND FOCUS. THERE’S A LITTLE BIT OF CHICKEN/EGG SCENARIO HERE WHERE PEOPLE ARGUE ABOUT WHETHER THE MARKET DICTATED THE CHANGE, OR THE CHANGE DICTATED THE MARKET, BUT THE RESULTS ARE STILL THE SAME (AND PERSONALLY, HULK THINKS IT’S PRETTY CLEAR THAT THEY WERE THE ONES WHO SOUGHT OUT THE FRONT-END MODEL AS THEY SAW IT AS BEING “EASIER TO CONTROL”). AND NOW THE STUDIO STRUCTURE IS A FULL-BLOODED CORPORATE STRUCTURE.

AND IN A CORPORATE STRUCTURE, ACCOUNTABILITY IS KING.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE OLD STUDIO MOGULS USED TO BE FREE WHEELIN’ AND DEALIN’ KINDS OF FOLKS WHO MAY HAVE HAD THEIR OWN PARTICULAR FAULTS AND DISPOSITIONS, BUT THEY WERE STILL THESE KINDS OF CLASSIC MAVERICKS AND RISK-TAKERS. NOW THE PEOPLE RUNNING STUDIOS ARE WHOLE TEAMS OF BUSINESS FOLK AND THEY’VE TAKEN THE WHOLE “NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING” QUOTE ABOUT HOLLYWOOD TO THEIR FINANCIALLY-CONSCIOUS HEARTS. THUS, THEY ASSUME IT’S A CRAZY BUSINESS WHERE NOBODY TRULY KNOWS HOW TO TELL A STORY. THAT VACUUM LEAVES THEM THE FREEDOM TO CREATE A LINE OF THINKING WHERE THE MOVIE PROPER NOUNS INVOLVED WITH A PRODUCTION, THE FOLKS WE IDENTIFY AS “TALENT” CAN INSTEAD BE OUTRIGHT THOUGHT OF AS “VALUES.” AND THEY ESSENTIALLY PLUG THOSE VALUES INTO A SERIES OF EQUATIONS WHICH TELL THEM WHETHER A MOVIE IS “SAFE” OR “NOT SAFE.” THERE ARE TWO GIANT PROBLEMS WITH THIS:

1) THE KINDS OF EQUATIONS THEY ARE DOING ARE NOT EXACTLY SABREMETRIC-LIKE INSIGHT DEALING WITH A WEALTH OF INFORMATION. IT IS CRUDE DEDUCTIONS MADE FROM AN IMPOSSIBLY SMALL AMOUNT OF DATA. WHICH ESSENTIALLY MAKES IT BAD STATISTICS.

2) SINCE THE MARKETING MECHANISM IS ALREADY IN PLACE FOR ANY HIGH-VOLUME MOVIE, IT ALL BECOMES ABOUT THE PHILOSOPHY OF NOT LOSING.

YOU CAN IMAGINE THE SHAKY ECONOMIC THINKING THAT RESULTS FROM THIS.

BUT EVEN THEN, IT’S NOT LIKE HULK ENTIRELY BLAMES THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES FOR ALL THIS. THERE’S A HUMAN ELEMENT TO THE DECISIONS MADE AT STUDIOS AND FOR MOST OF THESE FOLKS IT IS ALL ABOUT JUSTIFYING ONES JOB. LIKE ANYONE ELSE, THESE ARE PEOPLE WITH CAREERS AND FAMILIES AND THE WAY THEY SUCCEED AT THEIR JOBS IS BY MAKING RATIONAL/JUSTIFIED CHOICES THAT FIT WITHIN THE CONFINES AND SAFETY OF THE COMPANY’S STANDARDS. AND ADHERING TO THAT ALLOWS THEM TO KEEP THEIR JOBS. DID THE MOVIE BOMB? IF THEY UPHELD ALL THE (FALSELY DEDUCTED) VALUES THE STUDIO ASSIGNS TO THEIR CHOICES THEN THEY DID NOTHING WRONG AND THE MARKET ITSELF IS TO BLAME. AND IN THIS SORT OF INDUSTRY, THEY ARE FORCED TO PLACATE A VALUE-BASED SYSTEM OF STAR-WORSHIP AND PLAY THE GAME OF “WHAT’S HOT RIGHT NOW?” TO THE POINT THAT IT’S SORT OF LIKE WATCHING MAGNET-BALL SOCCER PLAYED BY 5 YEAR OLDS. WHICH JUST MEANS THAT COPYING ROTE FORMULA IS THE PARADIGM NOT OUT OF LAZINESS, BUT BY FEAR. AND BOY IS FEAR A POWERFUL MOTIVATOR. IT MEANS THAT INNOVATION USUALLY ONLY HAPPENS BY ACCIDENT. AND SOMETIMES WE ARE ALL PRIVY TO THE STUNNINGLY RARE DISPLAY OF SHEER FORCE OF WILL ONLY SHOWS UP WHEN SOMEONE IS WILLING TO TAKE A RISK.

WHICH STINKS BECAUSE ANY SORT OF DETAILED ANALYSIS OF BUDGETS AND FILM SUCCESS PROVE THAT THE THEORY OF HAVING ANY “SAFEGUARDS” IS PRETTY MUCH A BIG CROCK OF POOP. IT’S WHY A LOT STUDIO HEADS ARE OUSTED ON THE SAME TIME FRAMES NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY PLAY THE GAME. WHAT WE HAVE IS A MOST BASIC FAILURE IN THE UNDERSTANDING OF HOW MOVIES WORK. IT’S A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE BEST OR MORE POPULAR ACTOR MAY NOT ALWAYS BE THE RIGHT ACTOR FOR THE ROLE. IT’S A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE ZEITGEIST CAN TIRE OF ANY “FULL-PROOF” ACTOR, CONCEPT, OR GENRE. IT’S A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THAT ALLURE AND MARKETABILITY IS SOMETIMES AN ENEMY OF SOUND STORY LOGIC. AND SO TO TRY TO CHASE THE CONCEPT OF MAKING A “SAFE” MOVIE IS LIKE TRYING TO CAPTURE LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE. AND RATHER THAN RELYING ON THE TRIED AND TRUE CREATIVE CONCEPTS THAT HAVE BEEN A PART OF DRAMA FOR GENERATIONS, THEY ARE RELYING ON THE THINGS THAT THEY CAN HAVE MAKE SENSE TO ECONOMICS AND MARKETING MAJORS.

WHICH, IN PURE ECONOMIC TERMS, MEANS THEY ARE KILLING THE CONCEPT OF INNOVATION.

LOOK AT MOST OF THE SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES OF FORTUNE 500 AND YOU WILL REALIZE THAT INNOVATION IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF ANY SUCCESSFUL COMPANY. THE PROBLEM FOR CINEMA IS THAT IT’S ALREADY A CREATIVE INDUSTRY AND WHAT INNOVATION ACTUALLY MEANS CAN HAVE A HOST OF DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS. ON ONE HAND THERE IS THE GOOD KIND OF INNOVATION. THE HIGH-CONCEPT VEHICLES THAT FEEL FRESH AND TRULY ORIGINAL. LOOPER IS HIGH-CONCEPT FILM IN THE BEST KIND OF TRADITION. THEN THERE ARE FILMS THAT ARE INNOVATIVE BECAUSE THEY DISTINCTLY LOOK FOR WHAT IS NOT POPULAR AT THE MOMENT AND TRY TO RETURN TO THAT SOMETHING “MISSING” FROM THE STATE OF CINEMA. THE WAY EASY RIDER BURST ONTO THE SCENE AND BURIED OLD HOLLYWOOD. THE WAY SPIELBERG DECIDED TO DO A THROWBACK MONSTER MOVIE WITH JAWS. THE WAY LUCAS THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUN TO RETURN TO THE SATURDAY MORNING SCI-FI SERIALS OF HIS YOUTH WITH STAR WARS. AS SILLY AS IT MIGHT SOUND, THESE SORTS OF FILMS WERE BUILT ON A KIND OF INSTINCT OF ANTICIPATING THE MARKETING CURVE. THEY COULD HAVE FAILED, BUT THE REASON THEY SUCCEED BEYOND ANYONE’S WILDEST DREAMS IS BECAUSE THEY WERE UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE BEING OFFERED. AND SINCE THEN THEY HAVE BUILT UP INTO ARTISTIC AND COMMERCIAL EMPIRES.

BUT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EQUATION THERE ARE HIGH-CONCEPT FILMS THAT EXIST AS A PALE SHADOWS OF THE REAL INNOVATION. STUDIO PEOPLE ARE SO DESPERATE TO JUSTIFY THE PROJECTS THEY CHOOSE THAT THEY ARE WILLING TO SINK TO THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR OF BRAND-RECOGNITION. THEY THEN “INNOVATE” BY BACKWARDLY-PRODUCING A “NEW, CLEVER IDEA” FROM THOSE EXISTING CONSTRUCTS. SNOW WHITE AS A BIG ACTION FILM STARRING KNOWN-VALUE KRISTEN STEWART? SURE THING! HULK WOULD ARGUE THIS IS FALSE INNOVATION. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN DIDN’T SUCCEED BECAUSE IT WAS BASED ON A THEME PARK RIDE. IT WAS BECAUSE THERE HADN’T BEEN A GOOD PIRATE MOVIE IN DECADES AND THEY WERE ABLE TO MILK ONE OF THE MORE REMARKABLY OUT-OF-LEFT FIELD PERFORMANCES FROM JOHNNY DEPP IN RECENT MEMORY (A CHARACTER THE STUDIO HATED AND THOUGHT WAS “TOO GAY” BY THE WAY). STILL IT GOES ON. WE INNOVATE FROM THIS BACKWARDS PLACE OF MOTIVE, WANTING TO JUSTIFY SOMETHING THAT IS UNJUSTIFIABLE. WE ASSEMBLE STORIES TO CATER TO THE BRAND RECOGNITION AND KNOWN VALUES INSTEAD OF GOING IN THE OTHER DIRECTION OF RECOGNIZING THEM AS EXTENSIONS OF THE CORE STORY BEING TOLD. IT DESTROYS DRAMA. IT IS INNOVATION IN EVERY WRONG SENSE. IT IS THE BUYING OF PROVERBIAL MAGIC BEANS.

SO BETWEEN THE ECONOMIC CONSTRAINTS, CASTING HANDCUFFS, THE WRONG-HEADED UNDERSTANDING ON INNOVATION, AND THE CORPORATE-CENTRIC PUNISHMENT OF DELINEATING FROM THE SYSTEM IN PLACE, WE REVEAL THAT THE PROBLEM ISN’T NECESSARILY ANY OF THE PEOPLE INVOLVED, BUT THE SYSTEM ITSELF.

THE PARADIGM IS A LIE.

WE ARE EMBRACING INTENTIONAL MEDIOCRITY IN THE NAME OF ECONOMIC SAFETY, BUT REALLY WE’RE NOT BEING SAFE WHATSOEVER. WE’RE JUST BEING LOGICAL IN A CLEAR BLACK/WHITE WAY THAT CAN BE UNDERSTOOD. THE ECONOMIC TRUTH IS THAT TRUE INNOVATION CAN LEAD TO BETTER ECONOMIC RESULTS, THE CHOICES ARE JUST MUCH HARDER TO JUSTIFY TO OTHER HUMANS, ESPECIALLY WHEN THINGS DON’T ALWAYS COME TO FRUITION. WE WORK IN AN INDUSTRY WHERE MOMENTARY FAILURE HAS TO BE “ACCOUNTED FOR” BECAUSE THIS IS AN INDUSTRY WHERE IT IS ASSUMED “NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING.”

WHICH SUCKS BECAUSE THE REAL TRUTH IS THAT MOST OF THE PEOPLE IN THIS INDUSTRY KNOW A LOT OF THINGS ABOUT MOVIES. STEVEN SPIELBERG KNOWS ABOUT MOVIES. CHARLIE KAUFMAN KNOWS ABOUT MOVIES. THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF MASTER CRAFTSMAN AND ARTISANS WHO KNOW HOW TO MAKE MOVIES. IT CAN BE SIMPLE LIKE KNOWING HOW TO PERFECTLY LIGHT A SCARY SCENE, OR HOW TO WRITE A SCENE TO HELP MAKE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH A HERO. THESE THINGS USED TO BE A SIMPLE MATTER OF TRADE AND THEY KNEW THE ONLY REAL OBSTACLE IN MAKING THEM COME TO LIFE WAS A MATTER OF AGREEMENT. THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS ALWAYS GETTING ALL THE HEADS INVOLVED TO COME TOGETHER WITH ALL THESE THINGS THAT THEY TRULY “KNOW” AND HAVE THEM FIND A WAY TO AGREE ABOUT WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THAT KNOWLEDGE. AND IT’S DREADFULLY HARD TO BE ON THE SAME PAGE WHEN A TEAM OF COUNTLESS PRODUCERS FIGHT WITH EACH OTHER, THE DIRECTOR FIGHTS WITH THE STUDIO, AND THE STUDIO HIRES 9 DIFFERENT WRITERS TO TRY AND WRITE OVER ONE ANOTHER. ANY “KNOWN QUALITY” OR SINGULAR INSTINCT WOULD GET LOST IN ALL THAT. IT’S TEXTBOOK SUBTRACTION BY ADDITION. AND SINGULAR FAULTS RARELY KILL A MOVIE. CONTRADICTORY FAULTS WILL DO SO FAR MORE EASILY. AGAIN, THE PROBLEM IS SYSTEMIC.

AND THE ONE LINGERING FACT THAT WE KNOW, THE ONE THAT HULK HAS NEVER, EVER BEEN ABLE TO GET A GOOD ANSWER FOR AS TO WHY PEOPLE DON’T LET THIS FACT DICTATE MORE OF WHAT WE DO, IS THE FOLLOWING:

GOOD MOVIES ENDURE THE TEST OF TIME.

HULK’S INTEREST IS NOT JUST CULTURAL, BUT ECONOMIC. JAWS WAS RELEASED ON BLU-RAY RECENTLY AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, BUT IT STILL BRINGS IN BUCKETS OF MONEY FOR ITS STUDIO. WE CAN’T JUST CHALK IT UP TO DUMB LUCK AND THINK OF THESE LEGACY FILMS AS “FREE MONEY.” IT SOUNDS OBVIOUS, BUT TRUE QUALITY LASTS SO MUCH LONGER THAN THE QUARTERLY REPORT. THIS ISN’T ASSUMPTION EITHER. WITHOUT MAKING THIS SEEM SORDID (BECAUSE IT’S NOT AT ALL), BUT HULK HAS SPENT SOME TIME WORKING BEHIND THE CURTAIN AND GOTTEN TO TAKE A PEAK AT THE STUDIO BOOKS AS A RESULT AND IN A GENERAL SENSE SHOULD SIMPLY KNOW THIS: THE CLASSICS PAY. THE REASON DREAMWORKS’S ORIGINAL “WE’RE A STUDIO TOO!” ECONOMIC MODEL FAILED IS BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T HAVE A LIBRARY OF FILMS TO DRAW ON TO STAY AFLOAT. THEIR SUCCESS WAS DICTATED BY MOMENTARY PERFORMANCE. THE ENTIRE ECONOMIC FLOATATION OF A STUDIO IS BUILT ON HAVING LAND AND STUDIO SPACE TO RENT OUT FOR FILMING, AND BY HAVING A LIBRARY. BUT BECAUSE THE INDUSTRY STILL FOCUSES ON THE SHORT-SIGHTED THINGS THAT JUSTIFY OUR JOBS WE MISS OUT ON THE LARGER OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD THE KIND OF MOVIES BEST SUITED FOR LEGACY PROFITS. INSTEAD, WE CHALK LEGACY UP TO BEING A MATTER OF DUMB LUCK. AND THUS WE COULD ACTUALLY APPLY THIS WHOLE LESSON ABOUT ART TO THE OLD ADAGE OF ECONOMICS AND THE BATTLE OF SHORT-TERM PLANNING VS. LONG-TERM PLANNING. LOOK AROUND AT WALL STREET AND YOU’LL SEE THE RESULTS OF THOSE WHO TOOK THE SHORT-TERM OPTION. AND RIGHT NOW HOLLYWOOD DOES NOT HAVE A LONG-TERM PLAN.

HULK REALIZES THAT ALL OF THIS MAY SOUND LIKE SOME OVER-SIMPLIFICATION OF “LET THE ARTISTS DO WHAT THEY WANT!” AND HULK ISN’T SAYING THAT REALLY. AFTER THE ARTISTIC BOOM OF CINEMA IN THE 70’S RESULTED WITH MANY OF THE WUNDERKINDS BEING PUT IN CHARGE AND BY AND LARGE THAT MODEL FAILED. IT WASN’T REALLY ABOUT PICKING THE WRONG PROJECTS JUST THAT THEY WERE TERRIBLE MANAGING THE BUSINESS ASPECTS. THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE NEEDED SEPARATION. BUT THIS DOES NOT INHERENTLY PROVE THE “ECONOMICS FIRST!” ANGLE OF THE CURRENT ERA IS CORRECT EITHER. LIKE MOST THINGS THINGS IT IS ABOUT STASIS AND UNDERSTANDING OF ROLES.

SO REALLY IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE SIMPLEST QUESTION EVER: IF EVERY OTHER BUSINESS ON THE PLANET KNOWS THAT THEIR LIFEBLOOD IS INNOVATION, WHY DOES AN INDUSTRY SUPPOSEDLY BASED ON CREATIVITY CONSTANTLY SEEM TO FALL VICTIM TO A LACK OF CREATIVE INNOVATION?

IT’S ONE OF THE MOST OBVIOUS CASES OF AN ENTIRE INDUSTRY HAVING AN IDENTITY CRISIS THAT HULK CAN THINK OF. IT’S LIKE IF ELECTRONIC COMPANIES WEREN’T TRYING TO INVENT NEW PRODUCTS AND JUST COASTING ON MODIFIED, REPACKAGED VERSIONS OF THE SAME PRODUCTS THAT EXISTED AT THE TURN OF THE LAST CENTURY. YES, ALL THE STRIDES IN TECH WHEN IT COMES FILMMAKING: THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION, IMAX, 3D, AND 48 FPS, ARE LESS ABOUT QUALITY / INNOVATION AND MORE ABOUT SHOWMAN TRICKS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO EXORCIZE MORE MONEY OUT OF NOTHING. REAL INNOVATION IS ABOUT UNDERSTANDING HOW TO STAY AHEAD OF THE “TASTE CURVE” AND COME UP WITH INTERESTING MOVIE EXPERIENCES THAT SATISFY ALL THE REASONS WE DEMAND STORIES, ART, AND CULTURE IN THE FIRST PLACE. OUR FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE THIS BASIC COMPLEX IS THE CORE PROBLEM AT THE HEART OF ALL OF THIS. LIKE ONCE EINSTEIN SAID:

“We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

YOU WILL PROBABLY NOTICE THAT IN AN ESSAY ABOUT A MOVIE APPEARING IN COMIC-CON HULK JUST PLOPPED A 20 PARAGRAPH ESSAY ABOUT THE STATE OF THE BUSINESS IN YOUR LAPS. THIS WILD TANGENT OF BUSINESS ANALYSIS WASN’T JUST FOR AMUSEMENT, BUT IT WAS SO CRAZY IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT AND ESTABLISH BECAUSE IT’S THE ONLY THING THAT HULK CAN DO TO STEM THE TIDE OF THOUGHT THAT BECOMES EVIDENT THE MOMENT INDUSTRY PEOPLE START CLASSIFYING LOOPER AS AN “OUTSIDE-THE-BOX, RISKY MOVIE!” WHEN REALLY THAT STATEMENT IS SO ANTITHETICAL TO THE DAMN TRUTH. IF ANYTHING, GREEN-LIGHTING A MOVIE LIKE LOOPER IS BEHOLDEN TO BOTH THE ECONOMIC AND ARTISTIC PURPOSE OF CINEMA. FOR NO BETTER EVIDENCE, LOOK AROUND THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM AT THE LIST OF STUDIO FIGURES AND PRODUCERS WHO ARE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL AND YOU WILL NOTICE THAT THEY ARE OFTEN SMART, MOVIE-CENTRIC THINKERS WHO VALUE BEING ON THE SAME PAGE WITH THE ARTISTS THEY EMPLOY AND ARE ALWAYS LOOKING NOT TO COPY, BUT TO INNOVATE. THEY SEE THE WRITING ON THE WALL: KNOWING ABOUT MOVIES IS THE TRUE LONG-TERM PLAN.

AND LUCKILY FOR US, RIAN JOHNSON SEEMS TO KNOW A THING OR TWO ABOUT MOVIES AS WELL.

FOR STARTERS, HE MADE 60 MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE THAT ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE A 120 MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE. IT’S GORGEOUS. DETAILED. VIVID. THRILLING. IT ALSO HAPPENS TO BE A 60 MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE STARRING THE LIKES OF BRUCE WILLIS, EMILY BLUNT, AND JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT (WHO IF MOVIE STARS WERE STOCKS, WE’D ALL BE BUYING THIS ONE). SO EVEN BY THE MOST LOGICAL ACCOUNTS, THE FILM EVEN MANAGES TO HIT ALL THOSE CHECK MARKS THE BEAN COUNTERS HAVE AND ACCOUNT FOR ALL THOSE PESKY ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS. IT JUST HAPPENS TO BE AN ORIGINAL FILM. NO THEME PARK RIDE. NO COMIC TIE-IN. JUST IT’S OWN IDENTITY. AND ON TOP OF THAT IT JUST HAPPENS TO HAVE A BUDGET FIGURE OUTSIDE OF SOME ARBITRARILY CHOSEN CEILING LEVEL THAT IS INCORRECT TO ITS PURPOSE ANYWAY. STILL, THESE TWO SINGULAR DIFFERENCES ARE ALL THAT IS NEEDED TO CHALK UP THE FILM’S INNOVATION AS BEING “RISKY” AND THUS ERUPTS A WAR OVER THE HOW TO APPROACH THE FILMS “MARKETABILITY”… SIGH… ONE CAN SEE HOW EASY IT IS TO GET CAUGHT UP IN THE BLACK AND WHITE POLITICS OF THE INDUSTRY GAME.

BUT IN THE END, FOR A FILMMAKER THESE CONCERNS CAN’T TRULY MATTER. THERE ARE TOO MANY THINGS BEYOND YOUR CONTROL AND THE ONLY THING TO DO WITH IT IS TO TRY TO DELIVER A GREAT A FILM AGAINST ALL ODDS.

AND IT IS THIS HULK’S OPINION THAT LOOPER IS TRULY A GREAT FILM.

YES, HULK HAS BEEN SORT OF ALLUDING TO THIS FOR THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, BUT AS OF COMIC-CON HULK HAS SEEN THE FILM. AND WHILE CANNOT COMMENT ON IT IN ANY GRAND WAY, HULK SIMPLY URGES YOU TO TAKE SOLACE IN THE FACT THAT THE FILM DELIVERS. IT’S A HIGH-CONCEPT MOVIE, ONLY IT IS EXECUTED FLAWLESSLY FROM START TO FINISH, CHIEFLY BECAUSE IT DOES NOT FALL INTO COMMON NARRATIVE TRAPS THAT HINDER OTHER SO-CALLED “CLEVER’ FILMS. IT KNOWS WHERE ITS SOUL LIES AND, LIKE ALL OF RIAN’S OTHER WORK, IT REALLY GETS TO THE HEART OF ITS OWN CENTRAL CONCEIT. IT IS A GREAT FILM. AND TO BE HONEST, EVERYONE HULK KNOWS WHO HAS BEEN LUCKY ENOUGH TO SEE IT THINKS IT’S A GREAT FILM. SO DO WITH THAT SENTIMENT WHAT YOU WILL.

BECAUSE WHATEVER HULK THINKS IN THE HERE OR NOW, LOOPER WILL GO ON TO HAVE SOME PUBLIC REACTION BEYOND RIAN’S, HULK’S, AND EVEN YOUR CONTROL. THE FILM’S PUBLIC HISTORY HAS YET TO BE WRITTEN. AND IN AN ATTEMPT TO STEER THAT DESTINY, WE ALL MUST BUY INTO THE TROUBLESOME ENTERPRISES OF MARKETING AND HYPE; THINGS THAT AT SOME TIMES FEELS SO AGAINST THE NOTION AND INTENT OF STORYTELLING ITSELF, BUT SOMETHING WHOSE REALITY IS HOPELESSLY ATTACHED TO OUR CURRENT MOVIE-GOING ERA. MORE PROBLEMATIC IS THE WAY IT AFFECTS ARTISTS: THEY MUST ALL SELL THEMSELVES WITHOUT SEEMING LIKE THEY ARE SELLING THEMSELVES, BUT STILL MUST PUT IN THE UTMOST EFFORT TO SELL THEMSELVES. IT’S STARTLINGLY TRICKY. AND THE KEY TO EMBRACING THIS IS REALLY TO UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE HAVE NOT ONLY A RIGHT TO GET EXCITED, BUT THOSE PEOPLE’S EXCITEMENT ARE THE VERY LIFEBLOOD OF YOUR WORK. MOVIES ARE MEANT TO BE SEEN. TO BE CHERISHED. TO BE TREASURED MEMORIES. TO HAVE THE KIND OF LEGACY WHERE THEY WILL HOPEFULLY BE TREASURED ENOUGH BY THOSE SAME FANS THAT, LIKE JAWS, 27 YEARS FROM NOW THAT THEY WILL HAPPILY PURCHASE THE BLU-RA… ERRRR… WHATEVER DEVICE BEAMS MOVIES INTO YOUR HEAD AT THAT TIME? THE POINT IS THE KEY IS TO TRULY REALIZE THAT AN AUDIENCE IS NOT MEANT TO BE PLACATED. AN AUDIENCE IS TO BE CELEBRATED.

AND THAT, ABOVE ALL ELSE, IS WHY THE LOOPER GANG WENT TO COMIC-CON.

SO LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THEY DID…

8. THE BIG DAY

IT’S FRIDAY MORNING. JULY 13TH. 9:28 AM.

HULK HAS STAYED UP ALL NIGHT WRITING OTHER COLUMNS. FOR SOME THIS WOULD BE AN UTTER DEATH KNELL, BUT ONE OF HULK’S MANY GAMMA-IRRADIATED POWERS IS A BARELY NEEDING ANY SLEEP. TODAY THE SUPERPOWER PROVES PARTICULARLY HELPFUL AS IT IS ONE OF THE BUSIEST AND MOST ATTENTION-REQUIRING DAYS ANYONE CAN EVER HAVE.

IT STARTS WITH HULK DEVOURING A PLATE OF CROISSANTS AND BIG-GULP OF COFFEE BEFORE HULK FINISHES UP AND SENDS IN ALL THE OTHER COLUMN STUFF. FINALLY, HULK SAUNTERS BACK OVER TO THE BAYFRONT TO MEET UP THE LOOPER GANG, WHO ARE APPARENTLY ALL THERE AND READY TO ROCK FOR THEIR BIG DAY.

IT IS NOW SOMEWHERE AROUND 11 A.M. HULK MAKES WAY HULK’S THROUGH A LABYRINTH OF BACK-ROOMS, THIS TIME MEETING IN THE “SAPPHIRE M” HALL. HULK SHEEPISHLY EXPLAINS WHY HULK IS THERE TO A HOST OF SECURITY PERSONS, ALL OF WHOM SEEM TO BE WOMEN IN THEIR 40’S AND WEARING BLAZERS. TO CONFIRM, HULK POLITELY HOLDS UP HULK’S BADGE THAT SAYS “PRESS – ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY” AND THAT SEEMS TO BE ENOUGH TO LET HULK IN. AFTER LOOKING AROUND AIMLESSLY HULK FINALLY DISCOVERS THE PLACE WHERE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO MEET… TURNS OUT THE LOOPER GANG HAS JUST STARTED DOIN’ WORK.

HULK STANDS IN THE ENTRANCE OF A LONG, MASSIVE BALLROOM. RUNNING THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF THE EAST SIDE OF THE ROOM IS A TRADITIONAL HOLLYWOOD RED CARPET, ADORNED WITH SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON LOGOS IN THE BACKGROUND. THE ONLY THING THAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS RED CARPET IS THAT IT LEADS… NOWHERE. IT’S JUST THERE. DESPITE THIS FACT, A CROWD OF REPORTERS, CAMERA PERSONS, AND PRODUCERS LINE UP ABOUT THREE DEEP ALONG THE ENTIRE DAMN THING. THIS IS “THE RECEIVING LINE” AND NATURALLY THEY ARE SEPARATED FROM THE INTERVIEW SUBJECTS BY VELVET ROPES. AND ON THE RED CARPET ITSELF ARE VARIOUS ACTORS, DIRECTORS, AND DESIRED TALKING FOLK WITH THEIR P.R. HANDLERS IN TOW. YES FOLKS, WE ARE WHOLLY FAKING A RED CARPET SCENARIO AS IF IT’S FOR SOME BIG EVENT. BUT WHAT MAY SEEM TO BE CYNICAL EXERCISE IN HYPE-MANUFACTURING, IS ACTUALLY A FAIRLY AMUSING AND GOOD-NATURED TIME. HULK SPOTS RIAN MID-INTERVIEW AND MOSEYS ON OVER TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE WHOLE PROCESS.

FOR THIS BLOCKING, THE GROUP OF INTERVIEW SUBJECTS WILL CONSIST OF EVERYONE IN THE SONY PICTURES PANELS. YOU SEE, FOR THE BIG HALL H PRESENTATIONS THE STUDIOS ALL TAKE TURNS SHOWING OFF THEIR BIG MOVIES IN GROUPS. WHILE DISNEY GOT THE BALL ROLLING EARLIER THAT MORNING, NEXT UP IS SONY, AND TOMORROW WILL BE FOLLOWED UP BY LEGENDARY, WARNER BROTHERS, MARVEL, AND A HOST OF OTHER COMPANIES. ASIDE FROM THE EASE OF BASIC SYNCHRONICITY AND OVERSIGHT, THE MAIN REASON FOR THIS GROUPING IS LOWER COST. WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT ALL THE TRAVEL, ROOM RENTALS, GROOMERS, AND SUPPORT STAFF THAT NEED TO EMPLOY, IT IS SURELY A LOT EASIER IF YOU’RE HANDLING EVERYTHING THE SAME DAY, PREFERABLY ALL AT ONCE. SO ALONG WITH LOOPER WE HAVE THE OTHER SONY PROJECTS INCLUDING: NEIL BLOMKAMP’S ELYSIUM, WHICH IS ANOTHER SCI-FI FILM AND HIS FOLLOW-UP TO DISTRICT 9. AND THEN THERE IS LEN WISEMAN’S REDUX OF TOTAL RECALL. AND AT THE FAR END OF THE CARPET, THE NON-SONY PROJECT PARANORMAN IS JUST FINISHING UP IT’S TIME WITH THE RECEIVING LINE AFTER GOING UP IN HALL H EARLIER IN THE MORNING.

AS THE REPORTERS GO ABOUT DOING THEIR JOBS HULK JUST HANGS BACK AND OBSERVES.

THE PROCESS WORKS SOMETHING LIKE THIS: THE REPORTERS ALL SEEM TO BE FROM THE KIND OF MAJOR OUTLETS YOU’D RECOGNIZE. THERE’S E.T., MTV, G4. ETC. THE REPORTERS HANG OUT ALONG THE VELVET ROPE WITH THEIR RESPECTIVE CAMERA OPERATOR. SOMETIMES THEY ALSO HAVE A PRODUCER RUNNING THINGS RIGHT BEHIND THEM. EACH PERSON DOING THE INTERVIEW HAS A STACK OF PRE-RESEARCH PACKETS WHICH FILL YOU IN ON THE CURRENT INFORMATION ABOUT THE POTENTIAL INTERVIEW SUBJECT AND ANYTHING YOU MIGHT WANT TO TALK ABOUT. THE PRODUCER/REPORTER THEN FINAGLES WITH THE INTERVIEW SUBJECT’S P.R. REPRESENTATIVE, WHO IS STANDING OFF TO HE SIDE OF THE INTERVIEW SUBJECT (ALSO ON THE RED CARPET). BASED ON THESE NEGOTIATIONS THE P.R. REP THEN DIRECTS THE INTERVIEW SUBJECT TO THE NEXT PLACE THEY DEEM MOST OPTIMAL FOR WHATEVER IS THE ALLOTTED AMOUNT OF TIME. STILL, EVEN WITH ALL THESE P.R.-ARRANGEMENTS THERE IS SOME FLEXIBILITY INVOLVED HERE AS THE INTERVIEW SUBJECTS ARE OFTEN IN A JOVIAL MOOD AND HAVE THE MOST-PLACATING INTENTIONS. THUS, IT CAN’T HELP BUT BECOME A SOMEWHAT MUDDLED AFFAIR.

AFTER A FEW MOMENTS, HULK RUNS INTO COMEDIAN/ACTOR AND FRIEND KUMAIL NANJIANI (HULK’S PREVIOUSLY APPEARED ON HIS PODCAST THE INDOOR KIDS, WHICH IS PART OF THE EVER-GROWING NERDIST EMPIRE). WE MARVEL AT THE SHEER AUDACITY OF THE ENTIRE SCENE. ALL AND ALL THERE ARE ABOUT 180+ PEOPLE CRAMMING AFTER ABOUT 8 TOTAL INTERVIEW SUBJECTS. CONSIDERING THAT STAGGERING DIFFERENCE, THE PRESS OUTLETS ARE ACTUALLY PRETTY RELAXED IN HOW THEY GO ABOUT IT. HULK PICTURED JOSTLING, SCREAMING, AND THE OCCASIONAL KNIFE FIGHT, BUT THEY SIMPLY KNOW THE GAME. THEY ARE SEASONED PROFESSIONALS WHO KNOW HOW TO DO THEIR JOBS. THEY KNOW ARE GOING TO BE THERE ALL DAY COVERING THESE PEOPLE SO THEY MIGHT AS WELL GO THE TORTOISE ROUT. THE CAMERAMEN TAKE THE APPROPRIATE MOMENTS TO REST THEIR WEARY SHOULDERS (HULK LOOKED FOR A CAMERAWOMAN TO USE A NON-GENDER DESIGNATION AND DIDN’T SEE ONE, SADLY). THEY PICK THEIR SPOTS TO EAT SOME FOOD AND CHAT WITH OTHERS. NO ONE IS REALLY YUCKING IT UP OR ANYTHING, BUT STILL IT’S REALLY NICE TO NOTE THAT EVERYONE IS REALLY FRIENDLY TO ONE ANOTHER.

HULK THEN TAKES AN OPPORTUNITY TO SIDLE UP BEHIND THE REPORTERS INTERVIEWING RIAN. THE FIRST THING HULK NOTICES ABOUT RIAN IS THAT IN COMPARISON TO ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE ON THE LINE THAT HULK HAS BEEN LISTENING TO, HIS ANSWERS ARE ACTUALLY FULL ANSWERS. HE IS ARTICULATING HIS RESPONSES AND IS CAREFUL WITH EVERY THOUGHT. AND THE ANSWERS ARE DEEPLY INTERESTING TOO. HE DOESN’T NECESSARILY SEEM TO SELLING ANYTHING OR GETTING A MESSAGE OUT, BUT REALLY JUST ANSWERING THE PEOPLE’S QUESTIONS AS BEST AS POSSIBLE. DEAR READER, KNOW THIS: HULK HAS SEEN DIRECTORS AND STARS DO A LOT OF PRESS. AND WHAT RIAN IS DOING IS BEYOND RARE. IN FACT, IT’S DOWNRIGHT NOVEL. IF THIS WAS A MORE CHARLIE ROSE TYPE SETTING? SURE, THEN IT WOULD BE LESS SURPRISING. BUT NOBODY TAKES THE TIME TO ACTUALLY ARTICULATE FULL ANSWERS IN THESE KINDS OF HYPER-INTENSITY SCENARIOS. THEY USUALLY JUMP TO BULLET POINTS AND SWAY IT ALL WITH CHARISMA. SO WHEN YOU COMBINE THIS FULL-ANSWER HABIT WITH THE FACT RIAN FINDS PRAISE EMBARRASSING YOU WOULD THINK HE’S GOT IN THE WRONG BUSINESS. BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT WE’RE THE ONES WITH THE WRONG EXPECTATION. NOT HIM. THERE IS CERTAINLY NO NEED TO CORRECT HIM. THE UNASSUMING MAN STRIKES AGAIN.

ABOUT TWENTY FEET DOWN FROM HIM, JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT AND EMILY BLUNT ARE DOING THEIR INTERVIEWS IN TANDEM.

EMILY IS UNMISTAKABLE, EVEN WITHOUT THE TRADEMARK RED HAIR MANY ASSOCIATE WITH HER. THE TRUTH IS SHE REALLY ONLY EVER SPORTED THAT BRIGHT RED SHADE ON THE FISCHER-SALLER SCALE ONCE, BUT IT WAS IN HER CAREER-DEFINING TURN IN THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, THUS SHE JUST SEEMS FOREVER ASSOCIATED WITH THAT LOOK. TODAY SHE’S SPORTING A TWO-TONED, DARK-TO-LIGHT HAIR-DO PARTED DOWN THE MIDDLE AND WEARING A WHITE ECRU, EGGSHELL DRESS. THE NEUTRAL TONE IS OFF-SET BY THESE BRIGHT, ALMOST NEON ORANGE HEELS WHICH BRING HER UP TO EQUAL HEIGHT TO JOE. MEANWHILE, JOE IS WEARING AN ALL BLACK SUIT, BLACK SEMI-FADED JEANS, BLACK COLLARED SHIRT, BLACK TIE COMPLETE WITH BATMAN SYMBOL(!!!), AND WHAT SEEMS TO BE A PAIR OF BLACK CHUCKS (HULK CAN’T GET CLOSE ENOUGH TO BE ABSOLUTELY SURE AND HULK’S TOO AFRAID TO ASK OUTRIGHT). THE IMPORTANT THING IS THAT HE’S TOTALLY LOOKING AWESOME. THERE’S A FINE ART TO DRESSING-UP-YET-DRESSING-DOWN AESTHETIC, ESPECIALLY FOR A COSPLAY-CENTRIC EVENT LIKE THIS AND HE NAILS IT. HE EVEN HAD THE FAMILIAR RED BUTTON ON HIS COAT. IT’S THE LOGO OF HIS WEBSITE “HIT RECORD JOE,” WHICH IS A GRASSROOTS COLLECTIVE FOR ARTISTS, FILMMAKERS, DESIGNERS, AND GENERIC CREATIVE TYPES TO PRODUCE CONTENT AND FOSTER CREATIVITY. IT’S REALLY AN EXPERIMENT, BUT IT’S GREAT AND IT’S WORKING.

JOE AND EMILY ANSWER QUESTIONS IN A MANNER THAT MAKES IT SEEM LIKE THEY ARE HAPPY TO DO SO. JOE IS VIVACIOUS, ENERGETIC. AND WHENEVER EMILY IS NOT TALKING OR LAUGHING SHE SPORTS THIS CURIOUS-AND-WONDERFUL MONA LISA SMILE. BOTH ARE ALWAYS QUICK TO JOKE. BOTH CONSTANTLY SEEM TO HAVE A SUPPORTIVE ARM AROUND ONE ANOTHER. HULK IMAGINES THIS TO BE THE PERFECT LOWER-PRESSURE WAY TO DO A GREAT DEAL OF PRESS LIKE THIS. THE ABILITY TO BOUNCE OFF A FRIEND, A COLLEAGUE, A COLLABORATOR IS INVALUABLE. AFTER ALL, MANY OF US CAN BARELY THINK OF A WAY TO STAMMER OUT OUR OWN THOUGHTS, LET ALONE: 1. SELL OUR MOVIE 2. SELL OUR PUBLIC IDENTITIES. 3. SELL A SENSE OF FUN. AND 4. NOT SEEM LIKE A JERK IN DOING ANY OF THOSE THINGS. THE TWO OF THEM ARE QUITE GOOD AT IT. THEY ZERO IN ON THE FUN AND ALLURING THINGS ABOUT THE MOVIE. JOE: “She’s a badass with a shotgun!” THEY ALSO ZERO IN ON TRULY REMARKABLE, SERIOUS THINGS TOO. EMILY: “It’s such a strong, complex role for a woman.” (MORE ON THAT LATER). THEY BOTH SEEM TO BE AWARE OF HOW TO HIT ALL THE NICHE ANSWERS TOO. FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN THEY’RE WITH E.T. THEY TALK ABOUT THEIR WORKING RELATIONSHIP AND THEN SPEAK HIGHLY OF BRUCE WILLIS. BUT WITH G4 THEY SKEW THE CONVERSATION TO THE COOL SCI-FI ELEMENTS AND BADASSERY.

THEY ARE AWARE OF THE AUDIENCE.

ONE OF THE FUNNY THINGS ABOUT JOE IS THAT WHEN HE TALKS HE GOES IN AND OUT OF TWO VOICES. FOR WHEN HE’S BEING SERIOUS HE REALLY DOES TAKE ON A DEEPER TIMBRE (HE SPORTS MOST OF THIS VOICE IN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) AND WHEN HE’S LAUGHING AND JOKING THIS WHOLE MORE CASUAL AND RAMBUNCTIOUS LEVEL COMES OUT. THEY AREN’T SO DIFFERENT AS TO BE SILLY OR ANYTHING, NOR ARE THEY EVEN A PUT-ON. THE TRUTH IS THERE IS A REALLY INTERESTING POP-PSYCH ANSWER FOR WHY A LOT OF PEOPLE DO THIS. WHEN YOUNG KIDS HAVE TO DO A LOT OF SELF-AWARENESS WITH HOW THEY COME OFF TO OTHER PEOPLE, WHETHER IT IS ACTING, PUBLIC-SPEAKING, SPEECH IMPEDIMENTS, YOU NAME IT, THEY HAVE TO ESSENTIALLY PRACTICE DOING THE “PUBLIC VOICE.” OR AS IS OFTEN THE CASE, SIMPLY THE NON SQUEAKY ONE. THEY HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO BE CONTROL OF THAT VOICE AND OFTEN THAT MEANS ADOPTING AN AUTOMATIC KIND OF “PUBLIC” VOICE, USUALLY WITH A DEEPER TIMBRE, OVER-PRONOUNCED CLARITY, REMOVAL OF REGIONAL ACCENT, OR SOMETHING OF THAT NATURE. THE EFFECT OF THIS SELF-AWARE SPEAKING HAS OBVIOUS, LIFE-LONG RAMIFICATIONS. WHEN SPEAKING IN AN PUBLICLY-AWARE MANNER, THE DEEP TIMBRE, OR NON-SQUEAK, OR NON-ACCENTED EFFORT WILL SUDDENLY COMES OUT. AND WHEN SPEAKING CASUALLY, THE NATURAL DEFAULT SETTING OF VOICE COMES OUT. AND THE THING FOR MOST ADULTS IS THAT IT’S LARGELY HARDWIRED BY THAT POINT. AND WHILE FOR MOST OF US IT IS NOT THAT PRONOUNCED, WE ALL TEND TO HAVE SIMILAR VOCAL TICS OF DIFFERENT CONTEXTUAL SITUATIONS. IT’S JUST ONE OF THOSE NEAT THINGS ABOUT THE WAY HUMANS HAVE A PUBLIC-SELF.

SHIFTING GEARS THERE ARE SOME OF YOU WHO ARE PROBABLY EXPECTING HULK TO START TALKING ABOUT WHAT BRUCE WILLIS IS REALLY LIKE AND ARE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THAT. HULK IS SORRY TO DISAPPOINT YOU, BUT BRUCE WAS OFF FILMING THE FIFTH ENTRY IN THE DIE HARD SERIES AND COULDN’T MAKE THE CON. BUT THROUGHOUT THE DAY THE LOOPER GANG TALKS ABOUT HIM WITH ALTERNATING KINDNESS AND REVERENCE.

JOE: “It’s interesting. His identity seems so big, but really he’s just this quiet guy. But there’s like this cowboy thing to him. He’s hard to rattle you know? And so one of the great joys was just really hanging out with him and getting to know him. Obviously we had to do so much because we were playing the same character, but really I felt like I was playing him sometimes.” LATER HE TALKS ABOUT THE FIRST TIME BRUCE SAW HIM IN THE PROSTHETIC MAKEUP: “That was one of the highlights of the whole thing, because Bruce saw me for the first time and tripped out… he’s an understated man, so to get any reaction from him is a big thing.”

HONESTLY, THE DAY IS REALLY FULL OF QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MAKE-UP FOR JOE: “It’s less a make-over, or a mask or anything, and more accentuation. And like anything to draw on, it can really help you get into character.” FOR ALL THE CONCERNS ABOUT THE PROSTHETIC WORK FEELING STRANGE, HULK URGES YOU THAT WORKS BEAUTIFULLY IN THE FILM. A LOT OF THE TIME IT PLAYS DIRECTLY INTO THE EDITING AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE FILM. THE WAY THINGS INTER-CUT OFF THEIR PROFILES AND THAT’S WHERE THE FAMOUS ANGLE OF BRUCE’S NOSE REALLY COMES TO PROMINENCE WITH THE MAKE-UP DECISIONS. BUT MORE THAN SIMPLE PHYSIOLOGY, THE VOICE IS WHAT MATTERED MOST TO JOE: “Yeah the voice was really the key to be honest. He has this real diction. And it was so helpful he even recorded all his lines on tape for me to listen to. So helpful.”

ALL IN ALL, HULK SHADOWS RIAN, EMILY, AND JOE AROUND FOR ABOUT AN HOUR AND TEN MINUTES WHILE THEY DO THEIR THING. THEN HULK SEES NATHAN JOHNSON ON THE EDGE OF THE ROOM HANGING OUT, SO HULK GOES OVER TO SAY HELLO. AGAIN, THE ONLY REACTION TO HAVE AT THE WHOLE SCENE IS THIS UNCANNY AMAZEMENT. THE CROWDS OF REPORTERS, THE RED CARPET TO NOWHERE, THE SHEER VOLUME OF TALKING REQUIRED. THE SITUATION IS UNIQUE. AND OF COURSE, PEOPLE ARE COMING UP TO NATHAN TO ASK ABOUT HIS AWESOME JACKET. IT IS ALSO AT THIS POINT THAT SUDDENLY KATE BECKINSALE WALKS BY.

THE SENTENCE “KATE BECKINSALE WALKS BY” IS MORE INTERESTING THAN YOU WOULD IMAGINE. NOT JUST BECAUSE A MILLION THOUGHTS RUN THROUGH YOUR HEAD AND THEN GET ALL CLOGGED IN THE DOOR WAY LIKE THE 3 STOOGES, BUT BECAUSE THERE IS SOMETHING WEIRD ABOUT SEEING CELEBRITIES IN THIS EXACT KIND PRESS SETTING. AND THAT IS BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO BE COMPLETELY PANCAKED WITH MAKE UP. THIS IS NOT SOME GROSS BEHAVIOR OF EXTREMES. THIS IS NOT A CASE OF TRYING TO HIDE ONE’S FACE BENEATH IT. THE TRUTH IS THAT IN THE ERA OF HD VIDEO THAT’S JUST HOW MUCH YOU NEED TO PUT ON IN ORDER TO LOOK LOOK NATURAL AND “CORRECT” ON CAMERA. THE HUMAN EYE JUST HAS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LENS AND COLOR VALUE. AND THUS, KATE BECKINSALE WALKS BY US WITH THE EYEBALLS AND LOOKS COVERED IN GOOP. JESSICA BIEL APPROACHES. SAME THING. ON VIDEO? THEY LOOK EXACTLY LIKE HOW YOU IMAGINE AND HAVE SEEN THEM MANY TIMES BEFORE. BUT THE ARRIVAL OF KATE BECKINSALE AND JESSICA BIEL MEANS THAT IT STARTS GETTING MORE CROWDED ON THIS END OF THE HALL. SO HULK AND NATHAN HEADS TOWARD THE OTHER END. AND AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, RIAN IS JUST FINISHING UP AND COMES OVER TO MEET US.

AFTER GOING THROUGH THE GAUNTLET, RIAN CAN BARELY COMPOSE A NON-LOOPER-RELATED SENTENCE. HULK REALIZES THIS SORT OF INTERACTION IS THE SECOND TIME IN WHAT WILL BECOME AN ONGOING THEME OF OURS. EVERY TIME RIAN EMERGES FROM THE GAUNTLET OF HIGH-INTENSITY MEDIA OR FAN INTERACTION, HULK IS STANDS THERE WAITING FOR HIM LIKE THE PERSON WITH THE WATER BOTTLE AT THE END OF A MARATHON. OR THE PATRON SAINT AT THE END OF A PILGRIMAGE. OR A HIGHLY USEFUL SAVE POINT AFTER A BOSS BATTLE. OR… HULK DUNNO… WHATEVER ANALOGY THAT WORKS FOR YOU. ONLY INSTEAD OF BEING IN ANY WAY HELPFUL, IT TURNS OUT THAT HULK JUST STANDS THERE AND HAS NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY:

HULK: “SO, UH. THAT WAS A THING!”

RIAN: “Sure was.”

MOMENTARY SILENCE.

RIAN IS APPROPRIATELY SWEATING A BIT, BUT LESS THAN YOU’D IMAGINE. THE MAIN THING IS THAT HE KEEPS FOCUSING HIS EYES. THIS IS DUE TO THE FACT THAT THE INTENSE HIGH BEAM LIGHTS FROM THE CAMERAS ARE DIRECTED STRAIGHT INTO YOUR EYEBALLS FROM ABOUT TWO FEET AWAY. NEEDING A CHANCE TO SIT DOWN, RIAN AND NATHAN DECIDE IT’S HIGH TIME WE ALL GO INTO THE BACK ROOM FOR A BIT OF A RESPITE.

“THE BACK ROOM” IS ACTUALLY ONE OF THE MANY ROOMS HULK PASSED BY ON THE WAY TO SAPPHIRE M. IT’S MADE UP OF SEVERAL ROUND TABLES AND CATERED WITH FANCY FOODS THAT HULK VERY MUCH LIKES. AS WE ENTER IT WE PASS BY ANNA KENDRICK WHO SMILES AT ALL OF US AND HULK REALIZES SHE IS ALSO RATHER TINY. THERE’S THIS THING THAT HAPPENS WITH CELEBRITIES WHERE YOU EXPECT ALL THE FEMALES TO BE 5’7″ AND ALL THE MALES TO BE 6’1″… THIS HAPPENS RARELY. A LOT SEEM TO EXIST ON THE EXTREMES OF THOSE ENDS, MOST BEING SHORTER. THERE’S A BASIC REASON FOR THIS NOBODY EVER THINKS OF AND THAT’S BECAUSE MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO END UP STUDYING DRAMA ARE NOT THE TYPES WHOSE IMMENSE PHYSICALITY WOULD BE CULLED OVER TO THE ARENA OF SPORTS.

BUT BEFORE WE SIT DOWN RIAN, EVER MINDFUL OF THE CONDITION OF HIS EMBEDDED REPORTER, ASKS THE THREE BEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: “Are you hungry?”

HULK SAYS YES BEFORE HE CAN EVEN FINISH ASKING THE QUESTION.

WHICH WOULD SEEM LIKE FAUX PAS, BUT IT PANS OUT BECAUSE RIAN IS ALSO FAMISHED. WE START AMASSING VARIOUS SANDWICHES, SALADS, AND OTHER DELICIOUS STUFF OFFERED FROM THE CATERED TABLE. EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE PARTIAL TO THE ROAST BEEF WITH HORSERADISH AND ARUGULA. MOST PEOPLE ALSO SEEM TO BE SUCKING DOWN DIET COKES AND COFFEES LIKE IT’S GOING OUT OF STYLE. HULK DOES THE SAME. IT’S LESS LIKE ENJOYING A BEVERAGE AND MORE PARTAKING IN A CAFFEINE DELIVERY DEVICE. WE SIT DOWN AND START SHOVELING FOOD INTO OUR MOUTHS. IT’S SURPRISINGLY PEACEFUL. INSTEAD OF STARTING ANY SORT OF EXTENDED INTERVIEW, RIAN JUST STARTS DIRECTING A FEW QUESTIONS HULK’S WAY AND HULK IS HAPPY TO ANSWER, SENSING THAT SHOVING MORE LOOPER QUESTIONS HIS WAY WOULDN’T SEEM PRUDENT. SOMEHOW WE GET ON THE TOPIC OF THE ENTIRE PROCESS OF INTERVIEWING. WHAT KINDS OF QUESTIONS ARE HELPFUL. WHAT KIND RESONATE. RIAN ITERATES THAT GETTING INTERVIEWED OVER AND OVER AGAIN IS ONLY DIFFICULT IN THE SENSE THAT IT’S PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY TIRING TO DO IT STRAIGHT THROUGH WITHOUT A BREAK. IT’S NOT THE DIFFICULTY OF EXPRESSING IDEAS, BUT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN: “Your brain starts focusing on how your legs are tired.”

RIAN CONTINUES: “But really it’s easy in the sense that you are talking about something that has been locked in your brain for years, and to suddenly just be able to let it all out is cathartic actually.”

HULK ASKS IF THE COMIC-CON INTERVIEWS FEEL ANY DIFFERENT.

RIAN. “There’s a different energy, sure. But in some ways it’s more loose and in some ways it’s more intense. But in the end it’s really about what you have to say, so you can really make it whatever experience you want it to be and hopefully you do your job.”

IT IS AT THIS POINT JOE AND EMILY ENTER HAVING JUST FINISHED UP THEIR ROUND WITH THE RECEIVING LINE. EMILY IMMEDIATELY SEES MATT DAMON AND THEY GO IN FOR A HUG (THE TWO BEING THE MAIN STARS OF THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU). JOE MEANWHILE MAKES A DIRECT B-LINE FOR THE FOOD AND THEN COMES STRAIGHT FOR OUR TABLE.

IT IS AT THIS POINT WE ARE OFFICIALLY INTRODUCED BY RIAN.

“Hi, I’m Joe.”

IT’S A WEIRD THING CELEBRITIES DO THAT HULK CAN NEVER ENTIRELY GET USE TO. IT’S LIKE SAYING “Hi, I’m the president.” YEAH, JOE. HULK KNOWS WHO YOU ARE. BUT REALLY WHAT OTHER CHOICE IS THERE? IS HE GOING TO ASSUME HULK KNOWS WHO HE IS? ISN’T THAT ONE OF THE MORE PRESUMPTIVE THINGS A HUMAN CAN DO? BUT HOW PRESUMPTIVE IS IT IF IT’S TRUE?

REALLY, THE WHOLE QUESTION OF INTRODUCTIONS IS MORE PRECARIOUS ON A PSYCHOLOGICAL LEVEL THAN YOU CAN THINK. IMAGINE WALKING AROUND A CITY AND ALMOST EVERY SINGLE PERSON TURNING AROUND TO SEE YOU BECAUSE IT’S SIMPLY YOU. AFTER TWO DAYS WHEN THE FLATTERY WEARS OFF IT SUDDENLY BECOMES A PROBLEM OF FUNCTIONALITY. SO THE QUESTION REMAINS: WHY WOULD SOMEONE IN THAT REALITY WANT TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF? WHY WOULD SOMEONE PRETEND BACK? AND THE SIMPLEST REASON IS BECAUSE IT’S A KINDNESS ON BOTH PEOPLE’S PART. AT WORST, THE INTERACTION CAN BE CYNICALLY CHARACTERIZED AS PRETENDING TO BE NORMAL, BUT HULK LIKES TO THINK OF IT AS AN ATTEMPT FOR NORMALCY ITSELF. AND BETTER YET, FOR ALL OF US (AND LIKELY YOU THE READER) WHO ARE DEEPLY CINEMA-CONSCIOUS, IT’S EASY FOR TO FORGET THERE ISN’T A WHOLE WORLD OUT THERE THAN CANNOT RUN THE TABLE IN SIX DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON (HINT: MEMORIZE THE CAST OF JFK). CHANCES ARE A GOOD PEOPLE ON THE STREET WOULD PASS BY JOE AND NOT KNOW HIM. OR HAVE THAT MOMENT OF RECOGNITION AND A TIP-OF-THE-TONGUE FAILURE RETRIEVAL. EVEN FOR FAMOUS PEOPLE, THIS IS THE WAY OF THE WORLD. AND THUS, AN INTRODUCTION IS ALSO ONES BEST COURSE OF LOGICAL ACTION. MUCH TO HOLLYWOOD’S CHAGRIN, NOT EVERYONE GOES TO THE MOVIES.

BUT WHILE RUMINATING ON THE WHOLE IDEA OF INTRODUCTIONS, HULK HITS THAT FAMILIAR, CONSTANT EPIPHANY THAT HULK HAS HAD VIRTUALLY EVERY TIME HULK HAS ENDED UP IN THIS SITUATION:

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT ISN’T JUST A CAT… HE’S A PERSON TOO.

[AUDIBLE GASP!] HULK KNOW. IT’S SHOCKING TO THINK, BUT ACTORS ARE PEOPLE AND NOT JUST IN THE US WEEKLY “THE GO GROCERY SHOPPING!” SENSE, BUT SOMETHING FAR MORE HUMAN AND INTERESTING: THEY ARE PEOPLE WHO LITERALLY HAVE TO STRUGGLE TO ACHIEVE NORMALCY. THEY ARE WHOLLY REQUIRED BY THE NATURE OF THEIR PROFESSION TO BE OUTWARD AND EXHIBIT THEMSELVES AND SHOW ENTHUSIASM THAT IT HAS TO BECOME THE DEFAULT POSITION. AND IN MORE RELAXED STATES YOU CAN WATCH THEM GO IN AND OUT OF THAT DISPOSITION. BUT REALLY, EVERYONE NEEDS TO FEEL NORMAL. IT IS HOW WE FEEL COMFORTABLE. IT IS HOW WE THINK AND GROW AND BE AT PEACE WITH OURSELVES. AND IN ORDER TO PURSUE IT, ACTORS/CELEBRITIES HAVE TO FIND WAYS OF ACHIEVING IT. SOMETIMES IT’S SUPPRESSION FROM OTHER PEOPLE. SOMETIMES IT’S BY SURROUNDING THEMSELVES WITH THE NORMAL PEOPLE IN THEIR LIVES WHO KNEW THEM BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS. SOMETIMES IT’S IN THE COMPANY OF OTHER FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO KNOW THE SAME EXACT STRUGGLE FOR NORMALCY. BUT NO MATTER WHAT, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS THAT A “NORMAL INTERACTION” IS MUCH EASIER ACHIEVED THAN YOU THINK. THERE’S THIS GREAT THING THAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU, THE MEETER, FORGET ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING. WHEN YOU STOP TELLING YOURSELF THIS IS ABNORMAL SITUATION. WHEN YOU STOP REPRESENTING YOURSELF AS “FAN” OR “INTERESTED PARTY.” AND AFTER ABOUT MINUTE OR TWO YOU’RE JUST TWO PEOPLE TALKING. THEY’LL ASK YOU QUESTIONS. YOU’LL TALK ABOUT THIS THAT OR THE OTHER THING. YOU’RE SIMPLY TWO PEOPLE. LIFE BREAKS FREE. THE SITUATION ITSELF FADES AND YOU’RE JUST LEFT WITH YOUR BRAINS COME UP WITH… THE FOLLOWING WILL SOUND FUNNY, BUT HULK FINDS THE GUARDS AT MOVIE STUDIOS ARE ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE AT THIS. EVERY DAY STARS AND BIG WIGS DRIVE ONTO THE LOTS AND THEY PULL OFF THESE WONDERFUL, HUMAN INTERACTIONS. THAT’S WHEN YOU ACHIEVE IT: NORMALCY… THE PROBLEM FOR A LOT OF CELEBRITY IS IT REALLY TAKES THE OTHER PERSON TO SUBVERT THE UNCANNY AND WANT THE SAME EXACT THING.

PLUS, THERE’S THE FACT THAT JOE CARRIES ABSOLUTELY ZERO PRETENSIONS AROUND.

HE’S MINDFUL. EMPATHETIC. GREGARIOUS. ATTENTIVE. KIND. AND IN REAL LIFE HE’S EVEN A LITTLE TALLER, BIGGER, AND BROADER THAN YOU’D EXPECT. PERHAPS IT’S THE NEW PHYSIOLOGY AFTER PUTTING ON WEIGHT TO PLAY OFFICER JOHN BLAKE IN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. OR PERHAPS IT’S JUST BASED ON HULK’S ANTIQUATED EXPECTATION OF HAVING “TV KNOWN” THE GUY SINCE HE WAS A KID, BUT HE’S DEFINITELY NOT FLIMSY. AND BEYOND MERE PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES THERE IS THIS WAY THAT EVERYONE IN THE ZEITGEIST SEEMS TO COLLECTIVELY AGREE THAT JOE IS PRETTY AWESOME RIGHT NOW.

SO HERE’S THIS ZEITGEIST FIGURE, JOE, SITTING THERE BEING ALL PATIENT AND CURIOUS AS RIAN EXPLAINS THE WHOLE DEAL OF WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW HULK WILL BE AN EMBEDDED REPORTER OF SORTS. FROM THERE THE CONVERSATION FLOWS INTO A SERIES OF QUESTIONS, BUT IT SOON GETS BECOMES A MUCH BETTER CONVERSATION ABOUT SOME THE MUSIC NATHAN JOHNSON IS WORKING ON. SOON THE CONVERSATIONS ARE EVERYWHERE. THEY ARE TEXTURAL CONVERSATIONS BASED ON THE FAMILIAR. THEY TALK IN PRONOUNS ABOUT THEIR FAMILIES, NEW PROJECTS, THE KIND OF THINGS THAT FILL UP ANYONE’S LIFE WHEN YOU ARE CATCHING UP WITH PEOPLE YOU HAVEN’T SEEN FOR AWHILE.

IT AT THIS POINT, EVERYONE FROM SONY HAS WRAPPED UP ON THE RED CARPET AND EVERYONE HAS ENTERED THE BACK ROOM. FOR THOSE OF YOU CURIOUS AT HOME, HERE’S A LIST OF WHO IS IN THE ROOM AT THIS EXACT MOMENT: RIAN JOHNSON, JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT, EMILY BLUNT, MATT DAMON, JODIE FOSTER, BRYAN CRANSTON, COLIN FARRELL KATE BECKINSALE, JESSICA BIEL, SHARLTO COPLEY, ANNA KENDRICK, CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE, KODI SMIT-MCPHEE, AND A HOST OF AGENTS, P.R. REPS, MAKE-UP PEOPLE, FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND WHOEVER THE HECK ELSE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYONE. ONE IMAGINES THIS SORT OF SCENE TO BE OTHERWORLDY.

IT’S NOT.

AGAIN, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST FOR NORMALCY, WHICH MEANS SCENE THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF MUNDANE. PEOPLE IN A ROOM SAYING HELLO. CATCHING UP WITH STORIES. THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES IT INTERESTING IS WHAT THESE PEOPLE DO FOR A LIVING AND THE FACT THAT PEOPLE DON’T USUALLY GET TO SEE THEM WHEN THEY ARE NOT “ON.” THUS, THE ONLY THING THAT IS OTHERWORLDLY ABOUT THIS SCENARIO IS OUR PERCEPTION OF IT. PEOPLE ARE EATING. PEOPLE ARE NERVOUS. PEOPLE ARE SEEING OLD FRIENDS. PEOPLE ARE MEETING FOR THE FIRST TIME. JODIE FOSTER AND BRYAN CRANSTON SHARE A BIG HUG AND HAVE AN ANIMATED CONVERSATION. THEY’RE SAFE HERE. THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE ON FOR US, BECAUSE JUST THIS ONCE, THEY GET TO BE ON FOR THEMSELVES. THE ONLY FEELINGS FOR SOMEONE LIKE HULK WHEN ENTERING THIS ROOM, ARE THE FEELING CREATED BY HULK-SELF.

AND THEN WHAT SEEMS LIKE THE ENTIRE CAST OF THE WALKING DEAD CAST ENTERS. WHICH APPARENTLY BECOMES A LOT OF PEOPLE’S CUE TO EXIT AND DO SOME ONE-ON-ONES, INCLUDING RIAN. HULK IS INVITED GO WITH, BUT HULK SORT OF RESPECTS THE ONE-ON-ONE SPACE AND DOESN’T WANT TO INTRUDE. INSTEAD HULK WANTS TO USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO TALK TO A FEW OTHER PEOPLE, SO HULK SAYS HULK WILL CATCH UP WITH HIM LATER.

OFF GOES THE UNASSUMING MAN, AND THERE HULK STAYS LOOKING AROUND. WITH ALL THESE RELATIONSHIPS OF ASSOCIATION AND ACQUAINTANCES, SOMETIMES TO REALLY UNDERSTAND THE PERSON YOU ARE COVERING HAVE TO TURN TO THEIR FRIENDS AND THOSE WHO KNOW THEM BEST. HULK ALREADY COMMENTED ON JUST HOW WONDERFUL IT WAS TO WATCH THE COUSINS JOHNSON AT WORK. BUT IT WOULD BE SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING IF THERE WAS SOMEONE ELSE TO TALK TO.

ENTER KID BLUE…

9. KID BLUE

LIKE JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, NOAH SEGAN HAS APPEARED IN ALL THREE OF RIAN JOHNSON’S FILMS.

HE IS ALSO VERY THE DEFINITION OF VIVACIOUS. ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO YOU INSTANTLY YOU FEEL LIKE YOU KNOW. HE’S GOT THIS WRY, INFECTIOUS SMILES THAT HE SNEAKS OUT OF THE SIDE OF HIS MOUTH (THERE’S SOMETHING DANIEL DESARIO-ESQUE ABOUT IT). AND EVEN IF NOAH’S QUICK TO JOKE, THE TRUTH IS HE’S ALWAYS QUICKER TO MAKE YOU FEEL WELCOME. IT’S AN INCLUSIVE HUMOR AND IS OFTEN DIRECTED INWARD TO THE POINT WHERE HE’S COMPLETELY SELF-EFFACING.

HULK FIRST MET NOAH SOME MONTHS AGO AT THE CINEFAMILY IN LOS ANGELES FOR A SCREENING OF BEN WHEATLEY’S KILL LIST. HULK LATER SAW HIM AT A SCREENING OF LEONE’S UNDER-LOVED CLASSIC DUCK, YOU SUCKER (AKA “A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE”). TRUTH IS THERE HAVE BEEN A HOST OF COINCIDENTAL RUN-INS AROUND TOWN, ALL OF WHICH SEEMED TO BE AT MOVIE THEATERS. THE EGYPTIAN. THE AERO. THE ARCLIGHT. HE LOVINGLY REFERS TO ALL THESE PLACES AS “Going to church” WHICH IS WONDERFUL BECAUSE IT SHOWS THAT NOAH IS THE RARE ACTOR WHO IS, FIRST AND FOREMOST, A FAN OF FILM. DUDE KNOWS HIS STUFF. HE’S ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WITH EVERY GREAT HISTORICAL ANECDOTE OR RECOMMENDATION ALWAYS ON HAND. RECENTLY, HE EVEN INSISTED HULK FIND THE FASCINATING TRAIN WRECK INTERVIEW BETWEEN ROBERT BLAKE AND PIERS MORGAN AND GOOD GOD IT’S INSANE. HULK EVEN DISCOVERED NOAH ALSO GIVES GREAT ADVICE ON CARS SO… YEAH, LOT TO LIKE. HULK ACTUALLY SPOTTED HIM EARLIER ON THE RED CARPET TO NOWHERE, BUT THIS WAS THE FIRST CHANCE WE HAD TO SAY A FRIENDLY HELLO.

WE BOTH STAND THERE LOOKING OUT ON THE INTENSE SCENE OF CELEBRITY HUB-BLUBBING THAT HULK DESCRIBED EARLIER AND SORT OF SHAKE OUR HEADS. THERE’S NOAH STANDING THERE, CLAD IN ALL DENIM, RIGHT IN THE GIANT CRUX OF THE HOLLYWOOD MACHINE. IT’S NOT THAT HE’S OUT OF PLACE OR UNDESERVING (HE’S NEITHER OF THOSE THINGS). IT’S JUST THAT HE’S THE KIND OF ACTOR THAT LOOKS MOST TO GUYS LIKE WARREN OATES FOR INSPIRATION. THAT STATEMENT EITHER MAKES ALL THE SENSE IN THE WORLD TO YOU OR NO SENSE AT ALL. IF IT MAKES NO SENSE THEN KNOW THAT WARREN OATES IS AN ACTING GOD TO A LOT OF PEOPLE, HULK INCLUDED. SO SOMETIMES SOMEONE’S BASIC DISPOSITION IS FAR MORE INTERESTING THAN THE HOLLYWOOD MACHINE.

SO NATURALLY, HULK ENDED UP SPENDING MOST OF THE DAY WITH HIM.

IN LOOPER, NOAH PLAYS “KID BLUE.” AND IT’S DAMN BIG ROLE. HULK COULD GET INTO A WHOLE BIG THING HERE ABOUT WHAT A HIGH-PROFILE ROLL LIKE THIS CAN DO FOR AN ACTOR IN A HIGH-PROFILE MOVIE, BUT JUST BY WRITING THAT SENTENCE YOU ALREADY GET IT. WHAT IS MORE IS REMARKABLE ABOUT KID BLUE IS THAT IT’S A COMPLEX ROLL. MOSTLY BECAUSE IT REQUIRES NOAH TO EMBODY EVERYTHING THAT JOE’S CENTRAL CHARACTER DOES NOT. WHERE JOE IS ALL ABOUT QUIET CONFIDENCE, KID BLUE IS ALL ABOUT DEEP INSECURITY. HE’S GOT A PENCHANT FOR SHOWING OFF. HE’S A COMPLETE LOSE CANNON WHO CAN ALTERNATE BETWEEN STRIDENT MENACE AND COMPETE F— UP-TITUDE. ULTIMATELY, THE ONLY THING THAT’S SIMILAR ABOUT THE TWO CHARACTERS IS THE WAY THEY ARE BOUND BY THEIR DESPERATION. AND TALKING TO NOAH NOW REVEALS THE FUN MOMENT WHERE YOU ARE REMINDED: “OH HEY, RIGHT. THESE PEOPLE ARE ACTORS AND NOTHING LIKE THE CHARACTERS THEY PLAY.” IT’S WONDERFUL. HULK CAN’T TELL YOU THIS ENOUGH, BUT THE THINGS REAL ACTORS ARE ABLE TO DO WITH THE WAY THEY EMBODY CHARACTERS IS AMAZING. HULK’S TALKED ABOUT IT BEFORE, BUT THERE IS NO ASPECT OF FILMMAKING THAT IS MORE MISUNDERSTOOD BY THE PUBLIC THAN THEIR EVALUATION OF ACTING.

THINKING ABOUT THAT, HULK WONDERS WHERE NOAH AND RIAN’S RELATIONSHIP ACTUALLY CAME FROM. HULK ASKS ABOUT THE THEIR ORIGIN STORY AND NOAH RESPONDS: “I met Rian when I was commissioned to go deep into the Cambodian jungle to find him and return him to civilization. It was over the slaughtering of a water buffalo that we became friends. [HULK LAUGHS] Is there any value to the “real” story? We met when I was looking for a job in Brick. Someone sent me on an audition. But unlike most filmmakers dealing with young or unproven prospective employees, Rian had preliminary meetings where we got to know each other, before the audition. So instead of just showing the guy whether I could act, we got to connect on the taste, tone and humor. I was the first kid cast in Brick, at least six months before anyone else, so keeping the embers stoked and fostering a friendship was pretty important in those early days. Basically, I hung on to him like I knew he was going to make a really good movie… Does that work or should I get sexier?”

REGARDING THIS FRIENDSHIP, AN OUTSIDER MAY FIND NOAH AND RIAN COMPLETELY ANTITHETICAL, BUT THEY ACTUALLY MAKE PERFECT SENSE. IT’S A LITTLE HARD TO CHARACTERIZE, AS THIS IS NOT A CASE OF MERE OPPOSITES ATTRACTING, IN FACT THEY’RE NOT REALLY OPPOSITES AT ALL. THEY JUST HAVE A DIFFERENT KIND OF OUTWARD CHARACTERIZATION AND THEN SIGNIFICANT OVERLAP OF INTERESTS IN ALL THE WAYS THAT REALLY MATTER. THEY’RE NOT JUST MOVIE NERDS, BUT THEY BOTH HAVE THIS WHOLE APPROACH TO HUMOR AND BASIC HUMAN DECENCY THAT PUTS THEM ON THE EXACT SAME WAVELENGTH. AND AS CLICHE AS IT SOUNDS, THE WAY THEY COMPLIMENT EACH OTHER REALLY DOES SEEM TO MAKES THE OTHER ONE BETTER… PERHAPS THAT’S THE WAY WE ARE WITH ALL OUR GOOD FRIENDS. AND OF COURSE, THEY’RE NOT ABOVE GOOD OLD-FASHIONED RIBBING. YOU COULD EVEN ARGUE THAT NOAH’S ROLE IN LOOPER IS IT’S OWN KIND OF IN-JOKE, AS THE NAME “KID BLUE” HAS BEEN SEGAN’S ONLINE MONIKER FOR YEARS AND NOW IT’S THIS HUGE, DEFINING CHARACTER TOO. SO PREVALENT IS THE NAME, YOU HEAR CHARACTERS LIKE MUTTER IT FOUR OR FIVE TIMES TO THEMSELVES. BUT UNDERNEATH ALL OF THIS STUFF IS A SENSE OF GENUINE KINDNESS. TO WIT, CALLING THE CHARACTER “KID BLUE” IMPLIES THERE’S NO OTHER PERSON IN THE UNIVERSE TO PLAY THIS ROLE. AND TO ILLUSTRATE THE REAL DEPTHS OF THAT KINDNESS, NOAH TOLD A STORY THAT HULK WILL USE TO EMBARRASS THE UNASSUMING MAN EVEN FURTHER…

FOR THE LAST TWO DAYS, HULK HAS SEEN RIAN WALKING AROUND TAKING PICTURES WITH A CERTAIN CAMERA CALLED THE LEICA M6.

NOW, BOTH RIAN AND NOAH ARE PHOTOGRAPHY NERDS AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, BUT SO IS HULK. HULK STILL ROCKS THE OLD CANON AE-1 BECAUSE HULK’S HAD IT FOREVER AND IT’S BEEN MIGHTY GOOD TO HULK. BUT RIAN HAS BEEN USING THE AFOREMENTIONED LEICA M6 AND IT’S WIDELY REGARDED BY PEOPLE WHO KNOW THEIR STUFF AS ONE OF THE BEST CAMERAS IN THE WORLD. IT TAKES AN INCREDIBLE IMAGE, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT’S ROCK-SOLID AND PROBABLY THE MOST DEPENDABLE CAMERAS EVER MADE (IF YOU ARE INTO THAT SORT OF THING AND WANT TO CHECK IT OUT THEY CAN RUN FROM ABOUT 1200-2600 DOLLARS DEPENDING ON THE MODEL AND CONDITION). THE CAMERA WAS A SOMEWHAT RECENT PURCHASE IN THE LAST FEW YEARS AND THE DAY HE GOT IT HE CAME TO SET AND SHOWED NOAH. NOAH WAS, OF COURSE, AMAZED BY THE CAMERA SO RIAN LET HIM PLAY WITH IT FOR A MOMENT.

ALL OF A SUDDEN NOAH HEARD A CLICK.

HE LOOKED UP TO SEE RIAN TAKING A PICTURE WITH AN IDENTICAL M6. COMPLETELY CAUGHT OFF GUARD, NOAH WAS SIMPLY MET WITH RIAN SAYING THE FOLLOWING WORDS:

“That one’s yours.”

AGAIN, THIS STORY IS PROBLEMATIC FOR ANYONE WHO FINDS KINDNESS EMBARRASSING, BUT IT IS THIS EXACT KIND OF A SHOWCASE OF GENEROSITY SPEAKS TO EVERY SINGLE THING HULK IS TRYING TO CONVEY HERE. AND BETTER YET, THE TWO OF THEM HAVE BEEN MAKING GOOD USE OF THE CAMERAS AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A HOMEMADE DARK ROOM FOR WHAT NOAH LOVINGLY REFERS TO AS “NERD FISHING.” IF YOU’VE NEVER BEEN IN A DARK ROOM THE ANALOGY MAY NOT MAKE SENSE, BUT IT’S UTTERLY PERFECT. LONG PERIODS OF CONCENTRATION. SILENCE. SHARED SPACE. AND ALL IN THE NAME OF THE SINGULAR MOMENT AND SENSE OF TIMING. WORKING WITH PHOTOGRAPHY IN A DARK ROOM REALLY IS “NERD FISHING” AND HULK IS STEALING THAT PHRASE FOREVER.

WHEN YOU HAVE THAT KIND OF UNDERSTATED APPRECIATION FOR QUIET MOMENTS IN LIFE, THEN IT IS ALSO PRETTY EASY TO BE THROWN BY THIS WHOLE COMIC-CON THING. THE FAKE RED CARPETS. THE MOBS OF COSTUMED FANS. THE TEMPERAMENTAL SECURITY. SOME OF THEM ARE SWEET AS PIE, BUT AS WE TRAVEL DEEPER INTO THE INNER LAYERS OF ALL THIS STUFF, THE MORE UNWELCOMING IT ALL FEELS. IF SOME OF THE SECURITY “GATE KEEPERS” DON’T INSTANTLY RECOGNIZE YOU THEN IT ALL BECOMES QUITE INTENSE TO BE HONEST. THE WHOLE SCENARIO PROMPTS A COMMENT FROM NOAH REFERRING TO THE SITUATION AS “The Nexus of Brutality.” HE’S RIGHT. EVEN WHEN IT’S NOT OVERT, THERE’S THIS WHOLE FEELING THAT EVERYONE EXUDES LIKE YOU SHOULDN’T BE THERE. MAYBE EVERYONE FEELS THAT WAY WHEN THEY FIRST ENTER THE NEXUS. AND MAYBE THE ONLY TRUE WAY NOT TO FEEL THAT BRUTALITY ANYMORE IS TO SIMPLY BE IN SO MANY OF THESE KINDS OF ROOMS FOR SO LONG THAT YOU FORGET WHAT IT WAS LIKE

EITHER WAY, WE DON’T DWELL ON IT FOR LONG. IT’S NOT WORTH IT. AND THERE’S A WORLD OF BETTER THINGS TO DISCUSS LIKE THE RECENT MOVIES WE’VE SEEN. THE PLACE WE INEVITABLY END UP HOWEVER IS TALKING ABOUT LOOPER AND RIAN’S WORK. HULK TAKES THIS PARTICULAR OPPORTUNITY TO DIG DEEP INTO NOAH’S THOUGHTS ON THE MATTER AND HE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT:

“People talk about acting a lot and they always talk about getting into character. They make up this whole backstory or whatever and try and create this big emotion. I get what they’re doing and sometimes it works, but a lot of times I can feel like it puts people off in their own movie. And it should really about whatever we’re supposed to be conveying in a given scene. It should serve the story and the drama. Not ourselves. The writer usually knows the purpose better than we do. And that’s the great thing about Rian is everything that makes his movies great is all on the page. I call it ‘Evangelical Filmmaking’ because it’s like the word is law. Nobody on set has to conjure magic. It’s just all right there on the page for all of us. The crew too.”

“EVANGELICAL FILMMAKING” IS A BEAUTIFUL WAY OF PUTTING IT.

THE THING ABOUT ALL OF RIAN’S WORK TO DATE IS THAT IT JUST REALLY DOES FEEL FULLY-FORMED. NOTHING FEELS ERRONEOUS OR SECONDARY. IT BUILDS WITH ECONOMY. PURPOSE. CREDENCE. AND NOAH’S OBSERVATION ABOUT ACTING AT LARGE ALSO FEELS VERY TRUE TO HULK. NEITHER OF US ARE PRETENDING THAT EVERY SCREENPLAY IS SOME PERFECT PIECE OF TEXT THAT HAS TO BE HONORED IN THE SAME WAY, BUT THE THING THAT NOAH CONVEYS SO CLEARLY IS THAT IT’S REALLY AN ACTOR’S JOB TO PRETEND LIKE IT IS THAT HOLY TEXT ANYWAY. IT’S ABOUT BEING IN SERVICE TO THE STORY AND INTENTION OF THE MOVIE AND YOU CAN’T DO THAT WITH YOUR OWN AGENDA. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, HULK CAN’T GO FULL-TILT AND INSULT METHOD ACTING. SOME OF THE BEST ACTORS HULK’S EVER WORKED WITH EMPLOY THE METHOD. AND BEYOND THAT, HULK KNOWS HOW IMPOSSIBLY DIFFICULT IT IS TO ACT. TO CONJURE HUMAN EMOTIONS IN A CONVINCING WAY ON SCREEN OR STAGE. IT IS SIMPLY AN IMPOSSIBILITY FOR MOST HUMANS. AND ACTORS ARE THOSE RARE BIRDS WITH THE RARE ABILITY TO DO IT. SO HULK’S NOT GOING TO BEGRUDGE ANYONE’S METHOD, HULK SIMPLY UNDERSTANDS THAT SOMETIMES IT LOSES FOCUS ON THE GREATER IMPORT OF STORY.

WHILE TALKING WITH NOAH, THERE’S THIS PART OF HULK THAT IS CURIOUS HOW MUCH OF LOOPER WAS DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE FROM WHAT CAME BEFORE. BIG BUDGET SCI-FI IMPRESSES A CERTAIN KIND OF DEMAND AND ONE WORRIES THAT IT CAN PUT A STRAIN ON THE KIND OF EVANGELICAL FILMMAKING THAT MAKES RIAN’S VOICE SO UNIQUE. NOAH CHIDES THE CONCERN AWAY WITH A KNOWING SMILE: “It was the exact same kind of shoot only we had an espresso machine and Bruce Willis was there sometimes,” HULK LAUGHS. NOAH CONTINUES: “I know what you mean though. But really it’s about you. It’s like any elevation of any career… I think at least? I never had another career, but the lesson seems to be the same. You can let all that stuff change you or you can just keep being you. And the thing Rian just kept doing what he did. He’s been making movies the same way since he was a kid. So I’ve tried to do the same. There’s that old adage about wanting to make a community of people you can go through this stuff with and it’s true. It works. And it’s a lot more fun.”

THAT ADAGE OF “COMMUNITY” HAS BEEN TALKED ABOUT WITH FILMMAKING FOR GENERATIONS. IT’S A TRUE COLLABORATIVE ART AND SUCH THINGS DEPEND ON RELATIONSHIPS AND UNDERSTANDING. AS MUCH AS HULK MAY CHIDE SOMEONE LIKE MICHAEL BAY FOR THE “GENERAL ON THE BATTLEFIELD” ATTITUDE THE TRUTH IS THAT THE MAN HAS GREAT RELATIONSHIPS WITH A LOT OF STUDIOS AND THE U.S. MILITARY. NO ONE CAN DO IT ALONE. AND THE ADAGE RINGS TRUE IN EVERYTHING THAT RIAN DOES. IT’S ECHOED BACK TO HIM CONSTANTLY. WITH JOE, WITH NOAH, WITH THE OTHER MEMBER OF THE COUSINS JOHNSON. THE STORY OF RIAN’S FILMMAKING IS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN JUST HIMSELF.

AND EVEN IN JUST TALKING WITH NOAH IT COMPLETELY REFLECTS SO MUCH OF WHAT MAKES THESE MOVIES SPECIAL.

JUST AS HULK IS LOST IN THAT VERY THOUGHT, NOAH HAS APPARENTLY MADE A SELF-EFFACING COMMENT THAT HULK DIDN’T HEAR WHATSOEVER. THE PROBLEM IS THAT HULK NODDED AS PART OF SOME AUTOMATIC REACTION, CAUSING NOAH TO TOSS HIS HEAD BACK AND LAUGH. HULK CATCHES UP TO THE WHOLE SCENARIO AND THEN STARTS TO PROFESSES THAT HULK DIDN’T MEAN TO AGREE WITH THE SELF-EFFACING STATEMENT, BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE NOAH’S HAVING TOO MUCH FUN WITH THE SLIGHT: “Of course you say that, but I’m an actor, I can see things in your eyes!” AGAIN, IT’S THE WAY HE CAN EVEN MAKE AN AWKWARD MOMENT FUNNY AND INCLUSIVE.

AND THE FACT THAT IT HAPPENED RIGHT WHEN HULK WAS LOST IN THOUGHT ABOUT HOW MUCH NOAH EXEMPLIFIES ALL THE THINGS THAT MAKE THE WORLD OF RIAN JOHNSON A GOOD ONE.

SOMEHOW THAT MAKES THE MISUNDERSTANDING ALL THE MORE FITTING.

10. A MOMENT IN THE SUN

A FULL DAY AT COMIC-CON IS PRETTY MUCH A GAME OF HURRY UP AND WAIT.

HULK WAS INFORMED THAT THE ONE-ON-ONES WERE WRAPPING UP SO HULK MOSEYED ON OVER TO THAT AREA. ONLY TURNS OUT RIAN IS ABOUT HALF-WAY DONE WITH HIS CURRENT INTERVIEW. TURNS OUT IT’S WITH CAPONE FROM AICN. HULK SITS AROUND AND OBSERVES. RIAN IS DOING HIS SAME AUTHENTIC LISTENER BIT. MEANWHILE, JOE IS AT ANOTHER TABLE DOING HIS ONE-ON-ONE. KATE BECKINSALE IS OFF DOING HER OWN WITH A WOMAN WHO IS COS-PLAYING AS SOMETHING HULK DOES NOT RECOGNIZE WHATSOEVER (LATER HULK IS TOLD IT’S A COSTUME FROM THE HUNGER GAMES BUT HULK STILL DOESN’T RECOGNIZE IT). BUT THE WHOLE SCENE HAS THIS A NICE, LANGUID PACE, WHICH HULK REALIZES IS VERY MUCH ON PURPOSE. THE PRESS DAY AT COMIC-CON IS SUCH A LONG DAY OF TALKING THAT ANY SORT OF HURRIED PACE OF GOING FROM PERSON TO PERSON TO PERSON WOULD LIKELY BE COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE.

SO HULK TAKES THIS OPPORTUNITY TO TALK TO SONY’S P.R. TEAM, SPECIFICALLY A NICE WOMAN NAMED JULIA PABST WITH WHOM HULK HAS BEEN CONVERSING BACK AND FORTH WITH REGARDING A LOT OF THE PLANS AND SCREENINGS FOR THIS ARTICLE. HULK ASKS ABOUT THE SCHEDULING OF THE CON, THE RESPONSIBILITIES, WHAT THEY HOPE TO GET OUT IT. SHE’S INCREDIBLY HELPFUL. SHE EXPLAINS THAT EVERY YEAR, COMIC-CON BECOMES A BIGGER PART OF THEIR JOBS. NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE GROWTH IN SIZE, BUT BECAUSE THEY’RE COMING TO UNDERSTAND BETTER AND BETTER HOW IT WORKS. WE’RE FAR GONE FROM THE DAYS WHEN THE STUDIOS LOOKED DOWN ON IT. AND EVEN IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS THE SITUATION HAS DRASTICALLY CHANGED. IT IS NO LONGER VIEWED AS SOME CYNICAL IDEA OF TROTTING OUT MOVIE STARS. NOW IT IS A PLACE THAT JODIE FREAKIN’ FOSTER CAN COME TO BE GENUINELY EXCITED FOR HER FIRST CON. AND FROM EVERYTHING HULK GETS TO SEE THAT DAY SHE IS GENUINELY EXCITED TO BE HERE AND TALK ABOUT ELYSIUM AND EMBRACE SO MUCH OF THE SPIRIT OF THIS EVENT.

PUBLIC-RELATIONS SOUNDS LIKE THAT SORT OF NEBULOUS ENTERTAINMENT JOB THAT AT LOT OF PEOPLE EITHER DON’T UNDERSTAND OR FIND SUPERFLUOUS. THE TRUTH IS THAT THE JOB IS REALLY JUST ABOUT HANDLING WORKFLOW. FIRST WE HAVE TO ACCEPT THAT IN THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM AN ACTOR OR DIRECTOR’S IMAGE IS PART OF THEIR CACHE, AND THEIR CACHE LARGELY DICTATES THE KINDS OF PROJECTS THEY GET TO WORK ON (SEE #7 AND THE CORPORATE STUDIO SYSTEM). BUT THE THING IS THAT THE CACHE TAKES PLACE IN THIS GIANT CELEBRITY-FUELED UNIVERSE. TABLOIDS, MAGAZINES, INTERVIEWS, SCREENINGS, A GLUT OF NOISE THAT HAS TO BE DEALT WITH IN SOME WAYS. EVEN IF AN ACTOR WANTED TO DEAL WITH IT ALL, THE TRUTH IS THEY COULDN’T IF THEY TRIED. THERE’S TOO MUCH AND IT ACTUALLY DOES HAVE IMPORTANT BEARING ON THINGS. EVEN THE ACTORS OR DIRECTORS WHO DON’T HAVE A PERMANENT P.R. REP ARE ASSIGNED ONE BY A STUDIO WHEN WORKING ON ONE OF THEIR BIG MOVIES. SOMETIMES THERE’S A BIG TEAM HANDLING EVERYONE. YOU MIGHT BE PICTURING THE WORST END OF THE SPECTRUM WHEN IT COMES TO P.R. THE IDEA OF SOME PERSON LYING AND TRYING TO SPIN SOME MESSAGE OF AN OUT-OF-CONTROL CELEBRITY, BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT’S LIKE .00001 OF THE JOB. IT’S NOT ABOUT CONTROLLING THE MESSAGE, AS ANY GOOD P.R. REP KNOWS THAT ANY ATTEMPT TO CONTROL WILL BE MET WITH INTENSE RESISTANCE AND LIKELY AN “OUTING” FROM THE PRESS. THUS, IT’S ABOUT SIMPLY HANDLING ALL OF THE DETAILS THAT DEAL WITH THAT CACHE. IT’S ABOUT OKAYING INTERVIEWS AND ARTICLES, KEEPING TRACK OF THE PRESS ITSELF, WHAT’S BEING SAID, AND HOW TO BEST DEAL WITH ALL OF IT. WHICH MEANS, IT’S JUST ABOUT THE WORKFLOW OF HANDLING THE MASSIVE AMOUNT OF COMMUNICATION. AND AS SUCH, HULK FINDS THAT 99% OF P.R. PEOPLE ARE EXTREMELY NICE. WHICH IS PROBABLY APT BECAUSE IT’S THEIR JOB TO BE.

RIAN FINISHES UP HIS ON-ONE-ON AND HULK MEETS GETS TO OFFICIALLY MEET CAPONE FOR THE FIRST TIME. IT’S REALLY NEAT AND HE’S A SUPER-NICE GUY. JUST THEN RIAN AND JOE ARE CONVINCED TO SQUEEZE IN A QUICK VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH THE RADIO MEGA-CONGLOMERATE KNOWN AS KROQ. THEY SET UP TWO CHAIRS RIGHT THEN AND THERE THE MAKE-UP TEAMS SPRING INTO ACTION. THEY ACTUALLY MANAGE TO GET IT OFF IN A FEW QUICK MINUTES. RIAN AND JOE GO ABOUT ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS, ALTERNATING APPROPRIATELY BETWEEN FUNNY AND SERIOUS. RIGHT AT THE END JOE IS ASKED “So I hate to, but I gotta ask. Dark Knight Rises! Do you think you can tell us if you put on a certain famous cape and cowl??” JOE GRINS WIDE. HE’S BEEN ASKED THAT QUESTION ALL DAY “Awww man, you really think I can just answer that question?” THERE’S A FINE ART TO ANSWERING THAT QUESTION WITHOUT GIVING IT AWAY AND HULK MUST SAY HE HANDLED IT ADMIRABLY.

THE INTERVIEW ENDS AND THE WHOLE GANG SLOWLY STARTS TO CULL TOGETHER IN GROUPS, MOSTLY AT THE SLOW PACE OF A COLLAPSING UNIVERSE: NATHAN, NOAH, JOE, EMILY, THE ENTIRE P.R. TEAM, AND BASICALLY ANYONE ELSE WHO MAKES UP THE ENTOURAGE OF SORTS GETS READY TO MOVE ON TO THE NEXT ITEM ON THE AGENDA. IT IS ALSO AT THIS POINT THAT THEY ARE JOINED BY RIAN’S LONG-TIME GIRLFRIEND KARINA LONGWORTH (WHO, GIVEN HULK’S PROFESSION, HULK COULD PROBABLY GEEK OUT THE MOST ON OUT OF ANYONE IN SAN DIEGO). WE WERE ALL EXPECTING TO HEAD INTO THE PRESS CONFERENCE, BUT THAT HAS BEEN DELAYED FOR A BIT (AGAIN, A GAME HURRY UP AND WAIT) AND SO THEY ARE GOING TO TAKE THIS MOMENT TO DO AN A.P. PHOTO.

EVERYONE IS USHERED OUT TO THIS GORGEOUS DECK ON THE SIDE OF THE BAYFRONT HOTEL. IT HAS THIS WHITE/GRAY STONE FLOOR WITH WHITE RAILINGS AND WHITE TABLES. EVERYTHING IS WHITE. AND IT’S SET BEAUTIFULLY AGAINST THE ROLLING NAVY BLUE SEA AND CLOUDLESS SKY. THE SUN IS ABSOLUTELY BEATING DOWN UPON EVERYONE CAUSING US ALL TO SQUINT, BUT IT’S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL AFTER BEING LOCKED IN GIANT HOTEL BALLROOMS FOR GOD KNOWS HOW LONG (HULK CHECKS. WE’VE BEEN AT IT FOR FOUR PLUS HOURS AT THIS POINT).

BUT EVERYONE IS JUST ENJOYING THIS BEAUTIFUL MOMENT IN THE SUN.

EMILY SITS BY THE FAR COUCH, HAPPY TO HAVE THE MOMENT TO RELAX AND TALKS TO SEVERAL OTHER WOMEN WHO MAKE UP OUR EXTENDED PARTY. JOE AND NOAH STRIKE UP A CONVERSATION WITH NATHAN ABOUT SOME MUSIC HE’S WORKING ON. HULK SIDLES UP AND LISTENS. IT’S ABOUT A SIDE PROJECT HE’S WORKING ON CALLED “FAUX FIX” WITH KATIE CHASTAIN. NATHAN HAS SEVERAL REALLY COOL SIDE PROJECTS GOING ON (AND HULK WILL GET TO THEM SOON ENOUGH). BUT REALLY, THE CONVERSATION REALLY STARTS GOING EVERYWHERE AND LASTS A GOOD 30 MINUTES, ALL BECAUSE THE A.P. PHOTOGRAPHER WAS TAKING CARE OF ANOTHER PHOTO FIRST. SO EVERYONE IS JUST ENJOYING THEIR TIME COOKING IN THE HEAT. NO ONE IS EVER WORRIED ABOUT SCHEDULE. THEY’RE ONLY WORRIED ABOUT POSSIBLY NOT HAVING ENOUGH SUNSCREEN ON.

IT IS AT THIS POINT THAT HULK SEES RIAN TAKE A PICTURE OF EMILY THAT SUMS UP THIS “MOMENT IN THE SUN” SCENE QUITE NICELY:

Posted With Permission from Rian Johnson[/caption]

HULK’S ENTIRE MODUS OPERANDI THUS FAR HAS BEEN MOSTLY OBSERVATION AND CONVERSATION WITH VERY LITTLE DIRECT INTERVIEWING, BECAUSE THAT JUST DOESN’T SEEM PRUDENT FOR THE MOST PART. THIS IS ABOUT THEIR DAY AND HULK WORRIES THAT TOO MUCH PROVOKING WILL SOMEHOW ALTER THE NORMALCY HULK IS TRYING TO CAPTURES. BUT THERE’S A MOMENT SOON AFTER THAT HULK HAS WITH JOE WHERE HULK IS TEMPTED TO BREAK THE FOURTH WALL OF INTERVIEWING AND BRING UP A MOVIE OF HIS THAT HULK WANTED TO TALK ABOUT FOR PERSONAL REASONS. WITHOUT JUMPING INTO A LIFE STORY, 50/50 AND LEVITT’S PERFORMANCE IN IT WAS SOMETHING THAT CARRIED AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF WEIGHT FOR HULK. IT’S ONE OF THE FIRST CANCER MOVIES HULK CAN CITE THAT ISN’T DESIGNED TO MAKE “OTHER PEOPLE” FEEL GOOD, BUT IS MOST CENTRALLY DESIGNED FOR THE PERSON SUFFERING. HULK ADORES THE MOVIE BECAUSE HULK THINK IT SPEAKS TO A RATHER UNDERREPRESENTED TRUTH. HULK WANTS TO TELL JOE THIS. IT IS THAT LITERAL MOMENT OF FANDOM AND TOSSING THE HAPHAZARD GRENADE, BUT ULTIMATELY HULK DOESN’T SAY A WORD. PERHAPS, IT’S JUST EASIER TO LISTEN. PERHAPS, IT’S EASIER FOR US TO TALK ABOUT SOME OTHER INTEREST. HULK COULD HAVE DISGUISED THIS SENTIMENT IN THE FORM OF THE QUESTION, BUT HULK COULDN’T THINK OF ONE. IT WOULD SEEMINGLY ONLY BE A COMMENT FOR HULK’S ALLEVIATION AND PRESUMABLY DO NOTHING FOR HIM EXCEPT MAKE AN ONGOING BIT OF REPORTING ALL THE MORE AWKWARD. BUT HEY, LIFE IS FULL OF THESE KIND OF PASSING MOMENTS AND HULK JUST WANTED TO REFLECT THE DIFFICULTY OF THAT INNER-CONFLICT. AND SOON ENOUGH JOSEPH WAS TALKING TO THE YOUNG WOMAN DOING HIS MAKE-UP.

AT ONE POINT A LITTLE BIT AFTER THAT, EMILY IS STANDING UP BY HERSELF LOOKS IN HULK’S DIRECTION AND THUS HULK FINALLY HAS A GOOD MOMENT TO GO UP FOR THE OFFICIAL INTRODUCTION. THIS TIME HULK IS GOING TO TAKE INITIATIVE AND STUFF! BUT THESE SORT THINGS REQUIRE TACT… IF THERE’S ANYTHING HULKS DON’T HAVE… IT’S TACT.

HULK: “HELLO.”

EMILY: (friendly) “Hello.”

HULK: “UH… HAS THIS ALL BEEN EXPLAINED? WHAT HULK’S DOING HERE?”

EMILY: “I believe you’re the one doing the story of all this?”

HULK: “YUP.”

EMILY: “How’s it going so far?”

HULK: “GOOD. IT’S INTERESTING. IT’S CERTAINLY GOING TO BE ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS. IT’S STILL SORT OF COMING INTO SHAPE TO BE HONEST.”

EMILY: “I’m curious what-“

AND JUST THEN A P.R. REP CALLS OUT AS IT’S TIME TO FINALLY TAKE THE A.P. PHOTO.

EMILY: “Excuse me one second.”

WE GET MORE CHANCES TO TALK THROUGHOUT THE DAY BUT HULK NEVER GOT TO FIND OUT WHAT SHE WAS PRECISELY CURIOUS ABOUT. WHICH DOESN’T REALLY MATTER. HULK JUST WATCHES THEM SET UP FOR THE PHOTO, STANDING IN A DOORWAY, BRIGHT LIGHT COMING OUT BEHIND THEM. EMILY SITS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOTH RIAN AND JOE, WHO STAND ONE EITHER SIDE. BOTH OF THEM HAVE A HAND PLACED ON HER SHOULDER… AS CHEESY AS THIS SOUNDS, THIS IS AS APT METAPHOR AS ONE CAN FIND…

BECAUSE SO MUCH OF LOOPER’S EFFECTIVENESS RESTS ON THE SHOULDERS OF EMILY BLUNT.

11. ON THAT WHOLE HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS THING

IF THE PHRASE “HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS THING” SOUNDS DIMINISHING OR INSULTING, KNOW HULK MEANS IT TO BE THE OPPOSITE. TO ILLUSTRATE, LET’S GO OVER A SERIES OF MATHEMATICAL GIVENS THAT WE CAN TAKE AS FACT:

GIVEN#1: BEING A HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS IS ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD AND NO ONE SEEMS TO REALIZE IT.

GIVEN #2: HOLLYWOOD WILL GO THROUGH COUNTLESS “YOUNG FRESH FACES” FOR FEMALE STARRING ROLES WITHOUT THINKING TWICE ABOUT IT. WHY? BECAUSE THE YOUNGER ARE CHEAPER, FRESH-FACE-IER, AND MOST BLOCKBUSTER FILMS DON’T NEED AS STRONG ACTRESSES BECAUSE FEMALE ROLES ARE SO WOEFULLY UNDER-WRITTEN TO THE POINT THAT IT’S A GROTESQUE SHAME.

GIVEN #3: REMEMBER THAT “MOVIE STARS ARE CATS” ANALOGY HULK USED BEFORE WITH JOE? YEAH… THE CAT ANALOGY WORKS FOR EMILY BLUNT TOO, ONLY TIMES A BILLION.

GIVEN #4: THIS IS HER FIRST TIME WORKING WITH RIAN AND JOE.

GIVEN #5: HER CAREER THUS FAR HAS BEEN MOSTLY COMPRISED OF SCENE STEALING. HULK OF COURSE TALKING ABOUT HER DEBUT WITH THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. BUT HULK FIRST TOOK NOTICE SOME YEARS BEFORE THEN WITH PAWEL PAWLIKOWSKI’S MY SUMMER OF LOVE. SHE’S HAD A NUMBER OF STRONG ROLES SINCE THEN INCLUDING CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, THE YOUNG VICTORIA, AND A GREAT TURN IN THE FULL-BLOODED-YET-PHILOSOPHICAL THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. AND ONLY ONCE HAS DIPPED BACK INTO THE “HAUGHTY RECEPTIONIST” TERRITORY THAT LAUNCHED HER TO FAME, BUT THAT WAS FOR MISS PIGGY SO IT WAS MORE THAN AN UNDERSTANDABLE (ADMISSION: HULK WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR A MUPPET).

GIVEN #6: YES, EMILY BLUNT IS BEAUTIFUL. THE THING IS THAT HULK IS ALWAYS CAUTIOUS WHEN TALKING ABOUT AN ACTRESSES LOOKS. AND THAT’S BECAUSE THERE’S THIS OBLIGATORY, INSIDIOUS DOUBLE STANDARD WE HAVE WITH ACTRESSES WHERE WE ALWAYS HAVE TO ASK ABOUT THEIR CLOTHES AND DIETS AND ABOVE ALL ELSE, WE ALWAYS HAVE TO COMMENT ON THEIR LOOKS. HULK IS HERE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT IS PURELY INSIPID AND LARGELY A DETRIMENT TO EVERY GOOD INSTINCT WE COULD DO WITH OUR CULTURE. PEOPLE NEED A MORE HEALTHY APPROACH TO ALL THIS OUTWARD BEAUTY STUFF BECAUSE IT’S TOUGH ENOUGH FOR GIRLS IN THIS LIFE AS IS. AND TO MAKE THOSE KINDS OF CONVERSATIONS THE CENTRAL PART OF “THE IDEAL STAR LIFE” IS MORALLY TROUBLING… THE PROBLEM THOUGH IS THAT COMMENTING ON EMILY BLUNT’S LOOKS IS ALSO UNDERSTANDABLE. AND THAT’S BECAUSE HOLLYWOOD ACTRESSES OFTEN COMPRISE SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND TALENTED PEOPLE THE PLANET HAS TO OFFER. AND NOT ONLY ARE THEY BEAUTIFUL, BUT THEIR JOB IS QUITE LITERALLY TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE WHO DO NOT EVEN KNOW THEM. AS SUCH, THE AFFECT ON NORMAL PEOPLE IS PRETTY MUCH INESCAPABLE. AND WITH THAT, THERE IS THIS PART OF ANYONE WHO HAS TO MAKE THIS RUEFUL ADMISSION THAT YES, TAKEN IN A STRICTLY EMPIRICAL SENSE IT IS NOT UNREASONABLE TO SAY THAT EMILY BLUNT IS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. AND SHE MANAGES TO LOOK THAT WAY WITHOUT FEELING LIKE SHE IS TRYING TOO HARD OR EXISTING AS SOME OTHER-WORLDLY ALIEN. THAT IS A TRUTH. BUT THERE ARE SO MANY MORE TRUTHS TO HER THAN MAKING A COMMENT ABOUT HER LOOKS THAT TO CLING TO THAT ONE IS SIMPLY THE MOST REDUCTIVE THING TO DO IN THE UNIVERSE.

GIVEN #7: BUT PERHAPS THE BIGGEST REASON IS THAT IN THE MOMENT IS THE MOST REDUCTIVE THING TO DO TO HER AS A PERSON. WHAT WOULD SHE SAY IN RESPONSE TO ANY OF THIS IF HULK SAID ANY OF THIS TO HER? HULK’S SEEN OTHER JOURNALISTS MAKE THESE SORTS OF COMMENTS. HULK’S SEEN OTHER JOURNALISTS DO IT ON THIS VERY DAY. TIME AND TIME AGAIN. ONE ONE LEVEL IT CAN BE BRUSHED OFF AS A KINDNESS, BUT ON ANOTHER LEVEL IT SEEMS SO… AGAIN, THAT WORD IS REDUCTIVE. AND WHAT SHOULD SHE BEING DOING WITH ALL OF THOSE ASSESSMENTS? WHAT SHOULD SHE BE THINKING IF SHE SPENDS SO MUCH TIME TRYING TO DEFINE HERSELF BY THE COURAGE OF HER ROLES AND INSTEAD IT’S ALWAYS A FOCUS ON HER LOOKS? WHAT SHOULD THESE SORTS OF COMMENTS ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISH, OTHER THAN INTERVIEWER MAKING SOME SORT FLIRTATIOUS STRIDE? HONESTLY, THESE QUESTIONS EAT AWAY AT HULK.

SO THERE ARE SEVEN GIVENS. WHICH BRINGS US TO:

PROBLEM #1: HER ROLE IN LOOPER IS SO INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT AND REQUIRES A STUNNING AMOUNT OF DEXTERITY. SORRY, IT’S NOT SOME CRAZY SECRET, BUT HULK CAN’T EXPLAIN IT UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN THE MOVIE. THE ONLY WAY TO SAY IT IS THAT IF SHE DOES NOT HANDLE HER ROLE CORRECTLY, THE MOVIE SIMPLY DOES NOT WORK.

SOLUTION TO PROBLEM #1 BASED ON GIVENS 1-7: SHE HANDLES THE ROLE CORRECTLY.

***

HULK AND EMILY GET MORE A FEW BRIEF CHANCES TO CASUALLY TALK THROUGHOUT THE DAY. A LOT OF TIMES HULK GETS TO LISTEN IN ON HER OTHER INTERVIEWS. SHE TALKS ASTUTELY ABOUT WHAT IT IS THAT LED HER TO HER ROLE IN LOOPER, SPECIFICALLY THE ALLUDED-TO FACT THAT THERE ARE ALMOST NO ROLES LIKE THIS.

SHE GOES ON TO TALK AT LENGTH ABOUT IT, IN A WAY CONFIRMING ALL OF HULK’S WORRIES MENTIONED ABOVE. “I jumped at Looper with everything I had. There’s nothing like it. The landscape out there for women’s roles like this… there’s just so little.” SHE CLARIFIES THIS EVEN BETTER AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE LATER: “I think it’s the same for a lot of actresses, to find characters that aren’t objectified, aren’t simplified, aren’t a reactionary character to a man, and it’s hard to find that. She’s a singular character with a rich voice. She’s a tough cookie. A tough nut to crack. I enjoyed the nuances and really the complexity of that part. It was a challenge to me, but I look for that. I look for roles that make me ask myself that question, ‘My god how am I going to do this?'”

HULK INQUIRES FURTHER ON THE SUBJECT WITH HER AFTERWARD.

“The role, without getting into it, just has so much in terms of what you have to do. She’s maternal, yet she’s hard. She’s hopeful, but filled with guilt. And she doesn’t just have to show one of these things at once. Most of the time it’s both. It’s about the conflict. It’s about what she knows and doesn’t know and the kind of person she has to be in the moment. It’s extraordinary. And it all comes from that guy.”

SHE NODS OVER TO RIAN, WHO JUST HAPPENS TO BE AN AN AWKWARD MOMENT OF FUMBLING WITH TRYING GET HIS STUCK CAMERA OVER HIS COAT. HULK LAUGHS. EMILY: “Smartest sweetheart in the world that one.”

PERHAPS IT’S JUST OUR AMERICAN SENSE OF THE BRITS, BUT ONE ONE LEVEL, YES, EMILY DOES HAVE THAT SENSE OF BEING VERY POLISHED PERSON WITH A SOMEWHAT POSH DISPOSITION. BUT THAT COULD REALLY JUST BE OUR AMERICAN SENSIBILITY (A BRITISH ACCENT GOES A LONG WAY). AND BEYOND THAT, EVEN THE SLIGHTEST RESEARCH INTO HER BACKGROUND TELLS US THAT SHE ACTUALLY HAD PRONOUNCED STUTTER FOR MOST OF HER CHILDHOOD LIFE AND IT’S BEEN SOMETHING SHE’S BEEN VERY VOCAL ABOUT. IN OVERCOMING THAT OBSTACLE SHE LEARNED THE KINDS OF CONTROL AND PRESENCE OF MIND THAT LED HER TO A CAREER IN ACTING. SO IMPORTANT IS THE CAUSE TO HER THAT SHE ACTUALLY SITS ON THE BOARD FOR THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR STUTTERING. THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF STUTTERING ARE ALSO WELL KNOWN, SO TO PUT IT SIMPLY: THE IDEA OF BEING RESERVED AND CAREFUL WITH YOUR WORDS IS MORE THAN UNDERSTANDABLE.

BUT THE BIGGER TRUTH IS THAT THIS IS ALL JUST A BUNCH OF HOGWASH CONJECTURE ON HULK’S PART. BECAUSE ALL THESE SURFACE DEDUCTIONS SOON GIVE WAY TO HER REAL PERSONALITY. THE “That guy” COMMENT IS JUST THE FIRST IN A LONG LINE OF ASIDES AND OBSERVATIONS. SHE JUST HAS THIS PERFECT SARCASTIC DISPOSITION. SHE ALWAYS SEEMS TO BE TEASING THE LOOPER GANG, BUT IT COMES FROM A REAL SENSE OF HUMANITY UNDERNEATH. THE ONE THING JOE KEEPS MENTIONING THROUGHOUT THE DAY IS JUST HOW FUNNY EMILY IS, BUT IT’S THE KIND OF HILARITY THAT’S NOT APPARENT AT FIRST. IT WAITS IN THE CORNER WITH WRY TOUCHES.

EVENTUALLY WE GET BACK TO THE SUBJECT OF HER CAREER. WITH SO FEW ROLES LIKE THIS VERSUS WHAT IS OFFERED, HOW DOES ONE FIND THAT BALANCE? HOW DOES ONE BE PRACTICAL?

EMILY: “It’s interesting. There are plenty of movies I could have done that would have been good movies. Sometimes they would have been good for my career or they would have been fun. But you just always try to find that thing that compels you. It’s think I don’t care if a role feels slight as long as it doesn’t feel slighted, if you understand me? I’ve tried to look for full voices no matter where they are. Family films, horror films. I was just looking for that richness. That full person with complexity. I mean, I certainly understand the inclination to be involved with as many great directors or good projects as possible no matter what role is, but sometimes you just to listen to that internal voice. The one that doesn’t just want to give into all of that. and if I’m not listening to myself then who am I doing it for, really?”

IT’S A REMARKABLE QUESTION.

AND HONESTLY IT’S A QUESTION THAT HOLLYWOOD DOESN’T HAVE AN ANSWER FOR RIGHT NOW. AND THAT’S BECAUSE THE QUESTION TRULY GOES SO FAR BEYOND THE WHOLE HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS THING AND RIGHT TO SO MANY LINGERING SOCIETAL QUESTIONS WHEN IT COMES TO GENDER AT LARGE. THERE’S AN ELECTION BRINGING SOME OF THOSE ISSUES TO FOCUS (THIS IS THE MOST MILD WAY OF PUTTING IT EVER), BUT IT’S HARD TO FEEL OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ANY OF IT. WE EVEN HAVE WHOLE STUDIOS SAYING THEY’RE “NOT INTERESTED” IN ANY FILMS WITH A FEMALE LEAD. AND HERE WE HAVE AN ACTRESS WHO ABOVE ALL ELSE HONESTLY STANDS BY HER STANCE OF LOOKING FOR STRONG FEMALE ROLES.

HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT THIS MEANS SOMETHING IMPORTANT.

LATER IN THE NIGHT WHEN EVERYTHING SETTLES DOWN AND EVERYONE IS TIRED AND THEY’RE ALL ABOUT TO BE ON THEIR WAY, HULK ASKS EMILY THE SIMPLEST QUESTION OF ALL DURING THE PARTING OF THE WAYS. AND GIVEN ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCE, ALL THE HOOPLAH OF THE CON, ALL THE EXHAUSTING INTERVIEWS, ALL THE STATE OF THE WHOLE HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS THING AND THE ROLES AVAILABLE, GIVEN EVERYTHING THAT HAS BEEN DISCUSSED, GIVEN THE THE GIVENS #1-7, SHE PROVIDES AN ANSWERS THAT SUMS IT ALL UP BEAUTIFULLY.

HULK: “HOW DO YOU FEEL?”

EMILY: “Thankful.”

12. COUNTDOWN

IT IS NOW ABOUT 3:45 PM.

HALL H TIME RAPIDLY APPROACHES.

WE START A MORE INTIMATE PRESS CONFERENCE THAT HAS BEEN PUSHED BACK SEVERAL TIMES. THIS IS THE SAME PRESS CONFERENCE HULK REFERRED TO AT THE START OF ARTICLE (WHICH MIGHT SEEM LIKE EONS AGO). THE MOMENT IS NICE BECAUSE IT ALSO MEANS THAT HULK GETS TO MEETS UP WITH BADASS DIGEST’S OWN MEREDITH BORDERS, WHO IS BOTH HULK’S FRIEND AND EDITOR (AND SHE’S AS DELIGHTFUL AS THEY COME). WE BOTH GET READY FOR THE PRESS CONFERENCE, HER AFTER A WHOLE DAY OF PRESS DUTIES, AND HULK AFTER… YOU KNOW… A NICE, LEISURELY CHAT WITH A BUNCH OF INTERESTING PEOPLE.

THE LOOPER GANG SITS AT THE CENTRAL TABLE AND PERFORMS ADMIRABLY. THE UPSIDE TO HAVING THE BIGGER MEDIA EVENTS LATER AND LATER IN THE DAY IS THAT YOU HAVE WORKED OUT ALL THE ANSWERS IN YOUR HEAD. HULK HEARS JOE AND EMILY HIT THE FAMILIAR BEATS, STILL WITH REAL SINCERITY AND CHUTZPUH. BUT RIAN KEEPS DOING THAT CURIOUS THING WHERE HE GIVES THE DIFFERENT ANSWERS. AT ONE POINT LATER, JOE PROVIDES THIS REALLY NICE OBSERVATION ABOUT QUENTIN TARANTINO THAT HULK LIKES WHERE HE SAYS THAT JACKIE BROWN IS THE MOVIE WHERE TARANTINO HAS “THE LIGHTEST TOUCH.” HE THEN RELATES IT BACK TO LOOPER AND RIAN IN A WAY THAT HULK BOTH UNDERSTANDS BUT DOESN’T ENTIRELY AGREE WITH, BUT HEY. AND SOON ENOUGH THE ENTIRE THING IS ON OUR WAY AND EVERYONE STARTS GATHERING OUTSIDE FOR THE MAIN EVENT.

NOW EVERYONE IS THE ENTOURAGE IS REALLY TOGETHER, INCLUDING SONY BIG WIGS. THE FIRST GROUP GOES DOWN FOR TOTAL RECALL, AS EVERYONE ELSE JUST HANGS BACK UNTIL THEIR NUMBER IS CALLED. NO ONE IS NERVOUS NECESSARILY. THEY’VE DONE TO MUCH PRESS AT THIS POINT TO BE NERVOUS. THERE’S JUST A NICE MIX OF ANXIOUSNESS AND EXCITEMENT. SOON ENOUGH, IT’S THE LOOPER GANG’S TURN TO HEAD OVER. WE ALL PILE INTO THIS GIANT FREIGHT ELEVATOR AND SLOWLY GO DOWN TO THE BOTTOM FLOOR OF THE BAYFRONT… NOW, HULK DOESN’T USUALLY GET NERVOUS ABOUT THINGS AND EVEN THOUGH THIS ELEVATOR IS HUGE, HULK HAS THIS WEIRD MOMENT OF REALIZATION ABOUT HOW THERE’S STILL A TON OF PEOPLE ON THIS THING AND SO HULK STARTS CONTEMPLATING THE BEST STRATEGY OF STAYING ALIVE WHEN THE CABLE BREAKS.

HULK: “THERE’S A LOT OF PEOPLE ON THIS THING.”

NOAH: “Don’t worry, the crash is all a part of the marketing strategy.”

THE ELEVATOR LANDS SAFELY (DUH, IT’S A FREIGHT ELEVATOR), BUT ALL OF A SUDDEN THE EXIT OPENS AND THERE IS A HUGE MASS OF PAPARAZZI ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET TAKING EVERYONE’S PICTURE… YES, THEY ARE MOSTLY SHOUTING FOR EMILY AND JOE, BUT IT IS DOWNRIGHT BIZARRE AND UNEXPECTED. HULK LOOKS OVER AT NATHAN WHO JUST SEEMS TO BE LAUGHING IT ALL OFF. AND OF COURSE, THERE’S NO INSTRUCTION ON WHAT EVERYONE HAS TO DO NEXT SO WE ALL JUST STAND THERE. EVENTUALLY SOMEONE COMES OVER AND EXPLAINS THAT A FEW OF THE MAIN FOLKS WILL BE BROUGHT OVER A TINY, BLACK VAN/BUS THINGY AND THE REST OF US WILL GO IN GOLF CARTS. NOAH, NATHAN, AND HULK TAKE THIS AS A CUE TO AVOID ALL THE PEOPLE DECIDING HOW TO BREAK IT UP AND WE JUST GRAB THE FIRST CART WE SEE.

ON THE WAY OVER TO THE CONVENTION CENTER (WHICH IS REALLY JUST A BLOCK AWAY) WE PASS BY A GIANT GROUP OF FANS WHO ALL STARE CURIOUSLY AT US. NOAH BEGINS TO NARRATE THE JOURNEY: “San Diego. California. We are going to the much vaulted Hall H right now for the Looper Panel. Where not a lot will revealed, but a lot will be said.” WE ARE ALL BROUGHT OVER IN STAGGERED GROUPS, IN A MUCH SLOWER MANNER THAN YOU WOULD EXPECT. THEN AGAIN, SUCH IS THE PACE OF THIS DAY.

BUT WHEN WE ALL START CRASHING OUTSIDE THE BACK GATES OF HALL H, THE NEXUS OF BRUTALITY BECOMES AN OUTRIGHT WAR-ZONE.

THE SECURITY GUARDS ARE ONLY ALLOWED TO LET IN PEOPLE WITH THE PROPER PASS CREDENTIALS. WHAT SOUNDS VERY REASONABLE, BUT IS WHOLLY THROWN INTO JEOPARDY BY THREE THINGS: 1) GETTING THESE CREDENTIALS IS SURPRISINGLY DIFFICULT. 2) A GOOD DEAL OF PEOPLE WITH US WERE SORT OF LAST SECOND ADDS. 3) A LOT OF THESE PEOPLE ARE USED TO KINDS OF SITUATIONS WHERE BEING WITH THE KEY PEOPLE INVOLVED AND THEM VOUCHING FOR YOU IS ENOUGH TO GET YOU IN… THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS AT COMIC-CON. AS A RESULT, NO ONE WITHOUT THE RIGHT QUALIFICATIONS ARE BEING LET IN. NO ONE. SERIOUSLY, GROWN-ASS BIGWIG EXECUTIVES ARE BEING SCREAMED AT. THE GUARDS COULD CARE LESS. THEY’RE NOT PART OF THE HOLLYWOOD SYSTEM. THERE ARE SIMPLY THOSE WITH THE CORRECT PASSES AND THOSE WITHOUT THEM AND THEIR JOB IS TO FOLLOW SUIT.

“Are you talent!?!?” ONE GUY SCREAMS AT US AS WE JUST STAND THERE.

SURE, THEY ARE JUST DOING THEIR JOBS, BUT IN JUST DOING THEIR JOBS THEY MAKE EVERY SINGLE PERSON STANDING THERE FEEL LIKE THEY ARE ABOUT TWO INCHES TALL… LOOK. THE PERVERTED NOTION OF ACCESSIBILITY IS A WEIRD THING. ON ONE HAND, THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE WITH A PRIVILEGED SENSE OF ACCESS WHO DO NOT KNOW HOW TO BEHAVE WHEN THEY ENCOUNTER THE SLIGHTEST INCONVENIENCE (LATER THAT NIGHT HULK ACTUALLY SEES A YOUNG SCREENWRITER THROW A FIT AND PLAY THE “Don’t you know who I am!!?!?!” CARD WHEN HE’S NOT IMMEDIATELY LET INTO A PARTY. IT’S HILARIOUS). BUT THE PROBLEMS OF ACCESSIBILITY CAN JUST AS EASILY GO IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. AND WHEN IT REARS IT’S UGLY HEAD IT CAN MAKE YOU FEEL SICK. IT MAKES YOU SUDDENLY FEEL LIKE YOU ARE NOT A FULLY-GROWN ADULT WHO IS ONLY DOING EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. IT MAKES YOU FEEL GUILTY FOR HAVING A JOB TO DO AND MERELY TRYING TO COME THROUGH ON THAT. IT MAKES YOU FEEL AWFUL FOR ASSUMING EVERYTHING WOULD WORK OUT IN GOOD FAITH. THERE’S SUCH A CHILD-LIKE SENSE OF LOSING CONTROL AND IT IS WEIRD TO DEAL WITH. SUDDENLY THE MIND WHIPS INTO THE PARADIGM OF SEEING COMIC-CON THROUGH THE LENS OF NEEDLESS AUTHORITARIANISM. OF EVERYTHING THAT SHOULDN’T BE… IT’S THE NEXUS OF BRUTALITY. AND IT SUCKS.

BUT AFTER FAR-TOO-LONG, SOME FINAGLING, AND A FEW PASS-SWAPPING HIJINKS, IT ALL WORKS OUT.

THUS BEGINS THE HALL H PANEL….

***

IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW: HALL H PANELS ARE NUTS. AND THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S NOT REALLY A PANEL, BUT INSTEAD A CIRCUS. IT’S THE BIG SHOW. IT’S ALL ABOUT POMP, CIRCUMSTANCE, AND ENTERTAINMENT AT ALL COSTS. IT IS WHEN FILMMAKERS AND ACTORS BRING OUT THEIR INNER-ROCK STAR AND PARADE THE STAGE BEFORE A CROWD OF 6,000 + PEOPLE FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GETTING THEM EXCITED.

HOLLYWOOD’S ENTIRE MODERN LOVE AFFAIR WITH COMIC-CON BEGAN ON THIS STAGE. IT STARTED WITH A FIRST FORAY INTO “OBLIGING THE GEEKS” WITH X-MEN OVER A DECADE AGO. BUT REALLY IT WAS THE HALL-H PRESENTATION OF IRON MAN IN 2007 THAT CHANGED THE GAME. THE REACTION TO THE FOOTAGE WAS SO UNANIMOUSLY GREAT THAT IT GOT EVERYONE WENT OUT TALKING AND EVENTUALLY THE FILM BECAME A SURPRISE MEGA-BLOCKBUSTER. EVERYONE FORGETS THAT “SURPRISE” PART NOW THAT THE FILMS ARE CONSIDERED THE ANCHOR OF THE MARVEL EMPIRE, BUT AT THE TIME NO ONE REALLY KNEW WHO THIS “B” CHARACTER WAS ON THE POPULAR LEVEL. PLUS IT WAS STARRING A DOWN-ON-HIS-LUCK ACTOR AND BEING HELMED BY AN UNPROVEN DIRECTOR (THOUGH HULK THINKS ZATHURA IS WAY UNDERRATED). BUT THEY TURNED ALL THE HEADS WITH A RAUCOUS FOOTAGE PRESENTATION AND ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU PUT A BUNCH OF TREMENDOUSLY FUNNY PEOPLE ON THE SAME STAGE. AND SINCE THAT MOMENT WAS THE TURNING POINT IN PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS, AND THAT FILM WENT ON TO BE A HUGE SUCCESS (INNOVATION PAYS OFF), CONVENTIONAL WISDOM DICTATED THAT COMIC-CON COULD CONCEIVABLY “MAKE” A FILM.

AND SINCE THEN THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF SPECULATION ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THAT’S REALLY TRUE. SOME STUDIOS AND PRODUCTION HOUSES WORSHIP THE CON. SOME GO OBLIGINGLY, SOMEWHAT FEARFUL THAT IF THEY DON’T IT WILL SEEM LIKE THEY ARE NOT TRYING. SOME DON’T EVEN BOTHER. CHRIS NOLAN FAMOUSLY HAS NO INTEREST IN IT WHATSOEVER AND ACTUALLY THINKS THAT MUCH ACTIVE PURSUING HYPE IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE TO HIS GOALS. NO MATTER WHAT YOU BELIEVE, THE TANGIBLE RESULTS ARE PRETTY NEBULOUS AND HARD TO CALCULATE. SO HULK IS OF TWO MINDS ABOUT THE WHOLE THING. WITH A FILM THAT’S PART OF AN ESTABLISHED FRANCHISE THERE TENDS TO BE SOMETHING A LITTLE CYNICAL ABOUT THE WHOLE PROCESS. IT FEELS LIKE PROMOTION FOR PROMOTION’S SAKE. BUT WITH AN ORIGINAL FILM THAT REALLY DOES NEED TO GET OUT THERE AND TURN SOME HEADS, OR WITH A FILM THAT REALLY DOES HAVE TO COMBAT SOME NEGATIVE PUBLIC SENTIMENT, THEN IT CAN BE A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO TRY AND DO THAT. PROMOTION REALLY CAN BE A GENUINE ACTIVITY SOMETIMES.

STILL, A FILM LIKE LOOPER IS A REALLY INTERESTING CANDIDATE FOR HALL H.

FOR STARTERS, AS HULK ALLUDED TO BEFORE, IT’S THE KIND OF FILM THAT WORKS BETTER THE LESS YOU KNOW ABOUT IT. THERE’S SO MUCH JOY OF DISCOVERY IN THOSE FIRST 30 MINUTES THAT YOU DON’T REALLY WANT TO LOSE THAT. AND BEYOND THAT, THE FILM HAS A UNIQUE EXISTENCE WHERE IT REALLY HAS TO STRADDLE TWO LINES OF IDENTITY. IT’S A PROPULSIVE, SCI-FI ACTION FILM, BUT IT’S ALSO A THOUGHTFUL, CHARACTER-DRIVEN STORY THAT ISN’T AFRAID TO BRING THINGS INWARD AND SLOW THE F- DOWN WHEN NECESSARY. THE FACT THAT RIAN SUCCEEDS ON BOTH THESE FRONTS IS NO SURPRISE TO HULK, BUT THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE IN HOLLYWOOD WHO VIEW THIS TWO-PRONG DUPLICITY “HARD TO SELL.”

HULK DOESN’T GET THAT. FORGIVE HULK JUST COMING OUT AND BLATHERING HERE, BUT THE WAY YOU SELL IT IS THAT YOU SAY YOU ACTUALLY MADE A SOLID MOVIE THAT CARED ABOUT CHARACTER AND RESPECTS THE AUDIENCE. THEN YOU HOPE THE CRITICAL RESPONSE BACKS YOU UP. AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, BUT THAT WHOLE THIS IS A GREAT MOVIE THAT GOES BEYOND MERE PULPY ENTERTAINMENT WHILE STILL BEING THAT TOO IS LARGELY WHAT THE JOE AND EMILY SAY ON THE PANEL.

BETTER YET. THE PANEL GOES EXTREMELY WELL.

THE GREAT THING ABOUT LOOPER IS THAT EVEN IF YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT BACKING THOSE STATEMENTS UP, THE FOOTAGE CAN REALLY DO ALL THE TALKING. THEY CHOOSE TO SHOW SOMETHING THAT IS BASICALLY AN EXTENDED, RATHER DIFFERENT VERSION OF THE TRAILER WITH SOME OF THE MEAT FROM ONE OF JEFF DANIEL’S BIG SCENES ADDED IN. THERE’S ALSO SOME OTHER BITS BEST LEFT UN-DESCRIBED.

THE MODERATED PART OF THE PANEL IS SHORT AND SWEET, AS IS THE COMIC-CON WAY. THE MODERATOR IS RALPH GARMIN OF KROQ AND HE SEEMS TO LET EVERYONE KNOW THAT HE IS A SUPER-FAN OF BRICK AND GENUINELY THINKS RIAN IS THE BEES KNEES. HE IS RATHER STOKED FOR LOOPER. MODERATING THESE PANELS IS SURPRISINGLY DIFFICULT JOB. YOU REALLY ARE THERE TO BE A SUPPORTING FIGURE AND TO CHANNEL THE CROWD’S EXCITEMENT, BUT YOU ALSO HAVE TO BE FUNNY, YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO NAVIGATE CRAZY Q AND A’S, YOU HAVE TO HAVE A REALLY GOOD SENSE OF THE PERSON’S WORK, AND YOU CAN’T MAKE IT ALL ABOUT YOURSELF. HULK’S SEEN SOME MODERATORS DESTROY PANELS THIS WEEKEND (IN THE BAD WAY), BUT CHRIS HARDWICK WAS SUCH A PERFECT STAR MODERATOR THIS YEAR THAT BY THE END OF IT ALL HE WILL BE THE UNDISPUTED M.V.P. OF THE CON. BUT FOR THIS SPECIFIC EVENT, GARMIN HANDLES HIMSELF PRETTY WELL ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

AND THE THREE PANELISTS DO QUITE WELL FOR THEMSELVES. RIAN DOES HIS USUAL “DIFFERENT ANSWERS” THING. EMILY DOES NOT MINCE WORDS: “I feel this is the best movie I’ve ever been apart of” (AND AFTER HULK’S DISCUSSION IN POINT #11, IT’S SAFE TO SAY SHE TRULY FEELS THAT WAY). JOE ENTERED ON STAGE EARLIER TO RAUCOUS APPLAUSE AND THREW HIS HANDS INTO THE AIR, INCITING THE CROWD AND SOAKING UP THE ENERGY OF THE INTENSE CELEBRATION. HE IS PRETTY MUCH WONDERFUL FOR THE ENTIRE PANEL, SAVE FOR THIS SILLY “ONLY-ON-LIVE-STAGE” MOMENT WHERE HE INSINUATES PRETTY WOMEN AREN’T FUNNY THEN REALIZES WHAT HE’S SAYING AND BACKTRACKS ADMIRABLY, HAVING JUST MEANT TO CONVEY THAT EMILY IS VERY MUCH BOTH THOSE THINGS.

THE ACTUAL Q + A IS FAIRLY TAME BY COMIC-CON STANDARDS.

THIS ISN’T A BAD THING MIND YOU. NO ONE GOES NUTS. NO ONE BREAKS DOWN CRYING. HECK, EVERYONE CAN ACTUALLY FORM THEIR QUESTIONS IN A REASONABLE MANNER. YUP, THE LOOPER FANS SEEM TO BE A FAIRLY DIGNIFIED BUNCH. THERE’S SOME DIE HARD BRICK FANS WHO HURL COMPLIMENTS NOT QUESTIONS. THERE’S A SAD OVER-ABUNDANCES OF PEOPLE SAYING “Emily, I think you’re so beautiful! Uh, This question is for Joe…” (THUS STOKING THE CONCERNS ABOUT THE WHOLE HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS THING). ACTUALLY, A LOT OF IT IS JUST QUESTIONS FOR JOE. WHICH IS UNDERSTANDABLE HULK GUESS. HE’S ONE OF THOSE “IT” GUYS AT THE MOMENT AND ALREADY HAS A PRETTY WELL-ESTABLISHED FAN BASE. PLUS, IN A FEW WEEKS HE’S GOING TO BE IN THAT WHOLE DARK KNIGHT RISES THING WHICH PEOPLE ARE EXCITED ABOUT OR SOMETHING. THERE’S ONE QUESTIONER WHO STANDS OUT THOUGH WHEN HE MAKES HIS QUESTION INTO A LONG STRING OF HIT RECORD JOE REFERENCES. JOE IS BOTH HAPPY AND IMPRESSED.

AND LIKE THINGS THAT ARE BUILT UP TO OVER THE COURSE OF THE LONG DAY THE PANEL ENDS IN WHAT FEELS LIKE A MATTER OF SECONDS.

IT’S TIME FOR THE ELYSIUM GANG TO COME ON IN FOR THEIR ROCKSTAR SET, SO THE LOOPER GANG GETS UP TO LEAVE TO THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE AND WE MAKE OUR WAY TO MEET UP OUTSIDE… AT LEAST THAT’S WHAT HULK THOUGHT WAS HAPPENING, BUT IT WAS ONE OF THOSE COMICAL MOMENTS WHERE HULK WAS SCRIBBLING IN HULK’S NOTEBOOK AND TALKING OUT LOUD TO NO ONE, THINKING THEY WERE RIGHT BEHIND HULK/ BUT THEY HAD GONE IN SOME PHANTOM DOOR OR SOMETHING TO STAY BEHIND AND TO WATCH THE ELYSIUM FOOTAGE… THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN COOL. A FEW MINUTES LATER THEY EMERGE HAVING LOVED IT… NATURALLY.

WE ALL SORT OF POOL INTO A FEW GROUPS. EVERYONE MAKES A FEW COMMENTS ABOUT HOW THE PANEL WENT REALLY WELL AND SOON ENOUGH JOE AND EMILY MAKE THEIR IMMEDIATE GOODBYES AND HEAD OFF. IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS JOE IS GOING TO TRY AND PUT THE FINAL FINISHING TOUCHES ON HIS FIRST FEATURE DIRECTED EFFORT TITLED DON JON’S ADDICTION. HULK CAN’T BE SURE, BUT SOMEONE IMPLIES THAT EMILY IS GOING TO TAKE SOME WELL-DESERVED TIME OFF. THE SONY PEOPLE AND P.R. FOLK ARE THE NEXT TO GO AND SOON ENOUGH IT’S RIAN’S CORE GROUP STANDING THERE: KARINA, NATHAN, NOAH, AND STILL THIS WEIRD HULK GUY WHO HAS BEEN TAGGING ALONG AND WRITING DOWN EVERYTHING THAT’S HAPPENED.

HAVING MADE THESE GOODBYES, RIAN FINALLY REALIZES HIS DAY OF PRESS IS OVER.

IT’S A FUN THING TO WATCH WHEN SOMEONE REALIZES THIS. THERE IS A REASON IT’S CALLED DECOMPRESSING AS ALL THE STRAIN IN THEIR BODY SEEMS TO EVAPORATE OUTWARD INTO THE ATMOSPHERE. IT’S LIKE THEIR EYES SUDDENLY ARE ABLE FOCUS. THEY BREATH EASIER AND STARE OFF INTO SPACE. THEY EVEN SHOW A LITTLE BIT OF A DELIRIOUS SMILE IN REALIZING THEIR TIME IS FINALLY THEIR OWN AGAIN. IT’S NEAT. AND RIAN IS SUDDENLY DOING ALL THOSE THINGS, DESPITE STILL MAKING A FEW LATENT COMMENTS ABOUT THE HALL H EXPERIENCE.

RIAN: “It’s funny, you’re looking into this sea of people, but you can’t actually see them. It’s all dark. But they’re there.”

NOAH: “You make them sound like sea monsters.”

THE CONVERSATION GOES ON THIS JOKING FASHION, BUT SOON ENOUGH WE HIT THE TYPICAL “So, uh, what do you all wanna do now?” STAGE OF THE EVENING. KARINA MENTIONS THE DODGERS GAME IS ON AND SHE’S A TRUE-BLUE SUPER-FAN SO EVERYONE IS MORE THAN HAPPY TO OBLIGE AND FIND A NEARBY PLACE TO GRAB A DRINK SO THAT THEY MAY SIT IN FRONT OF A TV. THE OPTIONS BACK AT THE BAYFRONT SEEM IDEAL. THEY INVITE HULK ALONG, BUT HULK INSISTS THAT HULK HAS TAKEN UP TOO MUCH OF EVERYONE’S TIME ALREADY. THIS RATIONALE IS BASICALLY BRUSHED ASIDE AS BEING LUDICROUS, SO HULK TAGS ALONG FOR THE DRINK.

AS WE WALK BACK ACROSS THE STREET THERE’S A STREAM OF COMIC-CON GOERS. NOAH WALKS IN FRONT OF A GUY DRESSED UP AS THE GHOST BUSTERS SYMBOL. RIAN INSTANTLY REACHES FOR THE LEICA AND TAKES A CANDID HE WILL LATER CALL “The best picture I took in San Diego.”

Posted With Permission from Rian Johnson[/caption]

HULK’S SPENT AN UNGODLY AMOUNT OF WORDS TRYING TO DESCRIBE IT, BUT PERHAPS THIS PICTURE DOES IT FAR BETTER…

THIS IS COMIC-CON.

13. THAT OTHER MEDIUM

THINGS DON’T END WHEN THEY END.

HULK COULD HAVE LEFT YOU WITH THAT IMAGE AND RODE OFF INTO THE SUNSET, BUT IN A WAY THAT FEELS… WRONG. MAKING A STATEMENT OF ANY KIND IS TO PUT ONESELF OUT THERE AND HULK IS NOT CONTENT TO JUST LEAVE YOU WITH A PRETTY IMAGE THAT DOESN’T REALLY SAY ALL THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID. THE LARGER TRUTH MATTERS.

HULK UNDERSTANDS THAT THERE ARE SOME THAT BELIEVE THAT WRITING IS THE ART OF SAYING MORE WITH LESS, BUT FOR HULK SOMETIMES IT’S ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE. THERE’S SO MUCH MORE TO LIFE THAN THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN. AND SO IN THE WEEKS AFTER COMIC-CON HULK SPENDS AN INORDINATE AMOUNT OF TIME GOING THROUGH THE PILES OF NOTEBOOKS AND RECORDINGS, FOLLOWING UP WITH ANNOYING QUESTIONS, AND STARTS SHAPING SOME SORT OF VAGUE ANTI-NARRATIVE APPROACH TO THESE TWO DAYS IN SAN DIEGO. BUT THERE’S STILL A FEW PIECES OF THE PUZZLE TO PUT TOGETHER IN ORDER TO HAVE THIS ALL MAKE SOME KIND OF SENSE.

LIKE THE THING ABOUT BEING A DIRECTOR IS THAT IF YOU ARE REALLY INTERESTED IN MAKING YOUR OWN FILMS AND NOT JUMPING FULL-TILT INTO THE STUDIO SYSTEM, THEN YOU FACE THE INEVITABILITY IS YOU’RE GOING TO BE DOING OTHER THINGS TO SUPPLEMENT YOUR INCOME. HULK DOESN’T MEANT TO MAKE THAT SOUND SO RUDIMENTARY AND UGLY. OFTEN, IT’S ABOUT THE CHANCE TO SIMPLY WORK ON SOMETHING COOL, OR EXERCISE THOSE PARTS OF YOUR BRAIN AT ALL. THE POINT IS THAT ALL DIRECTORS CHOOSE TO DO SOMETHING ELSE WITH THEIR CAREERS BESIDES MAKE MOVIES (UNLESS YOU’RE MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM OR TAKASHI MIIKE). AND SOMETIMES YOU CHOOSE THAT SOMETHING ELSE VERY WELL. LIKE THAT OTHER MEDIUM THAT’S POPULAR NOW.

WE CALL IT TELEVISION.

THE LAST DECADE HAS SEEN THE EMERGENCE OF SOME OF THE FINEST QUALITY PROGRAMMING THAT HAS EVER BEEN OFFERED: THE SOPRANOS. THE SHIELD. SIX FEET UNDER. THE WIRE. MAD MEN. THESE SHOWS REPRESENTS THE HEIGHT OF ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT, THE DEPTH OF NOVELIZATION, AND REPRESENT A GOLDEN ERA FOR THE MEDIUM. SO WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT , BUT KEEPING RIAN BUSY BETWEEN GIGS HAS BEEN SOME DALLIANCE IN TELEVISION. HULK USES THE WORD DALLIANCE LIGHTLY BECAUSE HIS TWO FORAYS WERE AN EPISODE FOR THE SHORT-LIVED, BUT UTTERLY-PERFECT FX SHOW TERRIERS AND THEN MADE HIS MARK WITH AN EPISODE ENTITLED “FLY” FOR AMC’S BREAKING BAD.

MADE HIS MARK?

WELL, THAT’S BECAUSE MANY REGARD IT AS THE BEST EPISODE IN THE SERIES’ ALREADY-STUNNING RUN.

WHAT IS PARTICULARLY DELIGHTFUL ABOUT THIS SENTIMENT IS THAT “FLY” IS ACTUALLY PART OF A TRADITIONAL TV FIXTURE KNOWN AS A BOTTLE EPISODE. THIS TERM REFERS TO WHEN THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE ACTION OF A GIVEN EPISODE TAKES PLACE IN ONE LOCATION. ADMITTEDLY, THE REASON FOR THIS IS TO OFTEN SAVE ON EITHER BUDGET OR THE DIFFICULTIES OF MOVING PRODUCTION, BUT OFTEN THESE LIMITATIONS OF CONCEIT ARE RIFE WITH OPPORTUNITY. ONE CAN SUDDENLY GET EVERYONE EFFECTIVELY “TRAPPED” IN A BIG GROUP AND EXPLORE ALL THE CHARACTER RELATIONSHIPS AND UNDERCURRENTS. IT ALSO MEANS WHIRLWIND DIALOGUE WITHIN GROUP DYNAMIC CAN COME TO THE FOREFRONT. AND SOMETIMES THE VERY BEST BOTTLE EPISODES USE THEIR SINGLE LOCATION AS A VEHICLE FOR TENSION.

AND BOY DOES “FLY” GO THE TENSION ROUTE.

HERE IS THE NON-SPOILER SUMMARY: THE EPISODE COMES AT A POINT WHERE THE ENTIRE SEASON IS BUILDING TO A CLIMAX. THE TWO MAIN CHARACTERS ARE EFFECTIVELY HOLED UP IN THE LAB DOING WORK AND EACH IS HIDING INFORMATION AND YET COMPLETELY SUSPICIOUS OF THE OTHER. AND THROUGH THE WONDROUS ART OF DISPLACEMENT, THEY BOTH END UP TAKING ON AN OBSESSION WITH A FLY THAT IS BUZZING AROUND THE LAB. ONE CHARACTER IS CITING “CONTAMINATION” AS THE MAIN CONCERN AND BEGINS TO IMPLORE MORE AND MORE CHAOTIC METHODS OF TRACKING THE FLY DOWN TO KILL IT. MAKING THINGS MORE DIFFICULT IS THAT ONE OF CHARACTER’ INSOMNIA STARTS GIVING WAY TO PARANOIA. EVERY STEP FORWARD RATCHETS UP THE TENSION TO IMPOSSIBLE LEVELS. BUT WHAT MAKES THE EPISODE SO DAMN AFFECTING IS NOT THE WAY THINGS COME TO A HEAD, BUT THE WAY THESE TENSIONS GIVE WAY TO SOME OF THE MOST RESONANT BITS OF CHARACTER REFLECTION THE SHOW HAS EVER OFFERED. HONESTLY, HULK COULD WRITE A WHOLE ESSAY ABOUT THE EPISODE ON IT’S OWN BUT IT IS QUITE SIMPLY, PERFECT STORYTELLING.

AND SO SUCCESSFUL WAS THIS JUNCTURE, THAT HULK FOUND OUT THAT RIAN HAD ACTUALLY DIRECTED ANOTHER EPISODE PRIOR TO COMING COMIC-CON. THE EPISODE, ENTITLED “FIFTY ONE” AIRED RECENTLY AS PART OF THE FIFTH SEASON. WHILE IT DIDN’T HAVE THE THE “ON THE SLEEVE” QUALITIES THAT MAKES “FLY”‘S GREATNESS SO READILY APPARENT, IT FEATURED SUCH AN ADEPT UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHARACTERS, FEATURED A NUMBER OF GREAT MOMENTS, AND PROVIDED SOME HAUNTING, DEFINING ADMISSIONS.

RIAN SORT OF SHRUGS IT ALL OFF SAYING HE’S LUCKY JUST TO BE A PART OF IT. BUT DIRECTING IN TELEVISION IS LARGELY ABOUT BEING THE RIGHT FIT. YOU WANT YOUR PROCLIVITIES AND SENSIBILITY TO WORK WITHIN THE CONFINES OF THE SHOW. YOU DON’T WANT TO HELP SHAPE THE SHOW’S VOICE, YOU WANT TO BE THE SHOW’S VOICE. AND HULK THINKS THAT IT IS BEYOND TELLING THAT RIAN FITS IN SEAMLESSLY AS PART OF ONE OF THE MOST HYPER-KINETIC-YET-HYPER-INTELLIGENT SHOWS ON THE PLANET. WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE STYLIZATION OF THE SHOW: WITH THE VISTAS, THE HARD CUTS, THE HARD ANGLES, THE CINEMATIC AMPLIFICATION, BUT ALL WHOLLY GROUNDED IN CHARACTER THEN… YEAH… IT SUDDENLY IT ALL MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. WHAT MAKES BREAKING BAD GREAT IS THE SAME THING THAT MAKES RIAN’S WORK GREAT.

AND THERE REALLY ISN’T A HIGHER COMPLIMENT… FOR EITHER OF THEM.

14. SYNCING SOUND

IT FEELS FITTING THAT AS THESE THOUGHTS WIND DOWN WE RETURN TO THE COUSINS JOHNSON.

AS OF THE TIME WE LAST SPOKE, NATHAN JOHNSON IS CURRENTLY PUTTING THE FINISHING TOUCHES ON THE LOOPER ALBUM. HULK IS EXCITED BY THIS. IT HASN’T BEEN DISCUSSED TOO MUCH SO FAR, BUT THE FILM’S SCORE IS TRULY REMARKABLE. PEOPLE LIKE TO THROW OUT THE WORDS “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard!” AND USUALLY ANYONE COULD NAME 20 THINGS IT SOUNDS LIKE OFF THE TOP OF THEIR HEAD. BUT HULK MEANS IT WHEN IT COMES TO THIS SCORE. IT’S FRENETIC. IT’S AT ONCE MECHANICAL AND ORGANIC. AMBIENT YET TACTILE. THE PACE MOVES AND ELONGATES WITH ASSURED-NESS. AT TIMES IT FEELS LIKE THERE’S MELODY, BUT THERE’S NO WAY HULK ACTUALLY COULD TELL YOU THE NOTES.

BECAUSE NATHAN STARTS WORKING SO EARLY WITH RIAN IN THE PROCESS THEY ARE AT A DISTINCT ADVANTAGE COMPARED TO SO MANY OTHER COMPOSERS. USUALLY IT’S ONE OF THE LAST THINGS THAT GOES DOWN IN THE COMPLETION OF A MOVIE, SO A COMPOSER WILL GET THE FILM SHOVED IN FRONT OF THEM AND THEY’LL JUST HAVE TO DO THEIR THING TO TRY AND MAKE IT ALL WORK. THE RESULTS VARY. WE CAN PROBABLY ALL NAME OUR FAVORITE SCORES WHICH FEATURE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SOUNDS WE WILL TREASURE FOREVER. BUT THERE ARE ALSO A LITANY OF SCORES THAT DON’T EXACTLY REACH THOSE HEIGHTS. HULK DOES NOT MEAN TO MAKE THAT SOUND BELITTLING IN THE SLIGHTEST. CHANCES ARE IF AN EMOTIONAL MOMENT WORKED IN A FILM THEN THE SCORE ABSOLUTELY DID ITS JOB. IT’S CALLED “INVISIBLE” SCORING AND IT’S A TIME-HONORED ART. SOME EVEN ARGUE THAT IF YOU ARE REACTING TO THE MUSIC ALONE THEN THE SCORE IS ABSOLUTELY GETTING IN THE FILM’S WAY. LIKE MOST THINGS THE REAL ANSWER LIES AN STASIS BETWEEN THE TWO. THE SCORES THAT USUALLY STICK WITH US FOREVER ARE THE ONES WHERE THE MOMENT AND MUSIC COMBINE INTO PERFECT HYBRIDIZATION.

THE TERM HYBRIDIZATION MEANS EVERYTHING. SINCE NATHAN WAS ABLE TO START WITH THE CORE OF THE IDEA AND HAD A FULL SENSE OF WHAT THE MOVIE WAS, HE WAS ABLE GO DOWN EARLY TO NEW ORLEANS AND “SOUND SHOP” AS IT WERE. HE RECORDED EVERY INTERESTING SOUND AND REVERBERATION HE COULD FIND. GIANT COOLERS. BELTS. MACHINERY. HOT AIR. METALLIC TEXTURE. HE PLAYED WITH THEM HE FIDDLED WITH THEM UNTIL HE COULD SHAPE THEM INTO ALTERNATIONS OF AMBIANCE AND PERCUSSIVE QUALITIES. IT’S SO FITTING BECAUSE LOOPER IS A WORLD WHERE EVERYTHING FEELS COBBLED TOGETHER FROM DETERIORATION AND THUS HE CRAFTED A SOUND-SCAPE THAT FEELS THE SAME WAY AS THE FILM ITSELF. HOMEMADE PERCUSSION FROM FOUND OBJECTS? IT’S ALL RIGHT THERE. AND IT’S NOT JUST AN ABSTRACT CONCEPT… YOU CAN FEEL IT.

AND THEN IT HYBRIDIZES RIGHT THERE ON SCREEN.

NEED PROOF? PLEASE CHECK OUT THIS AMAZING VIDEO EXPLAINING HOW NATHAN BROUGHT THE SCORE TO LIFE. THAT VIDEO GOT HULK MORE EXCITED THAN THE MAJORITY OF TRAILERS RELEASED THIS YEAR.

BUT BEYOND MERE TECHNICALITIES, HOW DOES A COLLABORATION LIKE THIS REALLY COME TOGETHER?

***

RIAN: “We built a family over the course of three movies… And the think about family is that you can actually push risks. You’re not afraid to be brutal with each other.”

HULK NEVER GETS THE SENSE THAT RIAN AND NATHAN ARE ACTUALLY BRUTAL WITH EACH OTHER, BUT HULK THINKS THEY ARE ELUDING TO THE FACT THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE TO DEAL AS MUCH WITH THE DELICACY OF CREATIVE IDEAS. HULK ONCE HEARD A NEAT METAPHOR THAT WHEN IT COMES TO CREATIVELY DEALING WITH PEOPLE THAT YOU DON’T KNOW WELL, “IDEAS ARE BABIES.” AND THUS TO REJECT SOMEONE’S CREATIVE IDEA IS AKIN TO TAKING THAT BABY AND SMASHING IT OVER A RADIATOR. SO THE KIND OF BRUTALITY WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE IS THE INABILITY TO BE MARKED BY THAT KIND OF DELICATE, FEARFUL THINKING. AND THUS THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO PUSH EACH OTHER AND IN TURN PUSH FORWARD IN THE CRAFTING OF THE VIVID SOUND-SCAPE OF THEIR FILMS.

IT IS ABSOLUTELY NO ACCIDENT THAT MOST OF HULK’S FAVORITE FILMMAKERS TEND TO FEATURE AN INVENTIVE USE OF SOUND. LYNCH MOST OBVIOUSLY COMES TO MIND WITH HIS PENCHANT FROM DRONES AND WHINES AND EVERY EERIE WAY HE CAN GET UNDER YOUR SKIN. KUBRICK WAS A MASTER OF SPARSE SINGULARITY, AND IT TIMES FELT LIKE THE CHOPIN OF CINEMATIC SOUND-SCAPE. AND LEONE PARTNERED WITH MORRICONE TO CREATE SOME OF THE MOST VIVID SOUNDING FILMS WE’VE EVER HEARD. AND HULK HAS TO INSIST THAT THE COUSINS JOHNSON HAVE THEIR CONTRIBUTION TOO (THESE ARE WORLDS OF CINEMATIC AMPLIFICATION AFTER ALL). THE MIND IMMEDIATELY DRIFTS BACK TO THE INCREDIBLE FOOTSTEPS SEQUENCE IN BRICK, THE DRIFTING, DREAM-LIKE FELLINI QUALITIES OF BROTHERS BLOOM, AND NOW THE CRACKING, HAIR-SPLITTING AFFECTATION OF THE SCORE AND IN-SOURCED GUNSHOTS OF LOOPER, WHICH COMBINE TO CRAFT A FILM FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS.

IT’S ALMOST AS IF PEOPLE FORGET THAT SOUND IS HALF THE DAMN MOVIE.

YOU CAN ALWAYS TELL A REAL AMATEUR PIECE OF FILM WORK BECAUSE OF SOUND QUALITY. DOESN’T MATTER WHAT THEY SHOT IT ON, 35MM? ALEXA? RED? IF IT SOUNDS LIKE CRAP IT’S GOING TO REGISTER AS CRAP. THERE ARE SUCH STUNNING BASICS THAT GET LOST IN INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING. LIKE THE FACT THAT SILENCE IS NOT ACTUALLY SILENCE. THERE ARE AN INFINITE OF DIFFERENT KINDS OF SILENCE. AND EACH ONE HAS A DIFFERENT AFFECTATION. THAT SOUND NEEDS TO FLOW FAR MORE THAN PICTURES. THAT YOU ARE ESSENTIALLY CREATING THE FEELING OF THE FILM. WE CAN COGNITIVELY DEVELOP ANY MEANING FROM THE IMAGES YOU SEE, MEANING THE PICTURE ITSELF CAN LIE. BUT SOUND ISN’T A CEREBRAL EXPERIENCE, IT’S A VISCERAL EXPERIENCE. YOU CAN SEE A BRIGHTLY LIT SUNNY DAY, BUT IF THE SOUND IS TELLING YOU THAT DANGER IS NEAR IT WILL REGISTER EMOTIONALLY BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE DOES. SOUND TELLS US WHAT TO REALLY THINK OF THE PICTURE ON SCREEN. SO ACHIEVING GOOD SOUND GOES SO FAR BEYOND THE REALM OF MERE UNDERSTANDING AND INTO THE REALM OF APPLICATION. IT TAKES DOWNRIGHT PROFESSIONALISM.

***

A SCREENWRITING PROFESSOR ONCE TOLD HULK LONG AGO THAT HAVING AN EAR FOR DIALOGUE IS SOMETHING THAT CAN’T BE LEARNED.

HULK THINKS THAT PROFESSOR WAS DEAD WRONG.

WHAT HE PERHAPS MEANT TO GET AT IS THE IDEA THAT HAVING AN EAR FOR DIALOGUE IS SOMETHING THAT CAN’T WHOLLY BE TAUGHT OR EXPLAINED IN AN OUTRIGHT TANGIBLE SENSE. THERE IS NO DIAGRAM FOR CONSTRUCTION. INSTEAD, THE RHYTHMS AND INSIGHT IS BEST LEARNED THROUGH YEARS OF OSMOSIS. AND EVEN THEN IT TAKES A THE ABILITY TO EVENTUALLY SUBVERT YOUR OWN INCORRECT SENSE OF HOW “REAL LIFE” SOUNDS TO TRANSFER IT INTO A WAY THAT MAKES SENSE ON SCREEN. IN THAT SENSE IT IS LEARNED LIKE ANY DISCIPLINE: PRACTICE AND EXPOSURE. AND THE TRUTH IS THAT HULK THINKS THIS EXPLANATION GOES FAR BEYOND THE MERE ARENA OF DIALOGUE AND TAKES THE SAME KIND OF OSMOTIC EXPERIENCE TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD OF CINEMATIC SOUND AT LARGE.

IN THE NOW-FAMILIAR STORY ABOUT HOW THE COUSINS JOHNSON SPENT THEIR SUMMER HOLIDAYS, THEY DISCUSSED THE INFLUENCE OF NOT JUST MAKING MOVIES AS KIDS, BUT MUSIC TOO. AND THAT’S GREAT BECAUSE THEY’VE GROWN INTO ACTUAL MUSICIANS. NATHAN PLAYS GUITAR, BUT HAS BE STRONG ENOUGH TO AT TIMES COMPOSE WITH EVERY RANDOMLY CONSTRUCTED INSTRUMENT IMAGINABLE: “I sort of approach the others from a writer’s perspective. I’ll write on a variety of instruments and then bring in people to actually play them MUCH better than I can.” AND RIAN IS PRIMARILY KNOWN FOR PLAYING THE BANJO. IT’S NOT LIKE THIS IS SOME SECRET INFORMATION HULK IS DISPERSING HERE, BUT WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT IS THE FACT THAT THE BOND OF BOTH LISTENING TO AND CREATING MUSIC IS SO DAMN STRONG FOR ALL THE REASONS HULK STATED EARLIER. WHERE FILM COLLABORATION IS ABOUT TRUST IN A SINGULAR VISION, COLLABORATIVE MUSIC IS ABOUT THE VISCERAL EXPERIENCE. IT’S ABOUT HEARING A RHYTHM AND BEING IN SYNC. IT’S ABOUT THE EMOTION. IT’S ABOUT HAVING THESE INSTINCTUAL VIBES THAT CAN SOMETIMES GO FAR BEYOND THE LOGICAL PLANE. WHEN YOU SEE A GROUP ON STAGE THAT’S BEEN TOURING TOGETHER FOR TEN YEARS THERE’S A WAY THEY SEEM TO HAVE THIS REMARKABLE E.S.P. SO ONE HAS TO REMEMBER THAT THE COUSINS JOHNSON HAVE BEEN MAKING MUSIC TOGETHER THEIR WHOLE LIVES AND HULK ARGUES THAT IT VERY MUCH SHOWS UP IN THEIR WORK. BETTER YET, HULK FEELS THAT THIS MUSICIANSHIP INFORMS A GREATER INEFFABLE SOMETHING THAT GIVES THEM A VOICE. WHY?

WELL, IT IS WELL-KNOWN THAT FILMMAKING ISN’T REALLY ABOUT FILMMAKING.

IT’S ABOUT LIFE. IT’S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS. IT’S ABOUT SOCIETIES, AFFAIRS, EMOTIONS, NOBLE OCCUPATIONS, CATHARSIS, AND EVEN THE FATE OF THE WORLD. WE TELL STORIES ABOUT THESE THINGS BECAUSE IT’S THE WAY WE CRAFT AN UNDERSTANDING ABOUT LIFE. IT’S THE WAY WE PASS ON KNOWLEDGE AND HEAL THE SCARS OF THE MIND. IT’S THE WAY WE CONFRONT DEATH AND GIVE OUR KIDS HOPE. AND AS STORYTELLERS WE DON’T JUST NEED EXPERIENCES TO DRAW ON, BUT WE NEED TO HAVE A WAY OF UNDERSTANDING AND COMMUNICATING IN THAT WORLD. SO BEYOND FAMILY AND FRIENDSHIPS, NATHAN EXPLORES THOSE WORLDS IN COUNTLESS ART PROJECTS AND OTHER MUSIC OUTLETS. HE’S THE FOUNDER OF THE THE CINEMATIC UNDERGROUND AND HULK MENTIONED HIS CREATION OF FAUX FIX EARLIER. BUT IT EVEN GOES BEYOND THAT. WHILE HULK AND NATHAN BOTH ARE HUGE FANS OF THE COMPOSER CLIFF MARTINEZ, ONE OF HULK’S FAVORITE CONVERSATIONS OF THE WHOLE CON WAS WHEN HULK AND NATHAN TALKED OF OUR MUTUAL PASSION FOR COOKING. LIFE IS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN JUST FILM. KUBRICK WAS FAMOUSLY INTERESTED IN ENGINEERING. POLANSKI RACED CARS. ANGELINA JOLIE APPARENTLY COLLECTS DAGGERS(?). AND EVEN THOUGH TARANTINO IS CHARGED WITH JUST MAKING MOVIES ABOUT MOVIES (AS THEY ARE HIS MAIN HOBBY) HE IS ALSO A RABID DEVOURER OF RECORDS AND A POP-CULTURE HISTORIAN. AND IT ABSOLUTELY SHOWS IN HIS WORK. AND GIVEN THE WAY THAT LIFE SEEPS INTO OUR WORK, THERE’S JUST A WAY THAT MUSIC AND SOUND COMES ALIVE IN RIAN’S FILMS THAT HULK THINKS SPEAKS TO ALL THIS. WATCH THE OPENING OF BROTHERS BLOOM AND TELL HULK ANY DIFFERENT.

FILM IS JUST THE WINDOW. IT IS MUSIC WHERE THE TRUE SOUL OF THEIR FILMS ACTUALLY LIES.

AND SO IT MAKES UTTER SENSE THAT IT COMES FROM THE BOTH OF THEM.

15. CLOSING THE LOOP

ULTIMATELY LOOPER IS A MOVIE ABOUT THE POWER OF CYCLES AND THE NATURE OF CHOICE.

IT MAKES SENSE. A LOOP IS MOST OBVIOUSLY CYCLE, OUROBOROTICAL IN NATURE. RAVAGING. GIVING. ENDLESS. HULK’S BEEN THINKING ABOUT CYCLES A LOT LATELY. ELECTIONS. ARGUMENTS. INVERTED THINKING VS. OUTWARD EMPATHY. THEY’VE ALL ON THE BRAIN IN THESE TRYING TIMES. BUT GOING THOUGH THIS ENTIRE COMIC-CON EXPERIENCE, HULK HAS BEEN THINKING A GREAT DEAL ABOUT OUR OWN SPECIFIC PRESS AND INDUSTRY CYCLES. WHAT WE’RE REALLY TALKING ABOUT IS THE JOURNALISTIC INTENTION. THE WAY THE PRESS COVERS MOVIE. MOVIE COMES OUT. PEOPLE MOVE ON. GET EXCITED FOR SOMETHING ELSE. SOMETIMES THE MOVIE LIVES ON. MORE OFTEN THE MOVIE IS RAVAGED BY THE NEGLIGENCE OF TIME. YOU CONTINUE THINKING ABOUT THAT CYCLE LONG ENOUGH AND THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS SPENT ON BOTH SIDES AND IT’S HARD NOT TO GET A LITTLE BIT CYNICAL ABOUT THE WHOLE LANDSCAPE.

SO HULK THINKS THERE HAS TO BE A REASON FOR ALL THIS.

THERE HAS TO BE A REASON TO WRITE 27,000 WORDS ABOUT TWO DAYS IN JULY, A MOVIE COMING OUT A FEW DAYS FROM NOW, AND THE PEOPLE WHO MADE IT. THERE HAS TO BE A REASON BEYOND HULK JUST DOING A JOB, A “RISKY” STUDIO MOVIE GETTING IT’S EXPOSURE, AND FULFILLING A CYCLE THAT JUST GOES ON AND ON. THERE HAS TO BE A REASON THIS ISN’T JUST A ONE PAGE, 800 WORD PIECE WITH CASUAL OBSERVATIONS. THERE HAS TO BE A REASON WHY THE WORK OF RIAN JOHNSON MATTERS.

ON THE MOST BASIC LOGICAL LEVEL, HULK WOULD THAT REASON BECOMES OBVIOUS ONCE YOU SEE THE FILM. IT IS GENUINELY GREAT. BETTER YET, IT IS THE KIND OF GREAT THAT TRANSCENDS IT’S TRAPPINGS TO BECOME SOMETHING SO MUCH MORE RESONANT THAN A CLEVER CONCEIT. IT DOES ALL THAT “WHY WE MAKE ART” STUFF IN THE FIRST PLACE.

BUT TO EXPLAIN ALL THAT WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT THE MOVIE ITSELF… WELL… HULK JUST HAD TO TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT HAS TO DO WITH MOVIES: CINEMATIC AMPLIFICATION, BUDGET FIXTURES, PRESS POLITICS, THE STATE OF HOLLYWOOD ACTRESSES, FAMILIAL BONDS, AND STANDING BY YOUR FRIENDS. IN DOING SO, HULK PROBABLY BROKE HALF A DOZEN RULES OF “GOOD JOURNALISM” AS THE AUTHOR IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BRING YOU BEHIND THE CONCEPTUAL PROCESS TO SUCH A DEGREE, BUT HULK THOUGHT HULK’S JOB WAS TO SUPPLY CONTEXT. AND SOMETIMES THE CONTEXT IS GIANT. SOMETIMES THE CONTEXT NEEDS TO ENCAPSULATE A WHOLE INDUSTRY. SOMETIMES THE CONTEXT IS ENCAPSULATED IN THE SMALLEST DETAIL. AND SOMETIMES THE CONTEXT IS ENCAPSULATED BY THE WHOLENESS OF THE HUMAN HEART, BIG ENOUGH TO FILL THE SKY.

THE MOST CYNICAL AMONG US ARE PROBABLY SICK OF ALL THIS LAUDING AND FLOWERY TALK, WHICH MEANS THAT HULK SIMPLY HAS TO ADDRESS ALL THOSE LINGERING QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVING REGARDING HULK’S GUSHING FEELINGS ABOUT ALL THIS. IT MIGHT HAVE TO DO WITH THE PUBLIC’S CONCERN ABOUT THE ONGOING RELATIONSHIP OF ENTERTAINMENT FIGURES AND THE JOURNALISTS WHO COVER THEM. SOME INSIST THIS WOULD BE NATURALLY CORRUPTING NO MATTER WHAT. ALSO WE SOMETIMES WE HAVE A BAD HABIT OF EQUATING “PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISM” WITH THE IMPLIED NOTION OF FINDING FAULT AT ALL COST. SIMPLY PUT: A REACTIONARY MIND WOULD LOOK AT ALL THIS AND FROWN.

… BUT EVEN IF HULK IS NOT A JOURNALIST, THIS ISN’T HULK’S FIRST HOLLYWOOD RODEO. THERE IS NO MORE STAR-FILTERED GLASSES. HULK COULD HAVE BEEN RANDOMLY ASSIGNED TO ANY OTHER GROUPING OR MOVIE AT COMIC-CON AND IF IT WAS TRUE, HULK WOULD HAVE GONE INTO DETAIL ALL ABOUT HOW SO AND SO WAS A POOP-FACE. WHICH JUST REVEALS A MORE OBVIOUS TRUTH THAT JOURNALISM IS IMPLICITLY BASED IN HONESTY. AND AS LONG AS IT IS SUPPORTED, EARNEST, AND ARTICULATED, THEN THERE IS NO WAY IN WHICH IT IS NOT COMPLETELY HONEST OF HULK TO SAY THAT IN DELVING INTO RIAN HIMSELF, RIAN’S WORK, AND THE PEOPLE IN RIAN’S LIFE, HULK ONLY SEEMED TO FIND A GENEROUS HELPING OF BOTH INTELLIGENCE AND JOY.

IT IS NOT SIMPLY THE HIGH OF COMIC-CON, BUT IT IS THE KIND OF JOY THAT CAN ONLY BE FOUND WITH A LIFETIME OF EFFORT. BECAUSE THE THING FEW PEOPLE UNDERSTAND IS THAT MOVIES LIKE LOOPER AREN’T MADE IN 6 MONTHS, OR EVEN A YEAR. IT TAKES LIFETIMES. PLURAL. BECAUSE FILMMAKING ISN’T JUST ABOUT THAT ONE PERSON WITH THE VISION IN THEIR HEAD, IT’S ABOUT IS A COLLECTION OF ENTIRE LIVES AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO COME TOGETHER AND BUILD THAT VISION INTO A SINGULARITY. AND THAT TAKES A LOT. IT TAKES ABJECT FAILURE AND THE GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT. IT TAKES GIVING A CHANCE TO SOME KID ACTOR LOOKING TO GROW UP. IT TAKES WRITING A ROLE FOR AN ACTRESS THAT IS UNLIKE ANYTHING OUT THERE. IT TAKES A STUDIO’S TRUSTING YOU WITHOUT A FUNNY BUDGET NUMBER. IT TAKES SUMMERS WITH YOUR COUSIN WHERE YOU MAKE MOVIES AND MUSIC AND THEN NEVER STOP.

AND THEN, IF YOU’RE LUCKY, YOU CAN BE A PART OF THE HISTORY OF CINEMA. IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS, LOOPER SHOWED AT THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FEST AND AUSTIN’S FANTASTIC FEST. SOON IT WILL ENTER THAT NEXT STAGE OF RELEASE. IN A FEW YEARS WE’LL HAVE A BETTER IDEA OF WHAT THE FILM “IS,” BUT FOR THIS SINGULAR MOMENT, IT SHINES AS A PROMISE.

AND SO DEAR READER, WHO HAS GRACEFULLY SLOGGED THROUGH 27,000 WORDS OF SOME HULK TALKING IN FUNNY CAPS, THE REASON THAT HULK DID ALL OF THIS AND SPENT MONTHS WRITING IT IS BECAUSE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS EXPERIENCE WITH RIAN JOHNSON AND THE RELEASE OF LOOPER IS SOMETHING THAT MAKES HULK MORE EXCITED ABOUT THE STATE OF CINEMA ON THE WHOLE.

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING A FILM CAN DO.

AND WE OFTEN FORGET THAT THERE IS SOMETIMES A GOOD REASON TO SAY A KIND WORD ABOUT PEOPLE BEYOND THE MERE SUBJECT OF IMPORT. WHETHER IT BE AN UNASSUMING MAN. HIS COLLABORATIVE COUSIN. THE KID FROM 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN. A HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS. A SOMETHING CALLED A KID BLUE. AFTER TWO DAYS AND A COLLECTION OF LIFETIMES WITH RIAN JOHNSON AND THE LOOPER GANG, THIS BLATANTLY OBVIOUS AND ALL-TOO HUMAN REASON TO SAY A KIND WORD BECAME TOTALLY CLEAR:

SOME PEOPLE ARE WORTH IT.

<3 HULK

FOLLOW @FILMCRITHULK

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