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The Revenge of the Nerds: How the 80’s movie foretold the rise of Geek Culture

The Revenge of the Nerds: How the 80’s movie foretold the rise of Geek Culture (photo)

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“Revenge of the Nerds,” that significant 80s cultural artifact, was a genuinely prophetic film. At the time of its release in 1984 it was morning in America and a muscular foreign policy against the then-Soviet Union nudged popular culture to valorize brawn and social ease and raw good looks. Introspection and lusting in one’s heart was of the previous, melancholy Carter years. In “Revenge of the Nerds,” a lovable gallery of geeks challenged the primacy of the cool crowd to the rousing anthem “We are the Champions.”

Fast forward. Raw good looks and brawn, of course, will never go out of fashion entirely. There will always be sports stars; there will always be financiers; there will always be Vogue magazine and fashion week. But there is also now an information economy — one of the few remaining sectors of our economy still flourishing — and a new-found respect for people like Steve Jobs, who made it cool to be creative, and Bill Gates, who makes it cool to save the world. Even our President, a self-avowed Trekkie, has made it cool to be perpetually wonkish. And former band nerd and President Bill Clinton channels his inner Superman daily in dealing with global inequalities.

But it is Hollywood that is the ultimate proving ground for cool – on a global level. It is why even a global star like Jackie Chan wants to make it here. Hollywood’s A-List – the Depps, the Jolies, the Berrys – epitomize what it is that we all want to emulate. Hollywood exudes cool. Nowadays that cool, incredibly, seeks the approval of the geeks.

Look at who is Hollywood Royalty now. Steven Spielberg: geek; James Cameron: geek; JK Rowling: geek; Oprah Winfrey: geek; Anne Sweeney: geek. Further, the great myth-makers – George Lucas and Peter Jackson and John Lassetter – are so utterly geek that they are as interested in the technical side of film-making as they are in the storytelling.

Comic-Con’s triumph, perhaps more than any other single event, signals the rise of the nerds. Niche programming is the hallmark of this fragmented digital age, and geeks are a highly educated and valuable demographic. It not so long ago that at some imaginary Comic-Con like event geek icon William Shatner, in his infamous SNL parody, asked the citric question: “Have you ever kissed a girl?” Such a question, while perfect for 1986, would never be asked now because the lords of Hollywood are too busy trying to win the approval of those “avids” – the film-goers formerly known as nerds.

Chris Nolan, perhaps the most famous nerd made good, rescued the Batman franchise. Nolan made Batman cool and borderline psychotic again. Perhaps it takes an avid – an intensely interested fan – to understand the psychology of an obsessive personality like that of the Bruce Wayne/Batman character. George Clooney and Val Kilmer (both consummate Hollywood player Joel Schumacher’s choices), two of the most handsome men of the age, had run the damn thing into the ground. They made Batman look too freshly-fucked. It was the case of too much Bruce Wayne – the lie — and not enough Dark Knight.

Joel Schumacher’s solution was to focus more on the movie-star looks of the leads, sacrificing story for one-liners and tongue-in-cheek quips. It was like Schumacher thought of Batman through the outmoded lens of the swashbuckling swordsman of Hollywood yesteryear and not through the gritty prism of Frank Miller. I’m fairly sure neither Kilmer nor Clooney ever read a Detective comic previous to making the film, just as much as I’m fairly sure that Chris Nolan did. Thus the broody Christian Bale, another avid formerly known as a nerd, was the inspired choice to carry the franchise forward.

Comic book movies are Hollywood tent poles because they perfectly combine action and story. Their heroes fight against the odds and they are more at home when they are saving the world than in everyday social situations. Nerds, of course, have always known this. The Sam Raimi’s of the world were always wondering whether or not Mary Jane and Peter Parker would ever get together, whether Spider-man would ever balance the lives of both the spider and the man. And now they have the power to make it so.

Are you through being cool? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

Bane and Batman revealed on new “The Dark Knight Rises” magazine covers

Bane and Batman revealed on new “The Dark Knight Rises” magazine covers (photo)

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Empire magazine has had a long-standing relationship with Christopher Nolan’s Batman film series. Back in 2007 when fans were still convinced that Heath Ledger could never do a better job than Jack Nicholson portraying the Joker, it was Empire that revealed the first image of him in costume with the tagline, “He is coming…” And while the unveiling process might not be as dramatic the second time around, Empire now has two of the first promotional shots from “The Dark Knight’s” upcoming sequel, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

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The first image of Tom Hardy as Bane was revealed four months ago through a “The Dark Knight Rises” viral website, but the January cover of Empire offers the first straight-on shot of the new Batman villain in all his terrifying glory. People who thought Hannibal Lecter was scary with his face mask better do their best to not catch an eyeful of Bane.

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The other Empire cover features the now-familiar shot of Christian Bale as Batman. This time around, however, he’s holding what’s either a terrifying new gun or a really glorified flashlight. Batman is sure to have plenty of new gadgets in “The Dark Knight Rises,” but this is the only one teased on the cover of this issue.

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Superhero Hype apparently got their hands on the issue early and uploaded a bunch of scans of the images included in the article for us fans to feast our eyes on. Definitely the coolest one in the bunch is the shot of Bane holding up an image of the late Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent in a threatening manner. The new photos only showcase Batman and Bane in action, but they’re some of the first official stills to be released in a production overrun with fan set photos.

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The magazine hits stores on Thursday (happy Thanksgiving from our favorite movie-loving Brits, I guess), and Empire promises plenty of new details from the production in the meantime. “The Dark Knight” is scheduled to hit theaters on July 20, and also stars Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Juno Temple and Morgan Freeman.

What do you think of these two new covers? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Watch “Raiding the Lost Ark,” the first 17 minutes of a “Raiders” “filmumentary”

Watch “Raiding the Lost Ark,” the first 17 minutes of a “Raiders” “filmumentary” (photo)

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Just yesterday I was bemoaning the disappearance of special features from DVDs and Blu-rays. Today I watch a video online and I wonder: is this the future? Is this where DVD extras are headed? Off of DVDs and out of the control of creators, and into the hands of passionate fans? If they all look like the video I’m about to show you, I hope so.

It’s called “Raiding the Lost Ark” and it’s described as a “filmumentary” by its creator, Jamie Benning. Essentiallly that means it’s a movie with enhanced video commentary: according to Wired, Benning took an upscaled DVD copy of “Raiders” and laid in a commentary track and behind-the-scenes footage he personally compiled and edited from interviews with the creative team. There’s no official commentary on the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” DVD, so this is the next best thing. In some ways, this is actually better than the next best thing, since it pulls material from a million places and people: from director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas to the production designer to the guy who doubled for Wired, represents what will ultimately be the first 17 minutes of a feature length filmumentary. After watching this, I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Are “filmumentaries” the future of DVD extras? Tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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