Portland: The Science Fiction Capital of America?


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While Portlandia just taught us that Ronald D. Moore definitely doesn’t live in Portland, that doesn’t mean that the Rose City isn’t the science fiction capitol of America.

Perhaps it’s the woodsy gloom of our winter months—after all, we can’t see the sky clearly for two-thirds of the year—that has us dreaming of the stars and beyond. Perhaps the high concentration of unabashed geeks, open-source developers, and tech-savvy residents of our so-called “silicon forest” has normalized Battlestar Galactica fandom and Trekkie nitpicking for all Portlanders. Or maybe we just have a lot of time on our hands.

In any case, the greater Northwest area is a veritable vortex of science fictional energy. Don’t believe us? Please, we have the cred in spades. For one, Portland lays claim to the grand dame of science fiction and fantasy, the great Ursula K. Le Guin, who has lived in the Rose City, penning Hugo and Nebula award-winning novels since 1958. Frank Herbert, author of the formidable Dune series, cut his teeth writing for the Oregon Statesman Journal—and, little-known fact—found inspiration for the desert planet Dune while writing an article about the sand dunes of Florence, Oregon. These heads and countless of their brethren, are celebrated at the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, which, OK, fine…is in Seattle.

For lovers of the more macabre end of the spectrum, Portland’s Hollywood Theater plays host yearly to the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulu Con, an event as amazingly improbable—how can there even be enough H.P. Lovecraft-inspired short films to populate a festival that grows yearly?—as its cousin institution, the Lovecraft Bar in SE Portland. Yeah, we have an H.P. Lovecraft bar, complete with tarot readings, sci-fi theme DJ sets, and horror movie nights.

To the 80s children: oh yeah, Short Circuit was filmed partly in Portland.

Dark Horse Comics, the largest independent comic book and manga publisher in America, has been plying its particular breed of pulp wizardry from the Portland ‘burb of Milwaukie since the 80s. Hottest selling titles? Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, and Mass Effect comic book adaptations, as well as their own invention, Hellboy.

If all this is making you itch to pull the homemade Starship Enterprise costume out of your mom’s closet, don’t fear—you’re not alone. Science fiction nerds in Portland ample opportunities to mingle. If not at the H.P. Lovecraft fest’s “Mall of Cthulhu,” then at OryCon, a convention that has been a staple event of the Oregon science fiction scene for 29 years, growing from a small, one-day symposium on the Portland State campus cobbled together by the then-nascent Portland Science Fiction Society (PorSFiS) in November of 1978, into an elaborate, highly-costumed affair with attendance numbering in the thousands.

John Lorentz, secretary of Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc (OSFCI), the fan-run nonprofit that handles the dirty work of convention organizing, once told me that, “OryCon really has become the nexus of science fiction in Oregon. There are writer groups…gamers, costumers, artists and readers all over the state and many of them come to OryCon each fall. I’ve been amazed at how many people will hop in their car, and drive hundreds of miles to attend. Which…of course. With a “gaming room” well-stocked with men in Utilikilts rolling dice, and late nights of pagan ceremony and hearty rounds of Filking (trust me, you’re gonna want to Google that), it’s the place us Battlestar Galactica victims end up when there just isn’t one moore episode to watch.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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