Nerds of Miami, unite! At O Cinema, specifically. The theater has devoted an entire weekend of films and festivities to the ultra-nerdy world of comic books. Kicking off Thursday and running through Sunday night, the lineup of film screenings, special sales, exhibitions, and contests will serve as a doorstep for dorks, a gala for goobers, and a stomping ground for geeks.
We're only half-serious. Comic books have an appeal that extends far beyond the pocket-protector-and-acne set. Superheroes are a staple of the summertime blockbuster, after all; O Cinema is simply celebrating the classics of the genre and the culture it created.
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"What we want is everybody celebrating their inner geek," Kareem Tabsch, cofounder of the theater, says. "The Miami image is cool kids, hot bods, party town. But that ignores the fact that there are a great deal of people living on the periphery of that, that are not that — that are comic-book fans, self-proclaimed nerds and geeks. People want to embrace this culture that is not so prevalent here."
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope: Starring Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, and Joss Whedon. Directed by Morgan Spurlock. Written by Morgan Spurlock and Jeremy Chilnick. 88 minutes. PG-13. Thursday, May 10, through Sunday, May 13, at O Cinema, 90 NW 29th St. Miami; 305-571-9970; o-cinema.org.
The centerpiece of the party is the Miami premiere of Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope. Far from the nerd-in-a-barrel bloodbath it could have been, this documentary follow-along at the 2010 edition of San Diego's annual comics and pop-culture extravapalooza is a tender, thoughtful paean to geek community. Comic-Con tracks a handful of participants eager to make a splash, including a pair of would-be comic-book illustrators, an ambitious spare-time costume designer, and Chuck Rozanski, cranky proprietor of Denver's Mile High Comics, who's just looking to keep his business afloat. The emotional high point comes when a young man proposes marriage to his girlfriend at a Q&A with the surprisingly gracious Kevin Smith. Director Morgan Spurlock, who doesn't hog the camera for a change, captures these disparate arcs with humor and insight (Holly Conrad, the frankly adorable costumer, cracks that her convention gambit is "a metaphorical suicide mission for [her] future") and incorporates undistracting contextual comments from industry hotshots such as Smith, Joss Whedon, Eli Roth, and others who have made the transition to lucrative professional nerd-dom. One could argue that Spurlock and co-writer Jeremy Chilnick go too easy on the whole endeavor; they broach the steady encroachment of Big Hollywood on the con, but the dangers of obsessing over worlds and people who don't exist, if there are any, aren't raised. In an era when mind-bendingly vaporous banking shenanigans nearly brought civilization down, however, it hardly seems pertinent. The emphasis is on fun and inclusiveness, and even people who haven't touched a funny book since puberty, if ever, will appreciate Comic-Con's savvy demonstration that having a tribe to belong to can't be underestimated.
Complementing O Cinema's daily Comic-Con screenings is a lineup of films guaranteed to bring adults back to their childhoods, decade by decade. Kids of the '90s can flash back to their first viewing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it screens Sunday. Children of the '70s and '80s will thrill to see Superman II when it screens Friday. Comic Book Weekend will also include a screening of Tim Burton's 1989 edition of Batman, after which moviegoers can check out the original Batmobile from the film, on loan from the Dezer Collection. And With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story tells the story of the man behind Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, and dozens of other characters that have made their way from the pages of comic books into the collective consciousness of the past several generations.
With these great movies comes great festivity. O Cinema will also host an art exhibit featuring works by local comics artists and a selection of books and merchandise from local comic-book stores. And because it's not a true convention of nerds without cosplay, there'll be a costume contest staged throughout the weekend. Attendees who show up at the theater in superhero attire will have their picture taken and posted on Facebook, where fans will vote for their favorites. Next to attending Comic-Con itself, Tabsch says, it's "the ultimate fan experience."