Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pheaturing Mark Edlitz

We be back! Welcome to the Phile. So, did you miss me? I was in New York last week and had a great time. Saw Cheap Trick and Squeeze at Radio City Music Hall, sat in Jimmy Fallon's rehearsal, and the day I went up there George Steinbrenner died and the day I flew back they found a ship at Ground Zero. Steinbrenner turned the New York Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a billion-dollar franchise. His secret was the $9 hot dog. It was so hot in New York City I thought my plane was going to land in the Hudson just to cool off. The YMCA is changing their name to just “The Y” and people are like “What?” And by people, I mean the Village People. Marvel Studios is looking for a new actor to play the Hulk. It’s hard because it has to be a normal person that can change to a scary monster with an anger problem. Mel Gibson is available. Sir Paul McCartney had demanded that a hamburger joint in England remove pictures of The Beatles because he’s a vegetarian. He also demanded that they let Ringo keep his job flipping burgers. A rancher in Texas has apparently captured the mythical Chupacabra. It’s a hairy beast that stalks the night in Texas. It’s like Chuck Norris but less kicky. I don’t know where Chupacabra comes from. I don’t know where chimichangas come from either.
Some people think the Chupacabra originates in Mexico because all of the sightings have been along the border states, except for Arizona, because they don’t carry papers. Rumors are that Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston are going to film a reality show. Sarah Palin says she can’t wait to start shooting, but that’s totally unrelated. Apparently BP’s containment cap is leaking. When asked if the rumors are true, a BP spokesman said, “Aren’t there any more Mel Gibson tapes?” There are reports that Mel Gibson is moving back to Australia and Australians aren’t happy with that. They’re like, “Why do you think we sent him to you in the first place?” If Mel does go to Australia, he better be careful, because a kangaroo will punch him back. Lindsay Lohan has been sent to jail. Hollywood always makes movies about women’s prisons. I bet the real women’s prisons are not like Hollywood’s versions. When the lights go out there probably aren’t pillow fights. I think we should turn Alcatraz into a prison for celebrities. It would be like some sort of pop-culture zoo. Lindsay went to the coolest jail, of course... there’s a line that wraps around the block to get in. When I was in New York I learned they want to build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center. If you put a mosque there, there’s no way terrorists will blow it up. If I was in charge, I would put a mosque on top of every building in America. There’s a new computer program that can delete all mentions of your ex from your Facebook page. The program is called, “your new girlfriend.” When I was in NYC I saw a weird poster in the subway. It's not an inspirational poster, but I thought it was worth sharing. Check it out.
And now, from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Ten Ways Mel Gibson Can Improve His Image
10. Stop making calls.
9. Join cast of "Glee" as racist with the beautiful voice.
8. Introduce adorable sidekick, Pepe the Koala.
7. Find Bin Laden.
6. Have ESPN special to announce which rehab facility he'll be entering.
5. Give out free gum to everyone in America.
4. Remind people his approval rating is still higher than BP's Tony Hayward.
3. Get named People Magazine's "Sexiest Bigot Alive".
2. Release his racist recordings on iTunes.
And the number one way Mel Gibson can improve his image...
1. He's an Academy Award-winning director... direct himself to be an asshole.

Ralph Houk
August 9, 1919 - July 21, 2010
Totally out.
George Steinbrenner
July 4, 1930 - July 13, 2010
For the duration of the season, Yankee players will all wear a million dollars on their sleeves as a sign of respect.

A bald, Euro supervillain named Gru (Steve Carell impersonating Tommy Wiseau), with his sights set on stealing the moon, finds himself in midlife crisis. A younger, well-connected supervillain named Vector (Jason Segel) just upstaged Gru by stealing an Egyptian pyramid and the aging Gru can't get funding from the Evil Bank to finance his own wrongdoing. Meanwhile three adorable orphan girls further complicate Gru's life by threatening to turn his heart soft like a kitten, which would ruin his misanthropy and potentially kill off his career for good. These are the pitfalls of single parenting. I hope this movie can emerge from the shadow of Toy Story 3 and find its own audience. Because while it's not as rich an experience as you get from the Pixar people, it's pretty great in its own off-kilter way. Instead of a bad guy coming in to intervene in the hero's story, the bad guy is the hero and delivers charmingly wicked Addams Family-inspired lines like this... To his new daughters at bedtime: "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite. There are literally thousands of them. And there's probably something in your closet." To a neighbor who apologizes for dog poop in Gru's yard by telling Gru that dogs go wherever they want to go: "Unless they're dead." In other words, black-clad parents who take their kids to Bats Day at Disneyland are going to love this. I loved the little yellow Minions, those verging-on-annoying marketing hooks are actually hilarious supporting characters, a mashup of the acrobat insects from A Bug's Life and the spacemen from Toy Story. I am not a fan, however, of the promotional gimmick where you download an app to your phone that translates the Minions' credits-roll gibberish into English. We're already on an infuriatingly slippery slope with people wantonly using their phones during movies and this is a bad marketing idea for which someone should be punished, preferably with the Fart Gun invention from this very film. If you can see it in 3D then do so. It's bright and clean and visually aggressive, so it feels meant to be that way, especially for the moment when they all ride a crazy steep rollercoaster. From 1 to 10 it gets a 9, and I can see myself buying this movie on blu-ray. And now for another review.

Nerdo Jay Baruchel finds out he's a sorcerer and has to be trained to use his powers wisely. Also, as usual in movies about this sort of hero's journey, he has to save the world from evil sorcerers bent on destruction. Nicolas Cage is the boss of the good sorcerers and becomes Jay's mentor, but he's actually the kind of crappy mentor who's got jokes and wants to bro it up more than he wants to mentor you. Consequently the kid is always in some kind of danger. Then, on schedule, like an efficient on-time subway, comes the big showdown. It'll mostly make you wonder how brutally the people at Disney are kicking themselves for not watching that old Mickey Mouse-meets-dancing-mops segment in Fantasia and thinking up all this Harry Potter stuff first. As an object to look at and be zoomed along in like an amusement park ride--which is all it's meant to be--this movie is pretty much more of the summery same. All the digital effects, all the stuff transforming into other stuff, all the battles, you've seen them before and you've felt them more urgently. But it's still not a miserable failure, just copycattish. The shoehorned-in scene where Baruchel finds himself overwhelmed by mops, even though it has no narrative reason to exist, is more fun to watch than the rest of the film. Then they go away. but it's enough to make you wish the mops had just been the whole movie, Snow White-style, with names like Soapy and Buckethead. Let's say that, like me, you're a fan of the insane detours Nicolas Cage's career takes, no matter what those detours look like. You'll only get a little of the man you know and love this time around. Not that he's not in the movie a lot; he very much is. But aside from a few nervy line readings, like when he shouts "I CAN READ MINDS!" at Baruchel or cannonballs the word "ILLUUUUUUSIONS" all crazy-like, mostly this is more like a National Treasure movie than it's like, say, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. And he covers up his wildly entertaining hair with a weird ugly hat. Bummer. Anyway, from 1 to 10, it also gets a 9 and I think I will get it on blu-ray.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin makes off with the town's rats and children.
Roanoke, the colony founded by Sir Walter Raleigh, is found to be missing.
John Dillinger is killed by the FBI at the Biograph Cinema in Chicago. After seeing this picture, many people come to believe that he must have possessed an enormous schlong. Actually, it is his arm in rigor mortis. (A competing theory holds that this is not Dillinger at all, but some patsy chosen because of the FBI's inability to capture the gangster.)
91 people are killed in Jerusalem, when the Jewish terror group Irgun bombs the British administrative headquarters, located in the King David Hotel.
Tracy Edwards escapes from Jeffrey Dahmer's apartment, handcuffs still attached. After being summoned to the scene, Milwaukee police encounter the partial remains of 11 previous victims. Dahmer is ultimately charged with 15 murders.
In court, O.J. pleads "absolutely, 100% not guilty" of savagely killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

This is the 10th book in the Peverett Phile Book Club...

It's available from and the author Mark Mekkes will be a guest on the Phile next week.

Today's guest is documentary filmmaker Mark Edlitz whose new film Jedi Junkies just came out on DVD and is available at or you can download it off from iTunes. It's a film about the world's most dedicated Star Wars fans. From lightsaber wielding martial arts academies to a filmmaker who built the world's only life-size Millennium Falcon, from a Monster Garage-esque sculptor whose professional livelihood is building custom lightsabers to metal-bikini wearing dancers who embody Slave Leia, the film offers viewers a rare glimpse into rabid fans' personal and professional self expression that borders on obsession. Please welcome to the Phile... Mark Edlitz.

Me: Hello, Mark, welcome to the Phile. So, I have to ask, what was your goal of Jedi Junkies?

Mark: The goal of the movie was to find out what made hardcore Star Wars fans tick. To see why they/we/I spend so much time thinking about Star Wars. Why we spend some much time watching the movies, reading the books, buying the toys, dressing up in costumes and going to conventions.

Me: When did you first get the idea you wanted to make Jedi Junkies? That's a great name by the way.

Mark: You want the short answer or the long one? The short answer is that I knew I wanted to make a film about a subject that I both loved and knew a lot about. And that's how Jedi Junkies came about. The longer answer is that 10 years ago I made another film called "The Eden Myth". Had a great experience making it. But it was very hard to get a second film off the ground. Between then and now I did a bunch of jobs in entertainment. Everything from writting for "reality TV" to working as an assistant. I really wanted to make another movie and I wanted it to be fun. And what could be more fun than Star Wars?

Me: How long did it take for you to work on it?

Mark: Me and my buddy Jerry Kolber have been working on it for four years. Four... very... long... years. It took a while to shoot it and then almost as long to edit it. Stephen Walker is the editor of Jedi Junkies and he really gave the movie shape and focus.

Me: Was it hard to get funding, Mark?

Mark: Impossible. Didn't even try. I paid for most of the movie by myself. I have a day job. So, during the day I would work. And at night and on weekends I would make the movie.

Me: I am 41 years old and remmebr seeing Star Wars when it first came out. Were you born when the original movie came out? Did you become a lifelong fan as soon as you saw it?

Mark: I've been a fan of Star Wars since I first saw it in the movie theater in 1977. Ever since then I've been hooked.

Me: Do you have a favorite Star Wars film?

Mark: That's actually one of the questions that we ask in the film. And it's fun to watch people debate it. We also have a section where fans debate "Who Shot First; Han or Greedo" Another question we asked is "Who Would Win in a Fight: Vader vs Mual". Ray Park weighed in on that one! But to answer you questions my favorite Star Wars film is Empire Strikes Back. I've seen all of the films in the original trilogy more times that I care to admit.

Me: I used to be a die-hard fan, but as I got older I grew out of it pretty quick. Do you see that happening to you? There's some REAL die-hard fans out there who will never grow out of loving those films.

Mark: Your question just made me think about the line in Phantom Menace about bringing balance to the force. For me, it's about balance. I'm a die-hard fan. Absolutely. But I know how to balance my love and appreciation of the films with my real life. In Jedi Junkies we tried to show a whole spectrum of fans. Some go a little overboard. Or a lot overboard. One fan we profile in the film had so many toys that he had to get rid of his bed. And I figured that we'd basically tell some version of that story over and over again. Basically extreme fans doing extreme things. But as I met more and more fans I discovered something really important. These fans are taking their love of Star Wars and baesd on their own particular interests, they are creating something new and different. So, filmmakers (like Dennis Ward) are making Star Wars inspired movies. Musicians (like AeroSith) are making Star Wars inspired songs. Crafts people and fine artists (like R.J. Iannaccone at Advance Light Weaponary) are making their own lighsabers. And costume designers (like Candy Keane) are creating their own clothes. By the way, Candy is also a model and she's featured in her Slave Leia outfit on our poster.

Me: You interviewed and have some interesting people on the documentary, Mark. How'd you meet them. How'd you hear about them?

Mark: At first we met people just by using social networking sites like My Space, and even Craig's List. (Now we're on Facebook under JediJunkies.) I'd also go to conventions and just introduce myself to people. Once we got started people would let us know about other Star Wars fans. For example, we were interviewing one fan from Denmark who came to New York to buy Star Wars toys. He told me about this guy who built a life size Millenium Falcon in his backyard. I couldn't believe it. It sounded too incredible to be true. Like an urban myth. Then I found out who it was and reached out to him. And he couldn't have been nicer. It turned out he a great (even practical) reason for building the Falcon. And when you hear the story behind it, it makes absolute sense!

Me: Tell the Phile readers about the other fans you interviewed.

Mark: We interviewed a lot of women who like to dress up as Slave Leia. And we, of course, spoke with Jamin who runs a site devoted exclusively to the cult of Slave Leia. So, there are a lot of interviews with very pretty women dressed up as Slave Leia. We also spoke with a toy collector who has so many Star Wars toys that he doesn't even room for his bed. He had so many toys he had to make a choice -- the bed or his toys. The toys won. And then there's Ed Sanchez -- the director of Blair Witch Project. He shows us his killer collection. Really amazing. He's also good at putting together intricate Lego Star Wars sets -- like the Death Star. What's fun about Ed's collection is that so much of it is out of the box and on display. He hangs his space ships on the ceiling so they look like they are flying and fighting each other. Besides the super-fans we were lucky enough to get a few actors from the movies including Ray Park (Darth Maul), Peter Bulloch (Boba Fett) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca.) Which was a thrill for us. We gave Ray Park a light saber and he demonstrated just how cool he is at handling them!

Me: By the way, I am fucking jealous. How on Earth did you get so lucky and get to interview Olivia Munn? Man oh man. You get props there, my friend. I didn't realize she was such a big Star Wars fan?

Mark: Isn't Olivia Munn great? Everyone knows that how funny and sexy she is. She is. Just a fact. But she's also very sweet and nice and kind. She was so very generous to agree to be in our film. And she's a huge Star Wars fan. In Jedi Junkies she tells a great story about how watching the film with her family was a bonding exerience.

Me: What are people saying about the film?

Mark: I'm really happy with the response we're getting. The two biggest comments are that it's "very funny" and very "respectful" to the fans. That was important to us.

Me: Okay, Mark, go ahead and plug your website.

Mark: People can go to to get the film. They can buy it or rent it on iTunes and Amazon. It's only $2.99 to rent and $9.99 to buy. Which is a pretty good deal if you ask me.

Me: Mark, thanks so much for doing this interview. You are welcome to come onto the Phile any time you want.

Mark: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. We are small little film wihtout any budget for press. So, really the only way to get the word out is for websites like yours to be kind enough to talk with us. The film is made by Star Wars fans for Star Wars fans about Star Wars fans.

Me: I wish you a lot of luck with this project and I wish you continued success. May the Force be with you.

Mark: Thanks a lot. Was my pleasure. May the Force be with you too!

Man, that was a long entry. Thanks to Mark Edlitz for a great interview and to Wikipedia and of course you for reading. The Phile will be back next Thursday with Book Club author Mark Mekkes and then in August we kick off the second annual Alumni Month with the one and only Graham Parker. Spread the word, not the turd, don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye love you bye.

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