Go see American Splendor!
Before I tell you why, please allow a slight digression. Occasionally days are just fun and you want to share them, so I will bore you with a few details.
I just decided to take today off and begin the long weekend early. Mrs. Futurballa had to work, so I thought it was a good idea to go up the hill to spend some time with my Niece and her baby. I was telling her about the TV production of Neil Gaimon's Neverwhere which will be coming out on DVD soon. I am a big fan of Neil's novels, with a special soft spot for American Gods, but have never read his graphic novel, Sandman. She offered to lend me her omnibus editions of the first 28 or so comics, so I loaded up the trunk with those and a few other treats from her book collection.
Having opened the gates of comic book discussions, we packed up the child and drove down to Santa Cruz to visit her favorite comic book store, properly staffed by the requisite Comic Book Guy. We both purchased Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, being general Alan Moore fans.
After lunch we went to Logo's, a classic and excellent used bookstore that I've been visiting since the early '80s, where I picked up an ancient copy of Minor White's Zone System Handbook. Minor White will be a subject of another posting in the Photographic series, but suffice it for today to say that this book was a find.
Anyways, I seem to be rambling about my day, which may not be of much interest to any one in particular, but it was a really nice day. Enjoying being with a beloved family member that I don't see often enough, playing with her little boy who just started to walk which seemed to make his world a lot bigger, wandering around Santa Cruz, buying a rare book, and going comic shopping.
When I got back to San Jose it was early enough to catch a movie. I'd been wanting to see American Splendor for a while and thought it would be a fine idea to continue that comic book theme. I read a lot of R. Crumb undergrounds as a teenager and as a college student, but had not read too many American Splendors. I'd seen Harvey Pekar once or twice on Letterman, but not really thought much about it, but based on being a Crumb fan and the great reviews I had wanted to catch this movie.
I am glad I did. It is funny, inventive, well acted and directed, but most of all it was moving. We are used to our literature and our entertainment to have story arcs where the protaganist changes and grows through their experience. We are taught that people are redeemed or punished or changed profoundly. But this is a story about real people who aren't particularly nice or attractive or for that matter clean. Harvey Pekar doesn't change. He survives, he finds some kind of peace with his life, but he doesn't change. He doesn't become more likeable, or attractive, or wiser, or cleaner. What happens is we change. We see him as a person that could be us or could be the neighbor we rarely talk to, and realize that this is a person who wants what we want, simply not to be alone.
This movie moved me not in a Ole Yeller, My Dog Skip, Spielberg kind of way, but in a "God I'm glad I'm not alone in this world way". Perhaps that is what divides art from entertainment. When I look at a great painting or photograph, read a perfect poem or novel, or see a truly great movie, I am changed.
To read more about American Splendor click here for the Salon review.