Posts Tagged ‘roger nygard’

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I’ll start things off here with a confession — I’ve never been the world’s biggest Star Trek  fan. I don’t have anything actively against it — in any of its iterations — per se, but I never really quite figured out its appeal, and consequently the absolute devotion to it that its enormous legion of die-hard partisans displays has always felt, I dunno — kinda weird to me, somehow. Maybe even a little bit sad and/or pathetic.

Mind you, this is coming from a lifelong hard-core Doctor Who fan who once even owned a Tom Baker scarf, so not only would you be quite correct to take anything I say here with a grain of salt, you’d also be well within your rights as a sane and functional human being to wonder “who the fuck is this guy to call anyone else pathetic?”

But ya know, thanks to fellow Twin Cities area native Roger Nygard and his superb 1997 documentary Trekkies, I can honestly say I have a new-found respect for these folks who speak Klingon, give each other the Vulcan hand sign, and argue over the most pointless minutiae of each and every episode of their favorite show. I still don’t quite “get it,” true, but I’ve at least come to view it as a relatively harmless phenomenon — hell, for some, immersion in this collective fantasy world might even be a positive thing.

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Okay, yeah, there’s nothing inherently normal about the idea of, say, a Trek-themed dental office, or people writing a Klingon dictionary, or the forewoman of a jury showing up in regulation Starfleet uniform, but shit — it’s not really hurting anyone, is it?

To his credit, Nygard never really loses sight of how all of this might look a little bit ( to say the least) weird to an “outsider,” but he gives an even-handed portrayal of all the various subjects he follows around, and by and large shows them to be mentally healthy, well-rounded individuals who just happen to share a mutual obsession. Choosing Star Trek : The Next Generation star Denise Crosby as his narrator was a wise move, as well, as it shows us all that the primary goal of this film is to respectfully explore, at times even celebrate, the Star Trek  universe, rather than to poke fun at it, and helps establish a “we’re on your side” tone that puts most of the film’s participants at ease — no matter which side they might take in the whole “is it ‘Trekkie’ or ‘Trekker’?” debate.

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What’s perhaps most amazing to witness for someone not a part of it, though, is how admirably inclusive the whole Star Trek “thing” is. Gay or straight, black or white, male or female (or, as the photo above demonstrates, somewhere in between), it just doesn’t seem to matter — if you love Trek, those who also love it will accept you. All differences are small potatoes compared to the one thing that binds them all together. Methinks there’s a lesson to be learned there for society as a whole.


The on-camera interviews with many of the show’s stars are pretty revealing, as well, as they explain in very personal terms what their involvement with Gene Rodenberry’s fictional universe has meant to them, and how they feel it’s affected not only popular culture, but human culture as a whole, as well. Leonard Nimoy, for instance, reveals how the values espoused by Trek influenced the work of visionay “underground” cartoonist Sue Coe (of Dead Meat fame), and Nichelle Nichols relates the story of how her performance as Uhura inspired none other than Whoopi Goldberg  to pursue a career in acting. Hell, no less than Buzz Aldrin himself makes an appearance, vouching for how the show has helped to keep humanity’s dream of reaching for the stars alive and well.

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All of which, I guess, is my roundabout way of saying that not only does Trekkies do a good job of laying out the territory for the “uninitiated,” but it goes further than that to show why it all actually matters, and even if you haven’t partaken of the Star Trek  Kool-Aid (metaphorically speaking), you’ll probably walk away from the film with a better understanding of those who have done so.

Yeah, okay — a Trek convention still looks like foreign territory to me, and not even one I’d be too terribly keen on exploring in person, but ya know what? If that’s your idea of a good time, you’re A-Okay in my book. Go knock yourself out.

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For those of you sufficiently tempted to give Trekkies a whirl, it’s available as a bare-bones DVD from Paramount, where it’s presented full-frame with stereo sound, and at 86 minutes long it’s just enough to keep the average viewer fascinated without bludgeoning us with just too damn much — and  If I were a Trekkie (or Trekker, as the case may be), this flick would leave me feeling very satisfied, even happy, with its depiction of my world and my fellow fans. You can’t ask for a better endorsement than that. So hey, Trek fans — I may not be one of you, and I may not even want to be one of you, but live long and prosper, my friends. Live long and prosper.

 

So — what really happened in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947? Was it a UFO crash? A weather balloon, as the government later stated? Or something else entirely?

Well, don’t look to 1998’s quasi-documentary Six Days In Roswell for any answers. But that doesn’t mean this bizarre Borat -prototype isn’t all kinds of fun.

The Minneapolis-based brains behind the Trekkies documentaries thought they’d take a look at the world’s largest annual UFO festival as part of their ongoing (although it seems to have stalled out in recent years) cinematic examination of the more bizarre corners of Americana, and the result is, in fact, a pretty solid hoot, yet never degrades its subject, which is rather welcome in the TFG household since my wife and I are firm believers that there is, indeed, something out there. Still, even we’ve got to admit that the flying saucer crowd contains its fair share of eccentrics, and while they get plenty of screen time here to make their case, the filmmakers (specifically director Timothy B. Johnson, producer Roger Nygard, and “star”/host Rich Kronfeld), while never going out of their way to make these folks look — you know, normal — resist the easy impulse to point fingers and portray them as being freaks and losers. Mostly you get the feeling that the folks who head down to Roswell over the July 4th holiday every year are eccentrics with a passion, and surely the world could use a whole lot more of them and a lot fewer corporate-ladder-climbing yuppie assholes.

Rick Kronfeld is our “point of entry,” so to speak, to the whole UFO crowd — he’s essentially portraying a character “based on an exaggerated version of himself” (for instance he doesn’t really still live at home with his mother, doesn’t work at the non-existent “Gopher Pride” electric-power-strip manufacturing company, etc.) and his whole raison d’etre for going down to Roswell is because he wants to be abducted by aliens and that kind of thing just never happens here in Minnesota.

The rest of the film essentially consists of his “in-character” interviews with folks down there and explorations of the various activities that make up the annual UFO festival. Respected UFO researchers like Stanton T. Friedman and Budd Hopkins are allowed to (briefly) make their cases, but mostly he just talks to regular folks, and you come away feeling that the average “UFO nuts” is, essentially, somebody just like you and me — who happens to believe they were abducted by aliens.

Now, how much of this set-up is “for real” and how much is purely staged is a good question, and that’s where the DVD commentary with Johnson, Kronfeld, and Nygard comes in handy. They lay out exactly what’s what in no uncertain terms (and do so in a very entertaining manner), but definitely watch it through first without the commentary and then listen to it to see what you as a viewer may have gotten right and wrong (some of it’s certainly obvious, but other things — such as the fact that they actually went to Roswell two consecutive years, for both the big 50th anniversary shindig in 1997 and again in 1998 — is much less apparent).

And on the subject of DVD extras, the fine folks at Synapse Films have loaded this one up with goodies. Not only do we get the aforementioned commentary, but there are also trailers for the film, a “making-of” featurette, a slew of deleted scenes, and an intriguing selection of earlier works (often of the home-made-when-they-were-kids variety) from Messrs. Johnson, Kronfeld, and Nygard, to boot. As far as the technical specifications go, the full-frame transfer (this was shot on 16mm and blown-up to 35mm) and stereo soundtrack are both just fine.

All in all, Six Days In Roswell is a blast. A certain Mr. Baron Cohen definitely owes these guys a debt of gratitude, but unlike his films, this one never slides into snide condescension of its subject matter, and never becomes more about the “star” than the events he’s observing. Okay, so it’s not an actual documentary per se — it’s still pretty damn honest.