HeldenFiles: ‘Veronica Mars’ shows new way movies get made

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Ryan Hansen as Dick Casablancas and Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars in "Veronica Mars." (Robert Voets/Warner Brothers)

You may have seen the many stories and commentaries about the new Veronica Mars movie. You may also be wondering why such a fuss is being made about a film based on a TV series than ran for three seasons on a boutique network, and ended almost seven years ago.

First of all, it was a very cool series, starring Kristen Bell as a tough-talking but often vulnerable young woman who balances her schooling with part-time work as a private eye. It had mystery, it had comedy, it had social commentary, and it ended with plenty of story yet to tell.

But the implications for entertainment in Veronica Mars are bigger than its screen history would suggest.

For starters, the movie showed it was possible to rally fans in order to get what might best be called a cult project made. Cast and crew went on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to ask for $2 million to finance a Veronica Mars movie. More than 90,000 fans pledged various amounts (I was one of them) and the movie ended up raising $5.7 million that way.

Others have followed, thinking that if you kickstart it, bucks will come. But not all those other ideas have been enthusiastically greeted. Veronica Mars was something like Firefly, the Joss Whedon series which eventually came back as the big-screen Serenity. Both shows have a specific, passionate fan base willing to go several extra miles to breathe new life into their beloved work. That emotion is rare for most TV series — although Hitfix’s recent list of other shows deserving a movie revival had me wishing that My So-Called Life and American Gothic could somehow show they have legions of crowd-funders waiting.

Sill, now that it has been made (and I can’t wait to see it), Veronica Mars continues to demonstrate the new world order in how we watch entertainment. I and others have written about the way our idea of TV is changing — that it’s not just broadcast, cable and satellite channels; it’s Amazon and Netflix and Hulu.

The distribution of movies has also changed. Veronica Mars is going into some theaters (one being the AMC Ridge Park Square in Brooklyn), but audiences will more easily find it in Movies on Demand, where it arrives today. And, as a premium, many of those who helped fund the movie will get a digital copy to download and watch.

Now, the fans getting that download are most likely excited enough about the film to want to see it on a movie screen in a theater full of other fans. But the download and the On Demand availability demonstrate that you don’t have to drive to Brooklyn to see the film — and, in these big-TV days, you can at least have a roomful of Veronica fans sit together and watch the film. Traditional distribution has not only been bypassed, it’s unnecessary.

And, as I said, it should all be very cool.

Still dancing

Last week’s column about dance in movies mentioned about three dozen titles and performances, and that was just a sampler. I was prepared for the I-can’t-believe-you-left-out notes when I asked you all to suggest other favorite moments.

Sure enough: “It’s hard to believe you didn’t mention the best dancing movie of all time, James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy. I cried the first time, and every time after, when he dances down the stairs, after meeting the President.”

The subject sure excited some of you. One email made 10 different suggestions, including Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis in Witness, Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr waltzing in The King and I, Cinderella dancing with Prince Charming in Disney’s animated Cinderella, Johnny Depp and Julia Ormond dancing in Chocolat, and Danny Kaye with Vera-Ellen in White Christmas.

But there were other notes, too. “Anything that featured Cyd Charisse!” said one reader, referring to the partner of both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. “Her legs went on for days!”

Other items: Astaire dancing with Eleanor Powell to Begin the Beguine in Broadway Melody of 1940, the dance with William Holden and Kim Novak in Picnic, Al Pacino in a tango with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman, and the last scene in the screen version of A Chorus Line.

It’s all put more spring in my step. And we could all use some spring right now.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.

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