Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ dead at 83: A tribute

Leonard Nimoy, best known for his portrayal of the half-human, half-Vulcan science officer/first officer Spock on the Starship Enterprise on the classic TV and movie franchise “Star Trek,” died this morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 83.

Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy

This one hurts, if for no other reason than his signature character was well into his 150s. It was entirely possible to believe we would have Spock around forever.

Which, of course, we will.

It is not hyperbole to say that Spock was one of the popular and unforgettable fictional characters of the TV era — the ears, the demeanor, the “live long and prosper”, the split-fingers salute.

But part of the reason Nimoy struggled with separating himself from Spock (and he did title his 1975 autobiography “I Am Not Spock” — then again, the 1995 follow-up was “I Am Spock”) was that he was so incredibly good at playing this guy.

Going counterfactual with anything is a bit of a fools’ errand, especially the “What if THAT guy played THIS character instead of THAT guy” thing.

But it is very easy to imagine that anyone else’s hands, Spock would have been just another alien.

But Nimoy was just fantastic. If you have not seen the original “Star Trek” series in a while, fire it up on Netflix and watch a few.

There are classic Spock episodes, of course (“The Enterprise Incident,” “Amok Time,” “This Side of Paradise,” “Mirror, Mirror” [aka the one where evil Spock has a goatee] and the exceptionally bonkers, largely terrible “Spock’s Brain”) but you can practically fire up any episode and see a rock-solid performance from the guy.

A still from "Star Trek" (Paramount Pictures)
A still from “Star Trek” (Paramount Pictures)

As much as any actor who has ever played a series regular on TV, Nimoy seemed to “get” Spock — what was smart about the guy, what was sweet, what was thoughtful. Nimoy always played Spock with a canny combination of cool distance (or, as the character would insist, “logic”) and eye-rolling bemusement. Nimoy figured out that giving Spock a sense of humor, however deeply suppressed and droll and bone-dry, was a key to making the character work. Emotionally complicated weirdos have been playing off that persona ever since. (Hello, Stephen Malkmus.)

No wonder  Spock was a role model for kids (and adults, for that matter) who were not great at processing emotions or were bad at social cues.  And the friendship between Spock and Kirk, possibly pop culture’s all-time greatest bromance, proved that folks who were bad at feelings could get along with people who had an excess of them.  “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982) is by far the best Star Trek movie not just because it is a high adventure with a hammy bad guy and a story ripped from Moby-Dick. It’s where Kirk and Spock’s friendship, their character development, their ease with each other was at an apex.

 Of course, Nimoy was more than Spock. He published poetry, publish collections of photos, made terrible record albums and starred in everything from “Mission: Impossible” to “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Post-“Star Trek,” his most visible TV role was as the host of “In Search Of…” a show which embodied the deep weirdness of 1970’s TV as much or more than “Match Game ’73,” or anything by Sid and Marty Kroft.

Spinning out of the “ancient aliens”/supernatural craze of the mid-70s, “In Search Of…” was a sort of documentary take on the Twilight Zone” (indeed, Rod Serling was supposed to be the original host), focusing on mysterious…stuff. Topics could range from Atlantis to Nostradamus to the death of Marilyn Monroe to, uh, great lovers in history (Captain Kirk was not included).

Presenting it all was Nimoy, sometimes with mustache, sometimes not, often in a turtle neck and sport coat, pointing out the bizarre and the unexplained with chilled out demeanor of a hip but never inappropriate history professor.

Nimoy also became a movie director, helming both the decent but  “Star Trek III” (1984) and “Star Trek IV” (1986) ala The One With The Whales. “Star Trek IV” remains a stroke of pop genius, trading in far-future mythology for deadpan wit in 20th century San Francisco.  He also directed “Three Men and a Baby,” a fact which almost nobody remembers.

Obviously a living god in nerd culture, Nimoy was a willing participant in TV send-ups of his public persona, especially those by from the mind of Matt Groening: The Simpsons” and “Futurama.”

Nimoy riffed on “In Search Of…” role in two terrific Simpsons episodes “Marge vs. the Monorail” (considered my some to be the single best “Simpsons” episode of all time) and “The Springfield Files,” a parody of the “X-Files,” itself a show that owed a lot to “In Search Of…”

On “Futurama,” he played himself twice as a head in a jar. In the pilot, he virtually sets the tone for the show when he gobbles fish food an attendant dumps in.

In his later years, Nimoy continued to work, appearing as Spock in JJ Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboots and as a key villain on Abrams’ show “Fringe,” which was absolutely perfect. He became an active participant on social media and seemed at ease with his singular career.

A still from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
A still from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”

So long, man. May your coffin tube soft-land. You were incredibly cool.

 

14 great Leonard Nimoy tweets on life, love and death

NimoyGif

On Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, Leonard Nimoy’s son confirmed to the Associated Press that the actor of Star Trek fame had died at age 83. Nimoy – once a smoker and an anti-smoking advocate because of it – had tweeted in 2014 that he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In addition to entering the lives of many through his turn as Spock on Star Trek – and entering a new generation’s lives through his renewal of that role in recent years – Nimoy was an advocate for science and science fiction and was no stranger to getting real about life, love and death on Twitter. We’ve gathered 14 of his best tweets on the subject as we mourn the loss.

Following a tweet about fellow Star Trek-alum George Takei:

Nimoy was not only big on family, but was open to expanding that family to his fans – who numbered more than 1 million on Twitter:

And finally, remember Nimoy’s words in the wake of the deaths of Robin Williams and two others in his own life:

LLAP.

What could be, could be: Our top 10 hopes for SXSW 2015

Much of the fun surrounding SXSW is predicting what big performers, keynotes and exhibits will stand out at the fest. Last year proved to be a doozy, with Lady Gaga, Game of Thrones and much more. Here’s what our staff hopes for from SXSW 2015:

Paul Qui.  Photo by Laura Skelding.
Paul Qui. Photo by Laura Skelding.

10.  Addie Broyles says she hopes that at their pop up dinner, “Modernist Cuisine” author Nathan Myhrvold and Austin’s beloved Paul Qui will put their heads together for rabbit 100 ways.

9. Film critic Joe Gross hopes to be be thrilled by “ex Machina,” a movie directed by the writer of “28 Days Later” and “The Nightmare,” a completely terrifying looking documentary about sleep paralysis.

George Strait. Photo by Laura Skelding.
George Strait. Photo by Laura Skelding.

8. Music writer Peter Blackstock hopes to see George Strait show up to sing with Asleep at the Wheel at their Bob Wills tribute night on Tuesday at Saxon Pub.

The Apple Watch, a fitness device and lifestyle device that can also run apps and pay for items at stores, is expected to debut in early 2015 at a cost of at least $350 for a variety of models. Credit: Apple Inc.
The Apple Watch, a fitness device and lifestyle device that can also run apps and pay for items at stores, is expected to debut in early 2015 at a cost of at least $350 for a variety of models. Credit: Apple Inc.

7.  Apple has used the festival in the past to showcase a new product (like the iPad 2) or to promote its services (like the iTunes Music Festival last year). SXSW Interactive is the perfect audience of early adopters for a product like the Apple Watch and it wouldn’t be surprising if the company offered a preview of the device there.

Russell Brand. Photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times.
Russell Brand. Photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times.

6.  More from film: the opening night movie has been problematic for SXSW the past few years. Joe Gross has high hopes that “Brand,” a documentary about Russell Brand, will break this trend.

Gary Clark Jr. Photo by Deborah Cannon.
Gary Clark Jr. Photo by Deborah Cannon.

5. SXSW’s Auditorium Shores shows traditionally include one of the city’s top-drawing homegrown acts. Music writer Peter Blackstock hopes this year that will be Gary Clark Jr., whose tour of Australia isn’t scheduled to start until March 28.

D'Angelo in concert at the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. (Sylvia McAfee/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
D’Angelo in concert at the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. (Sylvia McAfee/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

4. Just before Christmas, R&B genius D’Angelo dropped the surprise album”Black Messiah.” As it skyrocketed to the top of critics’ lists, he put in a series of stunning performances. We’ll take one of those please.

3. The opportunity to play life-sized “Pac-Man” just like in the Bud Light Super Bowl commercial during SXSW Interactive.

Bob Dylan. Photo by Jay Janner.
Bob Dylan. Photo by Jay Janner.

2. In the battle of who will keynote, Peter Blackstock casts his vote for Bob Dylan, hoping also for a guest appearance at the Doug Sahm tribute night.

 Beyonce performs "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Kevork Djansezian/Getty
Beyonce performs “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty

1. We’ve had her husband, her sister and her dad, Deborah Sengupta Stith thinks it’s high time “Flawless” Texas diva Beyoncé made an appearance at the fest.

‘Focus’ is the dog movie of February (Our grade: D)

Will Smith and Margot Robbie star in the film “Focus.”
Will Smith and Margot Robbie star in the film “Focus.”

By Roger Moore – Tribune News Service

The trouble with movies about “The Big Con” is that they condition us to not believe anything we see up on screen — relationships, who is conning whom, deaths.

“Focus” one-ups that by pushing a romance to the fore, one that is supposed to be fun, sexy and cute. But when we don’t buy the veteran con man (Will Smith) in love with the hot young acolyte (Margot Robbie), well, what is there to cling to?

» Read full review on MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for ‘Focus’

Welcome to Hell(ywood), here are your ‘Maps’ (Our grade: B- )

Robert Pattinson is Jerome, the limo driver, in “Maps to the Stars.”
Robert Pattinson is Jerome, the limo driver, in “Maps to the Stars.”

So it’s entirely possible that the Oscars left you feeling annoyed at Hollywood’s (a)morals and cynical codes, its self-congratulatory smarm and the tone-deafness that felt like trolling, a show that made David Oyelowo do a joke about the “Annie” remake and Neil Patrick Harris crack wise after “Citizenfour” won best documentary. You may be feeling not so charitable about the dream factory.

If so, boy howdy, does David Cronenberg have a movie for you.

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for “Maps to the Stars”

Tragic Russian hero ensnared by tentacles of ‘Leviathan’ (Our grade: A-)

“Leviathan” director Andrey Zvyagintsev has a grim view of the Russian state — and the idea that its power knows no limits. And unlimited state power is a big problem for Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov), the tragic hero of “Leviathan” — a mechanic who wants to hold on to his house and land even though his town’s corrupt mayor (Roman Madianov) is demanding that he sell it for development purposes.
“Leviathan” director Andrey Zvyagintsev has a grim view of the Russian state — and the idea that its power knows no limits.
And unlimited state power is a big problem for Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov), the tragic hero of “Leviathan” — a mechanic who wants to hold on to his house and land even though his town’s corrupt mayor (Roman Madianov) is demanding that he sell it for development purposes.

“Leviathan” director Andrey Zvyagintsev has a grim view of the Russian state — and the idea that its power knows no limits.

And unlimited state power is a big problem for Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov), the tragic hero of “Leviathan” — a mechanic who wants to hold on to his house and land even though his town’s corrupt mayor (Roman Madianov) is demanding that he sell it for development purposes.

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for “Leviathan”

‘Mala’ star isn’t cruel enough to cut it in this Mexican romantic comedy (Our grade: C-)

Aislinn Derbez and Mauricio Ochmann in the romantic comedy “A La Mala.”
Aislinn Derbez and Mauricio Ochmann in the romantic comedy “A La Mala.”

By Roger Moore – Tribune News Service

Maria Laura, the heroine of “A la Mala,” is a thin, slinky bombshell of an actress who uses her talents to flirt with other women’s beaus to test their loyalty. The acting roles aren’t there, but there is no shortage of women who need a professional breaker-upper.

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for “A la Mala”

‘Shadows’ has some fun with vampire troubles (Our grade: B)

Jemaine Clement in “What We Do in the Shadows.”
Jemaine Clement in “What We Do in the Shadows.”

In the spirit of “This Is Spinal Tap,” writer/directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi take us inside the lives of modern-day Wellington vampires and show us that the undead have problems, too. Waititi stars as Viago, with Clement playing the would-be womanizer Vladislav. Jonathan Brugh is Deacon, the bad boy of the house, while Ben Fransham is the toothy Petyr.

» Read full review at MyStatesman.com | Find showtimes for “What We Do in the Shadows”

Best of the fest: Top Ten moments of SXSW 2014

The countdown clock reads 15 days until SXSW 2015 takes over Austin, and it has us reminiscing. From food and comedy to music, film and interactive, we rounded up our favorite moments from SXSW 2014. A whole lot of things happen at the fest, so let us know which of your favorites we missed in the comments.

IBM showed off its newest cognitive computing application in a food truck at South by Southwest Interactive 2014. The truck, which was parked near the corner of East Fourth and Red River Streets, served Watson-inspired food. Photo from IBM.
IBM showed off its newest cognitive computing application in a food truck at South by Southwest Interactive 2014. The truck, which was parked near the corner of East Fourth and Red River Streets, served Watson-inspired food. Photo from IBM.

10. The Watson Food Truck blew our mind with its “cognitive cooking.”

Debbie Harry, left,  performs with the Dum Dum Girls at the Spotify House at SXSW on Wednesday March 12, 2014. Photo by Jay Janner.
Debbie Harry, left, performs with the Dum Dum Girls at the Spotify House at SXSW on Wednesday March 12, 2014. Photo by Jay Janner.

9. Debbie Harry joined the Dum Dum Girls at Spotify House surprising the crowd and bringing together generations of awesome female musicians for an upbeat take on the Blondie classic “Dreaming.”

8. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” exhibit at Austin Music Hall was worth checking out even for non-fans. The Oculus Rift demonstration booth with wind effects took virtual reality to a whole other level.

Dock Ellis in "No No: A Dockumentary"
Dock Ellis in “No No: A Dockumentary”

7. Film critic Joe Gross loved “No No: A Dockumentary,” a documentary about 70s pitcher Dock Ellis directed and produced by Austin filmmakers, calling it one of the smartest, coolest, best-soundtracked sports movies ever made.

Jimmy Kimmel poses with members of the University of Texas at Austin band, featured on a taping of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in Austin during SXSW 2014. Kimmel and the show are returning for this year’s festival.
Jimmy Kimmel poses with members of the University of Texas at Austin band, featured on a taping of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in Austin during SXSW 2014. Kimmel and the show are returning for this year’s festival.

6. In his four-minute-and-forty-five-seconds interview, comedy writer Dale Roe asked Jimmy Kimmel how he thought “Lost” was going to end.

Keynote speaker, Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, speaks to the audience during day two of SXSW Interactive held at the Convention Center in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, March 8, 2014. Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez.
Keynote speaker, Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, speaks to the audience during day two of SXSW Interactive held at the Convention Center in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, March 8, 2014. Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez.

5. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s keynote was a rollicking hour of science, humor and good-natured skepticism touching on exoplanets, science education and the Tooth Fairy.

Bill Cosby

4. Dale Roe called Bill Cosby’s set at Lustre Pearl the “best and last untainted memory of the comedian I’ll ever have.”

Edward Snowden speaks at SXSW, calls for public oversight of US spy programs on Monday, March 10, 2014. Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell.
Edward Snowden speaks at SXSW, calls for public oversight of US spy programs on Monday, March 10, 2014. Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell.

3. NSA leaker Edward Snowden appeared against a backdrop of the U.S. Constitution to call out the SXSW audience as part of the solution to the privacy crisis.

Ethan Hawke, left, and writer and director Richard Linklater speak to the press on the red carpet for the movie "Boyhood" in Austin at the South By Southwest Film Festival on March 9, 2014. Photo by Thao Nguyen.
Ethan Hawke, left, and writer and director Richard Linklater speak to the press on the red carpet for the movie “Boyhood” in Austin at the South By Southwest Film Festival on March 9, 2014. Photo by Thao Nguyen.

2. The Oscar-nominated and many-other-award-winning film “Boyhood” lived up to the hype at its Austin debut. Film critic Joe Gross says, “Everyone was floored then, everyone should be floored now.”

Lady Gaga performs at Stubb's at SXSW on Thursday March 13, 2014. Photo by Jay Janner.
Lady Gaga performs at Stubb’s at SXSW on Thursday March 13, 2014. Photo by Jay Janner.

1. Keynote speaker Lady Gaga put on quite the performance at Stubb’s, where a woman named Millie “was straddling Gaga on a bucking mechanical bull and repeatedly vomiting green and black liquids on the performer…” Fans had to win a lottery or complete Doritos missions to get tickets to the show (as well as having a badge or wristband).

 

Sixth Annual RxSM Self-Medicated Film Expo March 11 to 15

Not going to South by Southwest but need that festival experience and want to do it all at SpiderHouse? Check out the sixth annual RxSM Self-Medicated Film Expo at Spiderhouse Ballroom on March 11-15.

"The Dicks from Texas"
“The Dicks from Texas”

This year’s opening party features the première of the documentary “The Dicks From Texas,” about the legendary Austin punk act.

The after-party will include a Q&A with founding Dicks members Gary Floyd, Buxf Parrott and Pat Deason followed by the live music after-party featuring 15 bands including the Bulemics, the Beaumonts, Churchwood, and more.

This fest is also another chance to see the Amphetamine Reptile Records documentary “The Color of Noise,” which screened at the North Door last fall, in case you missed it. Which you probably did.

The film festival features five full days of programming; a complete schedule can be found at http://www.rxsm.org.