Tag Archives: heroes

Wee, weird heroes star in ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home’

After a steady stream this year of Batman, Superman, Captain America, X-Men and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s time now for a group of kids who float, are invisible, who spark fire, manipulate plants, control bees and give life to inanimate objects. Not really, X-Men exactly. Call them X-Tweens.

They’re the unlikely young heroes and heroines of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the Tim Burton-directed 3-D film loosely based on the novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs.

Sweet, with some mind-blowing visual effects, it’s the perfect film for your young disaffected mutant friends.

Asa Butterfield (Martin Scorsese’s Hugo) plays a young adult who stumbles upon a secret refuge for supernaturally gifted youngsters hiding in a time loop in 1943.

Our hero befriends the mysterious schoolmarm Miss Peregrine (a delicious Eva Green, channeling a sexy Mary Poppins by way of Helena Bonham Carter) and learns that the children are in danger from ever-growing malevolent forces.

Burton is a natural choice to direct: The material already has that gloomy, Victorian vibe, a stylized dreamlike quality and a sort of Goth-punk look, which is catnip to the director of Edward Scissorhands.

He also famously adores misfits; here, the screen is filled with them.

No surprise the job of turning the book into a film was handed to Jane Goldman, who is familiar both with mutants and the 1940s, having been the screenwriter for X-Men: First Class. A somewhat ponderous first half leads to a hard-charging second, filled with ingenious fight-scenes, glorious ocean liners and sublime underwater moments.

The film should come with a Harry Potter-like warning for those allergic to new whimsical vocabulary terms like “ymbrines,” “Hollows” and “hollowgasts.”

But go with it.

Your head will be in pain soon enough trying to make sense of the increasingly elaborate rules of time-travel and body shifting.

The peculiar children of the film’s title are certainly unique but you can find plenty of other films in the DNA of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, particularly skeleton soldiers from Jason and the Argonauts, the X-Men franchise for making freaks lovable, Groundhog Day and even the underappreciated Hayden Christensen film Jumper, which also has time shifting at its core and the same sort of evil force in Samuel L. Jackson.

Hyper-stylized films like Burton’s usually create stiff performances, but Terence Stamp is grounded as a knowing grandfather and Chris O’Dowd is perfectly oafish as a clueless dad.

Other cameos are by Judi Dench, Allison Janney and Rupert Everett (blink and you miss them). Ella Purnell is lovely and understated as a love interest; she’s buoyant, in more ways than one.

So stretch your definition of heroes to include, say, a cute little girl with razor-sharp teeth on the back of her head. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has all the making of a super franchise — the call of destiny, the making of heroes and the embrace of kinship. Plus, of course, coming to terms with your inner freak.

ABC family gets top marks for LGBT inclusiveness

The television network that gets the most praise from an advocacy group that monitors content featuring gays, lesbians and transgender people has “family” in its name and targets an audience of teenage girls and young women.

GLAAD said in a report issued last week that 74 percent of the programming hours on ABC Family included at least one LGBT character – the highest percentage any network has recorded since the group began issuing content reports in 2007. GLAAD studied the networks for a one-year period that ended May 31.

“We feel it is our responsibility to our viewers to reflect the world that they live in and it’s a diverse world,” said Karey Burke, executive vice president of programming at the Disney-owned network.

ABC Family’s numbers were boosted by the drama “Pretty Little Liars,” where one of the lead characters Emily Fields is a lesbian. “The Fosters” follows the story of a lesbian couple. “Chasing Life” featured a bisexual woman and a gay man, although the latter character died of cancer. “Young & Hungry” and “Mystery Girls” both featured gay men, and there were a number of gays and lesbians in the supporting cast of “Switched at Birth.”

Network viewers are also anticipating the January debut of “Shadow Hunters,” a show based on the book series “The Mortal Instrument” that prominently features a gay couple.

Three-quarters of ABC Family’s typical audience is female, with a median age of 29, according to the Nielsen company.

The network is likely to be more inclusive partly because it seeks a younger audience, an age group that is more accepting of gays and lesbians, said Matt Kane, GLAAD programming director.

Seamlessly including these characters in the stories sends a strong message of acceptance that is likely to help young people dealing with their own identity issues, he said.

“I hope that it is something that other networks are taking notice of,” Kane said.

GLAAD has consulted with ABC Family on its programming, although Kane wouldn’t divulge the group’s specific role. The network and its actors have helped GLAAD with some of its activities, including an annual “Spirit Day” that encourages people to wear purple for a day.

Burke said the status as GLAAD’s top-rated network “makes us deeply proud.

“We were hugging each other in the halls here,” she said. “It’s an honor to be recognized.”

GLAAD’s grade did not reflect “Becoming Us,” a nonfiction series about two transgender people in an Illinois community that aired on ABC Family this summer.

That series, which averaged 452,000 viewers per episode, was a ratings disappointment for ABC Family and it has not been decided whether it will come back for another season. Executives aren’t sure why it didn’t do well, whether the subject matter made viewers feel uncomfortable or whether the attention paid to Caitlyn Jenner’s E! docuseries “I Am Cait” drowned “Becoming Us” out.

“We hope it’s not a reflection of the subject matter,” Burke said.

Despite the inclusive hours, GLAAD said one story line on “Pretty Little Liars” was a disappointment. The series had a mentally ill transgender woman who, in the season finale, attempted to murder both her family and the main cast of the show. GLAAD said it was “the latest in a long series of transgender women portrayed as psychotic killers in mainstream media.”

Part of acceptance for LGBT characters in entertainment is having them portray villains as well as heroes, Burke said.

“We don’t feel the show has anything to apologize for,” she said.

Milwaukee gets the nod | Buddies building bobblehead hall of fame, museum in Milwaukee

“Say ‘bobblehead’ five times. You just have to smile.”

Collector Bobbie Davis of Green Bay offers this advice to the glum, ho-hum and meh-sayers. The waitress and mother of two meditates to relieve stress. She kickboxes to vent tension. But all she needs to brighten her day is to look at her growing collection of bobbleheads.

There’s obviously a substantial number of people like Davis shaking their heads “yes” to bobblehead collections. Bobble-making is a burgeoning business. And bobble-distribution is huge, especially at ballparks. Fan giveaways crowd Major League Baseball’s promotional calendar this season — T-shirts, garden gnomes, pennants, caps, baseball cards, posters and more. The giveaways that sell out stadium after stadium, game after game, are the bobbles, which demonstrate why there are 130 bobblehead promotional nights on the MLB’s 2015 schedule.

The Milwaukee Brewers’ calendar contains 20 all-fan giveaways this season, including two gnomes, seven T-shirts and 10 bobbleheads. Fans left Miller Park on May 10 with a Hank the Dog bobble and later this season the Brewers will give away bobbles in the likeness of Carlos Gomez, Paul Molitor, Khris Davis, Bob Uecker, Jonathan Lucroy and also a vintage Brewer boy bobble.

Bobbles are popular enough these days to give Phil Sklar and Brad Novak big heads. These Milwaukee buddies are the brains and believers behind the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, which they hope to open in the city in late 2016. They also manufacture and sell bobbleheads to support charitable causes and commercial campaigns.

Sklar and Novak, co-founders of the hall of fame and museum, have been best friends since middle school. They attended UWM at the same time. They’re both big sports fans. And they’re roommates with an extensive bobblehead collection.

“It got to the point where bobbleheads were taking over the kitchen,” Sklar says. “And we were like, what do we do with these?”

Building a bobble

The men — Novak was working in sales and Sklar in corporate finance — began talking about how to transform a hobby into a business. They knew they wanted to exhibit the collection and collect more bobbles. But a complete business model came together for them when they helped create a bobblehead for a friend involved in the Special Olympics.

“We realized there was no real good provider of bobbleheads out there offering bobbleheads to somebody who wants 500 or 1,000,” Sklar says. The guys were aware of major suppliers providing tens of thousands of bobbleheads for mass market but they identified an unfilled market for boutique bobbles — say the Little League Brewers rather than the Milwaukee Brewers.

Novak and Sklar began creating bobbles. “We’ve had really good traction,” says Sklar, adding that the company has manufactured several dozen bobbles and is working on several dozen more. “We’re working not just in our area. We’re working all over the country.”

To make a bobblehead — one or 10,000 — a client provides Novak and Sklar with photographs showing what features they want included, or exaggerated. An artistic rendering is created and then, with the client’s approval, a mold is created. Once the mold is finalized and a painted model approved, production begins.

The minimum order for a custom bobble is one, with the price at about $110. Novak and Sklar plan to create an online system for ordering a custom bobble. And someday perhaps, patrons will leave their museum with a personalized bobble.

“The technology isn’t there right now for people to come in and take a bobblehead home, but they could have their face scanned and have their bobblehead in a week,” says Sklar. “And we can have virtual bobbleheads to share on social media.”

Opening the museum

Novak and Sklar are evaluating sites for the museum and hall of fame, with a focus on establishing the institution in downtown Milwaukee.

“This has the potential to really be a good attraction that draws people into Milwaukee,” Sklar says.

Already they have artistic renderings of how the museum might look and, as they plan for an opening, they are visiting other museums in other cities.

“We’ve also done a lot of research online,” Sklar says. “A few things that we have built into the plans for certain are we want to tell the history of bobbleheads. And how bobbleheads are made. And what’s the story behind certain bobbleheads? We can tell those stories, the story of Jackie Robinson or Willie Mays.”

It turns out that the Willie Mays bobble is a milestone in bobblehead history.

The first published reference to a bobblehead is in an 1842 Russian short story, “The Overcoat,” by Nikolai Gogol, who wrote, “like the necks of plaster cats which wag their heads.” Many types of bobbleheads have been made over the years. But modern bobble mania dates to 1999, when the San Francisco Giants gave away the Mays collectible.

“Now,” Sklar says, “I think bobbleheads are everywhere. There’s so much negative news everywhere and we just want to bring some positive cheer, unite people. Bobbleheads, they’re just fun.”

But first, an exhibition

Novak and Sklar’s bobblehead collection is approaching 4,000, large enough that a couple of interns will spend this summer cataloging items.

“And we’re getting more and more bobbleheads,” Sklar says, adding that collectors have offered to donate or loan items to the museum.

In January 2016, RedLine Milwaukee will preview the museum’s collection in the exhibition Bobbleheads: Real & Fantastical Heroism.

The exhibit “presents both a challenge and an opportunity for RedLine Milwaukee,” says RedLine executive director Jeanne Jarecki. “While we will be in our sixth year as a growing nonprofit, we expect this exhibition will attract thousands of visitors and international attention.”

RedLine, 1422 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee, is a charitable organization that promotes the arts through education and with a focus on social justice. The exhibition will focus on heroes: How do we define “hero”? Who is a hero? What are the differences between a “real hero and a fantastical one”? And what role does heroism play in social activism?

Using a timeline approach, the exhibitors will share the history of bobbleheads, explore technological changes in the craft of making the bobbles and examine bobbles as cultural objects.

“We’re looking to showcase the breadth of bobbleheads,” says Sklar, who notes that bobbles vary in size and material, including ceramic and plastic. “In the past five years, people have gotten really creative with bobbleheads.”

The key element of any bobble, of course, is the bobbling ability, by spring or hook.

“If it bobbles, it’s in. That’s our tagline,” Sklar says.

On the Web …

Find more about the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum at bobbleheadhall.com.

We can be heroes: In pursuit of equality in the courts

Eight same-sex couples — with a team of lawyers — committed earlier this year to overturn Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment barring gays and lesbians from the freedom to marry in the state. Their fight continues, but already their pursuit of equality has resulted in the marriages of at least 555 same-sex couples in Wisconsin.

“These families simply want the security and recognition that only marriage provides,” Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, had said when he filed the equality case in Madison in February. “They have built their lives and raised children here. It is wrong for the state to treat these loving and committed couples as second-class citizens, and it is cruel to place them in a catch-22 where they can’t even travel elsewhere to obtain federal protections without their marriage being labeled a crime.”

The couples’ attorneys, the state’s equal rights leaders and the gays and lesbians who hope to take marriage vows, have heralded the couples — Charvonne Kemp and Marie Carlson, Judith Trampf and Katharina Heyning, Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann, Johannes Wallmann and Keith Borden, Salud Garcia and Pam Kleiss, Kami Young and Karina Willes, Bill Hurtubise and Dean Palmer — as heroes.

“To be a plaintiff in a case like this, you have to put yourself out there and vow to see the fight through maybe all the way to the Supreme Court,” said April Goodmann, a Waukesha resident who when the case is settled for good hopes to marry her longtime girlfriend. “These people are heroes, plain and simple. They are my heroes.”

There now are hundreds of heroes serving as plaintiffs in more than 70 marriage equality cases pending in 31 states.

And there’s a long history of heroes who, with the support of groups such as the ACLU and Lambda Legal, challenged laws and regulations, changing the lives of LGBT people in housing and schools, in the Armed Forces and on the job, at the marriage license bureau and in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Most of them have been plaintiffs, but some have been defendants.

A look at just a handful of the many LGBT civil rights cases fought over the years and the legal activists involved in them:

• Jamie Nabozny. For four years, Nabozny was subjected to anti-gay verbal and physical abuse by students at his school in Ashland, Wisconsin. Students urinated on him, pretended to rape him during class and, in one assault, kicked him so many times in the stomach that he required surgery. Nabozny sued the school district and won in a federal appeals court in Chicago, which said in 1996 that public schools are obligated to protect students from anti-gay abuse. Nabozny, represented by Lambda, also won back in Wisconsin, where a jury in 1996 also found school officials liable.

• Richard G. Evans. Evans, an administrator in Denver, was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Colorado’s Amendment 2, enacted by voters in 1992. The amendment barred governments in the state from enacting non-discrimination ordinances or policies that would protect gays. The state argued that Amendment 2 simply prohibited creating “special rights” for gays, but Evans et al., represented by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, argued the measure denied gays the right to participate in the political process. The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in 1996, said the amendment did not satisfy the Equal Protection Clause. The majority opinion said, “The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence.”

• John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner. On Sept. 17, 1998, deputies in Harris County, Texas, were dispatched to an apartment expecting to deal with a “black male going crazy with a gun.” It was a false claim, called in to police by a jealous man. At the apartment, two deputies said they saw Lawrence and Garner engaged in sexual activity. They arrested the men for “deviate sex.” The two pleaded no contest before a justice of the peace, then appealed in Texas Criminal Court. Their case, managed by Lambda Legal, reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2003 that sexual relationships between consenting adults are protected by the 14th Amendment.

• Ninia Baerhr and Genora Dancel. The women became the lead plaintiffs in Baehr v. Miike, the landmark lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in Hawaii in the 1990s. Though state lawmakers and voters erected barriers to the plaintiffs securing that right in the 1990s, their case launched the marriage equality movement and resulted, way back in 1993, in the first high court ruling for gay marriage. Today, Hawaii is an equality state. 

• Edith Windsor. Windsor is the widow of Thea Clary Spyer and the executor of Spyer’s estate. The women married in Canada in 2007, two years before Spyer’s death, and their marriage was legal in the state of New York. But until last summer, the marriage was not recognized by the federal government, which imposed $363,000 in taxes on the estate left to Windsor. Windsor’s lawsuit, brought by the ACLU, resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Section 3 in the Defense of Marriage Act and the full federal recognition of gay marriages.

• Miguel Brashi. Braschi and Leslie Blanchard lived together for 10 years in a rent-controlled apartment in New York City, beginning in 1975. When Blanchard died in September 1986, the landlord threatened to evict Braschi, maintaining that he had no right to stay because Blanchard was the tenant of record. The 1989 case, Braschi v. Stahl, led the court to expand the definition of family in the city’s rent control regulations. The majority opinion said that protection against eviction “should not rest on fictitious legal distinctions or genetic history, but instead should find its foundation in the reality of family life.”