Commencement 2007

Today’s commencement was the first I’d been to at NCSA, and, dag, it was ossome.

It wasn’t as wild as I’d been led to believe, but the last graduation I went to forbade cheering for your kid as they walked because of the time cheering takes and the sheer number of kids they had to get through, so this was plenty wild.

No gowns — unless you really wanna — because everybody wears what they want. Lotsa nice dresses, some suits, some costumes, one Charlie Chaplin, and one fella who stripped down to some bikini briefs to accept his diploma. All very much in the spirit of celebration, and well-received.

The same with the film school montage to “Bohemian Rhapsody” (I am having a terrible time remembering words this weekend, to include stumpers like “program,” “artist bio,” and just now “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Apparently Googling “Queen fandango” is quicker than my brain. Technology 1, Tory 0.)

The school put on a hell of a show, in the Stevens Center (indoors! air-conditioned! parking deck!). And we had as our speaker Danny Elfman.

Danny Elfman
If you need me I’ll be over here being cooler than you

He professed a fear of public speaking, warned of an autobiographical digression, and disclosed this was the first college graduation he’d attended — and then gave the most memorable, relatable and exciting graduation speech I’d ever heard.

Didn’t hurt that his speech was immediately preceded by a reel of his work. You’ve heard of Danny Elfman. You know some of the stuff he’s worked on. But then you see a reel of it all together and you realize he worked on everything that asploded your brain since you were nine years old. Pee Wee, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Men in Black, the Spiderman movies, Hulk, Midnight Run, BATMAN frickin BATMAN defined the 1989 reinvention of Batman more than the movie itself BATMAN, Simple Plan, the SIMPSONS frickin SIMPSONS, Back to School and it never dawned on me even with the Oingo Boingo cameo and the murt-murt gleeful horns of Back to School that he scored that one and Back to School was hella influential in my cinematic upbringing and I’d like to see a renaissance of that kind of comedy like Love and Death where a master of one-liners leads a string of gags like the Pied Piperof Hamlin, but I digress, point is Danny Elfman asplodes my brain.

In other news, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo got a shout-out on Boing Boing the other day, and on the drive to Charleston an animator put on soundtrack to The Forbidden Zone, so Elfman’s long and baffling musical past is still very much in the public ear.


I like working behind the camera if it means you can start relatively late in life, work on kick-ass influential movies and TV for twenty years and not peak yet.

It would have been enough to share a room with a working part of Beetlejuice — the deranged sensory experience that, along with Bruce Campbell’s “If Chins Could Kill,” nudged me into film in the first place. But for him to reveal himself as personable, eloquent, and full of essential truth — well, to paraphrase Oogie Boogie, that really is too much.

Then Rosemary Harris came onstage to read a Martha Graham quote to us about performance. Did that happen at your graduation? NO I DITTENT THINK SO.

Rosemary Harris
Did you need some screen presence? Cos I have some extra you can use

In honor of Mr. (now Dr. Elfman) and Ms. Harris, the first in a series of essential truths:

Today’s Essential Truth

Graduation is awesome. And it’s even better the second time.

Wait, wait… I have another one:

When socializing with your significant other’s family, a good topic for lively conversation is your significant other. He’s something you all have experience with, all enjoy, and can all swap stories about.

Since Bruce Campbell already guest-artisted here (before my time, and that’s probably best, as I think his giggling fan quotient is well and satisfied; next year we just need Richard Williams, animation director of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and we’ll pretty much have covered everything that got me here in the first place.


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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