American Splendor (2003)

“Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.” American Splendor profiles the life and times of legendary comic curmudgeon Harvey Pekar (portrayed by Paul Giamatti) in his day-to-day drudgery as a file clerk at Cleveland’s VA hospital, obsessively collecting obscure comic books and jazz records at garage sales, befriending Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak), starting his own comic book writing career (he leaves the drawing itself to other underground artists like Crumb), arguing with buddy and self-claimed “Genuine Nerd” Toby Radloff (Judah Friedlander) about the merits of Revenge of the Nerds, meeting his future wife Joyce Brabner (Hope Davis) and sparring with David Letterman. Also look for appearances by Pekar and Brabner sprinkled throughout the film. Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the flick is pretty hilarious and clever if you’re in the right frame of mind. It creatively documents the mundane existence and eccentricities of Pekar, the “Poet Laureate of Cleveland.” American Splendor captured the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. Pekar (1939-2010) is buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. His epitaph reads, “LIFE IS ABOUT WOMEN, GIGS, AN’ BEIN’ CREATIVE.”

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