Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band - Garden Party
"Just like Rick Nelson, you should do what you want, regardless of what your audience and various celebrities who attend your concert at Madison Square Garden want to hear. “You got to please yourself” as Mr. Nelson says." - Eugene Mirman on Garden Party.
Dan, what country is lucky enough to count Tommy Wiseau as a citizen?
Questions about his country of origin abound but make no mistake, director/actor/philosopher Tommy Wiseau is a citizen of The United States of America. Heck, Tommy Wiseau is America. (The country, not the Ferrera.) He personifies the hopes, dreams and desires of an entire nation. In short, Tommy Wiseau is the American Dream.
The Room possesses the dazzling highs, the crushing lows and the creamy middle paradoxes that encapsulate the American experience. It’s as American as Batman having missionary position sex inside the Liberty Bell! And all of it poured out of the heart of Tommy Wiseau (the man with the passion of Tennessee Williams). The man revolutionized the way we toss/lob the football around, for Goodness sake.
AV Club writer extraordinaire Scott Tobias covered The Room for his “The New Cult Canon” column. His analysis of the film’s insanity is essential reading. Duck and cover, it’s there’s about to be a copy and paste explosion! (Kaboom!)
“I genuinely love The Room. I never have a bad time, which is why I’ve been eight or nine times so far. Oftentimes when I’m feeling down or depressed, I’ll wish I could live forever in the dark space of The Room, where you can say whatever you want, people will laugh, and you never have to worry about the consequences of your actions. Forget booze, the real intoxicant is the film itself. Let the earnest ineptitude wash over you, and submit to the unholy power of The Room.” —Jon Danforth-Appell, The Room superfan
“Hi doggy.” —Tommy Wiseau, The Room
November 8, 1990. That was the day The Rocky Horror Picture Show was finally released on VHS, and for a dwindling audience of cultists, the day the midnight movie was officially declared dead. After a long holdout that managed to outlast the video boom of the 1980s, the film had reached that crucial tipping point where the communal experience of dressing up and yelling at the screen every weekend had lost to the temptations of ownership and private viewing. And with it came a symbolic and perhaps decisive shift of film culture from the movie theater to the living room. Part of the reason I write this column every week is to patch together some of those living-room cultists who catch up with movies on DVD and are looking for a safe space to obsess. Because where else can people like us get together?
But the midnight movie wasn’t entirely laid to rest—its emaciated zombie lives on in the smattering of theaters still hosting midnight shows around the country. You could make an argument for several movies given new life by the witching hour—Donnie Darko, Showgirls, and Troll 2 leap immediately to mind, and Road House seems to be gaining momentum—but Tommy Wiseau’s The Room may be the first true successor to the Rocky Horror throne. Since ending a two-week run at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 theater in Los Angeles in 2003, Wiseau’s self-distributed anti-gem has nurtured a cult following through once-a-month midnight screenings. And in the time since, as devotees continue to plumb the mysteries of its mesmerizing inanity, the audience has taken ownership of it: They throw spoons. They shout a repertoire of canned and spontaneous zingers at the screen. They reenact whole scenes in front of the theater. They toss the ol’ pigskin around.
Thanks mainly to an excellent Entertainment Weekly piece by Clark Collis, what was once a well-kept L.A.-only secret—or as secret as anything promoted by a bizarre billboard could be—has recently been spreading throughout the country, popping up in sold-out shows in New York and other cities, and on a recent episode of Tim And Eric Awesome Show Awesome Show, Great Job! Approaching the film as a Chicago-based outsider, with a healthy skepticism of L.A. phenomena of any stripe, I’m now convinced that it’s the real deal. It may not have the staying power of a Rocky Horror, if only because midnight-movie culture just isn’t as sustainable as it once was, but in the annals of bad cinema, The Room deserves shelf-space next to Ed Wood’s Glen Or Glenda? Both are personal and shockingly amateurish laughers that put their directors in front of the camera and are all too revealing of their odd peccadilloes. Wood has a thing for angora sweaters; Wiseau has a thing for pillow fights, red roses, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Who are we not to luxuriate in their fetishes?
Collis’ article covers the story behind The Room pretty thoroughly, so most of that background, I’ll leave to him. But here’s an amazing factoid: It cost $6 million to make. That figure includes marketing, too—no doubt five years’ worth of billboard space takes a toll—but the film looks like it was shot for 1/100th of that budget. Wiseau also apparently shot it on 35mm and HD simultaneously, with both cameras on the same mount, which might explain the problems he has with focus and what could euphemistically be described as “creative” use of offscreen space. The vast majority of the film takes place in one haphazardly decorated room—a room, not the room of the title, which remains tantalizingly enigmatic—and all expense was spared on competent crewmembers and professional actors. I’m imagining Wiseau as Zero Mostel in The Producers, selling 25,000 percent of his movie to a gaggle of little old ladies with the intent of producing a bomb and running off with the losses. Except that Wiseau’s scheme seems to have worked.
(Now would be a good time to refer you to A Viewer’s Guide To The Room, an exhaustive document prepared by Jon Danforth-Appell and his chums, who asked to be credited as “House Of Qwesi.” Since I’d never seen The Room before—and didn’t see it with an audience—I asked Jon to give me some background on the ritual. I’m grateful to him and his friends for going way beyond the call of duty.)
Virtually all the scenes that are interiors were shot in Los Angeles, but make no mistake: The Room is set in San Francisco. How do we know this? Most of the transitions from one scene to the next include a pan across the Golden Gate Bridge, so many that the audience cheers “Go! Go! Go! Go!” as the camera tracks across it. (Cue the deflated sighs when the camera doesn’t make it all the way across.) And in case the Golden Gate Bridge is too obscure a landmark, Wiseau also supplies a shot of Alcatraz and B-roll footage of himself, as spurned loverboy Johnny, hopping on a trolley. Golden Gate and Alcatraz seem to have some sort of symbolic value, but it’s never clear what, exactly; so it goes with the visual metaphors in The Room, where Wiseau makes a point of showing a young man chomping on Eve’s apple without following up with temptation or sin.
Sporting an accent of indeterminate Eastern European origin, Wiseau sounds a little like Peter Stormare as the cable guy in Logjammers, the porn-movie-within-a-movie in The Big Lebowski. (“That’s why they call me, I am expert.”) His Johnny is the noblest of boyfriends and most capable of lovers: He’s a stable provider. He’s faithful. He’s a steadfast supplier of cheesy silk dresses and red roses. And his horrific lovemaking features all the careful stagecraft and R&B grooves of a Three Times One Minus One video. But none of that satisfies his fiancée Lisa (Juliette Danielle), a wicked Jezebel whose boredom with Johnny manifests in a brazen affair with his best friend Mark, played by the dreamy Greg “Sestosterone” Sestero. Lisa’s seductive powers are clearly too overwhelming for Mark to resist, in spite of his serious misgivings as Johnny’s best friend and all. And did I mention that he’s Johnny’s best friend?
Between the four enervating love scenes that provide The Room with its Skinemax-ready raison d’être, Wiseau introduces a range of other characters who have a stake in Johnny and Lisa’s happiness. There’s Lisa’s scolding mother Claudette (Carolyn Minnott), who drops by for five-minute visits to beg Lisa to hold onto Johnny for financial security alone, because marriage isn’t about love. (Claudette also slips into conversation what may be the funniest non sequitur ever uttered: “I got the results of the test back. I definitely have breast cancer.”) Stopping by as well is Denny (Philip Haldiman), a fresh-faced “kidult” who seems like a voyeuristic creep until it’s revealed that he’s an orphan Johnny has taken under his wing. Johnny’s fatherly relationship to Denny comes into play later when he thwarts a drug dealer who has come to collect from the boy; the details of his drug problem (what he uses, what he owes, the severity of his addiction) are subsequently dropped. Then there are the minor “Who the fuck are these people?!” characters, including a couple who surreptitiously sneak into Johnny and Lisa’s place for a disgusting chocolate-enhanced snog, and another guy who shows up in the third act to castigate Lisa for making him feel like he’s sitting on the “atomic bomb” that is her sabotaged engagement.
At the core of all this superfluous nonsense is genuine, unmistakable, nakedly personal pain: Somebody out there hurt Wiseau badly, and The Room is his attempt to come to terms with it. His conclusion? Women are terrible, irrational, manipulative creatures who get off on toying with the hearts of good men. (The film’s runaway misogyny has not gone unnoticed by its devotees, who have turned “’cause you’re a woman” into “the Room equivalent of adding ‘in bed’ to a fortune-cookie fortune.”) Wiseau goes out of his way to excuse Mark from having any culpability in his affair with Lisa, hence the constant “He’s my best friend” recitations and the impression that her quirky, Kristen Schaal-like attractiveness is the feminine equivalent of Rohypnol. When she can’t persuade anyone that Johnny’s affection (and ox-like lovemaking technique) is suffocating her like a hothouse flower, Lisa starts making up stories about him drinking and hitting her, and cooks up a fake pregnancy in the eleventh hour. Even for someone of Johnny’s gentle temperament, it’s enough to tear a guy apart:
For as much trouble as Wiseau has figuring out women, men are just as profoundly baffling. He’s like an alien anthropologist, trying to glean behavior patterns from the teensiest morsels of observation. As he understands it, guys do the following things: 1. Toss a football around from three feet apart. Sometimes in tuxes. 2. End conversations with a complicated series of handshakes and fist-bumps. 3. Taunt each other with “CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP” chicken noises. That’s really all he’s got. Love and friendship in Johnny’s world tends to run one way: He gives and gives and gives, and in return for his endless generosity, he tastes the bitter ash of betrayal.
The sad impression left by The Room—and maybe the whiff of regret that could ultimately short-circuit its potential as a lasting midnight phenomenon—is that Wiseau is a lonely man who can’t comprehend even the most basic forms of human interaction. That’s also, of course, what makes the film so deliriously misguided and funny. In the years since The Room was made, Wiseau has pulled an “I meant to do that” on its perceived shortcomings as drama; “Experience this quirky new black comedy, it’s a riot!” screams the DVD cover. (Nice try, bud.) The average so-bad-it’s-good entertainment can only offer so much mileage, but The Room, like Glen Or Glenda?, is stranger and more revealing than a mere stinker. Through a film as unvarnished and florid as an adolescent’s diary, Wiseau offers himself up to the audience as few have the courage to do. He may get ridiculed in return, but deep down, in our most confused and humbling and vulnerable moments, isn’t there a Tommy Wiseau in all of us?
Just when you thought the Vancouver Olympics couldn’t be any more of a disaster, Johnny Weir gets mugged outright by the judges. I may have to look into flipping a cop car. (Fun Fact: It’s legal if you’re like really mad about sports you watch occasionally)
In the 1990s, Shapiro became controversial for his self-promotional television commercials in which he promised to obtain large financial settlements for accident victims, referred to himself as “the meanest, nastiest S.O.B. in town” and claimed to have “aggressive courtroom prowess”. His ads’ visuals frequently included vehicle crashes, falling bodies, and explosions. He also began selling not-for-profit t-shirts which featured “a vicious beast with blood dripping from its fangs” and the words “Protected by Vicious S.O.B., Jim The Hammer Shapiro.”
Shapiro sold all three law firms and now writes books. He is the author of Victims Rights to Maximum Cash, Sue the Bastards, Million Dollar Lungs, Injury Victims Rights to Maximum Cash, Instant Credit Repair and Get Back All Your Lost Investments!.
In 2002, Christopher Wagner, a former client, sued Shapiro for malpractice. Wagner was injured in a 1995 motor vehicle accident and had responded to Shapiro’s commercials. Wagner claimed he had incurred $USD182,000 in medical bills, but Shapiro’s firm, Shapiro and Shapiro, encouraged him to accept a settlement of $65,000, promising more money could be obtained in a lawsuit against the state of New York. However, the state had no liability and Shapiro never pursued any further action on Wagner’s behalf.
In a video deposition during the trial, Shapiro admitted he had never tried a case in court and had lived in Florida since 1995. Wagner’s lawyer, Robert Williams, claimed Shapiro’s firm in Rochester was staffed by one lawyer who had only taken four cases to trial. The New York Supreme Court jury found Shapiro had engaged in misleading advertising and legal malpractice and awarded a $1.5 million judgment against Shapiro.
Consequently, In 2004 he was suspended from practicing law for one year in New York. In 2005 he was also suspended from practicing law for one year in Florida.
Shapiro said the decision to suspend him from practicing in New York was “unfair and unconstitutional” but claimed the ruling would have little effect because he had sold his Rochester office and was now promoting books.
In December, 2004, four additional former clients sued Shapiro for unspecified damages, alleging he had engaged in misleading advertising and legal malpractice.
Shapiro is known for his philanthropy in Rochester. Since 1996, he has donated $7,500 per year to elementary schools to purchase books. He has indicated that his goal is to put $600,000 worth of books into schools within ten years. In 1996, he donated 86.5 acres of land worth $800,000 to the Rochester YMCA. He has also donated land in Rochester valued at $120,000 to be used as a park for children.
Shapiro, J., Sue the Bastards, Advertising Consultants World Wide Inc., 1997
Shapiro, J., Victims Rights to Maximum Cash,
Shapiro, J., Million Dollar Lungs
Shapiro, J., Injury Victims Rights to Maximum Cash, 1992
Some Thoughts On A Couple Films I've Seen Recently
Cinema! It’s what separates us from the animals. Granted, there are cases in which animals make a film through a tax credit (see Sweden’s famous crow filmmaker: Pelle Crowenberg), but by and large humans make the best films. I’ve seen a few recently and I thought I’d post some review-y blurbs about them. I may do this on a weekly basis. I hope movies still exist in the future.
I love Lil’ Wayne. Holy Cow, do I love Lil’ Wayne. Not a week passes where I don’t listen to something from Da Drought 3. You know who else likes Lil’ Wayne? Popular recording artist Lil’ Wayne. Dude makes King Of Kong's Billy Mitchell look humble.
Throughout the film (shot during Wayne’s 2008 breakthrough into mainstream superstardom) Weezy is constantly recording, smoking weed and drinking enough cough syrup to open a Flaming Moe’s. Director Adam Bhala Lough never interviews Wayne directly, but instead uses footage of press interviews and conjoles some information from those close to Wayne (like Birdman, his manager and the adorable daughter he clearly neglects). Wayne is an absolute asshole, but he’s a driven asshole for whom there is no separation between work and life. Also, he really hates alimony and child support.
One stumbling block for the film, is The Carter's reliance on using lyrics as a window into Weezy's psyche. I mean, For a guy that's recorded thousands of tracks, you'd think they would select some better tunes. Was “I Feel Like Dying” left out for legal reasons? The film zips along fairly quickly, and I couldn't get past the feeling that at least one of these lyrics-n-arty-slow-motion-sequences could be sacrificed for additional coverage of its star. It's a mild quibble for a film that serves as compelling document of an immense talent that seems intent on a particularly messy brand of self-destruction.
Rob Marshall has a very unique talent. One that I’m certain no other director possesses. Marshall has the unheardof ability to extract all the sex appeal out of a lust-mad Penelope Cruz rolling about onscreen. Whatever the opposite of a miracle is, Rob Marshall has performed it. Fuck you, Rob Marshall. You impossibly boring mucus plug masquerading as a director.
Nine is horrendous on a wide variety of levels. It’s soulless. The musical numbers are unbearable (in particular the one featuring Kate Hudson that had me fantasizing about shoving grenades in my ears). Everyone onscreen aside from the darling Marion Cotillard stunk. To call Nine a colossal mess would suggest that there’s something campy or fun to extract from it. There is not.