Writer’s Room: Audiences More Entertaining Than the Movie

By: 11.15.12  •  95 Comments

LESLIE SMALL: Stoney Spice

I’ve had a long standing love affair with going to the movies.  What other place can a chubby kid maintain their sedentary lifestyle while still experiencing cool things to talk about at school?  Oh, you went to the zoo?  I guess that’s cool, but not as cool as watching Harrison Ford outsmart everyone and restore honor to his name in “The Fugitive”!  The movies have always been a sanctuary for un-athletic kids who live vicariously through film characters, and I was no exception.  I would spend my allowance on candy from the store and sneak it in, because I was a badass, albeit a portly one.  As if the thrill of sneaking candy in wasn’t enough, I would also go theatre hopping, taking in as many movies as my little mind could handle and then some.

In 1998, when the movie “Half-Baked” came out, I was able to go to the movie unattended, which was great, because how lame would it have been to have your parents go with you?!?!  Super, that’s how lame.  Not that I was old enough to get into THAT movie on my own, but where there’s a will there’s a way.  I was friends with this dipsh*t girl who said she was down to go sneak into “Half-Baked” with me.  My plan was flawless, the Spice Girls’ abortion of a movie [HOW DARE YOU! -Ed] was out at that same time, and we told our parents we were really excited to see it!  Looking back, I’m mad that my parents actually believed that would be something I would watch, really, shame on them!  I had scored some pot from a sketchy dude at school, which we smoked out of a metal pipe I had borrowed from my cousin.  All and all I was feeling pretty badass.  We bought tickets to “Spice World”, a move so embarrassing that I almost wanted to tell the attendant “We’re really sneaking into “Half-Baked”, I swear we’re not lame!”, however that would have defeated the purpose of sneaking in.

Once we had gained egress to the hallway of movies, my accomplice started to lose her nerve.  “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to sneak into that movie, what if we get caught?!?!”  She asked, nervously twirling her hair.  “Are you kidding?” I replied, “This is what we came to do!”  Right then I knew this bitch was bailing on my carefully-crafted scheme, and I was having none of it.  I told her, “Look, if you’re going to puss out on this whole operation I’m going in alone, I didn’t come here and get this high to watch motherf*cking “Spice World”, so get it together.”  I figured that was the tough-love pep talk she would need to assert her inner cool kid, but much to my dismay, and thanks to her altered state, she began to cry.  So I did the only reasonable thing I could, I dragged her blubbering ass to the “Spice World” theatre and told her to have fun, I would catch her later, like when her mom came to pick us up.

At this point I’m a solo criminal executing my own plan, but also really high.  I sat down in the “Half-Baked” theatre feeling weird from both the pot and being alone in a theatre.  As the movie started people cheered, and I heard the familiar sound of a lighter striking its flint, except everywhere.  Then that pungent scent started permeating the room and I thought, “Holy sh*t, people are smoking weed IN THE THEATRE!”  I was barely able to focus on what was happening on screen, and that distraction increased ten-fold when a guy two seats over passed me a joint.  A whole joint!  I never had enough weed to roll joints at that age, nor the necessary know how, and I marveled at the fact that I was deemed cool enough to have a joint shared by a much more seasoned neighbor.  The actual movie was a blast, but it paled in comparison to the experience of smoking weed in the theatre, especially with the volume being consumed.  I feel like those were the good old days, when an entire theatre full of underage kids could hang out and enjoy a movie while getting really, really high.  Needless to say I had to re-watch the movie to get the full gist of it, but the experience is one I could never forget.

JAMIE LEE: Revenge of the Shrooms

Right after I graduated college, my best friend Sara and I went backpacking through Europe. When we got to Amsterdam, we were determined to try shrooms for the first time. The guy who sold them to us emphasized that we need to “find a place to sit for three or four hours” while we were tripping, so Sara and I decided to park ourselves in a screening of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith – what we thought would be a nice, long shroom-friendly epic. And it was! In the midst of having the best visual and body high of my life, causing me to pretty much forget that Sara was even sitting next to me, her voice slowly faded back into my life when she began repeating, “I feel cold. I feel cold.”

“What?” I said, staring at her face, which looked like it was made of melted butter that I wanted to eat and/or bathe in. The movie ended and we were the only two people left in the theatre. Sara kept complaining about feeling cold. Finally, we stood up and instantly realized that she had peed all over herself. We sat back down in the empty theatre and just kept laughing until the custodians came in to clean, and even then, they didn’t ask us to leave. PeePants and I just kept cracking up like two old (and one cold) ladies. Well… “ladies.” Viva la Amsterdam!

VINCE MANCINI: Michael Bay’s People

I think it was a good two years on this job before I actually managed to weasel my way onto the mailing list for press screening invites, and when I did, I was disappointed to find that if I’d just been semi-homeless or a resident of a halfway house, I would’ve been getting invited all along. Maybe it’s a minimum-security prison field trip? Okay, so I’m not sure where they get most of the people that show up to free advance screenings, but between the civilians and the film critics, who are as bizarre a demographic as you’re going to find – we’re talking albino hemophiliacs and grown men in leather berets – it’s like a stew with too many ingredients. Plenty of theater goers have actually made their way into my reviews. There was the human hillock at The Zookeeper, who actually made me feel bad about my life choices (not that it’s hard). There was the guy in the velour tracksuit with silver dragons printed all over it who walked out of The Iron Lady. And most recently, there was the kind soul somewhere behind me during Flight, who loudly kicked over his or her empty beer bottle just as Denzel Washington was giving an embarrassingly earnest speech about his lifetime of alcoholism – the worst part of the film, but by far the best part of my theater experience that day.

Odd then that my story comes from a movie I actually paid to see. Back in aught nine, a radio show asked me if I wanted to come on and review Transformers 2.  I hadn’t been planning to see it, for obvious reasons, but I take my job very seriously, and if someone wants my professional opinion on exactly how dog poop tastes, I’m more than willing to describe it in verbose, polysyllabic detail. It was playing at the Prospect Park theater in Brooklyn, a few blocks from me and Matt Ufford’s old apartment, a theater I generally avoided because it was crappy and old, with uncomfortable stain-covered seats and an audience always filled with loud talkers. But I wasn’t riding any subways to see Transformers, and I figured explosions and robot jive talk would more than drown out the townies. I also figured that I’d be bored, just sitting there quietly, respectfully watching a robots punch each other like I was at the goddamned ballet. I decided to stay busy with snacks and at least kill two birds with one stone. I’d been wanting to try the sausage sub at the pizza place a few doors down and I figured this was a perfect opportunity. Turns out this joint’s 8-inch sub, when filled with sausage and peppers and cheese and marinara, was roughly the size of an entire loaf of bread covered in tin foil, which made it harder than I’d planned to smuggle into the theater inside the bottom pocket of my cargo shorts (oh shut up, don’t act like you weren’t wearing cargo shorts in 2009, they were all the rage!). As did the fact that it was as hot as a fresh pot of coffee. But though I gave myself first-degree burns on my thigh skin, I did manage to smuggle it in, mainly on account of no one at the theater gave a sh*t.

Once inside, the best way I can describe the atmosphere is, do you remember that bus-trip scene from A League of Their Own? Where the girls had to take their bratty kids on the road trip with them, and the kids are running up and down the aisles screaming and smearing chocolate on everyone’s faces and blowing those pinwheel toys with lit sparklers in their ears? It was like that. Let me see if I can paint you a picture: on my left, there was a middle-aged Guatemalan couple, where the husband didn’t speak English and the wife was left to translate the entire movie, and not in a whisper either, but a normal, room-volume speaking voice. I always wondered how you say “Allspark” in Spanish. In front of me, three middle-school-aged white kids who were texting non-stop throughout the entire movie, possibly to each other. And behind me, a group of high-school-aged black dudes would narrate the on-screen action with outbursts like “Oh sh*t, that’s Optimus right there!” Funny thing about Transformers, there are so many blurry, quick-cut shots of indistinguishable CGI metal that they’d occasionally fight over whether that had indeed been Optimus.

Meanwhile, I took in this whole scene while trying to unhinge my jaw wide enough to consume a cholesterol-stuffed bread loaf, with entire sauce-covered sausages occasionally squirting out the end onto my lap, staining my cargos (they were camo, luckily). Suddenly I realized. These, I thought, looking around, are Michael Bay’s people. See, I bet when someone tried to tell Michael Bay that a few of his scenes were just indistinguishable blurry balls of CGI metal where you couldn’t even tell the characters apart, Michael Bay probably thought, “Eh, f*ck it, it’s just a Transformers movie.” And the audience, when we were making the decision to text, or to translate in the movie, or to yell at the screen, or to attempt to eat a sausage-spitting duraflame log covered in cheese in the dark, consciously or unconsciously, we all on some level thought to ourselves, “Should I do this crude, obnoxious thing? Would it be fair to the people around me? …Eh, f*ck it, it’s just a Michael Bay movie.”

So it goes.

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