Friday, April 20, 2018

The Room - An Emotional Rollercoaster

Tommy Wiseau's The Room is not a good movie. It's not. NO, it's not! But it is a GREAT movie.

I mean, it's an absolute piece of shit. Almost unwatchable. There's no plot. The character's motivations turn on a dime. Story lines are forgotten the second they are mentioned. The cinematography would get you a C grade if you did this in film school. And the pacing is on par with an incontinent octogenarian's bowel movement. But YOU need to see it.

I'm serious!

A little back story:

Somewhere around 2009, Joel Rickenbach started the "You've Got Geek On You" podcast (later shortened to "You've Got Geek.") The title was a homage to a line in Shaun of the Dead ("You've got red on you, did you know that?") It was a pop culture podcast that explored film, television, music, comics, games, books, etc.

The podcast was born out of late night phone calls Joel and I would have about these same topics. This was 100% Joel's baby. So he asked me and James Hunsinger to join him every Wednesday night (or sometimes Sundays or whatever day of the week worked for everyone's availability).

Aside from providing an MATURE rating from iTunes, my greatest contribution was "The Nerd Confessions." This came out of an episode where I admitted, I had never seen James Cameron's Aliens before. This was rectified in July of 2009.

Andrew Mitchell set up what would be the first or three screenings at the University of Delaware. For the inaugural screening, we invited anyone who was interested in coming to watch Aliens with us.

Bob Trate (future "You've Got Geek" panelist) brought his helmet for me to wear.

The next screening would be Flash Gordon, in which Dave Perillo and Brendan Carr (future "You've Got Geek" panelist), would perform as The Ukes of Earl in opening the night's festivities (though Dave became unavailable at the last moment and Brendan played solo)
Steve Manocchio watching Brendan rock out. Also, that camera makes me wonder where the hell that footage is! 
Flash Gordon was a MST3K type viewing. All were welcome to shout out whatever they wanted at the screen. It was probably my favorite screening of the three movies we'd show there.

The final screening however, would be the aforementioned The Room. Tommy Wiseau's masterpiece about a guy who is in love with a girl, who seems to be in love with his best friend, and possibly a 14 year old boy next door. I believe this took place early 2010.

The screening was amazing! It was a room full of friends, almost all of who, were seeing the movie for the first time. THIS is how the movie is meant to be seen. In numbers.

I find it near unwatchable in a singular setting. But the more people you gather, the better the film.

I would go on to watch it two more times in my life. Once, as part of Brendan's bachelor party in late 2010 (though , admittedly, I told Joel to wake me when it was over having seen it with in the same calendar year - that's about as much as the human condition can accept seeing it). And then finally May 18, 2012 as part of the "You've Got Geek" sponsored screening at The Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, PA.

THIS was the screening where Jim Burns showed up as Johnny AKA Tommy Wiseau.

While this was the first public appearance, Jim had been "Tommy" before. Specifically on the 2/23/2011 episode of "You've Got Geek."  <--- CLICK to listen to the episode.

Fast forward to April 2018.

I got a text from Jim about a staged reading of The Room at PhilaMOCA in Philadelphia. He asked if I was going to attend. I was on the fence, until he told me HE was reading the part of Johnny. 

YES! That's Greg Sestero (the actor who played Mark, the writer of the book Disaster Artist (which was turned into a movie starring and directed by James Franco), and of course Tommy Wiseau's best friend).
Jim is a private dude. I'm not.
I immediately told Julie and decided to call on EVERYONE I could think of who might be remotely interested.
Julie and I started throwing names at each other. And then we both became extremely sad.
Both of us had immediately thought of Joel.
Joel passed away in 2015.
He is still a huge presences in both of our lives. Not a week goes by where I don't have the thought in the back of my head that I should, "call Joel."

See a good movie - Call Joel.
See a bad movie - Call Joel.
Think of an extremely irreverent joke - Call Joel.

Phillies deplete their bullpen in the 3rd game of the season and need to use a position player to pitch an inning - Call Joel.

898 days, and my first reaction is still to "Call Joel."

Last night at the reading of The Room, I laughed my freaking head off! Every single person in the cast was stellar! With Jim's Johnny and the woman playing Lisa as stand outs.

All night I had this feeling eating at me. Right before we took this picture, Jim (not Johnny, not Tommy) put the feeling into words:

"I can hear Joel's laugh."

I asked a random woman to take this photo. I didn't crop or alter it in anyway. Today I realized,without knowing it, she left the room to Jim and Julie's left for Joel. 

Sometimes when you set out to make a dramatic film for you and your friend to act in, you instead end up making a comedy cult masterpiece.

(*Apologies for typos. I wrote this piece crying while listening to Joel's laugh)

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