THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017; director: James Franco)
I’m not one of those people who is obsessed with The Room. Never threw plastic spoons at a movie screen after midnight, never took a photo with Tommy Wiseau, never think to quote it in my daily life. Yell out “You’re tearing me apart!” for a laugh and I’ll at first think that you’re referencing Rebel Without a Cause. I am what is technically called “out of it”. It’s not that I hate The Room. It’s alright. It’s a big thing with millennials, I guess. Me, I’m too busy checking nutrition labels on food products for fiber content to think much about Tommy Wiseau’s auteur statement. I saw it ten years ago and it got a couple of smirks out of me, but then I moved on. If so-called bad movies are your thing, there’s a whole world of ’em out there. As memorable as it is, Wiseau’s botched melodrama is merely another Froot Loop in a big, Tor Johnson-sized cereal box.
Furthermore, I’m of the view that the unintentional comedy of bad movies is usually the LEAST interesting thing about them. How many times can you laugh at the same instance of clumsy ADR? Or chuckle at someone’s over-acting? Or giggle at a rough special effect? How many times can you chortle until you start to get bored with feeling superior? Of infinitely greater appeal to me is the treatment of these films as strange artifacts from outside the bounds of good taste. Films that are unique, even if by accident, in a business where most things that come out are test-marketed pieces of plastic.
The Room has been a cult phenomenon since the mid-2000s. Everybody’s already made all of the jokes. Nobody’s coming up with new ones. Now is a good time for the masses to appreciate the determination and insanity that went on behind the scenes.
I got this on Blu-ray because it struck me as a great way to give another chance to a film that put me to sleep when I was 13. As a teenage classic movie weirdo dorkface, all Bela Lugosi movies I’d seen at the time were winners, except for Chandu the Magician from 1932. This movie STUNK. It was choppy and uninvolving–and actor Edmund Lowe’s impersonation of a piece of wood as the titular hero didn’t help.
What did I know back then, though? I didn’t know how to drive a car. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t know that my clothes and hair looked stupid.
But decades have passed and things have changed. (I can drive now.) Maybe my opinion on Chandu has similarly changed.
Tiny Idols: Transmissions from the Indie Underground 1991-1995
2005, Snowglobe Records
In my defense, I never wore horn-rim glasses nor did I own the “sunny-side up” Pavement T-shirt or the Sebadoh shirt with the heart on it, but 90s indie rock did its job on me all right. I was right in there, reading Puncture magazine in my dorm, folding my arms and nodding at club shows, taking Steve Albini’s opinions seriously, looking for an identity and finding something that resembled such in lo-fi rock on stacks of 7″ records. It feels like so long ago. In the time since, I’m pretty sure that I’ve said that I hate 90s indie rock. I’ve also said that I love 90s indie rock. Call that a contradiction if you like. Me, I call it merely teasing an old friend.