Eric’s Top Five Theatrical Experiences

For the last two weeks, my favorite local movie theater, the Music Box, has provided Chicago with what they have dubbed the 70mm Film Festival. As the last remaining theater in town that can play movies at 70mm (compared to the usual 35mm or digital), they brought in a wide variety of films to screen in this gorgeous format. One of these films was the biggest item on my so-called “movie bucket list” — 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was there for its very first screening (which was absolutely incredible), and it gave me the idea to compose this list of my top five theatrical experiences.

Now, one thing you will notice right away is that most of these have taken place in just the last few years. That’s because I never really went to the theater much when I was younger — it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago in 2008 that I truly fell in love with film. With so many theaters in town, all of which are easily accessible, I found myself going more and more. The fact that these are all recent does not make them any less memorable for me.


First, a few honorable mentions:
Antichrist [November 2009]
My first visit to the Music Box. I instantly fell in love with this theater. My girlfriend and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into with Antichrist — let’s just say it was an experience I will never forget, for multiple reasons.

RoboCop [July 2012]
This was noteworthy for two reasons. 1) I met up with several movie bloggers for drinks and a movie, all of whom were good people. 2) It was freakin’ RoboCop on the big screen!

Miami Connection [October 2012]
The hype machine surrounding this revived 80s action flick was out of control, so I had to see it for myself. It turns out that the movie was an absolute riot, and I can’t wait to see it again. What made the screening even better was that I got to share it with my niece and her husband — we still reference the brilliance that is Dragon Sound to this day.

And now, the top five:

Drive [2011]
5) Drive [September 2011]
There was a lot of buzz surrounding Drive, and I couldn’t wait to see it. My girlfriend and I rode our bikes to a theater in Lincoln Park on a gorgeous summer night. I had a feeling I was going to like the film, but I was surprised at how much it blew me away. I ended up ranking it as my favorite film of 2011. I left the theater feeling like a total badass — how could you not? — and the first thing I told my girlfriend was that I needed a pair of biking gloves. I felt invincible on that bike ride home.

Beasts of the Southern Wild [2011]
4) Beasts of the Southern Wild [June 2012]advanced screening with a Q&A with Benh Zeitlin, Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis afterward
I had to wait an hour in line before this screening, and to make matters worse, a huge chunk of the theater was blocked off for contest winners. The only available seating was in the first few rows, and I was tempted to just say “fuck it” and walk out before the show. But I stuck with it, and I’m so glad I did. I got sucked into the world of the Bathtub, and I quickly forgot about how close I was sitting. I loved the film, and the Q&A with the cast and director afterward made me appreciate it even more. I was especially impressed with Dwight Henry, who came across as such a genuinely humble man.

3) The Room [2010-present]multiple screenings, some with Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero in attendance
I can thank my good friends Steve and Ali for turning me onto the madness that is The Room, and now I frequently return the favor to anyone who comes to visit. There’s nothing like showing someone The Room for the first time, especially in a jam-packed theater. I have been to two different screenings in which director/writer/”star” Tommy Wiseau and co-star Greg Sestero did a Q&A — once even getting dragged on stage to shake their hands — and they are endlessly entertaining. If you haven’t experienced The Room yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. Words cannot do it justice. Just make sure to bring a bunch of plastic spoons.

2001: A Space Odyssey [1968]
2) 2001: A Space Odyssey [February 2013]part of the 70mm Film Festival
This was the absolute #1 choice on my “movie bucket list”, and I am eternally grateful that I was able to experience 2001 the way it was meant to be seen (in 70mm, no less!). As much as I loved the film on DVD, seeing it on the big screen just blows it away. I got goosebumps as soon as the first notes to “Also sprach Zarathustra” began playing, and I remained glued to the screen from that point on. I get asked a lot what my favorite film is, and well, it could very well be 2001: A Space Odyssey. A flawless film.

The Master [2012]
1) The Master [August 2012]advanced surprise 70mm screening with Paul Thomas Anderson and nearly every major Chicago film critic in attendance
I stumbled upon this screening by pure chance — I just happened to sign onto Facebook at just the right time. Tickets sold out in a matter of minutes, but not before I was able to snag one. The Master had only been screened twice before this showing — both in Los Angeles — so this was a pretty big deal. I arrived later than anticipated only to find a line of people wrapped all the way down the street and around a corner. Somehow I was lucky enough to still get a good seat, but I was worried for a while.

The film was fantastic, my favorite of 2012, but the experience of being one of the first few hundred people in the entire world to see it made it feel unreal. There was so much excitement and nervousness in the room, and none of us could have predicted what was in store for us. And, to top it all off, Paul Thomas Anderson hung out in the lobby afterward to converse with anyone who wanted to talk. Events like this remind me just how much I love Chicago.

So there you have it — my top five theatrical experiences! What are your favorite theatrical experiences? Got a good story to tell?

Blogathon: Double Feature Theater

Double Feature Theater

Marc over at Go, See, Talk had a wonderful idea for a blogathon, which kicked off last weekend. I am a little late to this party, but after seeing everyone’s brilliant posts I had to join in. The idea is simple — you are in charge of a movie theater, and it is your duty to come up with a double feature for every day of the week. The only exception is on Sunday, which is a triple feature. I had a blast brainstorming for this blogathon, and I feel pretty good about some of these selections. Let’s get this started!

Garden State(500) Days of Summer
– Manic Pixie Dream Girl Monday –
Garden State / (500) Days of Summer
Make it a date night.

They LiveRoboCop

– Throwback Tuesday –
They Live / RoboCop
Late 80s bliss.

Office SpaceSecretary

– Workweek Wednesday –
Office Space / Secretary
Why the hell not?

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasEnter the Void

– Trippin’ Balls Thursday –
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas / Enter the Void
Hallucinogens not provided.

Almost FamousTaking Woodstock

– Feel Good Friday –
Almost Famous / Taking Woodstock
Coming of age in the world of music. Livin’ the dream.

Troll 2The Room

– Shitstorm Saturday –
Troll 2 / The Room
Special BYOB night. Drinking encouraged!

ReligulousJesus CampDogma

– Sacrilegious Sunday –
Religulous / Jesus Camp / Dogma
Go to church then hit the cinema!

Honorable Mention: American Psycho / Thank You For Smoking (just seems like a fun combo, no?)

Again, thanks to Marc at Go, See, Talk for organizing this. To see a list of everyone else’s features, follow this link.

Special Event: The Room w/ Tommy Wiseau @ the Music Box, Chicago

The Room [2003]

For the second year in a row, Tommy Wiseau was on hand for the Valentine’s Day weekend screenings of The Room at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. Having just experienced the surrealness that is The Room for the first time a couple months ago, I was eager to see how, uh, “unique”, Tommy is in person. Accompanied by my ever-ready girlfriend, we braved the cold to join the raucous crowd.

Saturday was a hectic day, and we had to rush to make it to the Music Box in time to get a good seat. In our hastiness, we forgot to get plastic spoons. Drat! We quickly went down the street to Jewel Osco but were shocked to find the entire supermarket was SOLD OUT of spoons! We went across the street to CVS, and they only had boxes of assorted cutlery left. Yessir, The Room was in town! We were able to grab extra spoons from the deli, and then we made our way to stand in the loooong line outside. To its credit, the line moved quickly and we were able to get inside and snag some good seats.

I was pleasantly surprised to see someone sitting at the Music Box’s organ, playing some snazzy tunes in preparation of the main event. The organ player received a loud round of applause every time he transitioned into a new song. The crowd was certainly rowdy and excited for what was about to transpire. Several guys were wearing tuxedos, many girls were in red dresses. Footballs were being thrown around, and every single person had spoons in hand. Shortly after 10pm hit, everyone started chanting for Tommy.

After a brief introduction from the Music Box manager and one of the dudes from Ain’t It Cool News, the man, the myth, the legend himself Tommy Wiseau came out to a standing ovation. Tommy basked in the glory, eager to soak up any and all adoration from his fans while he was there. The plan was to have a quick Q&A session before the movie’s screening, but before that happened, none other than GREG SESTERO was brought out to join Tommy on stage. He didn’t look too thrilled to be there, but hey, it was still cool of him to show up.

The Room @ the Music Box in Chicago [2011]

Early in the Q&A session, some bombshells were dropped. First, it was announced that The Room is coming out on Blu-ray this year, and there will be a special screening of that in December at the Music Box. Second, Tommy is currently in the process of converting The Room to 3D (whaaat??). Now we can see Lisa’s bizarre neck bump, Tommy’s naked ass and Chris R putting a gun to your face in the glory of 3D! Will the madness ever end?!? Oh yeah, Greg Sestero is writing a book about his experience working on The Room, as well as his thoughts on the movie exploding into an unbelievable cult classic. So fans of the movie certainly have a lot to look forward to.

Anyway, the Q&As were definitely the highlight of the evening. After seeing him in person and listening to him speak, I can safely say that Tommy is certifiably INSANE. Some highlights:

– Tommy telling someone to “have a good sport” after they walked away disappointed with his answer.

Q: What was your inspiration?
Tommy: Life, sweetie, life! I love life! I love Shakespeare!

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago?
Greg: EAT.
Tommy: Walking, talking, and making exercise S-E-X, hahaha.

Q: On a scale of 1-10, what was hooking up with Lisa like?
Greg: I would probably say, a hundred.
Tommy: I would say 8.5. (When prodded, Tommy said she wasn’t as great as in the rehearsal process.)

Tommy’s thoughts on what’s happening in Egypt? “They should watch The Room one hundred times!”

How is he able to maintain his body? “One hundred pushups, and SEX, hahaha”

Q: From start to finish, how did you make The Room?
Tommy: (paraphrasing here) The ship was sinking, but the captain was still there. AND THAT’S HOW WE FINISHED THE ROOM!

In general, the Q&As were pretty hilarious. Tommy was nonsensical, but always amusing. Greg was less than enthused, but he was a good sport for being there. Also, for whatever reason, Tommy continually encouraged us to “sing” (as he put it) “U-S-A! U-S-A!” several times. This chanting made its way into the movie screening, which was pretty funny. During the Tommy & Greg scenes near the end, the “BEST FRIENDS” chants merged into “U-S-A!” and this happened at a few other points as well.

Other than the improvised U-S-A chants, the screening was similar to the first time I saw it. We ran out of spoons within a few minutes of the movie starting, but there were so many on the floor that we were always able to reload our ammunition. Footballs were tossed, laps were ran, and chants were had. Everyone was having a great time.

I am glad I got to experience the “wisdom” of Tommy Wiseau in person, and I can safely say it is something I will never forget. One thing is for sure: the man loves his fans, and he went out of his way to do anything for them.

The Room [2003]

The Room [2003]

The Room [2003]
Director: Tommy Wiseau
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Language: English
Country: USA

“You are tearing me apart, Lisa!”

Words cannot do The Room justice, but I will do my best to describe what it is. A cult classic akin to terrible movies like Troll 2 and Samurai Cop, The Room has been described by many as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.” That is perhaps an apt comparison since writer/director/lead actor Tommy Wiseau claims to have drawn inspiration from Orson Welles (and Tennessee Williams, among others). There are no noticeable traits that Wiseau borrowed from any of his alleged idols — this movie is something that can only come from the depths of Wiseau’s bizzare little mind.

Somehow filmed on a $6 million budget, The Room is a terribly acted, poorly shot, and just plain bad “black comedy.” The actors have little actual talent, and their delivery is usually way off. The movie uses obvious stock footage of San Francisco in between actual scenes. There are countless plot holes, and normally groundbreaking revelations are casually dismissed. There is one scene involving a mother telling her daughter that she has breast cancer, but this is never brought up again. The Room is all over the place, but that’s what makes it so great.

So what the hell is the movie even about? Well, it is a love triangle of sorts. Tommy Wiseau plays Johnny, a banker who is all set to marry his “future wife” Lisa (Juliette Danielle). Unfortunately for him, Lisa has fallen out of love without him knowing, and she is instead into his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), who eventually succumbs to her wishes. This is the basic plotline for the movie, but it is rather irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The Room is something that needs to be experienced in a theater, and I had the privilege of seeing it for the first time at a midnight showing in Chicago. This is an interactive experience similar to the Rocky Horror Picture Show’s late night screenings. Here are some things I witnessed during the movie:

– Plastic spoons are thrown at the screen every time one is shown in the movie. For some reason, there are framed pictures of silverware in the background of many scenes. People would yell “SPOON!” then throw their plastic utensils. Sitting in the front row, I got pelted with spoons A LOT.
– There are a number of scenes in the movie where characters randomly throw footballs to each other, despite standing just a few feet apart. There were a few groups of people at the theater who brought their own footballs to toss around as well.
– Every time the character Denny appeared on screen, everyone would yell “HI DENNY!” and then “BYE DENNY!” when he left
– Every time the Golden Gate Bridge was randomly shown via stock footage, people would chant “GO! GO! GO!” until that shot ended
– My personal favorite, the chanting of “BEST FRIENDS!” every time Johnny and Mark were hanging out together.

As stated before, words cannot do The Room justice. This is a movie made to be seen with a group of friends, preferably with plenty of booze. The Room is unlike anything I have ever seen, and seeing it in a theater was unbelievably entertaining. I cannot possibly rate this movie on a proper scale of 1-10, but for entertainment value it is as good as it gets.

Check out these great scenes from THE ROOM: