Birdemic: Shock and Terror. Check.
Troll 2 Check.
There’s only one thing that these two movies can prepare you for: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, the 9th anniversary.
The film was made in 2003 and is considered one of the worst ever made. It cost 6 million dollars and has become a cult classic the likes of Rocky Horror Picture Show. The movie is a masterpiece with its spoon (the utensils) metaphors, repeated sex scenes, a lead actor with an indeterminate accent (some have claimed a mix between the former Governator and Christopher Walken), people sitting on floors, playing football in a circle of with a three foot diameter, jibing at one another by imitating a chicken poorly, and plot lines that lead nowhere (a mother has breast cancer, but this is treated as a throwaway line).
In spite of all of it, it currently holds the place of my favorite movie that doesn’t star Nicolas Cage.
The Room is one of the few movies that I know of that I could completely spoil for you, tell you every plot twist, the ending, every character's line, and yet it can’t be spoiled. It’s all in the experience.
If you’re ever bored or need a movie to watch with friends, this is it, and I guarantee you will watch it again. I can’t imagine anyone sitting through the entire film and not making a crack at Tommy or an element that he envisioned. It’s impossible not to, it begs criticism and it’s “so bad” that anyone can criticize it. And that’s why it’s great.
And tonight, I get to meet Tommy Wiseau, who has become a hero of mine for embracing his failure in a way that few will ever do. He goes to the screenings and people make jokes, laugh when they aren’t supposed to, throw footballs and hack away at his performance. And he sits there and laughs along, perhaps he’s just cashing in on the money or perhaps he just knows that its importance is beyond him at this point and he has to be there.
We were standing outside with our collection of plastic spoons waiting to be allowed in the theater and then in one of the most anti-climactic sightings of my life, Tommy Wiseau appeared. He wasn’t wearing his normal ill-fitting suit, but he had his alien sunglasses pushed to the very peak of the arch on his nose as if his eyes were sucking in the dark lenses. He shook my hand telling me that, “I’m glad you brought a football, you can win a doggee later.” And walked away back into the safety of the theater. Because it was Wiseau, I wasn't sure if it was going to be a real dog or not.
This broke whatever notions I had coming into the night. My impression was that Tommy would hold out for a grand entrance at the end of the film to the inspirational Room score. But instead he was short wearing a studded belt that hung off his once famously nude ass and simply greeted us nonchalantly.
Upon entering the theater, Tommy and Greg Sestero (“Oh, Hai Mark”) were behind a velvet rope divider. Tommy appeared to be enjoying himself, but Greg on the other hand was completely detached, perhaps regretting how much time he spends with Wiseau. Greg gave me a strange head nod when he saw I was in my Greg costume. (Greg is by far the flattest character in the film, he hardly gets any love from the fans in their constant shout outs during the film.)
They had a table of reasonably priced movie “merch” and sharpie pens handy (Greg’s was bone dry, while Tommy’s was a full bold black as he wrote “Love: Tommy”). But before we got our autographs, Tommy wanted to play some of the football that made him famous. He threw the ball to my friend who tossed it back to him. But Tommy is all about the purity of the game catch and lectured my companion on the proper way to throw a pigskin, deciding it was a personal offense that he dared throw the ball with two hands.
As Tommy chatted with all the fans, I spoke to Greg (I had dressed like him and grown a beard for the occasion), I asked him what he was up to. He mentioned he was writing a book about his experience with The Room. I asked him if he was going the Ebook route, he corrected explaining that he was under contract with Simon and Schuster. A book deal and an appearance that only lasted an hour, in which no one pays attention to Greg because all eyes are latched on to Tommy in attempt to discover whether his real life voice is dubbed as well. Even if he hates Tommy and the movie, he’s smart enough to know where there’s money to be made. It might not be great to be Mark from The Room, but it has its benefits.
As we posed for our picture with Tommy, he directed us where to stand, I began to understand how difficult it was for the other actors to understand his vision on a daily basis. Later on during the “Doggee” game, Tommy struggled mightily in organizing a game, where Greg tossed a water bottle for people to catch 25 times.
I asked Greg, “Is this what it was like on set?” He looked at me like I was a kindred spirit, “Yep.”
In some way, me dressing up as Greg, which by his reaction I gathered that most people don’t, he acted if I understood the fundamental truth about this movie: That Wiseau was insane and a complete horror to work with. I assume that Greg like all the other actor expected the experience and the movie to simply disappear and be forgotten as almost every other amateur movie is, but instead 9 years later it still plays at midnight to packed houses.
It was Q & A time, and I had already prepped my question a week before, “The film obviously is a sharp and insightful critique of the Bush Presidency, but I guess what I’m wondering is... what sound does a chicken make?” (Tommy in the film impersonates a chicken the following way:
But after I told him I had a question, he snapped at me that it was not question time. I started to rethink what I would ask. The questions that people ask are something that Tommy cannot control like the Doggee game, in fact the Q & A turns into a Tommy Wiseau roast of his deficiencies as a writer, director, and actor. He has answered the question, “How do you feel about the audience’s reaction to the film?” in the same way every time it’s been asked. His answer: “And I always say, you can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don’t hurt each other.” Hurt each other? With plastic spoons?
I never knew what Wiseau meant until that night, watching him trying to control people that he represents a human punchline to. He’s not in on the joke, he’s forced to be in on the joke for financial sustenance. The Room is his pride and joy, he meant it to be a great film that was supposed to teach people how to be a better person. Instead, it has taught us how many fat jokes we can hurl at Lisa, the leading lady with sausage fingers. When he says don't hurt each other, he really means don't hurt his feelings.
So as I stood wanting to rip him with a backhanded question, I watched as he pretended to love his fans that only love him because he made a terrible movie. I realized that meeting the people actually makes it too real, maybe because you realize as you laugh at the film, that these were real people who decided to go for it. And they do, perhaps they don’t relate the correct emotions for the scenes, but the one thing they do communicate is effort. And then they are there right in front of you and the joke doesn’t seem so funny. You are meeting someone you admired, but you admire them because they suck. But maybe it's because at some point we've all sucked as bad as he has, and we see a little bit of ourselves in him.
Have I made films that were bad? You bet your ass, I have. I’ve listed the links below, because if I’m allowed to make fun of Wiseau, you can certainly make fun of my work.
One is a parody of Apocalypse Now, called Abortion Now, it’s a epic failure in comedy drama, and in an attempt to achieve cinematic glory, but by god at the time I thought it was brilliant. I thought it would sweep Campus Movie Fest in comedy and drama and change the world’s perspective on abortion. I sat at the festival screenings, in a suit and I had sketched out a small speech on a napkin, I waited through all 15 movies. We weren’t selected. We were shown in a small clip of "the films that didn’t make it" to a rounding response of “What the Fuck?” Our film was technically better than the others, but we were so off the wall in public taste.
Even as I link the video below, I’m immediately regretting it, but enjoy or hate, but don’t hurt anyone. I’m short of breath the way I am before a show, where my lungs feel like they are in my throat and won’t expand. And that’s how I am after I screen anything or do a show because I believe that failure is the worst possible thing. To go on stage and not have people laugh is every comedian’s nightmare.
And then there was Cheese, where I play a hooker rapist, who has an affinity for really long inhales on a crack pipe.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2057380/ (the full movie is available on the link)
A better effort was Super Circumcise Me, but nonetheless, a failure for we had no idea it would spark debate to whether we were pro- or anti-circumcision.
And because of all this, because I am a Wiseau in my own right, I couldn’t ask my insulting question, and instead shaved off a bit, “What sound does a chicken make?”
He loved the question and shook my hand and then proceeded to make “Cheep Cheep” noises. It’s one of the few jokes in the movie that is meant to be a joke and finally Tommy got to laugh along with us.
The Hollywood Defender