Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Film Critics Don't Throw Pastries (A Scanner Darkly, 20June06)

Last week's movie adventure may have been a bit nerve-wracking, but that, it turns out, was nothing. On Monday afternoon, I got an email reminding me of a Tuesday morning press screening. Now, the difference between last week's screening and this week's was enormous. Last week's screening was a promo/press screening. That meant that those of us who were actually there to review the movie were caught up in a sea of Normal People -- people who somehow won passes from the sponsoring TV/radio stations. We were incognito. A press screening, on the other hand, is just press.

From what I imagined, this press screening would be a crowd of people who all knew each other -- and who would, inevitably, look upon me as an interloper. And I was terrified to face the wrath of a room full of film critics (two words that I've done everything to avoid using in describing myself -- to escape the snobbish, cynical connotations). But I didn't want to chicken out, either. So I said I'd be there.

On Tuesday morning, I took my shower while listening to some Dave Matthews Band to calm my nerves. Then I stood in front of the closet for about a half hour. I ended up going with the same old white cords (promising to take myself shopping before the next screening), since it's the only thing I have that's somewhat casual without being denim or capris. I paired it with a new blue T-shirt, and I called it good. Professional, but casual.

Then I made myself some coffee and spent an hour or so imagining the worst until I was completely freaked out, almost to the point of pre-performance vomiting. I shakily put on some makeup and topped it all off with my lucky lipgloss. Then I left at 10 -- an hour before the screening, and about 25 minutes earlier than I probably needed to leave.

Once I got to the theater (which, incidentally, I'd never been to before, me being, until this point, mostly a Cheap Theater kind of gal), I drove around for another 10 minutes or so, attempting to find a parking space that wouldn't get my car towed. At 10:45, I wandered down the street to the door to the theater and into the empty lobby. I informed the girl there of my intent, and she asked, "Was that door unlocked?" I guess it wasn't supposed to be -- but thank goodness it was, or I would have had no clue what to do. Apparently, press initiation involves finding the theater's back door -- and I got off easy.

Eventually, others started to arrive and casually grab some of the coffee/bottled water/muffins that had been set out. Filled with the liquid courage of my previous cup of coffee (though more than jittery enough already), I made my way to the concession stand to help myself, hoping that I wouldn't get pelted by muffins for doing so. As I approached, a man stopped me and asked, "Are you Kristin?" It was...let's call him...John. The wonderful man who had finally helped me hunt down all the necessary contacts. I was relieved to meet him -- because it meant that there was at least one person there who might not throw pastries at me.

The crowd was pretty divided: young guys in baseball caps and flip-flops, and older, more scholarly-looking guys. Noticeably absent were women my age. In all, there were maybe three women. But, actually, I was okay with that. I'm usually more comfortable with guys anyway. So I joined their circle to listen to them debate old movies and discuss the recent screening drought -- until it was well after 11.

I was informed that the screenings always start late -- not until Bob, the Top Dog of Local Critics, shows up. If someone were to begin the pastry-pelting, my guess is it would be Bob. Either that, or Bob would be so indifferent toward my presence that he would stomp on my foot while walking past. But I didn't actually see the infamous Bob. I don't know if he ever actually showed up, but the screening -- one of two that were actually screening at 11 (much to our surprise) -- eventually began.

For the most part, we all took seats on our own, usually on the aisle. Only two pairs of guys out of the 10 or so of us in the theater sat together. I had a feeling that one of the pairs -- the two guys who had shown up shortly after I had -- were new, too. Or at least they had mistakenly thought they'd be able to take notes during the movie. I wish I could have -- to help remember some of the little details -- but it was way too dark.

After an hour and a half or so of trying (despite the coffee running through my veins -- and my bladder) to sit quietly, without having to get up to go to the bathroom, I was relieved to find that the movie was over. We all wandered out into the lobby, many heading straight down the hallway leading to the (ah-ha!) back door. I hung around, debating whether or not to stick around for the screening of the other movie, which was scheduled to start...in a while. But it looked like I was the only one still hanging around, so I began to change my mind. Not only that, but with other screenings on Wednesday and Thursday nights, I wasn't sure I could handle all the movie time.

As I was beginning to feel seriously uncomfortable, sitting alone in the lobby, pretending to take more notes on the movie, the other screening ended. I found myself chatting with a few of those who were coming out, sharing notes on our respective movies. I spent some time talking to a couple of great guys who do a radio show -- and who informed me that I have a pretty good radio voice. And, they added, they're always looking for guest reviewers to fill in when one of them is out of town. They don't often find hip young women in the field, they pointed out, and if I'd be interested, maybe I could make a guest appearance.

Terrifying (so much so that I'm guessing that I would actually vomit before that one), but totally cool. I told them that I'd be willing to give it a shot. And why the heck not?

So, as it turns out, film critics don't throw pastries. They're actually quite friendly. Perhaps, with time, I'll actually be okay with calling myself a film critic -- but definitely not yet.

Next time, though, maybe I'll pass on the coffee. I think bottled water (or maybe a glass of wine if you have one, thanks) is more my speed. And who knows -- I might even try a muffin.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Lake House Review Published

My review of The Lake House was published this weekend. Check out the experience -- then head to NightsAndWeekends.com to read the review.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different (The Lake House -- 13June06)

It's been about a month since we last set foot in The Cheap Theater. But with Paul's trip to Malaysia last week and our trip to the cottage the week before that (with a family wedding in between), it just didn't seem to work out.

Sometimes, throughout the last few weeks, I've found myself thinking fondly about The Cheap Theater -- the way you might think fondly about a close friend who moved away. It's summer vacation now, so it'll be busy at The Cheap Theater -- with all kinds of screaming kids at R-rated movies. I wonder if Hooker Boot Guy has been there lately. I wonder if they miss me as much as I miss them...

But this Tuesday was another Cheap Night at The Cheap Theater that we missed -- but, once again, we had a perfectly good excuse. This week, we had passes for a Tuesday night screening of The Lake House.

When the pass arrived, I can't say that I was exactly thrilled about seeing the movie. I mean, it doesn't get much more saccharine than Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. And falling in love with someone who's living two years in the past? Come on! But when I mentioned it to Paul, he didn't immediately shoot the idea down. And then, when I added that the screening was being held at the big, fancy new theater in town, he was actually excited.

"At least we'll be able to check out the new theater for free," he told me over the phone, from his room in Malaysia.

He had a point there. So, despite the fact that it was a movie that I wouldn't normally see, and it was playing on a Tuesday -- when I could be seeing a movie that I actually wanted to see at The Cheap Theater for just a buck -- I decided that it could just be fun.

Of course, getting ready for a movie at The Cheap Theater and getting ready for an advance screening as a member of the media are two very different things. On Tuesday afternoon, I called Paul's office to see when he'd be able to come home. If he had to work late, I'd just pick him up, and we'd get dinner out -- since the theater's just down the street from his office. To make it through security -- and to find a seat -- I figured we'd need to be there by no later than 7 for the 7:30 show. And I didn't want to risk being late.

Paul figured he'd be home on time -- and when he arrived, he found me fretting over my wardrobe. I work from home, so it's not like I have nice clothes. I have jeans and T-shirts. But I wanted to look somewhat professional -- without looking like I was trying too hard. I just wasn't quite sure how to do that. But believe me -- I had to try really hard not to look like I was trying too hard. I settled on white cords with a white tank and a pink striped button shirt, open. It was a million times dressier than I'd ever been to attend a showing at The Cheap Theater. I even touched up my makeup, ran a comb through my hair, and put on actual lip gloss before leaving the house.

When we arrived -- only a couple of minutes later than planned -- I felt pretty cool. Not necessarily because I had a pass in hand -- though that was pretty cool, too -- but because I was going to a real movie theater. And I was wearing lip gloss.

Inside, as we were pointed to Theater 18, I took in the newness of it all. The fancy blue lights. The digitized everything. The sparkling ticket booth and concession stand. And, just for the record, there were no old men in black vinyl hooker boots. Mostly, there were happy middle-class families. And I'm pretty sure the happy middle-class parents were actually taking their well-behaved children to kids' movies -- and not some R-rated action film, for which admission was cheaper than a babysitter.

It all gave me warm fuzzies.

At the entrance to Theater 18, we were greeted by a smiling staff of about five. The first took a quick peek inside my bag to make sure I wasn't smuggling any recording devices (or outside food or drinks, I suppose). The next two took the pass while the male guard looked on. And the final one reminded us to turn off our cell phones and put them away while she quickly ran a hand-held metal detector over us.

Inside, the theater was huge. And new. And crowded. We'd made it just in time to get some of the last aisle seats in the top middle section. We sat down in big, comfy, stadium-style seats with high cushioned backs and pillowy head rests and plenty of leg room. All around us were signs of newness. The floor was elegantly carpeted. The sconces on the walls all worked. There were pretty blue lights illuminating the steps. And everything was gigantic.

"How many cheap theaters do you think you could fit into this one?" I asked Paul. "My guess is three. Maybe four." The same went for the screen.

And the people around us were...well...normal. They were smiley college kids (who had most likely won the tickets from the sponsoring radio station) and yuppies and young women on a night out with their best friend. They weren't people who looked like they were running from the law, for one reason or another.

It was refreshing -- though, I suppose, not as adventurous as our usual Tuesday outing.

Before the movie started, the guys from the TV and radio stations that accounted for the non-press in the crowd got up to say a few words and hand out free T-shirts. The team of security guards came in to ensure that no one was illegally recording the movie. And I really do think that their presence cut back on things like mid-movie phone calls and unruly moviegoers -- even if the guards were paying most attention to their jumbo popcorn bucket than to the general theater goings-on. And for that, I was happy to have them there.

That's not to say, of course, that the movie was totally quiet and peaceful. Once the movie started, two women behind me continued talking, loudly discussing the movie, until three people sitting nearby got up and moved to the front of the theater. But then something miraculous happened: the women took the hint and stopped talking.

And that was it. No Loud Talkers or Cacklers or Sniffly Snorters. No phone calls or text messages or family disputes or screaming kids running around in light-up shoes. It was surreal.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if I enjoyed the movie because it was actually good -- or if I was just so happy to actually get to watch a movie for once.

When it was over, the man ahead of us clapped politely as I got up to go. My legs weren't numb. My feet weren't sticking to the floor. My butt didn't hurt. And I didn't want to strangle anyone.

This, my friends, is the life.

To read my thoughts on the movie itself, visit NightsAndWeekends.com.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

No Rest for the Weary

Seriously. I'm not even allowed to relax and go to a movie anymore. Don't you hate it when other people screw up, and it means that you have to work all night to make up for it? Me too.

So it looks like I'll be working on my Beloved Cheap Theater Night tonight -- but I'm going to try to make it later this week. And if I do, believe me -- you'll hear all about it.