Friday, April 18, 2008

Rodent Drama

New at Since Last Week:
The Forbidden Kingdom
Married Life
Priceless (Hors de Prix)
Street Kings

It’s been quite a week here in Rodent Land. Before you read on, if you haven’t already read Monday’s post, now’s the time to get caught up on the week’s drama.

So after Monday’s drama, I think we were all supposed to feel a bit disheartened—like we’re all just a bunch of worthless hacks. But it’s actually been a really fun week. After the initial shock and outrage over the whole thing, this whole fiasco turned out to be one of those amusing little things that we can all sit around and laugh about. In fact, we’ve learned to embrace our status as rodents, and we’ve all bonded over it. The week has just been one rat joke after another.

Fortunately, we had all kinds of opportunities to discuss it—because we had five screenings this week. We had screenings on Monday and Tuesday morning—after which Clay and I had to scramble to write up our show, since we had to record on Wednesday morning. Fortunately, it all went off without much of a hitch. All of the writing was done (miraculously, really) by 5 or 6 on Tuesday. And we were sure that it was going to be a good show.

On Wednesday morning, I got up and raced out the door at 8—in time to fill up the tank and make it to the studio in time to meet Clay at 8:45ish. We rehearsed once, only to find that, unlike last week’s show (which started out way too short), this week’s show was way too long. So we sat down and started trimming things down. Then, at just after 9, we set up the studio and got ready to go.

Now, I’m not a morning person—and, similarly, my voice is not a morning voice. First thing in the morning, I’m a little bit phlegmy—and it’s even worse during allergy season. Clay happened to be having the same vocal issues, so we ended up getting off to a late start, since we’d had to spend so much time hacking up a lung. Then we had a few false starts, after realizing we’d written some pretty good tongue twisters for ourselves (try saying “filmmaker Morgan Spurlock” a few times). Then, however, things finally came together. Our sound levels were right, our time was good, and we didn’t trip over each other nearly as much as we did last week. So then we got the show edited and ready to go. By 10:30, we were out the door and on our way to the North Star Café to celebrate over coffee and the world’s best morning glory muffins. We finally got the hang of things—just in time for John to return from Greece.

I must say, though—this week’s show was one of my personal favorites of the 14 I’ve done. You can here it for yourself at

On Wednesday night, I headed out to see The Forbidden Kingdom. When I got there, I met Jason and his girlfriend, Milu, at the door, and we wandered down the hall together. Even though it was still 45 minutes before the screening was scheduled to begin, they had already started letting the crowd in. That didn’t strike us as a problem until we got inside and made our way halfway up the stairs, only to discover that our usual seats had been taken. None of the others had gotten there before us—and the reps hadn’t saved our seats (either that, or those people who were sitting there had taken the “Reserved for Press” signs off and helped themselves). So we ended up sitting at the very end of the row, in seats that didn’t make us happy at all. And I ended up sitting next to some guy who somehow managed to get a cell phone into the theater (despite the fact that they’d apparently been very strict on the no-cell-phone thing), and it kept ringing throughout the entire movie. And if his phone weren’t ringing, he was having some very loud conversation with the guy next to him. I was tempted to hit him—or perhaps grab his phone off his hip and turn it off—but I didn’t.

So after Wednesday night’s screening, we were back at it on Thursday morning—for CJ7—and then again on Thursday night for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. At the Thursday morning screening, we got to hear all of Neil’s stories about his adventures at the 88 Minutes screening on Wednesday night. Apparently, some drunk guy ran into the theater, jumped down from the balcony, and sat down in the press seats. Neil politely told the guy that he might want to move—so he did. Not long after that, a whole bunch of security guys came in and dragged the guy out. I really feel bad that I missed that one—but from what I hear about the movie, I made the better choice for Wednesday night screenings.

I did, however, also miss out on the new rep accusing Neil of making up Film School Rejects on the way into the theater, just so he could claim to be press—because she’d never heard of him. Nice.

And that takes me to Thursday night’s adventure. My husband, Paul, joined me for the Sarah Marshall screening—and as we were making our way out of the parking garage, we ran into Jason…and then we met Kevin in the lobby. So we all made our way into the theater, where we found David, sitting in the middle of the back row of the bottom section of the theater. There was a whole bunch of confusion over the press seats, though, since one of the reps had put down “Reserved for Press” signs, but then she’d written names on them—because she was apparently bringing her whole family. So after we finally figured out the whole seating situation, we settled in to compare notes on the week. Just as we were chatting, some woman from a couple of seats down got up and climbed over us to get out. On the way out, she apparently made some comment to the rep’s mom, inquiring, in the nosiest way possible, who she was. When she came back from her bathroom break, she then took aim at us.

“So you’re the press,” she said in an accusatory tone. “And who are you with?”

We all just kinda looked at each other with that Is she for real? look.

David replied to her by explaining that we all wrote for various online publications. She huffed.

“And you?” she continued, focusing her gaze on Paul and me. At this point, I was pretty much done with the woman, and I just wanted her to finish climbing over me, so I could go back to sitting comfortably, instead of scrunching up so she could stand in front of me and accuse me of stealing press seats.

“Same,” I replied.

With another huff, she returned to her seat, just two seats down from Paul, and announced loudly, “They’re not press.”

I swear David was about to get up and punch her. In fact, he told me to go slap her—since I could get away with it, being a chick and all.

So, clearly, it was a big week for Internet writer discrimination. But it seems that rodents (while prolific), are also pretty tough. I’m pretty sure we’ll survive. And, really, what doesn’t kill us will only make us stronger.

This week was definitely an exhausting one, but I must admit that it was also a whole heck of a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see what new drama unfolds next week—and I look forward to seeing the movies, too.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Dreams and Nightmares

New on Since Last Time:
Smart People

(Don’t forget: for ITCS and more entertainment stuff, check out the blog.)

This week has been a strange week for my subconscious. Last night, for instance, I had a dream that I was in an ongoing feud with Sarah Jessica Parker. I suppose I am, really—but it’s not really one that she knows about. So I guess that doesn’t really make it a feud, does it? Maybe just a grudge.

Anyway, it was a quiet week for screenings this week—which isn’t a good thing, when I’ve got a radio show to do. John’s enjoying himself in Greece, leaving me to cover the show during a couple of weeks of late-week screenings—or no screenings at all. Fortunately, this week’s show wasn’t too difficult to cover. We saw Smart People a while ago, and I jumped in with a week-old movie—The Ruins. But that’s another story for later in the post.

The first screening of the week wasn’t until Wednesday night. Everyone was heading to see Street Kings, the new Keanu Reeves cop movie, when we got an email about that Zombie Strippers screening we’d all been so looking forward to. It was going to be an evening screening—not a morning screening—and it was going to be Thursday night. Now, that wouldn’t have been a problem if I didn’t already have tickets to see Avenue Q on Thursday night with David and Deb. David and I were, naturally, devastated. But the show must go on.

But anyway…back to Street Kings. When my husband and I arrived at the theater, our usual waiting area in the hallway was empty. It’s rare that we’re the first to arrive, but no one else was there—or so we thought. A few minutes later, some of the theater staff came out to tell the rep (in a not-so-pleasant tone of voice) that there were already a few members of the press inside. After lots of finger-pointing and discussing who allowed the press to just wander into theaters all willy-nilly, they let us in, too. And, as it turns out, two of those renegade press members were David and Jason—who already had our usual seats staked out. So we wandered over and settled in for the long haul. As we were doing so, the rep came along and complained that we’d taken her seats. And we were all pretty stunned. (And David, the only one who wasn’t stunned speechless, replied, “No, you always take our seats.”)

You see, the press is a pretty important part of these screenings. There’s a reason why we’re allowed in early, before the general public. There’s a reason why we have a few seats reserved, in case we show up a bit later. It’s because, in a small way, we’re supposed to be accommodated. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we get our own private boxes with reclining seats or anything. It doesn’t mean that we get free bottles of champagne—or even free sodas, for that matter. We just get to have our seats. For the most part, we work with the reps, and they work with us. We don’t ask for much, really. And we generally like the reps—some of them, we even adore. But we were pretty shocked by this one.

You see, this rep, who was accusing us of taking her seats is notorious for going in before we’re allowed into the theater to reserve the seats where she knows we usually sit for herself and her various friends and family members. She’s been known to save very few seats for press—which once resulted in us having to take random seats in the far corners of the theater for a summer blockbuster. If I recall correctly, she was also a part of The Great I Am Legend Fiasco. Now, she’s not the norm. Most reps are wonderful. Sure, they bring family and/or friends, but they don’t bring whole herds. And they tend to know where we like to sit, so they save seats accordingly—which is why the seats in the middle of the top row are typically reserved for Joyce and Rico, and the seats on the right, toward the front, are saved for John and Clay, and the seats at the front of the upper section, in the middle of the row, are generally reserved for the Internet Mavericks. There’s just this one rep who doesn’t seem to care. She also tends to get a bit snippy without really thinking. For instance, she once yelled at David for sitting in a press seat—even though, um, he’s press.

Now, it’s our job to see the movie. To take it all in. To see as much as we can and report back to our readers/listeners. We all have our ideas of where/how we like to watch movies. Some people like to sit up front; some people like to sit in the back; some people like to sit in the middle. I, for instance, tend to get sick if I sit too close. So all we ask, really, is to be able to sit where we feel we get the best experience. In fact, we even show up early so we can get those seats.

On the other hand, the rep’s job is to make sure that the screening goes smoothly—that the press get their seats, that the right number of people get into the screening, and that, generally, people are happy. Once the movie starts, the rep’s job is to keep track of the audience’s reactions to the movie. (And the rep in question, incidentally, keeps track of these reactions using the light of a cell phone or a bright, light-up pen, which inevitably blinds anyone who’s sitting nearby.)

Now, I really try not to let my general experience effect my review—but I will admit that being snapped at…and/or not getting a decent seat, even when I show up 45 minutes early…and/or being blinded by a rep’s cell phone every couple of minutes during the movie does tend to make me pretty cranky. Most of the time, I just try to suck it up and deal—but, sheesh…don’t complain when I sit in the seat that I’m completely entitled to sit in (and that I always sit in). That’s just not cool.

Incidentally, it wasn’t really because of the blinding light and the snippy rep that I didn’t like Street Kings. Mostly, it was because I was bored. And I think Neil said it best when he pointed out that it was just one soundtrack change away from the greatest comedy of the year.

But anyway…enough of my whining and complaining. I’ve gotten this week’s diva moment out of my system (I feel much better, thanks), and now I can move on.

When I got back from the screening on Wednesday night, I had a radio script waiting for me. Since I’m beyond this week’s diva moment, I’m not going to say a single thing about the fact that it didn’t show up until less than 12 hours before we were supposed to start recording. I will, however, point out that the whole thing made me very, very nervous.

You see, this week, with John on vacation and all, Clay and I were on our own. This was all very new to us—since (a) Clay and I had never done the show with just the two of us, and (b) John is usually the one who handles the technical side of the show. So this would be the first time that I was responsible for editing the show solo—and it would also be the first time that Clay and I did the show…um, duo. To further complicate things, we were on a pretty tight timeline. Our studio time started at 9, and we had a screening starting at 11. Yeah, two hours may seem like a whole lot of time to do a five-minute radio show, but that’s not always the case. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but remember the time that John and I didn’t leave the studio until after noon—and that was when John was handling all the technical stuff, as opposed to some relatively clueless newbie. Oh, and I also didn’t get the script until I got back from my screening, which didn’t give me a whole lot of time to feel settled into the show.

Thus, sleeping on Wednesday night required slight medicinal assistance. And I kept waking up, shaken by nightmares about the show. In one, we got into the studio, and it was covered in giant bugs—and they kept changing into new and equally horrifying bugs. Big, fuzzy caterpillars. Giant ladybugs. Huge spiders. Creepy-crawly beetles. And this all made it very difficult to calmly record and edit a show. In another dream, I discovered that Clay had decided to bring in two pretty young girls to appear on the show with us (for those of you who know Clay, this isn’t much of a stretch). Unfortunately, these girls couldn’t write, and they were impossible to work with. That, and they were pretty much brain-dead. And, well, there’s barely room for three on the show—so four is right out. So by the time we were supposed to leave for the screening, we hadn’t gotten anything yet, so we just packed up and left anyway.

Needless to say, I didn’t exactly wake up feeling calm and well-rested on Thursday morning. Mostly, I was tired and shaky. But I scarfed down my breakfast, gathered the necessary notes, and made my way into rush hour traffic to meet Clay at the station.

Fortunately, none of my nightmares came true. There weren’t any giant bugs or young bimbos in the studio. The editing actually went quite smoothly. And we were out of the studio in plenty of time to enjoy some coffee and a scone before the screening started at 11.

However, I think Clay’s dream may have come true that morning. Instead of the usual male-dominated crowd at the screening, it was all women…and Clay. I was there, along with Lori and Hope and our lovely rep, Brook. Even Joyce showed up sans Rico. Of course, as David pointed out to me later, we were all much too old for Clay. But it’s a start.

The movie of the day was The Counterfeiters. The guys didn’t show up because they weren’t in the mood for another Holocaust movie—but they missed out. It was a wonderful movie.

Then, on Thursday night, as the rest of the gang made their way to the bar for pre-movie libations, my husband and I picked up a pizza and headed to David and Deb’s for our pre-show meal. We were a bit bummed about missing Zombie Strippers, but, as it turns out, Avenue Q was well worth it. So I guess I don’t feel so bad anymore. There’s always DVD.

Today, I got to deal with one of the other issues that one faces in doing a scheduled radio show: release date changes. On the site, it’s not really a big deal if a movie gets bumped. Sure, I tend to create my schedule in advance, but I can just do a little switcheroo and move on. Sometimes it’s a bit inconvenient—but not often. All that changes, however, when you’ve got to plan for a radio show. For instance, I spent this morning trying to pull together my thoughts on The Counterfeiters. Then, this afternoon, I got an email to let me know that it had been bumped another week. Then there was this whole thing about having a screening on Tuesday morning—when we’d already had something else scheduled for Tuesday morning. So we settled on Monday morning instead and called it good. So, when the smoke had cleared, I called Clay and roused him from his nap to rework next week’s show for the second time this week.

Clearly, Clay and I have learned a lot about each other this week—much in the same way that newlyweds return from their honeymoon, only to discover that her new husband leaves his dirty underwear on the floor and his new wife puts the toilet paper roll on upside-down. This week, I’ve learned that Clay gets his scripts in at the last minute, and Clay has learned that I tend to be a detail-obsessed ball of stress. Fortunately, we still love each other anyway. At least for this week.

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Monday, April 07, 2008


New at Since Last Time:
The Ruins
Nim’s Island

For In the Cheap Seats and more, be sure to check out the Blog.

Ever have one of those weeks when you feel like you haven’t accomplished a single thing? Yeah, that’s this week. You see, at some point this week (I think it was Monday afternoon), my Internet connection went down for about an hour and a half. Since then, it’s been pretty much working on hand-crank speed. To illustrate, at one point, I tried to load the N& homepage. Now, that’s not a huge page to load. After a couple of minutes, though, I decided that I might as well take a break and eat my lunch. When I came back, maybe a half hour later, the page still had not loaded. Conveniently, the same happened when I attempted to load the page for my service provider.

Now, I realize that there was a time—not so long ago—when I lived without the Internet. Though I can barely imagine that world anymore, I do remember that time. But here’s the thing: those days are no more. We have the Internet. We have all these pages, just waiting for us to visit. And when they’re there but you can’t get to them, it’s even more frustrating than their not being there at all.

And, of course, to make matters worse, I run an online publication. It’s my job to be online. And when I can’t, well, that pretty much blows the whole week. It also makes me seriously cranky.

But anyway…let’s talk about the movies. This week’s craziness started on Tuesday morning, with our screening of Nim’s Island. This was all very exciting because (a) I was kinda looking forward to the movie and (b) we were having the screening at a different theater than usual. This meant no free coffee but it also meant that the screen would be clean, the sound would be good, and everything would pretty much go off without a hitch. And it did. Before I ran out the door, I brewed myself a big mug o’ coffee, and I gathered up some homemade cookies to share with the gang. When I got there, David was already there, eating some sort of fast-food breakfast in his car (oh, the glamorous life of a film critic). We chatted for a while as he finished, and then we made our way to the theater. And here was the first (and only) hitch of the screening: the doors were locked. Now, there are a whole bunch of doors at this theater, and we checked every last one of them. They were all locked. Fortunately, though, it was a pretty nice day (hooray for the gradual approach of spring!), so we didn’t mind standing around outside. Eventually, though, Brook, our friendly rep and theater employee, showed up with her keys and let us in, and all was good. We then wandered into the theater, took our seats, and settled in.

The talk of the day was an article that had been published in the New York Times that morning—about the gradual extinction of newspaper film critics. It’s pretty sad, but I have to admit that I’m a part of the problem—as well as a part of the solution. On one hand, it’s Internet Mavericks like me who have destroyed the newspaper industry. After all, why would you want to dig out Friday’s paper for the movie reviews when you can check online (where you can find every single review we’ve written, neatly archived online, at any time of the day or night, from wherever you happen to be)? At the same time, with the disappearance of your friendly neighborhood film critic, now’s the time to find your friendly Internet film critic—someone who’s interesting and entertaining and insightful and there when you need her/him. If you’re looking for someone like that, I have someone I could recommend…

Anyway, the article discusses how the disappearance of newspaper critics is especially bad for smaller filmmakers—who rely on the critics to spread the word about their movies. But don’t worry, filmmakers—there are some of us out here who are still watching, and who still appreciate all your hard work. The reviews are still out there. People just have to get used to finding the information in a different way.

After our scholarly and insightful discussion, the movie began. At first, I found that I wasn’t really thrilled by it—but I really wanted to like it, and I was willing to accept that the film was just made in a different, rather child-like, style. And I was okay with that. For a while. But then Jodie Foster turned all crazy and spastic, and the lizard squawked like a bird, and it got worse and worse and worse. Afterwards, we stood outside the theater and laughed at (not with) it. And the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I really wanted to like that movie, darnit, but they made me hate it. And on Tuesday night, when I arrived back at the very same theater for our screening of Leatherheads, when someone asked me what I’d thought of Nim’s Island, my response was to huff and say, “Poop sandwich.” (What can I say? A stupid movie called for a stupid response.)

That night, we ended up seated by The Obnoxious People who seem to follow us around. They always sit right by us (sometimes defiantly settling into reserved press seats) for (I’m pretty sure) the sole purpose of driving us completely out of our minds. These people are loud. They’re obnoxious. And the talk (loudly) through the entire movie. And they’re always there.

But even more obnoxious than The Obnoxious People was the woman from the radio station that was hosting the screening. She started with her whole spiel a full half-hour before the screening started—and we were forced to listen to her crack jokes that only she found funny for the entire time. And that’s when Kevin came up with the whole scam—but that’s another discussion for another day (or maybe not).

After seeing Nim’s in the morning, I found myself being much kinder to Leatherheads that night. That’s not to say that it was a brilliant movie, but it was much better than Nim’s (which is currently sitting in Jason’s bottom five for the year). So I guess Leatherheads just lucked out. If Nim’s had been any good, perhaps I would have hated it. Then again, probably not. How can anyone hate Clooney and Zellweger? I’m pretty sure it’s not physically possible.

On Wednesday, we had a day off. So, with my husband out of town on business, I chose to spend the evening watching bad reality TV. And it felt so good.

But we were back at it again on Thursday. In the morning, we were back to the free coffee (which, just for the record, almost made me gag in the middle of the movie) for our screening of Smart People. Before the movie, we gathered around to dis on Nim’s and generally compare notes. Then Neil showed up wearing his very stylish “My Mom Loves Gerard Butler” shirt and began singing the praises of the movie we were about to see. He’d actually seen it at Sundance and had loved it so much (in much the same way that his mother loves Mr. Butler) that he couldn’t wait to see it again. He’s crazy like that. But, hey—it’s a good movie.

Once again, Thursday was another two-screening day—but we had a lot of time between the two, since the second one was a late, late screening. At 10 p.m. No kidding. But, well, it was The Ruins, and we’d all been looking forward to seeing it. And since this was the only chance we’d have to see it, we decided to suck it up and drink a little extra coffee. We also decided to meet up for drinks before the screening—and Jason and I split a giant dessert, which we figured would keep us wired through the screening.

When we got settled into our seats, I realized that (a) it was late at night, (b) I was watching a scary movie, and (c) I was going to end up going home to an eerily empty house. That, my friends, is what I call dedication to my job.

When it was all over (thanks to an endless number of pre-movie trailers), it was almost midnight, so we all went our separate ways—Jason and I headed to our homes to crash, while Neil and Kevin went to start recording Fat Guys.

Normally, this is where I’d wrap up the week’s report. But since my Internet connection was ridiculously slow on Friday (the cable company says it’s either a bad line or a bad modem—and they claim that they’ll be by to check it out on Tuesday night), I didn’t get my weekly post up then, so I’ll add a little more to the week’s report.

On Friday night, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Clay had some tickets to head to OSU to attend a screening with Oscar-winning director Milos Forman. You might know him from such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flint, Hair, or Man on the Moon. The movie we were seeing, however, was called Taking Off. It was Forman’s first American movie—made in the early ‘70s, after he left Czechoslovakia. Though the studios were big on tiny-budgets at the time, most of those tiny-budget films (including Taking Off) ended up flopping. For that reason, no one’s really seen Taking Off. In fact, Forman himself admitted that he hadn’t seen it in 30 years. It’s not on DVD, and it’s not on VHS—and Forman was impressed that someone managed to get their hands on a print.

The whole evening was fascinating. First of all, how often do you have the chance to be in the presence of an Oscar-winning director? And, then, how often do you get to watch a rarely-seen movie with that Oscar-winning director? Though it wasn’t very well received at the time (most likely because it hit a bit too close to home for most viewers), it was a smart and entertaining little film. And the short Q&A after the film was absolutely fascinating. Forman talked about filmmaking in a totalitarian regime vs. filmmaking in Hollywood. He talked about his influences. And he talked about working with a young Jack Nicholson (on-set, he’s incredibly professional—though, off-set, Forman says he’s still not sure whether or not Nicholson is sane). And, when all was said and done, it was one pretty cool evening—especially for geeks like me.

But now it’s time to settle in and start another week. It’s going to be a slow week for screenings—just one Wednesday night and maybe one on Thursday morning (if my very first engineering of the show goes smoothly enough to make it to the screening on time). We did, however, just get an email saying that they might be screening Zombie Strippers for us this week—so that might make for an interesting adventure.

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