A Journal of Opinions.
I want to start off with two statements: first, I’ve worked in movie theaters now for over a decade, with a couple of short stints in other, equally shitty and low paying places of employment. Secondly, I probably shouldn’t be writing any of this, because I still work in a movie theater, and outing your employer — or at the very least, your employer’s industry — is usually frowned upon. But don’t worry, I’m keeping the real juicy tidbits for some other time.
Nevertheless, I’ve been witness to much hemming and hawing over the state of movie theaters. By all accounts, it’s dying. Whether it’s the increased quality of home theaters, the decreased quality of the product being exhibited, or the overall uncouth rudeness of the fellow moviegoers, everyone seems to think the movie theater is waning. This was the thought, too, at the advent of television, but that never came to pass. The idea, now (and I have no statistical data to back this up, because I’m lazy, so I’m simply going off of what I’ve heard with my own two ears, or read with my own two eyes) is that the theaters are in serious decline, and irreparably damaged if changes aren’t made. This is less about competition for entertainment dollars (though this does factor in) like the television dilemma, and more about the notion that theaters just don’t give a shit anymore. And in a lot of ways, but the real problem might come from this, but not in the ways you expect.
I stumbled upon a stranger’s Facebook status the other day, where they were raising complaints in regards to a bad theater experience, mostly railing against a lazy, careless manager (my interpretation, at least) and a poor presentation. My first inclination — as someone who’s worked in theaters and knows the culture and knows how people react and overreact — was that there was more to the story, and not as cut and dry as simple egregious customer service. My second inclination was that, actually, a lot of people who work in theaters actually do suck (again, this is just personal experience). This isn’t necessarily their fault (at least completely). For the most part (I can’t speak for every person and every theater chain), people who work at theaters are minimum wage lackeys who either can’t get better paying work, or don’t want to. Managers are often underpayed and overworked (I worked for one chain that asked their salaried assistant manager to work over 60 hours a week). For the longest time, I fell into that lazy category, since I wanted to work my way through college doing as little as possible. I’m a firm believer in getting what you pay for, and if you’re needlessly pay a bunch of kids minimum wage, and run your managers ragged, this is the end result one should expect. Little emphasis is put on training, few have any benefits available, and many chains operate wrong-headedly and idiotically (when I worked at a Carmike, they had a private jet for their heads, but I was making $5.50 and hour).
I used to say that I didn’t understand how anyone could work in a movie theater and not come out of it a Socialist. I still believe that. I still believe that some of us do care, that do understand that there are those who care a whole, whole lot about their theater experience (and a whole lot of patrons who don’t have a clue). We do what we can. But I also understand that there’s a whole lot of theater employees who don’t understand this, who put little effort into their work. Much of this is related to a theater’s culture — from the top down — and I’m not sure there’s anyway to fix this without removing the people in charge. Presumably, this relates to the increasing corporatization and conglomeration of theater chains, something that will only get worse with the forced shift to digital projection that will cause many independent theaters to shut down. But this is too easy a solution — I’ve known independent theaters (who will remain unnamed) who are just as bad and careless as their larger brethren. My only suggestion is to find a theater you like and go there. Don’t go where it’s shitty — don’t even contemplate it. If you can’t stand the theater experience in your town, don’t bother with it. Stay home. The stress is no good, and complaining to your friends on the Internet is likely to do very little. If you insist on complaining, complain to where it counts, but just remember, shit rolls down hill. And little is bound to be done, some people at the bottom will get chewed out. At best you’ll be placated.
I once wrote an extremely middling story called “State of the Arts” (not to be confused by a sci-fi story I once came up with by the same name, where in the future, a giant computer spits out movie ideas, and comes up with things like Duck Soup being remade with Adam Sandler), where in the future, movie theaters are subversive. They’re hidden away in cities, and only found via invitation. They exist exclusively for those who care. Is this where we’re headed? Maybe, but the beauty of theaters are the communal experience. The pity lies in how much of an inconsistent gamble its turned into. As someone who’s spent an inordinate amount of his life in movie theaters — and who’s had more than his share of annoyances in them as well — I hope it’s something no one’s ever deprived of.
Andy Griffith died today, which means little to me, since I didn’t grow up on The Andy Griffith Show, or Matlock. But nevertheless, he was someone’s friend, and someone’s family member, and they are surely sad tonight.
The last thing Griffith made was a small indie movie called Play the Game in 2009. It’s not good, only in part because the entire film centered around — and was marketed towards — seeing Andy get a blowjob (it’s not on YouTube; trust me, I looked). The film billed itself as “Andy Griffith as you’ve never seen him before,” and even returned to said blowjob scene after the credits. That was our tawdry selling point. All Matlock blowjobs, all the time.
You don’t see him get a blowjob, of course, though you do get to see his o-face (or is it O-face? Oh-face?). It’s not bad because it’s a movie centered around an elderly man getting a blowjob; it’s bad because it’s handled in such a hammy, juvenile way. Believe me, I want all people — no matter race, creed or age — to be getting blowjobs all the time. But why exploit some old man for your blowjob agenda, to sell a few movie tickets? Why trick all these old people into watching a movie about Andy Griffith getting a blowjob?
But I digress. I wanted to bring this up because it raises what should be called the Raul Julia Problem, which is be careful what you make, because it could be your last. Julia’s last theatrical release was the God awful Street Fighter. Orson Welles was hawking frozen peas and doing the voice of an animated planet right before he was shook loose this mortal coil. And now Andy Griffith has his blowjob face as some strange final reminder to us all. But you know what? They all made a whole lot of money doing those things, and probably took care of their friends and family. Or maybe they just got by a little longer. And there’s no shame in that.
Last night I watched Jackie Brown for the first time since it was released in 1997. This is before I started liking Tarantino, either because I was too young (in the case of Jackie Brown, 14-years-old is a bit young to really understand a film about soul music and the pain of growing old), because I’ve never held Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogsin great esteem, or because I think the Kill Bill movies and Inglourious Basterds are the best things he’s done.
What struck me about the film now — a film that I’ve found a lot of Tarantino fans hold as an overlooked gem in his filmography — is how slight it feels compared to most of his other work. This isn’t necessarily a knock, but there is a lack of scope and — for lack of a better word — ambition at play (hence the reason it’s overlooked, especially coming after the pop culture phenomenon that was Pulp Fiction). There’s still the usual Tarantino quirks, like pop culture references to genre flicks like The Mad Dog Killer, John Woo’s The Killer, and blaxpoitation films in general. There are shots of Bridget Fonda’s feet, while the film itself is as much an homage to Elmore Leonard as it is an adaptation of his novel Rum Punch. But it’s still feels as if its operating on a smaller scale despite the bloated 150-minute-plus runtime.
This — combined with a plot that falls less to the side of clever and more to the side of convoluted — is the reason I can appreciate Jackie Brown within Tarantino’s filmography, but not adore it on its own merits. You see, I love excess. Even when it’s wrong-headed, messy excess (see Frank Miller’s The Spirit, for instance). I want Tarantino — for better or worse — indulging in the worst aspects of his own fandom. He’s become a preternatural encyclopedia of his own obscure pop culture interests, a man who’s obtained the clout to make the movies he wants (which just happen to be the re-imaginings of the movies he grew up on), with the thankful ability to translate it into mass appeal by making it something that’s satisfying on a basic, almost visceral level. And that’s probably his greatest strength as a director, seeing as he’s only learned how to be a stylist over the last decade.
This is also my biggest problem with Tarantino. He’s so referential that his work borders on regressive. The constant fits of post-modern film nerdism always cause me to question what exactly he’s adding to film. It’s as if he’s less a filmmaker, and more some cinematic godhead, making movies less through a filter of worldview — like I’d say Woody Allen does — and more so via his interests and — this is important — only his interests. As a self-confessed Ken Russell disciple, self-indulgence, for me, is a virtue. But what if that self-indulgence is nothing more than other people’s movies? I’ve made the argument — only half-jokingly, mind you — that Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank movies are in reality more important to film than anything Tarantino has done in the Aughts. The idea is that Crank and its sequel are a new kind of exploitation, junky films built for a generation of kids raised on video games and Adderal, while Tarantino’s still keeping the dream of ’70s exploitation alive a whole four decades after the fact.
With Tarantino’s sway, he has the ability to make whatever he wants, however he wants, even if he’s essentially repeating himself (as an aside, Tim Burton and Wes Anderson —two directors with the same professional courtesies — take a lot more flack for stylistically “redundancy,” while Tarantino gets a free pass). At this point, for me, I’m less interested in what his films are about than where he ends up as a filmmaker. If he indulges too much, becomes too insular, or maybe too offensive, how will he react? And in exchange, how will we — as moviegoers — react?
The wife and I went on a search for a copy of Alien to rent tonight (which, on the weekend of Prometheus is a lot like the plot to Jingle All the Way), but instead ended up at a second run house for a late showing of 21 Jump Street. I’m not going to get into the film too much (besides mentioning that I enjoyed the hell out of it — probably more that I feel comfortable admitting), but I do want to talk about old Channing Tatum.
I want to talk about him because he keeps making me like him, despite being in a lot of crap movies and having a neck bigger than his head. But instead of just allowing me to write him off as talentless beefcake, he slowly winning me over. It started — surprisingly enough — when he was the best thing Ron Howard’s awful The Dilemma.
What The Dilemma proved and 21 Jump Street reinforced (and Haywire, to a lesser extent, reinforces) is that Tatum’s a likable guy. His beefiness works against him, sticking him in action movie roles, or sappy Nicholas Sparks romances, when really, his strength lies in his dudeness and his innate likability. He’s a guy that seems generally friendly onscreen, and it sucks because I want to dislike him so much.
In a lot of ways he reminds me a lot of James Franco, at least on a personal level. Franco, too, was an actor I couldn’t stand, until he got a solid comedic role (in the middling Pineapple Express), and then followed this up with a genuinely wonderful performance in Milk. He was hunky and finally amiable…and then he decided he was smart. He was an artist, and his career has ended up from the dopey beginnings (seriously, watch Flyboys if you want to see dopey) from whence he came. Now he’s just insufferable, writing short fiction and having really goofy, hilariously self-serious headshots in the back of his books.
So we’re left with Tatum — the Populist’s Ryan Gosling — who will most likely (again, because of his inherent hunkiness) will never be taken seriously as an “artist.” And you know what? Good for him.
Reasons this is a great LARPing video:
I went on a short little vacation earlier in the week, and you want to know the worst part about it? I missed that Clams Casino’s Instrumental Mixtape 2 released. Dreamy, languid hip-hop beats that are like witch house, if witch house wasn’t stupid and people still gave a shit about it. “Unchain Me” — with its Gerard McMann sample — and the original mix of The Weeknds “The Fall” are stand outs. Unlike a year ago, Clams isn’t such a secret anymore, which means you have even less of a reason to get on board.
CLAMS CASINO INSTRUMENTAL MIXTAPE 2: www66.zippyshare.com/v/31920231/fil…— Clams Casino (@clammyclams) June 4, 2012
This is installment number one of an ongoing series “Something About Bathrooms,” called such because I haven’t been able to think of anything more clever. Here, I’ll be reviewing the water closets and washrooms of everyone’s favorite establishments. Please keep in mind that any bodily fluids seen below do not belong to me.
And so we start with 51 Grill, a local Asheville late night diner that’s attached to a gas station, sitting on the edge of downtown, just off I-240. With its late night hours, nearly centralized location (downtown Asheville is notorious for having a lack of late night food options), and greasy spoon grub, 51 Grill is the optimal midnight option for both local and out-of-town drunks who are responsible (or DUI-riddled) enough not to drive to the Waffle House. Combine all of this, and you get a pretty nasty bathroom.
This is less a knock against 51 Grill, and more so a result of simply being the classic example of a seedy gas station bathroom. There’s something dank and moist about room, like its walls sweat gonorrhea. The tiles are mildewed and stained, giving off the air of a low rent torture basement (think Saw, not Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).
In 51 Grill’s favor, the walls have been kept free of graffiti, though this has kept pesky taggers from scratching their names into the mirror or scribbling on the doors and ceiling tiles (the ceiling tile tactic is an interesting one that’s impossible to simply clean, though the trade-off is ultimately quality). Unfortunately, the trade-off is a lack of dumb jokes on the wall. Also of note is the lack of any pungent aromas during my visit, and keep in mind that there is merely a hand blower, and no paper towels.
Final verdict? The 51 Grill gets one flush out of five. There’s little need for quality since the majority of your patrons are alcoholics and tweakers. Nevertheless, the musty petri dish vibe is too much to ignore.
This is actually the third incarnation of this blog, though the first version was different than the second, and the third will be different than both. The original — which wasn’t call Very Anal, but was called something else less embarrassing — was maudlin and mawkish. It existed mostly to impress a girl, which worked, because we’re married now. Looking back at it now, it’s a bunch of odd, immature musings from a sentimental kid, struggling with a lot of things — love, loneliness, death — and writing about them in the most obtuse kinds of ways.
The second version — called Very Anal — was an attempt at something more ambitious — a lot of pop culture writing about music and movies — that I just couldn’t keep up with. This will be a lot of the same, a lot of different stuff, some ideas that I’ve been hauling around, but never gotten around to creating. That is, if I can keep it moving.
One of my creative writing professors in college once told me, “No cares if we write.” It’s about time I remind myself of that.