‘Jesus Christ bananas’ entry: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room

Logic has no place here. The film staggers to its conclusion less like a picturesque and drunken Irish poet than a paralytic hobo whose palsied fingers can barely hold onto his bottle of methyl alcohol.

I like a bad movie every once in a while.

There was a time when I spent a lot, a LOT of time on bad movies. Then I realized that my time on earth is finite, and that I’d rather fill that time with earnest films made by talented and creative directors than with films whose own makers were either slumming geniuses or complete whackos.

That said, I still like a bad movie once in a while.

The Room came at me sideways like a crack addict waving around the razor-sharp skeleton of a dead large-mouthed bass.

There was no way to see this coming. No warning, no review has yet captured exactly how execrable this film is. Nostradamus might’ve seen it coming, but he would have written it down as some vague ‘and there will come a stringy man of taut thews and stygian hair who is either madman or genius, who shall entertain and terrify in the same fell swoop. And that man shall not speak truths but mumbles.’  That could refer to any number of filmmakers. Hell, that could be Joaquin Phoenix’s recent dabblings with madness.

Yup. That's about it.

Anyhoo, I’d heard a few things about ‘The Room’ and when a friend invited us over to watch, I went willingly. For some reason I thought it was a horror movie.

I wasn’t completely wrong.

‘The Room’ is the story of Johnny (Tommy Wiseau, who is also writer, director, and executive producer), a man who loves his fiancee Lisa, has a job where he makes good money, and seems to be the risen messiah in every other aspect of his life. He ‘rescued’ a troubled youth and is sending him to college, no one can shut up about how great he is, and the only time people don’t like him is if he doesn’t loan them money. Otherwise, the rest of the cast stand around singing jeremiads for the man.

The inciting incident of the story is that the aforementioned fiancee suddenly decides she doesn’t love him anymore and that he is boring. The rest of the film unfolds (or maybe ‘metastasizes’ is a  better word) in a bitter lovers’ triangle with Lisa cheating on Johnny, having long boring conversations with her mother about it, and Johnny’s best friend Mark being sort of conflicted about diddling Johnny’s fiancee.

Logic has no place here. The film staggers to its conclusion less like a picturesque and drunken Irish poet than a paralytic hobo whose palsied fingers can barely hold onto his bottle of methyl alcohol.

Consider this scene: There’s Johnny (Wiseau) talking to his friend Mark (colleague Greg Sesteros) about Lisa.

Johnny did not hit Lisa, she just got him really drunk and then tried to convince him he did, and Mark is the guy she’s cheating on Johnny with. The acting on display here is on par with the rest of the movie. Erratic tonal shifts, bizarre dialogue, nonsensical actions taken by the actors, plot threads that never pan out or are abandoned (Lisa’s mother offhandedly  mentions she has breast cancer once and this is never again addressed) and sex scenes that make one reach for a bottle of Purell are all part of the package.

But while the movie is indeed embarrassingly awful, I can’t get into the spirit of mocking it as much as others have.  Mr. Wiseau spent five years of his life raising funding for the film, and it’s suspected he did so through ‘less than legitimate’ means: there’s a story about him importing leather jackets from Korea that sounds fairly shady, and other people have suggested the movie exists as an elaborate money laundering scheme for the mob.

Although now he promotes the movie as a Rocky Horror Picture Show-like parody and travels to midnight screenings where people throw spoons and footballs (it’s in the movie), some of the actors from the film indicate that Mr. Wiseau was absolutely earnest in his intent when making it in 2003 and that there was nothing tongue-in-cheek about his attitude.

I can’t help but imagine someone who managed to make his creative dream come true witness his film be reviled by the few critics who saw it, then embraced by an audience whose self-professed love of shit is damning praise. Maybe at that point he decided that any publicity is better than none. It’s my own secret dream (as it is most critics’) to make a film of my own, and since I don’t have the courage or means to pursue such a dream and I consciously know this, I can’t help but feel bad bashing the product of someone who managed to pursue it themselves. Even so, this is one incredibly bad movie. Let’s be absolutely clear on that.

There's a reason you always see this image in connection with the movie. You just have to see it.

I’m not someone who enjoys laughing at the efforts of others, unless they really want me to. If Mr. Wiseau convinces me of his earnest effort to create a black comedy, well, I guess I can laugh at his film then.

‘The Room’ is not available on Instant Watch but can be rented from Netflix or GreenCine. Check it out, but for God’s sake, know what you’re getting into!

Ink

INK is the kind of film that gives critics and viewers hope that films have not completley become monetized, that there is still room for creativity, for risk. It’s undoubtedly a strange film, and there are some slow parts, and sometimes the acting (particularly of Storyteller Liev) meanders into extreme melodrama, but it’s also a breath of fresh air for anyone worn out by modern cliches and lackluster filmmaking.

"Pleasant Dreams.'

INK is the sort of fantasy movie that you would think isn’t being made anymore. The only fantasies being made are the ones with with someone famous attached, like Neil Gaiman or Terry Gilliam, and with a watered down story that has usually defanged the source material.  Now that’s certainly changed in the last two years or so, but the vast majority of fantasy films are based on books or graphic novels with an established fan base. If it’s Neil Gaiman or Terry Gilliam, there’s a good chance of it being made.

Ink is a wonderful anomaly to that pattern, since the movie was made on a budget  equal to a four-bedroom house, by a group of no-name filmmakers. The film was never even sold to a major studio–instead, the intrepid Winans went straight to DVD and Blu-Ray distributers, and the film was reportedly downloaded over 400,000 times from BitTorrent. Now the film is selling like gangbusters, and stands as a marvelous example of moving outside the studio system.

The story is resonant of the aforementioned Gilliam’s Brazil, and the entire body of Gaiman’s work. The importance of Dreams, and the high cost of allowing one’s nightmares to become one’s motivation in life are explored here. The action focuses on a young girl and her itinerant father, and on a quest between a group of people who give dreams and their battle with the Incubi, who give nightmares.

Its rare for something in a film to creep me out these days, especially a Hollywood piece. There’s just too much money at stake, think the execs, to take a real risk and show something truly frightening or unsettling, which i’m pretty sure is what led to the popularity of foreign horror and other genre films–the chance of actually seeing something NEW. I still haven’t seen Paranormal Activity, but I attribute its success to the fact that it was an underground, indie-made film. INK, another independent film, delivers on that, while still trodding ground familiar to anyone who’s studied Jungian archetypes or read fiction concerned with dreams. The Incubi, a group of rubber-clad creatures with smiling screens for faces and who serve as the film’s main villains, are suitably disturbing and owe much to Brazil’s steampunk, anachro-tech look, albeit updated with an 80’s flair.

The story centers on a man, John, who has fought and clawed his way to the top of the corporate ladder, WallStreet-style, and in the journey lost much that was precious to him. Part of the charm of the film is in the delicate unfolding of the story, so I won’t ruin it; suffice to say that much of the film is concerned with him learning a lesson, but that trite description doesn’t do the film justice.

Some very realistic fight scenes give the film necessary thrills, and though the characterizations  of the good guys trying to rescue a little girl is heavily influenced by the Matrix, they remain interesting enough to become more than just a pale comparison. Jacob the Pathfinder is particularly memorable, and though his acting is a little uneven and sometimes seems amateurish, it’s a refreshing change from the robotically poised constructs ambling across screens in many of this summer’s blockbusters. I look forward to the day that the Sam Worthington Acting Unit’s servos break down and the whole thing is shipped back to the factory, and when the Megan Fox RealDoll becomes too stained and stretched out to be filmable in anything but Jhorror rebirthing scenes. I’m sure Takashi Miike is counting the days.

INK is the kind of film that gives critics and viewers hope that films have not completely become monetized, that there is still room for creativity, for risk. It’s undoubtedly a strange film, and there are some slow parts, and sometimes the acting (particularly of Storyteller Liev) meanders into extreme melodrama, but it’s also a breath of fresh air for anyone worn out by modern cliches and lackluster filmmaking. Given half a chance, the movie delivers on its promise of reawakening hope and the joy of a pleasant dream. Which is not to say that the film isn’t suitably dark–there’s a reason it has an R rating after all, but its the kind of dark that is earned, instead of just filmed in back alleys and shitty abandoned hospitals.

The film is available for viewing on Hulu and on Netflix’s Instant Watch feature, and I highly recommend it. It washed the bad taste left by Prince of Persia right out of my mouth.