Monthly Archives: July 2014

“Oh, hi Mark”: Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM as Primer on How Not to Write a Story

I can’t remember the last time I was as enthused about a non-fiction book as I am about Greg Sestero and Tom Bissel’s The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.  It’s really something special.

The Disaster ArtistFor those of you unfamiliar with cult classic The Room, I urge you to watch these videos before proceeding.  No isolated clips can really do the film justice, but hopefully those will whet your appetite for its unique brand of lunacy.  (The entire movie is available on YouTube as well.)

Filmed in a parking lot in 2003 at a budget of $6 million dollars, The Room is director-producer-star Tommy Wiseau’s singular vision, a vanity project that transcends mere vanity, a so-bad-it’s-glorious omnibus of every wrong impulse, artistic misapprehension, and petty hubristic idiocy known to man.  It is often pegged, along with Plan 9 From Outer Space and Troll 2, as the worst movie ever made.  But while Plan 9 and Troll 2 are aggressive outlandish in their particulars, The Room is a different animal.  It’s not science fiction.  It’s not fantasy.  It’s a domestic drama that somehow manages to be stranger than any fever vision of speculative fiction.  It’s like an alien visited Earth and later tried to recreate for his countrymen what he saw there.  In his grasp of how human beings feel, speak, and act, Tommy Wiseau is on par with the Martians.

The Room movie posterIn the introduction to The Disaster Artist, actor Greg Sestero (who played the character of Mark in the film) calls The Room “the most casually surreal film ever made.”  Ostensibly, it’s about a man named Johnny (played by Wiseau) whose fiancee, Lisa, cheats on him with his best friend, Mark.  Crushed by the betrayal of his loved ones, Johnny ends his life by shooting himself in the head.  It’s a grand, Shakespearean climax.  Unfortunately, its force is undermined by the all the weird side-stops the film makes along the way.  First there’s Johnny’s neighbor/young ward, Denny, who seems to hint that he wants a threesome with Johnny and Lisa.  Then there’s Chris-R, a drug-dealing gangster who threatens to shoot Denny in the head if he doesn’t get his money.  There’s also Claudette, Lisa’s mother, who casually announces that she has breast cancer and then never mentions it again.  Throw in Tommy’s undefinable accent, a handful of super-gratuitous sex scenes, and several men playing football in tuxes for no readily apparent reason, and you have an experience so weird as to be almost indescribable.

Sestero uses The Disaster Artist both to chronicle the making of the room and to recount his friendship with Wiseau, who is by turns charismatic, childish, grandiose, suicidal, and borderline insane.  It’s a seductive portrait, and a strangely sympathetic one.  Tommy Wiseau sounds like a pain in the ass, but one that you’d gladly suffer for the stories you’d later be able to tell.

Continue reading


Puberty Books of the Damned, part 2

Several weeks ago, I introduced you to the wonders of TEEN WORKS: a set of 60’s/80’s-era puberty books I got for free at an estate sale.  These books are long, clocking in at well over a hundred articles each and covering every conceivable topic, from how to flirt to how to pretend to care about football to how to match your pink plastic belt with your oversized Mickey Mouse shirt-dress.  For this, our second foray into TEEN WORKS-dom, I thought we would delve into the most important topic of all: how to get a boy.

Step One: Identify Your Type

Everybody’s got a type.  For some, it’s the brooding guitar player.  For others, it’s the outgoing Big Man on Campus.  For me, it’s…well.  You know.

Exasperated SherlockI didn’t even say anything!

But how can you pinpoint your type?  After all, there are millions of types out there, each clearly distinct from the others.

What Kind of Guy is Your Type?Psych!  There’s actually only four.  And the writers of TEEN WORKS, bless them, have provided you with a handy quiz to determine upon which of the four you should concentrate your amorous efforts.  Let’s look at some of the questions.

After school, the guy of your dreams is probablyFrom this item alone, we can see the broad archetypes they’re referencing.  There’s the jock guy.  The intellectual guy.  The artistic guy.  The, uh…likes-having-snacks-with-friends guy.  (As an aside, when I fantasized about my dream man during my hormonal teenaged years, he was generally snacking on me.)

Scandalized Gary BuseyAccording to Google Image Search, this is what “scandalized” looks like.

Let’s look at another question.

Your guy likes you best in...What the hell is a muscle shirt?  Are we talking one of those sleeveless t-shirts with slits all down the sides?  Because if any guy thinks I look best in that, he’s not a jock: he’s delusional.

Anywho, once you’ve muscled (muscle-shirted?) your way through this quiz, you receive one of four types, as personified by four hypothetical boys.

Ted, the Cool GuyTed here is the Cool One.  He knows what’s in and what’s not.  (And what’s in is “snacks with friends.”)

Jason, the JockJason is the Jock, and also the muscle shirt aficionado.

Ryan, the BrainRyan is the Brain.  He likes learning and (probably) giving jaunty salutes.

Bill, the ArtistBill is the Artist.  Should you choose to date him, beware–at some point, he will run off with Ted in search of an Excellent Adventure. Continue reading

Milk Into Yogurt, the Sexy Way

Last Saturday I visited Classicon, the annual pulp/paperback show coordinated by the Mid-Michigan Antiquarian Book Dealers Association (MMABDA) and the inestimably excellent Curious Book Shop.  I took so many pictures that I have no recourse but to split them between a few separate posts.  This is the third of three.  Enjoy!

Having sadly taken our leave of the Curious Book Shop, my associates and I dined at Hopcat, an (apparently?) famous bar and grill in downtown Lansing.  Most patrons appreciate Hopcat for its dizzying selection of beers.  I appreciate it because its logo is a cute black cat holding a mug. Anyway, the women’s bathroom at Hopcat is wallpapered in covers from old glamour magazines.  Here are some of the more interesting ones: ImageI feel like these hypothetical orgasms get more ridiculous as you go down the list.  “Do Call Girls Have Orgasms?”  Fair question. “Orgasms Burn Calories?”  They sure do.  “Orgasms Can Turn Milk into Yogurt and Save You Money?”  Er, come again?  “Orgasms and the Kent State Killings?”  Okay, I’m officially uncomfortable. ImageHey, girls!  Guess what?  The way you look is really all about men!  That’s right, it’s nothing to do with you at all.  Your good looks exist solely for a man’s benefit, your bad looks solely to a man’s detriment.  All that matters about your appearance is how it affects the men around you. *a million fedora’d heads nod in unison* ImageThe cost of a fling with Costas: pink-eye, mostly.


Honorable Cats and Government Hoaxes

Last Saturday I visited Classicon, the annual pulp/paperback show coordinated by the Mid-Michigan Antiquarian Book Dealers Association (MMABDA) and the inestimably excellent Curious Book Shop.  I took so many pictures that I have no recourse but to split them between a few separate posts.  This is the second of three.  Enjoy!

Following our trip to Classicon, my friends and I decided to visit the Curious Book Shop itself.  Those of us who had been there before ensured the rest of us that it was great, plus the shop’s owner had promised me a collection of Arkham House publications.  I was not disappointed on either score.

I ultimately ended up purchasing Chaosium’s The Hastur Cycle, as well as A Samba for Sherlock, a Brazilian book about Holmes traveling to Rio de Janeiro and getting accidentally high on marijuana, amongst other things.  Here are some of the other things I saw there:

Image“For God’s Sake Do Something!” cries General Booth, silently adding: “Before I become any more worryingly turned on!”

Ah, the white slave trade, that special time in history when loads of British and American Victorian girls were apparently whisked away to serve as courtesans in the world’s most corrupt Sultanates.  To what extent were these reports accurate, and to what extent were they fuel for the sweat-soaked dreams of old white dudes?  I’m not sure.  But the sheer volume of erotica featuring white girls enslaved by foreigners ought to tell us something.

ImageWhat a confusing title!  I’m not sure if the lady in question was a wife before or after the author married her.  If it was before, then that’s a bummer.  If it was after, then the author seems a little confused about how the whole “getting married” thing works.

Worlds of Honor, featuring a six-legged sentient cat thingDo you want to know the first word that comes to mind when I see this picture?  Honor.  There is literally nothing in this world–in any Worlds–as honorable as a six-limbed cat lovingly checking the pulse of a young, hypothermic Mr. Spock.  Can you conjure up something more honorable than that?  I didn’t think so.  Stand aside, Peewee, and let the Big Cat do his job.

Honourable CatsBut wait!  You haven’t heard the last of honorable cats!  It transpires that cats are not just “honorable,” but also “honourable,” which is the same thing but with more monocles and Jaffa Cakes.

Legionnaires Disease: The Great HoaxLook, all right, no one north of the Mason-Dixon Line and south of eighty-five years old believes anything they read in the Enquirer…but really?  Legionnaires’ Disease is a hoax?  Calling thousands of Legionnaires’ sufferers “hoaxers” is pretty cold, even for a tabloid, and especially for a tabloid that purports to know how to be loved.  This just makes me pine for the Weekly World News all the more.