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The Room (Pt. 2)

Fans of The Room are living proof that the only thing dumber than watching a bad movie is watching a bad movie alone. These guys love Wiseau for his insanity and they love the movie for how easy it is to mock. Not only do they find great pleasure in making fun of the movie, but they’ve turned it into a form of art.

Once a month, all of the Wiseau fans in Portland meet at a small cinema arthouse called Cinema 21. I was there for the October 2010 screening, which happened just last night. The first thing I saw when I arrived was a guy in a blonde wig and a red dress with a tie around his head. I also saw a group of high school kids dressed in tuxes and tossing a football around. I didn’t think it was possible to dress in costume for The Room, but I guess they found a way.

When the theater finally opened, we got to our seats for an audience participation warm-up: The projectionist was playing The Room Tribute Game as we all shouted directions to him. A few people actually jumped onto the screen to point out where the hidden spoons were. This was followed by a showing of The Room Dubstep remix, which may be the only time I found myself impressed by Auto-Tune. It was all fun enough, but then came the man himself.

Tommy Wiseau knows all about the fanbase he has in Portland. He’s made a few personal appearances at Cinema 21 and last night, he showed up via a crappy Skype feed for a brief Q&A before the show. It wasn’t always easy to hear what he had to say, but he did have a few interesting answers. He was kind enough to give a proper pronunciation of his name (it sounded like “wizz-oh”) and he was a great sport about the fans having him on (“How can a normal guy like me get a girl like Lisa?” one fan asked). He also gave some updates on a short film called “The House That Drips Blood on Alex” and his latest project, simply called “The Neighbors.” Most interesting to me is that Wiseau promised to come back to Portland next May for a 10,000-person screening of The Room. That would make it quite probably the largest screening of any movie ever. Yeah. Good luck with that, Tommy.

Anyway, then came the movie, which was a blast. I’d gotten a script on the way in, but I quickly found that all of its yells and action cues were merely suggestions. Take, for example, the spoons.

In the movie, there’s a framed picture of a spoon in the apartment where this all takes place. Nobody knows why someone painted a spoon, why the painting is framed or why it’s featured so prominently in the movie, but there we are. This painting became the basis of an action cue, in which everyone would yell “SPOON!” and throw plastic spoons at the screen whenever the painting appeared. This was so much fun that people eventually started throwing spoons out of boredom. When Johnny shoots himself at the end of the film, there was a friggin’ spoon explosion in the audience. There was also a fun time when there were so many plastic spoons near the front of the screen that people in the front row started throwing spoons back just to keep the supply going. We had a spoon civil war for a moment. Of course, I never had any problem with the resupply: I was seated about five rows from the front, which meant that I always had more coming. Oh, and did I mention that Cinema 21 has a balcony?

Natually, most of the audience participation was in response to how bad the movie is. Take, for example, the first of many scenes in which Lisa is trying to seduce Mark, who is pitifully confused about what’s going on. “I mean, what’s going on here?” he asks. “The candles, (‘WHAT CANDLES?!’) the music (‘WHAT MUSIC?!’), the sexy dress (‘WHAT SEXY DRESS?!’).” We were also sure to shout “CANCER!” when Lisa’s mom breaks the news that she has breast cancer, in one of many subplots that are never mentioned again. The film’s rampant misogyny is also lampooned: Fans shout “‘CAUSE YOU’RE A WOMAN!” at the end of some sentences, kind of like the “in bed” joke with fortune cookies (For example: “Why can’t I do what I want?”). Oh, and let’s not forget the godawful editing, frequently cutting back to stock footage of San Francisco for no reason at all. During these shots, it’s proper to yell “MEANWHILE, IN SAN FRANCISCO!” or to loudly sing the Full House theme song.

Wiseau himself is ridiculed several times, with his chicken impressions and inappropriate giggles being favorite subjects for derisive mockery. During the scenes in which Johnny is passing a football around with his friends, people in the audience get up and do the same. When Johnny is fumbling around with a tape deck for what feels like 72 hours, we passed the time by singing the theme song to Mission: Impossible.

Quite a few cues are corny for the sake of it. Remember the first scene in that YouTube clip from Part 1 of this entry? The one where Wiseau waves at the lower right-hand corner of the screen for no reason? Some guys run down to that corner, waving frantically at the screen and yelling “HI, TOMMY!” just before that happens. It’s also customary to yell “ALCATRAZ!” when we see shots of Alcatraz prison or shots of characters behind vertical bars. Another fun little game is to shout “GO! GO! GO! GO!” to cheer on tracking shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. When the camera makes it all the way across, we celebrate. When it doesn’t, we groan audibly.

Last but not least, the sex scenes are a gold mine. Everyone keeps shouting “FOCUS! FOCUS!” during those segments of the film that are blurry, only to shout “UNFOCUS! UNFOCUS!” during the sex scenes. Also, shots from the first sex scene are clearly re-used during the second and this is mocked mercilessly. Another sex scene is called “The Seventh-Inning Stretch” because it’s so long that most audience members go to the lobby or bathroom at that point. It’s also customary to lift one’s phone or lighter during the sex scenes, in response to “You’re My Rose”, which plays over every one of them. The bottom line is that open revulsion toward the sex scenes, Wiseau’s nudity and anything to do with Lisa is not only encouraged, it’s practically mandatory.

After the credits rolled, we were all treated to a seven-minute interview with Tommy Wiseau that comes packaged with the DVD. If I had any lingering doubts about Tommy Wiseau’s insanity, that interview quashed them. The interview asked him such reasonable questions as “What’s with the title?” and “Why did you shoot it in two formats?” but it seemed like Wiseau was totally incapable of giving a straight answer. I think that a Cinema 21 employee put it best: “I know you’ll have questions and dammit, you won’t get your answers.” However, there’s one thing that I took away from Wiseau’s answers to fans and in the interview: He’s a great sport about how much mockery The Room is put through. He didn’t mention the money he’s obviously making from it, but Wiseau seems to think of this as people expressing themselves and having a good time. Just so long as no one gets hurt, he says, he’s fine with that. I’d give him credit for that, if he wasn’t such a dick about video reviews.

I had an amazing time watching The Room. It’s a horrible movie and I’d never recommend watching it under normal circumstances, but making fun of it was a blast. If you get the opportunity to attend a fan screening, I highly recommend it. If you can’t, just get some friends together, pour some stiff drinks and have a great time. You can use this article and my blog entry for some guidelines, but feel free to make up your own participation cues. Just grab the movie, get a ton of plastic spoons, sit down with some friends and get ready for the time of your life.

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