Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A couple of new pieces posted today.

Find my coverage of Cinema Wasteland here.

I also have a new "Random Acts" column over at focussing on Sin City

New reviews and interviews coming up. Spending a great deal of this week getting ready for the trip up to Chiller this weekend...

Monday, April 25, 2005

We paid $20 to see Robots yesterday. It wasn't worth it. Nor was it worth the hassle to see it.

The day started nicely, despite the snow (!) that fell all day. We had a nice, reasonably stress-free breakfast, did some shopping, then hit a theater we'd never been to before -- the Washington Mall Cinema -- mainly because Robots was playing earlier than it was at our usual theater -- The Crown Center.

Upon entering the theater, we should have turned around and left. The concession stand made up the most of the lobby. Tickets were sold by an eighteen-year-old kid with a Java Man brow who could not annunciate to save his life. The bathrooms were filthy -- the urinals were stained with Jackson Pollock paintings. Bits of the ceiling were coming down. When we chose our seats and sat down, the entire row tilted and shook.

Then the movie started. First, we were assailed with thirty commercials, but that was fine because you couldn't hear them. All that came from the speakers was a loud, grating buzz. Indicating either bad speakers (all forward, by the way - the side speakers were not working) or a bad optical lamp (which means the film's optical track was not being read correctly). Either way, it was indicative of larger problems, so we decided to split and drive the five miles to our usual theater.

We went back to the Cromagnon counter-lad and asked for our money back. He stabbed a finger at a little sign by the cash register--which had been largely hidden by a cup when we'd first arrived. The sign said, among other things, "No Cash Refunds". "We give passes," he said.

"We're not coming back here," Amy said. "Ever. Where's your manager?"

"He's upstairs putting the movies on. He'll be down."

And then he started waiting on other customers who started to filter in, telling one man that Guess Who was a comedy, which made it appropriate for his nine-year-old. Amy, pissed, told the first lady in line, "If you're here to see Robots, there's a problem. Don't pay him or you won't get your money back."

"Just stand over there," the kid said to her, taking his life into his own hands.

"Who are you talking to?" the older woman demanded.

"Them," he said, jerking a finger at us. We had already stepped aside to allow the flow of traffic.

"Well, I'm not going to see Robots," the woman said, with finality that made no sense to me.

The kid muttered something under his breath that Amy didn't catch. "You really don't care, do you?"

"Lady, he'll be down but--"

"And you're too stupid to know how to properly deal with customers, apparently."

"Yeah, that's why I graduated with a 4.0," he said, in his own defense.

Amy sorta snapped at this point. "Whooooaaa! Big man!"

"Where'd you go to school?" he demanded, but she started laughing at him. Other people started to come out to complain about Robots, and the counter kid insisted the manager would be down soon.

At this point, the kid took off his uniform blazer and started flexing his well-developed biceps.

Now things started to click into place for me. Here was a kid who was making minimum wage at a job he did not give a shit about. He either had never been trained to handle irate customers--which we were--or he hadn't the mental capacity to defuse a situation. And, from the flexing, I gathered that he usually solved conflicts through intimidation--stepping out of the evolutionary table long enough to stuff little kids into lockers--rather than rationalization. And I knew we were defeated at this point. The manager was not coming down any time soon, and Amy was about ready to reach across the counter and rip bicep boy a brand new gaping one.

She asked for his name. "I don't have one," he said.

"Wow, you're incredibly rude!"

"You were rude to me first!"

Amy looked at him. "That shouldn't matter, I am a customer and this is not how you treat customer."


She asked the girl at the candy counter for the kid's name. "Why?" she demanded.

And around and around. Ten minutes went by and still no sign of the manager. It wasn't worth getting more and more angry, so I convinced Amy we should leave. "I'm calling your corporate headquarters," she said. The kid shrugged--which was all he could do. His ears were burning with the desire to do one of us physical harm, now that we'd exhausted all his other options. I was kind of hoping he would. Amy beating the living crap out of someone twice her size would have been vastly entertaining. (Trained kick-boxer and Eastern European temper, don't ya know?)

But while our confrontation turned into a scene, I realized nobody cared. They weren't getting involved. They'd been brought to the movies because it was snowing. Yowling kids were in tow of just-from-church grandparents, filing in to see A Lot Like Love and The Pacifier. These people didn't care that the theater was run by gross incompetence. They didn't care that the projectors were set on a lower wattage to "save the life of the bulb" (a complete and utter falacy of the theater industry). They didn't care they were paying to see dim movies and listen to blown speakers. They were the same people who demanded full-screen DVDs and Britany Spears CDs. We were amongst the lowest common denominator.

And the kids behind the counter didn't care either. They didn't care about the theater they worked in, gave no thought to the movies playing. As far as the theater went, if this was the way things were run, I could no longer question their policy of 'no cash refunds'.

Just ten years ago, I was in counter-boy's place. I worked for a couple of movie theaters owned by the same owner. We wore vests and ties, we were responsible for keeping the theaters clean, the bathrooms and the counters. I never ran the projectors because I was not in the Projector's Union, but I understood how they worked. (I had worked as a scab at a separate establishment, just as bad as the Washington Mall Theater, and had worked projectors, platters and breakdown tables). I would often accept double-shifts because I gave a shit about movies and the theater. I was paid $0.10 above the minimum wage at the time. But I never worked with a pair of kids like those I met yesterday. I have worked with my share of dead-eyed teenagers, but not at those theaters. If there were customers angry about something, I knew: "I'm sorry, sir/ma'am, but if you'll please be patient for a moment", or even "I'm afraid I'm not authorized to give you your money back, but if you'd accept a free pass", or "the manager should be down in just a moment". We were taught, 'please', 'thank you' and 'I'm sorry'. And not by the managers; by our parents!

On my way back to the car, it struck me: this is the business I wanted to be involved in. I want to make movies. For what? For studios that only care about the bottom line? For theaters that will show them on dim projectors and unsuitable sound to audiences who couldn't care less as long as they're "entertained"? So that I can keep people like counter-boy and -girl employed for their minimum wages, so they could be indifferent to the people who were paying their salaries?

It was an endless cycle of malaise and ignorance. Why the fuck did I want to be a part of that.

And the punchline of the whole thing? Robots was the most mediocre movie I've seen in a long time. Under-written and pandering, it was a rehash of Shreck right down to the dance number at the end (if not the story, then the structure). There was so little interesting about it, the movie began to erase itself from my memory as each scene progressed. And don't give me the "It's a kids' movie" cop-out! Did you see Monsters, Inc. or The Incredibles? What? Dreamworks is too good for story and character?

When I got home, though, I had a couple of nice emails waiting for me from people who had recently seen The Resurrection Game and had nice things to say about it. But I still wasn't satisfied. Why the hell was I hoping that all the head-to-wall beating I was doing would pay off? So I can get torn apart by internet gore hounds? So I could one day have a movie in a googleplex and watched by the slack-jawed banjo-playing mouth-breathers that make up the Least Common Denominator?

Ultimately, the answer was one of those Afterschool Special moments: I'm doing this for those who will appreciate it, but I'm mostly doing it for me. I want to create things that hadn't existed before I came up with them. I want to leave my own footprint in the sand that could stick around a few years after I'm gone. I want to make movies because I cannot not make movies. I'll never appease the LCD, and I have no desire to.

Counter-boy and -girl are in those jobs because they're just jobs. They need extra money so they can go do whatever it is they want to do. They exhibited no passion of any sort to me, so God only knows where their interests lie. At some point, they'll have to develop some sort of interpersonal skills or else they'll find themselves out of work more often than working, but I really, truly, couldn't care less about these two. Best of luck to you both--I'll never see you again. And if I do, I doubt I'll recognize you because for all your indifference towards us, you made very little impression on me. Such is the depth of your personalities.

To the unseen manager of the Washington Mall Cinema: I hope you're in the Projectionist's Union because they're coming your way soon, as are reps from the National Association of Theater Owners.

And to you who love movies, do not patronize a movie theater that keeps its bulbs dim and allows their speakers to grow fuzzy and faint. Demand your money back. Take the passes they offer and sell them outside the theater before you leave. Let the managers know that you want projectionists, not ushers who know how to push the start button. Let the chains know that you're paying for a service and that you demand that service be provided. Complain. If you don't get the results you want, ask to speak to someone else. Ask for corporate phone numbers. Call these numbers. Trust me: this shit matters and it's worth your time to do so! Otherwise, you're allowing the malaise of the LCD enter your world. And that club has more than enough members!

Friday, April 22, 2005

I've often said that I'm not the brightest guy in the room, so if I can tell I'm being handed bullshit, there's gotta be something wrong.

No, I'm not referring to the government's justification of soaring gas prices or the smoke screen of the Social Security issue -- that's another rant -- I'm talking about people in this business who try to bluff me and it's not funny any more. First and foremost, I've been in the so-called "indie filmmaking community" for about ten years now, in one form or another, generally as a journalist or a filmmaker. As a result, I've met a lot of people over the years (see my previous column titled "I know a lot of people..."). I know A-listers personally, B-listers -- keep going through the alphabet, I've met someone on every level.

So it's funny when I sit down with someone who either isn't in the business and wants to prove how "in" they are or thinks they're smarter than I am, and starts rattling off names of folks they can "put me in touch with".

Amy and I had a sit down with a large group of industry acquaintances once, and there was one woman who had recently begun her own cable-access television show in a suburb of Ohio. She was at one end of the table, while we were at the other with a potential producer (a friend of this woman's husband) talking about a movie we were trying to develop. Unbidden, she chirped up, "You need names to sell your movie. You know who I could put you in touch with for your movie? The Enigma."

The Enigma, for those who may not know, is a "freak" with the Jim Rose Sideshow (not sure if he still is or not, but he was at the time). He's covered head to toe with colorful "puzzle piece" tattoos. He's primarily green and has horns. He wasn't exactly right for the project we were talking about and Amy told her so. The woman ignored her and continued, "You'll have to pay him, though, and put him up. Might be as much as five thousand dollars, but he's really famous."

Later, the woman offered to put me in touch with a guy I'd known for years, someone I'd had at my house, hung out with, celebrated birthdays with, etc.

Moral: don't spout off until you do your homework.In this business, everyone knows everyone else.

I've come across would-be producers who try to work both ends of the street. One guy sent his model's portfolio to two different pin-up artists with identical cover letters insisting that the one had flipped over her and couldn't wait to paint her. He hadn't even bothered to check and see if the two artists even knew each other, despite the fact that the lived in the same city and were often billed together at comic book and media shows. Of course, they did know each other and giggled over the producer's lack of research while cheerfully tearing up the model's badly-shot 8x10s.

Moral: be careful who you trust your career to.

Some people are just trying to be friendly and helpful, while at the same time trying to prove to everyone around them just how important and in-the-know they are. I've been shopping The Resurrection Game around since before the first frame of film was shot. I know that it takes a lot of door-pounding to make the sale. To paraphrase Super Chicken, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it. It's no secret that I need help, but I need help from those who have been in the game longer and, quite frankly, who are smarter than me. Kids (regardless of age) who are new to the game and have never gone through the submission hell I'm currently in cannot help me. Of course, that doesn't stop the endless flow of message board and email advice I'm assailed with on a daily basis.

"You should go through (Studio X). I just talked to (one of their headliners) and s/he says they're really on the lookout for indie product right now."

I went to Studio X about eight months ago, since I met their founders/department heads/grand poohbahs at Chiller/Horrorfind/Wizardworld and they can't use The Resurrection Game at this time. Also, I've known (headliner/movie director/pop star since 1999 when their movie was first on the festival circuit and I saw the path he had to beat to land his movie there. Oh, and our movies are nothing alike. But thanks!"

"Tell you what you should do," said one guy whose movie wasn't even finished yet. "Send your movie over to Distributor Z, 'cause they just put out This Thing That Also Has Zombies In It, and they gave the director three commentaries, deleted scenes, etc. It's gonna be huge and that's what you should do."

"Oh, you mean I should take it to Joe Distributor, head of Distributor Z? Yeah, Joe called me last week to ask if This Thing That Also Has Zombies In It would be a good draw, since I reviewed it three years ago and knew the director so well. Joe Distributor needs a bunch of product to take to his wholesaler so they actually have a shot at getting into stores and off the internet, but that won't even happen until next year."

Giving advice is nice and helpful. But know what the fuck you're talking about before you go spouting off in a public forum to prove to everyone else what great street cred you have and how "In" you are. If you really are sincere about the advice, any salesman will tell you that it's all in how you make the opening argument: "Have you tried...?"

"Are you aware of...?"

"It might benefit you to try..."

Not: "Here's what you should do..."

Not: "Look, pal, you wanna get your movie out there..."

Because not only is that bad form, but it's bad poker face as well. Sooner or later you're going to get slapped down by someone not as nice as me (if that can be fathomed) who already knows Person A, B or C, and can tell you don't know shit from sunshine about the fairy tale you're unwinding.

Moral: know what the hell you're talking about or who you're talking about before you start spouting off what "should be done".

(That being said, if anyone has any real advice on what to do about this damned movie, please let me know. The first one of you bastards to send me a "here's what you should do" post will be hunted down and destroyed - and that means YOU, Henrique!)

...I now await this post to come back to bite me on the ass.
When film geeks get together, they talk about movies and not much else. Amy and I ran into our friend Mike Haushalter and Carolyn Oliver from Secret Scroll Digest by accident this weekend (which was ironic because I'd called Mike that morning to see if he wanted to meet up and didn't get him!). We grabbed dinner and talked... movies. We went through Sin City and our respective desires to see Kung Fu Hustle--they'd just seen it and loved it; I'm lukewarm on Stephen Chow and have determined to wait--and on and on. Amy is a tried-and-true movie geek as well (nyah, nyah--thought you could resist it!), but her eyes started to glass over after only half an hour.

For some reason, she likes to talk about other things once in a while.


Anyway--finally saw Murder Set Pieces... I'll have more to say about this later, but I'm sorry to say it's a complete waste of time except for Tony Todd, the performance of the lead 11-year-old girl whose name escapes me and the always top-notch effects by Toe Tag Pictures. As a movie, however, it's pointless.

On the other hand, Debbie Rochon visited the set of James Gunn's Slither a few weeks ago and posted her on-set diary over at Fangoria TV. This sounds like it's going to be a cool movie and it's neat getting the perspective of a hardline indie person on a big-budget Hollywood-type film being run by another, but former, hardline indie type. Check it out...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I had a lot more to say just a few minutes ago, but it's all run away from me. Maybe I'll find it later...

Anyway, here's a great Resurrection Game review from Film Threat...

Monday, April 18, 2005

I made up my mind. I'm filing a lawsuit against the Catholic church.

I was NEVER molested as a child, even though I spent seven years in a Catholic school, and an additional four in Sunday school.

Do you have any idea how that has weighed on my mind growing up? What? I wasn't as attractive as the other altar boys? I deserve my fair share after what that institution has done to me... or failed to do to me... you know what I mean.

And speaking of such things, the process is underway to choose a replacement for the late Pope John Paul II ("Ringo" to his friends). Predictably, the New Pope will not be to everyone's liking.

I suspect that after a few months with the new Pope, we'll go back to Classic Pope.

And the less said about the Crystal Papacy, the better...
I know a lot of people. I mean A LOT of people. My contact list is a spreadsheet that contains more names than my entire high school roster. What can I say? I've been in this game a long time. And if you go by the law of averages (not to mention Kevin Bacon lineage), I'm connected to thousands more through each and every person on that list.

So while I'm not surprised, I'm usually unnerved when I receive something in the mail, at my home address no less, and I can't track it back to the source.

A few days back, I received two copies of the magazine Ogrish. It's a nasty piece of work, focussing on the worst aspects of human society--accident photos, serial killer exposes, treatises on torture, all uncensored, all very difficult to either look at or look away. They're ghoulish tracts, and they came directly to my home, rather than my PO Box reserved for business missives.

I'd never heard of the website on which these magazines are based. There is no magazine masthead, so I have no idea who the editor is. The contact sheet included is no help -- I don't recognize the company, distributor, or sales person. So how the hell did it get to me?

I'm not offended by it. On the contrary, I think the magazine is important. In our watered-down culture, where everyone has our "best interest" at heart, we don't get the uncensored news. I think it's important to know just how people are beheaded in Iraq (and what we got our troops into)--guess what? It isn't a quick downward slice of a blade!--and if you see what a train can do to a body, chances are, you'll think twice about dancing with one when you're drunk.

Still, the fact that it came directly to me is a little unnerving. I'm a control freak, after all. I like to know the source of my mailings, junk mail excluded...

Anyway, in other news, MGM was recently bought out by Sony, and here's an online petition to save the "Midnite Movies" line. Because, you know, we in America like to think WE control the corporations, not the other way around.

More importantly, Eric Campos, the editor over at Film Threat, gave us this awesome review of
Severe Injuries
! It really made my yesterday...
Reviews, feh...

I spent the bulk of yesterday writing movie reviews for various publications. I personally hate writing reviews. I used to enjoy it, taking a bit of journalistic pride in my integrity at writing honest critiques of the various films I've been sent. I still write the same way, but I don't enjoy it as much.

I've written a number of reviews in the past that are generally glowing, but contain a couple of nitpicking little "yes, but" things to ensure my street cred and ensure the article isn't just one giant ass-kiss. And wouldn't you know, those are the things I'll get called on and folks will whine at me. 99% positive, and they chose to focus on the two or three things I didn't like. Fine.

The one of the bigger problems is that, outside of the latest Hollywood nonsense, most of the screeners I get are either from people I know, or indie filmmakers who have sought me out for one reason or another. If they're from people I know, usually they're friends of mine, and I'd like to keep them as such.

But that's not the biggest problem. (If you know me even marginally, you know what great pleasure I take at being a bastard, so if you've stuck around this long, it means you have a high tolerance for me)

The biggest problem with me seems to be my empathy. Even for folks I don't know. I'm a filmmaker myself. I toiled through years of self-doubt and low self-esteem in film school, trying to decide if I'd chosen the right path. Ultimately, I came to the unmistakable conclusion that filmmaking is hard. I know, big revelation.

Even with the ease that movies can be made today, with digital video and a cracked download of Premiere Pro, it seems like anyone can make a movie. And, unfortunately, anyone generally does. Lock the camera down, get your neighbor to run by waving his arms. Slap it on DVD, sell it for $10. Voila! You're a filmmaker.

Okay, those people aside, I get screeners from all over the place where real effort can be seen throughout the entire process. Some of these guys have the mechanics down, but don't have the talent. Most of the time, it's vice-versa, and the latest offering is just too early in their career. It's not bad (or it is, but not awful), but they're not there yet. But I can see what they went through to make it. You can tell when someone busted their ass to make a movie and when they just plunked their family down in front of a GL-1.

You want to encourage the folks who are really trying, but let them know, constructively, what they might want to improve upon. And most filmmakers will take your comments for what they're worth and move on. Some will bad-mouth you after the fact, to which I usually reply, 'hey, you sent that thing to me'.

I've gotten ripped apart in reviews. And even if you're a veteran in the game, the negative review still hurts. In this era of anonymity of the screen name, most people take great pleasure in seeing how cruel they can be with the editorial adjectives. I'm not one of those guys. For one thing, I always use my own name as my screen name. You know who you're talking to when you see a post from me.

So if I don't dig a movie, if I can't find something to point at and say, 'This is really good', then I don't review it. If you're a cool guy and deserve the attention, or at least the encouragement to move forward, I'll likely do an interview with you instead. (Hey, it could just be me. Maybe it just wasn't my thing, but that doesn't mean other folks won't like it) The way I look at it, if I didn't like it, what good is it going to do you if I write a negative review? At this level, everyone needs the good press so they can move onto the next thing. And chances are, there's a guy right around the corner who's more than willing to tear you a new one out of fun. I don't need to be that guy. I like to sleep at night.

"But you owe it to your readers!" I've heard. "What about journalistic integrity??" What about "buyer fucking beware"? is my response.

Look, I'm trying to make a living as a filmmaker. It's not going to happen any time soon for the same reasons everyone else has: lack of time, lack of money and, the real kicker, the competition out there is staggering! And since Digital Video became affordable, those few distributors out there who will even look at an indie movie have their desks topped with a Close Encounters-sized mountain of shitty video movies they have to wade through, and if my movie is at the bottom of the pile, they might be too weary to even look at the friggin' thing. Or they watch it and it isn't their thing. Or they watch it and all they can think of is all the backyard movies they've just sat through and they can't bear to watch one more epic filled with people they've never heard of.

It's a tough business. I'm not out there to make it tougher for anyone. So every time I pop a movie into my DVD player, or have to dust off my VCR for the odd VHS that comes through, I sit there waiting and praying that the movie is good, so I'll have something positive to write. Trust me, it's as tough on me as it is on you.

Sometimes it's all worth it...

I've been writing professionally for about a decade, maybe a little longer. To me, "professionally" doesn't necessarily mean "paid", but that's probably the definition. Writing's a solitary thing, and you don't always know if you're being read. If you're not, there's no real sense in writing. Without being read, all the work is little more than endless journal entries.

This weekend, Amy and I went up to the World Horror Con in New York. It's a meet-and-greet for horror authors, primarily. Harlan Ellison and Amber Benson were among the guests of honor. Amber we consider a friend; Ellison's one of my heroes. We decided to make the trip.

We had lunch with Michael Gingold, editor of Fangoria, and Scooter McCrae, writer/director of Sixteen Tongues and Shatter Dead. Both these guys have been friends of mine for years, but I was an admirer of Scooter's work long before I met him. He told me that he reads as much of my writing as he can find. "The last two pieces you wrote for B-Movie were heartbreakers, yeah, but I really enjoy your work."

Made my jaw drop, and I took it as very high praise.

Later, at the WHC, once we got over the disappointment of Amber's cancellation, I ran into Mort Castle. Mort's been a writer since the '60s, and he was one of my first professional interviews, back when I worked for the now-defunct GC Magazine. Mort told me that the interview I did with him was among his favorites, and that he still used it in his press kits. "You got me, man. You're one of the only ones who ever interviewed me who really got what I was writing about."

Another jaw-dropper. And I couldn't believe my ears. Because, believe me, Mort's writing is amazing. The man should be heralded as a genius in his own time, but here he was, talking me up.

Earlier today, my review of the Low Budget Pictures movieMulva 2 went up on Film Threat. I've been a supporter of LBP and head guy Chris Seaver for years, even when I didn't particularly dig their movies (more my hangup than theirs, believe me). But I really liked Mulva 2 and did my journalistic duty to let the world know.

I found this on their message board:

"I think Mike nails it in this review! I totally agree with his viewpoints. He says everything the other 'critic' seemed to miss."

That from Andy Copp, who did the mind-blowing, Jodorowski-inspired Mutilation Man. He's another guy I admired long before I got to know him. So this was high praise, indeed!

Then, the next post was from Mulva 2 co-star, the very funny Matt Meister: "mike is seriously one of the best critical film writers at it today. i like his writing even when i don't agree with his views on a film. he always has good reasons for his views."

And, man, that just made me smile. It was honest, it was sincere. It meant that out there, somewhere, were at least a handful of people who are actually reading what the hell I'm writing.

Every now and then, even if you don't care what others think of you, you need a little reminder why you made something your life's work...

"Tenants" - a tragic tale of misadventure and romance...

Once upon a time, I attended Pittsburgh Filmmakers in Pittsburgh, and tried desperately to learn how to make movies. Most of the instructors there, at the time, taught you how to make "films", however, and as a result, I made a bunch of really crappy, pseudo-arty shorts before I came to my senses. (Actually, I did a couple of roto-scoped animated pieces that didn't make me wince, and a moody experimental piece that wasn't too awful). I made a comedy about a talking MAC machine that is technically one of the worst things ever committed to film. I was an awful cameraman back then. I learned a lot since.

But at the time when everyone else was trying to rip off Kevin Smith and/or Quentin Tarantino, I went in another direction. Amy and I sat down and wrote a haunted house story that I thought I could pull off rather easily. (One of our instructors said it was too ambitious, and I should stick with a dialogue-heavy character piece like the others... seriously, he said that! Like I had written a chariot race in there or something.)

The result was an 18 minute black-and-white piece called "Tenants" about a quartet of friends who move into a house and the house doesn't want them there. I tried to do something close to Robert Wise's THE HAUNTING, where things are suggested through camera movement and tone. I think it's about half-way successful.

It played at our "Senior Screening", most of the other students lower down laughed their asses off at it (and went on to cheer every time the word "Fuck" was used in the subsequent films). About four months later, I'd licensed it to Ron Bonk at Salt City (now SRS Cinema), who immediately put it into the first B-Movie Film Festival (the latest one is this coming weekend!) and put it on a VHS compilation of shorts called "The Cutting Edge" (one of the other films was by Fangoria's Michael Gingold). "The Cutting Edge" was available internationally. I don't think a copy ever sold, but dammit, it was available. And to think before "Tenants", I was thinking about giving up filmmaking entirely.

"Tenants" also played on things like iFilm - where it was roundly criticized - one reviewer offered to put up the budget of our next movie if we promised not to make it. I called him on it, but he never responded...

A couple of years ago, the DVD boom hit, and Ron asked if we'd like "Tenants" included on a new DVD, this time Paul Talbot's anthology, "Campfire Tales". Ron asked us to record a commentary for the film as well, and I ran down two of the other leads to do so. Then he asked me, in the capacity of "Film Journalilst" to record the commentary for "Campfire Tales" as well. Needless to say, I felt somewhat vindictated.

On the other hand, you never recover from you first bad reviews. One asshole wrote that Amy had the emotional range of a cuccumber. I've since learned not to take that stuff personally, but dammit, THAT one was personal!

So, this morning, I get this in my email: "I would like to comment on your film "The Tenants." (Standing Ovation) That was a great film!!!! I finally sat down and watched it and it left you with an eerie feeling of wondering what was there. I loved Amy's line "go open the door and kick him in the head". Amy put on a great performance and I definately need to check out her filmography and track down other films. You did a great job Mike, and I hope that one day I can come up with something that looks that good. I really hated to see the movie end, but at least unlike some movies you closed it out on a good note."

So maybe we're doing something right after all... So, screw you, ghosts of internet critics past! (Okay, that felt good.)

My new "Random Acts of Mike Watt" piece is up today. Another tragic tale of misadventure and romance...

As a general rule, I'm a tightly-wound guy. Usually, the only times I seem to be able to relax are is when I go to the movies. Movie theaters are my sole happy place. Because of this, I take great offense to the smallest invasion of my oh-so-rare relaxation.

First off: the theaters themselves. I just spent a bucket of money to get into your theater. You're going to show me a slew of commercials before the umpty-seven over-long trailers that give away the endings to movies I didn't want to see in the first place. So as my cash is being vacuumed out of my pockets, you could do me the courtesty - ye theater-owners and dead-eyed teenaged ushers - of having a half-decent projection system. I understand that in these days of the reigning Googleplex that you have to keep eleven-hundred projectors running at the same time. So hire more than one projectionist. Please, do us all this favor. And turn the bulb up to the required setting. Keeping it dim will NOT lengthen its lifespan. I worked as a projectionist. I'm aware of this money-saving myth. Theater owners are the only ones that believe in it. It's their toothfairy. The bulb will still burn out in the average amount of time; unfortunately, our eyes will as well.

Sound system... if you advertise THX or Extra-Crunchy Dolby, I kinda expect to experience that. Now that movie soundtracks utilize a minimum of eighty-seven tracks, if your speakers aren't up to snuff, we're going to miss a whole lot of movie. They're not just visual (and if you don't have your bulb turned up to the required wattage, they're not even all that visual).

Now, for the rest of you riff-raff who long to be "entertained": Don't bring a toddler or an infant to a noisy action movie. Don't sit behind me and strike up a conversation on your cell phone. Don't kick my chair. Don't masturbate unless you're at least two rows back.

Not so much to ask, right?

I'd been looking forward to the premiere of Spider-Man 2 since the first teaser appeared about six months ago. Could not wait. Every television spot made me bounce like a little kid. Amy and I get to the theater - all is well. The only humans around us, aside from some friends who were sitting further down the rows - were my parents and sister. A few stragglers started to trickle in as the commercials started. Not a big deal.

The movie starts... the screen's too dark. The daydream-believers are conserving wattage. Swell. I'm watching a murky Spider-Man swing through a muslin-covered New York City.

Five minutes in, a carnival troupe of four "adults" and at least ten Morlock children arrive.

And they sit directly behind us, kicking us as they go to sit. Screams come from either end of the row for the shared popcorn. There's an elderly woman shrieking to the mumbling toddler to be quiet. Every six minutes, there's a three-person mad dash to the bathroom, or the concession stand. To make their way down their family-choked aisle, they lean on the backs of our chairs, tearing out our hair as they do so.

I'm praying for an over-orchestrated action sequence to drown the hillbillies out. But the theater's speakers aren't up to it. With every crescendo, we get a crackling buzz.

Suicide or homicide... the eternal question.

I've been accused of being an elitist because I think box-office I.Q. tests should be manditory before tickets are sold. Not for things like White Chicks, of course. Those are I.Q. tests in and of themselves.

As the film ends, the carnie-folk get up to leave as the credits roll. I was expecting half of them to quickly file in front of me so they could block my view as well. But finally, I'm thinking I can relax for just a few seconds while the wind-up monkeys exit my personal space forever.

But the patriarchal lummox behind us has lost his keys. To find them, he must lean on the backs of our seats and bend down low, murmuring, "I lost my keys," as his hydrocephalic mantra. And yet, it would have been illegal to kill him.

There's a term I never understood: "Common courtesy". It's not common - it's decidedly UNcommon. Common dis-courtesy is more the norm. And it does no good to implore the unwashed masses that this is not proper theater-going ettiquette.

They don't read blogs, you see...