Inside The Room – A Look at a Cult Film Hit

It’s about into the ten minutes into the film, two of the characters walk past a dresser, which has framed pictures of spoons. At this point, my cohorts and I in the third row are showered in plastic spoons.
Welcome to the cult phenomenon that is The Room.

The vision of writer/producer/director/lead actor Tommy Wiseau; The Room is truly a sight to behold. On ththe room infoe surface, it is a simple drama about a love triangle. Yet, the complete incompetence of all involved in the making of this film turns it into an unwitting comedic masterpiece. From the Wiseau’s bizarre acting, occasionally out of focus camera and out of sync dialogue to the unnecessary sex scenes complete with cheesy soundtrack, constant repeating of phrases and subplots that go nowhere, The Room is a how-to in how to not to make a film.

However, since it was released nine years ago to a limited two week run in Los Angeles, The Room has been the subject of midnight screenings all over the world, including Melbourne’s Cinema Nova in Lygon St, Carlton, harking back to the days of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. These aren’t any old screenings, though. There are rules that are to be carried out during the film. They aren’t really rules as such, more things viewers can yell out during the film, but they help make The Room the experience it is. A sampling of the rules include:

  • Throwing plastic spoons at the screen whenever artwork involving spoons is seen (which is surprisingly often).
  • Counting off how many times Mark alludes to being Johnny’s best friend. This ranges between five and seven times depending on the counting skills of the loudest audience member.
  • Yelling ‘because you’re a woman’ whenever it fits, in reference to the film’s regency-era notion of women and marriage.

What makes these cult films stand out is not just the quality of the movie (or lack thereof), but the story behind them. Anyone who was seen Tim Burton’s fantastic Ed Wood, a biopic on the titular filmmaker, who has been dubbed ‘the Hitchcock of bad movies’, can attest to this. The story of The Room starts with Tommy Wiseau. A man with indistinct origins and an even more indistinct accent (the best I could find was ‘he was probably born in France.’), Wiseau had a story in his head and a passion for the work of Tennessee Williams. As that extremely tired saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. That way is not altogether clear either, with Wiseau claiming that he bankrolled his US$6 million budget by importing and selling leather jackets from Korea, but says nothing more on the matter.

The uncertainties and absurdities continue as the film enters production. For starters, Wiseau filmed using two cameras, one 35mm and one high definition, side-by-side because ‘he did not have sufficient information on the differences between the two.’ During filming, ‘creative differences’ meant that three actors left during filming. The first two, the original Mark and Lisa, had their scenes re-shot. However, when Kyle Vogt, who plays Jonny’s psychiatrist pal Peter, left the film Wiseau decided to give his rather important lines to another actor. It was a decision that left many wondering ‘who the hell is that guy?’ as an unknown character gives a speech in the last act.

It’s hard to tell exactly how Wiseau feels about The Room .You can’t be sure whether he is wise to the unintentional comedy his film provides or if he thinks it is a legitimate piece of quality film-making. He claims that it is supposed to be a ‘black comedy,’ but it’s apparent to anyone watching that it is an attempt at serious drama. He recommends that viewers watch The Room multiple times so that you can understand the various themes presented in the film. That’s not why people flock to the cinema time and time again. But if nothing else, Tommy Wiseau is proud of The Room. ‘I finished what I started, and I am very happy that I have a lot of fans and friends who like to see The Room over and over again’ he says in an interview that appears the DVD of his film.

'You are tearing me apart Lisa!' Tommy Wiseau in his most (in)famous scene

‘You are tearing me apart Lisa!’ Tommy Wiseau in his most (in)famous scene

If there is something that Wiseau is right about, it’s that The Room holds a unique place in the world of film. ‘I want people to have a good time, interact between the screen, this is new entertainment. When you see The Room you can yell, you can screen, you can express yourself, and that’s the idea.’

Fans see The Room in a similar light. ‘Everyone from all walks of life can appreciate it. Seeing it with people is a real bonding experience,’ says die-hard The Room fan (Roomer? Roomie?) Alex Millward, ‘The first time I saw it the credits began and some drunk guy yells “I can’t wait to go on this magical adventure of wondrous storytelling.” I knew I was in for a good time’ Alex’s friend and film going companion Holly Evans seconds this sentiment. ‘It makes everyone want to be friends.’ These comments are similar to Wiseau’s own philosophy: ‘you can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don’t hurt each other.’

Well we’re certainly laughing, Tommy.
(At time of Writing) The Room is currently playing at Cinema Nova (380 Lygon St, Carlton) every second Saturday night. See http://www.cinemanova.com.au for more details.

(At time of putting on blog) The Room isn’t playing at Cinema Nova, but it will surely be back some time in the new year. Don’t let that stop you from watching (or re-watching) it. Seriously, if you haven’t already, watch it.

MC Lars @ Mana Bar 6th October

What do you do for people when it’s your birthday? Perhaps give them some cake and a bowl of mixed nuts. Well, if you’re Californian post-punk rapper LC Lars, you hold an intimate free show in the venue that his fan base would greatly appreciate. Mana Bar (336 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) is a haven for gamers, with the walls lined with current-generation consoles loaded with multiplayer games of all kinds and game-themed cocktails. It was a near-perfect location for the geek icon to celebrate his 30th birthday.

Mana Bar is a small location, and it was packed to the brim even though there were only 30-40 people in the main room, providing an intimate atmosphere despite the rowdy Brunswick St partygoers outside the bar. The video games were barely touched while MC Lars, armed with only a laptop, to the mic. Despite the minimal (even by his standards) set-up, Lars was near flawless in his rhymes and occasionally broke out into whip-smart (and blindingly fast) freestyle verses.

It was MC Lars by request, fulfilling the loud concertgoer’s fantasy by playing whatever song was called out the loudest. Naturally, this means the set turned into a greatest hits set (which is somewhat appropriate Lars released a greatest hits album earlier this year) with tracks from his most recent release, The Edgar Allan Poe EP, sprinkled throughout. He ran through fan favourites such as ‘Download This Song,’  ‘Roommate from Hell,’ ‘iGeneration’ and ‘Signing Emo,’ occasionally seeking the help of the audience, who were more than happy to oblige. Lars ended his impressive set with a rendition of ‘Mr Raven’ that included a guest rapper and a crowd member holding a puppet version of Mr Raven. Afterwards, he hung around to talk to fans and play Mario Kart.

No-one can say that MC Lars doesn’t know how to please his fans.

Weekend Notes

In my first step towards making some kind of money off of this writing business, I will be posting articles on weekendnotes.com. I get a small amount of ad revenue from each published article, so feel free to click away on links such as these:
http://www.weekendnotes.com/muse-the-2nd-law-album-review/
Time will tell if I keep this up, otherwise it’s back to sporadically posting here.

Muse – The 2nd Law Review

There’s been a lot of hubbub surrounding the latest release from world-conquering Brits Muse. A bonkers Olympic theme, a fascination with flavour-of-the-month genre dubstep, and the kind of statements that make you think that Matt Bellamy adorns a tin-foil hat when he’s at home.  It doesn’t really inspire confidence considering their overblown but underwhelming previous effort The Resistance.

The 2nd Law continues in the same over-the-top fashion of The Resistance, but replaces the pomp and the symphonies with a sense fun and an extra helping of bass. Muse has always been a bass-heavy band, it is one of their great strengths, and the work of bassist Chris Wolstenholme doesn’t disappoint this time round.

Album opener Supremacy kicks off with a huge bass hook before ominous violins and a marching band beat come in, while Panic Station sounds like Queen at their most aggro with a dash of Stevie Wonder thrown in for good measure. Lead single Madness is a song that manages to combine deep, squelching electronic bass and sweet balladry and pulls it off to great effect. These three tracks ensure an excellent start to the album but from then on feelings are a bit more mixed.

Survival, the theme of the recently completed London Olympic Games, isn’t quite as bad as it seemed when it was first foisted on the sport-watching masses. It’s as manic as a child who’s discovered Red Bull for the first time, but those lyrics are still cringe-worthy. ‘Life’s a race/and I’m gonna win.’ Yeah, you’re gonna win an award for worst lyrics of 2012 (I would like to accept my award for worst joke in person, please). Follow Me attempts to use a dubstep hook to generate a massive chorus but falls flat in the process, undoing the work of the momentum-building verses, but Big Freeze makes up for it by managing to take a leaf out of U2’s book and make it their own rather than using it to wipe themselves with.

The final section of The 2nd Law is confounding. Four tracks that seem like the kind of experiments consigned to B-sides are tacked on the end and they seem out of place. The two tracks are written and sung by Chris Wolstenholme aren’t necessarily bad per se, but are sorely in need of Matt Bellamy’s vocal prowess. Liquid State, in particular, is a Foo-Fighters–esque slice of heavy rock that would be made great if Bellamy took the mic as per usual. Maybe save these for a solo project, Chris. The album closes with two instrumental tracks. The first is The 2nd Law: Unsustainable, a preachy piece of generic dubstep shite. The 2nd Law: Isolated System is slightly better, but it builds up to nothing to make for a disappointing end to what is ultimately a very fun, but uneven record.

3.5/5

Drawn From Bees – The May King and his Paper Crown Review

A young king struggles to retain his crown as he chases the woman he loves and faces the loss of his innocence. It sounds like the work of a high fantasy author, but in fact, it is the plot that runs through The May King and his Paper Crown, the second album from Brisbaneband Drawn From Bees. It’s an unusual theme for a rock concept album, but Brawn From Bees aren’t one to stick to the norm. Despite the thought of a fantasy-themed concept album putting thoughts of an overblown orchestral soundtrack in many listeners’ minds, The May King and his Paper Crown is a solid art rock album that is consistent in its quality. This, in part, is due to the powerful rhythms of drummer Matt Wedmaier driving many of the songs, in particular album opener Eliza and lead single The Ballad of Running Bear.  Other highlights are Whistling Bone, with its slow, looming bass line, and No Love, which sees the band put on their best Radiohead impression with electronic beats complimenting the powerful drums and droning vocals from Dan James. While the high-concept narrative does little to enhance the album, The May King and his Paper Crown is a tight, well-crafted record with enough variety to keep the listener engaged.

3.5/5

Kingswood – Change of Heart Review

Melbournian four-piece Kingswood have arrived with their debut EP Change of Heart and are ready to punch you in the face with their brand of hard and fast rock. Influenced by Josh Homme and co., Change of Heart features loud, brash guitars, heavy bass lines and occasionally powerful vocals from front man Fergus Linacre. New single Medusa is a tale of an encounter of the titular mythical beast that starts with a screech Steven Tyler would be proud of and ends with a disturbingly catchy refrain of ‘I’ll cut off your head.’ First single Yeah Go Die is the highlight of the EP, with its driving bass and fist-pumping energy. The final two tracks of Change of Heart, Sun and an unnecessary acoustic version of Yeah Go Die, fail to build on the momentum from the first three tracks, but otherwise it is a very promising start for Kingswood.

3.5/5

Cybernetic Express – Love Rocket Review

Grab your oxygen tanks and set phasers to kill, because former 1200 Techniques member Simon Foretti, a.k.a. Cybernetic Express,  is taking you on a journey to through space to tackle cyber-terrorism with electronic funk in his debut solo EP Love Rocket. Foretti, whose debut effort must be close to the longest ‘EP’ ever at 41 minutes, takes a few cues from the work of Daft Punk. Well, maybe more than a few cues. Ok, a lot of cues. If you have a French spaceman duo-shaped hole in your heart, Love Rocket might very well fill it for now. For those who don’t, however, it comes across as a competent but uninspired piece of electro. The track Cybernetic Express is easily the standout with its echoing guitar and epic voiceover introducing the listener to the terrors of cybernetic war.  Besides that, there are just flashes of excellence during songs, such as the funky cowbell-laden intro to Cybernetic Security, that fall between the French electro impressions, making Love Rocket feel like a missed opportunity.

2.5/5

Single Review: The Salvadors – Merrily

After winning plaudits through Triple J and Rolling Stone in 2010 for their single Wilson, Perth-based indie pop quartet The Salvadors have released the first single from their upcoming debut LP, Holy Drunken Fisherman, in the form of the sun-drenched Merrily. Practically begging to be played in summer at the beach, Merrily’s jangling rhythm takes cues from Africa-inspired bands such as The Vampire Weekend to create a worthy piece of indie pop.

Tribes: Ascend Review

This year has seen a large number of free-to-play shooters launch, I’ve spend some time with one of the more exciting titles – a new addition to the popular Tribes series.

What’s The Deal?
Tribes: Ascend is a multi-player FPS from Hi-Rez Studios, known for Sci-fi MMO Global Agenda, which embraces the long-standing series’ roots by providing a fast-paced, large-scale, jet-pack based FPS experience. Pick from a healthy range of classes (though you will have to unlock most of them) and join in 32-player matches of team deathmatch, capture the flag, control point or perhaps 5-on-5 arena matches and make use of the unique ‘skiing’  movement system.
Did I mention jet-packs? Everyone likes jet-packs.

The Good

Wheeeeee – Tribes: Ascend‘s ‘skiing’ movement system is fairly self-explanatory – it’s downhill skiing without the snow or the skis – and  a lot of fun, allowing players to speed along the rolling hills that fill the game’s maps before flying up the inclines with your jet-pack to avoid losing speed. And you really do move quickly – this game makes Unreal Tournament look like Battlefield when you’re in full flight.

Fight Within A Fight – The size of the maps and the speed of movement means that a lot of firefights turn into a kind of laser shooting/ballet recital hybrid between two or three people. It makes a kill very satisfying, indeed.

Rolling green hills – Tribes: Ascend’s graphics are simple but effective. Nothing fancy, but a wide range of clean-looking, if somewhat bare, landscapes and quality character models help bring the game to life.

Free to Pay – Tribes: Ascend is free-to-play, but you will want to drop some money on the game. For starters, the first time you spend  money, no matter how much, you become a VIP member, giving you extra experience points for each match. A starter pack, available for US$20, includes extra classes, weapons, perks and some spending money. It is good value – particularly because you will want to try out as many classes as you can before finding your favourite.

The Not So Good

Vehicles – With the ability to travel at over 100kph on foot, vehicles seen a bit superfluous. Tanks can have their uses, but otherwise you are better of leaving skiing right past them.

Hello… – The the maps are suitably large and hilly, the bigger maps are somewhat too sparse, leaving more inexperienced players out the action for a while.

In Short

If you are looking for a multiplayer shooter that steps away from the modern warfare mold, or a new game on a budget, Tribes: Ascend is the game for you. Fast, frenetic and lots of fun.

Three’s Company – An interview with Steve Williams from The Feel Goods

It’s a cold, blustery night and Steve Williams, drummer for Melbourne blues rockers “The Feel Goods”, is rugged up and curled on the couch – a far cry from the manic, sweaty live performances that his band has built their reputation on.  The Feel Goods, founded in 2007 by Williams and guitarist/vocalist Evan Grant in the eastern suburbs, have been busy of late. There is a new EP on the way and in January a third member was added to the group in the form of bassist Jordan van Keulen. Both have been a long time coming.

The Feel Goods (L-R) Evan Grant, Steve Williams, Jordan van Keulen

‘People have been telling us for fucking ages to get a bassist,’ says Williams, 22, ‘but we were a bit stubborn. (But) we were kind of stuck in a bit of a rut. We kept progressing as a two piece, doing everything we could, until we got to a point where we weren’t satisfied. So, we thought the logical step was a three-piece. We finally caved in.’

Steve has nothing but praise for the new addition, who was a close friend of the band before joining. ‘People were saying all the time, ‘Oh, I could play bass for your band’ but we really wanted Jordo to play bass. He’s a wicked guitarist.’ Van Keulen’s inclusion really seemed to be the kick the band needed, Jordan almost immediately digging the band out of their song writing rut with his four-string shovel. ‘As soon as he came in we started writing heaps of new songs, we just wrote half a new repertoire of songs. They’re a bit more dynamic, we all pitched in, instead of just me and Ev.’

It’s not just the writing process that has benefited from the expanded set-up: ‘I’ve got the rhythm section now. I’ve got the bass to keep up with instead of me and Evan doing whatever we want when we want. I’ve got that stability of just sticking in the back with Jordan. All three of us work together to get a big sound. ‘

The Feel Goods’ new EP, the follow up to 2010’s Big Muff and Percussion, is in the process of being mastered and is due to be released in the coming weeks. It couldn’t be finished soon enough for Steve: ‘we’ve been sitting on this for fucking ages. We started over two years ago recording cover songs, we had recorded six, scrapped one. That was just what me and Evan had done. We still play them live but Jordan didn’t have a part in them. When this one is done we just want to move onto the next one as soon as possible.’

 

Taking influences from rock stalwarts such as Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age, and Jack White and new bands like eclectic rockers White Denim, The Feel Goods’ new EP will be available on the internet as soon it is finished. Digital music outlets such as iTunes, Australian music portal Triple J Unearthed, and social media websites such as Facebook and Myspace have provided invaluable support for countless bands these days and The Feel Goods are no exception.  ‘With our first EP, we had bands trying to get us gigs who wouldn’t have heard of us unless they heard us on Myspace, Facebook or Unearthed. We got played on the radio a few times, too. I’ve never heard us, because they (the station) never tell you, but I’ve had mates call up and say ‘I heard the song.’

With a new CD hitting a website near you and more shows around Melbourne lined up, it’s the beginning of a long, exiting road for phase two of The Feel Goods.

 

 

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