I awoke today jonesing for Entertainment Weekly. It usually arrives on Saturday, but the mail hadn’t come yet when I left two days ago, and the friends I’m staying with don’t subscribe to it. (They don’t have high-speed Internet or TiVo, either, so staying with them is like being a pioneer.) I’ve been spoiled by Sundance: EW is a sponsor of that festival, so Park City is always lousy with thousands of free copies of the latest issue. CineVegas has no such partnership. I’d already picked up the copies of Hollywood Reporter and the local Las Vegas alternative-weeklies that were lying around and read them in the idle moments before screenings started. And now I had no more reading material, and I felt disoriented anyway, knowing there was a new issue of EW out there that I hadn’t seen.
So on the way to the Palms today, I stopped at a grocery store and a Borders Books, neither of which had any EW, current or otherwise. If I get it in the mail in Salt Lake City on Saturday, I don’t know why stores in Vegas wouldn’t get it the same day. Surely SLC is not a higher-priority market than Vegas when it comes to fluffy entertainment coverage.
EW-less, I arrived at the Hub at about 11. The Bugs Bunny cartoons had been replaced with Harvey Birdman (love him!), and it was a little busier than yesterday. The buffet table was just being filled with little creme puffs, muffins and croissants, free for the taking. (Take note, Sundance!) I ate and wrote for a while and chatted with HBS.com’s Erik, who had stopped by the same lame Bellagio party last night before embarking on what I assume was a drunken tour of the Strip with his buddies until 4 this morning. Clearly I am missing out on all the things Las Vegas has to offer.
At 1 p.m., Erik and I saw “In Memory of My Father,” a very funny comedy about a dysfunctional family (is there any other kind in movies?) reuniting for a wake when the father dies. That premise — quirky family gathers when someone dies — has been done a million times, especially in indie films, but if “In Memory of My Father” doesn’t get points for originality, it makes up for it with high marks in establishing comedic situations and droll, deadpan performances. Erik and I both noted that it occasionally reminded us of “Arrested Development,” and it even shares an actress with that show: Judy Green, who plays Kitty the secretary.
With about an hour to kill before my next screening, I drove down Flamingo Drive to look for a) something to eat and b) a copy of Entertainment Weekly. I tried two grocery stores, one of which had no EW and the other of which had last week’s issue. I was so disgusted with my fruitless search that I punished myself by going to McDonald’s.
At 4 p.m. was “Little Athens,” which Erik saw yesterday and panned. I found it unsatisfying but not dreadful. It follows a day in the life of a handful of 20-year-olds as they perform their aimless tasks in boring Athens, Ariz. The characters are your typical post-high school slackers who sleep late, do drugs and get in fights. If the film had come out 10 years ago, it would be called “Reality Bites,” and I have the same problem with it that I had with that film: I don’t like people like this in real life, so why would I like them in a movie? (At least none of them is played by Ben Stiller, though.)
Leaving “Little Athens,” I happened to chat with a couple fellows from a small distribution company in L.A. who are at CineVegas looking for potential movies to get behind. One of them said he liked “Inside Out” a lot, which worried me, because I was certain NO ONE could possibly like that pile of crap. I don’t mind being in the critical minority, but I honestly couldn’t see how anyone could like “Inside Out.” So the distribution man intrigued me.
Anyway, we went straight over to “Buy It Now,” a quasi-documentary about a 16-year-old girl who sells her virginity on eBay. The first half of the film is footage the girl shot herself of the events leading up to her, um, delivery of the merchandise to the highest bidder; the second half is the same story, retold in narrative form (i.e., scripted, with actors, etc.). Except when it’s all over, you realize (or maybe you don’t) that the ENTIRE movie is fictional, including the “documentary” part. It was all made up, and the first half was only made to LOOK like a doc. The joke’s on us! Ha ha!
Sigh. Movies like this make me yearn for a simpler time, a time when movies didn’t lie to you or play tricks on you. This post-modern world we live in now, it wears me out sometimes. It isn’t enough to watch a movie anymore. You have to watch what the movie ISN’T showing you, too. Honestly, I’m not sure what the point of “Buy It Now” is. I can think of several things that might have been the point, but in each case, I can think of lots of ways that the point could have been made better. I stayed for a few minutes of the Q-and-A with the director, but he was being evasive, and I had to go anyway.
Next up was dinner with my friend Brandon, who lives in Las Vegas and works as head nerd for some company that puts on trade shows or something. He’s explained it a few times, but I don’t really get it. Anyway, we ate at the Palms’ buffet restaurant, where a friendly elderly woman talked to me about what films she had seen. (Her favorite so far: “Inside Out,” I kid you not.) Brandon fretted over how much of a tip to leave the woman who brought us our drinks, but I assured him that if the woman had wanted to earn big tips for a living, she wouldn’t have gotten a job at a buffet restaurant.
It was my plan to see “The Aristocrats” at 9:30. This was a hot ticket, having earned a lot of buzz from its screenings at other festivals (including Sundance, where I saw it), and we knew it would be packed. I got in line with Erik at 8:30. His two friends from Chicago, whom he had shmoozed passes for, soon joined us. In front of us was a pack of six young men who were the following things:
ï¿½ UNLV film students
They were very eager to see “The Aristocrats,” having heard that it is full of comedians telling filthy jokes, and they were drinking the free beer they had acquired from the Hub’s after-hours speakeasy. (In Vegas, it is legal to drink anywhere, including in lines for movies.) We learned that they agree with us about “Inside Out” being crap, so that was a little comforting.
The movie was supposed to start at 9:30, but at 9:30, they still hadn’t let anyone into the theater. Several of the comedians in the film were arriving for the mini-red carpet festivities, delaying things, milking their time in the limelight, being self-important jerks, that sort of thing, and I guess they have to be seated before regular people are allowed to enter the cinema.
At almost 10, they let half the line in. The rest of us kept waiting. Then they let some more people in, and dismissed the people at the back of the line, declaring their situation hopeless. We remained. The drunken UNLV students (pardon the redundancy) became more animated in their desire to see “The Aristocrats.” They announced they had room for 10 more people, and that was it. The seven people immediately in front of the UNLV guys went in, but then there was a dilemma: The six drunk guys didn’t want to go in unless all six could go in, and there were only three spots left. That brought it to me, Erik and his two friends. Erik and I had seen the movie already, so we deferred to his friends and to a lone, creepy man who was in line right behind us.
It was now 10:15, and they declared the theater full. The UNLV guys were horrified, too happily drunk to be belligerent, but quite loud in their protestations nonetheless. (Just prior to this, their conversation had centered around what, exactly, constitutes getting to “second base” on a date.) After a few minutes of pointless arguing with the people running the screening, they wandered off into the casino.
But Erik and I remained at the front of the line, silent and professional. We knew the theater was not full. We knew good and well that they had reserved about a million seats for cast and entourage, and that not enough Important People had actually shown up to fill all those seats. We knew with 100 percent certainty that at that very moment, in the theater declared “full,” there were at least a dozen seats unfilled and unaccounted for, seats that were waiting for the blessed butt cheeks of Don Rickles or somebody to grace them, and that Don Rickles was never going to show.
So we waited. Sure enough, after a moment a man came and said there were three seats left, and that THAT was it, no more. Three seats, and then the theater is so full that it borders on being a fire hazard. Three people, absolutely no more. Erik and I were unquestionably the next two in line. After us, though, the line had become misshaped, and it was unclear who the third person should be. There was nearly a fight between two women, but the more obnoxious one emerged victorious. She, Erik and I were led to the theater, just as the movie was starting.
We saw three empty seats with Penn Gillette’s name on them, being closely guarded by a woman who insisted they would soon be filled, apparently with three Penn Gillettes. There were six empty seats on the front row, and at least one empty seat on the third row. This made seven empty seats, not three, and it means those UNLV idiots could have gotten in if a) they hadn’t been idiots, and b) the people at CineVegas were more familiar with the principles of “counting things” and “being organized.” I’M JUST SAYIN’.
Anyway, Erik and I sat on the front row and laughed ourselves silly at “The Aristocrats.” The woman who had pushed her way in as the final audience member sat next to us and didn’t laugh one time. I hope it was worth it for her.
“The Aristocrats” is a good fit for Vegas. It’s bawdy, shticky and full of people like Penn Gillette, George Carlin, Phyllis Diller and Don Rickles. Afterward, directors Gillette and Paul Provenza took questions, and introduced the film’s stars who were present. They included Carlin, Teller, David Brenner, Andy Richter and several others. Our front-row seats made this part of the evening especially groovy, because all these folks were right in front of us. I love me some George Carlin. He didn’t say much, but he was there, and that was enough.
When I left the theater and made for the parking lot, I saw the UNLV guys sitting around a table in the food court, still loud and still drunk. I don’t know if they made it to second base, but they definitely didn’t get to see their movie.