Monday, March 28, 2011

Medium is the new large (popcorn)

The movie was going to start at 2pm and I thought I was ahead of the curve by arriving one hour earlier, but as I drove past the New Beverly Cinema at approximately 12:55pm and saw the line stretching out all the way down to Lulu's Cafe, I was like Of Course I'm An Asshole. Hello lady and gentleman, this is me talking about going to see Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino -- as opposed to pastry chef Quentin Tarantino -- had been programming March's schedule at the New Bev, and on the final week he would end it with a week-long engagement of his combined version of both volumes of Kill Bill. Tickets went fast, I know that because I was one of the motherfuckers constantly clicking the Refresh button on my browser minutes before they went on sale. Because of this, the New Bev has not only extended the run another week, they made the last two days (April 6/7) only available to purchase at the box office. That will be interesting to see, how that line ends up looking.

I went yesterday, the first day at the first showing, mostly because I liked the idea of having the rest of the day available to do nothing but check e-mails and harbor resentments against my few friends and acquaintances for real/imagined slights. The line was long, but we all had tickets, so I was able to substitute the panic of not getting in for the panic of not getting a good seat. It turned out I ended up sitting behind Mr. Tarantino again, as I did during the Grindhouse screening. He was sans brother Rodriguez, but he remained consistent in that his guests' were predominately female (Omar Doom was one of the few men in the group, so I'm guessing half of the ladies were with him, as it should be when you're one of the badass motherfuckers who killed -- fuck it, I'm not spoiling that one yet).

Did not expect QT to be there; it was his birthday that day, but it was also 2pm and if I was a rich Oscar-winning filmmaker, I wouldn't be getting out of bed until at least 2:30, but as it was, he was there in his green and black hooded sweatshirt. There's eavesdropping and can't-help-but-overhear, and since I was sitting behind the guy, I think I belong in the latter category; it sounded like he was talking about Tron Legacy and how he dug what he saw as a re-envisioning of the original film's visuals. It was interesting and fitting with his "tell me what you like, not what you don't like" philosophy, that I never heard him actually say that he liked the movie.

He also mentioned how the original Tron didn't leave as much of an impression on him as the arcade adaptation did. Someone said something about how watching Tron Legacy in 2D was like watching Captain EO without the 3D glasses, and QT laughed, saying he was going to use that line. Then he used a line from Death Proof, the one about "if you want to hang with the cool kids, you gotta be cool" or something like that, I don't remember, I'm fuckin' tired.

Before the film, a couple guys on stage were selling limited edition (of 600) posters of Kill Bill, drawn by someone respected, I'm sure. Anyway, they were $50 each and I'm just not quite at that disposable income level yet, so I didn't get one. You should get one, though. Get me one, too, while you're at it.

The pretty woman working the concession stand had a way about her that put me at ease, for some reason, she just did. For all I know, she could be cracking whips at the other employees behind closed doors, but the lady who served me my popcorn had a nice aura about her and strangely enough, did not have a single whiff of hipster about her, unlike the rest of us. She must be a Torgan, I thought to myself. Further thoughts ended with me concluding that a high-strung, overly sensitive piece-of-shit like me would only find peace in a utopia where all the people working behind counters of any kind were of the Torgan lineage.

While I NOM NOM NOM'd the popcorn, a girl I recognized from the stand-by line was walking up the aisle and then did a complete about-face right after passing Quentin's row -- excited recognition. She seemed cut from the Quirky cloth and in the movie of her life, she would be played by Alison Lohman; her blonde hair was mostly done up in something that reminded me of Princess Leia's hairdo, she was wearing a frilly white blouse and leopard print pants with matching suspenders. She carried a leopard print coat that completed the ensemble. She looked down toward Quentin and from where I was sitting I could see her eyes tear up, her form slightly trembling (as was her voice).

"Remember me?" she asked, and I suddenly felt my head tilt down towards the floor. QT did not answer (probably steeling himself, preparing for the worst), so she continued. Something about how she met him last year at a cafe and that she proposed marriage to him -- my gaze was burning a hole into the floor at this point -- and then went on to shower effusive praise, telling Rapist #1 from Planet Terror how much she loved him, and she used that word, "love". I felt for this MPDG and I certainly wasn't judging her -- there but for the grace of ego, go I.  But I wanted her to shut the fuck up before things got worse for both of them. She was a cute girl from where I was sitting but QT probably gets model-quality tang on a daily basis, and besides, you never promise crazy a baby.

Thankfully, nothing followed; Quentin said he did remember her, then thanked her and she went back to her seat. Even more thankfully, Quentin and his crew did not turn into Mean Girls after she left, it didn't turn into them laughing as Stuntman Mike walks away after failing to sneeze (or whatever the fuck he was trying to do in that scene). Instead, they listened as Quentin was rather matter-of-fact in his recollection of running into the girl, and then they continued talking about other stuff.

Julia Marchese stepped up to the mic and led the entire audience in singing Happy Birthday to QT, and then the birthday boy went down and did his intro. As he began, camera flashes started going off, so one of his ladies got out of her seat and hurriedly walked over to Julia to tell her something. Julia then turned to the audience and asked us to please shut off all cameras. Not satisfied enough with Lady Marchese's request, Quentin's Gogo Yubari then took over and went schoolteacher on us, telling those with cameras to stop it. Out of respect for Quentin -- and fear of being sent to detention -- the audience members proceeded to stop photographing QT.

He talked about how this print of Kill Bill was presented in Cannes back in '04 (the year he was president of the jury) and it was screened out-of-competition and he mentioned that there were things in The Whole Bloody Affair that were not in Vol. 1 & 2, and that there were things in Vol. 1 & 2 that are not in The Whole Bloody Affair, likening this version to a 60's "roadshow" film like Battle of the Bulge, complete with an intermission. He also told us that this print was only screened two times before today; the first time at Cannes, the second in a private screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas. Because of that, he told us, we would be the first public audience to watch The Whole Bloody Affair, which we reacted to by cheering because we're special or something.

It was going to be a long ride, so he quickly wrapped it up by thanking us for wishing him Happy Birthday, and then told us that he picked trailers of films that were in one way or another some of the inspirations for Kill Bill. To the best of my weed-damaged memory, we saw the following:

-- a jazzy ad for Dr. Pepper (seen before at the Grindhouse screening)

-- Pam Grier owning motherfuckers in Coffy

-- Sting of the Dragon Masters starring Angela Mao. I've seen this film before, when I was 11; I was studying taekwondo and was quite the fiend for it (the kind of little asshole who would go to the video store in his gi) and one day I saw this box for a movie called When Taekwondo Strikes. I was like Whaaa? A taekwondo movie that wasn't Best of the Best or Best of the Best 2? Huzzah! Anyway, that was an alternate title for Sting of the Dragon Masters. The trailer is awesome because Bernard Herrmann's North by Northwest score plays over it. But don't take my word for it, click here.

--The Million Eyes of Su-Muru with Frankie Avalon and Shirley Eaton. A bunch of hot chicks on an island doing their thing, and then fuckin' Beach Blanket Bingo shows up to shoot the shit out of them because he's the good guy, I guess. What a fucking asshole.

-- Rolling Thunder. If you don't know about Rolling Thunder, then man, you just don't fuckin' know.

-- They Call Her One Eye, the American re-edit of Thriller: A Cruel Picture. I met Christina Lindberg once at a screening of this movie; I pretty much acted like the girl I mentioned earlier, and she seemed genuinely creeped out by me. Par for the course, if you ask me.

-- Shogun Assassin, the American re-edit of the first 2 parts of the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Watching the trailer served as a setup for a pretty amusing callback for the audience near the end of Kill Bill. That John Landis-looking motherfucker Leonard Maltin did two things that will make him A-OK with me for life: he held open a door for me at the Egyptian Theatre, and he gave this movie three-and-a-half stars in his movie guide.

The film began, and this time when the late, great Sally Menke's name came up, Quentin was applauding along with everyone else -- his clapping was the loudest, and he was the last one to stop. 

I'm sure you've seen both volumes of Kill Bill, and it's safe to say that whatever your opinion on those films will be the same opinion with The Whole Bloody Affair. Me, I dug the hell out of both volumes. I dug how in the same way that Spielberg & Lucas took their beloved childhood cliffhanger serials and paid homage to them while taking that shit to the next level with Star Wars and the Indiana Jones flicks, QT took all those kung-fu, yakuza, exploitation, spaghetti western and grindhouse movies he grew up watching and made Kill Bill.

You see it even in the way certain sequences are shot; the Pai Mei stuff gets all crazy with the Shaw Brothers zooms and rack focusing, the House of Blue Leaves battle has the occasional tilted angles that look like 1970's Sonny Chiba is gonna come out at any moment, and the wedding chapel stuff (particularly the Bill/Bride dialogue) has a bit of the Leone-esque vibe, mixing wide shots with extreme close-ups of the characters faces -- and then, of course, there's all those feet shots. Always with the fuckin' feet shots. Me, I'm gonna have all the actresses in my movies wear glasses and everyone's gonna be like Dude, what is up with all the girls-in-glasses in your movies and I'm gonna be all coy about it, saying how it's not gratuitous, all the glasses shots have a reason for being there, unlike Jane Campion's movie which is nothing but gratuitous girls-in-glasses shots, tee-hee-hee.

To be safe, I'll try not to spoil anything too much in the off chance you still haven't seen this. It's been slightly re-edited to give that "roadshow" feel QT was referring to; the intermission break comes right after The Bride drops off a certain character at the hospital, and as a result, eliminating a major plot revelation that Vol. 1 closed with, and as a result of that result, the audience is no longer ahead of the main character in this version of the film.

This is the same print that was screened at Cannes, so we see the official Festival De Cannes logo at the beginning and French subtitles throughout (most amusing subtitle came up when Buck's "Pussy Wagon" is introduced: BAISODROME). The opening credits still proclaim this as Kill Bill Vol. 1, the end credits are from Vol. 2, and while QT has talked about adding an extra scene during the animated Origin of O-Ren sequence, it's not included in this print, so either they're still working on that for an eventual Blu-Ray or theatrical re-release or maybe that shit's just not gonna happen. 

As far as things that are no longer in this cut of the film, I remember the following: The Old Klingon Proverb no longer opens the film (a dedication to Kinji Fukasaku is in its place), the extended ending that closed Vol. 1 is gone (since we're going to see most of it later on anyway), and the Vol. 2 intro of Uma talking to the camera while driving to Bill's is gone too. As far as things added to this cut of the film, we now see the full uncut House of Blue Leaves sequence in color (I swear, somewhere along the way during that battle, the non-stop barrage of red blood and severed limbs became damn near hypnotic in its beauty -- beautiful ownage!) and I swear a couple dialogue scenes in the second half of the film seem to go on a tiny little bit longer (but then again, my memory of Vol. 2 is hazier than Vol. 1).

I'm running out of steam here, what else to say? Oh, OK, I noticed the women in the audience seemed to get a bigger kick out of O-Ren Ishii and Gogo Yubari doing their thing than the guys. One girl a couple rows ahead of me seemed absolutely delighted with Gogo's treatment of that drunk Ferrari-driving motherfucker -- was this a kind of wish-fulfillment thing going on, after a life of being accosted by unattractive men looking to pick up on her? Yeah, I wish I could disembowel the next loser who tries to hit on me!

There's a part when O-Ren tells her underlings how they shouldn't be afraid to speak up if they have an opinion on something or disagree with her. She says she's open to hearing them out as long as they hear her out in return. With the exception of the "I collect your fucking head" bit, that could also be something that maybe an Oscar-winning filmmaker might tell his cast and crew. I don't know, I'm just pulling even more stuff out of my ass than usual. Ready for more ass-out-pulling? Like, totally complete ass-out-pulling?

I like to amuse myself (and only myself) by interpreting the pre-battle House of Blue Leaves stuff as Quentin Tarantino and his entourage hitting up a hot nightspot. Quentin is O-Ren Ishii -- the Crazy 88's, his entourage. Like O-Ren, QT is fuckin' Boss of All Bosses in his field (provided that Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Terrence Malick, et al, aren't in the room) and I'm sure many an establishment was run by a person who told the staff that no matter what the VIPs demand, they gotta get that shit, no matter how fuckin' outlandish it is, you gotta satisfy their every whim with vim in this bitch. If Quentin's buddies want four pepperoni pizzas in this sake joint, that muthafuckin' Charlie Brown-looking muthafucka best get that shit right quick.

But then, in that case, who does The Bride represent -- Roger Avary, maybe? That motherfucker's blond-haired, so that shit could work. Do you find me sadistic, Roger? Taking your fuckin' Top Gun rant and using it for my own purpose? Uh, uh, motherfucker -- this is me at my most opportunistic. But to go with that interpretation would mean you'd have to go with the tragic assumption that QT has guilt about the whole intellectual property thing, and therefore is deserving of being revenged upon -- ah, but then again (like Budd says) so does Roger, so I guess we'll just see, won't we?

This combined version runs a little over 4 hours, even longer if you count the intermission (felt like at least 15 minutes were given to us), and yet it didn't feel long at all to me. I remember seeing Once Upon a Time in America at the Egyptian, that shit was a half-hour shorter than The Whole Bloody Affair and felt twice as long -- that might have something to do with that flick not having an intermission (what the fuck?), so I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. I never do, really.

As the end credits rolled, I overheard a girl a few seats down recognize the name Cheng Cheh. I wanted to tell the guy with her that she was a keeper, this chick who knew what the fuck a Cheng Cheh was. Then I was reminded of the Quentin fangirl from earlier (QT left during intermission, never came back, probably out of fear of the girl), and thought maybe I should follow my own ungiven advice, so I got up and looked for the leopard-printed lady.

There was a long line already formed outside for the 7pm show, this one even longer, snaking out even past Lulu's cafe and headed for the residential sidewalk. The standby line was as long as a regular movie night line, and then there was another line from the opposite direction, which I couldn't figure out. Down the street I saw her, the girl who wanted to take Quentin's hand in marriage, and I ran down until I caught up to her. Because I'm a fat fuck, I arrived completely drenched in sweat and out of breath. In between gulps of air, I told her that I may not be Quentin Tarantino, but maybe she'd like to join me for some pie, because I kinda have this thing where I like to go for pie after a movie and talk about it. She stood back, looked me over, and then very slowly, she smiled. I smiled back.

Then she yelled "RAPE!" and I ran away.

Somewhere in that last paragraph, I started making it up, which is sad because even in my fantasies I feel a need to be realistic.