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“Everyone Betray Me!”: A Primer on “The Room”

“Everyone Betray Me!”: A Primer on “The Room” (photo)

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Seated in front of a mantle upon which rests a football, a basketball, a bouquet of roses and a poster of his face, a man with a mysterious accent speaks about a movie. “Everything you see and experience was done meticulously with meticulous planning and with a lot of preparation,” he says before adding, “This is the finished product,” in case that was not made clear by the film itself.

The man is Tommy Wiseau. His film is called “The Room,” which Wiseau wrote, directed, starred in, produced and executive produced (he receives on screen credit for both producing titles). No one knows where he or his accent comes from; Wiseau gives interviews, but is notoriously stingy with details about his personal life. Like the Coneheads, he claims a vague past in France. Like the Coneheads, his accent is most certainly not French. When Wiseau speaks in “The Room,” he sounds like Borat trying to do an impression of Christopher Walken playing a mental patient.

Wiseau’s film, made on a $6 million budget (that also included marketing costs) and shot simultaneously on both 35mm and HD (“I was confused about these two formats,” the director explains) opened in Los Angeles in 2003 to nonexistent business and disastrous reviews. But the few who saw it loved it, and the legend of the strange little film about a love triangle between a dim-witted banker (Wiseau), an unfaithful layabout (Juliette Danielle), and his himbo best friend (Greg Sestero) began to spread. Soon, Wiseau was encouraged to try the film as a midnight feature at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood. It worked, and a cult began to grow. Now, after six years of successful monthly screenings in L.A., the film is hitting the road. After a midnight screening in New York sold out weeks in advance, the Village East had to add a second, and later a third screening to accommodate demand. Those sold out as well.

If you were shut out at the Village East — like myself — or the film hasn’t yet come to your hometown, you can still host your own “The Room” party. The film is available on Amazon (the DVD includes the aforementioned interview where Wiseau talks meticulously about his meticulousness) and the following minute-by-minute viewer’s guide is humbly submitted to lead you through your journey.

03:15
After a long day at the office, Johnny (Wiseau) returns home and gives his fiancé Lisa (Danielle) a sexy new red dress. Their foreplay is interrupted by Denny (Philip Haldiman), their teenage neighbor and Johnny’s quasi-adoptive son, who barges into the apartment unannounced and refuses to leave. When Johnny and Lisa head upstairs to their bedroom, Denny refuses to take the hint. He follows, jumps onto their bed and announces, with a little too much enthusiasm, “I just like to watch you guys!” Instead of recoiling appropriately in horror, Johnny and Lisa laugh and start a pillow fight. Incredibly, this is only the third creepiest moment in “The Room.”

05:20
Once Denny finally exits, Johnny and Lisa have sex. Like all of “The Room”‘s numerous sex scenes, it is a gauzy affair scored to a nondescript slow jam, with lots of slo-mo thrusting and showers of rose petals. Several shots come from the perspective of a water sculpture near Johnny and Lisa’s bed, with water trickling down in front of the lens so that the camera looks like it’s been placed inside of a toilet. Listen closely around the 7:42 mark for a weirdly cartoonish kissing sound effect of the kind you’d expect to hear in a “Merrie Melodies” cartoon when Bugs kisses Elmer Fudd. If you meet Wiseau, do not refer to this as a sex scene. Speaking with LAist, he declared “It’s a love scene. That’s what I call it.”

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Though she appeared entirely happy whilst making sweet, sweet love to Johnny, the two-faced Lisa unburdens herself to her mother Claudette (Carolyn Minnott) one scene later, insisting that their relationship makes her miserable. Claudette urges Lisa to remain with Johnny anyway because he can provide her with financial security. Later in the film, Claudette will dramatically announce she is dying of breast cancer and Lisa dismissively insists she is fine. I guess Lisa was right, because the issue is dropped and never brought up again.

12:29
As Lisa calls Mark (Greg Sestero), Johnny’s hunky best friend and her secret paramour, the camera lingers on a framed picture of a spoon. “The Room” cultists have become obsessed with the spoon picture, and throw plastic spoons, “Rocky Horror”-style, whenever it appears onscreen. The spoon picture appears inside Johnny and Lisa’s living room, the film’s most frequent setting. But is this room the room? On the DVD, Wiseau ducks the question. Wherever the definitive room is, he says, is “a special place, a private place, a place where you can be safe. And it’s not ‘a’ room but it’s ‘the‘ room!” I have no idea what this means.

21:18
If you want your “Room” party catered authentically, you can order Johnny’s favorite pizza, as revealed in this scene. He likes half Canadian bacon with pineapple, half artichoke and pesto, light on the cheese. Johnny is so delighted when he learns Lisa has already ordered the pizza he declares, “You think about everything!” Curiously, when the pizza arrives, it looks suspiciously like a regular pie. Way to go, prop department.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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