Last night, the 25th of February, was a big night in the big town, culture-wise. Bjork was doing her "Biophilia" show at Roseland. Philip Glass and his ensemble gave a perhaps not-to-be-repeated-in-this-lifetime performance of his amazing three-hour-plus work, Music In Twelve Parts (the Glass equivalent of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier or Young's Well-Tuned Piano, essentially), at the Park Avenue Armory. And over at Lincoln Center, there was a special screening of Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret, after which Lonergan and select cast members spoke of the shot-years-ago critical cause celebre. Jaime Christley, one of the most crucial of the film's champions, was there (I was at the Glass concert myself, which was SO AMAZING), and he tweeted later that Lonergan himself chastised a viewer who was loudly crinkling a candy wrapper during a crucial scene. This reminded me of a couple of things, chiefly of Frans Liebkind saying "You are ze audience, I am ze author, I OUTRANK you." Although I imagine that the candy-wrapper crinkler wasn't aware at the time that he was being shushed by the director.
Back in 1987 I was working at Video Review magazine, and some time during my then-one-year tenure there I had been introduced to the work of director Andy Sidaris. Sidaris was then the king of more or less direct-to-video T&A action movies, which invariably featured super-busty former Playmates awkwardly carrying guns and taking on drug-dealing bad guys so pockmarked they made Robert Davi look like a Proactiv spokesmodel. The movies were invariably ruthless in keeping their female leads as frequently topless as possible; it seemed these fetching freelance investigators were constitutionally incapable of discussing the day's events without explicitly stating that it would be best to do so naked, in the hot tub, and then taking action to make it happen. Never any lesbian action, though; Sidaris pictures were also kind of ruthlessly hetero-normative, as they say.
They were also, it might go without saying, entirely ridiculous, and risible. So when a bunch of the Video Review guys, most of us in our highly glib twenties, were invited to an actual screening of a new Sidaris picture, which I believe was Hard Ticket to Hawaii, pictured above, to be followed by a press dinner at a deli across the street with the director himself, we were all over that. It was at a small screening room on Park Avenue, and there wasn't enough room in a single row for our entire party to fit, so I sat one in from the aisle in the row behind my boys...and about 40 minutes or so into the movie, which we had been wisecracking and giggling at MST3K style for the whole time, an older gentleman of Greek extraction took the seat on the aisle, next to mine.
It was Andy Sidaris. And he did not understand what was so funny. "Cool it guys," he addressed the row in front of him. Looking at me, he asked, "What are they laughing at?" I actually felt kind of bad, and shrugged. "The big twist is coming up," he said with some enthusiasm. You have to give Sidaris this: in addition to copious enormous boobies, his fast-moving films were packed with explosions, action, and, um, plot twists. I think the one in Hard Ticket involved a giant cheap fake animatronic cobra emerging from an exploded toilet. Nothing funny about that.
Fortunately it was dark enough in the theater that Sidaris could not later identify the party of gigglers, and he amiably regaled my colleagues and I with tales of his days shooting professional sports, and how he had directed all of the football sequences in M*A*S*H, and what a no-talent prick sonofabitch Robert Altman was.
Now for the funny part. In the fall of 2001, I'm in the same screening room, in the same row, in the same seat, about to see a pre-release, pre-New York Film Festival screening of The Royal Tenenbaums. This is the cut that ends with the Anthology recording of The Beatles' "I'm Looking Through You," and it's always bugged the crap out of me that that music had to be changed for the release. In any event, who comes along and takes the aisle seat next to me but Wes Anderson.
"This is really weird," I said to Anderson. "I've only ever sat directly next to a director at a screening of his film once before, and it was in this same screening room, and I was sitting in this same seat."
"Who was the director?" Wes asked me.
I began to explain, but then the lights went down.