“hairspray” – rachel sweet (1988)

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This week marked the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release for John Waters’ surprise cult classic Hairspray.  Prior to the film’s release in 1988, Waters had steadily accrued an infamous reputation for over two decades as being a subversive and vile auteur filmmaker.  Waters, for his films such as Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble¸ earned labels proclaiming him as “The Prince of Puke” or “The Pope of Trash” which were leveled on him critically by conservative groups and affectionately by fans.  Surely, this man could not make a socially conscious musical about integration that would be family friendly.

Hairspray is about a “pleasantly plum” teenager named Tracy Turnblad (portrayed by Ricki Lake) who pursues local fame by becoming a featured dancer on a local teen dance TV show.  On The Corny Collings Show, Turnblad uses her newly acquired platform and popularity to rally against the show’s producers and make the show fully integrated.  Meanwhile, Turnblad’s snobby rich rival Amber Von Tussle aims to sabotage Turnblad’s chances of winning a local beauty pageant.  Turnblad is arrested for inciting a race riot, but ultimately is pardoned by the governor and successfully integrates The Corny Collins Show.

The film was a moderate commercial success upon its initial release.  After being released on home video, Hairspray started to gain status as a cult classic.  Tracy Turnblad and John Waters would become household names when the film was adapted as a Tony award-winning musical in 2002 and the musical adapted as a musical motion picture in 2007.  What started as a modest film that paid homage to Waters’ own childhood watching teeny-bopper dance shows became his biggest accomplishment and elevated him, in his words, as “The Patron Saint of Fat Girls.”

Waters, in interviews over the years, has said he was surprised by the making and success of Hairspray.  As mentioned, Waters’ previous films were the epitome of bad taste.  His films were only family friendly if you were the Manson Family.  Waters has commented that he didn’t set out to make such a broadly accessible film that was a beacon for integrationist championing.  He has even joked when the MPAA assigned Hairspray a PG rating that his career was over.  Hairspray was the best thing to happen to Waters’ career.

In recent years, in interviews and on stage during his comedic monologues, Waters has talked about his life was a subversive artist.  I’ve gone to his shows and heard him address questions about the future of “gross out” filmmakers or who working in film today is a spiritual successor to Waters’ earlier works.  And Waters has some very poignant things to say on the topic.

When Waters was making his films prior to Hairspray, he was innovative with his provocation.  Not only in content, but in the overall production.  Waters had to apply a very auteur approach to his film because no studio would provide funding.  So, he had help from his friends who became his go to team.  Design, acting, shooting, and everything else was a collaborative effort amongst a small group of iconoclastic friends.

Nowadays, Waters believe, it is too easy to make smut and filth on celluloid.  He doesn’t see the appeal to constantly strive to out gross everyone just for the sake of doing it.  While his filmmaking was a revolutionary act in those days. Now, it is standard and run of the mill.  So, according to Waters, the only way to shock people with subversion is to give them something completely unexpected.  And, for him, that was to go clean.

I see a lot of value in that outlook.  Constantly doing what people expect of you, especially if what you do increasingly becomes normative, reduces the power of the initial act.  You become a character whose scope is limited and defined by what people demand that you provide based on your earlier work.  And when an artist gets to that point, things become boring and uninspired.  This is why Bob Dylan went electric or why Michael Jordan played baseball.  You may or may not be successful with this change, but at least you’re doing what you want to do instead of what everyone else wants you to do.

In that sense, Hairspray has been Waters’ most subversive, and relevant, film to date.  His earlier works like Multiple Maniacs and Desperate Living may still make general audiences uncomfortable, but you can go on YouTube and see things that are much worse.  Even something that is still shocking such as the dogshit-eating scene in Pink Flamingos can pale in comparison to whatever some teenager pulls up on Reddit.  The act of subversion no longer stems from the radical nature of the content itself, but rather the radical nature of the content as it relates to the artist.

I admire John Waters because he does exactly what he wants to do.  He hasn’t made a film since 2004 (not without lack of trying), but he continues to find ways to broaden his scope as an artist and influence audiences in new ways.  He has become a prolific author and even a sought after public speaker.  In 2017, he published a commencement speech he gave at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015.  In the speech, he encourages the graduating class to stir shit and change things from the inside.  What that may entail specifically depends on your situation.  However, whatever the status quo happens to be, go against it regardless.

The Hairspray musical was a huge hit.  The original film, however, did not feature Broadway-style musical numbers.  Most of the soundtrack consists of fairly obscure R&B dance songs that Waters grew up with.  The dance numbers are fun and impressive and the soundtrack selections give the film extra life.

The original motion picture soundtrack only features one original tune which opens the film and scored against a montage of teenagers and crew putting together The Corny Collins Show.  Appropriately titled, “Hairspray” is a saccharine sweet 60s retro throwback done with a 1980s sheen.  Sweet sings about a can of hairspray and elevates it as a symbol of teenage rebellion in an age where integration was viewed as a force to threaten white social hierarchy.  Mama told Sweet not use it and its just the latest craze, but Sweet has the inspiration to the hairspray all over the nation.

Sweet had been recording music since the age of three and started recording country music in 1974.  In her career, she earned critical success but relatively few sales.  Interestingly enough, the single Hairspray was the last recording she ever issued.  Sweet eventually left music and pursued a career in television production instead.

Waters is currently 71, but he is going strong a cultural iconoclast.  He is still provocative at his age, but has a taken a step back to let the kids be the truly innovative rebels.  Waters still tours to do comedic monologues and is working on two more books.  He has been a later-in-life hero for me and I’m thankful for Hairspray launching him to the popular consciousness where he deserves to be.

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“love your neighbor” – ladysmith black mambazo (1990)

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I have been volunteering at the Old Town School of Folk Music for nearly three years.  Volunteering there was a great outlet for a few different reasons.  For one, it was a way to give back to my community.  Secondly, the added experience looks great on a resume.  Finally, and perhaps best of all, I get points that I can apply towards discounted music classes or free concert tickets.  Being an active volunteer has helped with my guitar playing hobby and seeing some great acts.

On Saturday, I took a friend to see Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  I had originally seen the famous South African a capella group back in 2012 also at the Old Town School of Folk Music.  I was really excited for that show.  I had recently watched a screening of a documentary at the Music Box Theatre called Under African Skies.  That documentary was about Paul Simon revisiting South Africa to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his album Graceland which prominently featured members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and would subsequently launch them on the world stage.  That show in 2012 was remarkable and a real treat.

The funny thing is that when I posted about seeing the group in 2012, I got a lot of comments from people saying they didn’t know they were a real group.  The group is a memorable punchline in the 2004 film Mean Girls.  That seemed so strange to me.  Ladysmith Black Mambazo was founded in 1960 by Joseph Shabalala and has seen numerous iterations over the years. The current iteration features four of the founders’ sons. Granted they weren’t world-renowned figures until Paul Simon came along, but they always seemed ubiquitous to me.  One of those entities you had heard of even if you may not know a single thing about them or their work.  However, for millennials, that cultural reference point is a film comedy which led them to believe it was just a made-up name.  It is funny how things work out like that.

Anyway, back to 2018.  My friend was also one of those people who only knew the name through the association in Mean Girls and that they were involved with Paul Simon.  She didn’t know what the show and experience of watching the group would consist of.

Seeing Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a real treat.  First and foremost, they are an a capella group.  That is the heart of their talent and they excel at that.  Shabalala started the group after hearing certain isicathamiya (traditional music of the Zulu people) harmonies in his dreams.  This vocal presentation is highly rhythmic which each member devoted to a specific part often with a lead driving the group with their own chant.

The singing is amazing, but only scope of the group’s appeal with a live setting.  Their performance is also very visual and physically active.  Members of the group will make hand gestures or perform chorus line type kicks that add to the spectacle.  Towards the end of the performance, various members will perform highly rhythmic dances that incorporate their own traditional ethnic influences as well as some humor in the form of physical comedy.  It is completely unexpected and keeps you engaged.

Seeing Ladysmith Black Mambazo is great because of their vocal talents coupled with the lively dancing.  I knew that when I saw them in 2012 and I knew I would love it again in 2018.  However, there was one aspect of this particular performance that stood out.

Part of the audience was really vocal during the performance.  They chanted and sang along and communicated with the performers.  At first, I really couldn’t make out what exactly was going on.  Midway through the show, when one of the performers was talking about being homesick, the people in the audience who were making noises earlier yelled out “you’re making all of us homesick.”  Then it struck me and everything started to make sense. They were Afrikaners.

This past week, I have been reading David Byrne’s How Music Works.  In the book, he breaks down how music fits in our world, specifically the physical aspect, and affects our culture.  His book covers industry-specific issues such as how to market music that is made, but he primarily talks about the process of making music and how the music that is made is indicative of our surroundings.  There’s a lot he covers in the book, but one aspect he touches upon is relevant here.  He talks about the role of the audience in Western society.  In the early 1900s, in large concert halls where classical music was performed, audiences weren’t quiet and focused on the performances with rapt attention.  They mingled and chatted and the music served as part of the background.  Over the last century, that has completely changed.  Especially when it comes to specific types of music and venues.  We are now expected to be quiet and not be distracting.

That’s with regards to Western audiences.  Byrne also provides examples where the exact opposite happens now.  Byrne talks about his experiences seeing local music in places like Africa and Bali where music and the performance of music is a more communal thing.  In places like that, music is more of something one does as opposed to being someone one sees.  It is also interactive and inclusive and people participate as they see fit.

Given that context, I understood the need for these Afrikaners to interact with the performers.  Even without reading Byrne’s analysis, I wouldn’t have minded their excitement.  The music was moving them that much and it is ridiculous that the non-Afrikaners were expecting them to be quiet and not enjoy their native land’s music as they saw fit.  Seeing that during the week I’m reading a book on the topic is just serendipitous and reinforces that there is a vast array of ways to enjoy music.

One thing I love about Ladysmith Black Mambazo is their positivity and humanism.  Most of the songs introduced at the concert were prefaced with short stories or proclamations about loving everyone regardless of their race.  One song that stuck out for me from the concert was “Love Your Neighbor.”  The track was originally released and recorded on their 1990 studio album Two Worlds, One Heart.  It was later re-recorded for their 2017 compilation Songs of Peace & Love for Kids & Parents Around the World.

In the re-recorded version, there is an introduction.  The speaker says “We all have friends and neighbors. People who live close to us. We call this our community. It is important to love everyone in our community and to show love and respect to your neighbors. If you can do this, then they will show love and respect to you.  This is how we all can help to make the world a better place.”  This sentiment was also shared with audience at Saturday’s performance.

The news in recent weeks has been terrible.  The school shooting in Florida has been devastating and has driven the same dialogue and inaction we have seen time and time again over the years.  It is numbing and I feel certain that nothing will change, but then I see the children from that school speak to crowds and march in the streets and it gives me hope.

One of the performance form Ladysmith Black Mambazo, when introducing another song, said that there will always be tough times.  However, tough times don’t last but strong people do.  Keeping that in mind along with taking the time to understand, respect, and love our neighbors is what is going strengthen our world.  And it is amazing to have those feelings reaffirmed and made prescient through music.  Music that can inspire us whether we watch it with all the attention we can muster or whether we participate in whatever way that moves us.

“midnight, the stars and you” – ray noble and his orchestra (1934)

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Pop-up bars have become the latest craze in nightlife entertainment over recent years.  The idea of a pop-up is that a restaurant or bar will provide an experience that is not typical of their normal fare.  Décor and menu items will be updated to reflect the theme of the pop-up while attending patron interact with any additional elements that supplement the pop-up experience.

Pop-ups are nothing new, but there has been an uptick in the quantity and quality of pop-ups around.  Especially in Chicago where most of the pop-ups are modeled after television shows and movies that are either popular or provoke a deep sense of nostalgia.  In the last year, Chicago has seen pop-up bars for pop culture icons such as Saved by the Bell, Stranger Things, and Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.

The whole point of the pop-up is to generate novelty appeal.  People enjoy, or have enjoyed, these elements of pop culture and desire to spend money in an establishment that puts the patron through an immersive experience while creating an atmosphere that generates fanfare easily uploaded to Facebook or Instagram.

The business model of these pop-ups is driven by two things: novelty and scarcity.  The novelty stems from the overall theme or content of the pop-up.  The scarcity comes from the limited runs of these pop-ups.  While a show like Stranger Things is currently very popular, a permanent establishment may not last long and could lose its luster over time.  So, by creating a temporary experience in a permanent space and limiting the hours, you’re bound to generate a lot of buzz that leads to a high demand.  It is something that won’t be around long and not everyone gets to experience, so patrons will make the time to visit and spend money.

On the flip side, there is a lot of legitimate criticism around the very idea of pop-ups.  Pop-ups are sometimes seen as lazy and unoriginal.  By relying on the appeal of a pop-up, some skeptics see that venues are unconcerned with repeat business; when the pop-up ends then there is no need to visit that establishment again.  While those are valid criticisms, they are a bit cynical.  Restaurants and bars have to drum up business anyway they can.  And in a major food city like Chicago, that is especially true.  So, pop-ups help.

The legality of pop-ups can also be an issue as well.  Some pop-ups based on intellectual property and not officially sanctioned by the license holder can be issued a cease-and-desist letter.  This happened to the Stranger Things pop-up when Netflix felt the restaurant was violating intellectual property, fair use, and copyright laws.  However, surprisingly, I’ve seen several pop-ups last for their intended length without threat of lawsuit.

I have visited three pop-ups since this craze hit Chicago.  Only three because I haven’t really cared about the theme of most of the pop-ups.  I didn’t feel the need to go to something representing a movie or a television that meant nothing to me, where I wouldn’t get the references, and be served overpriced drinks.

The first I attended was Moe’s Tavern in October.  Modeled after the Homer’s favorite bar in The Simpsons, it was a pop-up dedicated to everyone’s favorite yellow family.  The pop-up was hosted at Replay in Lakeview (formerly Headquarters) and was open during the normal business hours.  I went early one afternoon by myself and checked it out.  There were cardboard standouts, character decals on the walls, some framed art, and stuff hanging from the ceiling.  The drink specials were cocktails referencing things form the show.  However, the signature drink was “The Flaming Moe.”  Named after a drink in one of the episodes, it was a shot of liquor mixed with something to mimic the children’s cough syrup flavor and then lit on fire.  Needless to say, the drink was awful but the pop-up bar was amusing.  That was my reference point for pop-ups.

A few weeks ago, I went to my second pop-up.  Again, it was at Reply.  However, this time, the theme revolved around [adult swim]’s Rick & Morty.  Turner Broadcasting, owner of [adult swim], had contacted Replay but gave the bar permission to run the pop-up through February 11th in an unofficial capacity.  I went with some friends this time and it was fun.  Same deal as The Simpsons pop-up a few months earlier.  With this being my second pop-up, I was already forming an impression of what they should be.

A few weeks ago, it was announced a pop-up commemorating Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was going to open in Ukrainian Village at a bar called The Rookery (not to be confused with the famous building in the Loop).  Named “Room 237,” after a legendary documentary detailing conspiracy theories form fans of Kubrick’s films, this pop-up was set to create the experience of visiting the Overlook Hotel.

One afternoon, a friend of mine and I decide to go check it out.  I looked on Yelp what the business hours were and we set out on a 30-minute bus ride from my apartment.  We got to the bar and were pleased it was lightly attended.  This meant the pop-up wouldn’t be too crowded.  We asked where the pop-up was and were told that it was closed.  We learned that the pop-up was only open one night a week.  And the host gave use details about the first weekend it was opened.  He said the pop-up didn’t open until 9 PM, but people were arriving as early as 7 PM.  And so many people came that a line formed that led out of the bar and down the street for over a quarter-mile.   These were people waiting in freezing temperatures for several hours to have a drink in a place that had stuff from The Shining on the walls.  We left.

Based on my experience with The Simpsons and Rick & Morty pop-ups, I had developed assumptions about the “Room 237” experience.  I told my friend how lame it was to generate scarcity on such a level that people would have to wait several hours in the cold.  We learned that the Rookery was going to open on Friday to break up the demand.  My friend suggested we go then and I begrudgingly agreed.  I had already made up my mind that “Room 237” was lame.

Friday finally came and I met my friend at the Rookery.  He got there a little after 7 PM, but was the first person there to put his name on the list.  Chicago had experienced a snowstorm with a high accumulation of snow that started falling the previous night.  Plus, the Winter Olympics opening ceremony was airing.  I hoped both those things would keep people at home and make the experience of the pop-up less crowded.

Despite being told the pop-up would open at 8 PM, our names were called first at around 9:15 PM.  The bouncer let us go up the stairs into a small room.  Immediately, I could tell this was a little more classy and planned than my previous two pop-up experiences.  The furniture and décor accurately matched the film.  There was a rug and throw pillow with the same design as the Overlook’s carpet in the film.  The bar had the same golden glow as the bar in the film’s Gold Room.  There were curtains that opened to reveal painted mountain landscapes.  A projector was displaying shots and scenes from the film.  And, best of all, there was a table with a typewriter and surrounded by paper with “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” written all over it.  I could see this pop-up was on a whole different level than what I experienced before and I started to lighten up.

The best part of the experience were the staged actors.  The bartender was dressed like the ghostly bartender in the film.  He also interacted with an actor dressed up like Jack Torrance, Jack Nicholson’s classic character.  And, occasionally, two women dressed as the Grady Twins would show up, stand motionless and quiet at the end of the hall, and disappear without you knowing.

I had drinks with my friend and we took in the décor.  Everything was cleverly designed.  You could even find “REDRUM” scrawled on the interior of the bathroom door where initially unnoticed until you looked into the mirror to wash your hands.  It was a very fun experience.

Music also played in “Room 237” was well.  The film’s score was featured, but you would also hear the most famous song from the film played every so often.  At the end, as the camera dollies towards a framed photo revealing Jack Torrance at a New Year’s Eve party in 1929, the song playing is Ray Noble’s version of Al Bowlly’s “Midnight, the Stars and You.”  Noble recorded the song with his orchestra on the Victor label in 1934.  The inclusion of that song added an extra level of sinister familiarity to the pop-ups décor.  Also on the wall was an enlarged version of that photograph seen at the end of The Shining.

This pop-up really stood out for me.  I was expecting just tacky art on the wall, but the music, furniture, and characters really gave this pop-up life and credibility.  I wouldn’t have waited hours in the freezing Chicago weather to get in.  However, the time we put in and chilled at the bar downstairs prior was worth the trouble and “Room 237” really did set a standard.  After such an incredible Chicago snowstorm, it was the best place to be.

“tuesday afternoon (forever afternoon)” – the moody blues (1967)

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The Music Box Theatre in Chicago is my favorite movie theater in the world.  The theater and building itself has a storied history.  The architecture and facades are stunning complete with aesthetic imperfections that give the theater life and character.  The seats are notoriously uncomfortable, but the screenings they hold are so captivating that you hardly notice your discomfort.  Best of all, it is within walking distance of my apartment.  It made not be perfect, but it means a lot to me.

The Music Box Theatre first opened on August 22, 1929 and only contained 800 theatres.  Keeping with the tradition of sheer opulence of that time, the theater was designed with a dark blue ceiling, twinkling stars, and clouds to simulate a night sky.  And Italian courtyard façade surrounds you and puts the film patron that they are watching a work of art in an open-air Tuscan palazzo.

Unlike other film theaters at the time which included stages and orchestra pits so the facility can be used for various types of performances, the Music Box Theatre was strictly a movie house.  When the Music Box Theatre came along, films weren’t exactly new but they a developing art form.  Talkies were becoming more common and the equipment to not only make, but project film, rapidly changed.  Nevertheless, despite the advancements in film technology and technique, the Music Box Theatre continued to maintain its Italianesque charm.

From 1977 through 1983, the theatre underwent a restoration and played sporadic foreign language in porno films.  It was in 1983, however, that the theater started becoming the Chicago cultural icon it is today.  The Music Box Theatre, that year, became a repertory film house that revived the double feature format.  Over the years, foreign films were reintroduced and cult films were added soon after.  A second theater was added in 1991.  And other than the IMAX at Navy Pier, it is the only theater to screen actual 70 mm film.  Playing over 300 films a year, the Music Box Theatre has continued being a haven for independent and foreign films since 1983.  Having continued that tradition, the Music Box Theatre remains for me not only the best theater in Chicago, but the best theater in the world.

I have seen countless films and events at the Music Box Theatre.  Not only do they get exclusive screenings to various foreign and independent films, but they hold a variety of special events all year round.  They do annual sing-a-long events (The Sound of Music for Thanksgiving and Casablanca for Valentine’s Day), an annual 70 mm film festival (the best way to see 2001: A Space Odyssey), silent film matinees with a live organist (seeing Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! In that setting was breathtaking), and their annual Music Box of Horrors (24 hours of gore and mayhem). However, above all the different events the Music Box Theatre does, nothing gets me more excited than their weekend midnight movie series.

Their midnight movie series is a treasured tradition for me.  Every weekend, on Friday and Saturday, the theater screens one movie in each of their theaters.  Sometimes I’m in the smaller room, but the main attraction for me is usually in the larger theater.  In their midnight movie series, they play the most esoteric, twisted, and obscure films of their repertoire.  I love this tradition so much and I have seen dozens of midnight movies.  From X-rated animated cartoons such as Fritz the Cat to bloody Italian animal films such as Wild Beasts and from 1990s techno-dystopia sci-fi like Hardware to an actual 1970s pornographic film such as 3 AM, the cult movies that make up the theater’s midnight movie tradition are a unique experience.

This past weekend, I went to a midnight movie screening with some friends to see a rare screening of a film that was described as a self-absorbed passion project a la Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.  The film was from 1976 and called The Astrologer.  I didn’t know anything about this movie other than it was really obscure.  It played a couple of times at some drive-in theaters and aired once on television in 1980 as the CBS late movie.  It is only through these midnight screenings that the film has lived for as long as it has.

To say this was the most ridiculous movie I’ve ever seen is an understatement.  Craig Denney directed and starred in his passion project about a circus psychic conman who learns that his abilities are real and uses them to fulfill his own wants and desires.  For 96 minutes, the viewers are subjected to ridiculous acting, nonsensical sequences, and loads of questionable decisions that are void of cohesive storytelling and narrative technique.

This is a film where the whole theater is laughing throughout because it takes itself so seriously but is executed in ridiculous fashions. Some scenes last only a few seconds.  Characters are introduced and appear integral to the story with no context of they are.  Dialogue is strange and confusing.  The acting is just terrible.  And, the cherry on this self-absorbed cinematic sundae, the film ends with a Shakespeare quote from King Lear that screams pompous and contrived on a level one only really sees in student films.  Quite simply, this is a remarkable work of art that deserves to be seen.  Tommy Wiseau’s The Room¸ which is popularly considered the worst film of tall time (undeservedly so), makes more sense and is more structured than Craig Denney’s The Astrologer.

Besides the absolute ridiculousness of the film, that isn’t the only reason why The Astrologer isn’t as widely known.  Denney had used music from the Moody Blues that wasn’t clears for the rights of usage.  In one scene, the entirety of “Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)” is used.  In the scene, Denney’s character is sailing from Africa back to the United States on a chartered vessel.  Pages from a calendar are superimposed over footage of Denney’s character walking around the boat and drinking beer with pages falling from the calendar to signify the passage of time.  According to the film, he was sailing for three months from October through December and entirely shirtless sitting on the bow of the ship with the setting sun casting his image in silhouette as Justin Hayward sings.  Pure fucking poetry.

“Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)” was released nine years prior to the film’s production, in 1967, on the Moody Blues’ studio release Days of Future Passed.  According to Justin Hayward, the song chronicles the passing of a typical day and was written in a field near his home on a beautiful spring afternoon.  The track ends with an orchestral rendition of the chorus performed by the London Festival Orchestra and bridges parts one and two on the album version of the song.  As ridiculous as The Astrologer is, the song fit perfectly well with that montage sequence and did have some amazing shots considering the film’s modest budget.

As I mentioned, midnight movies are a ballgame all its own.  So, to cap this week’s blog entry, here’s a story.  Most of the films I see there at midnight are ridiculous in their own right, but not on the same level as The Astrologer.  For the most part, you’re watching the movie.  Sure, you may laugh and make a quick joke to your buddy.  Otherwise, its typical movie theater silence.

My buddies and I were unprepared for how terrible and laughable this movie was.  We laughed like everyone else was, but we also provided our own running commentary quietly amongst ourselves.  Imagine something like Mystery Science Theater 3000, but limited to us.  And this isn’t uncommon depending on the film. Go see Tommy Wiseau’s The Room in a theater and you can’t hear a damn thing.

Well, I guess some people take movies so seriously that they had every intention to view The Astrologer as focused as possible.  Granted, this was a rare screening of an even rarer film.  But still, film is stupid and ridiculous.  After the movie, some guy two or three rows ahead got up and asked us “Did you even SEE the movie?”  We told we did, but we were making jokes quietly to ourselves.  He said, “You guys aren’t funny enough for that.”  We laughed and walked away kidding around suggesting that was probably someone related the director or whatever.  This movie was made with such serious intensity, but is hilarious.  And it is even more hilarious that someone came into this screening to watch with the same serious intensity as the director.

Midnight movies aren’t meant to be taken seriously.  That’s why they are midnight movies.  They are hand-picked for this cult status which is attained through a combination of aesthetic and technical attributes that is so fringe its funny.  It is my favorite Music Box Theatre tradition and will remain so no matter what some pompous killjoy thinks.