Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Doctors Who Smoke and Other Laughs

When you go to a FilmRoasters event, you expect comedy, not drama.

What could be funnier than listening to a few improv guys with microphones skewer a B-grade film for an appreciative audience?

And tonight's event was long overdue given that they'd been on hiatus while the Firehouse got renovated and then got snowed out last month.

I know because I was one of the dedicated souls who trudged through that wet, sloppy snow to see if the doors were open that cold February night.

So I was eager for tonight's event, as was the FilmRoasters virgin accompanying me.

When we got there, they were showing a Spiderman short from the 70s and already mocking everything in sight.

Stereotypes still abounded in the 70s. The cop was jolly/tough and Irish.

When Spiderman climbs a high-rise and removes window bars to gain entry, someone cracked, "Why do you need bars on the twentieth floor?"

After a lot of corny dialog and bad seventies hair, the short ended and the organizer asked how many were first timers.

The girl next to me was and he asked her how she'd come to be there.

"I googled things to do in Richmond tonight and this came up," she admitted.

Ah, the powers of Google.

They showed a preview for May's event, an hysterical-looking film called "Teenage Mother" with the tag line, "Nine months of trouble" about a girl who was a little too easy with the boys.

I can't wait.

Tonight's main feature was "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and while I'd heard of it, I'd never seen it.

But it had big news like Patricia Neal (Oscar for "Hud"), Robert Wise director (he did the "Sound of Music") and composer Bernard Herrmann (he of all those Hitchcock collaborations).

Not exactly B-movie people.

The film had been made in 1951, so naturally I was fascinated by the period details. Gas station attendants, a radio store, TV announcers all being old guys, every man wore a hat.

When the "glowing flying saucer" arrives on earth and the spaceman walks out of it in his fitted, shiny suit, a guy cracked, "Looks like Bowie."

"Our world, at the moment, is full of tensions and suspicions," the TV anchor warned the viewing audience.

As opposed to, say, now?

When a TV personality is interviewing people on the streets, he mistakenly asks the disguised spaceman what he thinks.

"I am fearful when people substitute fear for reason," he says succinctly and the TV guy moves on, not happy with such a non-hysterical response to space invaders.

Three quarters of the way through the film, there was a series of crashing sounds on the steps down from the bathroom.

A man returning to the film had apparently lost his footing and fallen down the staircase to the first landing.

People rushed over to help, the film was stopped and an ambulance was called. Within twenty minutes, he had been taken to MCV for treatment.

One of the organizers noted, "The day the FilmRoasters stood still."

The film was continued but it took most of us a while before relaxing back into mindless laughter over cheap shots, corny humor and witty commentary.

When the spaceman is shot and taken to a hospital, he miraculously heals in hours due to the advanced planet he comes from.

Two doctors discuss his case, one wondering how he recovered so quickly.

"Their medicine is that much more advanced than ours," says one of the doctors, lighting a cigarette for the other as they both smoke and discuss the case.

You think?

The movie wasn't without partisan commentary, either. "People, my foot! They're Democrats!"

The improv guys were especially impatient with the 1950s style of film making, making frequent comments about long shots, extended takes and showing the viewer everything.

"Okay now every cop car in the force is going to be shown pulling out!" said one attention-short guy.

If it's not quick cuts to some people, it's boring.

On the other hand, their 21st century humor over mid-20th century film was hysterical.

After the earth sands still and everything stops working, one cracked, "Did you try alt/control/delete?"

The movie took place in D.C., where a woman comments, "There's nothing strange about Washington, D.C."

I feel pretty certain that even in 1951 there was plenty strange in our nation's capital.

At the end, the spaceman and his robot leave D.C. and life returns to normal.

Or as normal as it ever got during the Eisenhower years.

My FilmRoasters virgin and I finished off the evening with desserts from Lucille's Bakery.

A tiramisu bomb and Mexican chocolate pyramid were obscenely dark chocolate and paired beautifully with King Family Loreley as we discussed the partisanship of the movie we'd just seen.

It made for a somewhat anticlimactic ending to the evening the film stood still.

Drama, my foot! It was a pretty funny way to spend an evening.

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