Monday, August 5, 2013

Like You Were There: Adam Riske at the Edgar Wright Double Feature

On Friday, August 2nd, Mike Pomaro and I went to see a double feature of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz at the glorious Music Box Theatre in Chicago. Edgar Wright was in attendance to introduce the movies and he brought Simon Pegg and Nick Frost along for an extremely funny Q&A. Care to relive the evening with us? 

5:05pm: Hello Movie House! The double feature begins in two hours but I start lining up early since I heard the event (which remarkably is free – it’s a promotional event to market The World’s End) is overbooked. Also, I haven’t been to the Music Box in about four months, which is WAY too long and I just wanted to waft in its essence for some extra time. I’m about 50 people and three or four storefronts back from the entrance. Mike is en route, so I get to overhear some wonderful exchanges from fellow movies fans like myself while I wait. The best ones I heard were a guy telling his friends that when he was a kid, he would draw pictures on his assignments of (Sandlot?) Freddy Krueger killing his classmates and would get in trouble when he turned them in. He also told his mother that if she didn’t take him to see Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare when it was in theaters, they were going to have a problem. It was an utterly charming story. This man has a bright future. Another guy told a funny anecdote about how his mother read “Christian newspapers” and one called the movie Rush Hour “morally reprehensible” in their review. I chuckled to myself because I wondered what that paper wrote about Rush Hour 3.
5:45pm: Mike arrives and we begin to be let into the theater. I was thrilled for Mike because he only had to wait in the line for maybe 10 minutes this time to see Edgar Wright. The last time this happened to Mike was at San Diego Comic-Con with Adam Beta and he waited for HOURS and DIDN’T GET IN. So what I’m saying is – Alpha, Flawless Victory.
6:00pm: The next hour consists of Mike and I sitting in the theater basically doing an hour long un-recorded F Everything! discussion. So, you know, a conversation. Topics included 1) Upstream Color and the need to pay close attention while watching it, 2) The point we each discovered we were bigger Steven Soderbergh fans than we originally thought we were, 3) Who we want to get autographs from at the Chicago pop culture and horror conventions next weekend and 4) My vision for a great Superman movie (it includes a scene of Superman flying to the song "Run Like Hell" by Pink Floyd to encapsulate the “isn’t it great to be Superman?” joy the character is never allowed to express anymore, and also the tasteful opening shot of a topless Lois Lane brushing her teeth). In terms of tone, it will be a lot like the "Bound 2" song from Kanye West’s Yeezus album but, you know, about Lois & Clark. I want you as an audience to know what Superman is fighting for first before he throws down with Doomsday (away from innocent bystanders). My movie is going to be rated R and sexy, because I decided long ago as a filmmaker (in my brain) that what the MPAA might call "Sensuality/Nudity" is nothing to be embarrassed about. So that I’m not perceived as sexist, I’ll add dick shots in the Director’s Cut of my picture, which I’m calling Metropolis. I know that it’s the same title as Fritz Lang’s silent sci-fi classic, but mine will have the courage to have sound. Alpha, Flawless Victory.
7:05pm: Writer-Director Edgar Wright takes the stage to introduce Shaun of the Dead. You can tell almost immediately that Wright is genuinely a fan of his fans, and that sets the tone for the entire evening. It wasn’t a hipster thing at the event, but one of those rare occasions at a movie where it feels almost like a concert -- the artist is giving a lot of love to the crowd and the crowd is giving it right back. I’m not exaggerating when I say Mike and I were lucky to be sitting with the perfect audience for this double feature. To introduce the movie, Edgar Wright did a bit about how random the IMDB plot keywords are for most movies and used Shaun as an example. Among the most amusing was "answering machine" (which was great because the audience then cheered at every shot of an answering machine while Shaun of the Dead was playing), "Arab grocer," which Edgar Wright said is probably racist because the man is, in fact, Indian, "lifting someone into the air," and "the color red," which IMDB has Shaun of the Dead ranked on that list at #4 behind American Beauty, The Sixth Sense and Krzysztok Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Red.
7:15pm: Shaun of the Dead
Not a Wasted Moment: I’ve always liked Shaun of the Dead, but like all of Edgar Wright’s movies I’ve felt that the pacing is a little off. Are the movies too long? Why do they have that mid-way to ¾-of-the-way through drag? On this viewing of Shaun of the Dead, I was thrilled to notice I no longer feel that way and that’s because there is not a single wasted moment in this movie. What would you cut out? The movie works as comedy and horror, has wonderful moments of camaraderie which make it a great hangout movie and, most impressively, can shift tone at will while never seeming jarring. One moment is funny, the next is tragic and in a minute we’re laughing again. It takes a special filmmaker to be able to achieve that, and Edgar Wright is one of them. I think it can be said now that Shaun of the Dead is a horror-comedy on par with John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London (about which Edgar Wright is interviewed \in the book The Film That Changed My Life).

7 Word Review: Shaun only gets better with each viewing.
9:00pm:  The Funniest Q&A I’ve Ever Seen
It’s going to be hard to do justice to the Q&A in written form, so I’ll just list the best moments that I furiously wrote down in my little notebook. In no particular order:

  • The Chicago premiere of Shaun of the Dead took place at the 600 N. Michigan theater a couple of months before its official wide release. At the premiere, a man approached Edgar Wright and asked if he could take a picture with him. Wright said sure and asked the man what he thought of the movie. The man said, “Oh, I’m here to see Catwoman, but I saw a bunch of people were getting their picture taken with you.”
  • Simon Pegg (who in person seemed very sincere and not unlike his movie characters, extremely quick-witted) said he was offered a role in Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers and when he told Edgar Wright that he was going to take it, Wright said “No, you’re not,” because he wanted Shaun of the Dead to both be their first horror movie.
  • Edgar Wright said what he was trying to do with Shaun of the Dead was make a movie about how normal guys trapped in their own “silly bubble of importance” would handle a zombie apocalypse, as opposed to the George A. Romero movies where it focuses on a person defined by their profession like a scientist or government official.
  • Edgar Wright started to put together ideas for Shaun of the Dead based on inspiration drawn from playing the Resident Evil 2 video game.
  • Nick Frost (who in person is unbelievably funny, cultured and classy) said that he would handle a zombie apocalypse by locking himself inside a soccer stadium (which he described as “completely lockable”). He would use the field for crop growth and live in the luxury boxes. Frost said “I’m quite looking forward to it.” 
  • There was supposed to be a romantic interest in Hot Fuzz for Simon Pegg’s character, but that character was eventually taken out and all of the lines were given to Nick Frost’s character.
  • When asked about who would play Ant Man in Edgar Wright’s upcoming superhero movie, Simon Pegg said he would be the thorax, Nick Frost the abdomen and Cate Blanchett is going to be the head.
  • My friend Katie was one of the people in line to ask a question. She asked when Simon and Nick first noticed they had such good chemistry, to which they did a bit where they started answering at the same time. They said in their early 20s they became friends by drinking tea, getting high and watching X-Files box sets together. Simon became Nick’s roommate after Nick’s past roommate and he (Nick described himself and a sort of up-his-own-ass writer/author at the time) got into a fight and Nick told her “You can take everything, just leave me my books.” And so she did; Nick came back to the apartment to find only the books remaining and a shitty cupboard in which Simon used to hide. Nick said when he knew Simon was in there, he would slip in lit matches to scare him. The chemistry answer continued with Nick saying it’s a telepathic link (“I think some people would call it ‘Shining’”). He then turned to Simon and asked “you want some ice cream, doc?”
  • I had heard that The World’s End was the last chapter of the three flavors ‘Cornetto trilogy’ (along with Shaun and Hot Fuzz) but had no idea what that meant. I found out during the Q&A that Cornetto is the ice cream cone they eat in both movies. It the British equivalent of what we call a "Drumstick" ice cream cone in the U.S. The Cornetto thing (aka "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy") came about mid-way through Hot Fuzz, when they realized that if they put Cornetto ice cream into the movie they might get free ice cream at the premiere (which is what happened at the Shaun of the Dead premiere.) They also realized while shooting Hot Fuzz that the movies shared a sort of thematic link. They didn’t go into detail what that link was, but I see it as something to do with being adaptable when you’re a person trapped in a silly bubble of importance.
  • The three were asked what would be in a drink named after each of them (stupid fucking question). Edgar Wright began answering that he learned there is already a drink named after him and then the punk ass kid who asked the question interrupted him and was like “No, if you were making it…” at which point everyone in the theater booed him. The best answer came from Nick Frost: Bourbon, Champagne and a twist of Orange.
  • One of the people asking a question brought up Edgar Wright on Trailers from Hell and I think it was for a Mario Bava movie. Wright gamely began answering the very film school-ish question and when he mentioned "color palettes," Simon Pegg made loud snoring sounds into the microphone.
  • The next person who asked a question started by saying “….if I could have just 1/10 of your success…” Pegg was confused and jokingly replied “How would you quantify that?” But then the guy got to his question and it was a good one. It was to Edgar Wright. Marry-Fuck-Kill for Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman. Wright said Marry Simon Pegg, Kill Martin Freeman and Fuck Nick Frost “just once.”
  • Down the line of people asking questions was an American woman who at several times made a point of mentioning her "British husband." She was a Gwyneth. She mentioned how in her house, her husband makes her say British words. Pegg asked her if she was being held captive and said “You’re right by the exit, you should run.” Later, she mentioned her husband was 6’4” and Pegg asked “Does he just stand over you when you make Peach Cobbler?” She replied that he was a really good guy (but she was making him sound like such a prick) and that he paid for a bunch of people to attend their wedding in Ireland. Pegg asked “How many of your family went to the wedding?” She asked Edgar, Simon and Nick what their favorite desserts are and Nick said “Why are you all looking at me?” As the young woman went back to her seat, Simon said “I can hear chains clinking” into the mic.
  • When asked what movies scare each of them the most, the responses were: Edgar - anything with home invasions like High Tension, and that the preview for Gravity freaks him out because he’s afraid of being cut off in a spacewalk; Simon - The Exorcist, The Shining because of the tension building, and My Little Pony; Nick - The Omen, because he was born and raised Catholic and he thought the movie was a documentary (“I could get possessed at any moment”). Nick went on to say he heard most possessions happen by the time you’re 16, so when he turned that age he was like "Yes, I’m safe!"
  • One person asked if they could cross something off their bucket list and high five the three of them and they said of course. The guy did a full sprint and tripped on his way to the stage, practically face first. To his credit, he recovered quickly.
  • The Q&A closed with Edgar Wright introducing Hot Fuzz. He said it was shot in the town he grew up in as a kid and that a lot of it had to do with conspiracy theories about the area. He said his mom is a conspiracy enthusiast and he asked her if she would put together some information on secrets about the area. She did and gave him a 50-page volume she titled “Spooky Doings.” 
  • The character played by Timothy Dalton is based on the manager of a grocery store that Edgar Wright worked at when he was a teenager. The manager was “the least secretive Freemason of all-time” who basically would go up to Edgar Wright and be like, “You know, I went to a meeting last night.” Wright also expressed disappointment when he learned the secret meetings were held in plain, shitty conference rooms.
9:45pm: Fan-made super-cut trailer of the "Corenetto Trilogy."
9:50pm: Hot Fuzz
A great, big, bushy beard: Again, it might have been the audience, but I’ve never liked Hot Fuzz as much as I did at the double feature. It’s a movie that I liked at first but is also growing on me more and more. As I get older, I’m really romanticizing the early '90s action movie, and Hot Fuzz is tailor-made for that type of person. The last 30 minutes of the movie are pure bliss. I love this movie if for no other reason than it loves Point Break. And Timothy Dalton probably should have won an Oscar for this movie. Who won Best Supporting Actor that year? Javier Bardem, huh. Call it a tie. I’ll never not laugh at Nick Frost saying “Yeah, motherfucker.”

7 Word Review: AHHHHH! Because I love it so much.

11:50pm: The event ends. Mike and I leave. I thought about staying for the midnight show of Jurassic Park (I even wore my JP shirt) but I’m 31 years old and can’t stay up that late anymore on a work night even if I wanted to. Plus, I just ate popcorn for dinner and feel like hitting up the White Castle for Jalepeno cheeseburgers. On the way out, Mike and I talk briefly about having major movie blue balls over needing to wait three weeks to see The World’s End and how I’m going to watch Scott Pilgrim vs. the World this weekend to make up for it.

Thank you to Mike Pomaro for joining me, Capone at Ain’t It Cool News for sponsoring the contest to win tickets to the event, the legendary Music Box Theatre for hosting another classic moviegoing experience and especially to  Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for whipping my already legitimate fandom into a frenzy.
If you feel happier than a duck throwing money after reading this column, then I have succeeded in making you feel like you were there.

Good night, movie house!


  1. I'm jealous.

    I have the Catch-22 of never participating in audience Q & As because I couldn't think of a question or I was afraid that I would come off as an asshole, or worse. Then, after the fact, I would think of a great question and kick myself.

    1. I completely agree. I can never think of anything important enough to ask at a Q&A to put myself out there in front of a room full of people.

      I have a running joke with Patrick that I want to ask every celebrity only one thing: Did Mookie do the right thing?

    2. That's fantastic, and now I want a Hall of Kick-Ass column devoted only to celebrity answers to that question.

  2. The Music Box Theatre-- once again, the happiest place on earth.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. It was great being back at the Music Box. The last time I was there was seeing MacBeth with you. Once again, Orson Welles ruins everything. #PaulMassonCommercial

    3. Damn skippy JB. I was up in Chicago a couple weeks ago for business stuff and finally got myself over to the Music Box for a midnight screening of Pee Wee's Big Adventure, my god what a cool place, it's got that classic feel and people were interacting with the movie but in that totally positive way not the "oh look at me I am laughing during the scary parts of this cool horror movie I am a douchebag" way. I will definitely be going back soon.

  3. Can't wait for The World's End!

  4. Sounds like that was a good time and I can't wait for The World's End.

    I look forward to when Global Warming turns Halifax into like, New Miami and big stars (besides Tom Selleck who can't seem to get enough of it) actually hold events here.