Philadelphia. Friday, 1:00 PM EST
So, here’s the thing: I don’t like flying. And yes, I know it’s safe. I know the statistics. I know the probabilities. But forgive me for not doing math while I’m 30,000 feet in the air, hurtling through open space in a giant Pringles can at 550 miles per hour. I can’t help it. I’m constantly walking through airports fighting visions of catastrophic mechanical failures and those yellow oxygen things that drop down from overhead.
But it’s F This Movie Fest! You get on the damn plane. I try to calm down by making conversation with a chatty couple in the row next to me after noticing that the guy is wearing a Mets cap.
“Hey, you guys coming from New York?” I ask, apparently a giant asshole.
A long, awkward pause, and then:
So much for that. But screw ‘em. They’re Mets fans.
Chicago. Friday, 6:00 PM CST
Patrick picks me up from my hotel and we head to a screening of John Wick: Chapter 2. I meet Riske, JB, Jan, and Mike Pomaro in person for the first time. They demand to see my Diamond Sapphire AMC Stubs Rewards card before offering any kind of greeting, and after I fail to produce one, they push past me and into the theater.
I’m kidding. They’re all lovely people and we enjoyed the fuck out of that movie.
Chicago. Friday, 9:00 PM CST
I like a good orange chicken bowl, but I like listening to Riske and JB argue about Titanic way more. We’re in the back of a pretty cool Thai place (though, no joke, they made Patrick prepare his own dinner), and the two of them are going at it over the value of melodrama in historical reenactments. I’m falling more on Riske’s side of things; all based-on-a-true-story films take liberties, and while Titanic’s dialogue and characters are mostly fucking garbage, its technical prowess is hard to deny. James Cameron is a giant douchebag who knows how to make movies.
Then again, JB paid for my meal, so he was right. Titanic sucks.
Rosie Bromley loves Skittles. Like, she loves Skittles so much that it makes YOU love Skittles. So I’m having some Skittles and dutifully watching as she shows off her newest ballet moves. They rule, of course, and so now I’m all hyped up for the Fest. As we settle into Patrick and Erika’s amazing screening room, JB holds court on a number of topics and Jan brings in this year’s themed cuisine: Mighty Fine Cereal Flakes, Dutch Apple Pie, and the like. It’s all delicious, and Patrick sets up a themed playlist of 1987 music videos to set the mood.
And then it hits me: this is actually happening.
Chicago, Saturday, 1:30 PM CST
F This Movie Fest is very different from my couch than it is from the friendly confines of FTM HQ. For one thing, you get to hear everyone giggle when they read a funny tweet and know exactly which one it is before anyone says it out loud. For another, it’s often totally dark and totally silent, which seems at first antithetical to the whole enterprise, but actually serves a much more solemn purpose than I originally considered: it preserves the experience of watching and loving a movie. It allows us to be interconnected without interrupting the intimacy of the moviegoing experience. We all get to feel our feelings and think our thoughts before we offer them up to the rest of the world.
It’s the best, you guys. The best.
|Pictured: At least seven people.|
It’s during the short break between Predator and Raising Arizona that I start to feel comfortable enough to make jokes and ask questions. I’ve been trying desperately to stay in my lane, to accept my role as The New Guy and just go with the flow without making assumptions or overstepping my bounds. But everyone is so goddamn friendly that I can’t help but feel like part of the team. Patrick and Erika bound from one end of the house to the other trying to maintain domestic order while simultaneously catering to a bunch of layabouts who just want to see Nic Cage’s hayseed mustache in HD. I chat with Mike and snack on Jan’s guacamole while looking for somewhere to plug in my phone.
Yeah, I’m the asshole who didn’t bring his laptop. What was I thinking?
Chicago, Saturday, 7:30 PM CST
If I’m being honest, I was in kind of an emotional valley after Raising Arizona ended. H.I.’s final monologue is just so beautiful: “It seemed real. It seemed like us,” and all that. I missed my son back in Philadelphia.
But RoboCop just rules so hard. And honestly, it’s not something I grew up on. It was Before My Time, but I learned early on that you always make time for Verhoeven. Erika’s finest moments were scattered throughout those 109 minutes, and we all agreed that her newfound enthusiasm for gratuitous violence was both hilarious and inspirational. She and Patrick are shmoopy as hell, you guys, and nothing beats being in the room when someone watches Alex Murphy protect and serve for the first time.
After all, isn’t that the whole point?
Chicago, Saturday, 9:15 PM CST
Holy shit, you guys! SHANE FUCKING BLACK shouted us out during The Monster Squad! You guys know. You were there. Wasn’t that great? Isn’t our little community of movie lovers just the MOST BESTEST? The movie ends and we all decompress a bit. Riske and I discuss plans for a potential visit to Philly, which I decide to hold him to for the rest of the weekend.
It’s time for the podcast now, and, as I was warned, I’m totally slap-happy. All those Skittles are making me spastic and my eyeballs feel like I just passed Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite. But we do it and it goes well and I’m so, so, SO lucky to be where I am in this place and at this time.
I stare at my hotel room ceiling for an hour or so. You guys know that feeling, that thing I imagine addicts go through on the regular. We go through it every year when the tweet storm finally dies. Withdrawal, I guess. It’s bad in the best of circumstances. It’s worse when you’re completely alone, 800 miles from your nice warm bed and everyone you love.
Then again, maybe I’m not as far as I think.
|“Refresh, damnit! Refresh!”|
Patrick points out some Chicago landmarks on the way to the airport as I furtively dig my heels into the floor of his car. Maybe I’ll get stuck here and he and Erika will have to adopt me, I think. We pull up to the terminal and I babble my way through a sincere thank you.
“This meant the world to me, man. Thank you so much.”
“Get the hell out of my car and go back where you came from,” Patrick hissed.
Somewhere Over Ohio, Sunday, 2:00 EST
The flight is easier this time. I want to see my son and drive my car. I want to lay in my bed and write all this out. I want to tell you all about what a fun, cathartic experience this has all been. It’s been a hard year, but finding family in the things you love has a way of making things feel right again. You’ve felt that before, right?
Sure you have.