“OMG, you haven’t seen John Dies At the End? You totally have to see it, like right now…” It’s not often that I stumble upon a movie that I fall instantly in love with. A flick that hits me in just the right spot, that combination of tone, music, screen presence, and engaging story that’s taken over the top and elevates a movie from “that was pretty cool” to well, “OMFG, I have to watch this again right now!” When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was swimming in a virtual ocean of flicks that brought me to that place, a sort of cinematic climax if you will, and had me bugging all my friends to jump in and take a swim with me. I’m not sure if it’s being at that age when you’re open to new experiences, less set in your ways and hungry for discovering what excites you about film, or if the late 80s and 90s was just a better time in terms of the production of great movies. Either way, these days I just don’t get excited the way I used to, and the dry patches between discoveries can be really frustrating. Sometimes you just have to get movie laid.
But let me back up a bit, back to that urge to become a movie pusher. “OMG, you haven’t seen, you totally have to see it, like right now…” It used to be tough not to literally force a friend to sit down, pry their eyes open ala A Clockwork Orange, and make them try and relive a cinematic experience that I loved so much. I have vivid memories of the day I first caught Bottle Rocket. I was working as a Drug/GM assistant manager at a local grocery store and part of the job was overseeing our small video rental counter on the weekends. Every month we’d get these heavy long tubes full of movie posters for advertising new releases and our particular store never put them out so I always had first dibs on taking them. I’d fallen in love with movies like Clerks, Reservoir Dogs, Killing Zoe, True Romance and Desperado, so when I saw the poster for Bottle Rocket I was intrigued. Could this be a cross between Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino?
I remember setting up the single copy our store had for rental, shrink wrapping the sleeve with the piece of Styrofoam inside to make sure it kept its shape, and then specifically not setting it out to rent. That tape went straight home with me that night. Whatever I had been expecting out of Wes Anderson’s first film, it wasn’t what was playing out on screen, reflected in my unblinking glassy eyeballs. I was in love. The film’s quirk, the attention to detail, the antithesis of the gun-wielding action that the poster has promised, it literally blew me away. When the Stones’ 2000 Man starting playing over the ridiculous heist gone wrong at the end of the film I knew that as soon as the flick was over I was going to rewind it and play the film again. I also knew I needed to get a yellow jumpsuit as soon as humanly possible. The following evening I brought the movie upstairs to my friend’s barely furnished bachelor apartment (we were in the same building at the time), and I forced him and another of our friends to watch the flick with me while we sat in green, molded-plastic lawn furniture and ate pizza off of a card table in the darkness with Bottle Rocket illuminating the room. They seemed to enjoy it, but I think I’d built it up way too much, and when I suggested we watch it a second time (my fourth in two days) they obviously declined.
I know that my enthusiasm for films and pushing them on friends has tended to have the opposite effect than I hoped. I know I’ve pushed people away from movies they probably would have enjoyed because I was a little ferocious in pimping them. What’s strange is that as the years have worn on, as my cinematic orgasms have become less and less frequent, I’ve found myself in that place where the hype of a new “instant classic” has put me off way more than encouraged me to sit down and screen a film. Twitter, facebook, and instagram have become these bullhorns that have kept me from watching films that I’ll probably enjoy. The sheer enthusiasm and outpouring of love typically kills the experience for me though, so I can now sympathize with what my friends used to put up with from me. I’ve found that it takes me months and even years to finally catch some otherwise amazing movies because I feel the need to distance myself from the cacophony of “OMG. You. Need. To. See. This!” Which brings me back to a little film called John Dies At the End. I’m having a hard time not busting out with the “OMFG…” rhetoric. Like Drive and Let the Right One In before it, JDatE is a film I’ve been purposely ignoring for almost a year.
I finally sat down and watched it last night, and well, “OMG, you haven’t seen John Dies at the End? You totally have to…” Well, you get the idea. I’m doing my best not to just become another voice in the chorus, but let me just say that if you’re a fan of Buckaroo Banzai, Naked Lunch, Big Trouble in Little China, or, um, House II, you’ll probably enjoy John Dies at the End. Now, stick it on your Netflix queue and forget about it for a while. Hopefully someday in the near-ish future you’ll be as blown away by it as I was.