In which our exhausted reporter loses track of time and space but gets her very own Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D spelunking head lamp.
The longer a person stays in Vegas, the more it starts to mess with your head. By the latter days of ShoWest 2008, as I walked the path to and fro my ultra-deluxe lodgings at the TravelLodge, conveniently located between the henna tattoo parlor and the 7-11, I found myself thinking a lot about the girls, each displaying their own unique brand of naked, featured on the infinite number of handbills littering the sidewalk. Mostly I found myself thinking about their parents, wondering how many of them looked at their sweet baby girl and thought, "Someday I hope she grows up to have pictures of her lovely birthday suit clog the sewers of Las Vegas."
But this is such a totally downer thought to have, completely unworthy of Vegas. Have another tequila squishy and fuhgettaboutit!
This was actually the second time in my life I've been to Vegas, and both times, in fact, I was there on business. The first time was for an educational media conference; essentially a group of teachers, librarians, and educational media purveyors gathering to explore the exciting world of educational documentary. The first evening of the conference I showed up at the scheduled "meet and greet" cocktail party to find the lobby empty and nothing but the dregs of some wine in a box, potato chip crumbs, and some wilted broccoli and congealing ranch dip. Eventually I found the rest of the attendees in another part of the hotel sitting politely in attendance at a new educational Holocaust documentary. That was actually kind of a high point of the conference (don't get me started on the ants in my room), and I think it's fair to say I was looking forward to an opportunity to replace the painful memories of that experience with something a little more, how you say, not shit.
Naked handbills aside, mission accomplished! By day three I have seen so many movies (none involving the life cycle of the salamander), accumulated so many free t-shirts, eaten at so many free buffets, and still found time to buy some new shoes and see Cirque du Soleil, that I am quite convinced that Vegas is the happiest place on earth. Plus, there are no ants in my room.
One thing I did find fascinating about ShoWest was the utter absence of discussion about DVD, Blu-ray or any of the home movie formats. In fact, the entire week I was there I only heard one studio exec speak in enthusiastic terms about DVD. During Universal Studio's sneak peek at upcoming trailers, their rep mentioned the phenomenal success of Hellboy in DVD as a major factor in the decision to produce Hellboy 2. I don't know that it's surprising, exactly, that to speak of the DVD market to a crowd of movie theater owners is somehow an anathema, but it is a bit surreal. It cannot possibly be a secret to anyone that studios make most of their money in DVD resale nowadays, but except for the crazy exec from Universal, the home movie market is clearly the business that must not speak its name.
One message that the studios clearly wanted to send to our nation's theater owners was the promise of more "event" type movies: 3D, monster special effects, and IMAX — all the sorts of things that will, they hope, encourage people to leave the comfort of their homes to go see a movie in a theater. I mean, even if you can don those funky cardboard 3D spectacles at home to watch a 3D DVD, it's still not the same experience as sitting in a theater watching an actual dinosaur-sized dinosaur try to eat you. At least, this is the theory.
And thus I found myself at the sneak preview screening of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D. Considering the screening was at 11 a.m., I had not availed myself of any tequila squishies before hand, although I suspect the same cannot be said for Brendan Frasier, on hand to introduce the flick to us. First he rambled at length about how the audience shouldn't just pay attention to the three-dimensional parts of the picture, but what was going on, you know, in the back, at the back of the screen, the fourth part, in the background. Then he suddenly stopped speaking and announced, "I think I should stop talking now," with that self-preserving certainty that anyone who has ever been on a bender would recognize. Hopefully someone explained to him later that depth is, in fact, one of the dimensions being referred to in "3D".
Journey to the Center of the Earth is absolutely without question in 3D. It is also a well made, special effects laden, family friendly adventure flick. It works hard to be a respectful if not literal translation of the Jules Verne classic. The premise of this version is, in part, that the work of Jules Verne was actually fact, not science fiction, and so the adventurers to the center of the earth use the book like a Fodor's guide to get themselves around. This also, and I hope I'm not ruining anyone's experience here, allows them to end the movie with the next sequel already in place, as the Brendan Frasier character reaches for another title in the series of Jules Verne's Extraordinary Adventures.
I have to admit though that I felt something missing, or rather more accurately, I didn't really feel anything at all during this movie. It was fine, but it wasn't great. It had compelling scenes and starling special effects, but nothing specific that I can remember. There was a little humor, but not as much as was needed. The whole thing felt just a little more serious and a little less fun than this sort of experience ought to be. But Frasier was right, there were some very cool things going on in the background. And, at the end of the movie we all received what was possibly the most eccentric promotional swag of the entire show: a Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D head lamp, which will undoubtedly come in useful during all of my… um… never.
Random Thing Overheard at ShoWest: "So that's probably the last movie New Line will ever put out."
"Yeah, that's totally crazy."
"Just three years ago they were top of the world with the Lord of the Rings stuff, and now with the Golden Compass they're out."
"That's the way this town works, man."
(Intrepid reporter here. I personally would argue that New Line's fall had more to do with getting themselves sued by almost every party involved with Lord of the Rings, including the Tolkien estate, than it does with The Golden Compass. To you I say this. To strangers in the hall, I just mutely eavesdrop.)
The big event for day three was the world premier of the movie 21. All week long the marquee of Planet Hollywood was trumpeting the red carpet premier, and ShoWest attendees had passes to both the film screening and the premier party afterwards. Unfortunately for me, day three was also the day that I hit my wall of complete exhaustion. If I had to do it over again, I might have skipped the Jules Verne 3D experience for an afternoon of resting up at the ultra deluxe TravelLodge, but sense was something I was beginning to not have any of. So at approximately 6 p.m. I found myself sitting in Bally's Paris trying to decide if I should run to make the movie screening, then run back to my hotel and change and then run to the premier party, or if I should go to the hotel and change now and then run all over, or should I perhaps, maybe, not actually go to the movie and maybe just go rest myself for the strenuous task of premier partying ahead. I chose D.
Thus it was that I ended up at the premier party for 21 without seeing the movie, which on the one hand made me feel guilty and on the other made me feel very cosmopolitan and Hollywood-esque. The party was kickin', man. All those notions that you have about a big Hollywood premier party? Yeah, they're totally true. Here's the burger bar, and here are the fist sized prawns and oysters on ice, and over here we have the tacos, and the goat cheese pizza. For reasons I don't really understand, but perhaps would if I'd seen the movie, over here we have the complete turkey dinner with all the fixins. And everywhere you turn are line-free open bars which are real bars and not the usual "Bud or wine from a box" open bar to which I am generally accustomed.
Over there is where we have the special blackjack tables where you can play real blackjack with fake 21 promotional chips. What's that up there? That's the room-surrounding platform for the pole-dancing go-go girls. And those are the banners for the trapeze girls to swing on. And let us not forget the dance floor. But of course the most important part of the room is over there. The section that looks exactly like the rest of the room, except for the fact that it's cordoned off with red velvet ropes? Yeah, that's where the people of fame will be displayed.
I have the good fortune to run into some very cool people right away: April, a school teacher from Vegas and her friend Mark the actor. (Yes, THAT Mark!) I like Mark and April because they are dancers, and there's nothing that I dislike more than a perfectly awesome dance floor surrounded by a lot of people too cool to dance. April also teaches me that even though the bars are open, the bartenders still make most of their dough from tips, something people often fail to leave when the booze is free. So we start tipping the bartenders generously and find, as we do, that our drinks are getting progressively stronger. (Oh my, this margarita is perfectly clear. Beware open flame.)
People of fame, including Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne, arrive to mingle in the red velvet rope section and then leave. The red velvet rope section remains packed with people of non-fame who, despite their utter anonymity, must be really important, due to their location behind the red velvet rope. (And when I say "important", I'm reasonably certain I mean Sony's third lead accountant and possibly even some gaffers.) At one point April and I spot an unguarded opening in the rope and decided to seize the moment to be anonymously important, behind the rope people. As April and I enter, we are immediately accosted by one of the velvet rope denizens who, by the way, is not even remotely hot enough to get either of us, tells us this is a super special section for super special people and we need to leave it immediately. Whatever, Sony's third lead accountant dude.
So to the dance floor it is, and we shake our moneymakers like the good Lord made us and generally shame the rest of the dancing party with our hot selves and have ourselves a good old fashioned hell of a time. We do this until one of our fellow party attendees, for reasons known only to himself and perhaps the piňa colada he was drinking, decided he wanted to do a back flip over the back of the sofa, which caused him to kick over a table and smash several booze-filled glasses all over the floor. We weren't actually drunk enough to dance on broken glass and, me being a librarian and April being a teacher, we both immediately began tidying up pieces of broken glass until a staff person with lawsuit fear in his heart rushed over and shooed us away with a mop.
Our drunk, back-flipping friend kept telling us over and over again how sorry he was that he messed up our dancing, cuz we were obviously having such a good time. He was so pitiful, I wanted to hug him, but hugging strangers is one of my warning signs of over-inebriation, so I held it in check. Drunk the back flipper darted away and returned with two flowers he swiped from one of the table vases and gives them to April and me. Recognizing the perfect end to a perfect evening, I stick the flower in my decolleté and head back to the ultra deluxe TravelLodge for a few hours rest.
I actually saw Drunk the back flipper the next day at the Universal sneak peek previews. I tried to catch his eye, but then thought better of it. He was wearing his power suit with his hair slicked back, gripping his briefcase like it was a life preserver. He had something like a smile on his face but his eyes, oh, his eyes were all about maintaining. "I am okay. I will not ralph. I am not still drunk. I am okay. I will not ralph. I am not still drunk. As long as no one sits next to me with a tuna fish sandwich, I am okay. I will not ralph. I am most certainly not still drunk. Oh shit, my boss is already here, but that's okay, cuz I am okay… Please God, let no one have a tuna fish sandwich."
Universal and Warner Brothers both have sneak peek programs on the final day featuring trailers of their summer blockbuster slate. It's a little strange since none of the films they're featuring (like Speed Racer or the new Batman) are going to have any problems finding theaters to carry them, but I interpret it as something like a reward or treat: look, you get to see this trailer before anyone else in the world. Goody for us all!
One of my favorite parts of the conference is listening to the Universal rep discuss The Incredible Hulk. He speaks at length about how excited they are to maximize the full potential of this rich character, all of which feels like a delightful way of saying, "Please join us in completely forgetting the fact that we tried this less than five years ago. This time around we promise not to f*** it up." The really exciting part of the Warner Brothers presentation was that George Lucas himself was there to introduce the new animated feature Star Wars: The Clone Wars. A couple of people have asked me what he looks like in person. Well, the truth of it is, and I mean this with absolutely no disrespect, he looks like an Ewok. He looks like an extremely important, very powerful, highly respected Ewok. And he looks exactly like George Lucas.
That evening I have the good fortune at the closing banquet to find a table with some nice people including a guy named Jon, at ShoWest promoting his new company BluePod Media, which sounds pretty cool. Our hosts for the evening are Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell from Access Hollywood. Jon, who is from Great Britain, asks me if they are people of fame here in America since they are, obviously, a complete mystery to him. I sadly concur that yes, they are people of fame, who got famous for talking to other people of fame. Ow, my head.
More authentic people of fame are acknowledged and awarded not even remotely pretend awards. Seth Rogen is funny. Abigail Breslin is a cutie patootie. An apparently more sober Brendan Frasier receives the "Distinguished Decade of Achievement in Film" award although, as he points out, he technically started working about 15 years ago, but you could probably get ten good years out of that. Sarah Jessica Parker wears a dress that is so short she must hold it down in back to climb to the podium. I respect, absolutely, the right of all women to wear fabulous clothes, even mini-skirts if their legs will support them, but no skirt should be so short that a woman can't easily climb the stairs to the awards podium. That is just bad fashion.
I am enjoying myself, even giving up all pretense of cool and pulling out my camera to take lots of pictures, most of which come out looking like very tiny people standing very far away who might or might not seem vaguely familiar. Then, just as my hug impulse the evening before warned me it was time to go, I heard the tolling of midnight in the words of Christopher Nolan, there to accept a directing award, who acknowledged that there in the audience with him that evening was his dear friend Christian Bale.
With those words, I realized it was time for Cinderella to exit ballroom and go pack. It wasn't what I WANTED to do of course. What I WANTED to do was to roam the aisles of the ballroom calling "Christian… Christian my love… my darling… I'm here!" I wanted to find him and blind him with my camera flash, then announce to him, ever articulately, "Oh my god! Oh my god! You're Christian Bale! You're totally Christian Bale! I love you! I totally love you! I'm like, your biggest fan. Well, I mean, not literally your biggest fan. I mean, I hope I'm not your biggest fan. I know I've put on a few pounds lately but seriously, I'm not that big. But, I mean, I totally love all your work. I've always loved you, even before you became famous. I've seen like, ALL, your movies. Even the ones where you lost a bunch of weight and didn't look so hot, so I mean, my love for you is totally not based on superficiality. It's totally deep. I mean dude, I've seen Newsies, okay? I mean, has your WIFE seen Newsies?" At which point I would be tackled and dragged out by security.
But instead I packed up my camera and wandered back to the ultra deluxe TravelLodge which really is very conveniently located between the henna tattoo parlor and the 7-11. I'd totally recommend it. There are no ants at all.Powered by Sidelines