Thursday, September 3, 2009

World's Greatest Dad survives world's worst smell

We were supposed to see Mike Judge's Extract last night. It doesn't come out until Friday, but my wife gets emails from a variety of sources inviting her and a guest to free advanced screenings. Since these invites aren't particularly exclusive, we've taken to responding only for those we consider geographically advantageous. The memories are still too fresh from The Great Juno Debacle of 2007, when we trudged all the way up to Hollywood, waited in an incredibly long line, and then were the first people not admitted to the screening. After that we decided we'd limit ourselves to only screenings within 15 minutes of our house.

Well, if Michael Cera movies used to be the thing to avoid (we also got shut out of Superbad under similar circumstances), now, apparently, it's Jason Bateman movies. Bateman appeared alongside Cera in the aforementioned Juno, and he appears in Extract as well. (J.K. Simmons could also be the common factor in those two films). Not that we'd know any of this, because we got shut out again last night.

It wasn't so agonizing for me personally -- I got held up at work, so my wife staked out our place in line for a full half-hour before I even got there. But I did feel a good share of agony for a different reason: I thought we were getting in for sure, so it was painful as hell to just stand there, wondering why we hadn't been let into the theater yet. See, a guy had walked down the line, counting off numbers in his head and pointing a corresponding forefinger at each of us. He got at least ten people past us before he told the rest of the line they could go home. This inspired me with confidence that we'd made the cut-off, when in fact, we'd only made the cut-off for people who had the possibility of getting in. Turns out we missed actual entrance by at least ten people, so it was a fool's paradise the whole time.

Anyway, this is my long story for explaining how we ended up seeing Bobcat Goldthwait's World's Greatest Dad -- for a combined twenty-five bucks, rather than a combined zero bucks -- instead.

I don't make much of an effort to see Robin Williams movies these days -- and really, who does -- but I am intrigued by Goldthwait, the former screechy comedian who's transformed himself into a director with a unique perspective. I liked Shakes the Clown pretty well, and then was really impressed by Sleeping Dogs Lie, which sensitively tackled the aftermath of a nice young woman's impulsive decision to give oral sex to a dog. If you don't believe me that a movie like this could be anything but tawdry, give it a watch.

World's Greatest Dad continues Goldthwait's tradition of taking subject matter that just seems so wrong, and then somehow making it sensitive and thoughtful. (Whereas Tom Green might use the same subject matter to poke a stick in the eye of good taste). I won't tell you too much about the movie, because most of its synopses already say too much. I was blissfully ignorant about it coming in, and I think that's why I liked it as much as I did.

But not quite as much as my wife, who surprises me sometimes. Not that my wife is at all squeamish with her subject matter -- she's much more likely, for example, to watch movies about serial killers than I am. But it surprised me to learn first that she'd even seen Sleeping Dogs Lie (we were dating when we both saw it, but apparently, neither of us ever mentioned seeing it to the other), and second, that she'd liked it enough to prioritize World's Greatest Dad on her "must see" list. Not having known Goldthwait from his acting career, which consisted mostly of 1980s comedies like One Crazy Summer and the second through fourth Police Academy movies, my wife was primed and ready for World's Greatest Dad on the basis only of Sleeping Dogs Lie, and an interesting interview she'd heard with the man on NPR.

Knowing these things, I forfeited my chance to select In the Loop, which I wanted to see slightly more, and which was playing in the comfy couch theater. I longed for the comfiness of those couches, which I hadn't gotten to experience (for one reason or another) in over two years, especially since I already felt exhausted from two long days in a row. But dang it, I'm a softy, so World's Greatest Dad it was.

I guess that makes it somewhat appropriate that my wife had to sit next to the smelly old people.

I've told you before that this theater is frequented by old people. Usually, their biggest problem is their inability (or unwillingness) to control their impulse to randomly vocalize their thoughts. Last night, however, it was their smell.

I caught a whiff of it not long after I'd sat down, though I couldn't immediately identify its source. I thought it might be the young couple to my left, whose age would suggest good hygiene, but whose appearance suggested a possibility of hygiene cluelessness. To be fair, my sniffer has been more or less on the fritz for about nine days, since I first started feeling sick, so in a way it was probably a miracle that I even smelled the odor at all. Then again, that also gives you an idea how strong it must have seemed to someone with normally functioning olfactory glands.

And what was this smell? Lord, who knows. Foot cheese? Depend undergarments? Weird old-person skin lotion from the 1940s? It could have been any or all of them combined. All I can tell you is that it was pungent, and that it tended to waft.

For about the first half-hour, the smell went unacknowledged between my wife and me. But eventually I looked over and saw that she had her hand covering her nose. I asked her if she wanted to move, a question she repeated to me (when I also covered my nose) some 20 minutes later. I guess in retrospect, maybe my wife did want to move, but needed my validation of the scenario in order to convert that desire into action. But neither of us took the other's suggestion at the time it was offered -- perhaps assuming that the other viewed moving as an inconvenience -- so we sat there, basting in the rotting body chemicals from the people next door.

The amazing thing was that my wife loved the movie. Even as tortured as she was by the neighboring stench, and even though it required her to hold a hand to her face for much of the second half of the movie, it did not affect her enjoyment in this slightest. She used this as proof of just how great World's Greatest Dad truly was.

Me, I was just glad, for the first time in nine days, to have a partially broken sniffer.

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