Monday, November 29, 2010

Poker haul

I was at a friend's house on Friday night for a poker game. He's been hosting Friday night poker games about once a month since the first one in July. For the purposes of this post, we'll call him "the host."

Even though it was Thanksgiving, the host decided to have a poker game this past Friday because another friend of ours, who used to live here, was in town from Seattle. Only one from the normal poker group had been out of town for Thanksgiving, and the rest were able to make it, plus two others, including the visitor. So we had seven, and it was a fun night. I won $8, but it would have been more like $25 if I'd quit at my peak.

But it's not my financial winnings I'm here to talk about today. In fact, it was at the point that the host started throwing a DVD on the pot at the beginning of each new hand that things really got interesting.

And funny as hell. See, these were not DVDs anyone really wanted. We wanted to win them, because it would be funny later on to tell someone you won _________ in a poker game. But actually wanting to watch them? That was a different story.

The fun started when the host appeared with a perfectly random example of the type of perfectly awful movie someone would throw onto the pot to increase its value by exactly nothing: Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Can't remember how the host said he came to own Dracula: Dead and Loving It, but it was still in its packaging. I haven't seen the movie, but it came up recently in conversation and I knew it was something I was probably going to see eventually. Plus, it had a perfect kind of kitschiness to it. So I angled hard for it, but I just didn't have the cards.

Next up was Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. This I've seen, and I actually have limited affection for it. It too had just the right tawdry kitschiness to show up in this environment, as an extension of the host's sense of humor. It too went to someone else.

Then it was time for what seemed like the ironic prize of the evening, at least so far: American Pie Presents Band Camp. Much laughter was had by all, and the deliciously ridiculous synopsis was read off the back of the DVD package. I think this was before there started to be one American Pie straight-to-DVD sequel per year, and I thought it would be funny as hell to win it. But I didn't.

When the fourth movie came up, I finally had the cards. I don't remember what my winning hand was, but I do remember the movie, in all its schlocky glory: Michael Bay's Bad Boys II. I've seen Bad Boys II -- it's one of a handful of sequels I've seen without having seen the original. (I don't think I was confused, ha ha.) But as I was holding it in my hand, still dizzy from the thrill of victory, I looked at the cover and thought "My God, I never want to see this movie again. In fact, I don't even want it as part of my collection." I tried to trade it for Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, but that guy was having none of it.

The fifth and final movie thrown into the pot was perhaps the campiest of all: Killer Klowns from Outer Space. I have not seen it and I did not win it.

But I did come home with it. Because as the game finished up, it became clear that almost no one wanted the booby prizes they'd won over the course of the evening. And so it was that Dracula: Dead and Loving It, American Pie Presents Band Camp and Killer Klowns from Outer Space found their way over to my collection of DVDs, now a pile alongside my piles of chips. The guy who'd won Charlie's Angels wanted to hold onto it I guess.

But that was just the start of my pile. Because then the host came in with another armful of DVDs, this one mostly screeners he'd gotten and watched, or gotten and decided he was never going to watch. Looking for a good opportunity to pare down his excess collection, I guess. And as he started going through them, there was almost nothing I wouldn't take. I say "almost nothing" -- I did reject a few of them. But here are the ones I didn't reject:

Antwone Fisher - Haven't seen it, but liked the other movie Denzel Washington directed, The Great Debaters.

Little Miss Sunshine - Like it but don't love it, and will probably watch it again eventually.

In Good Company - Again, like it but don't love it. Funny, I actually watched this same screener with the host a couple years ago -- it's how I saw the movie the first time.

Seabiscuit - Really liked it at the time, worth an additional viewing I'm sure.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico - Have not seen it, heard it's not very good.

The Manchurian Candidate - Jonathan Demme's remake. Actually liked it pretty well and will probably watch it again, now that I own it.

Notes on a Scandal - Liked it a lot, probably wouldn't have felt the desire to watch it again, but probably will now.

And so it was that my DVD collection increased by 11 movies on Friday night ... maybe three of which I'm actually proud of owning.

But I missed out on some of the best DVDs of the evening, precisely because I was taking all the crap. The guy who held onto his copy of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (I'm saying that as though he's a bad person) got the copy of Minority Report -- having just taken about six DVDs in a row, I didn't think I had the right to assert my interest in it. There was another one that fell into this category, but I don't remember what it was. Then after we'd already moved to the other room, the host came out with Inception, which he'd already received as an early screener this year, though it was vacuum-sealed just like a store-bought copy. Another guy got this one, but almost felt guilty about it, and when I teased him by asking if I could take it, he almost gave it to me. I do actually want to see Inception again, but I wasn't going to deny this guy his one piddly DVD, especially since he hadn't won a single hand of poker all evening.

The biggest prize of the evening, however, is something I'll have to wait for. The host has also already received his screener copy of Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, which doesn't hit theaters until just before Christmas. My eyes really grew big when I saw that one -- it's a movie I'm definitely planning to see in the theater. But his fiancee and he haven't watched it yet, so we will have to bide our time. I love Sofia Coppola's work, so maybe I owe her a theatrical viewing anyway. But it would be fun for my wife and I to watch this together, so the ease of borrowing the screener may win out.

And until I get my hands on it, I've got Dracula, Killer Klowns and horny teenage campers to tide me over.

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