Friday, December 11, 2015

Vance 1, Australian Release Dates 0

Every year, some of the most critically acclaimed releases are lost to my personal oblivion by coming out in Australia after the date I close my rankings.

This year, I've been able to rescue at least one of them.

Lenny Abrahamson's Room came out in the U.S. back on October 16th, but for some reason it hasn't been scheduled for release in Australia until the 28th of January. That's two weeks after I say sayonara to 2015 -- which only really means that I'll try to wait a couple months before watching another 2015 movie, and won't be able to rank that movie among my official rankings.

But I was able to get Room in before the deadline -- a month before the deadline -- by attending a critics screening last night.

Of course, it wasn't easy. In fact, in the end it was a pretty hard-fought victory that came perilously close to defeat.

First I had to get my editor at the website a list of these titles I'm otherwise going to miss, which includes things like The Hateful Eight and Spotlight, in the hopes that he'd think of me for the advanced screening of one of those films. He's already reviewed The Danish Girl, which doesn't come out until January 21st, so I know they're doing these screenings pretty far ahead of time. As luck would have it, he was already scheduled to go to a Room screening on December 10th. This was about December 3rd, and he said he'd see if he could get me in as well. (He always had the option of getting me in as his +1, though I didn't mention that to him at the time.)

So he got me in. But then the issue was that my wife was already scheduled to be out that night, a holiday dinner with some friends. I didn't want a case of poor timing to allow Room to slip through my fingers, so I got on to thinking about a babysitter.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law was free and was all too eager to spend the evening with her two nephews. She's a good egg.

But the timing was still going to be cutting it fine, as they say here. The screening started at 6:30, but it was back downtown -- and not only downtown, but south of the river. (Knowing you probably have no idea about Melbourne's geography, I'll just leave you to imagine how far away "south of the river" might be.) Leaving work at 5, I'd have to pick my kids up from school at 5:30 and do the hand-off with my sister-in-law in that half-hour window before I needed to leave at 6. That would ordinarily be plenty of time, but it's been a couple months since she babysat and I knew I needed to go over everything again so as to leave her feeling confident and to have the peace of mind I would need myself.

As it turned out, she got there a lot earlier than the 5:45 she had projected -- a full 20 minutes earlier. I wasn't even back with the kids yet, in fact. So this downshifted my otherwise stimulated nerves into a more relaxed state. And excess relaxation means a slower pace and a more casual approach to things in general.

So by the time I'd cooked up their dinner and reminded her of all the basics -- things I could have either handed off to her or done a lot quicker if I'd felt rushed -- I hadn't taken a bit of advantage of her early arrival. I still didn't make it out the door until 6, at which point I had what should have been sufficient time -- a half-hour to cover a distance that should take no more than 15 minutes.

When there's no traffic, that is.

Traffic is a consideration for us nowadays, because as of about six weeks ago, we have a car. I don't think I bothered to tell you about this on the blog -- I mean, what am I going to do, list my top five movies about people acquiring cars? (Actually, that's not bad.) But indeed, we inherited it from my generous father-in-law, who decided it would be better served with us than as a trade-in on his new car. This has opened up new worlds of possibilities for us, and means the days of awkwardly pushing strollers up the steps of trams are in the past.

The screening space for Room was far enough way that the car was the first option that occurred to me. I say "first" because riding my bike did also occur to me. But I ruled out the bike, not because it would be impractical in some way (in fact the trip there would be mostly downhill, and I frequently ride home much later at night than 8:30), but simply because I could rule it out. I have a car, the screening space has a parking lot (or "car park"), and dammit, adults who can drive should.

Of course, I didn't properly consider -- though I well and truly should have -- that Spencer Street would be an absolute nightmare at this time of night. I shouldn't have remembered that from driving, but I certainly should have remembered that from riding my bike, as I've had occasion to take this route on my bike -- during rush hour -- a half-dozen times. But the optimist in me won out, so I took off in our car.

That's when Spencer Street -- the most direct way to get to the theater, and a route I'd have to contend with one way or another, no matter what other way I tried to go -- happened.

Spencer Street killed me to such an extent that I knew drastic measures would be necessary. When it had taken me ten minutes to go something like four blocks, and I was still more than a mile away from the screening room, and it was 6:20, I made the command decision to ditch my car. You know, like the good old days, when the line of cars getting into a rock concert was at a total standstill, and your only option was to hoof it. Fortunately, that full fecklessness of youth was not necessary, as the side street I chose actually had an available parking space that seemed to be perfectly legal. So I did ditch that car, hoping that the single word I had texted to my editor as a joke about five minutes earlier -- "Stall" -- might actually be heeded.

The good news was that the first two-thirds of the trip would be downhill, and then it would flatten out. No uphill at all. The bad news was that it was still only ten minutes until the screening was set to start, it was a hot early summer day, and I had more than a mile to cover. Not a lot more than a mile, but more than a mile. (I just checked, and it turns out my estimate was pretty good -- it's 1.9 kilometers, which is about 1.2 miles.)

So with the assistance of gravity and the cooperation of some very fortuitous changings of traffic lights, I clomped down the long and slow incline of Spencer Street, past LaTrobe, past Lonsdale, past Bourke, Collins and Flinders, and to the point of crossing the river. (The Yarra River.) It was during this river crossing (by land, mind you) that another text came in from my editor. (Earlier he had joked "I'll call in a bomb threat" as a response to my text.) At least, I assumed it was from my editor, but it also could have been from my sister-in-law, either because she was having a problem with the kids (oh God) or because she couldn't find the backpack I'd asked her if I left on our bed, the other alternative being that I left it on top of the car when I drove off (OH GOD). And yes, I did just use more urgent capitalization to talk about a possible loss of a backpack than a possible problem with my kids. However, any attempt to properly check the text would slow me down fatally -- even though it was also possibly my editor telling me that there was a technical problem with the movie and not to hurry. So for the moment, it remained a mystery.

It was also at this point that I had time to consider that I am in much better physical shape than I thought I was. Yeah, I bike four or five days a week, but a surprise two-kilometer road race in shoes that weren't designed for it is an entirely different story.

Pretty soon I was rounding the bend on the right turn that took me into the street of the screening room. Miraculously, I was not dead and I was going to be only about five minutes late.

Which it turns out was not late at all, as my editor had, indeed, mentioned my impending arrival and gotten them to delay the start of the movie. I left a one-seat buffer between us so as to not overly offend him with any sweat smells I'd accumulated on my run, and to lessen the noise pollution of me catching my breath for the next five minutes.

Interestingly, this is not the first time I have shown up to this theater desperately out of breath after a mad dash to make it on time. If you recall, the same circumstances met me the first time I went, when I was on foot the whole way but overshot my destination and had to furiously backtrack through a labyrinth of back streets. At least I knew where I was going this time ... but also knew exactly how long it would take to get there. But then again, also knew that I could do it. And did.

When I got there and told my editor what had happened -- because to this point, he only knew I was running late -- he immediately told me I was mental, but in a way that also indicated he was oddly impressed.

And he dropped me off at my car afterwards, meaning at least it wasn't a trek I had to repeat -- uphill at that.

Thinking about it now, I do realize that there's something "mental" about leaving your car in a place where you're not 100% sure it won't get towed, running through traffic, and putting your 42-year-old heart to the kind of workout it doesn't usually get, just to be sure you can see a movie in time to rank it before an arbitrary deadline.

Well, what can I say: When it comes to movies, I'm mental.

Oh, and what did I think of Room? Was it worth all this effort? Check back in a couple days for my review linked on the right.

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