Saturday, December 16, 2017

The surprise accessibility of The Room

I'd heard that Tommy Wiseau kept The Room under lock and key, tightly controlling its distribution, forcing you to either purchase it from his website (only in physical, not digital, form) or go to a Saturday midnight screening. He did this either out of eccentricity or a shrewd plan for his own maximum profitability.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found the complete movie available on YouTube.

This may be a "known secret," but you can watch The Room in its entirety for free, as long as you are willing to put up with Spanish subtitles on the screen. And really, why wouldn't you be -- it's not like it would distract from the movie's copious amounts of artistry or anything. (In fact, I found it a useful way to brush up on my Spanish a bit.)

Since YouTube is regularly scrubbed by entities who have the copyright to various material, I thought it was strange that The Room slipped through, as Wiseau would seem to be just as keen to protect what's his as those studios. And it's not like I caught it during some limited window of its availability before it gets removed -- it's been viewed nearly 400,000 times. (And searching just now, I actually found another version, so Wiseau is really lying down on the job.)

I've already seen The Disaster Artist so I had not particularly planned to watch The Room again, at least not right now. But the same was not true of my wife. She was toying with the idea of seeing The Disaster Artist on Thursday, but had lamented only a few days earlier "I guess I'll never see The Room." Being unwilling as she was to go to a midnight screening, which is what I did when I first saw it back in 2013.

That comment prompted me to start looking into securing a copy of The Room as a surprise for her, which is when I discovered that digital isn't one of the purchase options on Wiseau's website. (To think that I might have paid $15 or whatever he saw it fit to charge for this movie, only was stopped by concerns of shipping logistics.) Then I thought to check on YouTube, and lo and behold.

I meant for it to be a surprise for our Friday night viewing, but this is when she mentioned the possible plan to see it on Thursday, so I had to show my cards. She went to see The Last Jedi instead. Funny that The Disaster Artist would have been her preference among those two. You can really tell the difference between a casual Star Wars fan and a serious one.

I enjoyed -- if that is the right word for it -- my second viewing of The Room more than my first, if only because I could actually hear all the awful dialogue rather than having an audience full of delirious fans laughing and chanting over it. Every moment with Wiseau on screen is sheer joy, though many of the other moments really drag. (Juliette Danielle as Lisa has some great random line deliveries as well.) There are some especially slow moments near the start and I was worried I might lose my wife, who was pretty tired after a holiday lunch earlier that day in which alcohol was consumed, and who has been known lately to give up on under-performing movies for lesser reasons. So I was glad when it picked up and she got in a bunch of good laughs.

Really glad I did not pay for it and now own it, though. It's bad, but it's a bad I would not subject myself to regularly. I probably will watch it a few more times in my life -- especially if it stays available on YouTube -- but actually owning it seems to over-represent my own level of affection for it.

And though I did quite like The Disaster Artist, I listened to a fairly convincing podcast takedown of it earlier that same day. When I watched The Room and found that what I had seen in The Disaster Artist did not significantly inform what I was watching now -- it did not deepen my appreciation, I mean -- that may have taken it down a notch as well. Still nestled safely within my top 20 of the year for now, though.

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