Thursday, July 31, 2008

Deconstructing Juno (well, one character)

I was honestly a little hesitant to watch movies again after Dark Knight because there wasn't much out there that could hold a candle to it. I felt more like that after seeing Hellboy II, because that was totally horrible. So I saw Dark Knight again the next day (and it was even better.) This was while I was in San Diego, so it was mostly to kill time, but I really did enjoy DK more the second time.

So, it was with a little reluctance that I watched Juno (I know what you're thinking: Fag!). It had been sitting on my table for several days in its little, red Netflix envelope. I was almost thinking about sending it back unopened and just ordering some old wrestling DVD instead. At least then I wouldn't be setting myself up for disappointment. It's weird, because for a little while I thought that Dark Knight has restored my faith in movies, that it was still possible to make great films that live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. Then the glass became half-empty, and I realized that DK would be a tough act to follow. I comforted myself with the fact that it is at least a completely different kind of movie, so maybe I can enjoy it.

So, Juno... I did enjoy it, on some levels. It had a few kinks; the writing smacked of some young, hip screenwriter who wanted to use big words to impress everyone into thinking that these were smart, witty characters. Please, that trick is as old as I am. It does make for good dialogue, and actors love to chew on that shit, but really, is that how people talk? "What's wrong honey? You look morose." No one's ever said anything like that to me, and I probably look morose a lot.

It seems like the witty banter was just a smokescreen to cover up the fact that the plot was basically every Lifetime movie with a better soundtrack. Oooohh, teen pregnancy... well, there's a wrinkle. BUT, Joe Movie-goer doesn't have as discerning an eye as I do, and wants to believe in things, so that fact is glossed over. But I'm not Joe Movie-goer.

Before you think me a monster for ragging on this heart-warming, coming-of-age tale (To quote The Joker, "I'm not really a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve."), I did identify strongly with one character in the film more than the others ('cause, lets face it, isn't Juno MacGuff a bit of a shit?), and I'm sure close friends know who it is. Gumbo! It's Jason Bateman. The poor guy who married the wrong woman, a woman who pushed him around and made him give up on his dreams and live a nice, quiet, boring life in the suburbs, a woman who made him stack his guitars, his comics, his life in the basement because they didn't fit her ideal of what life should be. his character was the most brilliantly written and acted of all of them because it was very subtly done from the first time you met him. He comes down the stairs, obviously uncomfortable in his faggoty, blue sweater, and yes, my first reaction was "What a geek!" Which was exactly what the audience was supposed to think. It's only as the film goes on that we see that he wasn't always like this. He had a band and a prom date and he loves gory horror movies, but at some point he got married to a hot chick and Whoosh! Buh-bye. My favorite line may have been when he said something like, "Vanessa lets me keep a room for my stuff," and Juno sarcastically says, "You're on a long leash, dude." When Jennifer garner comes to yell at him for playing his guitar, I felt ssssooooo bad for that guy because I've seen it with enough of my friends to know a terrible truth: that scene was as real as it gets for them.

Take heed, ye men, of Mark Loring. He may be the villain of this movie, because it was from Juno's perspective, but it could just as easily have gone the other way. Like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, where if you flip-flop it and look at it from Nurse Ratchet's perspective, this crazy dude just comes in and fucks up her whole life. I think a really seasoned screenwriter could have taken Juno and called it Mark Loring, made you care about him, have the same result, and we'd still have an Oscar contender (but okay, Ellen Page is cuter than Jason Bateman, so they chose the easy road. Who can't sympathize with a pregnant teenager?)

In many "guy" circles, it's a big joke. The leash, who wears the pants in the family, cracking the whip, what have you. We laugh so that we do not cry, my friends. But there's nothing funny about it (Take it from me. I'm The Joker.) Look at it this way: at least Mark Loring had the balls to leave.

Monday, July 28, 2008

San Diego Comic-Con V 2.0 - Party Time!

Yes, before you even start to ask, I went to Comic-Con again this year, even though I had a horrid time last year. And yes, I do spend a great deal of time making fun of the kind of people who go to Comic-Con, and yes, I did just spend four days with them. Four days with arrested adolescents invading my personal space for 100 yards in every direction. Honestly, it wasn't that bad.

One of the major differences was that my friend John (who is a comic professional, which is the real reason we went) knows a few people in the biz, so we actually went to a pseudo-after-party the first night (probably the same one we were supposed to go to last year, but missed out on because I can't remember the difference between Hilton and Hyatt.) and met some nice folk, who invited us to a party the following night. So, that's what it's really all about. Not rubbing elbows with people dressed as super-heroes. Drinking with people who make the things that the other people dress up as. No wonder I had a crappy time last year.

Not only did we actually party this time, but we also had a better hotel, and had more time to see some of San Diego besides a one-mile radius of the Convention Center. We even hung out with my cousin on Sunday, who I haven't seen since we were eleven, I think. And we had some time on Sunday before we had to go to the airport, so we saw The Dark Knight, and I liked it even better the second time. The whole thing was just more relaxed this time.

But it wouldn't be a trip without a story, so here goes; John and I were at lunch one day at an rather cramped Irish pub. Two couples are seated next to us, both with small children, and since I am in the booth-half of our table, I get to share the bench with the baby bags and stuff. Before you think I'm being harsh, these people weren't dressed up or anything, but I did christen them the Flinstones. Anyway, I'm about half-way into my chicken sandwich and I think I hear them saying something about the baby needing to be changed. John mouths to me "Are they changing a diaper?" I turn to see the mother laying a clean diaper out on the bench, not 2 feet away from me and my plate of food. I try to block this out when suddenly they discuss how they are going to change this baby's diaper: the plan is for the father to hold up said baby pretty much directly above our table, and the mother will yank the diaper off from the bottom. This I must protest.

"Look, I'm sorry. There are restrooms."

"Uh, well..."

"Really, I don't mean to be a jerk, but we're trying to eat here. I mean, come on."

The father angrily grabs the diaper and teh kid (all the while spitting the word "Fine!" as if I asked him for someting outrageous) and goes to the restroom to change him. I thank him for this, although I don't really know why. What the hell was he thinking in the first place? The other father, who had an older child, one who might actually enjoy some of the events at Comic-Con, whereas this infant has no idea what's going on, says to me that it is sometimes really hard to change a diaper in a restroom. I wanted to say that it's really hard to eat lunch with diaper shit in my food, but I just sort of shrug. I should have said, "Not my problem. Go to Chuck E. Cheese next time."

Honestly, lunch is ruined anyway, so I might as well have just let them do it because the very thought of someone changing a diaper in a crowded restaurant right above my plate took away my appetite. I actually could not believe the number of strollers at the convention. Why would someone torture themselves like this? It's like pushing one through South Station at rush hour after a train has been disabled, backing every other train up. And rush hour would last all day. Like I said, the child has no idea what's happening, and I can't imagine the parents are enjoying themselves because they have to care for the infant. So what is the point? John and I eventually came up with a joke that these people must have met a year ago at Comic-Con, fornicated, and now they all have three-month old children.

I hate to be the wet blanket, but if your child is incapable of walking the aisles at Comic-Con, it's maybe best you hold off on it for a few years. Or leave it with your in-laws or whatever. Just because you had sex at the appropriate time of the month doesn't give you the right to change your baby wherever the Hell you want. How would you like it if I crapped on your table? The truth is I'd be thrown out and probably fined or whatever, but the Waltons get to do whatever they want because they have a child.

Still, all in all, it was a good time. Don't let the bastards get you down, right?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

900 and Counting

The other day I reached a feedback rating of 900 on eBay. I believe the one that got me over the top was a toner cartridge from a copier we no longer had at work which I, of course, was given permission to sell. I was going to get into a whole big ebay retrospective about what I've sold and whatever, but what I'm really thinking about is where all that money went.

It's a pretty big number for a just a schmoe selling his old crap (and his friend's old crap, and his job's old crap). Well, that was the case with most of it, anyway. A few were purchases, and some of them were things that I flipped, or bought new just to sell, which has rarely actually worked. The best case I can think of that working was a rare Daredevil Action Figure with his yellow costume. I bought it at K-Mart for $6.00, listed it the same day and it sold for $60.00 to some guy in India. Of course, I was still a rookie at the time, so I shipped it as cheaply as possible, and I think it took months to get there. However, I was bitten by the bug. Maybe there was something to this flipping thing.

There usually isn't. I know there are people who say they buy crap in bulk and sell them for profit and whatever, but I have yet to find a cheap way to do it (For one, I have very little to spend on an initial investment). It's like selling stock at auction. You want to buy low and sell high, but there is no guarantee that you will make money on certain items. Unless you shill bid. In my experience, the times I've made real money are on things that I didn't expect to make real money on. I sold an old camera lens a few weeks ago for over $100. I started the bidding at $9.99, figuring maybe one person in the world may be looking for it. Even in the last few hours, it was only at twenty bucks. It went crazy in the last few minutes. I had no idea anybody would have been interested in it. To me, it was garbage. If it weren't for the fact that I'm so broke and have now been trained that there's a market for almost anything, I would have just tossed it.

I know one of my major problems is that I never go all the way even when I do have something that may make me money. In the past, I've put a ridiculously low Buy It Now price on something, figuring that maybe I can get some impulse buyer, and it sells in minutes and I think, "Damn, I wonder what I would have got if I let it play out?" Most of my transformers fall into that category. Now go onto ebay and search for old Transformers toys and see how much I could have gotten. I could have probably gotten more for a toy robot that turns into a car than I did for my real car.

I've also under-charged for International shipping a few times, but that probably gets made up for the fact that I've over-charged some people as well. I write that off as a cost of doing business, and when you throw in the fact that I have never paid for a box or padded envelope since there are always plenty of used ones around the office, I think that evens out in the end.

And that's the rub. I think mostly the over-900 ebay transactions I've had in the last seven or eight years have pretty much equaled out to breaking even. I mean, I guess you could say, "Where would you be without that money?" or whatever, but in the end, I've never made enough money to make it seem like it was making a difference one way or the other. At this point, it's pretty much the thrill of the hunt. So maybe I'll climb up to 1000 and see where I stand. And on that day I'll probably find another rare action figure and keep going.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Finally! -- The Dark Knight Strikes Me

We all know I hate movies. I hated the beloved Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I hated The Great Debators. I hated Gone, Baby, Gone. I hated Freakin' Forrest Gump. All cinematic pap. So, I hear about this new Batman movie coming out, and I think, "Great!" then I hear about it, and hear about it, and hear about, and then people start talking about poor Heath Ledger, and that adds another element, and I start to worry. There's no way this movie can live up to all this. In my mind, no movie can. but maybe, maybe Christopher Nolan can deliver.

He did. It is the best movie I have seen in a long time. I liked Iron Man and Incredible Hulk, but The Dark Knight blows them both away. It blows away almost every comic book movie, except Batman Begins and X-men 2. And we'll see how it settles (A good movie is like a good meal), but it will probably end up as one of my favorite movies EVER, comic book or otherwise. And remember whose blog you're reading.

So, why was it so good? (Here's where I talk about the movie. Don't read if you're one of those people.) Well, first off, it was totally believable and intense from beginning to end. I actually didn't know if The Joker was going to get away with it, and there was a part of me that was hoping he would get away with it, because he was such a great character (kind of like you root for the outlaws in cowboy movies, and gangsters in gangster movies.) I am never fooled in movies, unless they are done really well. I knew Spider-man would always come out on top in his movies. I never doubted for a second that Iron Man would beat the baddie, I just enjoyed watching him do it because Robert Downey, Jr. was pretty funny. There were parts of X-men 2 that got me, like when Magneto reversed the mutant-killing guy to make him target humans was cool. That was big. And this one did it, too. The Joker always seemed to be one step ahead of everybody, and I thought it was fantastic. I actually wanted him to blow everybody away. I actually was hoping that the last we would see of him was him sauntering off in his little nurse's skirt after he blew up the hospital. I know that it would not have been the best send-off for Heath Ledger, but what a finale for The Joker.

So, anyway, every review and podcast will say the same thing as I could say here. the acting, the action, the blah, blah, blah. That's all true. But I expect that out of all my movies. All movies should have great effects and great acting (This isn't live television here. These guys have months to make a movie perfect.) So, what it boils down to, for me, to make a great movie is the writing and the subtle nuances within the characters. For instance, Christian Bale goes to Morgan Freeman and says, "I need a new suit." Morgan immediately remarks that a three-button is a little 90's. Obviously, Bale is talking about a bat-suit, but I thought that line was hilarious (even though no one else in the theater I was in laughed), and it was a very subtle moment that showed you what Lucious Fox was all about and how he works with Bruce Wayne.

I could go on and on about the subtleties of Heath Ledger as The Joker (The two different origins for the scars on his face, the creepy tongue thing he did) but you've read it all before. Let me just say that this will go down as one of the all-time movie bad guys, and deservedly so. Even better than jack Nicholson in the Tim Burton version (Basically a fat old man in a clown suit). And we all know that a hero is only as good as the villain he faces, so there you go.

Just so you know I'm not being all fanboy-gushy about this, I did have a couple small problems with Two-Face. For one, they really beat us over the head with this White Knight of Gotham business. We get it. He's a good guy, and we know he's going to be a bad guy at some point. And my other problem with him was the coin-flipping. I realize that it's a big part of his character, but we only see him as Two-Face for the last half-hour or so, and I think he does the coin-flip about 853 times. Once or twice is probably enough to realize that's his schtick.

Nevertheless, I won't let that take away from my good time. I didn't even let getting caught in the rain on the way home ruin the movie for me. See, every once in a great while, a movie comes along that restores my faith in humanity and makes me realize somebody out there gets it. Natural Born Killers, American Beauty, Saving Private Ryan and now The Dark Knight. I realize that is an odd collection, but that only proves my point. It can happen anytime, anywhere. This one brought me back to my younger days, before I hated everything, before all movies were ruined by film school. It reminded me(to quote James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams) "of all that once was good, and can be again."

People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Man's Trash Part II

About a week ago, I placed an ad on Craig's List saying "A couple hundred comics for sale." The deal I was giving was for someone to come over to my apartment, go through a couple boxes of comics and take anything they want for a quarter each. Not bad, really, except a lot of these books are from when I was a kid, and I had pretty much read the hell out of them (plus, my cats used to use my long boxes as a scratching post.) I also threw in a bunch from the box I found on the street a few weeks ago, which looked like they had been in an attic for decades. It was really just a way to make some room and some money off of these old books that were virtually worthless in any other market (Believe me, I tried.)

The beauty of comics is that there are collector's everywhere, however, and I figured there would be people willing to take some of them off my hands for a rare treat that may be in there. I have to admit, though, I can't take credit for the idea. I answered a similar ad about a year ago. The person who placed the ad happened to be a very attractive young girl in Brookline who had apparently lived with a guy for a while who ended up skipping out on the rent and leaving his comics behind, so she was selling them a way of trying to recoup some of the money. She knew nothing abotu comics, so she was selling them for 25 cents out of ignorance. This, in fact, was a brilliant sales tactic in disguise. According to her (we spoke at length, as I was trying to hit on this beautiful young lady who was selling comics!), collectors came out in droves, so by the time I got to her, everything had been picked over, probably by speculators who thought they could turn a quick profit by buying Giant-size X-men for a quarter. Well, that's why I was there, anyway. I ended up buying a bunch of old Fantastic Four books for $5 that a sold on eBay for, well, about $5.00.

Alas, I did not take her stance, and so I only received one response (Well, two, but the first guy never showed up.) This guy (typical fanboy, too: slightly overweight, beard, old t-shirt) came to my apartment the other day with a backpack and one of those wire cart things, sifted through the boxes, and bought 24 books. Six bucks. I mean, good for him, but he told me he came all the way from Central Square (plus a long walk to the T, he said), stayed for about ten minutes, and then dragged his cart back on the T and left. I hope he was happy with his comics, because that's a couple hours travel time for a pretty small return. But that's the thing. He seemed quite happy with what he took (especially some of the old horror books I had found on the street), and I'd bet the house that he wasn't a speculator, just a fan.

Why can't I be just a fan? Why do I feel that everything has to be an investment? Why can't I just enjoy things for what they are? Oh, I know. Because I'm POOR!

In fact, if I re-list this ad, I might take the naive seller approach, inspired by that cute girl, and see what kind of response that gets.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rush on The Colbert Report

The first time on American television in 33 years. Even I'm not that old.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Un-Wanted Analysis

So, maybe I was a tad hasty in my complaints about my extra work on The Surrogates. I got paid yesterday (which is pretty quick for Hollywood) and the check was way more than I expected. It came out to more than two weeks at my old Harvard job, and a little less than half of what I would make here in a week (with all the taxes and stuff taken out), for one frikkin' day. Of course, it was a long day, which almost equals half a week here at BU, so it almost balances out. But, needless to say, I'll be on the look-out for calls for extras when that Mel Gibson movie comes to town soon. I'm such a paradox.

The funny thing, I really do not enjoy the actual work. it's so far from actual movie-making that it's ridiculous (as I've stated a billion times before). It obviously bugs me more than it would an average person because of my film background, but that's just another part of the Curse of Film School, I guess. Still, film degree or not, I hate the whole "Hurry Up and Wait" culture on a movie set. I hate the boredom between takes. I hate the way everyone on the crew is seemingly having the worst day of their lives. I hate the disorganization. I hate the pretentiousness of some of my fellow extras, some of whom think that this will actually get them somewhere in Hollywood. But I like the mon-aaaaayyyyyy. I'm such an American.

I did realize something about movies after seeing Wanted this weekend. It was a totally ridiculous movie based on a pretty interesting graphic novel, and I expected nothing less, so i didn't actually hate it. however, I saw it with my brother and his wife, and my brother is the eternal optimist, so he tried to explain to me the intricacies of the plot, which I am going to talk about now, so you may stop reading if you don't want it spoiled. First, though, let me assure you that there were no intricacies to this plot, so feel free to read on.

The book (if I remember correctly) is set in a futuristic kind of world where this fraternity of bad guys pulls the strings behind the scenes and basically controls everything in secret. So, every one is basically a bad guy except working stiffs. So, when Wesley (the main character) starts killing people, he knows he's killing bad guys because everyone is a bad guy. No moral ambiguity. The movie seems to take place in our world, so the bad guys who need to be killed are determined by this bizarre weaving device that spits out threads in some kind of binary code that somehow gets translated into names. These names are people who will apparently do something terrible down the road (like kill Angelina Jolie's dad), so they have to be rubbed out in the classic "Ends justify the means" thing. I don't really get it either, but the point is you have to believe this stuff or the whole point of the movie is down the crapper, and guess which handsome blogger wasn't buying that premise.

Right on.

My brother the optimist (Bless him) was trying to legitimize this movie for me, but really, there was no changing my mind. I didn't buy the whole fate/weaving business, so the moral core of the movie was gone for me. I didn't mind the action sequences and liked seeing Angelina's ass for a few seconds, but the point of the movie, the moral center, kaput. After discussing this fact the entire ride home, I finally asked my brother why he was trying to make lemonade out of this somewhat sour lemon, and he said, "I don't know."

Therein lies the rub. most of the movie-going public is optimistic, and they want to be entertained, so they'll take films like Wanted as it comes and accept it for what it is. I myself cannot. And it's not just the film background. It's mostly the pessimism.In my mind I know that Wanted wasn't meant to win any Oscars, and I know that the thousands of rat-bombs that Wesley apparently made over-night were a completely unrealistic, yet stylistic, choice that most people will just swallow (Truly, it smacked of a writer sitting in his house and thinking, "What's never been done before? I got it! Rat-bombs!"), and I know that we are not meant to analyze Wanted for any more than two minutes after the thing ended.

But I must.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Mystery of the Empty Ebay Auctions

If you don't know what I'm talking about, and you read this in the next few days, here's what I'm talking about.

These people (and there are a few of them on eBay) are selling empty Coke cans and Dorito bags for large sums, and promising a "free gift" which just may happen to come inside the item. Obviously, this gift must be a violation of eBay policy right? Kind of like those guys who sell tickets to baseball games for exorbitant prices, but try to get around by saying that you are actually bidding on a baseball card that happens to have two tickets as a free gift. So, what illicit gift could be at work here? Drugs? Sexual favors? Hmmm, one of those auctions was only selling for $20. That seems a little low, even for a hooker.

My second guess was that it was some kind of pyramid scheme, trying to get people signed up for something ridiculous to make money by doing nothing, or even one of those auctions just there to bump up the seller's feedback. Either way, the free gift can't be anything good. The only good that may come of it is if there was Dorito dust at the bottom of the bag. Mmmmm... Dorito dust.

Alas, because I am a curious guy, have nothing better to do, and have a weird obsession with eBay, I did some research, and uncovered this page. if you don't feel like clicking, the gist of it is that the "free gift" is cash. Apparently, they refund the money you spent on the auction, plus twenty bucks. The hope is that these weird auctions (which receive thousands of hits) will drive people to the seller's other auctions, which are usually things that people who browse ebay all day may want or need. This one guy claims that he made over a $1000 on his other auctions because he got tons of hits on his auction for an empty can of Diet Coke and people clicked over, so giving away the twenty was a small price to pay.

Honestly, there's nothing wrong with it. In fact, receiving cash is a good thing. It just seems like an odd way to get people to bid on your stuff. As a big eBay guy (well, 897 positive feedback rating), I'm always trying to figure out ways to get people to look at my stuff (like putting that link in there. Bid, fools! Bid!). I mostly go the old-fashioned way, like good titles and pictures, but this is totally bizarre. Who even comes up with this stuff? "I've got an idea! I'll sell people trash with $20 in it, and with any luck, they'll also bid on my Starman Movie Poster."

It's kind of interesting, I guess, that people would be so curious to bid a candy wrapper up to $172 just to see what the free gift was. I just don't know if I agree with going to these extremes to sell old crap. Then again, I'm not above trying anything. And this is where some morals come into it. I've sold bootleg cd's and videos in the past, and when ebay finally caught up with me and stopped the auctions, I sold them in one-day auctions, because sometimes it would take them a couple days to catch me. When they started stopping those, I began selling the cd's at fixed prices, and those would usually get snatched up pretty quick before eBay would catch on. And when I would get caught, they would make me take a really easy quiz on copyright laws before I could sell again. Seriously. This is all they are doing to try and stop the criminals.

BUT, just because bootlegs are technically illegal, does that mean I was doing something really wrong? All those songs on the cd's I sold were songs I downloaded for free from Kazaa or Limewire, and I just happened to put them on a cd. Illegal, sure. Immoral? Who knows? Now, I also once sold a lot of textbooks on eBay that I had been trying to sell elsewhere for years, and I knew they were utterly worthless, and yet in my description, I made it seem like whoever won this auction could make a ton of money on the secondary market selling these books individually. I've done stuff like that before, but this was the first time I've out-and-out lied about the value of one of my auctions. I've sold old toys that were worthless to most of the population of the world, but the (no doubt) collector's who bought them probably felt like they got a bargain (These folks don't over-pay for anything. They do their research.) So, I didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong there. Old toys usually set their own price. But those books were garbage, plain and simple. Did I feel bad about it? Maybe a little, but really, I've been scammed, too, and what goes around comes around, I guess.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Glamourous World of Hollywood Movie-making

On Sunday, I served as an extra on a movie filming in Boston called The Surrogates. Now, those that know my history probably know that I declared I would never do that again after my horribly boring experience in The Great Debators. However, my friend Brom was also going to do this one, and he convinced me that it may be fun. plus, after seeing myself for a split-second onscreen in The Great Debators, I thought, "What the Hell?" Oh, and I'm broke. I know that seems like an odd reason for a film major to want to do a movie, but seriously, that's pretty much why I do anything.

Anyway, in order to fully illustrate the whole experience, I need to take you through the events step-by-step:

* - Several weeks ago, Brom suggested we go on this casting call for this Bruce Willis they'll be filming in Boston this summer. While there, we were told the premise of the film; in the future, everyone has a robot surrogate (played by us) who does everything for them, while the people sit around, presumably getting fat. At one point, all of the robots get turned off, so our job as extras was to pretend to fall as if we had been turned off. It was actually kind of fun, especially when one of the female surrogates who was wearing a rather short dress was turned off, and we all learned that apparently surrogates don't wear undergarments. Anyway, we were told that we fell well, and we would be contacted for shooting on June 29th.

* - On June 26th, we received an e-mail saying that filming was on. Nothing like giving us some notice. Brom texted me to say that I needed to respond quickly because it is first come, first served. However, I know a little about the film business, and I interpreted the e-mail more like this: "PLEASE COME! PLEASE HELP US! PLEASE!" We were told in the e-mail that we would receive another e-mail on Saturday evening with the call time and location. Yeah, because I live for this and have nothing better to do. We were also told to wear business/casual dress.

* - The ungodly call time was 6:30 a.m. and the location was down by South Station. Brom picked me up down there and then we drove to what we thought was the set. We were given knee and elbow pads and (when necessary) business attire. Apparently, this time we would be falling on actual cement. Glad I wore my nice jacket. We were also given a number according to their notes on how good we fell. Brom and I received "1's," which was apparently only second to an "X." I thought that boded well for us. I was wrong.

* - We then stood in line for awhile for hair & make-up. As is usually the case, the longer this line is, the more they weed out people who really don't need hair & make-up done. A lady walked through the line and on her second pass, tells me I look good and to go sit in extras holding. Damn straight. We were then bussed to the actual set in Liberty Square, and told to wait in holding, unattended, in a bar called Central 37. Holding was in a bar. I found this interesting, except for the fact that it was still about 8:00 in the morning and I'm not that much of an alcoholic.

* - Around 9:00 or so, they called us together to give us very little information. We were then given different designations (A, B or C) according to where we happened to be standing at the time. The 1's and X's suddenly meant nothing. Oh, no. My dreams of stardom dashed.

* - Finally, around 9:30, we were brought to set. Brom and I were given empty briefcases so we could look like we were heading to work, and told to stand against a wall while they place everyone. While there, we were both actually crapped on by a bird. I admittedly overreacted to this as I screamed to the heavens, "Sons-of-bitches!" I was half-joking, but I was honestly kind of afraid that nobody would bother doing anything about it because we were just extras. I don't think the crew got the joke, because they were trying to calm me down while we waited for some help. Eventually, a nice wardrobe guy came over to wipe the shit off. He was very pleasant and rather gay and when I remarked at what a crappy job this must be, he said he's seen worse, having washed extras' underwear. The glamorous world of Hollywood movie-making. (At this point, I remembered my experience of making that movie in Indiana, where one of my tasks was wiping birdshit off of a tombstone for a shot. I seriously wanted credit for that one.)

* - For the next several hours, until lunch, we squatted for rehearsals and actually pretended to fall for actual shots. I really wished I had stolen a beer at that point. During one fall, Brom fell backwards and landed on my briefcase, and we started laughing uncontrollably. I wonder if in the final cut you'll be able to see two dots in the background laughing.

* - After lunch (which wasn't bad), I sat around holding and socialized with several fellow extras (Brom is much better at this than I am, which is probably why he had a better time than I did.) I even did sneak a quick nip of Bass into a coffee cup before the actual employees of the bar showed up and made sure people weren't doing that. I found this part of the day quite extraordinary, actually. You meet so many people who are aspiring actors, models, filmmakers. You rarely meet people like me, who just need a little easy cash. I know if you try you may meet someone who can introduce you to someone who knows someone who might actually give you a break one day, but I can't help thinking that being an extra in a movie is about as far away from actual film making as you can get. It's sort of like me saying I'm a professor just because I work at a university. There's something sort of inspiring about it, however, to see these young-ins trying to make it in the fucked-up Hollywood system, despite living 3,000 miles from Hollywood.

* - As the hours wore on, my interest started to wane. Around 6:00 or so, the skies opened, and I thought that would finally be it. Surely they won't film in the rain. Well, in fact, they waited it out, and asked anyone who was completely in clothes that belonged to the production company to hang out and fall some more. At this point, I lost all interest, and even when the ground pretty much dried and they called out my group, I declined. Instead, I ventured to the bar across the street (still wearing knee and elbow pads) and had a quick beer. As I announced my destination, a few extras who were out front smoking asked, "Is that allowed?" I told them I didn't care, and a few minutes after I got there, I they entered. Seriously, for these movie people to assume that they can keep 200 people standing around for 15 hours and we would never leave for a few minutes for a quick libation is just ridiculous.

(I actually have heard that this is a problem in LA with extras, where they apparently show up, sign in, go to the easily accessible beach and sleep for awhile, and then go back and sign-out at the end and get paid for a day's work. Honestly, if it wasn't for the stupid elbow pads, I would have done it. No wonder these movies are all over-budget.)

* - Finally, sometime after 8:00 p.m., we wrapped and were very slowly bussed (and vanned) back to wardrobe to turn in our crap and sign out. This, of course, takes forever, because while they stagger the call times in the morning, they let everyone go at the same time at night, so 200 people are all trying to get their pay vouchers signed at once. Also, they apparently are required by law to feed us every 8 hours, so they broke for the day at around the 7:45 mark and let us go without feeding us. Other than a few crackers, basically nobody ate from the 1:00 lunch break until they let us go. My voucher reads that signed in at 6:30 and signed out at 9:30, with an hour taken out for lunch. Cheapskates.

I'm not really sure how I feel about all this. I want to hate it and say that I'll never do it again, but there are worse ways to make money. As a would-be filmmaker, however, it makes me a little sad. I look back on almost every movie experience I've ever had, and some of them make great stories, but what does it amount except a pile of unhappy memories? Hours, even days, of sitting around, waiting for something to happen, and then when something happens, usually nothing happens. At least if you're on the crew, you have some idea when something may actually happen and when you can sit back and relax (although, most of them seem like the least relaxed people I've ever seen.) I guess it's that sheer disappointment that film making is not nearly as cool as I thought it would that taints the whole experience. Brom had fun because he enjoys the people and it's something new and different. All I get is a little depressed that this what I went to school for and wanted to do with my life and I always find it incredibly disorganized and boring. I wish it were different, but it's not and so now I plug in laptops all day long.

Honestly, I think Dursin came out ahead on this one.