33 Minutes of Continuous Hits: Vol. 1 Brooklyn’s The Greatest 3-Minute Movie Stories Ever
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1. Handsome crowd milling about. 2. Margaret Korol, art director for Vol. 1 Brooklyn and event photographer. We took photos of each other. Hehe. 3. That Darn Cat Jen Vafadis.
Writers like to tell stories, duh, so while I’m on the C towards West 4th for Vol. 1 Brooklyn’s “The Greatest 3-Minute Movie Stories Ever,” I’m doubly excited: a) Vol. 1 is a dope crew and b) writers tend to appreciate the underwhelmed, the cult, the weird, and the intersections of fantasy and reality. That’s exactly what we got last night at Le Poisson Rouge: tales of movies you’d never think could emotionally affect anyone that were funny, weird, encouraging, and downright fun. Each of these eleven (!) writers and editors got 180 seconds to read an essay, story, anecdote, or whatever they felt like that pertained to the wonderful world of cinema: student films, ’60s gossip columnists, theater employee rivalries, and Nicholas Cage appeared. For once, N. Cage did not disappoint.
1. Barbara Coulon, Bayla Metzger, and Jacqueline Barba from The Intelligence Group, a youth Marketing & Trends company. 2. Maris Kreizman with Rachel Syme. Those earrings!
This was the first Vol. 1 “3-Minute Stories” event in Manhattan, and the third Vol. 1 event on a Jewish holiday. Thankfully it was Purim, which, according to Founding Editor Jason Diamond, gave the audience license to get “shitfaced.” At 6:30 PM there was a crowd of really, really good looking people taking Diamond’s advice to heart. The reading was held in LPR’s downstairs room, outfitted with swanky club/lounge lighting, house music, and a stage with a giant painting of “bird slaughter,” as Ryan Chapman most eloquently described it. Though the lighting was appropriately dark for a reading, the decorations and furniture felt more nightclub than bookish. The boys at Vol. 1 are smart: it was less corduroy blazer reading than a gaggle of smart, funny lit types hanging out with a microphone.
1. Host Jason Diamond, who is “kind of a fountain of Jeff Goldblum trivia.” Good man. 2. Elisabeth Donnelly: “Let’s talk about someone important.”
Most of the writers read pieces specifically about films. The evening’s first reader, Jen Vafidis, read a piece about a childhood favorite: That Darn Cat. “I must’ve thought I’d never see another movie as good as this,” she read, “a cat being monitored by the government.” Other memories of this 1965 classic: theme song by Bobby Darin that includes the lyrics “Nook & Cranny / Garbage Canny,” a dog’s bark animated-in-translation to, yes, “That darn cat,” and an “uncool soft jazz soundtrack.” Vafidis’ piece was ultimately a love letter to the movie, who “[refused] to see the 1997 remake with Christina Ricci and Dougie-Doug.”
Christine Smallwood, who has contributed music, TV, and book reviews to n+1, The Paris Review, among others, starred in a movie herself: Amid the Bid. Smallwood got the chance to show off her chilling scream that “sounds like a feral cat having sex and being bludgeoned.” She also gets eaten by zombies while giving birth. “It may not surprise you to hear that this was a student movie.” In her own production, “A Police Car Movie,” her and then-boyfriend drove around MA in homemade badges, ate donuts, and were ignored at the mall. Both films were “dramas or comedies about late capitalism and the police state.” Heady stuff, readers, heady.
1. Christine Smallwood. I eagerly await for “Amid the Bid 2.” 2. Julia Bartz! 3. J. Gabriel Boylan, and his love/hate/love relationship with Blade Runner.
Bookstalker Julia Bartz’s most memorable film: Earth Girls are Easy. A classic for myriad reasons, Bartz first started watching it as a child, “[trying] to think of what it meant at the time,” and thinks her mom only let her serial rent it because “she had a crush on Jeff Goldblum.” Understandable. Problems arrived when high school-aged Bartz attempted to seduce another marching band saxophonist, Mike. “Mike was so enthralled he watched the whole thing, even the slow-mo alien/human sex scene … he gave me a high five … The next week he started dating a pretty blonde. A flutist, of course.”
Other tales of specific films were not as comically nostalgic: A.N. Devers recounted her first year in New York City, shortly after 9/11. After being “broke, a broken apartment, a broken spirit,” Devers and her boyfriend were able to move to the “big island” in an extremely cheap apartment in the LES. The building was a hodge-podge of characters filled with psychics and such. Soon after moving, her building pasted notices of its upcoming use as a filming locale, for a movie called In The Cut. With no celebrity sightings yet, Devers was excited: “I hadn’t seen a celebrity yet. What I mean is, Meg Ryan pet my dog.” But like most NYC celebrity meetings, the reality was much less glamorous than the screen. Instead of joy, Devers was privy to Ryan’s first “post-facelift nude scene,” consistent tardiness to her job because of filming, and fake blood. “I guess the movie,” Devers read, “told a version of the terrible truth.” Another writer’s 2001 NYC trauma: Rosie Schaap was at seminary, her father was in the hospital, and she was working for a 9/11 family support group. Schaap spent several drunk nights in the bar to distract herself, ultimately breaking down and quitting her job. She obsessively self-diagnosed all night on WebMD, until her boyfriend brought here a Bollywood musical drama titled Lagaan. “All 224 minutes, from wondering if the rain would come to the cricket game, I was rapt … I’ve long said Bollywood saved my life.” It was a chant in the film, which roughly translates to “Come on, let’s go” that got her out of bed and back to work.
1. Ryan Chapman with bird slaughter. 2. Sheila Graham via the ever-charming, uber nice Rachel Syme. 3. Crowd crouching for funny storiez.
“I didn’t write anything,” Ryan Chapman said, gripping the mic, “which is probably going to backfire.” But Chapman’s tale definitely didn’t backfire as he told us a story about working at a United Artists movie theater at the tender age of 16. The theater, which showed “artier” movies like Gone Fishin’, was fun for Chapman “except for Eric. My arch nemesis.” Eric particularly enjoyed screwing with Woody Allen-obsessed Chapman because he wouldn’t fight back, resolving to “smash bottles of Colt 45 in the men’s bathroom when it was my turn to clean.” And on his last day, after Eric had skipped out early and Chapman had to clean out the popcorn popper which had been heating oil at 300 degrees all night, he smelled something distinct. “Eric took a shit in the popper, took it out, then threw it away.” Faced with two options — cleaning it or ratting Eric out — Chapman took the high road and cleaned it and “decided to enact what any 16-year-old Woody Allen fan would do: re-tell his story at a Manhattan book event 20 years later.”
1. Jesse David-Fox, you should totes use totes more, bro. 2. A.N. Devers, who lives in darkness.
Elisabeth Donnelly, who is writing a book about “teenage super heroes with shitty powers,” was one of my favorites. She prefaced her “tale” with a memory of San Francisco: Donnelly and her husband closed out City Lights, and down the street found themselves in a hidden antique store that sold items like shrunken heads for $5000. And at the cash register was a photograph of the owner, an elderly man, posing with an actor: Nicholas Cage. Donnelly then proceeded to read life statistics from Cage’s IMDB profile. Here are the choice bits: “He is close friends with Tom Waits, Crispin Glover, and the drummer from Rush, Neil Peart … also the former Shah of Iran.” “Lived in a fake castle outside of LA. Wants to import a real one.” “Bailed out by Dog the Bounty Hunter once.” “‘I was being stalked by a mime. Silent, and maybe deadly.” “I see Miles Davis as my surrealist father.” Read the fantastic list in its entirety here.
1. Terese Svoboda: “She twitches her mouth. So continental.”
The last of the gang’s readings painted the rest of the night’s cinema town red. Rachel Syme, for example, is writing a book about Sheila Graham, old Hollywood gossip columnist and mistress to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and read from the book which “talks shit” on everyone. Graham is kind enough to note that Barbara Streisand is “suspicious and dumb,” that Hollywood is a “treadmill of sex,” and “the once great Elizabeth Taylor was graceful as a flower and now what?” Yow.
Terese Svoboda “misunderstood the assignment” and treated us to a delicious reading of a “ 3-minute candlestick romance.” — “Cut to Italians. Cut to Sicilians. Cut to killer anchovies.”
Jesse David-Fox has a bit of crying problem. He “bawls” at the end of Wall-E, and also I Love You, Man. David-Fox was temporarily moved to LA for work, and he watched the bromantic film as “a documentary of friendly LA life.” Though he moved back, he always tells friends who ask him if they should move to LA this: “Totes Mcgotes! I’ve never used that phrase, but I totes might soon.”
J Gabriel Boylan, editor at Capital New York, loves Blade Runner — except “there’s a problem. It’s the soundtrack.” Its composer, one Vangelis, purportedly blocked the release of the soundtrack because he wasn’t the only one scoring the film. He’s also a bit of a diva: Vangelis has been locked in litigation with Greece because his mansion blocks views of the Acroplis. Whoa.
1. Rosie Schaap and her love of Bollywood. 2. Brenna Ehrlich, Senior Editor at MTV, with Julia Bartz and her sister Andi Bartz, an editor at Whole Living. Andi confirmed that Martha Stewart probably would hate my hand towels.
Vol. 1’s “3-Minute Stories” feels like a literary half-marathon. With only three minutes, these writers brought a wide range of the kinds of stories anyone can tell about movies: the irreverent, serious, personal, obsessive, and reflective. Catch the next “3-Minute Stories” reading at Public Assembly on 4/10, where some writers are going to read about punk rock. Yes.