Space Chimps Travesty

I love movies — watching them and discussing them. I’ve gone to the Sundance Film Festival a few times and recently started going to some local festivals.

I went to the Fallbrook Film Festival last year. It was a nice excuse to hit Fallbrook and fun listening to filmmakers talk about their projects. It was awkward if a movie was bad and they’d do a Q&A afterward. But more often than not, I was surprised at how enjoyable they were.

For the San Diego Black Film Festival on February 1, I figured I’d try to meet Lou Gossett Jr.

The SDBFF was at the theaters in Horton Plaza. There was a small crowd in the upstairs section of the theater. One guy was asking the filmmakers for autographs, and I asked him if he had gotten Gossett’s signature. He said, “He’s not here. He was supposed to be here for the meet-and-greet, but I overheard someone say he got into a disagreement with someone.” He wasn’t going to show up until the awards segment. At a different event a few years ago, I recall he didn’t show up at all (he said he had the flu that time).

I listened to actors who starred in a movie called I Own You. In the film, an African American is married to a white woman, and there is a brief time during which they believe her family might have owned his. The film was a comedy, and they were funny as they discussed it.

While in line for food, I met a guy who runs a website dedicated to movie trailers. He was enthusiastically telling me about his company as I downed the Ghirardelli chocolates that were in the centerpieces. I left without meeting Gossett.

The real film parties were on Oscar night a few weeks later.

Some friends went to a party that the San Diego Visual Arts Network put on at the UltraStar theater in Hazard Center, but I opted for a party in Sunset Cliffs, a potluck.

My girlfriend suggested we bring a cake or cupcakes. I asked her if she’d be able to design them using themes of the movies nominated. A bat for Dark Knight would be easy. Maybe buttons on one for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. We decided that’s what we’d do.

Then Sunday arrived and we hadn’t done anything. And, well, I’m lazy. We ran into Vons and bought desserts.

Sometimes potlucks don’t have the best variety of food. At this party, there was a crab lasagna, a couple of pizzas, fruit salad, and about 15 other delicious things to eat. Bowls of popcorn or boxes of candy had been placed on tables. It was like being in a movie theater, only nobody cared if your cell phone went off. And when one did ring, I heard the person talking about snow in Michigan. Another guy commented on the sunny weather we’ve been having. After he almost knocked over his plate of popcorn, he said, “The amount of popcorn I got would cost me ten dollars at the theater.”

I tried talking movies with a few people around me, and I found that people didn’t see many films this year. It made it funnier when Oscars host Hugh Jackman joked about having not seen The Reader.

When Goldie Hawn came out, a few people wondered if she’d had surgery. A few of the women talked about how horribly her dress fit. A guy nearby said, “I’m not complaining.” A lady said, “Then go see The Wrestler. You’ll see a lot more skin in that.”

When animated clips were shown on the screen, I said, “It’s a travesty that Space Chimps didn’t get a single nomination.”

As people were getting up for food, everyone raved about the spinach-artichoke dip. A woman sitting next to me leaned in and whispered, “I hate to admit this, but I got it at Costco.”

A guy named Eric showed up and was talking about how he’d just been accepted into a drumline named Gold. Everyone applauded. I said, “Is there anyone you’d like to thank?” Someone yelled, “Your mother, for all those drum lessons!” Someone else said, “He should thank the man upstairs — not God, but the guy living above him, for not complaining when he practices drum rolls.”

Eric had gone up to Hawthorne to audition. I asked him how many people he’d competed against. He said, “There were 14 people trying out for 7 spots.”

He talked about the audition process, the various marches and maneuvers required for the audition. A guy in his 50s started talking about the days when he was in a drumline. He said, “We’d try to trap the judges as they walked up and down.” Someone asked him when that was and he replied, “Oh, a couple centuries ago.”

When a couple was leaving early, the woman told me her husband was tired because he had been going through chemo.

A guy wearing a Wolverine jacket complimented me on my Batman jacket. Someone who heard us suggested a party next year at which you dress as one of the movie characters nominated. I said, “If that was done this year, you’d just see a bunch of Nixon masks.” Someone else said, “I don’t know. There was a variety of people this year: the Joker, Iron Man, Hellboy, a Kung-Fu Panda…and any old man could be Benjamin Button.”

With all the talking, I was surprised at how quiet the room became when a posthumous award was given to Heath Ledger. It was a touching moment to hear his family speak on his behalf.

I went to grab my second brownie (which were perhaps the best brownies I’ve ever had) and saw Eric at the table. I decided to continue our drum talk and asked if he’d seen the White Stripes on Conan O’Brien’s last show. I said, “It was weird that Meg wasn’t playing drums. I think she’s still freaked out about playing in front of crowds.” He replied, “Yeah, it’s weird. She might not be the best drummer around, but she’s fine for that band.”

I overheard a woman say she didn’t see The Reader because she thought it would be too depressing. She then mentioned visiting concentration camps in the ’70s and talked about how when she toured them it felt as if she had been there before. She said she knew things before she was told what they were. I leaned into my girlfriend and said, “Is she implying that she had a past life or is psychic? Or am I missing something?” She elbowed me because my whispering was loud.

I noticed the napkin I had my brownies on read, “Congrats Grad.” I glanced at the table and saw forks with “2000” on them. I looked at the cup my sparkling cider was in — a New Year’s cup. Leslie saw me inspecting it and said, “Hey…they were all left over from previous parties, and I thought this was the perfect time to get rid of them.”

I agreed. Although, if the Oscars weren’t on the big screen, I would’ve been confused about what party I was reporting on.

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