PKM Is Proud To Announce The First Recipient Of Our Annual Turkey Award, Celebrating Epic Artistic Disasters, Goes To Tommy Wiseau’s The Room
Thanksgiving without a turkey would be like Festivus without an airing of grievances. That big goofy bird just seems to make everyone’s day. Even vegans and vegetarians have their own turkey-flavored tofu, or whatever.
And yet, the word “turkey” has also been used as a pejorative, most often applied to really awful artistic efforts. Using this yardstick, Bob Dylan’s Self-Portrait album was a turkey, as was Peter Frampton’s I’m In You and The Clash’s Cut the Crap. That is, they were bad in unexpected and powerful ways. Something that is simply bad, by definition, such as an Adam Sandler movie or a Nickleback album or a comedy special hosted by, say, Dennis Miller or Jay Leno, does not achieve turkey status. These things simply suck and are instantly forgotten. But a turkey is so monumentally bad that it is hard to forget. And sometimes a turkey simply cannot be forgotten and, thus, attains a lasting cult status.
Think of The Little Shop of Horrors, the original 1960 film directed by Roger Corman. It was the B movie to end all B movies. But the presence of a young Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient, the goofily absurd premise of a shop selling man-eating plants, the amateurishness of the sets, dialogue, camera angles, etc., all of it practically defied you to look away. You. Could. Not. Look. Away.
Now, of course, The Little Shop of Horrors is a permanent fixture in our cultural canon, which is altogether fitting and proper.
But then there are those turkeys that seem to remind us of the true meaning of Thanksgiving—so bad that they make you thankful to be alive to witness them. One such turkey, that we will celebrate during this holiday season, is The Room. PKM is, in fact, proud to announce the first recipient of our Annual Turkey Award goes to The Room, the 2004 film written and directed by Tommy Wiseau, who also stars in this epic of bad-goodness that has been dubbed, rightfully, “the Citizen Kane of bad cinema.”
Here’s the original trailer, which may make the film seem normal enough, and yet does not even hint at its full badness:
Perhaps these random clips will offer you more of a sense of the badness:
“What a story, Mark…”
If you haven’t heard of The Room before now, you will hear about it over the next month or two, after James Franco’s film The Disaster Artist hits the movie theaters (release date: Dec. 1). Franco’s film is the story of the making of The Room, and he inhabits the Tommy Wiseau character as completely as, well, Tommy himself. Talk of an Academy Award or two for The Disaster Artist is already filling the airwaves.
Here’s the trailer to The Disaster Artist.
Here’s the “teaser” to The Disaster Artist
Think of The Disaster Artist within the wider context of cinema history. Werner Herzog made a film called Fitzcarraldo, about a man who tried to scale a mountain with a steamship. But the better film was Burden of Dreams, Les Blank’s documentary about the making of Fitzcarraldo, during which members of the cast quit and remaining members of the crew were caught in the middle of an actual border war between Peru and Ecuador. Burden of Dreams was far more gripping, and memorable, than Fitzcarraldo.
Herzog told Blank, “I live my life or I end my life with this project.”
Similarly, a Wisconsin director with a really bad mullet haircut named Mark Borchardt labored for years to make what he thought would be his masterpiece, a grade B-minus horror flick. Chris Smith immortalized the hapless Borchardt and his crew of lovable dolts in the documentary American Movie, one of the funniest-saddest films ever made.
Here’s the trailer:
But any talk of The Room begins and ends with the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau. His may be the most inscrutable film presence since Buster Keaton. He talks like a person doing a terrible impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger and says things that are so strangely out of synch with anything approaching normal human discourse that you are never sure if he’s real, a put on or genuinely, clinically insane. He’s like an unintentional Andy Kaufman.
Consider this: Wiseau spent $6 million to make what some viewers might mistake for a 2-hour surrealist soap opera, and in its initial run the film brought in just $1,500 at the box office. Over the years since its release, however, The Room has achieved cult status reserved only for films like The Little Shop of Horrors or George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Midnight showings of the film now abound around the world, with moviegoers dressed as the characters and, in unison, shouting out lines of dialogue while pelting the screen with plastic spoons (don’t ask).
Wiseau, meanwhile, has tried to make up the gap in his funds by selling his own signature underwear over the Internet, not to mention a few trinket-like tie ins to The Room. It’s all so wonderfully strange and uplifting that it has brought new meaning to two words: “turkey” and “Thanksgiving.”
Have a great holiday. Eat responsibly, avoid politics and throw some crumbs Tommy’s way: