This month’s selections prove the old adage that truth is often stranger than fiction. These true stories are every bit as funny, sad, engrossing and downright weird as any work of fiction.
“The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” (2013)
By Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
I have a soft spot for truly terrible movies, and 2003’s “The Room” is a doozy. Written and directed by Tommy Wiseau, a man of unknown origins and bizarre mannerisms (many speculate he’s actually a vampire), the film is a hysterical barrage of terrible acting, ludicrous subplots and baffling dialogue.
Somehow, a group of hundreds of people gathered to make a movie and didn’t get one thing right, even by mistake, which makes “The Room” something of a backwards masterpiece. Since its release, the film has taken on a life of its own, earning a cult following on the midnight movie circuit and a place of distinction on the list of best bad movies of all time.
While the stuff that made it to the screen is weird beyond belief, things got even stranger behind the camera. Greg Sestero, Wiseau’s best friend and one of the male leads of the movie, offers an invaluable backstage perspective on the making of the movie. Wiseau was every bit as weird as he came off on camera, and the way he spends his seemingly inexhaustible budget will make your head spin.
Surprisingly, though, “The Disaster Artist” isn’t just a Hollywood gossip fest; it’s a fascinating glimpse of the creative process, and the passion, hard work and resources it takes to get any movie, no matter how confused, to the screen.
It’s also a wonderful examination of an extremely unlikely friendship between the handsome, laid-back Sestero and the unceasingly odd Wiseau. This is an absolute must-read for movie buffs of all tastes.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
Directed by Seth Gordon
This documentary follows two men with big dreams of glory: one an established champion with the acclaim of the community, the other a struggling schoolteacher with something to prove. These two titans duke it out for the ultimate prize: the all-time high score in “Donkey Kong.”
Oh, you were expecting a sports movie? That’s one of the “King of Kong’s” greatest strengths: subverting tired sports movie clichés to lend drama and tension to two geeks playing video games.
All the beats are there: Billy Mitchell is the villain you love to hate, with his big house, synthetically beautiful wife and army of sycophantic fanboys clustering around him to see what he’ll do next. Steve Weibe is the perfect underdog, a gifted musician and athlete suffering a terrible run of bad luck who needs to learn to believe in himself to achieve greatness. The fact that these are real people, and that their chosen battleground is vintage arcade games, gives the film an agreeable level of absurdity.
Whether you’ve been playing video games all your life or if you’ve never looked twice at an arcade cabinet, it’s impossible not to get caught up in this story.
“Made of Bricks”
By Kate Nash (2007)
Kate Nash has a disarming honesty to her that sets her aside from other British pop ingénues of her generation. Her earthy songwriting style, coupled with her appealing, lower class London slang, gives her music an edge, even when the compositions themselves are as catchy and appealing as any top 40 radio hits.
“Made of Bricks,” Nash’s 2007 major-label debut, is autobiographical in the best way possible, meaning it isn’t afraid to dig through the dirt to find the core of who she is as a person. Released when Nash was only 20, her songs are sometimes vulgar, often sweet and occasionally heartrending.
The highlight of the album is “Foundation,” which is both infectiously catchy and deeply uncomfortable. Chronicling a particularly vicious argument between two people in a crumbling relationship, Nash shows a sharp eye for detail in the way people speak and cuts to the deep fear of being alone that leads people to endure toxic relationships.
Other gems include the sweetly goofy “Birds,” the buoyant “Pumpkin Soup” and the melancholic “We Get On,” in which Nash nakedly pines for a man she knows will never return her affection.
Each of these titles is available at the Blaine Public Library. To reserve a copy, visit the local branch or go to wcls.org.