When I watch a movie, it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. It goes without saying that these guys don’t always see eye to eye.


POPCORN: (screaming)

CINEMA: So you’re speaking to me now?

POPCORN: Dude. Seriously. What the fuck???

CINEMA: Hey, you’re the one who followed me.

 POPCORN: You asked me to, man. I didn’t figure you’d do some shit like this. Besides, I was still pretty high . . .

CINEMA: I’ve warned you about that. When you smoke too much, you get even more foolish than you already are.

POPCORN: Yeah, I can see that.  

CINEMA: I told you – we need more readers. This is a publicity stunt . . . to promote our review of the current thriller, FALL. You can’t just mention these things on social media anymore. You’ve got to do something extreme or no one pays attention. Just . . . keep your eyes on your hands . . . your hands on the rungs of the ladder . . . and, whatever you do, don’t look down.

POPCORN immediately looks down . . . and down . . . and down . . . and down . . . from a ridiculously high television tower stretching far above the dusty earth below. It’s hard to even see the ground from here. The ladder, which both POPCORN and CINEMA are clinging to, is connected to the steel pole which pierces the sky, surrounded by a meager cage that would obviously not prevent anyone from falling. The fall would most assuredly result in death . . . and the rungs of the ladder are rusty.

POPCORN: Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

CINEMA: You immediately looked down, didn’t you?

POPCORN (eyes closed, nodding vigorously): The good thing is, I don’t think I’m high anymore.

CINEMA: Oh, you’re high alright. Well over a thousand feet by now, probably fifteen hundred. It won’t be long before we leave the safety of this . . . protective cage . . . and enter the airspace where only birds and planes usually travel . . .

POPCORN: Fuckfuckfuck.

CINEMA: . . . so I need you to do me a favor . . . and not fall . . .

From above, he shakes the approximately fifty-foot tether that connects him to POPCORN. It clangs hollowly against the rungs of the ladder. POPCORN opens his eyes, which are about to bulge out of his head.

CINEMA: . . . because, in this case, there is literally no me without you.

POPCORN: Dude, seriously. This is stupid, man. We gotta go back down.

The wind around them is getting louder, stronger.

CINEMA: We can’t just go back down. No one gets attention for almost doing something. Besides, I thought you were the bold one, the one who dresses up like Deadpool and clowns for the cameras, the one who suddenly finds his courage in the middle of a tornado . . .

POPCORN: You’re just doin’ this cuz of that MAVERICK shit, aren’t you?

CINEMA: That was a pretty mean trick. I told you . . . I never saw TOP GUN, never wanted to see TOP GUN, and definitely had no plans to see a sequel to TOP GUN. Then you told me you were going to pay for a movie . . . I mean, when does that happen? I should have known.

POPCORN: Dude . . . did you really think there was a movie called ARTSY FUCKNUTS???

CINEMA: You said it was a foreign movie – “I think it’s Norwegian or something” – and, since I didn’t expect you would straight-up lie to me . . .

POPCORN: Sorry, dude. But you actually liked it . . .

CINEMA: Because I purposely watched it with my brain only half engaged. For real, that inverted move . . . flying one of those jets upside down for more than twenty seconds would starve the engine of fuel . . . causing it to stall . . .     

POPCORN: Well, if you’re so damn smart, why are we up on this tower??

CINEMA: Never underestimate my desire to be remembered.

POPCORN: Yeah, dude. They’ll remember you, alright. Like, “Hey, remember that dumbass that got him and his friend killed cuz they climbed that tower? What was that son-of-a-bitch’s name anyway? Didn’t they have some kinda show or somethin’?” 

CINEMA: Imagine how many Likes that would get . . .

POPCORN: Besides, I thought you were afraid of heights. 

CINEMA: Fucking terrified. But there’s no backing down.

The wind howls. The sky seems almost to be spinning.

POPCORN: Alright, dude. So let’s hurry up and talk about this movie.

CINEMA: Okay. Hold on . . .

Tentatively, CINEMA removes one hand from the ladder, reaching into his back pocket. He produces a phone, switching it one-handed into camera mode, then holds it above them both.

CINEMA: “When I watch a movie, it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy – “

POPCORN: Dude.

CINEMA: Okay, I’ll add it in the edit. So . . . this is Cinema, here with Popcorn . . .

POPCORN flips a middle finger at the phone.  

CINEMA: . . . and we are here at the site of the very real B67 TV tower, deep in the Mojave Desert . . . Walnut Grove, California, to be specific . . . reaching a height of 2,049 feet . . . that’s twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower . . . built in 1986 to carry broadcast signals for KXTV channel 10 and KOVR-TV channel 13 . . . it’s a magnet for BASE jumpers known to trespass on the property, climb the tower, and then parachute to the ground . . .

POPCORN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, in the movie, there’s these two chicks, and, like, the dark-haired chick, she was climbing a mountain with her dude in the beginning . . . and the dude didn’t make it, so she’s all messed-up and stuff a year later . . .

CINEMA: That’s Becky . . . and her friend, Hunter, is dealing with her own grief and feelings of guilt by continuing to risk her life for her Instagram page. Hunter wants followers. She wants numbers, Likes. She still cares about her best friend, though, and wants Becky to join her in the latest stunt. She’s going to climb what they refer to as the third tallest structure in the United States . . .

POPCORN: Because she’s a dipshit.

CINEMA: Obviously, she’s trying desperately to avoid some personal truths, hoping to block it all out with another adrenaline rush. Becky goes with her, but, when they reach the site, she initially throws up her hands. She says she can’t do it.

POPCORN: Because she’s not a dipshit.

CINEMA: But then, peer pressure and her need to face her demons sets in. She reaches up for the ladder, which creaks and moans. The camera flashes to various rusty parts, decayed stretches of steel, and loose bolts . . .

POPCORN (glancing at various rusty parts, decayed stretches of steel, and loose bolts): Dude.

CINEMA: Oh yeah, sorry. It’s okay . . . we’ve still got some climbing to do. The effect is going to be much better if we talk about this from . . .

He points, up, up, up. Then begins to climb. POPCORN, being tethered to him, has no choice but to follow. The ladder groans with their weight. They have cleared the protective cage now and there is only empty air surrounding them. They have essentially become part of the sky. The earth appears like a matte painting far below.

Above, there is only a narrow platform surrounding the tip of the pole, topped by a flashing light. The light was placed there to warn low-flying planes of the tower, unexpected in such a height. Though shaking, Cinema reaches up for the platform, preparing to heave himself up.

POPCORN: Dude, no joke, I’m gonna kick you in the balls so fuckin’ hard if we make it back down.

CINEMA: Not if, my friend, when. We’re almost done. All that remains is a discussion about the script, cinematography, and acting, with a brief discourse about the film’s place in the genre of survival cinema. If you would like to bring up Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s appearance as Becky’s father, there might be an appropriate place for that when we cover Liongate’s editing to change it into a PG-13 film . . .

There’s a loud metallic screech, almost like a scream. Then the ladder breaks loose from the pole. POPCORN is still hanging onto it when it goes. His eyes are huge with the fall, swinging around the pole, tethered to CINEMA. Pieces of metal from the ladder fall and fall and fall and fall, plummeting to the earth below.

CINEMA scrambles to hold onto the platform.

Pulling himself up.

POPCORN: (unintelligible screaming and cursing)

CINEMA: I got you, I got you . . .

He winds the tether around the pole, using his own weight to slowly pull POPCORN toward the platform. It’s like a scene from an action thriller, when someone who should have absolutely no survival instinct suddenly does something brilliant because the script deems it necessary. Much in the same way, CINEMA reaches down, all bookish and most definitely not a frequenter of the gym, and helps to pull POPCORN onto the platform. For good effect, the camera moves in close to his face, he sweats profusely, and tense music fills the air.

Finally, POPCORN is standing beside his friend. He looks almost as angry as he looks terrified.

POPCORN: Right in the balls, dude. I swear.

CINEMA (breathing heavily): Hey, everything is kind of beautiful from up here.

POPCORN: I can see your mom from here.

CINEMA: Okay, we should start with the plot, and then –

POPCORN: Dude. This is the plot.

CINEMA (checking phone): Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ve got some bad news anyway.

POPCORN: What??

CINEMA: The phone is dead.

There is a shot of the earth from space. A beat of three seconds passes, and then there is a deafeningly loud exclamation of “F U U U U U C K ! ! !”

When we return to the tower, everything is dark. Night has fallen. POPCORN and CINEMA are now sitting on the platform, legs dangling off the side. They look beat-up, exhausted, and hungry. They are still afraid, but seem almost too tired to care.

POPCORN: We’re gonna die up here.

CINEMA: Actually, chances are better that exhaustion, or maybe starvation, will take over and we will both eventually just fall off of this platform. So, technically, we would still die down there when we hit the ground.

POPCORN: I fuckin’ hate you.

CINEMA: Well, what did they do in the movie?

POPCORN: (glares at CINEMA)

CINEMA: I mean, when they were trying to distract themselves from their situation.

POPCORN: I think they argued.

CINEMA: They did. But they also brought up other fears that were worse than the fear of being trapped at the top of a two-thousand foot TV tower.

POPCORN: Dude, there are no fears worse than being trapped at the top of a two-thousand foot TV tower.

CINEMA: Okay, I’ll start.

POPCORN: (sighs)

When he looks back at CINEMA, there are tears in his friend’s eyes. Copious tears. As if there has been a time lapse of several minutes, during which a long dramatic speech has taken place. Or someone has doused him with eye drops. CINEMA looks visibly shook, and POPCORN seems shook to see his friend shook. It’s an Oscar moment.

CINEMA: I guess what I’m most afraid of . . . is being a failure. Not in the way that I don’t have a house and an expensive car, with all kinds of exotic vacations, piles of money. That’s never been my idea of success anyway. But what if all of these dreams . . . of being acknowledged for my writing, my imagination . . . the only things I’ve got . . . what if I can’t achieve those? What if I can’t even get out of my own way long enough . . . focus long enough . . . to even make a true run at those things that matter most to me? Because . . . if I spend my entire life . . . kind of turning my nose up at the kinds of lives normal people have . . . just to end up alone, and I’ve still not done the things that I’ve turned my back on everything else to do . . . then I might as well just jump off of this tower right now.

A moment passes in silence. Eventually, tears dried, he turns to look at POPCORN.

CINEMA: So what’s your greatest fear?

POPCORN: Pretty much this shit right here.  

Another time lapse, and now it’s morning. The sun is just coming up. We are focused on POPCORN’s face in close-up, like when someone in a movie is about to have a dream. The sound of wind blowing is still quite loud, but there is gradually another sound. Even louder. The sound of a jet.

POPCORN’s eyes open.

He sits up on the platform, rubbing his eyes. CINEMA is asleep beside him and does not see what POPCORN sees: an inverted F-14 Tomcat fighter plane, seeming to hover just above the TV tower.

POPCORN: What the fuck.

The cockpit canopy slides open to reveal Tom Cruise grinning at him from an upside-down position. He has far too many teeth.

CRUISE: Good morning, aviators. This is your captain speaking. Welcome to your rescue mission. If you would like to climb aboard, I can get you back down to the ground . . . unless you’d like to hang out here all day.

POPCORN passes out.

When he wakes up, there are flashing lights and emergency crews swarming around him. The base of the TV tower is just behind him, roped off, with additional yellow signs proclaiming ‘Police Line Do Not Cross.’ He rubs his eyes. When he stops, he turns to find CINEMA sitting beside him. Grinning.

POPCORN: Dude . . . what?? Was that a dream?

CINEMA: No. We climbed the tower. Got all the way to the top, too.

POPCORN: Did you see Tom Cruise?

CINEMA (laughs): No, you must still be high.

POPCORN: Guess this episode’s gonna be a bust then, huh? With the phone dead and all.

CINEMA: Yeah, I guess so. We can still tell the story, but without any footage . . .

POPCORN: At least we’re still alive.

CINEMA: Yeah.

POPCORN: So how’d we get down then?

CINEMA (shrugs): No one knows. We passed out, from exhaustion or dehydration, whatever. When we woke up, we were on the ground and the rescue crew was just arriving. It’s some kind of mystery.

POPCORN looks to the sky. Smiles.

POPCORN: Oh no, it’s no mystery.

Comforting End Credit music plays.

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