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: Duuude.

CINEMA: Well now. Who the hell are you?

POPCORN: Uh, just your old friend, your buddy and amigo, your other half.

CINEMA: I thought I had all of those things, but I haven’t seen you in almost a year… a year… we did that last show, our fiftieth episode… I was looking forward to starting the next fifty with you… and then you just vanished.

POPCORN: Yeah, I was busy.

CINEMA: Busy?? What the hell do you have to keep you busy? Weed and lottery tickets?? I’ve been over here, watching movies on my own, talking to myself, waiting for a phone call or a knock on the door, that annoying little voice saying, ‘Duuude‘ … and nothing.

POPCORN: Hey, time just kinda got away from me, ya know? Wasn’t personal. Besides, the phone works both ways.

CINEMA: Yeah, yeah, whatever. Wait, you weren’t in jail again, were you?

POPCORN: Nah, man. Well, not the whole time. I had shit to do, that’s all.

CINEMA: Shit to do, uh-huh.

POPCORN: So what are you up to?

CINEMA: Well, I was just about to watch a movie…

POPCORN: A movie, huh?

CINEMA: Yeah, I’m starting a new show for Paul. I’m thinking about calling it Connoisseur Cinema, or maybe Cinema of the Smart… 

POPCORN: Dude, that sounds dumb.

CINEMA: You sound dumb.

( He looks at Popcorn and Popcorn looks at him. )

CINEMA: You look like a homeless person standing out here. Do you want to come in?

POPCORN: Alright, you talked me into it. ( walks into Cinema’s apartment, looks around ) Doesn’t look like much changed. Got any food?

CINEMA: Apparently, nothing’s changed at all. Luckily for you, I just ordered a pizza.

POPCORN: Extra pepperoni?

CINEMA: Always.

POPCORN: So what are we watching? Probably some artsy shit.

CINEMA: I’m definitely not watching Ernest Scared Stupid. You’re not tricking me into that bullshit  again. Oh no, my long lost, most dubious friend. Tonight’s cinematic treasure is a silent film from 2005, based on a literary classic…

POPCORN: Oh shit.

CINEMA: … it’s H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu.

POPCORN: Hold on, dude. I gotta smoke up and finish scratching off this lottery ticket…

CINEMA: ( sighs )

( Popcorn plops down onto the couch as if he never left. Cinema switches off the lamps. The light from the television pours out, casting them in black-and-white, like they are part of the film that comes to life on Cinema’s old Vizio. A musical score squeezes into the darkened space, titles made to resemble old-school Hollywood bursting from the screen. )

POPCORN: How old is this movie anyway?

CINEMA: I told you, it’s from 2005.

( The film opens with an overhead shot of a disturbed looking man sitting across from a psychiatrist in an asylum. Their words appear on the screen in silent movie style. “Do you promise to do as I asked you?” the patient asks, “You’ll burn it? All of it?” The doctor is looking at a stack of the man’s collected articles, papers, and documents. )  

POPCORN: Maybe I’m high, but it kinda looks like Nosferatu.

CINEMA: … and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari! Yeah, that’s on purpose! It was produced by Andrew Leman and Sean Branney, with Leman directing, and distributed by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. They didn’t have much money to work with, so they opted to film it in a combination of modern and vintage film techniques, mimicking the style of a 1920s-era silent film. They call it Mythoscope.

POPCORN: It’s not real.

CINEMA: It’s perfect, since that’s the time when Lovecraft was alive and doing most of his writing. Too many adaptations of his work make it too modern, which kind of ruins some of the magic. The reason they filmed in black-and-white, though, was that it’s really… forgiving. Have you ever taken a selfie and it just doesn’t look that great?

POPCORN: It’s like you know me.

CINEMA: But then you dial down the color, suddenly there are less flaws. Like this stupid shirt you’re wearing – what are those, palm trees?

POPCORN: They’re buds, dude.

CINEMA: Yeah, well, take all of the green out of them, throw a little contrast on your face, a little shadow… maybe a lot of shadow… and, as long as no one can smell a photograph, you might almost look elegant.

POPCORN: I’m a fancy motherfucker.

CINEMA: There’s a scene that takes place in a swamp… oh, here it is… and it looks good, doesn’t it? It looks real.


CINEMA: Real enough for a movie, anyway. But Sean Branney, one of the producers, said that in color it looked like a Muppet Show set. ( laughs )

POPCORN: ( hums Muppet Show theme music )

CINEMA: There have been plenty of movies made from Lovecraft’s work… The Dunwich HorrorRe-AnimatorFrom BeyondColor Out Of Space

POPCORN: The Call Girl of Cthulhu.

CINEMA: … but none of them, even Stuart Gordon’s work, have been faithful to the source material. Guillermo del Toro has been trying to get At the Mountains of Madness made for decades now. Even with his influence and track record, he’s not been able to get it done.

POPCORN: Cuz of special effects?

CINEMA: Well, he couldn’t get Warner Bros. to finance it. They were worried about the cost and the tone of it, which doesn’t have a happy ending or a love story of any kind.

POPCORN That last Space Jam flick was pretty fuckin’ sad. No love for that. Wasn’t that Warner Bros?

CINEMA: It was. How about A Clockwork Orange? Deliverance? The Shining? Mystic River? Se7en? Dunkirk?  Joker? None of those had happy endings, yet all did well.He almost had it greenlit in 2010, with James Cameron as producer and Tom Cruise set to star, but it didn’t happen. He went to Universal –

POPCORN: Classic monsters, dude.

CINEMA: Right? But they wouldn’t let him make it an R-rated film. He’s found a new home at Legendary Pictures, yet nothing has happened there either… which is all just to show that it’s not easy getting an accurate Lovecraft movie made, not even for the A-listers.

POPCORN: Folks just hate the dude.

CINEMA: I wouldn’t say hate. Lovecraft was definitely a product of his time, meaning he was often blatantly racist… if you want to know what I mean, Google the name of his cat… but, even with most of his work free to adapt, there haven’t been many filmmakers who’ve attempted it. Much of it, like The Call of Cthulhu, is said to be unfilmable.

POPCORN: It’s that damn cat.

CINEMA: But the Lovecraft Historical Society is made up of true fans of his work –

POPCORN: Total nerds.

CINEMA: In the best way. So they set out to make it as accurate as possible… and essentially succeeded. When we finally see the dreaded monster… well, there were budgetary constraints, so he’s stop motion –

POPCORN: Like King Kong?

CINEMA: You’ll see. It works in context with the silent movie, 1920s thing they were going for. You may want to smoke up just a little more before we get to the end, just saying.

POPCORN: Way ahead of ya, dude.

CINEMA: There are scenes of a boat on the stormy sea… kind of surreal, but effective… the boat is a model they purchased from eBay, and the seas are comprised of a couple crew members on either side of a dark sheet, sprinkled with glitter, creating the swaying effect…

POPCORN: Badass. 

CINEMA: The sets were basically made from whatever they could find on a budget. There’s this part a little later – you’ve gotta see it! – they end up on this city that rises from the ocean, the ancient city of R’lyeh. In most of the shots, it’s a model, of course…     

( Popcorn looks at his friend almost sentimentally, almost admirably. )

CINEMA: … but there’s a scene where they take a rowboat out to the island. They are actually standing there, then climbing this mountain of rock. The thing was almost forty feet tall… at least two stories high… and it was made out of cardboard, with some leftover wood salvaged from a stage production…

POPCORN: That’s some Blair Witch kinda budget magic there.

CINEMA: Indeed.

( They watch silently for a while. There’s a smile on Cinema’s face as the movie reaches it’s conclusion, and eventually Popcorn is smiling too. )

CINEMA: It’s a great movie to add to a Halloween watch list. It’s not even an hour long, but they make the most of the time.

POPCORN: And that thirty-seven dollar budget.

CINEMA: For real.



POPCORN: You’re, like, really into this shit. Even more than me. This last year… it’s been rough, dude. Not gonna lie. But there’s been a couple times I scraped up some money, went to the movies… everything was a little better, you know? For, like, a couple hours I went somewhere else. I needed that.

CINEMA: We all need that sometimes.

POPCORN: I missed my friend, though.

CINEMA: Yeah, I usually buy your ticket.

POPCORN: And my snacks.

( Both laugh. )

POPCORN: I missed talking about this shit too, though. Ain’t nobody can talk like you.

CINEMA: You mean intelligently?

POPCORN: I mean, like, you don’t ever shut the fuck up. But that’s cool, dude. Like, if there was anybody I’d wanna hear going on and on… and on… and on… it would be you.

CINEMA: Thank you… I think.

POPCORN: So are you, uh, totally determined to do this Cinema of the Smart thing?

CINEMA: Not totally determined.

POPCORN: How you feel about having a buddy to watch your artsy shit with?

CINEMA: An amigo.

POPCORN: Your other half.

CINEMA: Well, I guess that would be alright. But, I swear, if you’re not here next week…

POPCORN: I will be, dude.

CINEMA: Alright then. Popcorn Cinema is back in business.

POPCORN: Now where the hell is that pizza?  


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