Since the Schmoes have been building so much momentum recently (television and radio appearances, studio screenings, free KFC coupons), I decided to take it upon myself to bring a halt to this rally by returning to the Schmoes Blog scene. And while you (the attractive female reading this right now) may assume that I just felt like venting in a public forum, I actually have a point to this driveling nonsense.
The Schmoes were invited to their very first press junket extravaganza, for the big summer superhero film “Thor”. Due to limited seating, only one Schmoe would be granted access to the cast and crew press conferences….who would be the lucky fella to gain entrance? Well, since Harloff has a wife and a dog, and all my NBA teams already lost in the playoffs, I stepped into the ring (of course, I also had seen the movie already…the monkey that I film reviews with won’t see it until Tuesday night).
The junket was held at the Four Seasons hotel, so I made sure to wear my very finest threads (a button-down I found at Buffalo Exchange and a maroon vest I have from my movie theater concessions technician days). This place ain’t the Holiday Inn…they had a breakfast buffet that would make Thor himself stuffed and pleading for a doggy bag. It took every ounce of energy to hide my white trash animal impulses and only have thirds. 16 strips of bacon and 2 whole pineapples later, we were ushered into the ballroom for the “Thor” press conference.
While Natalie Portman was unable to attend (something about her being pregnant…I always thought a stork just showed up at your place with a kid), the rest of the lead actors and actresses were on-hand. It’s a little awkward when famous people walk into a room and step up to a podium in front of critics, reporters and Ellises…it feels like there should be applause, but none was initially awarded. And then Anthony Hopkins enters, and we all go crazy. Nothing makes the energy in a room positive like Hannibal Lecter stepping up to the mic.
The cast panel consisted of Sir Hopkins, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba and Jamie Alexander. The two females flanked the men on either end of the stage, and Hemsworth was in the middle with Hiddleston to his right and Hopkins to his left. Later, the crew panel had director Kenneth Branagh in the middle with writers and producers on both sides.
What really struck me was the congenial repoire the cast had with each other…they all seemed like genuine friends who worked in an office, and won a night’s stay at the swankiest hotel in town. You always hear horror stories of celebrities not getting along on set and storming off to their trailers to bitch to their publicists…none of that here.
Now, I’m not Tim Roth from Fox’s “Lie to Me”…I have no idea if people are telling the truth or not. A long history of letting friends borrow video games that never get returned and my receiving of girls’ fake phone numbers will attest to that. And whereas risque publicity and rumors of conflict used to be thought of as a way to promote a film (“any press is good press”), the Lindsay Lohans and Mel Gibsons of the world have put an end to that (“just don’t make an ass out yourself a week before your movie opens”). But hey, I’m an average dude who takes people at their word…and these kids at the podium seemed to be thrilled to be a part of a big superhero movie.
For a guy as physically imposing as Chris Hemsworth, the Aussie displayed an authentic “aw-shucks” persona…he mentioned multiple times how lucky and excited he is to be playing Thor. He was asked if he feels any pressure in bringing such an iconic character to life, and he sounded like Brett Favre in a postgame interview; he just showed up to work everyday and is thrilled to have a job in Hollywood.
Then came my big moment: I asked a question for the whole panel, and I engaged Chris and Kat in particular: being a humorist of note myself (man I wish that vernacular could be used in 2011 with a straight face), I wanted to see if the comedy elements of the film put added pressure on the performers. How did it feel to have to be the comic relief in certain scenes of a film that has such serious subject matter? Kat (who plays Darcy Lewis, Natalie Portman’s wiseacre sidekick…yes, I wish we still used the term ‘wiseacre’ as well) made an excellent point about her character being the one who is the voice of the audience: if a huge Norse god comes to your tiny New Mexico town, it’s gonna be weird. The best method humans have to deal with an odd situation is to lighten it with humor (and then beat the crap out of bad guys).
And for what it’s worth, I thought the humor played great in the film…after seeing the trailer Harloff was terrified that it would ruin the tone of the film and make it too “Transformers-y”. But director Kenneth Branagh did an expert job of employing comedy early in the film, and then gradually reducing it’s role as the story gave way to more serious subject matter.
Anthony Hopkins was my favorite panelist to watch…the guy is a legendary actor, a knight and has more awards than I have Burger King wrappers in my car. Yet he was so into every question, regardless of whether he was the target. When I had my turn at the mic, he was listening intently with a smile on his face; every time he had a query directed his way his anwsers were thought-provoking and thorough. He discussed a particular scene between his character, Odin, and his son Thor. Branagh pushed both actors for one more take, and he suggested a more emotional approach that Hopkins just nails in the film…Hopkins joked that without that guidance, he probably would’ve just wrapped and headed for lunch.
Branagh was smiling throughout the press conference; he told stories of reading comic books like Thor as a boy and mentioned his experience working on “Henry V” as great training for filming action sequences. The crew also discussed the 3D in the film…Branagh admitted he wasn’t entirely confident filming live with the latest multi-dimensional camera technologies; the finished product is in 3D and and was converted in post-production I believe (a fact that may make Kristian’s skin crawl; as long as it looks better than “Jaws 3D” I don’t care as much).
The press conferences lasted a total of maybe an hour; they flew by for me and afterwards me and my new circle of friends went their separate ways (everyone else at the junket did the whole valet thing; I parked 8 blocks away and waddled down the sidewalk with 6 croissants stuffed in each pocket).
As I like to say, I’m not a critic or a respected member of the press…just an ordinary fella who loves making funny videos. And as you might guess, sitting in a crowded room rubbing elbows with those types ain’t my cup of tea; I’d rather not have heard some of the catty gossip and name-drop contests that went on in some of the cliques. But for whatever reason, the Schmoes have been honored with such a large and passionate fan base that we can trojan-horse ourselves into these events…and that’s why I enjoyed being at the Four Seasons today (ok, the buffet didn’t hurt). It’s a priviledge that you guys trust us to give you honest perspective without any filters or agenda…so here it is:
It was a pleasure to watch the creators of a huge summer blockbuster be so genuine and humble. From the easy camaraderie of the cast to the valuable insight of the crew, it’s no secret why “Thor” turned out to be a fun ride: the team had a ball making it. And this isn’t some glowing piece just to be nice to Paramount for letting me in to the junket (if I wanted to suck-up to the studio, I wouldn’t be bitching about their theater’s 3D glasses from 1976. You’re one of the biggest studios on the planet, and your on-location theater has mining goggles for 3D? Is this headgear supposed to enhance the movie or correct my teeth??).
Simply put, after having such a good time watching the fllm, it’s nice to know it wasn’t made by a bunch of a$$holes. Enjoy “Thor”, kids…and then get a hobby to pass the time until “The Avengers” comes out next summer.“Thor” Junket Review (funny junket review),