Fear & Loathing @ the 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival Part II: Boozie Movies Tries to Review Silver Linings Playbook but Gets Stoned with a Demon and has a Three Way with a Stripper Instead!

Dear readers,

What follows below is a true story. Names have been changed to protect the subjects' identities. If you've missed the prologue, you can read it here. I warn you, this is not for the faint of the heart.


I call Gina to make plans for meeting up and grabbing a few pre-flick drinks. Tonight is the opening night film and party for the Philadelphia Film Festival. Appropriately enough, the showcase screening will be The Silver Linings Playbook, a smash hit at Toronto that's already carrying a lot of Oscar buzz. But the film is even more hotly anticipated here as it was shot locally in and around the city's suburbs. More specifically, it was filmed throughout Upper Darby, a suburb neighboring along the West Philadelphia border.

I grew up in Upper Darby; many of my friends' homes were used in the film. The diner where I spent many a late night/early morning nursing hangovers is featured prominently in the trailer. And from what I've seen in those same trailers, I know that the film is about a crazy guy who falls for an equally crazy woman. I'm a crazy guy from Upper Darby who's only dated crazy women. Here I am making plans with one right now. If there's anyone who ought to be writing up a drunken review of this film, it's me.

On the phone, Gina tells me that she no longer lives in Cherry Hill. Her friendly ghost housemate had gotten a little too aggressive and she decided to move out further into the heart of New Jersey, weird New Jersey, armpit of America New Jersey. She tells me she lives too far out to be commuting into town every day for the fest. Naturally, she's booked a room in the city for the next 10 days. She suggests that I meet her for a cocktail or eight at her hotel's bar.

Sure, this sounds like a good idea, but I have to remind myself, the last time she suggested something that seemed like a good idea, I lost two of my fingers.

We set a time and I ask her for the hotel name.

"Oh, you'll like this, I'm at the Holiday Inn in Old City, even got a room on the 6th floor." 

I don't think much of it until after I've already hung up. Why would I like this? And then I think back to a series of articles that were published a few years ago. The Holiday Inn is an internationally renowned haunt. It's infamous here in Philly. They even tried to capitalize on all of the crazy stories that went around about ghosts roaming the halls and playing shake the bed on guests by running some tacky promo where tourists could pay extra to rent out the rooms that seemed to suffer from the more intense and potentially dangerous paranormal activities.

I was tempted to do it myself, but it was beyond what my budget could ever allow. I had rich enough friends who gave it a shot, and they all swore they heard voices and saw shadows in the dark. But then again, my friends are like me, drunks and stoners, and even if they weren't consciously lying their word still can't be trusted. What's so scary about whispers and distant laughter anyhow? Have they ever stuck their dicks into a portal to another world that happened to be located in some possessed third generation gypsy's vagina?

Still, the idea of meeting Gina for drinks at this hotel seems appropriate enough.  

7pm rolls by and I already find myself three sheets to the wind. I'm having a fantastic time catching up with the woman I met through Craigslist six years go.

She's now thirty four but she looks exactly like the drop dead blue ball inducing beautiful twenty eight year old I knew before. She hasn't aged a day.

She comments on my weight and how much I've lost since she's last seen me. I've made a conscious effort to live a healthier lifestyle. I've moved on from beer to bourbon, less calories, more impact.

She asks me about my life and what I've done since last we've seen each other. I give her an abbreviated summary that probably makes my life seem even crazier than what it is.

"I quit the Fed gig, moved to New York, did the production thing, almost got into a union but suffered extreme exhaustion, ended up puking up a good chunk of my lower intestine on the set of Law & Order and found myself squatting in an abandoned Bushwick loft with a bunch of Freegans who believed in sustainable living through trash picking. I later got involved with state politics in P.A. working as an assistant press secretary, while developing small town film festivals, moved out to Austin, worked for Fantastic Fest, got fired, ended up homeless there living out of my car in the parking lot of a Gold's Gym, and finally moved back to Philly. I started freelancing doing some industrial video work while organizing indie film premieres at dive bars which only bankrupt me further."

She asks me what I do now

"I write drunken rants on film for fun, I make pornographic blacklight monster sex paintings for beer and weed money, and I have my own Cash for Gold shop to pay rent."

"I can see you doing that. You carry a gun for that kind of work?"


"What do you carry?"

"Depends on my mood and the weather. If it's hot out and I'm wearing shorts, I've got a small Ruger .380 LCP. Looks like the Derringer that James Bond carries. During the winter when I can wear a suit jacked, I have a full sized semi auto 9mm. And if I'm feeling really bold, I go commando with a Colt Python .357 holstered in a shoulder rig."

"You packing right now?"

"Absolutely not. Why, should I?"

Gina puts her purse on the bar, angles it towards my perspective and opens it in a fashion so that only I can see inside. It takes me a second to realize she has a sub compact 9mm Glock nestled within.

I can't help but think that she was sending me some subliminal message, I can't help but think of Chekov's gun idiom, I can't help but think this is going to come to play later tonight, or sometime in the next week.

I expect Gina to tell me why she's showed me her pistol, but she immediately changes conversation. She fills me in on the details of her life. She tells me that she's no longer a dentist's assistant, she was tired of looking into people's mouths. Somehow, she found herself in love with motorcycles, went back to trade school, and now runs her own small motorcycle mechanic shop. It's never too late to start over, it's never too late to fall in love again, and it's never too late to find a new passion.  

Like me, she blogs about film on the side, but it's certainly no career and she shares my cynicism on the overall scene.

I find Gina's hand resting on top of mine, the chemistry is still there. My instincts are telling me to say fuck it to the film festival. I want Gina to take me up to her room right now. I want to have her and whoever it is she happens to become in between. I still haven't come so hard since the last time she literally took me to another world.

But it's reaching past 7:30 and the screening is all the way at the other side of town. Even if we grab a cab, we're going to be late and we both still have drinks that are nearly full in front of us.

Gina challenges me to see who can finish theirs first. I'm drinking whiskey straight, she's been sipping Vodka solid. Yes, this is another great idea.


ff1.jpgTwenty minutes to an hour later and we're at the Annenberg Zellerbach auditorium and unfortunately, a volunteer usher with the festival informs us that our press badges would not be accepted for this screening.

Ok, so the press is not being allowed into the single biggest screening/event this festival has to offer. This is probably the best chance the Festival has of garnering substantial positive buzz. And this is one of the only titles big enough to get me any site traffic. Why would they do this?

Well, there's a bit of history to that. The short end is that Philadelphia sucks for film programming. No one ever shows up for anything unless it's Wes Anderson, The Goonies, or I don't even know what anymore. Festival attendance has been drastically declining the past few years. I've sat in half full theaters for plenty of big showcase screenings. So it's become common practice for festivals here to employ the aid of PR firms to run all sorts of promotions to fill those seats. The past few years, free "advance screening" passes have been handed out to the general public to thicken the crowds and give the appearance of a bustling festival.  There were draw backs to this naturally, as you had a bunch of random people coming in off the street for free films they knew nothing about, and sometimes, their reactions were more than a little inappropriate. I still won't forget last year's screening of Like Crazy where an elderly West Philly woman who had found free passes at her local Laundromat sitting behind me spent the majority of the film repeating a mantra of "Stupid fucking rich white kids. You ain't got no problems, you ain't got no problems you spoiled shits."

Again, the festival handed out throes of free passes and press badges to build an audience this year, but it backfired. All of Philadelphia actually wants to see Silver Linings Playbook.  Also, seeing how the film has employed nearly everyone involved with production in this town, there's a huge crew with friends and family who were sure to turn out. Hell, the block I grew up on is in the fucking trailer, and the author of the book it's based on is from Collingswood New Jersey, 15 minutes over the bridge from Philly. Oh, and Gina spent much of her childhood in Collingswood, so we both have our reasons for being desperate to see this.

And now, the screening has been completely over booked, every seat already taken, there's no possibility that Gina or I can get in.

But we're drunk and belligerent and were making some young volunteer's night working for free a living hell.

Surprisingly, Gina is being the vicious one here, but then again, I'm not entirely sure it's Gina who's talking right now. I half expect her to curse this girl out in Latin. I just hope she doesn't put a hex on this poor soul.

"We all know you can just turn a blind eye and let us in. We'll sit in the aisle."

When the usher insists that we need to leave, Gina goes nuclear.

"I bet you're a film student at Temple, I'm sure you think this is going to go somewhere for you, huh? Enjoy a future of waiting tables and fucking blogger baristas you've picked up at fake dive bars, honey. "

Well, after all of the insults, I doubt there's anything I can say or do that's going to get us in now.

I tell Gina that I know a great bar around the corner, there's no reason to get ourselves banned from any future screenings, and it's only the first night of the fest. It's far too early to be making a scene. We have 9 more days to alienate ourselves completely from the Philly film scene.


ff2.jpgFour rounds later and we decide to walk over to the official opening night after party.
There are no social environments more awkward than an industry party in Philly. Hundreds of hopeful writers, directors, and actors all drinking the same cool aid, trying their best to BS each other with the goal of networking towards a big break. I stopped carrying business cards a long time ago, but I still show up at these things for the free food and booze. Although, I'll admit that the last thing I need tonight is any more hooch.

Single, available, level headed women are a rare breed at these events. I suspect the groups of gorgeous 6 ft tall Russian blondes in micro skirts are prostitutes working the VIP crowd, looking for the trick with the most nose dandruff.

Meanwhile, Gina is as radiant as ever in a slinky black dress and there's nothing in our demeanor to suggest that we're here as a couple. She's getting a lot of attention; every male at the club with a badge is trying to get her business card, a tacky way to score her number.  She carrying two sets of cards, one that is a legitimate professional card, and the other has a fake number with printed instructions on how to go fuck yourself.

Guess which card these guys are getting? God, I'm absolutely smitten with this woman even if there's a good chance she'll be vomiting purple ooze on my chest later tonight.

I wonder how many more drinks until she starts talking in the third person, I'm dying to see how that goes over with her would be suitors, all these big and important indie filmmakers. I snicker to myself as I hear someone boast to Gina about the number of hits his Vimeo page gets and how he's holding off on distro offers for the feature he's just completed. IFC wants his film but he refuses to go VOD and have it pirated before it plays 12 screens. He's holding off with the intention of going wide, nothing less than 500 screens domestically. I already know he's going to spend the next three years doing self promotion before he's stuck settling on being a Redbox exclusive.

Gina gets tired of patronizing all these people and starts sending them my way, building me up as some top dog writer with major connections. The irony kills me. When people ask you what you do at these things, you can clearly see that they're just waiting for you to stop talking so they can tell you what it is that they do. But I know how to have fun with it.

I tell everyone that I'm working on fictionalized memoir of my experiences traveling around the country working in the film world and that I plan on adapting it into a live action porno. If porn is about fantasy, then I'm making the ultimate porn film where I can re-write my own life how I see fit the ultimate fantasy. Instead of being deported from Japan for outstaying my visa, I join a dojo where I'm trained in ninjitsu. Instead of being a lowly P.A. on television productions in New York, I thwart a major terrorist attack. Instead of being some socially awkward dork that's almost always delegated to being the platonic BFF in his relationships, I'm more like James Bond. I battle and defeat giant Kaiju overseas with my bare hands. I get into huge kung fu brawls with entire bars full of snide hipsters where I pulverize dozens of assholes into bloody silly puddy like Tony Jaa in The Protector. Meanwhile, I have sex, lots and lots of sex, sex that doesn't include my left hand.

The reactions I get are priceless.

A common follow up question is "Are you on drugs?"

I generally answer, "Probably."

I'm glad that Gina finds this funny. I probably shouldn't let this one go again, even if she may be possessed by some ancient Candarian demon.

I find it funny how all these strangers talk to me like they're pitching their big projects to some Hollywood producer.

One woman tells me about her independent feature that she hopes to sell as a television pilot to FX. It's Twilight meets Desperate Housewives where a bored middle aged divorcee who's also a community college English professor meets a mysterious younger man in one of the classes she teaches. She becomes the man's private tutor and a steamy relationship develops, of course, the young man is an undead immortal. He only attends the night classes. But the woman soon learns that there is a lineage of lycanthropes in her blood line. She's actually the descendant of some werewolf queen many centuries ago. Taboo love becomes even more taboo as the woman's family comes out of the closet as werewolves and try to interfere with her love life. Meanwhile, all of it is set in the quiet suburbs of Philadelphia.

I imagine the script was developed in some over-priced week long writing seminar. She spends a solid ten minutes pitching the plot line for an entire season. She doesn't even look at me as she speaks. As wacky as her idea is, it's incredibly elaborate. She's been rehearsing this, a lot.

Of course, she's already cast her project with a medley of A-list stars. But she promises me that this film is rooted in an authentic reality, that the cast will represent real people. These are normal flawed characters based on her and those in her life. Obviously, the teacher who falls in love with the vampire is modeled on the creator.

I ask this woman who the female lead should be. I should tell you that she's a freckled Irish red head, somewhere between a size 16 and 18. She looks at me stone cold and says "Well, everyone tells me I look just like Gina Gershon, so I'd go with her."

Luckily, my Gina saves me from having to continue this conversation any further and suggests we move on to somewhere else. I'm already dreading all of the random Facebook friend requests I'll be getting tonight/tomorrow. I don't know these people, there's no reason for them to follow me and know what I'm doing on a daily basis. I couldn't give a single flying fuck what these people think about the presidential candidates or what they ate for lunch.

"Well, Greg? You going to take me out and show me a good time before she comes."

Ah, there it is. I smile and tell her I know exactly the place.


ff3.jpgI know an acquaintance who throws some of the wildest parties in the city. I've worked with him on a screening of Dead Hooker in a Trunk a few years back and he helped organize and promote one of my blacklight monster sex gallery showings recently. He's a local comedian with a rather ingenious shtick of performing as a vulgar, triple X rated Neil Diamond impersonator. He throws costumed themed parties with strippers where half the crowd ends up getting naked before the night's end. He hands out free sex toys with his name on them as prizes while singing songs about cocaine and glory holes.

I tell Gina all of this and her enthusiasm is disarming. I tell her that it's naughty Catholic schoolgirl night tonight and she leaves me for a minute so that she can go to the bathroom and pull her hair into pigtails.

A twenty minute cab ride later and we enter the small bar to pulsing music and a shoulder to shoulder crowd. There's a nude inked up woman lying on the bar, "Mommy Tried" prominently tattooed across her stomach, another half naked woman in a sexy nun outfit is slurping Jack Daniels out of her navel.

Six or seven other suicide girl type models are dancing topless in plaid miniskirts on a makeshift stage that looks like a future lawsuit.

Scrawny over dressed hipsters and lumberjack biker types proudly wearing their colors stand around the stage recording the girls with their cell phones.

Some random, fully dressed, and completely hammered middle aged woman pushes her way through the crowd screaming, "I love your tits, ladies."

She gets to the stage and two of the dancing sirens kneel down. They start making out. The older woman's hands both reach to each girl and find their way into their panties.

Some huge lumberack looking motherfucker who'd probably eat the entire cast of Sons of Anarchy for breakfast is seated at the end of the stage with another volunteer stripper bent over his knee with her skirt hiked up as he spanks the shit out of her with a ruler.

Yeah, it's Catholic schoolgirl night and I'm going to hell, everyone in this bar is going to hell.

I order a round of shots for Gina and I, only, she's not Gina anymore. I'm now standing next to that older woman whom I had that drunken night of other worldly sex with six years ago.

I get a much better look at her this time around and I find that she's just as beautiful as Gina in her own way.

I try to make casual conversation with her; I even ask her what her name is as I assume it can't be Gina as well. She doesn't answer. She looks at me and smiles before focusing all of her attention at the stage full of girls with daddy issues. She looks at them the same way all of the men are looking at them, as pieces of meat ready to be marinated and grilled on an open flame.

I already know things are about to get very very weird and decide that more shots are in order.
On my way to the crowded bar, I stop to talk to Mr Dirty Diamond, the Neil Diamond impersonator hosting this orgy of debauchery. He's dressed in drag as a nun and handing out free vibrators to random women.

I imagine the Hell Fire Club parties that Benjamin Franklin used to organize in this city three centuries ago were just like this. It's been rumored that America's founding fathers had a penchant for organizing orgies where they paid prostitutes to dress as nuns in a mockery of the church. Three hundred years later and nothing has really changed. Everything old becomes new again.

At some point, Dirty Diamond points his finger at the stage with a verbal exclamation of "holy shit."

Gina has somehow done a standing jump 6 feet up into the air and unto the stage grabbing one the dancers under-armed like some Universal monster before carrying her off her to the back of the bar and into the bathroom all caveman style.

The crowd goes nuts; everyone is cheering, and yelling wildly inappropriate and offensive remarks.

I suddenly feel my ego depleting. It's so unfair. Attractive women can have anyone and anything they want. I feel jealousy for these strippers for a moment. They want to make out with a man they're attracted to. Done. They want to make out with a woman they're attracted to. Easy. They want a three way. No Problem.

I feel utterly impotent right now. I'm just another pervert surrounded by other drunk perverts hoping to get lucky. None of us probably will. I just want to go home now.

I go outside for fresh air and by going out for fresh air I mean nervously chain smoking Newport 100's.

I end up making mindless chit chat with a young woman wearing nothing more than a thong and pasties. She's also "getting some fresh air."

ff4.jpgShe tells me her name is Lydia. She has a giant tattoo of Satan on her chest with wings stretching out across her breasts. The infamous woman on a spike image from Cannibal holocaust takes up the majority of her forearm. A symmetrical pair of nude women spread eagle with bloody fetuses dangling out their vaginas has been drawn on opposite sides of her neck.

She seems nice enough in conversation but every time I look at her tattoos I just want to ask her what the fuck is wrong with her. Does she feel bad when she's at the beach or somewhere public where there's children around cause there's no way to hide these tattoos. Where they hell can you even work looking like that?

Turns out she works for Burning Angel, an alternative porn label in New York with a lot of Philly ties. I used to work with some guys who did lot of PR gigs for Burning Angel in the company's early days. They used to run great film festivals that would shill out free beer and vodka; it was called the Back Seat Film Festival and was tagged as the drinking man's festival. Sorry, Alamo, you can't take the entire claim for the being the official festival of drunks. Back Seat Film Festival was run like the gong show, they'd have naked porn stars smash the tapes of rejected films at the opening ceremony, if any film was getting heckled, they'd turn it off and skip to the next. Yeah, Philly is a city of assholes. For those of you who know me from outside of the city of brotherly love, if you think I'm prick, you obviously haven't been to my home town. I'm Philly-lite.

Burning Angel have made a name for themselves making extremely revolting hardcore porn parodies of horror movies, Re-penetrator, EXXXorcist, Night of the Giving Head etc.
Lydia tells me she's been working on an Evil Dead porn parody. She casually describes the experiences of working on set and being given vaginal and anal enemas full of fake blood and pea soup which she "sprays" on her male co-star.

Coincidentally, just as Lydia finishes describing the porn's re-enactment of the tree rape scene, "Gina" shows up. The girl she had carried off to the bathroom is gone. "Gina" grabs the cigarette dangling from my lips, takes a drag for herself, and then kisses me. Her breath tastes like raw meat.

She turns to Lydia and kisses her too.

Lydia turns to me. "I like your friend."

"Gina" leans into Lydia's ear and whispers something that I'm not able to catch.

"Gina" smiles while twirling her new pig-tails. Lydia scans me up and down, inspecting me, judging me.

Finally, she nods her head before saying. "It looks like I'm coming back to the room with you two. What's this she's saying about it being haunted?"

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