In 1984 my parents took me to Gremlins. I was 8. I was likely never the same again.

But that goes for many of my generation, and as much as the exposure to Looney Tunes cartoons (in my case, through Ramblin’ Rod’s morning program) and Mad Magazine helped cement our off-beat and sardonic humor, Joe Dante was one of the best at gently tweaking the nipples of Reagan’s America oh-so-not-so-gently. When I was 15, Joe came to Portland for what was the Portland Creative Conference, a series that may still be going, but for $125 or so (a shit-ton of money for me at the time) I got to hear people like Dennis Murren, Rick Baker, Martin Sheen, Matt Groening and others speak about their art. There was a party at the end of the conference, and I saw Joe standing around. But I was too young to ever build up the confidence to just start bullsitting with him. He did show clips of Matinee a couple months before it came out. And like any fan, I went opening day to the picture, which was greeted uncerminoniously by the box office, and immedately became one of my favorite films.

Video stores – back in the day – had what should be called unreliable back catalogues. And so I joined one video store for the sole reason of renting Piranha. Hollywood Boulevard would come later. And currently I’ve seem almost everything the man has done, excepting Explorers - as I’ve long held out hope for the non-existent director’s cut. Hell, I have a soft spot for everything of his I’ve seen, including Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which strikes me as horribly underrated. One of my favorite moments of cinema (such as it is) in the last year was watching The Screwfly Solution, and realized that opening sequence was making me uncomfortable, and then doubly realizing that it was because Joe Dante is a really good director. It wasn’t just that it was hand-held (anyone can do that) it was hand-held done right. Dante is one of the greatest working directors, and on top of that, an incredible film scholar.
 
Cut to: Late last year. When The Wright Stuff was going, planning to get seats for the rest of the Chud gang, I walked over to the theater and into Edgar Wright and Joe Dante. Edgar introduced us briefly, and we chatted about movies and Blu-Ray vs. HD. I correctly predicted the winner, but -more importantly – I made up for the boy inside of me who was too shy (hush hush) to bother the man. And this time, I wasn’t just a fan, but I was someone who knew someone! Triumph!

When Dante’s Inferno was announced at the New Bev, I had a solitary mission: 100% attendance, and through dilligence was able to attend them all, and was afforded the opportunity to BS with Dante almost every night, and he was nothing but a gentleman. When I told him my internet name was Andre Dellamorte, taken from Cemetery Man, he said “I know that!” And I said “Of course you do.”

But nothing compared to last night. As a Dante-ologist, I was well familiar with his Movie Orgy, or as it was once known, the All-Night Once-In-A-Lifetime Movie Orgy. As I said beforehand “This isn’t The Day the Clown Cried” – to which Quentin Tarantino added “Yeah, this isn’t The Day the Clown Cried or the twelve hour cut of Greed, alright…” – but it was definitely something I thought was lost to the sands of time. And then, to watch it in the front row with Edgar Wright (whose thoughts on the night are here), Drew “Moriarty” McWeeny (who wrote about it here, and gave me the greatest intro ever), Bill Hader (who loves Chud’s DVD coverage), my friend and New Beverly godess Julia, and Tarantino all in a (murderer’s) row, it was a truly singular experience. And it was truly a Rosetta Stone, as so much of Dante’s sensibilities emerged from the piece. There were things that – as Dante said beforehand – were taken and put into his films, including a bit with Abbot and Costello that was an obvious infuence on Innerspace.

I’ll take so much from last night, from having the chance to chat movies with Tarantino, to seeing Hader lose his mind over a gag or two, to talking with Drew afterwards, to watching Edgar watching and listening to himself watching the Suspiria trailer for Trailers from Hell, to the thing itself – which will never be released on home video and may never be screened in a theater again – that are indelible, that are singular. That are why I love films, and part of why I love to be in Los Angeles. Gags where an entire episode of a TV show are reduced to two lines of dialogue. Really smart cuts from a dog training commercial to an army commercial. When the show ended, Dante got a standing ovation. It’s probably the most heartfelt and earned standing O I’ve ever been a part of. It was one of those moments where I wish I could get taller or duplicate myself simply to add to the moment.
 
During the course of the 4 1/2 hour marathon, and after three cocktails, I ran into the bathroom and almost ran into Joe Dante while he was taking a pee, not realizing there was anyone there until I almost colided with him. Had I not had those drinks beforehand, I would have said what came to me moments later: “I didn’t mean to crowd you.” About two hours in, Edgar ran for coffee, and was generous enough to bring espresso shots for all of us. I had one, along with a refill of Diet Coke, and it kept me going through the whole thing. But when I got home last night, it took a long time to get to bed, and I surely got less than four hours of sleep. But I doubt I could have slept better. I was still glowing and buzzing from one of the greatest nights of cinema I’ve had. And I’m still glowing.