I'm Spoiled: A Story of Harold, Kumar, NPH, and Me
Peter Tatara - January 21, 2008
I realized today that I'm spoiled. Really, really spoiled. For a long time I've been a fan of Harold and Kumar. I first saw the film in college, as part of the Asian Expressions Film Festival, a short-lived Asian and Asian American film series sponsored by a number of multi-cultural groups in Ithaca, NY. Actually, "saw the film" doesn't really describe it properly. I was one of the film festival's organizers. I was originally brought into the event to add some Japanese Animation to the program, and with phone calls to a few friends and distributors, I quickly completed that task. I even got a nice forward written by some of the Producers of Grave of the Fireflies to accompany the film. With my job done, I naturally started tinkering with other elements of the event. Turns out there was no marketing plan. After a few days of me on the job, ads were created and booked with the local papers and flyers were clogging up all the bulletin boards at Ithaca College and Cornell University. I then learned we had no festival guides. A few hours later, I had guides designed and to the printers. Over the next month, I continued to make the Asian Expressions Film Festival look presentable. What I didn't do during this time was lob too many questions at the chief programmer. He was responsible for the documentaries and real movies we'd be showing. He told me, always, that he was on top of it all. I believed him. Then, with a few weeks to go, as my prints started to come in, I asked him if any of his had arrived yet.
"Nah. I'm just going to pick them up at Blockbuster."
Pick them up at Blockbuster? I asked him why the studios and distributors he was working with weren't sending us material. He replied that he hadn't talked to either. My eyes narrowed just a bit. For the past month, he had just been sitting on his ass, planning the entire film festival's selection from a video store. I calmly explained to him that that's not really how it's done, that you can't just rent a movie and show it in front of a few hundred people. Rights? Permissions? He didn't understand. No one did. I told him and the other organizers this wouldn't do and proceeded to get in contact with the owners of everything we had planned to show. Because most of the selection was independent and agit-prop crap and the filmmakers just wanted to get their work seen, I had no problem getting most of the material cost-free, which was good because the Asian Expressions Film Festival never had any budget to begin with and anything I did that cost money was paid for by dipping into the pockets of other organizations I had a role in.
There were only two movies which presented hiccups -- Flower Drum Song and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. I was eventually able to get Flower Drum Song cheap and also get some nice introductions written by a lot of the original cast just for the festival. (The cast wanted to come up to the screening, too, but, as I just said, I didn't have any funding.) This left me with only Harold and Kumar remaining unresolved. Getting even a VHS to screen was a lot. More money than I could easily snatch. When I explained the situation, the festival's other organizers told me to drop Harold and Kumar from the schedule. I was about to, too. I had never seen the movie, and I had no interest in seeing it, either. I thought it didn't make any sense as part of the film series and no one'd show up for it. Then, I had another thought...
"Why the hell not?"
I told the festival's team we were going to get the money for Harold and Kumar. How? Balls. I wrote formal letters to a number of academic and ethnic offices at Cornell and Ithaca College, introduced the festival, and asked for their help to fund the screening. I didn't ask for money for the festival in general. No, I asked for money to screen Harold and Kumar. I could only imagine the number of bleating requests both schools received from hippies with ideas for cultural potlucks and drum circles and didn't want to be filed away with them. I stated frankly want I intended to do with the money and, within 24 hours, had a series of meetings scheduled. My first was with Ithaca College's Vice President of Admissions, and it went something like this...
"So, you want money to show Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle?"
"You're kidding me."
"Here's a cheque."
Each meeting was the same. I got a lot of money. I was able to pay for a print of Harold and Kumar and take out additional ads to promote the thing. When the festival rolled around, all the documentaries, cartoons, and indie shit attracted maybe a dozen people in total. Harold and Kumar had a line out the door three hours before show time. We had over 500 people show up to a theater with under 200 seats. Everyone loved the movie, and I'm pretty sure I saw Ithaca's Vice President of Admissions in the audience.
Now, here's the important part, I fell in love with Harold and Kumar. The day I shipped the print back, I went out and bought the DVD. I watched it four times when I got home and have seen it probably 100 times more since then. To this day, I'm a huge Harold and Kumar fan. I watch House because Kal Penn's on it this season and tune into How I Met Your Mother because of Neil Patrick Harris.
Jumping ahead, for the past few years, there were perpetual whispers of a Harold and Kumar 2, but I didn't take anything seriously. All the stories sounded like a toked-up fantasy. It wasn't going to happen. And then I saw the trailer. I cannot wait for Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. I'm much, much, much more excited for the next Harold and Kumar than anything else coming out this year. For the record, that includes Cloverfield, Iron Man, Star Trek, and The Dark Knight.
And then, last week, I saw a poster for Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Actually, two. Walking out of I Am Legend, I saw John Cho and Kal Penn clad in orange jumpsuits staring me down. I liked it. But, a few feet away, I saw another poster, Neil Patrick Harris astride a unicorn crowned by the sentence "What Would NPH Do?" I stood there, mouth agape, for some undetermined but obscene amount of minutes. This poster was nothing short of pure, unadulterated genius. I cannot fathom how this poster -- absolutely bizarre and beautiful -- wasn't killed in a committee somewhere, and I'd really like to meet whoever designed it and just hand him a cheque for a million bucks. Actually, I don't have a million bucks, but I'd so give the man who created this poster $20.
And, in fact, I recently learned that $20 is what it takes to make this poster yours. You can buy a high-quality reproduction "What Would NPH Do?" poster from New Line Cinema for only $19.99.
Valentine's Day is coming up, and while my girlfriend gave me a three-page list of all the shiny, girlie things she wants (and still managed to forget crotchless panties), I want only one thing. A "What Would NPH Do?" poster.
So, all this back story is great, but what's any of it have to do with the title of this piece? I'm Spoiled? See, I now work for an omni-national corporation that has dealings with a lot of television and movie companies, and we today received some swag from New Line. Included in the box? Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay posters. I, of course, was babbling with delight, and I've now got John Cho and Kal Penn staring back at me from across from my desk all day. I'm Spoiled? Here's the thing, though, as great as it is to have a Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay poster in my office, I'm kinda depressed it's not the "What Would NPH Do?" one.
And, to tell the story in its entirety, New Line sent us some of the latter, awesomer posters, but by the time I found out, they were gone. The dude in the office to the left of me has a "What Would NPH Do?" poster on his wall, and the guy in the office to the right has a "What Would NPH Do?" poster on his door. I'm really jealous and, I think, starting to hate them both.
This is why I'm spoiled. I'm staring at my Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay poster and all I can do is sulk, sniffle, and brood.