For the Love of Traverse City

Scott’s and my weekend visits to Traverse City, Michigan are few and far between, but after this past trip, I’m thinking that needs to change. Before you’ve been to TC, it’s easy to dismiss it as a typical smallish town that hosts a cherry-themed festival once a year and doesn’t have much to its name beyond that. And that’s a shame, because it’s much more than that. There are wineries and beer bars and a one-screen theater that shows the kinds of movies you never knew you wanted to see, but for $3 (or 2 for $5!), how could you ever say no? It’s bursting with culture and personality and a thorough hipness that’s somehow untainted by pretension–thus making it unavoidably enjoyable.

This time around, we saw two movies, ate all kinds of food, glorious food, and stopped by something like four bars. My brother, our host, made us French toast, introduced us to another party-style Wii game, and took us to a cidery for a tasting. And we spent a solid hour or two walking around the lake as the Scotts (my brother’s name is Scott, too, because of course it is) talked about my brother’s future in law, state politics, and boat ownership while I studied the water and the multitude of dogs that made their way up and down the pier.

Now, let’s talk about these movies.

I’d be hard pressed to think of two movies more different than The Room and The Cabin in the WoodsThe Room is widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made; The Cabin in the Woods is a highly praised borderline brilliant horror comedy. It’s good to prepare for The Room, knowing what to yell at the screen, when to sing the Full House theme, and how many spoons you’ll need to throw at the too-large images of Tommy Wiseau awkwardly making love to the undeserving object of his affection. But with The Cabin in the Woods, it’s best to go in completely blind. Even a simple plot summary works as a spoiler, and knowing nothing leads to the best kind of surprises. No one should ever be quiet during a showing of The Room; everyone should be dead silent in a screening of The Cabin in the Woods. You get the idea.

And yet somehow I enjoyed one as much as the other, albeit in completely different ways. First, let’s talk about The Room. As I said, this is a movie worthy of examination simply because of its badness. The dialogue is stilted, the story is laughable, and the production value, well, it leaves more than a little bit to be desired. It begs to be mocked, and that’s what audiences have been doing for nearly a decade now. Sarcastic comments, spoon tossing, direct responses to the more absurd lines of dialogue–all is welcome, even encouraged. I can’t imagine experiencing The Room in any other way and am so grateful to have done so at 11 pm in a comfy theater seat with a bucket of popcorn on my lap and spoons in hand.

Now, the less said about The Cabin in the Woods, the better. I hesitate to recommend it to just anyone, as it really is unlike any other horror film I’ve seen. It’s frightening, sure, with its fair share of surprises and spurts of violence, but those moments are more than redeemed with the consistently witty dialogue and the impressively clever conceit of [REDACTED]. It’s not overwhelmingly Whedonesque, but it has his fingerprints sprinkled throughout it, tempered by the deft direction of Buffy, Angel, and Lost alum Drew Goddard. This is a well performed, well written, and extremely satisfying movie, a perfect cap on a weekend filled with homemade breakfast, gorgeous Michigan weather, locally made cider, candy factory floors turned lofts, artisan pizzas, recollections of near-miss bar fights, and the kind of fun you feel like you deserve every now and again.