Ejected from the Planet of the Apes

Rob and I were ejected from the Planet of the Apes (the movie, not the planet) in 2001. We got a chat going to explain what happened.

ROB
When was the last time we IM’d each other?

JESSE
Probably sometime after we saw Planet of the Apes 2001 but also way before Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out in 2011.

ROB
Only a decade between the two? It felt like a lifetime

JESSE
Right? A lot of these franchises get rebooted or whatever way too fast, but we straight up got into long-term relationships and got married in the lapse between Apes movies.

ROB
Sabrina and I had been dating a few months. But I don’t know if she had yet to meet my parents when we first attempted to see the Tim Burton Planet of the Apes.

JESSE
I had met Marisa the spring before at school and we were chatting online a lot that summer. In fact I think her friends went to go see it the same night that we tried and I’m sure I emailed or IMed her about our misadventure.

ROB
Oh you guys were totes in touch, but you hadn’t sealed the deal yet

MARISA
So this is a Google Hangout?

ROB
I don’t know if this counts as a real Google hangout because it’s text only Google hangouts are an insidious plot to get unsuspecting people to sign up for Google+

JESSE
First: background by way of what I’ve been listening to on a loop for the past 24 hours and am listening to RIGHT NOW: I got my cassette-to-computer device working and ripped the audio of Planet of the Tapes, the mix tape I made for the drive to Crossgates Mall to see Planet of the Apes (2001). At least the intro will be available as a download with the transcript of this conversation.

ROB
Ugh, I prepped for this by listening to the Apes jams bonus tracks on Severe Tire Damage. I learned nothing.

JESSE
But SO DID I, because those bonus tracks are all over the mix! Weirdly, though I had only seen the 1968 original at the time, the two best They Might Be Giants improv’d Apes songs are in fact my two favorite Planet of the Apes sequels: Escape from the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

ROB
“This Ape’s For You” isn’t one of your favorite Apes movies?

JESSE
OK, so to fill in, Rob and I and our buddies did this thing where we made 30-minute tapes for the drive to Saratoga to Crossgates Mall outside of Albany, for the movies we were particularly psyched about.

ROB
Our buddies was usually Jesse, Me, Chris, Jeff, and whatever girl had yet to realize we weren’t that charming.

JESSE
I was trying to remember what the other mixtape-worthy movies of summer 2001 were, and I’m pretty sure it was just Moulin Rouge! and A.I.… which is actually pretty spot-on. But in retrospect, it’s weird that Apes was the only really big blockbuster type thing that got the tape treatment that summer. Which actually makes sense because summer ’01 was a bunch of really uninspired sequels and also Michael Bay’s interpretation of Pearl Harbor.

ROB
It ended up being low key as it was me, you, Chris, and Ofy. But the ape tape is important to the story.

JESSE
And Kerim was there too! Kerim, who we went to elementary school with. But yeah, I volunteered to do the tape for this one. Chris was sort of the go-to but by this point we switched up a little more. I remember Rob, you did the X-Men one the previous summer.

ROB
It’s almost like you made the ape tape because there were so few tape worthy films

JESSE
Yeah and I HAD IDEAS about how to do an Ape Tape, goddammit!

ROB
My hazy memory would have me believe that there were “ape sounds” on that tape

JESSE
YES, AWESOME CALLBACK. Or call forward. But yeah, most of my ideas were basically “songs with monkey in the title” which isn’t even scientifically accurate.

ROB
Or perhaps something that made us make ape noises. A big part of the tapes was “singing” along. It got performative after a while

JESSE
And if this all happened a decade later, it would have been like on YouTube and shit, probably. Or like 300 Vines?

ROB
Well if it happened a decade later the whole story wouldn’t have happened! Ofy brought a tape recorder.

JESSE
Yes, he had been recording us all day. Like the NSA does now.

MARISA
This tape is good. I can hear it from the next room. “Ice of Boston.”

JESSE
Actually, funny story, “Ice of Boston” TOTALLY SUCKS to sing! You think you know the words to the verses but you do NOT.

ROB
I do now. Not in 2001, but after listening to it a about a 1000 more times. Anyway, it was strange because I only ever really saw a tape player like that in a classroom. One of those kind of longish cassette decks that would often accompany a filmstrip projector.

JESSE
Yes. And he maybe had the wrong type of batteries in it?

ROB
YES. This was super strange. It had a battery compartment in back like a boombox, it was supposed to take 6 c or d batteries, but he had put in either aa’s or aaa’s and they could touch the connectors. So it was either recording or playing back at a strange speed because it wasn’t operating at full power

JESSE
And basically Ofy was hanging out with us all day making a distorted sound collage of whatever stupid crap we were up to.

ROB
Yeah, before digital media we thought anything we committed to tape made us Warhol.

JESSE
RIP “Toys & Food” (I assume. I don’t have a copy of it).

JESSE
Also… I kind of think there may have been six people in Chris’s car?? Am I crazy? I think there was a sixth dude.

ROB
I don’t remember Kerim, but I thought Ofy brought a friend.

JESSE
Maybe it wasn’t Kerim? Maybe it was some friend of Ofy’s but in my mind’s eye it’s a friend of Chris’s, like maybe from college? I picture it as his friend Mattie but that’s almost certainly not true.

ROB
It may have just been the four of us

JESSE
I KNOW there were five in the car but I don’t know who the fifth is. Anyway, not important. I had a hell of a time making the tape — I mixed it on my computer but I didn’t have a CD burner, and Chris did, but it wasn’t working. So I got a wire from Chris and actually hooked up my parents’ stereo to my computer and dubbed it onto cassette (by that point the “tapes” were usually actually CDs).

MARISA
“Psycho killer, hooligan gorilla.”

ROB
I feel like it couldn’t have been Kerim because there’s no way he wouldn’t have put up a stink over what went down

JESSE
Whoever the fifth person in the car was, he REALLY liked the “hooligan gorilla” song. Probably not Kerim.

ROB
I mean the police were involved and we’re not sure Kerim was there? Means he wasn’t there

JESSE
Now I just want to make Lake Ave Elementary in-jokes about who else it could be. “Was it Colin?”

ROB
It might as well have been Peter Mancini then! #injoke

JESSE
Haha yeah isn’t it weird how we’re trying to figure out who this fifth dude was, and the answer is “none of our other lifelong friends.” It was like they KNEW something was going down. So yeah, up through the drive to Crossgates, this trip was going GREAT.

Regal Xgates

ROB
Yeah, we used to get upset that Jeff spent so much time with Amy, but it was clearly time well spent.

JESSE
Yeah, you know what Jeff was doing that night? NOT almost getting arrested at a movie theater.

ROB
In hindsight, what was our biggest mistake? Bringing Ofy? Making such an on-theme tape? Sitting in the front like we always do?

JESSE
I mean, I think a lot of mistakes were made. But I like to think most of them were not our mistakes.

ROB
Our meaning you and me. Ofy made mistakes. Chris never should have driven us. Mysterious fifth person should have made a bigger impression on us.

JESSE
So we stroll into Crossgates SUPER PSYCHED for Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. It had been a pretty lame movie summer so, you know, we could have used a pick-me-up.

ROB
Like you said, to that point, we had only seen the first Planet of The Apes. Burton was coming off of Sleepy Hollow, which remains one of my favorites of his

MARISA
…Meanwhile, I’m down in Westchester, seeing the same movie with all my high school friends, and taking pictures of the great time we were having.

JESSE
I should point out now that Ofy’s tape recorder was not at all concealed when we went past the ticket guy. If it was concealed at all, it was because it didn’t look like anything anyone would ever use to record anything.

ROB
I was sitting next to him and didn’t actually realize he had brought it in. He either had it on his lap or on the floor.

JESSE
I wish I could remember the trailers we saw if only for the time-capsule quality.

ROB
Oh they would have been terrible.

JESSE
But I do remember that as the opening credits started, Ofy led us in a chant of (They Might Be Giants, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” style) APES APES APES APES APES, which crescendoed into applause as the title came up.

ROB
In hindsight, their are parallels to our excitement for Godzilla ’98. Were we ever so young?

JESSE
Generally I feel like we got excited about pretty cool things but yeah, this plus Godzilla makes us look like we back the wrong horse all the time. By the way, I’ve burnt myself out on Planet of the Tapes and am throwing in the Moulin Rouge! CD which I haven’t heard in at least six or seven years

ROB
It wasn’t like we were super invested into either franchise. We just felt like it was our duty as nerds to be into it.

JESSE
I know, and can you imagine how this was affecting Nathaniel? Godzilla and Apes are like his nerd majors. It would be like if we hated Phantom Menace as much as everyone else did [a year after it came out].

ROB
I don’t even know if I have nerd majors. I feel like I’m more of a generalist.

JESSE
It’s comics, Rob. Yours is comics.

MARISA
This Moulin Rouge! tape is pretty janky.

JESSE
HOW DARE YOU? This is actually just the mission music.

MARISA
EDM? EDMM?

JESSE
Techno remix of the Sesame Street theme is NOT EDM but omg hold on wait for the bass drop

ROB
Pretty much every comic movie that’s come out since 98 has been more enjoyable than either Godzilla ’98 or Apes ’01

JESSE
JK, even by 2001 we were kind of over songs with bass drops

ROB
It might be IDM

MARISA
TURN DOWN FOR WHAT!

ROB
We were into IDM back then

MARISA
It’s certainly not I.

ROB
Pre-EDM, post-electornica. Oh God SABRINA where are my loose cds?

SABRINA
Top shelf, I believe. Or in one of the cd books we didn’t throw out

JESSE
Sabrina, I take it you didn’t go see Burton’s Planet of the Apes opening night in July 2001?

SABRINA
NO

ROB
Crap, my X-Men mix doesn’t seem to be in here.

MARISA
Not to keep this convo off track, but is IDM one of those genres that only has one artist? (IDM:The Postal Service::Chillwave:Neon Indian)

JESSE
Mouse on Mars is IDM, right?

MARISA
I don’t know what that is but it sounds adorable.

ROB
Let’s say yes. I’m sure Pitchfork would.

JESSE
OK, so return to the scene: we’re in the front row for Planet of the Apes in 2001, we just incited a bunch of applause and cheering at the title, we settle in to enjoy the latest Tim Burton opus, and also state of the art ape makeup.

ROB
Yeah, the casting was on point. Makeup on point. Kind of took a while to get going though.

JESSE
Yeah, it definitely felt like the movie was warming up. Not very Burton-y. So I think the first thing that happened was about twenty minutes in, an usher came in and sort of scoped us out? Which, wow: can you picture that happening now? An usher looking at anyone in the crowd?!

ROB
Back then ushers used to come in like twice. Kind of towards the beginning of the film and then in the last third. It was so decadent in hindsight. It wasn’t until after that I put it together. The weird thing was she came back and asked Ofy to come with her.

JESSE
I had forgotten it was a lady. It was a lady? I guess I just don’t see gender.

ROB
It was a female, maybe younger than us. In hindsight, I imagine her as that rookie guard in Orange Is the New Black

JESSE
Aw, we were just watching that! She’s also in a TMBG video.

ROB
Anyways, maybe it’s because we’re very self-centered. But ofy left and I looked at fifth guy and we just kind of shrugged at each other. “Whatevs, I’m still wathcing the movie.”

JESSE
Yeah, it didn’t really occur to me that anything bad was happening, except maybe that we chanted APES for like 15 seconds.

ROB
Anyways, Marky Mark has broken out from his Ape oppressors. He makes it to clearing, and then the usher comes back and asks us to come with her. The thing I don’t remember if the guys waiting for us just in the hallway were Albany county sheriffs or Guilderland police.

JESSE
I feel like sheriffs. That’s just a vague memory though.

ROB
They were wearing polo shirts with a logo on them, so maybe sheriffs. Before they even tell us what’s going on, they take our IDs into a side office and photocopy them.

JESSE
I remember being just super confused. Like too confused to be as indignant as I should have been

ROB
The cops’ reasoning was perhaps the most befuddling part

JESSE
Yeah, I think one of our guys even passed by the room where they had put him aside and were asking him “are those ape sounds on the tape???” Because they thought we were bootlegging the sound of the movie. To be matched later with separately bootlegged video.

ROB
Yeah, they were holding him in the small business office where they photocopied our ids

JESSE
Because when you want a REALLY high-qual bootleg, you record sound separately, on audio cassette. And I know we are kind of old, but trust me, cassettes were NOT a viable audio format in 2001.

ROB
I would say that what happened to us was what I would call a Napster Panic or by that time probably a Kazaa Panic.

JESSE
LIMEWIRE PANIC

ROB
Like how sometimes homophobes use a gay panic defense as an excuse for committing hatecrimes.

JESSE
And we’re not saying we got hatecrimed of course.

ROB
No, of course not

JESSE
But yes, panic driven by ignorance.

ROB
I’m just trying to understand the mindset of a minimum-wage employee calling the cops on us. Some manager must have put the fear of god in her.

JESSE
Yeah. Which is weird because most bootlegs on the streets, probably not from the theaters of upstate NY

ROB
Like her, her manager, the cops, they didn’t know what pirating was or how it was done, but someone they knew had read in Newsweek about how it was killing the entertainment industry

JESSE
And Ofy’s total lack of suspicious behavior and our inconspicuous behavior was, I guess… reverse-psychology suspiciousness?

ROB
That was the whole thing. He may have been taking an off speed recording of just the audio of the movie. It was never clear that he was recording the movie. What value does that even have on the black market? Since I have never seen just the audio of a movie online, I’m guessing none

JESSE
That said, I would pay up to $5 for a copy of that audio tape now So clearly it has appreciated in value.

ROB
These cops didn’t see it that way. I did concede their first question: “It’s pretty stupid to bring a recording device into a movie theatre?” Keep in mind that within 18 months 90+% of the audience would have recording devices of higher quality in movie theaters. Called their phones. And I think we’d all be on board with ushers calling cops on people texting during a movie.

JESSE
People still make crazy dumb decisions about this stuff, too. At some press screenings, they make you check your phone. Even if the movie is in 3D and basically impossible to properly bootleg (not to mention highly unlikely to be bootlegged by film critics with cell phones).

ROB
Really, it was just two questions. “It’s pretty stupid to bring a recording device into a movie theatre?” to which we nodded. And the second: “So that means it’s pretty dumb to be sitting next to someone that has brought a recording device into a movie theater?”

JESSE
OK, sidebar, this Moulin Rouge! mix is mostly not so good.

ROB
I may have said huh, but they may have only been in my brain

JESSE
Yeah, I wish I had the presence of mind to say, I guess, but I don’t think that it’s illegal. To sit next to someone who brought in a recording device, I mean.

ROB
If the cops hassled me every time I sat next to a friend that had done something done something stupid, I would have been in and out of jail from 8th grade until now. What could they have charged us with? Accessory to suspicion copyright infringement of something with no value?

JESSE
Yeah. Well, I remember they kind of sleazily held us hostage, basically saying, if you put up a fuss about this treatment, we COULD at least make a show of arresting your friend

MARISA
II remember showing you guys my photos from that night, and you guys being all, “So you brought a camera into a movie theater and nothing?” Yonkers don’t give a fuuuuuck.

ROB
So they kicked us out and said (I’ll never forget this): “Do not ask for a refund, do not pass go, do not collect $200.” Like did that even pass for a joke?

JESSE
Yeah and in retrospect, they seemed ESPECIALLY concerned that we didn’t get our $9 each back.

ROB
Like their work was done

JESSE
Fighting piracy is paramount, but the important thing is that the movie theater keeps the $45 for the movie we didn’t get to watch.

ROB
Like coming out to the mall and shaking us down helped them with their quotas. But that wasn’t the worst part! You know what the worst part was?

JESSE
WHAT?

ROB
It didn’t happen that night. I don’t really remember the rest of the night. The thing about when they pulled us out was it felt that everything was about to really happen.

JESSE
Yeah, it was not a fun car ride back. We were all kind of dazed and shell-shocked.

ROB
So like a pair of stooges you and I, just the two of us, went to the Wilton Mall the following, I want to say Tuesday. And we paid to see the movie again!

JESSE
Oh, no, it was straight up the next night

ROB
We are the worst

JESSE
It was Saturday, we had to circumvent a parade downtown to get there, and I totally insisted on it.

ROB
I was for sure on board.

JESSE
So I am the worst. But, you know, imagine how hard it is for me to not get to see the actual movie I wanted to see!

ROB
It was ~2000-2001 where I started thinking to myself “I don’t need to go to every movie Jesse does and I”ll be happy” [Ed. Note: I’m pretty sure this thought was percolating more in the summer of 2002, when I made Rob see both The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Serving Sara.]

JESSE
I’ve long wondered if the movie would have landed a little better for me if it hadn’t been preceded by such disappointment.

ROB
But this one, I agreed: Yes, we must finish. Total sunk cost fallacy. Before we got pulled out, it wasn’t like it was captivating us.

JESSE
But it wasn’t QUITE bad enough to think, oh, well, this sucked anyway, let’s never see it.

ROB
Yeah it wasn’t egregious, it was just a big nothing.

MARISA
As someone who had a good time that night, it did take me a while to realize how not-great that movie is. But the realization did come eventually.

ROB
With the resources there (director, cast, etc) it should have been a much better movie. Take, for example, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.

JESSE
Ha, yeah, his Apes might actually be “better” than Dark Shadows but Dark Shadows is WAY BETTER than Apes.

Burton and Heston

ROB
Dark Shadows, not a great film, but it was a lot of fun, had some good performances, and it felt like Tim Burton was somewhat familiar with the source material. Wasn’t Apes also the movie that ruined Burton’s marriage?

JESSE
One of them, maybe. And a lot of summer ’01 movies were products of strike fear, rushed into production. Shit, by the way, this A.I. CD is WAY better than my Moulin Rouge! CD.

ROB
Pretty sure it was. That movie had both Estella Warren and Helena Bonham Carter in it

JESSE
So it ruined Burton’s marriage, the Apes franchise for about a decade, and our Friday night.

ROB
And our Saturday night.

JESSE
Also worth noting that for all of our questionable behavior over the years, we have NEVER been kicked out of a movie, before or since.

ROB
That’s not true. Desperado.

JESSE
AHHHHHA FUCK. Well, Apes was our only time during the movie.

ROB
But seriously, twice. That’s it.

JESSE
Now I kind of want to start an APES chant at Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on Friday. Since literally nothing you can do short of murder can get you kicked out of a movie theater now

MARISA
I don’t know if I ever heard the Desperado story.

SABRINA
Me either…

ROB
It’s pretty boring:
“One for Desperado
“Are you 17?”
“No”
“Ok Jesse, I’ll go stand over there. Get 2 tickets. When the old lady asks if you’re 17, say yes.”

MARISA
I don’t know if you can call it being kicked out if you never made it in.

SABRINA
Agree.

JESSE
Oh, we made it in. Briefly.

MARISA
Jesse, is this Spacehog?

ROB
It was the perfect plan, except the kids at the snack bar checked our tickets because they didn’t have a ticket taker that day

JESSE
The best is that she really did sell me the tickets on my word that I was 17! This is some Spacehog, yes.

ROB
As we rushed into the theater I heard them say “isn’t that rated R?!” So then they came in and asked us to leave. I asked for a refund and they said yes. The mean old lady at the register gave us our money back and Jesse said: “Thanks! You saved my fucking soul!”

SABRINA
So not a total loss.

MARISA
Yeah, that sounds like Jesse.

JESSE
God, what a prick that guy Jesse was.

ROB
That old lady was mean. Jesse in his rage thought it was her fault, but she totally did buy Jesse’s story that he was 17. Keep in mind, I was a year older than Jesse at the time

JESSE
Yeah Rob was like days away from being 17.

ROB
Then either that day or the next day we got El Mariachi out, maybe out of the library. Oh man the Drive-In Movie Store would let us rent ANYTHING. In hindsight, it might have been good if they had a little more restraint

MARISA
You can always count on the library to let you corrupt your soul.

ROB
They let me rent Femalien 2 WHICH WE GOT AS A JOKE when I was 16 or 17. They just called my parents to make sure it was ok to use their account.

JESSE
I’ve still only seen the original Femalien.

ROB
That’s untrue. You’ve never seen Femalien.

JESSE
I watched it with Chris and Flannery and a bunch of other people!

ROB
That was Femalien 2

Femalien 2

JESSE
That’s impossible. How could we have followed it??

MARISA
“I haven’t seen Femalien 2 *yet*.”

ROB
Chris was like let’s get this softcore sci fi parody as part of our 5 for 5 as a joke. So I had to go up to the guy and do it.

JESSE
I’m pretty sure it was the original

ROB
We were hanging out with these two girls and he had a crush on one of them. As the person who actually rented the movie, trust me. It was the sequel.

JESSE
Maybe we rented Femalien 1 a different time then

ROB
He had me rent this movie as a joke to impress (?) these girls

JESSE
The important thing is we never saw Petticoat Planet.

ROB
JESSE SHUT UP I’M TELLING THE STORY. Then we get to his house, put it in, then he takes it out after the Petticoat Planet trailer before it really starts and says this was a bad idea, then he watches it with you and Flannery later. Same tape.

JESSE
Huh. So I’ve already seen the Empire Strikes Back of softcore sci-fi porn

ROB
You’ve seen the Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace of softcore sci-fi porn. Technically better effects.

JESSE
“effects” WINK

ROB
No, for real CGI. The 2 minutes I saw of Femalien 2, I thought to myself “wow they sprung for CGI.” This was a time were any CGI was good.

JESSE
We thirsted for it like it was Surge

ROB
That is an apt simile.

JESSE
So that’s how we got kicked out of Planet of the Apes in 2001 and helped put the franchise back into hiding with our sour feelings.

ROB
In some ways, it’s all our fault.

JESSE
But like Schumacher and Batman, maybe it had to happen this way?

ROB
That’s the problem with whole thing. Dean and Emmerich fool us, shame on us. Tim Burton makes maybe the worst film of his career? Shame on him.

JESSE
Ha. And yeah, I’d call it his worst. He followed it up with Big Fish, though, which is one of my favorites.

ROB
I’d probably be forgiving if I saw the whole way through just the one time

JESSE
Actually in SOME ways the ’89 Batman is just as guilty of that here-nor-there Apes quality, kinda Burton-y, kinda Batman-y, but not really as good at either as it should be

ROB
Oh, but that style. Things happened. I was never bored or threatened with arrest. Apes is not really Burtony at all.

JESSE
True, although Apes never made us watch Robert Wuhl and I GUESS I’d choose Wuhl over getting arrested, but…

ROB
This was pre-Arli$$ Wuhl

JESSE
But it’s probably telling that I’ve seen the 1989 Batman at least six or seven times, more than probably any movie that I only kind of like. Whereas I’ve seen Burton’s Apes like 2.25 times.

ROB
So to recap, what have we learned? Besides maybe don’t talk about the softcore porn you rented AS A JOKE when you were a teenager in front of your wives? (Notice how they seemed to bolt the chat right around then?)

JESSE
Yeah, MARISA got in the shower, hopefully not because she felt unclean. So that, and maybe if Jeff is out of town just wait until he’s back to see the movie because he probably won’t bring a recording device (except his phone).

ROB
So we learned nothing and we’re worse off for this experience, I guess there’s no way to disguise this.