Lawrence Dai watches Julie & Julia for the 365th -- and last? -- time
Lawrence Dai watched Julie & Julia for the first time one year ago today. Then he watched it again every single day for a year. And, of course, in Life 2.0 fashion, he decided to blog about it.
Since November 29, 2010, Dai has racked up over 1,000 followers on Blogger, 700,000 page views and mentions in Time, A.V. Club, the Huffington Post and Eater. Few of the mentions were positive, though: Jezebel labeled the Lawrence/Julie&Julia Project "cynical" and said it "was taking stunt journalism to its nadir."
Now the Denver Center Theatre Company's Off-Center Series has gotten into the act: It flew the twenty-year-old Northwestern student into Denver and had a limo bring him to a bougie apartment near Larimer Square, where he was fed Bagel Bites and Kit-Kats. And tonight you can join Dai for his final -- for now -- viewing of Julie & Julia at 8 p.m. at the Jones on the edge of the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
A promo video for the L&J&J project shows Mara Wiles, so-called president of Dai's fan club, having coffee with a cardboard cut-out of Dai. Wiles isn't actually an obsessed fan, though: She's an actress-slash-comedian who thought acting creepy sounded like a fun gig. So it's a fake fan club for a blog about a movie about a blog. Has this exercise in post-modernism and irony taken "har har" too far?
But it will go still further when Dai makes the local news rounds this morning. His mission was written up in the Denver Post yesterday, and Westword is hyping it right now. My interview with Dai last night was taped by the Denver Center and will quite possibly be part of tonight's festivities (which features free beer: Molson is a sponsor). So the mainstream media has gotten suckered into this meta experiment about what it means to be web- famous, too.
Dai is the poster child for this so-modern movement. Too cool, deeply cynical and self-deprecating, he started the L&J&J project thinking it would go on for a couple weeks or something. Then media outlets started making fun of him, so he had to keep going in order to prove them wrong. "I feel terrible," he says. "I'm just an asshole who watches a movie a bunch of times...it's just surreal that people latch onto the stupidest things," he adds, coming off smugger than he intended.
He realizes that he has insulted the audience that faithfully follows the blog about his project, and insists he's flattered that people are reading him. Hell, he refreshes his site twenty to thirty times a day, throughout the day, hoping for new comments.
Rather than enjoying the sense of achievement that Julie Powell got out of cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for the original Julie/Julia Project blog, though, Dai seems to despair at the thought of having to watch Julie & Julia again. He's usually put it off until the last minute, at 10 p.m. or so.
And as the end of the project -- and spending over 700 hours of his life viewing a mediocre film -- drew close, Dai started showing serious signs of distress. On Day 352, he wrote: "Sometimes, when I watch Julie & Julia, my mind tends to wander. Okay, I lied. It's more like all of the time. I pretty much try to think of everything BUT Julie & Julia whenever I watch Julie & Julia. But can you really blame me? NO. NO ONE CAN BLAME ME FOR ANYTHING."
"I set out to lampoon this," Dai says. But in the end, he found himself in the same boat as his much despised lead character, Julie Powell. "I'm becoming her and I hate it," he admits. The fact that she had set out to do a thing-a-day stunt makes them "companions," Dai says, in a terrible sort of way.
While nobody is making a movie -- yet -- about him, as they did with the Angriest Man Alive, Dai has joined the pantheon of people who are web-famous for embarrassing stunts, a place populated by the likes of the Star Wars kid and Rebecca Black. And while Dai is excited about his free trip to Denver, he calls it an 11 on a weirdness scale of 1 to 10, with lots of people reading about him who are sitting in their office or home, thinking "Who the hell would be stupid enough to do this for a year?," before heading to YouTube for some cat videos.
Tickets to the "party about a blog about a movie about a novel about a blog about a cookbook in a theater" are $10; find more details here.
Later today on our Show and Tell blog: Westword staffers choose which movie they'd be willing to watch 365 times in a year.