365 Crazy Nights: Wrapping Up #YearOfSandler with Eloy Lugo

Talking Sand™ with the comedian’s most devoted fan, who most recently pledged his allegiance by watching a Sandler movie every day for a year.

“That slope may look insignificant,” reels off a wide-eyed, wiry-haired Klaus Kinski in  Werner Herzog’s infamous epic Fitzcarraldo, “but it’s going to be my destiny.” Kinski’s title character, of course, is suggesting his adopted crew of native Peruvian laborers drag a massive steamship over a mountain, a seemingly impossible feat of human strength and endurance that’s as ambitious as it is bizarre, unconscionable, ill-advised, and sadistic—but a passion project, nonetheless.

On September 9, Eloy Lugo will have watched one Adam Sandler movie every single day for the past year. Beginning and ending on the actor’s birthday, what Lugo has dubbed the #YearOfSandler has been chronicled since day one (You Don’t Mess With the Zohan) on Twitter, and will soon come to a close with a free public screening of Little Nicky at LA’s Downtown Independent.

It feels like I’m accomplishing a superhuman feat,” Lugo admits of his progress on what until now has been considered to be a task the human brain is incapable of withstanding. “I’ve always been fascinated by endurance tests and have had a genuine love for Adam Sandler for as long as I can remember, so I married the two.” In response to the inevitable barrage of “why?”s berating the firewalker, Lugo’s response has simply been “why not?”

With a pool of about fifty movies to choose from, the endeavor provided an opportunity for an intensive appraisal of the actor’s oeuvre, from his iconic turn as the anxious Barry Egan in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love to his less-acknowledged roles like Max Simkin, the shoemaker who literally walks in his customers shoes in Tom McCarthy’s The Cobbler. “He wholeheartedly commits to his roles, no matter how unlikable the character is. A good example of this is Jill from Jack & Jill, who, on paper, is an annoying, eccentric houseguest—but through Sandler’s performance, becomes extremely sympathetic. By the end of the movie you’re fully rooting for her.”

Most millennial viewers were introduced to Sandler via the indomitable obstacle course of syndicated movies on early ’00s cable TV, which contextualized his comedy as last-resort Saturday afternoon fare. Meanwhile, new converts in 2018 may be turned off by the actor’s tired manchild routine, or even the no-longer-harmless shock value of certain scenes. But Lugo still sees Sandler’s career as being on-par with that of any of film’s most accomplished pioneers: “The ‘man-child’ trope has been done to death, but no one has ever done it with more gusto than the Sandman.”

“The ‘man-child’ trope has been done to death, but no one has ever done it with more gusto than the Sandman.”

In speaking to Lugo—who, by day, works as a publicist for a number of prominent indie rock bands—you get the impression he shows an equal amount of reverence for the three general categories of Sandler movies: his films (the tiny, critically well-received sliver of his filmography), his early comedies (or the “Old Testament,” as Lugo calls it), and his post-’90s comedies (“You gotta get down and dirty! You Don’t Mess With The Zohan! Jack & Jill! Grown Ups 2! That’s My Boy! Blended!” he reprimanded—or, more accurately: recommended—me after I share with him that I’ve only ever seen movies from the former two categories). He encourages me to stop him from rambling on about Jack & Jill, and later brings up PTA’s consideration of his Sandler-led film as being just as funny as any other Sandler vehicle.

Though the release of three new Sandler movies since last September has eased the sense of repetition a bit (Hotel Transylvania 3, The Meyerowitz Stories, and The Week Of—which Lugo screened for seven consecutive days he dubbed “The Week of The Week Of”), #YoS has had its rough patches: “Around the six-month mark I really hit a wall,” Lugo admits before again attributing his perseverance to his public’s loyal support. “I thought about quitting on a daily basis for a while, but every time I would tweet about quitting, a barrage of YOU CAN DO IT! tweets would come in.”

With a ninety-plus-minute deluge of raunchy slapstick to endure daily, strategizing screening times has been crucial in permitting Lugo a social life over the past year. “For the most part I do my viewings right when I get home from work on weekdays, before my wife gets home, or first thing in the morning when I wake up on weekends. So it doesn’t really affect my social life.” He’s also made time for additional, Sandler-less movie screenings as a means of maintaining a state of equilibrium. “[Year of Sandler] actually kind of encouraged me to watch more non-Sandler movies,” he claims, having listed Sandler and Korean art-film director Hong Sang-soo as “[his] guys” in a previous correspondence.

“I don’t think I’d ever take a task this insane on again, and I don’t think there’s anyone other than Sandler that I’d be able to watch for a whole year,” says Lugo, relieved the project is nearly over. “But if I were, I think Nicolas Cage would be a good candidate. They have similar trajectories in my mind. They’re both considered to be clowns by most people, but they’re both insanely talented and versatile performers with a similar ‘good’ to ‘bad’ movie ratio.”

“I thought about quitting on a daily basis for a while, but every time I would tweet about quitting, a barrage of ‘YOU CAN DO IT!’ tweets would come in.”

With a critical consensus filing Little Nicky irrefutably away as a “bad” Sandler movie, Lugo sees it as an unsung classic among the OT, and a perfect movie to go out on. “I think it’s super underrated and his first high-concept movie,” he opines, citing the surplus of inconceivable cameos, memorable art direction, and the first case of recurring characters from the Sandlerverse. “Also, coincidentally, there seems to be a critical reevaluation of nu-metal happening right now, just in time for the screening! The Little Nicky soundtrack is pretty much all nu-metal and the music video for P.O.D.’s ‘School of Hard Knocks’ even has clips from the movie in it.”

Though he looks forward to taking a break in the coming months, he also notes that SandlerCon 2019 (probably exactly what you expect—twenty-four hours of nonstop Sandler) is right around the corner, while Murder Mystery and a recently announced Safdie brothers project loom precariously on the horizon. “I often refer to this undertaking as my favorite mistake, ’cause I almost immediately regretted saying publicly that I was gonna do this,” sighs a modern day conquistador of the useless. “But I’m also glad I did it.” FL

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