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Wet Hot Double Feature- First Day of Camp and Hurricane of Fun (2015)

11 Aug

How excited were you when the makers of Wet Hot American Summer announced that they would be releasing a season-long prequel, adapted for television and available streaming in its entirety this summer? Were you this excited?

Image from consequenceofsound.net

Image from consequenceofsound.net

first-day-of-camp.0I was jumping for joy. When you have watched Wet Hot American Summer as many times as I have, after nearly fifteen years you really don’t expect a sequel on the horizon. And then it hits you, just like an ice cream headache in the middle of July. And yes, ice cream is quite delicious, but sadly, you can have too much of a good thing. So, my friends, if you have not yet watched the whole season as I have, I urge you to savor it. Savor it as you would a delicious sorbet. Because when it’s gone it’s gone, and this time I don’t think we can expect another installment fifteen years down the line.

I paradoxically feel proud and ashamed that I consumed the entire season of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp in one sitting on the Sunday after its release. Netflix has its evil way of sinking its claws right through you and into your lazy couch on your day off, taking the grunt work out of even pressing play for the next episode. I just let it play through, delighting in the familiar faces, fifteen years later, as they danced across the screen. I was ecstatic to see new, but similarly joy-producing cameos such as H Jon Benjamin, Jon Hamm, Jason Schwartzman, and Michaela Watkins as well. But now I just feel empty inside. I had too much of a good thing, and it just left me craving more.

282689-hurricane-of-fun-the-making-of-wet-hot-0-230-0-345-cropHow elated I was, then, this evening when we discovered Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot (2015) on Netflix this evening! This casual, behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the original movie was almost as delightful as the four hours I dedicated to the series last week. While I wish I could say that the show came as close to the movie as I would have hoped, this candid documentary of the original movie hit the nostalgia spot a little bit better. Everyone looks so fresh and young and little, and their sense of humor that carries off screen is so warm and relatable.  What I wouldn’t give to have been able to join the cast at their own Camp Firewood retreat as they filmed the movie back in 2000. I nearly shed a tear when Amy Poehler dances around one of their camp cabins during filming, lip synching to Le Tigre’s Deceptacon. Why can’t we just be friends in real life already??

Dark Days (2000)

14 Apr

dark_days

Documentaries run the gamut from silly bio-docs about video gamers (i.e. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters) to change-the-way-you-live-or-die guilt trippers (Food Matters, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, etc.). There is a place and time for each kind on the spectrum of documentaries. Sometimes you want to learn how to make a change in the world, or learn how your behavior impacts the environment, international relations or the political climate. Sometimes you want to gawk at some unusual people who are not fictional characters. Dark Days is one of those docs that falls between the two categories. It won’t make you hate life, and it’s not just a voyeuristic romp through someone’s life. This is one of my favorite documentaries to date, due, in part, to the beautiful score composed by DJ Shadow. This haunting soundtrack paired with the black and white (though mostly black) film brings an eerie feel to the whole picture.

One of the NYC underground tunnel-dwellers of Dark Days

One of the NYC underground tunnel-dwellers of Dark Days

Dark Days takes you into the humble lives of the marginalized and forgotten citizens of the New York City underground. Not some underground “scene,” but literally under the ground in the abandoned tunnels of NYC’s subway system. The living conditions of these people are unbelievable. They live in complete darkness in small makeshift shacks. Yet some of them have carved out a nice little niche for themselves, complete with meager appliances and the electricity they use to run their naked lightbulbs and small hotplates. Many aspects of this life mirror the social structure that we above-grounders enjoy. There are feuds and relationships, people have pets and set up security systems around their homes. But as you might guess, this kind of living is illegal, and many of these people are driven out of the tunnels by law enforcement.

Some more tunnel-dwellers who take us into their homes

Some more tunnel-dwellers who take us into their homes

I was happy to see that Dark Days made its way back to the Netflix Instant Streaming list. Do yourself a favor and check this one out before Netflix pulls it again. (Actually, I just found it here, on YouTube, but sometimes those get taken down as well).

Stroszek (1976)

1 Mar

Stroszek coverIt is a pleasure to review one of my favorite foreign films by one of my favorite directors, Werner Herzog. Stroszek is a poetic Herzog take on the American Dream as an unattainable myth for immigrants to the US. There are many subtle laughs along the way, but overall the movie leaves you with heartache on behalf of the title character and his attempt to improve his life by starting anew in the US.

While it is not a documentary, Herzog based this story on Bruno S., the actor who plays the title character, and there are several scenes that are shot in his actual tiny apartment. Herzog has a knack for picking out interesting human subjects to showcase in his movies. And although not based on the true story of one particular German immigrant, it isn’t hard to imagine the story that unfolds as one that is based in the reality of those who immigrate to the US these days.

The film introduces us to Stroszek as he is being released from jail where he was serving a short stint for some drunken misconduct of stroszek-Brunosome sort. He is released and heads straight to the nearest bar to pick up where he left off. Stroszek is motivated to leave his native Germany when he and his lady-friend, Eva, are both tormented and abused by her pimps. The two of them set off for Wisconsin with Bruno’s elderly neighbor, Mr. Scheitz, in search of the American dream. In the states, however, they are met only with obstacles and people who either take advantage of them or simply don’t understand them.

"Can't stop the dancin' chicken."

“Can’t stop the dancin’ chicken.”

I have a penchant for melancholy movies, and Stroszek is one of the best. This is a must see in my book; it is a movie that graces my current Top 10 list.

P.S. If you listen to Ratatat, you may recognize a sample from this film in the song, Drugs. ^^^Please watch that music video, it’s hilarious. It practically had me in tears of laughter when I saw them perform at Camp Bisco 10.