Thursday, October 26, 2017

somebody's gotta do it

On the one hand, I feel like I neglected the commentary track because I got to rambling about my own experience at summer camp--well, one particular detail of it, anyway; I could probably ramble about more, actually. Now, this isn't so bad, because if there is any point to this current sub-project of the Groundhog Day Project, this childhood deconstruction thing, ties right into it. I mean, what matters is what these movies taught me, sure. What they instilled in me when I watched them over and over again when I was young. But also, what came later? What memories get twisted into these movies? What do they make me think about? The Star Wars trilogy, for example, reminds me of one particular day when I was home sick from school and I rested on the couch and watched all three in a row. And, by the time Return of the Jedi was on, I was feeling a little better, so I was playing with my AT-AT and my action figures and that AT-AT was far more dexterous than any in the movies, standing up on its hind legs when rebels tried to board her...

On the other hand, I have an inclination to just list off all the lines from this movie that have become part of regular dialogue in my life.

On the other hand--yes, there are three--I am watching Meatballs again when I have said most of what I have to say about the film. This is because the movie that is next on the deconstruction list has not arrived yet. Seems the only way to watch the next film was to buy a cheap DVD of it. So, I might as well try to do both... And hope the next movie arrives before tomorrow, or tomorrow's theater movie is so good I have to write about it.


Two months to write the script. Written basically because Reitman hadn't seen any films about summer camp. I had to doublecheck because I thought Little Darlings had already come out but, no, that was in 1980. There were, of course, a few more Meatballs movies--including Rudy coming back in the third one. Friday the 13th came out in 1980. And, wasn't, of course, about the more universal bits that many would experience at summer camp. And, one summer camp film I remember well--Poison Ivy--was made for television in 1985.

Bill Murray was just as difficult to nail down on a project back in 1978 as he purportedly is now. On the first day of shooting, they heard from an attorney and got the impression that Murray would be in the film. On the third day of shooting, he showed up wearing that Hawaiian shirt and did the walk and talk with the male CITs in one take. Without him, the film might not have happened--or it probably would have been far more forgettable.

Goldberg just thought Makepeace was a mopey kid. Reitman saw his expressiveness and saw the heart of the film being about Rudy (even before they added all the extra stuff in Tripper's cabin).

The nose thing and stacking the dishes came from Goldberg's experience at camp.

Getting into the cast members (unnamed) who hooked up then broke up, Reitman and Goldberg talk about the quirkiness of summer camp, how it is its own little world. I've already said that I made friends--good friends--at camp that I never spoke to again.

"You going to Vegas? If you're going to Vegas, man, I would be up for it, because I love that town." This is something I might say if someone tells me vaguely that they're going somewhere.

You make friends, you have (or yearn for) romances, and then they just go away. It's actually a bit like a movie, really. You come in, you invest in the characters around you, invest in the romance, the story, and then, the credits roll, you pack your bag, get back on that bus (plus an airplane for me) and head home. I wrote a letter on the last day of camp to the girl I liked, the one from the phone booth story. I received a letter from her a few days after I got home. I wrote her another one. But, we really wouldn't connect again until the Internet allowed it. We're friends on Facebook to this day. I also got a letter from another girl, wrote her back one, and that exchange fizzled. And, about 9 months after camp was over, I happened to run into one of the female counselors that I had become friendly with at the college that our church ran in Texas--she was a student there, I was there with our school's "choraliers" for a concert. Otherwise, camp was a memory.

Meanwhile, Reitman is talking about choreographing the wrestling with Tripper and Roxanne and getting all the coverage he needed by thinking about it ahead. Now, he's talking about getting Elmer Bernstein to do the music. Bernstein did it on spec for a piece of the film after seeing an early cut.

Spaz (Jack Blum) was the casting director's brother, they say--the IMDb listings suggest no Blum brother in the casting department and do list Jack (along with Sally Dennison and Linda Russell)--and he was reading in auditions. They hadn't found a Spaz yet, so decided to go with him.

"You've been watching the cards, marking the cards." I have no idea what context I say this. But, I know I have said it a lot.

"Children starving in India, and you're walking around with a whole sombrero full of peanuts." This one probably just when someone says they're still hungry after eating a bunch of food. Or just randomly. Quoting movies does not always have to make sense.

One line I really should say more is "No questions, dog face!" But, unless the person I'm talking to knows the film, it's going to come off a little rude.

Goldberg implies that stuff like moving Morty was something he experienced at summer camp. I wish he offered up details to that story. Or maybe he just meant late night antics in general. Unfortunately, my summer camp experience did not include much in the way of late night antics because, well, it was Alaska, and it just didn't get dark enough to sneak around.

Visitor's Day footage, like the crowded mess hall earlier--real footage of the working Camp White Pine. There was a brief overlap between the camp's days of operations and the production, which helped crowd these scenes and some of the Olympiad scenes.

After a disappointing screening for studio folks in Toronto, a bigger public screening in Century City was what got studios bidding over the film. After making the film, Goldberg's MasterCard was maxed out, they were all broke, but they heard through a guy in business affairs that Fox would offer $3 million. They were blowing off Jeffrey Katzenberg from Paramount. But, the $3 million offer was that business affairs guy joking. "Having heard it once" that $3 million figure seemed reasonable. Then, another screening in New York happened, a small one, and Goldberg complained that there was no crowd to watch it with. "Give me an hour," he says. And they recruited people off the street to fill out the theater. Finally, Paramount offers $3 million, and that was the "magic number" now, so they said yes. Reitman says Paramount didn't need them, the studio already had five big movies for that summer. I'm looking at a list of Paramount's movies from that summer and the only one I even recognize is Escape from Alcatraz. I guess those big movies weren't so big after all. (They had Star Trek: The Motion Picture coming in December; I wouldn't see that until years later on television.)

At the dance, the actual music playing included "Miss You" by the Rolling Stones, but the production was never going to be able to afford to keep that track.

"Well, you're not exactly known for your taste." Surprisingly useful line. And, it works whether the person knows the movie or not.

"Somebody's gotta do it, and it can't be me, because I'm too busy." This one may have actually been replaced by Mike Birbiglia's line about being "really busy" as I performed his "Sleepwalk with Me" story for a year when I was on CSULA's speech team. Also, this sort of line always links me back to Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and Bokononism's "busy busy busy" line. And, you know, modern life in general. Like today, I'm watching my blog movie early because I've got two classes later, and my daughter's play opens tonight (which means I'll be watching Critical Role late for a change. Thursdays are always busy busy busy.

Tripper's and Roxanne's clothes on the ground--they had no time to get a real scene done, so they filmed the stuff, added voiceover later, and cut it with the silhouette shot in the water. The PA announcements are more easily recognizable as stuff that could have been added later. This moment feels so integral to the ongoing story that it's not as obvious.

In the initial draft, Reitman says, Candace and Crockett were a much bigger story, but "a little goes a long way."

Reitman: "Really, the romance of being at summer camp--that was really captured in this moment [cutting from Candace and Crockett kissing to the canoes full of CITs returning to camp] and this song ["Moondust"] and this... sort of the whole sequence." Goldberg says that watching the film again he's surprised by Reitman's confidence as a filmmaker here, and says it makes him want to go to camp again. It is a nice moment, and such an encapsulation of the, as Reitman says, "romance" of summer camp. Not just the love stories, but the world away from the world, kids finding a little bit of independence away from their parents, kids finding some control over their lives even within the confines of activity schedules, finding friends, finding lovers (if they're lucky) and getting to do things they don't normally get to do.

The real camp's owner is one of the Mohawk guys sitting on stage as the Olympiad begins. The production had one day to get Olympiad scenes with real campers around for backgrounds. And, they couldn't do too many takes because they weren't paying the campers as extras.

Sidenote: I'm so used to thinking about Bill Murray as Phil Connors that when I just read the goof on IMDb about a shot of Phil being reversed during the rally speech, I started looking at Murray to see what shot might be reversed. Phil, is of course Greg Swanson's counselor character. And, sure enough, right after Tripper gets into the "It just doesn't matter" part of the speech, cut to Phil and the shot is reversed. Backward NYU on the wrong side of his jacket. Not sure how that even happens. (Odd character note: earlier in the film, when he's working on that window that keeps getting broken, Phil wears a Harvard t-shirt. I doubt Phil went to either Harvard or NYU.)

During Spaz's cup stacking event, Reitman and Goldberg go back and forth trying to remember how they did it, gluing the cups together and cutting away perhaps. But, most of the race is one long cut. Reitman calls it "the best stunt shot in the movie." They recorded this commentary for the 25th anniversary of the film, but it's still amusing that they can't remember if they glued cups together or not.

Goldberg pokes fun at Jackie being the runner but breaking her ankle. "This is good storytelling," he says, clearly sarcastic. But, the film actually showed her get injured as part of yesterday's montage. Her injury isn't random. It's part of showing just how horrible the Mohawk competitors are. In the field hockey game, they deliberately injure her. This actually is good storytelling.

Rudy's having to run the final race was always part of the story. Adding more footage with him and Tripper just made it more meaningful. Goldberg later calls the lesser reaction to Rudy winning the race in the first screenings was a "supreme disappointment."

Multiple-printing the last frames of the race to fake the slow motion finish cost $1000. At this point, Goldberg and Reitman were already in for a lot of money.

Tripper talking to Rudy right before the campfire scene at the end was an original shot, but works better because of the added scenes with the two of them.

Regarding the changes from the early edit to the final film, they boil it down simply: Reitman: "You get rid of the bad stuff, put more good stuff in; Goldberg: "It seems so simple."

The one thing that they never explain in the commentary track, and maybe, if I'm watching this film again tomorrow, if my DVD of The Villain doesn't arrive, I might try to work through it and explain it--why is the film called Meatballs? There was a documentary series on the Disney Channel years ago about summer camp, and it was called Bug Juice--which was apparently the nickname for some watered down kool aid, the cheap kind of drink they would serve at summer camp. I'm wondering if Meatballs as a name means something more to those who spent more summers at camp. Or is it just because meatballs, like bug juice, means something cheap and easy to serve to a lot of people... And, did I just solve it?

Insert a shot of me waiting by the mailbox for my DVD to arrive so I can move on.

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