Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wet Hot American Summer

Last Friday (technically early Saturday morning), I saw a midnight movie at the Landmark Clay.

Wet Hot American Summer starring Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showater & Marguerite Moreau; with Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Molly Shannon, Joe Lo Truglio & Michael Ian Black; directed by David Wain; (2001) - Official Website

Before I forget, the Landmark Aquarius in Palo Alto reopened on July 24 after being closed for remodeling for almost four months.  Included among the renovations are "the addition of larger screens; luxury leather seats and recliners; a new sound system, acoustics and lighting; updated bathrooms; a new marquee and a restructured lobby including a concession stand serving gourmet hot treats like sweet potato fries and Gouda macaroni-and-cheese bites."  Beer & wine service is also forthcoming.  The general admission price has increased from $10 to $12.

From the photo below, the auditoriums look smaller.  Theater #2 is eight seats wide with one aisle.  Granted, the new seats are wider than the old seats but the photo below makes the room look thinner and shorter.

Aquarius Theater #2


Wet Hot American Summer (WHAS) has been a cult film for years.  I've heard about it but had never seen it.  The film had a very limited theatrical release in the summer of 2001.

The film has received renewed attention as of late due to an eight episode prequel miniseries on Netflix.  The conceit of the original WHAS is the actors were portraying characters 10 to 20 years younger than themselves.  The prequel, called Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, is set a few months before the events depicted in WHAS.  Now, 14 years after the original film, most of the principal cast has returned to play the same characters which they are now 25 to 30 years older than.

WHAS is set in 1981 & is a parody of (primarily) summer camp films of which the only one I can recall by name is Meatballs.  However, at various points, WHAS parodies Rocky 3 & various science fiction films.  It throws in some gay sex and even makes fun of heroin junkies shooting up (Trainspotting reference?).  The plot is nothing more than a fig leaf for the cast perform some sketch comedy scenes...and what a cast.  Janeane Garofalo & David Hyde Pierce had the biggest profiles in 2001 but the supporting cast went on to have tremendous careers.  Paul Rudd plays a sexist & boorish womanizer, Bradley Cooper plays one half of the gay duo mentioned previously, Amy Poehler is the overenthusiastic talent director of the summer camp, Christopher Meloni plays a Vietnam vet with PTSD and some kinky sexual practices, Molly Shannon is an arts & crafts instructor who is not coping well with over her divorce but gets some help from one of her students and the list goes on...

WHAS is a series of sexual encounters and thwarted sexual encounters between the counselors at Camp Firewood.  The film begins on the morning of the last full day of summer camp and culminates that evening with a camp talent show interrupted by falling space debris from Skylab.  The film is silly and at times it falls flat.  Not as manic as the Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker films of the era when WHAS is set or as raunchy as say The Hangover, the film would have benefited from a little more pasta against the wall.

Still, checking WHAS off my list was satisfying in itself.  I didn't even fall asleep.  Looking at the Clay's midnight lineup, strangely Hitchcock's Vertigo is screening on August 14 & 15.  I'm more interested in Mad Max on August 21 & 22.  The Castro is screening Mad Max: Fury Road on August 26.  Seeing the two films in such a short period of time (coming on top of Midnites for Maniacs screening of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior in July) could prove interesting and insightful.

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