Saturday, June 28, 2008

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation and Other Home Movies

When I was twelve years old, I was just starting my career as a Cellar Dweller. I had my little comic books that I would draw, and eventually I worked with the Dwellers to make a crude animated cartoon. I can easily look back on these early days and say that I accomplished a lot for my age. Then I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation last night at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

The Adaptation is a shot-for-shot remake of the Spielberg classic, filmed back in the early 1980s by a group of 12 year olds. It took the kids seven years to complete their film, which they promptly shelved and forgot as they moved on with their lives. Time passed, and through a complicated series of events a VHS copy of the tape made its way to Eli Roth, and subsequently, Steven Spielberg. That was 2003, and since then the director Eric Zala has been holding rare screenings of his movie for non-profits and charities across the country. He can't exactly sell the thing, since it borrows heavily from the original Raiders soundtrack and script (which the kids recite word for word), but he's more than willing to share it.

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect going in to it. I had watched some clips on YouTube, but otherwise was going into this screening fairly unassuming. The film, it turns out, is a lo-fi work of art. The sheer amount of skill and ambition on display by this fairly large group of Biloxi teens is astounding! They nailed the opening boulder chase, the fiery bar fight with Marion, the crowded Arab streets, the excavation scenes, the Jeep chase, the submarine, and even the exploding head once the Ark is opened. At times the audience was in awe of what they were seeing--could this film actually be happening? How did these kids pull this off? But most of the time, everyone was laughing. And really, it's impossible not to. The Adaptation is an adorable tribute to a film that many remember well; better yet, the kids play it in complete seriousness, spouting off curse words and killing as many Nazis as the original.

And yet the entire time, I couldn't help but think about other recent films, created by giant movie studios, that hope to capture the same magic and youth that The Adaptation has. I absolutely loved Be Kind Rewind, which featured two lower-class Jersey boys filming their own home movie versions of classic films. And then there's Son of Rambow, which featured two British boys making their own sequel to the Rambo franchise. Mr. Zala also pointed out last night that Paramount is going to be making a feature movie about him making The Adaptation. I'm not about to declare a Renaissance for high-concept, sentimental home-spun remakes (mainly because that's a real mouthful), but the recent frequency of these movies is very interesting.

While The Adaptation was made back in the 80s, I have to wonder if its recent surfacing has inspired movies like Be Kind Rewind. And moreover, would any of these movies even have arrived without the help of YouTube? None of these films really utilized the online service, but the mere idea that YouTube exists, with its countless remakes, remixes and home movies, had to have spurred these three films into pop culture. Or perhaps the timing is just right. There is something to be said that all three movies focus on classic blockbusters from the 80s. Have the films of the new century been so blah that we are forced to reminisce on the greats of the past? On top of that, the children who grew up in the 80s (me included, although I was really only around for the second half) are adults now, and they're able to make and promote these movies that reconnect them with their childhood. There is a lot to consider here, and I'm just happy that The Adaptation made me even consider all of this stuff.

I am very glad I was able to attend last night's screening--an event that I don't think I'll ever encounter again. Aside from rekindle my ever-growing appreciation for the Indiana Jones franchise, it also showed me that sometimes when you're working your butt off for something you love it can really go on to be something great.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A 2 Step Plan To Capture A Panda

1. Plant bamboo.

2. Wait.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Supersonic Winks.

You can not maintain a rivalry while engaged on a Kennywood ride in full operation. Just swap glances with another rider, even for a tick, and it's all woots and fist pumps. Regardless of how dissimilar the personalities, a singular fleeting but genuine recognition between two thrill seekers being whipped and whirled in an unnatural and slightly foolhardy way perpetually elicits a mutual "all fuckin' right, buddy!" For that flash, the two riders are bonded in boundless excitement. And typically, the faster the ride, the more animated and jubilant the exchange.
I once saw a wisenheimer and a miser, natural enemies of the most vicious order, share a charming moment when the one passed the other on The Racers at Kennywood. Each was positioned at the helm of his coaster when the hyper wisenheimer's blue coaster nudged ahead of the wizened miser's red one, and stares met. The purple-haired punk in the Guitar Hero hoodie flashed a knuckle deep picky-nose taunt across the canyon between the tracks to the flanneled, mesh-hatted pappy in the challenging coaster who countered with the miser's patented finishing move, the "Fist Shake to the Gods." But the combatants were soon ravaged by hysterics. For the abridged time being, they were joyously melded in their subsonic crapulence.
However, any chance meeting between the miser and the wisenheimer subsequent to the Racer ride could easily require the slightest nudge to erupt into mayhem. Who couldn't imagine the following?: The hood-rat accidentally bumping the crank in line at the Dippin' Dots vendor, and the crank retaliating with a facial swipe of his wooden cane, followed by a brutal Dr Scholl's orthopedic walker to the back of the skull, and puncuated by a hearty "harumph, harumph!"
Globals conflicts may be settled if those involved would resort to discussing their issues while strapped-in at Kennywood. Seat members of the governing Israeli body and the leaders of Hamas in the same buggy at the Exterminator, pull the ignition handle, and let those fellas talk-out their differences. You bet that by time the buggy slows to a complete stop, lilacs will begin to blossom in the Gaza Strip. In fact, legend has it that World War II could have been avoided if Hitler would not have been too short to ride The Turtle on his fifth grade field trip. Bin Laden? He made the journey from Sudan ten years ago to experience The Old Mill, but learned that Garfield's Nightmare would soon be in operation. He left pretty pissed!