0. PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT.
This post is unconscionably long, so I urge you not to miss either of the very recently posted items that I’m pushing miles away from the top of the page, Cherry Blossom’s latest, fawesome post or this week’s podcast. And of course Charlie Naked’s not quite as recent but still awesome guest post.
1. THREE ATTEMPTS TO MAKE THIS POST APPEAR TO BE ABOUT MUSIC WHEN REALLY IT’S NOT.
a. I mention first of all because it is most important, more important than anything I have to say this week: the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM (Da Arab MCs), who I’ve mentioned before on this blog, are coming to America. Their shows are in Austin, Houston, San Francisco, and Brooklyn. I would appreciate any NAPsters living in those areas to go give a show report, but mostly I urge you to go because I suspect it will be a really awesome show. (I will give up my slot for a week for any non-regular NAP writers who want to write a show report.) Check their MySpace page for details – early May.
b. Right now I am listening to Sam Cooke’s awesome LIVE AT THE HARLEM SQUARE CLUB, and it’s a masterpiece. Between this and LIVE AT THE APOLLO (which I belatedly discovered last year), I am grooving on early live R&B/soul records and would love any recommendations you have. “Is everybody in favor of getting romantic?” Yes, Sam.
c. This week I used GarageBand compositionally for the first time, to create two small bits of music for the three short films my friends and I made. It was a very incidental part of the process, and although I could try to make much hay of the fact that more people have probably heard those pieces of music than any other music that I’ve done, ultimately it’s not really about music. But it’s what I’m going to write about anyway.
2. A LITTLE HISTORY WITHOUT WHICH WHAT I HAVE TO TELL YOU WON’T MAKE SENSE, PART 1: UTAH, 1990.
Eighteen or so years ago, a group of Italian filmmakers arrived in Morgan, Utah, armed with a modest budget (at best) and a script that had been translated from Italian to English. They hired all local actors, most of whose acting experience consisted of community actors, and proceeded to shoot a horror film, requiring their actors to adhere to the poorly-translated script word for word but otherwise seemingly exercising no control over their cast.
The resulting debacle was ultimately titled TROLL 2, and the fact that there are no trolls in it is far from the most astonishing facet of this film. I hesitate to say too much for fear of ruining the film experience, but I need to emphasize that this is not of those bad films that has a few epic bad moments but is otherwise a slog. This is, as it is oft proclaimed, the CITIZEN KANE of bad movies. Or maybe The Shaggs of films, if we want to stretch this back into, y’know, being about music.
In an ideal world, you would go watch TROLL 2 now.
3. LACUNA WHERE, IN AN IDEAL WORLD, YOU WATCH TROLL 2.
3a. IN WHICH I BRING THOSE WHO DID NOT JUST WATCH TROLL 2 UP TO SPEED.
So, okay. Here is what you will need to know to appreciate what follows. But keep in mind you’re missing out on the popcorn and the double-decker baloney sandwich and the performance of the druid queen and the jaw-dropping ending and so much, so very much more.
Anyway: basically, the hero of TROLL 2 is a kid named Joshua (played by Michael Paul Stephenson, about whom more later), who is able to speak with his grandpa Seth, who is dead. Joshua’s family, buckling from the urban pressures of the big city, decide it would be a brilliant idea to house-swap with a family in the town of Nilbog.
However, Grandpa Seth has warned Joshua about an evil race of goblins who trick people into eating green food. This food turns the people into plant material, which the goblins then devour. So, when the family arrives at the house and are greeted by a table full of green frosting-covered foodstuffs (the most ludicrous being a green foodstuff), Grandpa Seth freezes time to give Joshua a chance to stop them from eating the food.
Joshua, being a clever youth, solves the problem by urinating on the food. His family’s reaction, particularly the monologue from his father (played by George Hardy, about whom more later as well), is one of those moments where your brain seizes up like an oil-free engine. You know in your head that, somehow, human beings made a series of decisions that caused this to appear on screen, but the decision path is so inscrutable that it beggars belief.
Much later, Joshua discovers the secret of Nilbog: “NILBOG IS GOBLIN SPELLED BACKWARDS!” The local goblins capture him and try to force-feed him, but his father rescues him.
Much much more happens in this movie, but this is what’s relevant for what comes next.
4. A LITTLE HISTORY WITHOUT WHICH WHAT I HAVE TO TELL YOU WON’T MAKE SENSE, PART 2: AUCKLAND, 2004-8.
For the last several years (bar 2007 when I was on Great Barrier Island), I’ve participated in New Zealand’s 48 HOURS filmmaking competition. My friends and I started with a bang by coming in second place in 2004, with the classic buddy-cop movie BURNS & MCCLOUD: STREET SENSE.
(It’s worth noting that every year, to avoid cheaters, random elements are designated for each year: a line, a prop, and a character. The character that year was Jesse McCloud/McLeod, a washed up has-been.)
In subsequent years, there’s been stumbles. But 2006 was my first year directing a 48 HOURS film, which was a great experience. And while I was disappointed not to participate last year, it’s worked out that I’ve joined up with a good friend to start a new team this year, and things are looking promising. Whether we win or not is not the promise, so much as using it as a foundation for other filmmaking enterprises. (Winning would be nice, of course.)
This year, as a prelude to the competition, the energy drink V (which sponsors the competition) also sponsored a 48SECONDS competition. No, you don’t have to make a film in 48 seconds – you just have to re-create a scene from a classic film, using cans of V, in 48 seconds or less.
Did I mention that V is green? And that “classic film” can be interpreted loosely?
5. A QUICK ASIDE: MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE CAST OF TROLL 2: AUCKLAND, 2006.
The second time I saw TROLL 2 was at the 24 Hour Movie Marathon in 2006. The loons who attend this event, and I include myself proudly in that description, are the perfect audience for TROLL 2. The principal quality of any successful film in a movie marathon is that – for whatever reason – you can’t take your eyes off of it. And, as you might have guessed, TROLL 2 meets that description well.
Anyway, after the event was done, event host Ant Timpson (who also runs 48 Hours and 48SECONDS) announced a special surprise: he was calling America to get George Hardy on the phone. George Hardy didn’t have a long (read: any) career in film: in fact, until the recent resurgence in interest in TROLL 2, it was his only role. He’s a dentist now in the south, and was astonishingly happy to talk to us for something like fifteen minutes about TROLL 2 and what a unique experience it was. (Most of what I know about the background of TROLL 2 comes from this discussion.)
Little did I know eighteen months later I would be re-creating his most famous monologue to date.
6. SO, YEAH, WE RE-MADE TROLL 2 USING V CANS.
But here’s the thing. We did three entries, each a different scene from TROLL 2.
There are many ways to approach this sort of thing, as you see if you browse the various takes linked above. Ours was similar to Gus Van Sant’s in remaking PSYCHO: attempt to re-create the original blocking, camera movements, et cetera as closely as possible, only using a different cast and location. (The part 1 is condensing 2 minutes of screen time, so it’s not completely faithful, and there’s some shortens in part 3 as well.) Since most of my friends fall between early 20s and late 30s, assembling a plausible cast would have been difficult; truthfully, we didn’t even try. I was desperate to play the dad, Al was eager to play young Joshua, and so, we went for it. We shot it in one day, I cut it the next day, Al onlined it and put it on the net the day after.
Here are the results:
(All hail and praise to the cast and crew, all of whom you see on screen at some point, and to my friend Annette, who suggested the genius final line of TROLL 2 Three.)
As a topical aside: using Garage Band, even with the hack interface of my laptop’s keyboard (rather than a piano-style keyboard) was really simple. That I do editing for a living can’t hurt; still, I am encouraged to try to experiment more.
7. IN WHICH THINGS TAKE A TURN FOR THE WEIRDLY AWESOME.
To defuse one line of drama: I have no idea if we won or not. I believe the deadline for entry is 80 minutes away still.
Anyway, we posted our entries, and I sent emails to a couple friends who I thought would be particularly interested.
What happened next is almost too convoluted to bother to explain, but I’ll try. One of my friends has a Twitter account that aggregates his friends’ Facebook status entries. As of that day, he had a new subscriber. That subscriber? Michael Paul Stephenson.
(Yes, the kid that played Joshua, who is no longer a kid. And who, incidentally, is directing a documentary on TROLL 2 called BEST WORST MOVIE.)
And what was Michael Paul Stephenson’s most recent Twitter entry?
“Big smile on my face! Troll 2 spoofs created by fans in New Zealand. http://tinyurl.com/63rlwn . Thanks to Ant Timpson for the heads up.”
That I could bring happiness to the man who played a pivotal role 18 years ago in making a movie that has brought me so much happiness was deeply satisfying. That I found out about it in such a circuitous way is deeply weird. But also kind of cool.
Now I just have to decide if I will attend the TROLL 2 event in Nilbog at the end of June.
8. MY PROMISE TO YOU, THE ASTONISHINGLY PATIENT READER.
I will not emulate David Foster Wallace next week. I might even write about music.