Sunday, October 06, 2013

Notes on "Camp"

On Friday night I had the pleasure of attending a 10th anniversary screening of Camp at 54 Below, with a brief talkback by the writer/director, some of the cast, and one of the songwriters. Afterwards, I reread this piece and felt like I'd been a little too harsh.

I had seen Camp in the theater in 2003, loved it, bought the soundtrack, then largely forgot about the film itself until Sarah asked me to be a part of her summer movie series. I'd been a little afraid to rewatch it, in case it didn't hold up now that I'm no longer in my 20s and I'd been enjoying the songs divorced from the story whenever they came up on shuffle for eight years.

Now, obviously the experience of watching a movie at home alone is very different from watching it a) with people b) who are huge fans c) lots of whom went to the camp on which the movie is based d) in a nightclub e) at midnight f) with cocktails. But it certainly triggered something different this time.

For one thing, it didn't feel 114 minutes long (a running time I was afraid I'd be acutely aware of given the 11 PM start time of the talkback). Nothing I said in my earlier review is wrong, exactly. Letterle is still the weakest actor in the bunch, and the sexual zigs and zags still don't quite track, but something about seeing the cast beforehand and realizing how genuinely young they all were then made it all land a little better. They're teenagers, after all. And with an audience the tone problems mostly disappear. The jokes land beautifully, and they're sort of necessary amid the angst. There's something fantastic about the way Ellen as Effie starts as a joke but then she nails the song and it becomes something else entirely. To watch that in a crowd was to be carried along by the performance in a way that drives home the whole point of the movie. And the noises people made at Vlad! Clearly we've all known a Vlad or two. (I knew one in college who wasn't nearly as good-looking as Letterle and still got away with that shit.) And Ellen has to let him get away with it in order to win. She could be all mopey about it or she could enjoy making out with the hot boy, knowing exactly what it means to both of them. Michael loses, generally, but it still beats the hell out of high school, which in a way is pleasantly realistic.

In the talkback, writer/director Todd Graff said, expressing astonishment that the movie got made at all, "It's a gay children's musical!" Watched in a crowd of "teenage fag hags who turned into adult fag hags" (and more than a few adult fags) I saw Camp as the fantasy it is.

There's an actual documentary about Stagedoor Manor, in which a scandal erupts over kids making out on a bus, which is both proof that Camp gets the hormones right and proof that it's complete fantasy (because the real kids are straight -- at least for the time being). Both movies are great, but one is about people who love musical comedy, and one is an actual musical comedy. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Mexican Pizza

I was excited about this recipe on paper, then super skeptical about it while I was making it. The "sauce" smelled kinda weird in the food processor, and then everything piled so high on dough that seemed too thick. 

But then I opened the oven and it smelled amazing, and it all came together kind of perfectly. Because it uses traditional pizza dough (I used FreshDirect's, which comes frozen in 1/2 pound balls) it tasted inherently pizza-ish, not like I'd made some kind of giant mutant nacho. It's definitely messy, more a knife-and-fork event than I usually like my pizza, but it worked. I might add some chorizo next time, though it certainly doesn't need it and is a great vegetarian option. 

ETA: I don't have a pizza stone and frankly don't understand what they are supposed to do. I make pizza all the time, always just on a baking sheet, and it's always great. I live a middle class existence in New York, I don't have room for that shit.