Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Summer Camp


Wet Hot American Summer. Out.

Seriously though. There is, for me, almost no better comedy. It's stupid but simultaneously meta. A spoof with no direct references. A series of sketches that just works. I won't list it here. This is the retirement of Wet Hot American Summer from these weekly picks. I'm pretty sure I picked it twice last year.


Moving on. I love summer camp movies. They are odes to adolescence. They are as light and breezy as the season of their setting. And if they're not those things, then people are getting hacked up into little pieces. (I'm not going that route.) It's the light and breezy for me...with a slight touch of angst and rebellion.

So, it's Thursday. Time again for Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. You know the theme.

Here are my picks:

Little Darlings
dir. Ronald F. Maxwell, 1980


In the Wikipedia entry for this one, it makes it clear that this "movie is rated R." That's probably why I watched it the first time at 3:00 in the morning on HBO one night when I couldn't sleep. I just put the TV on to try to lull myself back to sleep and this thing sucked me in. It's actually pretty racy for somewhat mainstream 80s fare and really a pretty sweet movie in the end. It's like today's indie movies about teens only with pretty solid young star power. Tatum O'Neal the prissy Ferris. Christy McNichol is Angel...and anything but. They make a bet to see which one will lose their virginity first. The other girls take sides. Then, it's a standard summer camp flick with all the usual stuff. A young Matt Dillon shows up from the boys camp across the lake. And Armand Assante plays an older camp counselor.

Heavyweights
dir. Steven Brill, 1995


Before Judd Apatow started turning everything into gold. He produced movies like this one, a totally under-seen and hilarious movie for adolescent boys...like me. I was also a chubby kid...like the kids of this movie (see: title). An overweight kid gets sent to "fat camp," where the livin' is usually easy. But this year, a new head counselor is on his way in. His name is Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller), and he is one of the most memorable characters of my movie life. Perkis is an exercise/fitness guru (much like Stiller's White Goodman in Dodgeball) and turns up to ruin everybody's fun. I'm not even sure I can recommend this movie. It's pretty run-of-the-mill. It just really worked for me.

Happy Campers
dir. Daniel Waters, 2001


In 1988, Daniel Waters wrote the ultimate black comedy for teenagers, Heathers. Many years later, he wrote and directed this straight-to-HBO sex comedy about college freshmen doing a summer as camp counselors. It has an amazing cast of well-known actors of the time period, including Brad Renfro, Dominique Swain, Jaime King, and Justin Long. The great Peter Stormare is the pretty much absent head counselor but funny when it counts. This is a classic, totally necessary midnight movie if you ask me. Super dark. Super weird. Damn funny, in a ridiculous sort of way. Sexy. Really well written, if totally lacking in any sort of plot. 

23 comments:

  1. The only one I've seen is Heavy Weights, which I also chose. Happy Campers sounds like something I'd like. I've been meaning to rewatch Heathers. Wet Hot American Summer is great, I think I picked it once this year already so I didn't go with it again either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really want to rewatch Heathers as well. I'm sure you would like Happy Campers.

      Delete
  2. Great picks. I know Wet Hot American Summer is beloved but not by me. I hated it the first time I watched it but so many people are passionate about it I thought I missed something so watched again. I didn't hate it the second time round but the magic of it eludes me.

    I haven't seen Happy Campers but Heavyweights was a cute little throwaway comedy.

    I remember when Little Darlings came out and the furor that ensued because of the frankness of the material and the youth of the cast. O'Neal & McNichol were huge at the time, it was actually just before both started to spiral out of control-Tatum with drugs and Kristy with mental issues-and their high profiles caused even more focus on the film and the "decline of moral cinema!" as many articles declaimed. It is raunchy for a film with such young leads but does try and include other issues as well. It was a big turning point for Matt Dillon, pushing him ahead of the crowd and turning him into a teen dream cover boy for a while until he rebelled against that.

    I also stayed away from the slasher teen camp movies, though I'm sure some will turn up today.

    Camp (2003)-At Camp Ovation, a summer theatre camp for young performers, a diverse group of kids come together and though at first there are tensions they eventually form close friendships. During their time there they also influence one of the counselors who has grown bitter with regret to move forward with his life. Because the film is just a little rough around the edges it makes the story and the kids much more real.

    Indian Summer (1993)-A group of young adults (including Diane Lane, Bill Paxton and Elizabeth Perkins) gather at Camp Tamakwa outside Ontario where they spent their summers as kids for a 20th reunion. While they spend time reminiscing they also deal with problems of their present lives and try and find a way to keep the camp from closing down permanently.

    Marjorie Morningstar (1958)-Beautiful college student Marjorie Morgenstern (Natalie Wood) spends her summer as a camp counselor at a Catskills resort. While there she becomes enamored with a performer at the camp, Noel Airman (Gene Kelly) a caddish older man who doesn’t take the romance seriously. Returning home Marjorie is pressured by her parents to marry and settle down. Still carrying a torch for Noel she pursues an acting career as Marjorie Morningstar while trying to make a relationship with the older man work. Various complications ensue including her Jewish parents objections to the Gentile Noel. Adaptation of a Herman Wouk novel has a rich studio look and a great cast, aside from Natalie and Gene there’s Claire Trevor, Carolyn Jones, Martin Balsam and a host of recognizable character actors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the reason I love Wet Hot American Summer so much is because of who introduced me to it. This girl I hung out with in college was obsessed with it and finally got me to watch it and we just laughed and laughed and laughed and I fell in love with both her and the movie. From then on, I just got it. And it became my go to bad day movie, the one I put on just to laugh in the face of my stress and worry. It's that sort of movie.

      Happy Campers is probably a throw away as well, but it's super dark and unique because of that. Little Darlings just sucked me right in. I can imagine it made big news back then. I actually couldn't believe how honest it was about everything for a movie of that time period.

      Of your picks, I've seen none, though Indian Summer is one I have heard about for years and really would like to see.

      Delete
  3. Interesting picks. I love Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and I've got the film saved to watch. Thought it was hilariously ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Shame you didn't see the movie before the series, but it doesn't really matter. It really is ridiculous. Both are.

      Delete
  4. I remember Heavyweights coming out when I was a kid, but I never saw it. Happy Campers sounds like it might be fun to watch.

    I'm with you on loving Hot Wet American Summer, but I'm not gonna lie, the Netflix series didn't really work for me, which was a huge disappointment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Netflix series was a small letdown for me as well. But there are shades of the film's true genius in it for sure.

      Delete
  5. I haven't seen any of these, but Happy Campers sounds interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm with Joel in the WHAS just isn't my cup of tea. Just didn't work for me. That said, I only watched it once, so maybe I'll go by to it.

    Haven't seen any of your actual picks. I'm only vaguely familiar with the existence of your first two picks and completely clueless on that last one. It does sound interesting, though. Great job.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have to go into Wet Hot American Summer with the mindset that you are about to see a bunch of talented comedians riff off each other for 90 minutes. You can't expect a good movie. It is stupid on purpose...in very grand ways. There is nothing else like it.

      Thanks, man. Check some of these out if they pop up.

      Delete
  7. I picked Little Darlings as well and am shocked someone else has seen it. It's not bad considering the time. I haven't seen the others but the one with Stiller sounds good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome! I did not mean to see Little Darlings. I literally couldn't sleep one night and it was on at 3:30 in the morning. I watched the whole damn thing. Haha! The one with Stiller is not that good, but it's a cute kid movie with a ridiculous, over-the-top Ben Stiller.

      Delete
  8. I LOVE Wet Hot American Summer, definitely a must. Growing up, Heavyweights scared me, I think it was Stiller's character that did so. Great comparison to his character in Dodgeball, no wonder I didn't like White either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes!!! Heavyweights does have sort of a dark tone at times. And Stiller is terrifying. Lol. Nothing beats White Goodman!

      Delete
    2. At least White lightens things up and is comedic.

      Delete
  9. I am one of those people who HATED Wet Hot American Summer but LOVED the Netflix prequel reboot Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

    Its almost astounding how apart they are in terms of quality.

    Have not seen any of your other picks unfortunately

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure how you could hate the movie and love the series, though the series goes way further, obviously. I like the lack of quality quality of the movie, if that makes sense. It's what charms me about it.

      Delete
  10. I loved Wet Hot American Summer, along with the Netflix series. Both were brilliantly hilarious.

    Glad you picked Heavyweights. My 2 older brothers have loved that movie since they were young, essentially making a cult classic in our house. I have grown to love it as well. Stiller never fails to make me laugh in that movie.

    Those were the only 2 movies I could think of here. I couldn't really think of anything else. Little Darlings & Happy Campers really sound interesting, especially Happy Campers, because of the fact that Daniel Waters directed it, & I absolutely loved Heathers. I'll have to find Happy Campers on DVD, since Little Darlings (as I just found out) is only available on VHS here in the US, & I don't know currently if my VCR even works anymore. I feel like I'm the only person that still has a VCR (well, 2 if you count a DVD/VHS player).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stiller is so great in Heavyweights. The most memorable thing about the movie. If you can fire up that VCR, I would definitely recommend Little Darlings. Tatum O'Neal and Christy McNichol were late teen goddesses at the time. And Happy Campers is really cheap on DVD on Amazon.

      Delete
  11. Haven't seen any of your picks, just haven't seen much of the teen summer camp flicks in general.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. And most of them really suck anyway. They're either stupid comedies or slasher flicks.

      Delete