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Worldly Distractions: Community 6.8 - Intro to Recycled Cinema


crazyforkate

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recycled

This sounds Abed-heavy, and when anything is Abed-heavy, well...

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We open with a stereotypical ham commercial, featuring a bland housewife in a perfectly immaculate kitchen. The housewife looks and sounds strangely like Britta, despite not being Britta. (We all knew she'd go suburban in the end.) Kind of like "Too Many Cooks", Chang suddenly appears to look creepy at the window, but spouting a ham-related catchphrase instead.

Apparently, Chang's catchphrase has gone viral, with countless copycat videos, and he is currently doing a media blitz. He's even trying to parlay an acting career out of it. A talk show host asks him how he went from community college teacher to Internet sensation. He dismisses his experiences (and friends) there outright, saying that they were cruel and dismissive. The study group watches this with some annoyance. The Dean vows to have his car towed. Opening credits.

They share a bitter toast to Chang's new fame. Elroy wonders if it will last, which Jeff scoffs at. Frankie points out that Chang's absence will lower their insurance premiums, but the Dean is still bitterly hurt, since they poured so much into Chang in the first place. Abed, who is less distressed about this than the others, mentions that he and Chang were making a movie together before all this happened. When everyone realizes that Abed made Chang sign a release form, and so the movie starring "Ham Girl-Guy" belongs to them, their eyes light up.

The movie turns out to be a terrible police drama, written by actual (untalented) cops. Frankie brings in her friend Maury (Steve Guttenberg), a film producer who advises them to cut it into a feature-length film in order to secure distribution rights. Apparently, this is fairly common with low-budget films starring breakout actors. Abed refuses due to artistic integrity. However, it can no longer be a police drama, as the police are decidedly unpopular right now. Elroy breaks out some his old alien models, and boom, it's a space movie.

However, Abed still doesn't want to change the film. They berate and cajole and float the money in front of him until he finally gives in, with creative veto. Jeff is cast as the star, and they plan the fastest, most slapdash film shoot this side of Ed Wood.

So we get the opening credits of "Chief Starr and the Raiders of the Galaxy", which is composed of both Chang's footage and some of the bloopers. Britta is the female lead, playing Princess Meridian/Brittana, the daughter of Jeff, the Mayor of Outer Space. Everyone has insane makeup, with the prize going to Jeff's fake eyebrows. Seriously, look at the top pic in this recap, they're glorious. The acting is on a par with The Room, and so is everything else, for that matter.

Abed keeps trying to adjust this like a normal film, which the rest of the group fights tooth and nail. The Dean, cast as the back of Chang like some kind of Bela Lugosi stand-in, is quietly pushed to the side. We then see a space battle designed by the creators of ReBoot while drunk, intercut with a line or two from Chang. Annie, looked rather fetching in a Skimpy Space Outfit, comes in brandishing a gun. She is a pleasure droid/assassin/also Jeff's daughter. They go after Chief Starr. I dunno, guys, this doesn't have quite the same charm as the Kickpuncher remake.

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Abed keeps complaining that his friends don't care about the movie, so Jeff takes him aside. Using an extended metaphor about his workouts and Chris Pratt, he tells Abed that his work will never be done, so he might just as well settle. It's hard to take him seriously in that wig. Abed is inspired anew.

Lifting directly from 2001, they film more scenes on sets that were clearly not built in a weekend, even if they are made of tinfoil. Chief Starr goes to what is essentially the Star Wars cantina, where he meets the bartender, Minotaur Man (Elroy), who gives him some protective items to fight against the Raiders. Actually, the Chang intercutting is done kind of brilliantly. Kudos, Abed. Fighting keeps breaking out in the bar, leading Elroy to comment that this is the "space version of the Wild West", something that I'm sure has never been tried before.

When the shot is done, Abed looks like he's about to explode, but Jeff encourages him to move forward with his best glare. They move on to a firefight in the hallway, which is again covered in tinfoil. In the midst of it, Annie and Britta are arguing about improvisation, feminism, and paying rent. They also keep making up random plotlines and running with them in the middle of filming. If this episode isn't some kind of tribute to Ed Wood, I don't know what it is. Jeff, Britta and Annie wind up in a trash chute about to get crushed, while Jeff and Annie accidentally start an incestuous storyline, because the actors temporarily forgot their characters were related. "Like Chinatown in space," the producer declares, overjoyed with the final product.

More random movie moments (you can tell everyone had a blast making this shit up). At one point, Dracula appears, played by Leonard, who may or may not also be Emperor Palpatine. Chief Starr is shot by a blaster, gives a bizarre deathbed speech, and finishes out the movie to rapturous applause from its audience. Expect the sequel in Summer 2017.

The producer goes to get it ready for premiere while Abed does the final edits. This devolves into a long argument about whose scenes should be cut, which leads to Jeff absconding with the laptop. While watching a YouTube video about editing basics, Jeff finds Abed has snuck into the Frisbee room with him. He casually threatens to kill him and goes back to the video. When Abed gently persists in trying to take back the laptop, they get into a physical fight. That's right guys - Jeff is not just a douche, he is the kind of monster who will beat up freakin' Abed. Jeff reflects that he's acting out because he just realized that Abed is talented, and that he will likely be the last to leave Greendale, despite being its most contemptuous student. (He's also weirdly obsessed with Chris Pratt.) Abed decides that filmmaking reflects life - it's messy and there are no guarantees. However, there are moments, like Annie reaching down her shirt, which make it worthwhile. They hug like brothers and Jeff tells him he can cut the scene. H0wever, there remains the question of 30 seconds that still need to be added...

Cut to a screening, where the Chief's death speech is interrupted by Jeff taunting him in hell, along with an alien played by Gareth. The audience eats it up. However, the distributor won't touch it, due to some kind of copyright snafu - plus Chang's star is fading anyway. The rest of the study group goes in for a group hug, and thus we fade out on this episode.

Meanwhile, Chang is passive-aggressively fired for mouthing off to an unseen Steven Spielberg. He is immediately replaced by Randall Park of "Fresh Off the Boat" fame. Chang slips back into the study room one day and is accepted back without a word. That's showbiz, kid.

The filmmaking episodes are always quite strong, and this was one of their best efforts, mostly due to the baffling yet strangely compelling efforts their collaboration produced. It must have been a riot to put together, and the cast and crew's enthusiasm shows. Between the absolutely stunning exploration of kitsch and the way they incorporated the story's Chang-related fame, it played very effectively. Chalk this one up as a triumph.

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