Guns and Raccoons

Somehow I attended Yale for grad studies (School of Cocktails and Video Games ’05) and thus get invited to a lot of Yale alumni events. Never have I even had a flicker of consideration for any of them until they hosted a talk by Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman billed as “My Life in Independent Cinema”. While I merely did a stint at Yale vocational school, Kaufman was a true Yalie who discovered film there (though he majored in Chinese) and went on to build a cult empire out of truly funny, smart and subversive movies, like The Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabukiman and Tromeo and Juliet. Even the lamest have some great gags. In a beach scene from The First Turn On!, a guy with a metal detector finds something and digs for hours only to find…another metal detector! Magnificent.
Mr. Kaufman was there at the event early, and had already set up his own AV. The typical Manhattan “low, knowing chuckle crowd” trickled in. Two skinny twenty-somethings ran a card table full of merch and proudly declared “We’re Troma interns!” The interns filmed while Lloyd went on about the need for net neutrality, new media (“the kids in their basements blogging about…X-files or whatever”,) and how you have to put stuff in movies that people want to see. “People like guns in movies,” he said. “If you make a movie about a raccoon family, you better put a gun in the hand of one of the raccoons.” He shamelessly plied us with trailers and promos and talked about about how bootlegging benefits Troma immensely, citing the “gift of piracy” as the reason why his most recent feature, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead got distribution in Russia. He described the genesis of Poultrygeist (made for $450,000!) as an idea that sprung up “when a McDonald’s moved in next door and our basement was filled with rats the size of kielbasas.” He described McDonald’s as a plague of bad food, bad labor practices and ugly buildings. The genius of Lloyd is that he can make movies about toxic waste, war and fast food and there is not a drop of pretension to be found. The genius of Troma is that it has kept the tradition of a small, sick band of weirdos making cheap, gross movies alive. It’s rare to catch a sense of old New York these days, but if you send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Long Island City, you can get Lloyd Kaufman’s autograph. That’s keeping it real.


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