Episode 154: All My Bumblebees Are Drowned

The Overthinkers tackle the play within the film.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and David Shechner to overthink the play within the film within the film within the… as they discuss their favorite cinematic depictions of theater and JJ Abrams’s Super 8.


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20 Comments on “Episode 154: All My Bumblebees Are Drowned”

  1. Amanda #

    I had to read the Caucasian Chalk Circle in school way back in 9th grade, in German, and failed miserably. I wasn’t the only one though, even some of the born and raised German kids in my class couldn’t understand a thing, but then again, some of them weren’t the brightest *chalks* in the box.
    So, this was a really bad pun (not as bad as Matthew’s PATRON-ize though, which had me laughing my ass off) and not an actual reference, but since
    a) the only thing I remember from the book is the whole King Solomon and the baby and the two moms and the hey how about you two pull the baby really hard and we’ll see who he lands with, that is, if he doesn’t get torn in half first part of the story
    and b) the whole me having to read it in German (as a non-native German speaker) really was true, I hope you Ivies will agree that the simple fact I was in a school that ridiculously good and/or pretensious as to expect a handful of 15 year-old Brazilian kids to be able to read Brecht in its original German will immediately qualify my comment here as good and/or interesting. That, or the fact that I write like a pretensious hipster/nerd and use way too many “/”s.
    Also, Wrather and Sheely: I realize I should be the last person to say this, as my gigantic email to you two about my TFT marathon still hasn’t been properly “edited” and sent, but please, oh please, stop releasing a new episode every 5 minutes. Please. I beg you. Ok, thanks. :)


  2. Brian #

    Honestly Super 8’s spoilers are better off being spoiled as the story only becomes stronger for it as the reveals are archetypal and known to anyone older than 12, but spoiler alert.

    http://www.overthinkingit.com/2010/11/17/zombie-suburbs/ That article was so very integral to my reading of Super 8, otherwise I probably would have been at a total loss of what zombies and suburbia have to do with each other, thanks. So given that I think Super 8 is sub-textually about oil scarcity changing the face of suburbia main points being 1. The zombies and urban flight article. 2. The monster uses tons of engines from cars to make his *water powered* space ship. 3. Every time the alien takes someone a car is a main part of the scene- a. being filled with gas b. a cherry picker truck fixing power lines c. right after Alice’s dad crashes. d. alien takes all engines out of entire car lot.

    The kid’s zombie movie, we find out at the end, is about a detective investigating the local chemical plant president trying to cover up his company making a zombie chemical, I forget if it accidentally got in the water supply or what the companies goal was. But I don’t think the movie within a movie deconstructs itself quite as much as Lee thinks it does. Only because if Abram’s wanted more meta the camera pov would have been more Cloverfield or District 9, and I think it may have been another influence in setting it in the 70’s was not having that expectation of modern totally spastic fractured perspective but still being able to talk about civilian journalism and the democratization of media and how that’s a real power, while not the only power like it may seem in the internet age.

    Which is great, but personally Super 8 falters in that it makes film too powerful only because Abrams can’t balance science and drama as well as Speilberg. Where Speilberg could inspire awe and curiosity in family drama, film craft, and sciences Abrams inspires almost-but-not-quite-awe only in film craft, even though Super 8 tries to spark something about transportation technologies there’s only so much science Abrams can do well, once he can inspire curiosity in science he’ll truly be Speilberg’s heir.


    • Brian #

      A counterpoint to the expectation of fragmented visuals today, there was an alternate reality game to Super 8 where you had to find film clips of an Area 51 report, the full 3 minute clip was released the day of the movie and is shown in part in the feature.

      Also an interesting thing was the trailer showed the truck hitting the train from the trucks perspective, while in the feature it’s shown in very very far distance from the kids pov, it had an interesting effect because you knew what happened because you saw it before and remembering the crash, it takes for granted that you’ve already seen it, it’s kind of an interesting and refreshing change up because I’m so use to seeing the money shot from the trailer in the feature and it’s always kinda lame and somehow distancing.


  3. pfranks #

    Steve Coogan’s Caine impression video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFIQIpC5_wY ) is from BBC’s show The Trip, which is now released in theaters as a film. I don’t know how well does it work as a 2 hours movie, but the show was one of the finest pieces of TV last year and I feel I was the only one watching it


  4. Gab #

    My favorite part about Bullets Over Broadway is that it doesn’t feature Woody Allen. Great movie. But if some of you chose to go with TV episodes, then I’m going with “The Shakespeare Code,” an episode of Doctor Who from 2007. Because it’s fun and nerdtastic. Either that, or the episode of Hey, Arnold! where Helga dreams about a combination of The Ring Cycle and Carmen pants made of satin that are the height of fashion and from the south of France + golden magic slingshots to best one’s enemies= a kid’s show made of awesome.

    To go for the obvious about meta-theater: Hamlet has its theater troop- but I think how they’re portrayed in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead does an even deeper job of digging into how theater is a reflection of reality as a reflection of fiction. (I really should work on that guest piece about that and The Lion King 1 1/2… Ugh. Grad school…)

    Tony Stark figures out the makeup of a new element from the film reels left behind by his father in Iron Man 2 (or at least realizes the model is the map for it or whatever). And film reels are highly important in Lost– those training videos from the Darwin Initiative show up all the time. I can’t help but ask, does anyone else think perhaps that film diaries or reels have replaced journals for characters to find and thus figure out what’s going on? I’ll try to parse this out. See, main characters in fiction, which were being portrayed in books back in the day before film, would find journals and lab books and thus figure out what was going on currently, or find solutions to the problems they’re faced with. As the medium has changed from books to television and film, now we find things like video diaries and the like are what the main characters use. I can’t quite articulate myself, here, but maybe someone else gets what I’m getting at and can do a better job. Perhaps a bridge between the two is the film Casper (or so it feels for me, anyway)- Cat and Casper find the old newspaper articles and lab journals left behind by Casper’s dad, but Carrigan’s inspiration to hire Cat’s dad in the first place comes from a segment about him on Hard Copy. Blah. Again, I’m kind of stuck on how else to express it. But basically, film is a plot device in film as the written word was a plot device in the written word. Eh?

    But something I think worth picking at is the whole notion of deconstruction in general: What’s the appeal? Why make a graphic novel about superheroes like Watchmen in the first place, for example? For me, at least, I don’t always see “deconstruction” as such, per say, but rather as a “different take” or “spin” on the genre itself. Movies about movies aren’t necessarily “about movies” for that purpose for me- they’re movies and their plots are about movies (I hope that makes sense), but that’s just because making movies is an eventful process that lends itself to themes we like to see protrayed. Am I missing the point (which I’d be fine with admitting, by the way), or could it be that not every movie about a movie or play about a play is meant to take apart the genre itself? I’m not trying to be rhetorical, I’d actually like some opinions, here, because I feel sort of like I’m floundering or on the verge of something, but am either missing an important part or completely off the mark.


    • Brian #

      On movies replacing journals, I think that’s another reason for the Super 8 kids making a movie, more than a gimmick, is it reflects the real contemporary role that video is becoming de facto form of communication, lots of high schools allow to you make a video essay instead of written ones, not all the time but often enough. You can’t really tell a story of kids today that doesn’t reflect the omnipresence of cameras and ease of distribution- cell phones and internet. Spielberg even mentions it in an interview. http://www.flicksandbits.com/2011/06/10/steven-spielberg-interview-for-super-8/12513/

      That omnipresent camera notion tends to be used as a gimmick to create false tension like Cloverfield, but that tension can also make a point like District 9. Super 8 is interesting in that it doesn’t have a visually schizophrenic approach, it’s very subtle in that it rewards people for searching for those clips online outside of the movie- the alternate reality game gives you totally privileged perspective to the movie’s unfolding, the kids zombie movie doesn’t come on till almost a minute into the credits when half the people have walked out; Super 8 doesn’t relentlessly bombard you it rewards you for you’re curiosity, patience and resilience.


      • Brian #

        But with that knowledge comes a price, because I watched the “secret Area 51” footage before the feature the whole movie is watching the characters totally falling short of their potential because they’re blind to the awesome power and potential for creativity that’s right under their noses- which is the alien cubes that can be made to be anything by the power of thought (but that’s not revealed in the feature till late and it’s glossed over) and makes the ending of the alien leaving much more melancholy as it’s leaving is also a loss of all that knowledge of how the cubes work and leaves us with our emasculated muscle cars with no engines and a suburbia we rolled tanks over trying to capture the alien.


      • Gab #

        Hold the phone, are you telling me there is a bunch of crap I’m supposed to watch OUTSIDE the film in order to “really get it,” or am I misinterpreting? Because that was one of my main complaints with Lost, all of those GD podcasts and interviews and stuff that actually affected how one would understand the sotry. I think I posted on Mlawski’s pieces about Lost how I feel about these viral things. It’s one thing when they just entice or spark interest (like the weird chanting website for the upcoming Batman movie), or when they provide supplement; it’s another when they are actual pieces of the plot. Call me old fashioned, I realize I’m a curmudgeon. Frakkin’ JJ Abrams. AGH!!! >.<

        ::end rant::

        (I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at Abrams if that's the crap he's pulling, is what I'm getting at.)

        Sorry. Ahem.


        • Brian #

          I totally agree with you on how viral/supplements should be used. And I don’t think you need to see the footage to “really get it.” But I’d love to hear what someone who hasn’t seen the secret footage first thinks of the cubes though… Lee?

          And I’m sure the inspiration and feeling of losing something is still there, as I think that’s the point of the movie is to create a somehow clear yet inarticulate- and not negative nagging- sense of longing for the unknown, to neutralize our fear of it and be open to possibilities it offers and let you know you can handle it even it turns out bad. And that 3 minutes doesn’t change that, only makes you feel it sooner.


          • Lee OTI Staff #

            Re: the cubes, I had not seen any of the online supplements you mentioned, so the idea that the cubes could be modified by thought was new to me. I thought that the alien just had some sort of pseudo-scientific connection with the technology and that it was only available to him, nt humans, kind of like the alien weapons from District 9.

            What you describe (“[That] makes the ending of the alien leaving much more melancholy as it’s leaving is also a loss of all that knowledge of how the cubes work”) is an interesting idea and would have added an extra layer of depth to the alien plot (arguably the weakest part of the movie), but you’re right, it was glossed over and not clearly communicated through the film by itself.

            So I’m with Gab; you shouldn’t have to watch a bunch of supplements to really “get it.” Likewise, with a superhero/comic book movie, you shouldn’t have to have read Issues 1-459 to “get” that Magneto is a complicated dude, etc.

    • Brian #

      Spam Ahoy! On the benefits of “deconstruction”: For me The Watchmen story biggest strength was how intimate you got with the typically least intimate superhero characters because you got to see secret/private documents which you could lavish any amount of time on- and this may be just me but having it also be a real tactile artifact that I could smell and feel and was uniquely worn from other copies was a big deal because it had this magic of transformation that at one page it’s a comic the next it’s a newspaper clipping- Alan Moore took this a step further in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier where each book was printed on various paper stocks. But all that intimacy was lost in the film adaptation, most of the characters humanity/vulnerability was in those “meta” or “deconstructed” pages.


      • Gab #

        So the comic pages in Watchmen are just comic pages, but the stuff like the newspaper articles or segments from Night Owl’s book are the deconstruction parts?


        • Brian #

          In that’s where most of the deconstruction of the form and characters happens, yeah. My definition maybe too broad or misinterpreted, I just mean self-reflexivity or reference. But I don’t know how else you could reach that level of personal interaction without it, maybe Watchmen is a special case in doing it well, it never addresses the audience straight on yet it invites into that world tacitly and breaks the 4th wall when all a sudden you’re holding a document from that world, it’s crossed into your reality. Idk if that sounds absurd but that’s what I felt and think is unique about Watchmen’s way of breaking the fourth wall.


          • Gab #

            No, I like and see that, too- instead of saying, “Look, audience, we’re a comic book!” it treats it as if there are actual events being remembered or what-have-you.

    • Megan from Lombard #

      I whole-heartedly agree with the DW episode, not only is it nerdtastic but we get Ten with his glasses and Shakespeare flirting (and funny enough that exact episode came to mind during the question ^-^)


  5. Timothy J Swann #

    It seems I make a habit of being addressed on podcasts, the other podcast I contribute to ( dimitrimomb.libsyn.com/ ) often don’t bother replying to my tweets or emails, just tell me stuff on the pod.

    Anyhow, I’ve gotten about 20 minutes in, and I’ve already got tons of comments. I promise when I get back with them, I’ll share a link of my attempts to do the accent of my youth.


  6. Pasteur #

    Matt, have you read the kickpuncher graphic novel? It exceeds its premise.


  7. Timothy J Swann #

    Okay, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU4mt-rmu8Q#t=02m20s is the link to me trying to do my own regional accent and failing.

    I guess what I can do with my accent powers is fool Pete into giving me something. His contributing editor status or something.

    The Trip is very funny (in the TV form, at least) directed by Michael Winterbottom, but much of the charm comes from knowing Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s stories, since a lot of story and tension is based on their weird relationship.

    My favourite movie about a play is far and away Lucky Break, in which Jimmy Nesbitt and other prisoners are encouraged by Julian Barrett of the Mighty Boosh to stage a production of the governor’s musical based on the life of Nelson. Along the way, Olivia Williams breaks lots of rules as a prison therapist. It’s very funny and has a Brit-stellar cast.

    As a quarter-Scot, it’s important to note that Brendan Gleeson who plays Mad-Eye, is Irish.

    The best advert in my mind http://www.tellyads.com/show_movie.php?filename=TA8723 is the Brighter Side – it looks like an advert for The Road, but turns out to be for ITV, Britain’s definite populist channel (home of X Factor/Britain’s Got Talent).


  8. Charlie X #

    As a Southern fop, I’m guessing I’ve got the right kind of English accent, unlike all those filthy Northerns or the people with their Estuary English accents.
    Personally, my main reaction to this podcast was shock that no one thought to include The Night Man Cometh in It’s Always Sunny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJ8G2s–1zA&feature=related

    When Matt talks about doing community theatre, this is what I expect he does.

    I think that’s my second favourite representation of theatre, my favourite being The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, being an elaborate play of a romanticised version of what happened in the past/happens again in the film, with the same actors who play the roles they play in the film itself. Meta before meta was a thing.


  9. yellojkt #

    You have completely overlooked the greatest theatrical production within a show item ever done, Harold Hecuba’s visit to Gilligan’s Island. The castaways produce a musical version of Hamlet only to have the idea stolen from them.



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