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Directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg met in high school and went on to create the Harold and Kumar stoner comedies. Their new movie is American Reunion, the latest installment of the American Pie franchise.
The directing pair compiled a must-see list of DVDs, and, as they tell Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, they grew up in the heyday of DVDs in high school and college, so they know what they're talking about.
Cannibal! The Musical (1993) — In the 1870s, a group of frontiersmen end up lost in the Colorado wilderness, and cannibalism (along with singing) ensues. That's the pitch for South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone's irreverent first film, a two-and-a-half-hour musical about real-life prospector and accused cannibal Alfred Packer.
Parker and Stone made the film when they were in college, and Hurwitz and Schlossberg say they love it because it isn't perfect.
"It's a movie that shows so much talent and potential," Hurwitz says. "It's definitely a good movie for young people who want to pursue the film industry to learn that you don't have to be perfect immediately at your job, but if you can put something together that has lots of great things in it, you can get noticed."
Naked Gun 2 1/2 (1991) — Hurwitz and Schlossberg say they're fans of this sequel, which plots the continuing adventures of Leslie Nielsen's bumbling detective Lt. Frank Drebin, this time against a comic villain in Robert Goulet, because they've worked on sequels themselves (American Reunion and the last two Harold and Kumar movies).
"We felt that it's a sequel that's at a very similar level to that very first Naked Gun," Hurwitz says. David and Jerry Zucker, who directed and produced The Naked Gun, also created the spoofs Airplane! and Police Squad!
"It's funny, 'cause really, The Naked Gun is in certain ways a spoof of these noir pics," Schlossberg says, "these L.A. detective movies that Jon and I had no idea about when we were younger, and it goes to show you how good the movie is that it can work on an audience that has no idea what you're spoofing."
Schlossberg and Hurwitz think of the Zucker brothers as geniuses for the difficult-to-achieve tone they strike.
"They have all these huge hit comedies," Schlossberg says, "and the stars of their movies are Leslie Nielsen, Robert Hayes — people who aren't known for comedy — and so it makes you think, 'Oh, wow, there must be somebody behind the scenes making these jokes work.' "
Oz (1997) — Taking a decidedly more dramatic turn, the filmmakers' third recommendation is the first season of the HBO prison drama. Hurwitz and Schlossberg say they fell in love with the show when they first lived together in L.A., and they think of Oz like a soap opera for men — with the highest stakes possible.
"It's like General Hospital, but it's set in a prison," Hurwitz says. "As much as we love comedy, I think we love entertainment that just brings out a visceral, physical reaction in the audience, and so the comedies we've talked about make you laugh in a way that almost moves your body. ... I think Oz is the type of show that makes you turn away in fear and in horror, so for a television show, that's pretty intense."
Beef (2003), Beef II (2004) — Hurwitz says they were introduced to these films while working on a movie about Eddie Murphy as a cop in the hip-hop world that never got made.
"While we were doing research for that," Hurwitz says, "we were turned on to this documentary series ... which basically shows the rivalries in the hip-hop community, how they can escalate and how they can affect business in a positive way."
The film explores how aspiring rappers would often make digs at more well-known rappers to get attention, and, if the criticized rapper responded, it could only help the former's career.
"People like Common, who is now acting and almost at the height of his career," Schlossberg says, "back in the day was [a] young and up-and-coming rapper and decides to rap about Ice Cube in a way that's sort of disrespecting Ice Cube, and it launched his career. You see how a lot of the art of the genre comes from ripping each other."
Schlossberg adds that the series is also a good history of hip-hop because the series claims that hip-hop grew as an art form from these confrontations.
Harold & Kumar Escape From Guatanamo Bay (2008) — There's something familiar about this last choice — yes, it's their movie. But they insist it isn't (just) shameless self-promotion.
Schlossberg says part of being obsessed with DVDs in high school and college meant being obsessed with DVD extras.
"When we finally started to make our movies," Schlossberg says, "we were obsessed with making sure that when it came it out, it wasn't just a commentary and a couple of random deleted scenes — it needed to be something special."
The directors shot a second movie and included it on the DVD in such a way, Schlossberg says, that a viewer can create a choose-your-own-adventure type of story in which the viewer responds to menu prompts and makes choices to go down different paths.
"We just tried to do something that was different and unique," Schlossberg says, "and that's part of the fun of the technology."