Monday, November 19, 2012

Yes, I'm Going to Talk About Twilight Again. But Also Reading.

I went to see "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the theater the other night. It was a pretty amazing experience. Such a quiet film, but every image resonates loudly long after you've watched. It was a respectful crowd at a major-chain theater, which is a rare and delightful thing to behold.

It also happened to be the night of the new Twilight movie premier. I arrive at the theater about 6:40 and there were already plenty of young women camped out in front. They were in pastel hoodies with mittens and Starbucks and they looked miserably gleeful. This was their night, and as I stood out front finishing my cigarette I smiled inwardly and got a little sad that I never got to experience anything like that when I was their age. That would have been a monumental event for me - nerding out with my friends (of which I had few at that age), camping out, laughing and talking about our favorite moments from books and movies. How is that not heaven?

So I stood there, and out of nowhere got very self conscious. I became very worried that someone would mistake me for a Twi-Hard. I am an almost middle aged chubby little goth girl, and after a bit of soul searching have reconciled that it was more about the combination of my age and lack of companion than a fandom association that had me staring at the concrete. But in hindsight I am still pretty ashamed of myself for being embarrassed. And one particular female is the reason why.

She walked in with a plainly handsome young man. She was old enough to know better. They walked back out immediately, and she began screeching as they walk back to a car. "OH MY GOD LOOK AT THEM! THEY ARE SO PATHETIC!" And on and on, she couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry, wondered if they had boyfriends*, and kept turning around and laughing. I totally gave her the stink eye, you guys, and immediately held my head high again. This woman was howling with laughter because a group of people enjoy something. Gross.

Twi-Hards catch an awful lot of shit. It is becoming more and more en vogue to be a nerd these days. Star Wars fans are no longer estimated to be basement dwelling virgins. Ringers are calm, languid linguists and Potterheads are just flat out awesome. But Twi-Hards are still the black sheep. Why?

I read all four Twilight books a couple years ago. I did not love them. I barely liked them, and I did not think they were well written. But I will never, as long as I live, fault someone for reading and enjoying a book. Do you know how many people I've met that literally hadn't picked up reading material that wasn't held together by staples until the Twilight Saga came along? Do you know how many girls felt like they had no one to talk to because they felt their interests were too geeky? Do you know how many adults I know who now devour books because Twilight reminded them how much they love to read? How, in the name of Jean Luc Picard, are these bad things?

I love you, Twi-Hards. I embrace you. Your cosplay may not be as ostentatious as some but you attack it with a zest equal to the dude in the full Wookie costume on a 90 degree day. Your protagonist might be a poor role model for women, but not every heroine has to be Ellen Ripley. Sometimes you just need the fairy tale, and there isn't a damn thing wrong with that.

Some of you might be calling me out here, recalling a previous entry where I had a little bit of fun at the expense of the Twilight saga. I did. But not once did I make fun of its fans. And I never will.

*Tips From Auntie Kat: Attention young nerdling boys: Ah, my sweet little awkward puppies. You wanna meet girls? Read some YA lit that features a supernatural romance or a dystopian future. When the inevitable movie is released, go with at least one of and no more than two of your friends. Ask the girl sitting next to you what part she is most excited to see on the big screen, or who her favorite character is. After the movie, ask her if she and her friends want to go to Steak and Shake. I promise, even if she says no, she will be glad you asked.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Revisiting a Classic

Or, How I Learned to Start Worrying and Wonder How the Christ I Survived the Dark Crystal as a Child.

I got a fancy TV for Christmas last year and put the old analog set in my bedroom. I recently realized I could hook up a VCR to that old ass set and watch all my old Disney VHS tapes, so that's exactly what I did. I may or may not have watched "Beauty and the Beast" for several nights in a row. And then I dug a little deeper into the Rubbermaid tote to discover what else lay waiting . . . and found "The Dark Crystal."

You guys. This is seriously the most fucked up movie I've ever seen, and I've seen "Irreversible." I remember being moderately jibblied after seeing this as a child, and I very distinctly remember looking over at my mother during the screening and not quite recognizing the look on her face. I think that would have happened when the Skeksi Emperor died and shriveled and decomposed while the other Skeksis shrieked along.

Yeah, let's talk about the Skeksis. They are giant anthropomorphic vultures. There is literally a five minute scene in this movie that consists solely of the Skeksis screaming at each other. No words, just screaming. Big crusty birds in Victorian throne room costumery, screaming at each other. They survive by draining the souls of slaves. This is not inferred by our adult selves, it is explicitly stated in the context of the film. All of the Skeksis have real name (that's good trivia, FYI), but they are called by their occupations, which include such colorful titles as " Scientist," "Ritual Master," and "Slave Master." The Chamberlain loses a battle (which consists of swinging big ass swords at a rock) and is banished. But before he is cast out, he is stripped and mocked, and you guys, I'm pretty sure he has teats.

So the Skeksis are the bad guys, and the Gelflings are our heroes. There are only two gelflings left, as there was a big ol' genocide, which we learn from watching baby gelfings scream for their mothers. The Skeksis fear the gelflings because according to their prophecies, a gelfing will restore a missing shard to the Crystal, and . . . I don't know . . . that's bad somehow. The plot is wafer thin, friends. So the two gelfings are aided in their quest by Aughra, a shrieking goat-pug harpy woman who removes her one eye so she can see a mere one foot higher than she could if said eye remained in her head. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. And then there are the Pod People. They are sweet and simple and kind, and they are harvested and enslaved so the talking birds can eat their souls. I don't really have much to say about the Mystics. They're not really creepy. They're oddly comforting. Maybe it's their death knell. I don't know.

And finally, there are the Garthim. The Skeksis send these soldiers out to hunt and fetch prey. The Garthim are giant, clicky, spider beetle crab monsters. In a children's movie. Giant clicky spider beetle crab monsters. I just . . . this shit is horrifying!!! Horror aside, the art design in this movie is ridiculous. The Garthim, easily the scariest part, upon analysis are completely beautiful. Their shells are iridescent with tones of blue and green reflecting off the black, and the manpower that went in to animating these bad boys is nothing short of mind blowing, even today. The characters were designed by Brian Froud, who wrote and drew that book that all the girls in your third grade class fought over in the library. The horrors are often hidden under beauty, such as the magic forest Jen travels through, and Fizzgig, the wee puppy-esque creature who is adorable - until he opens his gaping maw to reveal two sets of razor sharp teeth.

Getting back to that look on my mother's face - I am now 100% certain that that look said "what the shit did I just expose my child to?" You exposed me to awesomeness, Ma. I joke about the horrors, and with an adult mind the movie is really messed up. But to a child, it's wondrous and scary and gorgeous. Kids don't get much credit these days, credit for being able to process and reason, and more importantly, to imagine. And they totally should. We watched Tom and Jerry beat the shit out of each other every day after school, and on special occasions we got to see vulture creatures decompose before our very eyes. And we turned out completely cool.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nostalgia is a Hell of a Drug.

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and realize these subtitles stopped being funny several entries ago, but if I stop now I'm totally a quitter.

Yesterday I drove out to my dad's to take him a burger and spend a little quality time in his central air, which as it turned out he had not even considered activating.  It was 92 degrees at 10:30 am yesterday, and despite my unadulterated loathing of summers in Ohio, I was feeling restless.  As I exited Springfield on my way to South Vienna I realized it was Memorial Day weekend - and that meant the Melody Drive In was celebrating its opening weekend, which sent me into nostalgia overdrive.  So I decided that the only way to spend such a grotesque day was to drive around, blaring Skid Row's first album*, and take a tour of the only places that shaped me growing up in that uneventful place: Springfield's movie theaters.

The Melody's sign still lights up in the most beautiful rainbow neon, a beacon among cornfields and Highway Patrol offices, singing "yes, we are open!  You can bring your entire family to see TWO movies!"  Most of the speaker poles hang empty these days, as you tune your car radio to an AM station for audio, but for the most part the Melody's facade (and pre-movie concession stand cartoon) remains untouched by progress.  And I mean that as the highest compliment.  While I may shudder to think what happens in parked cars at the Drive In these days, I cancel that out by remembering all the milestones that happened in our 1974 Chevelle.  Seeing "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" during such a severe thunderstorm that the screen was erased from view for a time.  Crying so very hard during "The Fox and the Hound" that my father threatened to take me home (for the record, I still cry that hard during that damn movie).  I know I saw my first 3-D movie here, but it is killing me that I can't remember what it was.  When I was a child, The Showboat, another Drive In, was directly across the street.  It's an empty field now, but I will always remember my aunties taking me to see a film, then telling me to go to sleep in the back seat while they stayed for "Top Gun."  I laid in the backseat and watched the entire movie reflected in the rear window.

When we weren't at the Drive In, my mother was taking me to one of three other theaters.  The State and The Regent, beautiful downtown theaters that were built at the turn of the century, had been old Vaudeville theaters.  A friend of mine was a manager for Chakers' Entertainment and he said that the wings were still full of old costumes and props from the antique productions.  

It was here, at The State, that I braved "The Dark Crystal," but years later I told my mother my tummy hurt so I could sit on her lap during "Gremlins" because I was secretly horrified.

I held hands with a boy for the first time at The Regent.  He totally played guitar, you guys.  The movie?  "The Last Boy Scout," which was incidentally probably the last movie I saw at this theater, as it closed in 1991 and has been rotting since.  The State closed for a while in 1990, but has since been utilized for local productions and silent film screenings.  I look back and realize how lucky I am to have been in such opulent theaters.  Can you imagine seeing "The Dark Crystal" in a theater with burgandy velvet curtains, chandeliers, red velvet seats, and 70 year old murals painted on the walls?  It was a gift, and I am grateful.

In 1991, Mr. Chakers opened Springfield's first "good" movie theater.  One of the first movies shown was "Cry Baby," which if you know anything about Springfield is HILARIOUS.  I saw Gary Oldman on the big screen for the first time ("Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula"), saw people get up and leave in the middle of a movie for the first time ("Natural Born Killers").  And even though in hindsight I knew I'd experienced it before, it was here I became aware of how a movie could move you ("Schindler's List," "The Piano").  I still get chills during "The Lion King" when I remember my mother grabbing my hand as the title slammed on that screen.  We looked at each other and knew we were about to see something amazing.   My friend Mercedes died in a car accident over a decade ago, but I will always remember the time we were the only two in attendance at a showing of "Howard's End."  Cede threw a Skittle at Helena Bonham Carter, but I don't remember why.

     Forgive me for upsetting the chronology, but I had to save the best for last.

It's called "Chakers Cinema 5" now, but back in the day it was simply "The Mall."  Located in the front of sad little Upper Valley Mall and eternally smelling a little bit like diapers, it's one of the most important buildings in my life.  My mother wept during "ET," cackled with laughter during "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and closed her eyes and sighed when Michael Keaton dropped an f-bomb in "Beetlejuice."  History came full circle when my father cried during "Dances with Wolves," which is also historical as it's the only time my father and I were in a movie theater together.  I saw "Wayne's World" five times one summer, because there was literally nothing else to do in Springfield.  "The Goonies," "Back to the Future," and of course, that first damning nail in my social aptitude's coffin . . . "Return of the Jedi" - it all happened here.  I had to grin yesterday as I looked at the "Dark Shadows" and "Avengers" posters in the windows.  Sixteen year old me would have shit her pants over Tim Burton and Johnny Depp making a Dark Shadows movie AND Robert Downey Jr. playing Iron Man.  As it stands, 35 year old me only shit her pants over one of those things.  There was nothing I enjoyed more in my youth than walking through those doors you see in that picture.  Nothing.

There are so many important theaters in my life.  The Neon in Dayton, which gets me through every Oscar season and housed me through the credits when I couldn't stop crying after "The Savages."  The AMC on Olentangy in Columbus, where I held hands and shared tissues with a complete stranger because we were both crying so hard during "Titanic."  The Beavercreek Regal, where I saw "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2" at midnight.  Studio 35 in Columbus, where you could drink beer, eat pizza, and smoke cigarettes while watching your movies, four things that were wildly important to 21 year old me.  

Friends and neighbors, I love movies.  And it pains me how much I love going to the movies, as the majority of United States citizens don't know how to behave in public and the event of going to a cinema can be considerably less enjoyable as a result.  But I still love it.  The dimming of the lights, the green screen announcing the trailers, and lately the gigantic slushies to which I have become oddly partial.  All of it gives me goosebumps every single time.  So I guess the moral of the blog is . . . something I never in a million years thought I would say: Thank you, Springfield.  Thank you for giving me this appreciation and all those amazing experiences.  I can't imagine what my life would be without them.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see MiBIII.

*Super Fun Sidebar:  As I drove around the decrepit downtown listening to Skid Row, I passed a local guitar legend standing at an ATM.  It was the very same man who taught me to play all those songs 20 years ago.