Friday, August 27, 2010

Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever
seen @ Central Park Conservancy Film Festival, Central Park, New York, NY

In watching films at outdoor venues, I've noticed a few patterns emerge:

1) The fight for space. It's one thing if you've got a blanket. A blanket clearly marks your territory; there's no mistaking it. Without one, you're kinda left to the whims of fate as far as what constitutes "your" space. I try to claim a spot a respectful distance away from any surrounding neighbors, fully aware of personal boundaries and all that, but I can't rely on other people doing the same for me. Sometimes they will, but a lot of times they won't. As a result, I'll end up doing things like stretching out or moving around in a certain way as to say, hey, this is my spot, please don't encroach on it.

And I'll try not to be aggressive about it, hoping that others will take the hint somehow, due to some subtle reading of my body language as I'm splayed out on the grass or turf or concrete, bookbag extended as far as it'll go... but it almost never works the way I want it to. And as more and people fill in the space, I have to redefine my boundaries not only according to how much space I'm willing to sacrifice and still be comfortable, but also according to who's sitting around me. Cute girls - okay. Creepy looking old dude - not okay! I dunno. Maybe I'm not claustrophobic so much as I am agoraphobic. Or maybe I'm just like Randall in Clerks: I hate people, but I love gatherings - isn't it ironic?

2) The presence of small children and animals, in particular, dogs. I used to be deathly afraid of dogs when I was much younger, but I've worked hard at developing a tolerance for them over the years. I can (grudgingly) accept the presence of dogs if you're having an outdoor screening in a big park (to a point - as you'll see). But someone needs to explain to me why you bring small children to a screening of AN R-RATED MOVIE. One of my favorite cartoonists, Ellen Forney, did a strip about how her parents once took her and her brother to an R-rated movie when they were kids (it was Saturday Night Fever, too). Her parents thought they could explain all the adult stuff, no problem, but it turned out to be way harder (and more embarrassing) than they figured.

I'm not a prude; if some parents honestly think this, then more power to 'em. But there are other issues, such as the ability of little kids to sit still and quiet during the film - especially when you're indoors. You've probably encountered that a few times. My feeling is that if you absolutely can't get a babysitter, maybe you should just stay home... or don't have kids at all...

3) Subtitles. I had this at Pier 54 and I had it last night. Don't like.

Last night I had a nice spot picked out about an hour before showtime, to the left of the screen and underneath the branches of a tree. The guy in front of me had a turned-up bike next to him, which I made sure to stay out of the way of, and other people who tried to claim a spot next to me quickly changed their minds when they saw the bike would block their view. So I was doing okay with my personal space so far. Some women to the right of me had some small dogs. They're small, they're relatively quiet - fine. Then, later on, a couple comes up behind me with TWO HUMONGOUS DOGS and park themselves behind me, apparently undeterred by the bike. That was it. I got up and moved further back. I'm only willing to tolerate so much.

Before the film, there was some stupid animated 3D short. Everyone was given old-style 3D glasses at the gate (the ones with one red and one blue lens), which made me think for a moment that they were gonna show Fever in 3D! These glasses were wrapped really tight; I was struggling to get them open without damaging the glasses, but the short was done before I could succeed, and from what I saw of it, it was nothing special.

Watching Fever with a crowd reminded me of when I saw a re-release of Grease several years ago (not the sing-along version released this year). The crowd went wild at the first appearance of John Travolta, then as now, and the dance sequences got some cheers and applause, then as now. That was nice. It's good to know movies like these still hold up.

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