Monday, January 30, 2012


seen @ Landmark Loews Jersey City, Jersey City NJ

My high school prom was on a boat, if you can believe that. For three hours we got to ride around the island of Manhattan on a little cruise ship rented for the occasion by my school. It was pretty awesome. I remember during the first few months of my senior year, I had a certain girl in mind that I wanted to take to the prom, but that went out the window once it became obvious that I was attracted to someone else. They say you never forget your first true love, and that certainly applies to my eventual date, a girl I fell deeply and passionately in love with and dated for a couple of years. On the big night, we even matched: she wore a gorgeous sky-blue dress and I had on a silver tuxedo with a powder-blue tie and cummerbund, and a blue top hat to match.

I've written here before about how "voguing" was in that year thanks to Madonna's song "Vogue" and how we all danced to it that night. We didn't have a live band, like you usually see in the movies whenever there's a prom, though that would've been great too. We did have a king and queen, though I'll be damned if I can remember who it was. No one I was friends with, that's for sure.

As much as any other movie about teenagers, Carrie works aggressively at portraying the feelings of importance surrounding this traditional high school event. The cheesy decorations, the lousy live band, and the outfits are naturally part of it all, but director Brian De Palma really pushes it as a girly fantasy through and through, from the bird's eye view of the ceiling decorations descending into the crowd, to the vertigo-inducing worm's eye shot of Carrie and Tommy spinning round and round as they slow dance, the super-slo-mo images of Carrie being crowned prom queen, and of course the music throughout it all. The bucket of corn syrup pig's blood descending down on her head is almost a relief, or would be if that moment wasn't stretched out to near-infinity.

I have no doubt that the high school prom (is it "the prom" or just "prom"? Apparently modern kids favor the latter) means more to girls than to boys. It plays to many romantic fantasies, as well as the idea of finally Growing Up and becoming a Full-Fledged Adult. And yes, that sappy stuff can apply to the fellas too; that's certainly how I saw my junior high school prom, for instance. I went stag, but I got to dance with the girl I was infatuated with at the time and I walked home light-headed and carefree, as if in a dream. It's a nice feeling, and I don't fault De Palma for trying to capture it. It's just a little too much to watch after awhile.

But of course, we all remember Carrie for what happens after that bucket falls. I've never read the book, but I imagine Stephen King goes into more detail into what the film makes implicit: that Carrie's telekinetic superpowers are a metaphor for puberty. Or perhaps it's not so implicit; after all, the film essentially begins with Carrie getting her period. It's been the impetus for many an X-Men comic book - heck, Carrie is more or less Jean Grey without the telepathy, right down to the red hair. 

The X-comics always emphasize the need to work at controlling a mutant's powers, lest they get out of control. In Carrie, and indeed, many similar movies, this never seems to be a problem. We see Carrie's powers erupt spontaneously, but we never really see her work at controlling them. By the prom night climax, Carrie looks like she's ready to take on Magneto singlehandedly.

Carrie screened at the Loews as part of a twin bill tribute to actress Piper Laurie, who was in attendance. (The other film was The Hustler, which screened earlier.) Laurie recently came out with an autobiography called Learning to Live Out Loud, which she signed copies of. She still looks good at age eighty. Film historian and Loews regular Foster Hirsch was on hand for a Q-and-A with Laurie in-between movies, in which she talked about her early career under contract at Universal International and how unfulfilling she found it, and how she had to develop the ability to express her needs, which did not always come easily for her. She also talked about working with her Hustler co-stars Paul Newman (whom she was dazzled by) and George C. Scott (whom she was intimidated by), as well as Carrie director De Palma (she originally thought the film was a comedy!).

For pics of Laurie as well as shots of the Loews itself, be sure to go to the WSW Facebook page.

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