Thursday, June 21, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

I was never a Boy Scout or a Cub Scout, but I did have my share of overnight camp-outs while attending summer day camp. To hear my mother tell it, the reason she never sent me to sleepaway camp is because she knew I'd get homesick. Maybe that was true... but even at day camp, I got to experience overnight camping on a number of occasions. I think I still have my sleeping bag, but I'm not sure and I don't feel like looking for it.

I remember sleeping in lean-tos with other boys, which was awkward and uncomfortable most of the time. I remember trying and failing to start a fire the old-fashioned way, without lighter fluid. Of course we roasted marshmallows and told ghost stories, and used lots of cans of bug spray. And it's not even like we went all that far - I think we spent one overnight in a park in Staten Island, though I'm not sure. My mind is fixated on that being the place, and maybe it was.

It was the simplest, most basic form of camping. We never had to learn any hardcore camping skills; why would we need to, when we were only doing this for one or two nights a summer? My most vivid memory from that period is getting a nasty rash on my thighs while I was walking down a road with a counselor late at night. I don't remember how I got it, nor do I recall where we were coming from or going to, but that rash stands out - as you might imagine.

When I was older, I spent a couple of summers as a counselor at a sleepaway camp in Massachusetts. The site was a converted farm, with a dirt road leading to it from the street. We didn't teach the kids any outdoor camping skills either - we had a woodworking class, but most of the things taught there weren't necessarily for camping. And of course, the kids brought with them all manner of non-essential items from home, in particular - this being the 90s - Magic: The Gathering cards. While they played with them all the time, they also tended to be a bone of contention more often than not. I shudder to think what it would be like today, with kids carrying around cell phones and iPads.

While not a direct comparison, the unlikely love affair at the heart of Moonrise Kingdom reminds me a little bit of one of my earliest crushes as a kid. It was the summer of 1985, and I was traveling with my mother, my aunt and my cousin to California to visit relatives. At one point we stayed in a lodge at Sequoia National Park for a few days to see the giant trees. At the same time there was a girls' camp staying there, and that's how I met this chick named Amanda. 

We only knew each other for three days, but we clicked. I hung out with her friends, we went swimming, that kinda stuff. I recall we took part in some kind of nighttime game - it may have been a scavenger hunt or something. We didn't run away together into the woods like the kids in the movie, and though she was a camper, she wasn't a Girl Scout or anything like that, but the point is, to my young mind, it felt like an ultra-romantic affair. We promised to write each other once it came time to go, and we did for a little bit before the memories faded. I mooned over her for awhile and then got over her. Hadn't even thought about her in years until now...

Everything feels so much more intense at that age. What's nothing more than a mutual infatuation seems indistinguishable from Twoo Wuv. Sam and Suzy come across as so deadpan earnest (like many Wes Anderson characters) that it's easy to forget that they really are in love. There's nothing cynical or ironic about it, and it's nice to see.

I rode my bike to the theater. I had never done that before, which is a bit unusual, since the Kew Gardens is so close to me, but I had just bought a new bike lock a few days prior, so now I had no excuse. Truth be told, I combined riding and walking, because there's a steep incline leading to the theater and I did not wanna challenge it on the bike. Just don't have the legs for it! From my direction, you go up the hill, and then you make a left and you go down the hill from a different angle, and then you go up a little bit and there's the theater. I walked all this section. Even in Columbus I approached hills with great trepidation, but then, I had a better bike there. My current bike is one I bought second-hand.


  1. I loved hearing your tales here, since they so differ from mine, that I feel inspired to tell them and I'm not how I would fit this into my own blog. I actually went to a few different sleepaway camps. One year or maybe even two summers I went to a traditional camp. I don't really have super vivid memories. I stepped on a bee. I think I made out with a girl. We learned computers as the home education computer was really just starting to hit, I think I learned kayaking even. I have no clue why I have like no memories, even though it happpened. I have letter my folks sent me, photos of me at the camp. Yet as you say your day camp memories are fuzzy as well.

    The other sleepaway camp I attended was much different. It was a performance camp and I went to a summer session and then a winter session. Memories from there are much crazier they probably could be a Wes Anderson film. I have video tapes of those sessions that show it all off. They're kind of wild. The summer session was a traditional camp, but the winter session was on this old farm with a mansion.

    I did the camp counselor thing too, but mine was a day camp. Although it was a day camp that was pretty far from the city. We picked up kids like 7 AM or something and drove them to this place I think in NJ? I was a swimming instructor and a performance teacher. It was interesting. I was a little too much me though. Lots of the kids loved me, but being a camp counselor for rich kids whose parents want them sheltered was the wrong place for me.

    Anyways, you barely discussed the movie. Is it worth seeing? Is it up there with Rushmore and Zisou? Did he make up for Darleeng here? I don't count Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was fantastic, but as it was an adaptation it didn't let us know which direction his writing was going.

    Also, if Bruce Willis wasn't billed would anyone recognize him? Does his voice/mannerisms still pop through the "Yeah, I'm bald and old, what of it look?"

  2. It's absolutely worth seeing, and yeah, I'd put it up there with Anderson's best. I read a review that said it was surprising that he never made a 60s movie before because his style is so suited to that period, and I agree. Bruce Willis is certainly recognizable, although as you can see in the screen capture, he wears glasses.

  3. I actually was a girl scout for like a year in elementary school, which surprised me as I'm just not an outdoor person at all. Maybe that's the reason it put me off camping?? One of my friends actually fell into out of the rice fields, there are tons of those in my homeland Indonesia, man that can't be fun.

    In any case, I really want to see this movie, and I'm not a big fan of Wes. It just looks so fun and quirky but in a good way.

    P.S. That Sequia park looks beautiful!!

  4. Ruth, this is your kinda movie, believe me.


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