Super 2

I stand before you tonight, feet dirty because I promised my housemate I’d water her (rather sad) garden for a few days while she’s out of town.  I also stand before you slightly pale from spending the majority of the weekend inside, researching.  I also stand before you humbled (to get to my point), because after ranting, rather unattractively, about why I generally don’t like superhero movies (see this post: Super), I saw The Amazing Spider-Man (I guess I should get aboard the hyphen train, like a good English major) last night.  And I liked it a lot.

Here’s what I liked:

1. Andrew Garfield.  I’ve seen him in Never Let Me Go, which I viewed en route from Montreal to London.  There were a few sex scenes, which I earnestly tried to shield (using everything from my hands to my empty bag of complementary pretzels) from the kindly old gentleman next to me.  I’ve also seen him in The Social Network.  In The Social Network, he does this scene:

And in Spider-Man, he’s similarly good, if generally less angry.  He does this strange, half-anguished, slightly twitchy dip of the head when he’s trying to talk to love interest Gwen, for example.  If you’ve been to a co-ed high school, you’ve probably seen the sequence a few times.  It’s terribly endearing, and is why I like him as Spider-man.  Because I believed he was a teenager, and what’s more impressive, I believed that he was a teenager who was suddenly injected with superhuman powers, and who had to figure out how to balance both.  And because Garfield’s Spider-man doesn’t dive into the whole saving people thing.  He focuses on what’s important to him: getting the girl and discovering the secret of his father’s research.  It’s only at the end when he realizes that bigger things are at stake, and that he’s likely the only one who can confront them.

2.  Cue my favorite part of the film: when the cranes are released by grateful citizens, so an injured Spider-man can swing to the rescue.

3.  Emma Stone.  What do I say about Emma Stone?  She’s funny.  She’s spunky.  She’s a better match for Peter Parker than the simpering Mary Jane.

4.  The story moved fast enough to hold attention, but wasn’t afraid to spend time on purely humorous scenes, like the one where a newly web-endowed Parker attempts to brush his teeth, and ends up accidentally destroying the bathroom.

5.  The special effects were good, of course, but it didn’t feel like the movie had been made purely to showcase them.  They were folded in, and pulled out appropriately (when they would enhance the scene).

5.  Okay I’m out of reasons.  But I liked it, really, and I didn’t even get to see it in 3D (the Morris Theatre isn’t there yet).

Will Break for Book Sales

I was utterly prepared to spend the day inside, researching.  My fan was blasting, my books were open, my unshowered ankles were crossed beneath my unshowered knees.

And then my housemate popped her head into my room and asked if I wanted to go to the library book sale.  Obviously, there was no resisting such an offer.

I got: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which was, hands down, the best book I read last summer (I have yet to pick a winner for this summer); The Awakening; and Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles, because I am a sucker for the Royal Diaries series, despite the fact that it’s written for girls half my age.

I spent $2.50 total.

And now I’m waiting until my theatre shift starts.  I’m working tickets, and then I have plans to use my free pass to actually watch the movie.  It’s “The Amazing Spiderman” this week.

This hasn’t been a very interesting post, you guys.  I’m sorry.  Maybe I’ll do a Spiderman review tomorrow.


Things That Make Me Happy

Things That Make Me Happy, A List:

1.  The special features on the Lord of the Rings extended editions

2.  Owning a fan during a heat wave

3.  The Oxford Comma

4.  Vega of Lyra

5.  Also, Spica of Virgo

6.  Staying up until 2 am to finish a fantastic book

7.  Joking around with strangers

8.  Oatmeal for breakfast

9.  Sleeping in

10.  Waking up early in the morning, realizing I don’t have to get up, and promptly falling back to sleep

11.  Frisbee

12.  Walking across campus and recognizing almost everyone I pass

13.  National Geographic Magazine

14.  Long car rides when I have a backpack o’books at my feet

15.  The Muensters

16.  Munster cheese

17.  Touring historic places

18.  Postcards

19.  Libraries

20.  Pride and Prejudice in any form

21.  Oldies music

22.  Dogs doing goofy things

23.  That freshly-showered, clean feeling

24.  Getting lots of wax on the Q-tip when I clean my ears (gross, but true)

25.  Painted fingernails

26.  Exploring new towns

27.  People riding lawnmowers across town

28.  Poetry

29.  Working at the movie theatre

30.  Root beer

31.  Amazonian cultures that are untouched by the rest of civilization

32.  Teddy Roosevelt

33.  The color blue

34.  Survivor

35.  Secret handshakes

36.  Wikipedia

37.  When professors use Wikipedia

38.  Sweaters

39.  Making lists

40.  Going for walks

41.  Concerts, especially of the free variety

42.  Fall

43.  Nature programs (before they began involving aliens)

44.  Not losing at Hearts (a rarity)

45.  When the radio plays songs you’re in the mood for

46.  The first day of school

47.  New jeans

48.  Crossword puzzles

49.  Crazy genius writers (I’m looking at you, Ernest)

50.  The fact that you, friend, have read all the way down to 50.  Thanks for that.

Things Are Afoot

It’s Saturday night, and things are afoot.

I worked two concessions shifts at the theatre, between which I tiptoed in to actually watch the movie.  It was Brave, and I thought it was pretty wonderful, although definitely not what I expected.  More bears and magic than I anticipated, to be brief.  But plenty of laughs (once again I outstripped all children in the audience in that department).  And, forgive me, but I spent much of the movie being mesmerized by the heroine’s hair.  It was like a separate character.

Up forever has my heart in the world of Disney-Pixar.

Then, needing fresh air, and an escape from the smell of popcorn and the slick of grease between my fingers, I went for a bike ride around town, looping back through campus just as it got dark.

And now, because a good friend of mine is in Morris, and because I’d like to feel like a college student for an evening, and not like a responsible adult, we’re going on a hike.  Destination will not be disclosed at this time.

Also, I just have to tack this on the end, because I shrieked with delight when I watched the trailer this afternoon.  Joe Wright is one of my favorite directors, not just because his films are exquisite, because he turns good books into good movies, and because he appreciates the force of Keira Knightley’s acting as I do (yes, I can defend that statement), but because he does period films.  Period films.  Period.

The Wi-Fi Void

The internet is back on, after an admittedly stark weekend without it.  I tried not to mind too much, fancying myself beyond such petty interests.  But I missed my daily sweep of Itunes Movie Trailers, various blogs, HuffPost, and yes, Facebook.

Successfully relieving my woe, several events filled the wi-fi void:

1.  I discovered the power of bribery when interacting with small children.  Don’t get me wrong; this was an accidental discovery, and one I certainly don’t plan to often utilize (it doesn’t exactly encourage a solid moral foundation).  But it was nice at the time.

We had been at the botanical gardens for a few hours.  It was in the high 80s, and the paths were long, so I think the kids were a little sluggish (I was too).  They perked right up, however, when they saw the fish pond.  Ponyboy (names have been changed, obviously) enlisted my help searching for frogs in the weeds.  Once I spotted one, he would crouch at the edge of the water and reach for the half-submerged amphibian.  He wasn’t deterred by the frogs’ constant ability to hop away just before his fingers could clasp their slimy bodies.  Cherry, on the other hand, amused herself by hiding among the exotic flowers, sniffing them exultantly and plucking their velvety petals when I wasn’t looking.

We might have stayed for another two hours, but I noticed that the kids’ faces were growing a bit pink.  I could feel my own nose beginning to crisp, and I shuddered at the prospect of bringing sunburnt toddlers back to their parents.  There was no sunscreen in the diaper bag, and none in the car either.  Ponyboy, I could tell, as I asked him to climb up into his seat so we could head back to home and shade, was on the verge of a breakdown.  There were still frogs to catch, after all.  That’s when Cherry, who was peeking into the center console, noticed a pack of bright orange Tic Tacs.

“Can I have one?”  Ponyboy asked, looking longingly at the garish candy.

I thought for a minute.

“If both of you get into your seats and let me buckle you in, you can each have a candy.”

Without a second’s pause, they both scrambled up, slipping their arms into their straps.

I put a Tic Tac into each outstretched hand, and that was that.

2.  A friend of mine, knowing all too well my fascination with F. Scott Fitzgerald and with anything relating to that era of romanticised writing (i.e. one hand around a sweating glass of scotch, one hand clacking away at typewriter keys), brought over his own circa 1930 typewriter for me to use for the summer.

It’s a beautiful machine, too heavy to sit on my flimsy rubbermaid container “nightstand.”  I have it on the floor, where I sit with crooked knees and punch the keys, stopping to listen for the ‘ding’ at the end of each line.  I’ve written two letters on the dear thing so far, taking care to do so before 11 pm.  No complaints from the roommates as of yet, but they have to be able to hear it; I’ve never lived in such an echoey house.

3.  I worked my first solo ticket selling shift at the Morris Theatre.  It’s a fairly straightforward job: count the money and tickets before and after each shift, make change when necessary, dispense tickets to waiting guests, generally look pleasant.  I was only worried about making change (my mental math is laughably sub-par, especially when I’m under pressure), but even that went fine.

At one point a young father came in holding his three-year-old daughter by the hand.

“Do you take card?”  He asked me.

“No, I’m sorry, we don’t.  Just cash and checks.”

He looked anxiously at the clock behind my head (it was ten minutes until the show started), and then went back out.

I hated the idea of him having to explain to his little girl why they couldn’t see Madagascar 3 after all.

Just as the trailers were rolling, however, they came back in with recently-ATM-ed cash, and all was right in the world.




Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain

We’ve all wondered about the Man Behind the Curtain at the movie theatre, haven’t we?  Who’s watching from the projection booth, we ask?  Who sees when we make out with our significant other in the back row?  Who frowns down on us when we pull a box of Walmart Charleston Chew from our purse? Who knows when we put our feet on the seat in front of us, when we spill popcorn and neglect to pick it up, when we’re on our cell phones for the duration of the movie?

The answer, from this point on, must of course be me, although having done much of the above myself, I assure you I won’t judge too harshly.

You see, last night I worked my first shift as a projectionist-in-training.

I have photos to prove it (sorry about the poor quality; it was dark in the room):

Here’s the projection room. It’s small and very hot, due to the large, very hot equipment filling it. As you can see, the theatre I work at uses old-school film reels instead of digital projection. We’re working on raising the money for digital, but until then, I feel lucky to have a chance to learn the old ways of the reel before it’s gone forever.

The projector. In case you’re not sure how it works, a projector basically shines bright, intense light from an inner-located bulb through film that is moved rapidly in front of it.  The scenes printed on the film are then projected onto the screen.

In order for the film to keep moving quickly and steadily, it is threaded through a series of gates at the front of the projector. If something goes wrong, and the film slips out of place, the gates will catch it and stop the movie so that the projectionist can make necessary adjustments.

After being threaded through the gates, the film is unrolled across the room to be threaded over and under several pulleys. The clear film, which I call leeway film (not its proper name), is film with nothing printed on it that is attached to the black movie film. The clear film is what is initially threaded through the gates and pulleys; if it gets a little crumpled in the process, no part of the actual movie is damaged.

The turntable (again, probably not its official name). The large roll of movie film sits on the middle tier. As the movie plays, the film unrolls from the middle, runs through the projector, and rolls back through the pulley system and onto the top tier.

Rolls of film that are mailed to us by the film companies, and then sent back when we’re done with them.

To my delight, I received a short history lesson as I was being trained. The theatre was built in 1940, and at that time, film was extremely flammable. Pair that with hot bulbs, and you have a huge fire hazard. Aware of this, projection rooms were designed carefully: if you look at the first photo in the post, you can see small brown windows with attached doors that fall shut if the string holding them up is released (the window is down in the photo). If a fire broke out, the idea was that it would burn through the string, closing the windows and preventing the flames from spreading to the rest of theatre. Along the same lines, the heavy door to the projection room (shown in the above photo) was also attached to an elaborate system of strings and pulleys, which would release when burned, causing the door to slam shut. Old-time projectionists, then, were told to leave the equipment and save themselves in a fire; if they didn’t hurry out of the room, they would be barred in by the shut door and windows.  Needless to say, things are a lot safer nowadays.  Flame-resistant film is standard.

This has nothing to do with projection, but this is where we keep the letters for the marquee. Sometimes we’ll run out of black, and then whoever’s turn it is to scale the ladder to switch the film title has to make do with the odd red letter instead.

A carton of movie posters for upcoming films. It took all of my willpower not to snatch one to hang up in my bedroom.

The sole screen at my theatre. Despite severely limited seating, no moviegoers (to my knowledge) have ever been left out in the cold, even at the final Harry Potter premiere, when the line wrapped all the way around the corner of the building, so that the last poor sop was jammed up against the ATM at the bank. It’s actually kind of magical in that everyone somehow manages to squeeze in.

Please Stop Sneaking in Walmart Candy

There’s nothing quite like going to see a movie at the movie theatre.  I’ve loved it ever since I was a little girl, and although, then and since, I’ve not gone more than a few times a year, it’s always been one of my favorite things to do.

There’s nothing like the smell of popcorn and the crush of stray Hot Tamales underfoot.  There’s nothing like waiting, breathlessly, for the lights to darken and the screen to quiet.  There’s nothing like previews, which are often more entertaining than the movie itself.  There’s nothing like sitting in a theatre with hundreds of people, and hearing everyone sob at once, or laugh at once, or scream at once.

Movies, I firmly believe, are best when shared.  They’re best when more than one hand digs into a bucket of popcorn, and several straws are poked into one giant Coke (although who ever remembers which straw is which?).  They’re best, of course, when seen in a theatre.

Which is why, as we all knew I would, I thoroughly enjoy my volunteer gig at the local movie theatre.  As of right now, I’ve worked a concessions training shift and a ticket booth training shift.  Both were enjoyable, but what I really want to do is be a projectionist (yes, that’s an actual title).  I’ve wondered for some time now about the man-in-the-tiny-room-behind-the-theatre, and it’s time I found out.  The theatre I work at, additionally, still uses old-fashioned reels.  They’re saving to buy a digital projector, but before that happens, I want to nudge myself into that tiny room.

One of my English professors (let me tell you, I’ve seen several, several professors today, between the theatre and the grocery store and walking down my street) is a projectionist, and he offered to let me shadow him on any Monday when he works.  I think I’ll take him up on that offer.  Tomorrow.

In the meantime, friends, please stop sneaking snacks into the movie theatre.  I know that jumbo box of Charleston Chew is cheaper at Walmart, but here’s what I’ve learned: individual movie theatres only get to keep about 6% of every ticket they sell.  The movie production companies get the rest.  Ergo, almost all theatre profits come from concessions.  It makes sense, then, that concessions are overpriced; because if they weren’t, the theatre likely couldn’t stay afloat.  So every few months, when it’s rainy, and when you decide to go see the new Nicholas Cage, please please buy concessions at the theatre.  I know I will from now on.