Monday, August 25, 2008

The Drive-In Movie

I went to a drive-in the other night. I used to see a decent number of films at the drive-in, often low budget horror and fantasy films. I wish something similar was on the bill this time around.

The Skyway Drive-In is in Fish Creek, Wisconsin in Door County. It is a throwback, one of the few drive-in's still in operation. It has radio sound, so it sounds better than the speaker you hang on your window. It has that option, but no one was hanging anything (till after the show). A lot of people sat outside and turned those speakers up. It seemed to work pretty well.

I'm not sure why, but sitting in your car watching movies is pretty cool. It's private, and sort of surreal. People walk by and the shadows they cast, as well as their floating dialogue, dampened by the insulation of the car, makes it a sort-of-scary fun summer activity. Scary because while you're in the car, it's hard to tell exactly what is going on outside. It's sort of like telling ghost stories. Corny, but fun. A little creepy. For some reason, summer holidays make me think of Stephen King novels. The drive-in did too.

The concessions at the Skyway were great. They offered a stellar candy selection. They showed old cartoon ads, such as aliens coming down to buy popcorn, and cartoons announcing how many minutes till showtime. Before the first film, they played old Fifties tunes. Again, corny, but fun. And a little creepy.

When I was younger, it was all fun. I would have to bring pajamas and a blanket - I could never make it through a double feature without falling asleep. And I have to admit, it took some effort this time around. Which may be due to the quality of the films I saw.

Films I remember seeing at the drive-in when I was younger? "Dr. Doolittle", "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", "Capricorn One", "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger", "Food of the Gods" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Special Edition". OK - a few good films (Willy Wonka, CE3K:SE and Sinbad - if you don't appreciate Ray Harryhausen, move over to the next blog), one decent kid's film (DD), one bad, but fun horror movie (FotG) and one I really don't remember (Capricorn One - I think OJ Simpson was in it - and it's probably pretty bad, but I think I liked it when I was a kid). All in all, at least these were fun. All of them had their creepy moments as well. To go along with the fun, drive-in atmosphere.

The Skyway was showing "Mamma Mia" and "The Dark Knight".

Let's start with "The Dark Knight". It was the second film, so I was getting a bit sleepy. It was OK. I don't see a need for my humble, in-depth thoughts on the biggest film of all time, except to say: I like my heroes to be good, and I like to care, one way or another, about the characters in films. There weren't many to care about here. And it was dark, really dark - and though the drive-in, starlit night may have had something to do with that - it was also not much fun. Interesting and complex, but ultimately, I'm just not one for the dark reality comic book heroes.

But - it was way better than the first film I saw. "Mamma Mia". Oh mamma mia, why? I didn't think it could be so bad, but I watched this film with my jaw dropped down around my ankles. Why would anyone make this? It made Greek islands look dingy and dark. That's all that needs to be said - so there is no need to comment on why you would make a story based on songs that are unrelated, use actors with no singing talent in a musical, then edit their performances to point out their flaws rather than to tighten their few charms. I know it was a stage show first - apparently a hit? I don't know. This could be the worst film I've ever seen.

If the fun and creepy drive-in can't soften the blow, you know it's bad.

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