Double feature.

Last night, a bunch of us went out to the Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre just south of Lake Mills to see the new Indiana Jones, with Shine a Light. I figured that doing something fun in and of itself would make the risk of going to see the by-all-accounts quite disappointing Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comparatively marginal: even if it turned out to be the worst film ever made, one could at least look at the stars. As it turned out, Crystal Skull is indeed quite bad, but I would venture to say that it is not the worst of the Indiana Jones movies: that distinction still falls on Temple of Doom, which is so atrociously bad that my attempts to re-watch it have failed, even with earnest effort. One simply cannot make it through without falling asleep or being so annoyed by the horrible, horrible female lead that one destroys one’s own television.
Shine a Light, which came highly recommended and which I had tried to see in IMAX when it was playing in Fitchburg (but failed due to the last advertised showtime not actually existing, ended up seeing Forgetting Sarah Marshall instead), turned out to be less impressive on the flat screen, being mostly video of one concert, rather than the more documentary-style feature I was hoping for. Clips from old interviews with the band members were interspersed between songs, which was nice, but all in all I must admit that I fail to see why this movie was supposed to be such a big deal. Give me Gimme Shelter any day.
Despite the movies being something of a disappointment, the drive-in itself went beyond expectations. The place is incredibly well-preserved, it being the first drive-in I’ve been to where the window speakers actually still work. The snack bar has a huge menu, with burgers cooked to order, and the building has on display what looks to be the original projector, a huge beast of a machine encircled by velvet ropes in one corner. They still show cartoons before the show, and they have those great let’s-go-out-to-the-lobby-type animations, a great intermission bit, and even an unbelievably 1960s animation of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that culminates with a space capsule going to the moon. Wow.
So: movies okay, drive-in fantastic. I even saw the space station as it passed over, and a number of shooting stars. I’m definitely going back when the nights warm up around here — we were freezing our butts off during the second feature, those of us who were left.


6 thoughts on “Double feature.

  1. Coincidentally, I was in Cincinnati over the weekend and Martine, Dave, and I also saw the new Indiana Jones movie at a drive-in… but the double feature was paired with Ironman.
    I didn’t think it was as bad as you said, but then, I wasn’t expecting much more than a fun action flick in which I knew I’d have to suspend disbelief more than a few times. And it was followed by Ironman, which was the same genre of expectations, only with a brass rat wearing character who went by Rhode, which I more than appreciated.

    To be fair, Crystal Skull wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but I was expecting Temple of Doom bad, so it’s true, I was relieved on that front. It is sad, though, when you think about it in comparison to, say Last Crusade.
    I realize that there is always an element of the mystical and unexplainable in the Jones films, but this one really went overboard in the preposterous department. CGI prairie dogs? (WHY?) Surviving a nuclear blast in a refrigerator, and three enormous waterfalls in a duck boat? Pulling a man out of quicksand with a snake? A wedding? No Marcus Brody, Henry Jones, Sr., or Salah? Karen Allen not drinking someone under the table? The whole forest-moon-of-Endor sequence in the Amazon? (Someone needs to pry the CGI stick out of George Lucas’s fat fingers and beat him with it. Come on.) And did I see LEDs in that missile silo? In 1957? Oh, maybe the aliens gave us that technology.
    I was really hoping that they were just tricking us with the whole aliens thing, that Cate Blanchett would turn out to be delusional, that there would be a slightly more reasonable explanation for everything. But no. It really was beings from another dimension. And millions of years’ worth of geological processes happening in a scant three minutes before your very eyes!
    Take that, Jared Diamond: it was the interdimensional beings who gave the mesoamericans agriculture. Mm hm.
    Funny, though: I think Ironman is playing at the drive-in that’s west of Madison.

  3. I love going to the Bengies drive-in just north of Baltimore.
    The ambiance is unbelievably awesome — a kind of good-spirited, nostalgic, communal excitement that’s easy to see and feel when you’re not sitting in a dark theater. By the look (and sound) of their speakers, they’ve been out of commission for years, which means starting up the car every now and again to keep the radio going, which in turn means some drivers have to drape big blankets over headlights to block to the light. And yes, the cartoons interspersed between the feature films!
    I’ve never made it through an entire “dusk till dawn” showing — something to strive for!

  4. Carping about the new Indy movie’s ‘preposterous’ adventure stuff, given the leaps of logic and faith (and chasms) necessary to enjoy the other three films, is more than a little disingenuous. [Seriously: they duplicated the jeweled headpiece from the burn on the Nazi’s hand? C’mon.] And since the new film is a throwback to a pulp tradition separate from that of the trilogy – the aliens are announced in the opening scene rather than revealed by archaeology, i.e. it’s a space-race movie more than a darkest-jungle one (Sputnik launched in 1957) – the shift to Commies rather than Nazis isn’t jarring, nor is the genre-staple wedding, nor the Marlon Brando spoof, nor the Tarzan spoof, nor the low comedy in the library, nor three waterfalls when one would do (but why would one do at all?), nor the popsicle-sticks-and-glue sets, nor even (at a stretch) LEDs in a missile silo (the first practical LED light dates to 1962, apparently).
    Plus, Sean Connery retired and Denholm Elliot died.
    If the big complaint is that it’s hard to believe, even when the movie makes not the slightest gesture at believability, then the complaint isn’t with the movie, and I’m sure God Herself will be happy to take up issues with the insufferable passage of time. There are other problems with the film: too many characters, too much exposition and insufficiently compressed dialogue, a surprisingly passive third act, the unnecessary tribe of natives providing neat visuals and no plot relevance whatsoever. And maybe you’re responding to those but objecting to an imaginative disconnect instead, which is fine. Crystal Skull isn’t the fourth movie in a series of four, it’s a sequel to the first three, almost a tribute, and that should change our expectations.
    Still, if Crystal Skull had been the template for all my experiences of cinematic adventure – as the first three Indy films were, as the original Star Wars movies were, as Baron Munchausen and The Princess Bride were – then I wouldn’t have any complaints about it at all. And for all people talk about Raiders ‘holding up after all these years,’ there’s no going back to innocence.
    (What stuns me is the apparent consensus that Temple of Doom is a weak movie. It’s not as strong as the other two originals, but it dips into Indy’s character as much as any of them, and the thrills are thrilling, and so forth. And Willie Scott is a type, not meant to be Marion Ravenwood – she’s Indy’s superior, after all, and her story is about being taken down a peg. Or two. No matter.)

  5. Ha, yes, of course I do.
    Also: I’m trying. I’ll hopefully not bother you all too much with prelim-related rants/thinking-out-loud, but there may be a bit of that, given the sheer amount of reading I’m to do this summer. Consider yourselves warned!

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