Monday, August 23, 2010

COLUMN: Twilight

In today's hectic, breakneck, hustle-bustle, take-no-prisoners, do-or-die world of professional humor writing, stress breaks are clearly few and far between. So when the girlfriend recently brought up the idea of a night out at the Highway 61 Drive-In movie theatre up in Maquoketa, I was all for it.

After all, some of my most vivid memories as a kid hail from the old Galesburg drive-in. I may have only been a wee Shaneling, but I distinctly recall seeing three of my all-time favorites from the backseat of the family Accord: "The Blues Brothers," "Trading Places," and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." And if there's anything to feed the imagination of a six-year-old nerd, it's being able to watch "Close Encounters" and then looking up to a field of stars and just... hoping. It's a memory so perfect that it might not even be real.

I had always wanted to head up to Maquoketa and re-live the drive-in of my youth, plus the second movie on the bill was "Inception" which I was aching to see. Ergo, we threw caution to the wind and headed up Highway 61 for some outdoor movie party action.

They do things a little different in Maquoketa. For one, the lot isn't paved - it's grass. This was immediately a different vibe than I was expecting. "Hrrm," I said disapprovingly, like the closed-minded, change hating Grinch Who Stole Funtime that I often am.

"What's wrong?" my girlfriend asked.

"This is less like a drive-in and more like a bumpy pasture, albeit a bumpy pasture starring Leonardo Dicaprio."

"Shut up and have fun," she replied.

Ah well. At least I'd enjoy sidling up to one of those weird boxes and hooking up the tinny speaker to the car window. But wait, no poles? No boxes? No treble-heavy, sub-standard sound quality? No, instead you had to tune your radio to an FM frequency that broadcast the movie audio. What kind of new-fangled modern trickery was this?

At least some things hadn't changed. There was still the concession shack selling yummy treats at super-cheap prices. There was still the playground at the base of the screen (which, as we all know, serves one purpose and one purpose only: to give John Travolta something to look at wistfully while he sings "Ohhh Sannnnndy bayyy-beeee, sooome daaay, when hiiigh-iiii schoool is done!")

And, as I looked around, there were the prerequisite carloads of teenagers and 20-somethings. In fact, it started to dawn on me that maybe I was the oldest person here. This, I immediately determined, could be blamed on two simple facts:

(1) It was a Thursday night. My brain failed at the math of it all. Sunset + 2 movies + an hour drive home = one laaaate night, and I had to be at work at 9 a.m. the next day. Urgh. No other adults were this dumb. And no-one failed to tell me that "Inception," for as cool as it was, is roughly as long as "Ghandi." It finally got to the movie I wanted to see and I could barely stay awake for the thing.

(2) The first of the two movies was "Twilight: Eclipse."

My girlfriend did a good job at pretending that "Inception" was the movie she really wanted to see, but I know the truth. I've seen the Stephenie Meyer books creeping out of her purse. She, like every other female on the planet Earth, is a fan of the Twilight series. And I, out of sheer journalistic curiosity alone, have now partaken in the first three films.

Gentlemen, I'm speaking now to you, because I know that if you have estrogen in your system, you've already seen the movies. But to my brothers in arms, in case you were curious as to what this whole Twilight "saga" is about, I'm here to translate.

In "Twilight," a girl moves to the Pacific Northwest. She meets a vampire. Nothing happens.

In "New Moon," she meets a werewolf. Nothing continues to happen.

In "Eclipse," she hangs out with the vampire and the werewolf and the amount of nothing that's been happening takes a new and extreme turn towards egregious and unforgivable levels of nothing, which, as you may have guessed, continues to happen.

I take that back. One thing happens: a lot of pensive staring. See, the girl and the vampire want to bump uglies, but they can't, so instead they stare at each other pensively. Then the werewolf guy shows up with a disturbing inability to wear clothes above his groin, and he and the girl decide to stare at each pensively for awhile. Occasionally the girl gets up to go to the bathroom or make a sandwich, leaving the vampire and the werewolf to stare at each other pensively in their down time.

The real mystery of the Twilight saga is how this girl, who seems to ONLY know how to pensively stare at people, sulks around town and manages to woo pretty much everyone she meets despite having absolutely no charm or personality whatsoever. Never have I sat through a movie with so many supernatural baddies and such little spilled blood in my life.

We all know that vampires can't go out in the sun because they'll burn up in a horrifyingly awesome fireball, right? Not in Twilight. In these movies, vampires don't go into the sun because they get all sparkly and shiny. That's right - only in Twilight-land do vampires not go outside for fear of being CUTER. Sigh.

So I'm seriously annoyed by this movie. Because, of course, I can't figure out whether to sign up for Team Edward or Team Jacob. I mean, Edward really cares about Bella and you can tell, but Jacob's like, all shirtless and wolfy and he cares about her too! If only there were some way she could date both of them forever!

I say forget Edward AND Jacob. I'm officially Team Jasper. Jasper's one of the less-important vampires of the Twilight saga, but he's clearly my favorite. As a recent convert to the good-guy vampire clan, his character is supposed to be constantly struggling against his natural vampiric urges to chomp the necks of humans. But the guy who plays Jasper in the movies gives him this constant facial expression that's less "I want to bite people" and a lot more like "Gee, I could sure use some Ex-Lax right about now." And if there's one thing that could successfully put an end to all this pensive staring, a constipated vampire might just do the trick.

All in all, though, I had a blast. "Twilight" might not be for me, but it was still great to watch Twilight in the twilight of the Highway 61 Drive-In. Bumpy pasture or no, it brought back memories while making some great new ones. I kinda wanna live there now, at least provided I don't have to work at 9 a.m. the next day. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a girlfriend to go pensively stare at.

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