Friday, January 15, 2010

take me out with the crowd

Awhile ago my friend Bec suggested we see a movie. I agreed, despite being one of the few people on the planet who really is only a smidge more than ambivalent when it comes to movies. (I am not, however, as ambivalent as my mother, who once replied, "but why would we need that?" when I asked if she had money before going into a Blockbuster. She thought it was like the library, where you get to borrow DVDs for free.)

At the time Bec had mentioned that it was an outdoor cinema, which I found rather enticing, though I didn't really contemplate matters too closely. I suggested a few upcoming titles that looked comedic and let her make the final selection. The lot fell on tonight.

This morning I was, as usual, in a tremendous rush to get out the door. I managed to check when and where we were supposed to meet, and grab a few nibblies for my contribution to the Not Dying of Hunger During the Movie fund. I'd checked the website and found that the movie was called Whatever Works, and sounded just as obscure as I'd remembered it looking a few weeks back. Then I had no more time to think about it as I spent a busy afternoon drilling the fact that every sentence must have a subject and a verb into the heads of my darling elementary English students. (And, yes, I was rushed to get to my afternoon class. I am always rushed, regardless of what time I start work. I simply require five minutes more than whatever the allotted time, be it twenty minutes or four hours.)

By the time I got to the pub after work I was ready to plop in one place for the remainder of the night and would have quite happily read Harry Potter until an interesting conversation crept close to me. I checked the time, though, and realized it was time to skedaddle to the movie.

So skedaddle I did, through the gorgeous Hyde Park, where I was momentarily fascinated by tree branches that had grown sideways -- in opposite directions -- over a long and wide path in order to provide an archway of covering all the way down. Australia has really got the most obliging flora.

I soon found Bec waiting, as most my friends are wont to find themselves, and we tripped merrily along towards the outdoor theater. No sooner had we descended a nearby flight of stairs did she run eagerly up to a be-suited man I immediately took be another acquaintance of hers, so pleased she looked to see him.

"I heard about you guys! So you really are here!" she exclaimed, which led me to reevaluate my assessment of the situation. I noticed another, similarly suited man, who promptly took Bec's arm and led her into the car. Ever the vigilantly prudent female traveler, I immediately hopped in after her.

"I feel underdressed," I said. "But where are they taking us?"

"It's a free shuttle service," she quickly explained. "They're promoting the Toyota hybrid cars."

"That's great!" I said, as the hatted man I decided looked like a Joe came to his door. "Will they both come with us?"

"You girls sound like you're having fun back there," he announced. "Is it comfortable?"

We assured him that it was, and all of us spent the next four and a half minutes supremely happy. Joe informed us of all the incredible features of the lovely hybrid, and we listened gamely along. He told us that the car was priced roughly in the ballpark of my annual salary, and so we said the cost of the free shuttle was really more doable for us, but thanked him for the ride. He tipped his hat, and drove off in a burst of technical and ecological wonder. I felt much more awake already.

Finding ourselves practically at the entrance to our evening festivities, Bec took it upon herself to explain the precedings to me. First we would get our bags and tickets checked; then we would reserve our seats. Somewhere along the way we would be given free Lindt chocolate, and possibly some newspapers. I'd unfortunately gotten lost at the seat reservation part.

"So, er, have they got like plots designated or something?" I asked, thinking indistinctly of a map I'd seen for stalls at the markets the weekend prior.

"No, they're real seats," she said. "We just take these stickers, write our names on them and reserve them. Then we can go have a picnic in the grass."

And she was exactly right. We got our bags and tickets checked, then walked down red carpet into the realm of Free Lindt and Newspapers. Then I realized that I'd gotten much more than I'd bargained for. A much better bargain.

Recall, if you will, that I currently live in Sydney, and Sydney is a cosmopolitan city world renowned most particularly for its harbor, bridge and Opera House. These three sights are amazing at the worst of times, but were all looking particularly stellar in the mid-summer evening. (The would be most definitely no dreaming.) Sydney also has a lovely modern skyline, and it too greeted us from another angle, while we were forced to contend with a park on the sides of the small peninsula not bordered by sparkling harbor waters. Throw in the middle of this a large movie screen and hundreds of seats, and you'll have a good idea of the scene that greeted us. I thought I'd likely survive.

The one thing that made me slightly nervous when finding seats, though, was that most of the best seats had already been reserved (which made me all the more grateful for Joe, seeing as we'd have gotten much worse seats without his handy shuttle service) and the screen was mostly horizontal and rather low to the ground. We'd be able to see it, I figured, but I wasn't sure how great the sightlines would be. Whatever works, though, I thought. Even if I can't see, the view at least is lovely.

After reserving our seats, Bec and I traipsed out of the ticketed area and found ourselves a lovely spot of grass for a picnic. She being much more culinarily inclined than I had provided us a deliciously nutritious dinner of sandwiches and fresh fruit. I contributed chips, freckles and gummy creatures.

We feasted and chatted, and eventually made our way back for the set-sun start of our evening's entertainment. We'd both decided we'd had a first-rate time already, regardless of the quality of the movie. The hoopla was certainly as impressive as the main event.

As we walked back in, I noticed the cinema's sponsors listed on the screen. Toyota had clearly done its job for the evening; Lindt and the Sun-Herald had contributed admirably as well.

"But Qantas," I said to Bec. "Now what have they done for us? Nothing! Surely we get a free flight?"

She didn't sound certain, but agreed it was a good idea.

"It would be an excellent PR move," I said. "I'm a bit disappointed they've let us down like this."

She thought perhaps the red carpet had gone a wee bit too much to my head, but I was soon distracted by movement over the water.

"Look," Bec said. "The screen's going up."

"Up!" I said, "that's fantastic! It goes up! Here I thought we'd have to watch the whole movie on the edge of our seats. This night just gets better and better!"

And it did. We watched, she in bemused curiosity and I in amazement, and soon we had an excellent view of a very sizable movie screen, if only we could keep ourselves from being distracted by the opera house. It was a monumental task, but thankfully we both proved more than up to it.

After a few quick photos and a few more freckles, we settled in for whatever would work. And work it did. I'm not sure how this movie had slipped off the cinematic radar (or perhaps it hadn't. Perhaps I had. I don't really know.), but it was really quite witty and clever. It had the whole audience laughing out loud on multiple occasions and stayed happy and light enough to suit its summer setting. Furthermore, it didn't rain.

As a Calvin grad, my internal discerner was working overtime, but I managed to wait until the credits rolled to go into too many verbal details. Joe was no where to be seen after the movie (we knew he was waiting with roses and champagne -- how was he to know I didn't drink? -- but had simply failed to find us in the massive crowd), though, so we had ample time to contemplate various relevant, and irrelevant, issues on our rather longer walk back to Bec's car.

By this time, we were both tickled pink (a cliche, we knew, but used it anyway) with the success of our evening: perfect weather, a beautiful setting, a fantastic picnic and a delightful movie. I had only one complaint: fun evenings are fun in actual practice, but incredibly boring to read about. And I did so want to write about the time. But who would want to read about it? Wouldn't my family and friends rather stories of my students' oddball antics? I'd had some real doozies. But alas, it seemed there was nothing at all to write home about. Thank goodness I took pictures.

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