Monday, July 15, 2013

Day 64 - Terrace After Dark Lakeside Cinema/The Last Starfighter

Getting ready for the show!

I have never been to a lakeside movie. More specifically, I have never been to the Terrace After Dark Lakeside Cinema presented by the University of Wisconsin Union Directorate. This weekly event basically consists of a free film played on a screen against the backdrop of Lake Mendota at Madison’s famous Memorial Union. With the terrace open to anyone that would like to attend, all visitors have to do is grab a table, grab a beer, and get some popcorn to enjoy a free movie under the stars. Considering all of these things appeal to me directly, I figured making the Terrace After Dark Lakeside Cinema my first experience with a lakeside film would be a good choice. In turn, Rachael and I headed down to the Memorial Union tonight to catch a movie we had never seen, 1987’s The Last Starfighter.

Oh, 1980s, how we miss you
The evening began with a short ride to the Memorial Union around 8:30 tonight. Undeterred by persist balmy weather, Rachael and I grabbed a table on the terrace’s second level and settled in for the movie. Shortly after arriving, Rachael decided to grab some drinks and popcorn, which gave me an opportunity to position our table for the best view possible among the growing crowd of people. After several attempts to line up our table and chairs with clear views, I realized my efforts were likely in vain, which prompted me to take a seat just as Rachael returned with her haul. We sat and chatted for a bit as dusk faded to night, waiting for the movie to begin. With the sky glowing light pink over the lake, the scenery itself was enough to make the trip worthwhile.

In time, the movie began with a whisper against the rolling sound of conversations around us. With our view obstructed by a series of heads and the sound difficult to hear over the crowd, I wondered if we had made a wise choice for the night’s event. Regardless, we were set on making the most of the movie, so we watched the screen through parted silhouettes and listened on to gather plot details of The Last Starfighter. Our persistence proved fruitful as the crowd eventually began to settle into the movie and the audio team made a few adjustments to sound that facilitated a better viewing experience. Although our viewing angle still left something to be desired, we were able to follow the movie, which improved the overall experience noticeably. Soon, the crowd also began to get involved in the film, applauding the protagonist’s successes, booing at evildoers as they made their way onto the screen, and calling out portions of the film that could easily be interpreted as provocative forms of innuendo. Entertained by the goings on around me, I started caring less about the view and more about finding enjoyment in the overall experience of being in a festive summer crowd making the most of a tacky '80s movie.

As the evening progressed, Rachael and I remained somewhat focused on the plot of The Last Starfighter but didn't place much concern on keeping up with the film. Quite frankly, what I could see of the movie was predictable, which left me more concerned about missing a witty remark from a member of the audience than it did catching every detail of the film. This remained the case until about midway through the movie when we were afforded the chance to move to a table with a better view. With our view now unobstructed, Rachael and I refocused on the movie just in time to catch the protagonist, Alex, in his first live action starfighter battles. The dated animation of the film and the quirky remarks of Alex's sidekick, Grig, offered a few laughs as the scenes unfolded, which also inspired a few more statements of observation from the audience. Although The Last Starfighter was anything but deep, I found myself enjoying my experience as we watched the film from our new seats. The terrible writing and hole-filled plot carried with it a hint of 1980's nostalgia, and the terrace around us provided a memorable environment to connect with the movie. While we weren't viewing a cinematic masterpiece, I was happy we made the time to watch a movie at the Memorial Union terrace. Something about it just felt right.

Alex and Mags
Eventually, the movie started to wrap up as Alex claimed victory in the starfight, returned to tell his story to a stunned community on Earth, and made an appeal to his love interest, Mags, to join him in the stars. As the conclusion drew near the crowd around us became more lively, offering applause to Alex's victories and yelling advice at the screen to help Alex win Mags over with his idea to travel back to space. As expected, Alex won victory on all fronts which brought the movie to a swift end. In turn, Rachael and I gathered our things and started heading back to our car. We chatted briefly about the more ridiculous aspects of the movie as we walked in the rapidly cooling summer air. While we both agreed The Last Starfighter wasn't a movie worth seeking out again, we knew our experience at the Terrace After Dark Lakeside Cinema was one that would stick with us. There was just something about it that fit the idea of "summer", and that's something I welcome with open arms.

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