February 22nd, 2007

Captain Haddock

meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta

I just noticed an ad for the North Shore Music Theatre that advertised its upcoming season, which included a stage adaptation of Disney's raging phenomenon (doo doo dee doo doo) that is their made-for-TV teen movie High School Musical. I haven't seen the thing, but you can guess from the title that it's a show about a high school putting on a musical. And, according to several Disney-watching sites, schools have already expressed interest in getting the stage rights for their own performances. So if the rights were granted...

We'd have a high school.

Putting on a musical.

About a high school.

Putting on a musical.

Oh, sure, shows-within-shows ain't nothin new (sup, Kiss Me, Kate; how ya doin, The Producers?) but this... this is almost just too meta for me.

Unless one was to write a screenplay about a high school... putting on a musical... about a high school... putting on a musical...

Admit One


SF/32? 24 hours of science fiction movies viewed from the (relative) comfort of a Somerville Theater seat? Yes, please, I'll have some. This event has earned the right to be called "venerable", after having just finished its 32nd run. It started at the late, lamented Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge as a cure for those mid-winter, cabin fever crazies. "It Came From The Orson Welles" happened every President's Day weekend (with a special 36-hour marathon for its 10th anniversary) until 1986, when the theater burned and couldn't be saved. The Marathon, as it was now known, moved to the Somerville Theater in Davis Square, then still in pretty dire un-renovated conditions (I have heard stories that, around the 18-hour mark, the un-renovated bathrooms at the theater became actual portals to Hell itself.)

Garen Daly, the Somerville's owner and general manager at the time, was big on bringing unique and different films to the theater and embraced the spirit of the Marathon. When he lost his lease on the theater and the Somerville's future looked dire, Garen brought the Marathon to the Coolidge Corner theater in Brookline, where the Starship Coolidge held forth all the way up to 2003. Then the Marathon roamed, a ragtag fugitive fleet, for a few years -- 2004 at the Dedham Community Theater (with the Museum of Bad Art in its basement/men's room salon), a Triumphant Return (somewhat) to the Somerville in 2005, and last year, at the West Newton Cinema. Both the Dedham and West Newton theaters were happy to have us and their staffs were great, but their locations were out-of-the-way for us city folk and the twinned screens meant you may find a seat in one section but your other pals would've found a spot in the other auditorium.

Along the way the "SF Marathon" became the "Boston Science-Fiction Film Festival", with attempts at events before or after the main 24 hours, but the old-timers still just call it the Marathon.

Finally, this year, the Marathon made Another Triumphant Return to the Somerville, and with the help of Ian Judge, the theater's new manager, it look like the Starship Somerville may be the home of the festival for a few years to come. This is great for Davis Square and science fiction fans with butts of steel (or at least iron.)

I've been attending this crazy event for nigh onto 13 years now, with only one missed in 2002 (as I was having my own marathon 30-hour move at the time.) Garen affectionately describes the event as "our Brigadoon", a special community which only appears briefly once in a long time, though other cynics have commented sometimes it's more along the lines of "our 2000 Maniacs."

No matter what, when you go, you are treated to 24 hours of science-fiction features -- anything from Georges Melies' 1902 classic Le Voyage Dans La Lune to a new release (this year we had Slither), from schlock like Plan 9 From Outer Space to classics like Alien, from 3D movies to silent films accompanied by a real live theremin player. There's also classic movie trailers, cartoons (the Marathon is traditionally started with Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century, and Dodgers himself has become a de facto mascot), live contests for Best Tinfoil Hat or Alien Mating Cry, and sometimes an indie film with QA with the director afterwards. Sometimes the QA is good, such as when we spoke with the makers of this great Canadian film called Top Of The Food Chain; sometimes the QA is brutal, such as when the makers of a pretty stinky film called Niagravation got up onstage and had to answer the first question of "Did you mean to make this movie suck?" (Julie Corman, who was scheduled to speak after the viewing of Carnosaur, actually ducked out before she could endure the slings and barbs of the audience.)

The audience is united in its love for science-fiction, but that doesn't mean we don't hoot and holler at the schlock. Audience participation is moderately encouraged but it's not an MST3K fest. A well-timed quip during a bad film will get a laugh; constant commentary will cause your neighbors to start throwing stuff at you. The usual rule of thumb is "If you're the only one talking, maybe you shouldn't be." We also have our own callback traditions: We cheer the good guys and hiss the villains (especially any who mistreat animals or slap women around), any gruff, grumpy military figure will be met with "Grrrr!", many people bring ray guns to shoot the bug-eyed monsters on-screen (or sometimes shoot the humans), we clap once for every name featured during the opening credits of a film (hint: "Cinemascope" isn't a name!) and any mention of the word "mark" will be echoed loudly. It's a long story involving Planet of the Vampires a dubbed movie with a captain named Mark, whose name was mentioned almost every other line. We kept a running count one year; his name was said nearly 200 times. Then there's the Rice Chex/Wheat Chex "feud", which is an even longer story.

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Next post: Midnight movies, shorts galore, and we eat crepes.

doodles would often use names of his family members in this one -- such as sylvester

It's a beautiful day for a race. Stoogehand is the favorite today, Assault is in there, Dogbiscuit is three to one, Safety Pin has been scratched (HYUHR HYUHR!) and at twenty to one, Feitlebaum.

Now the horses are approaching the starting gate, and THERE THEY GOOOO!

And it's Stoogehand going to the front, Cabbage is second on the rail, Beautiful Linda third by a length, and Feitlebaum. Around the first turn Stoogehand is still in front, Cabbage is second by a head (CABBAGE BY A HEAD!!) Beautiful Linda is third, and Feitlebaaaaum.

Into the back stretch, Dogbiscuit is now leading the pack, Lady Eveline is second, very close, Banana is coming up through the bunch (BANANA COMING UP THROUGH THE BUNCH!!) and Feitlebaaaum.

At the half, Stoogehand still out in front, Apartment House is second with plenty of room, Assault is passing Battery (ASSAULT AND BATTERY!!) Notary Sojac is fourth, and in last place by ten lengths, I believe it is, yes, it is, Feitlebaaaaaum.

Around the turn, heading for home, it's Stoogehand and Dogbiscuit and Girdle in the stretch. Flying Sylvester is third and Mother-In-Law nagging in the rear (ARRH ARRH ARRH!!)

And now they come down to the wire, and it's number one and now number two, and it's very close, it'll either be a photo finish or an oil painting, and now Louis leads with a left, and Louis is in there slugging, and it's a battle, and now they are tearing hair, there's hair all over the ring, there's hair all over the place, I don't know whose hair it is--

It's mine.




The best NBA starting five in history, in this humble New Englander's opinion, was of course the 1985-1986 Celtics' five: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Danny Ainge, and Dennis Johnson (whom we all called DJ cause, you know, initials and all.) They didn't just win, they dominated. Bird scored over 2110 points that season alone and easily earned the MVP.

Of course, Bill Walton (Sixth Man of the Year), Scott Wedman, and Jerry Sichting helped, forming a solid bench and all, leading the Celtics to a .817 year (67 out of 82 games won -- only fifteen lost!) and an easily-won championship banner. It's the last banner that was raised in the old Garden, and the most recent banner in a new venue which wasn't even a gleam in a city planner's eye then.

I'm only mentioning this not to brag about the past or to bemoan the team's inability to enjoy even a .500 season anymore (10 ignoble finishes in the past 19 years, and they're heading full-speed towards that eleventh.)

I'm writing this because Dennis Johnson has died at the age of 52. Coach of the Austin Toros (a team in the NBA's "Development League" -- their version of the minor leagues), DJ died on the court, collapsing after a practice.

It's a blow to those of us who followed, grew up with, loved and wore the Celtics green (was there any other shade of green?) in the 80s. The needless death of Len Bias and the tragic death of Reggie Lewis proved to us that the team itself wasn't infallible, but nevertheless, our 85-86 starting five were immortal.

Bird. McHale. The Chief. Ainge. DJ.

One by one, our heroes fall. Their numbers are retired, hoisted to the rafters in a misty-eyed ceremony, then left up to collect dust and occasionally get shaken out before the start of a new season. The heroes themselves may live on further, but we don't remember their importance, their impact, their lay-up of Bird's stolen pass to win Game 5 of the 1987 Conference finals -- we don't consciously remember any of that.

We only get reminded when we're told that they're gone. That they've fallen.

Rest in peace, #3. If I were the type to make comments about hobnobbing in heaven, I'd say I hope you're up there now with Red, sharing a cigar (it's ok; they're not bad for you up there) and laughing about the days long gone.

bonus question: without looking, can you name the one player out of that starting five whose number has not been retired?