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Out of the closet basement theater and into the streets, posted by Enrique G

The way I figure it, one has to be hardcore geek about something if they’ll agree to wear a fur coat for it.  In Texas.  In August.

Granted it was for a job, and only the second one I’d ever had, but I still think it says something.  I’d begun working at the discount/second run movie theater that was about 10 minutes from home the fall after I’d turned 16.  It happened to be a Cinemark theater that had been closed for the summer as it expanded from two screens to four.  For the grand opening weekend, they were making a big to-do with balloons, big advertisements…and the Cinemark corporate mascot Front Row Joe out front to greet the kids.

Sadly, ordering the costume from the corporate office didn’t mean corporate also provided a shmuck to wear the damn thing in 98-degree temperatures with 60% humidity.  Which is how I wound up in the suit that first Friday afternoon.  As miserable as the experience was (one friend told me afterwards by the end of the day I was the most lethargic costumed figure he’d ever seen), there were three things about the experience I am thankful for to this day:

1)    That as a weight loss program, it was quick and effective.  I’m pretty sure I lost at least 10-15 pounds sauna style, and being the first person to wear it that weekend, I didn’t have to endure what it must have smelled like by the end of that weekend;

2)    The job was the first I had to provide me free movies as perk.  This would be akin to a drug dealer giving one of his pushers a free ounce of cocaine for every ten he sold;

3)    Because the Internet didn’t exist, I would not have any knowledge of what furries are for another 15 years.  As such, I wasn’t irreparably traumatized at the consideration of what might have been done with/in/on that suit before it came to our theater, and only have to endure the odd shiver down my spine as I consider that time in my life.  Though I must admit typing the previous paragraph leaves suddenly in desperate need for a hot shower to wash away tainted nostalgia.

I digress.

Movies have been the go-to entertainment choice for my family for as long as I can remember.  My parents simply don’t typically do culture on any level outside of that, and within cinematic territory they are almost disturbingly mainstream.  As such, my childhood consisted of a steady diet of celluloid junk food, though some of the classics did manage to sneak their way in.  But for the most part, if it was in the top 10 box office figures for a given year between 1980 and 1990, chances are good I saw it, possibly with my folks.

(Related nostalgia point: nothing is as surreal as listening to your typically uptight Catholic Hispanic mother talking with awe and wonder at the sight of Mel Gibson’s ass after seeing the first Lethal Weapon.  And now I’ve got material for therapy…)

Coming to college and continuing to work in movie theaters helped broaden my tastes and interests.  More genres were readily available to me, piquing my curiosity to explore unheard of names that would become favorites.  I owe an old friend from high school more than he’ll ever know for introducing me to Akira Kurosawa at UT’s Hogg Auditorium.  But couple of funny things happened on my way to full-blown movie geekdom.

I became a repository for a ridiculous amount of useless movie trivia.  I’m particularly skilled it seems at freaking people out by remembering whole scenes from films verbatim, or pulling the title out of thin air from a description as vague as, “It had Kevin Bacon in it and they were doing this thing…”

And I developed (in my mind at least) a reputation as being that guy.  The cranky ijit in the back of the theater muttering under his breath about derivative plot twists and uninspired direction.  How I’ve read better lines in fortune cookies.  You know the drill.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember to stop and dislodge the film can up my ass and remember that is, in the end all just entertainment.  That funny means different things to different people, and that not all people take the same thing away from the same movie.  I have a long celebrated two-hour argument over Fight Club to remind me of that, if nothing else.

And yet, sometimes I feel like declaring yourself a “geek” becomes a cop-out excuse to turn your brain off and blindly accept whatever gets put in front of you without any dialogue or independent thought at work on any level.  Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News probably did as much or more to mainstream film geekery as anybody, and for that I will always be thankful.  

That said, reading his gushing praise of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull made me think that if Spielberg presented Knowles a shit sandwich to eat, Harry would produce a column that gushed over the shade of brown the shit he consumed was and thanking George Lucas for trimming the crusts off just the way he likes it.

I think geekery can be more discerning than that.  Whether that’s true or not is something we’ll be able to discuss in these pages over time.

Enough with the previews.  Fire up the projector.