Last night I attended my second Science Fiction Movie Marathon, a highly popular and well-attended annual event at World's Best School. My first year in grad school, I was thrilled to hear about this event. I love science fiction, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in good company here at World's Best School. That year's line-up promised to be good - it was Galaxy Quest, Sunshine, The Host, Gattaca, and Starship Troopers.
For those who don't recognize those movies: The first film Galaxy Quest was a crowd-pleaser, a goofy oldie from 1999. Sunshine was a blockbuster-type from 2008, then there was a break for pizza. At midnight the marathon resumed with a more critical pick - The Host - a Korean movie that was critically acclaimed at the 2006 Cannes International Film Festival. We watched it with subtitles (so I felt very international, connoisseur, sophisticated warm fuzzy feelings) and the movie was excellent. At that point I was about to fall asleep and my rear hurt from sitting on the chair, so I stumbled home at about 2am.
So the movies were good, but it was the whole experience that made it fantastic. I had not anticipated the type of crowd that was at this event. First of all, there actually WAS a crowd - this is the highlight of the year for some pockets of enthusiasts. The people milling around were stereotypically nerdy and geeky - about the same panorama you see at comic conventions, or gaming tournaments. I happen to love that. I love that those people don't care what anyone thinks of them. So what if they are wearing a top hat and cape? Or their hair is green? Or their polo shirt is jammed into acid washed jeans belted under the armpits? None of these people care, and nobody judges. It's very freeing.
Second, the crowd was INVOLVED, man. The event is put on by a student club in a huge classroom auditorium, and the films are projected on a movie-theater-size screen using actual projectors and reels. There are long-running traditions involving crowd participation - for instance, the audience yells out "COMING SOON!" during the previews whenever that phrase comes up. There's good natured ribbing - for instance, whenever there is a mistake (projector out of focus, a hiccup during a reel change), the crowd yells out "FILM CLUB SUCKS!".
And finally, people are dedicated. They bring pillows, they stock up on popcorn and candy, they stick it out for the whole night and emerge dragging their blankets at 7am the next day. That first year, I saw the ultimate example of dedication - between Sunshine and The Host, a special PowerPoint slide was projected up on the screen. It was a landscape with a sky full of stars - and as we watched, the words "I would realign the stars for you" appeared on the bottom, and the sky rearranged itself to say "Will You Marry Me?" As the audience clapped, we saw the tearful girl wrapped up in a passionate embrace, having just accepted an engagement ring from her boyfriend.
That was my experience the first year, so this year there was no way I was going to miss it. Saturday night I arrived at the theater at 6pm. I brought a pillow and blanket so the classroom chairs would not become uncomfortable, and my own candy and drinks (although they have a well-stocked snack stand at the event). This year's film choices were just as well-edited - we had an anime movie first (Evangelion 1.0), then a French film with subtitles (District 13: Ultimatum), followed by Moon, a pizza break, then The Last Starfighter, Back to the Future Part II, and Flash Gordon.
There were no proposals this time around, but I had a great time. District 13 is my new favorite movie - although I'm not sure it will be the same without the crowd whooping and hollering and cracking up throughout the show. I lasted four out of six movies before I was falling asleep and headed home, happy and content.
I'm not sure if there is a point to this post, but if there was it would be this: I'm going to miss this kind of thing when I leave school. I will miss being surrounded by the nerdy, sci-fi subculture. I will miss how the obligatory "please don't smoke" notice before the movie was replaced by a section of programming code that asked people not to smoke. I will miss being with people who could all understand the programming code. And most of all, when I move out of school into the real world, I will miss people who LAUGH at programming code.
Live long and prosper.