On Tuesday night, I attended a special screening of Pixar's latest, Up, at the marvelous Castro Theater, only just recently equipped with the ability to project in Digital 3D for this occasion. There was a brief concern earlier in the day when the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Proposition 8 that the Castro would be unfeasible, given its reputation as San Francisco's LGBT mecca. The theater itself is only two blocks away from Harvey Milk's famous Castro Camera shop.
I knew a rally was going to happen at some point. This is San Francisco; protests and marches are like brunch. The screening, however, went on without a delay. To celebrate Up's opening this Friday, colorful balloons were on display above the marquee. I'm happy to report that the landmark theater did not float away into the sky.
The sky, instead, was occupied by a different balloon-supported floater. The US' only zeppelin, the Eureka, received an Up makeover earlier this month and has been flying all over the Bay. You can buy tickets from Airship Ventures to go on a "flightseeing" trip and see the Bay Area from above, inside a genuine zeppelin. They're even offering families a deal: bring your Up movie ticket stubs and kids 3-17 ride for half price. I looked up the fare for one of these tours. $495 plus tax for each person. Hot damn. Great, now I have rich folks literally looking down on me, taunting me with their Pixar adventure. I would never wish ill on anybody, but... Hindenburg. Just sayin'. Just sayin'.
Oh, the uppity!
Prior to the movie, as is the theater's tradition, the Castro's organist plays select Disney songs for the audience, ending with the cheerful "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah." Everybody seemed to know this song, but how many of them have actually seen Song of the South? Yeah, I thought so. This is probably my favorite thing about seeing movies at the Castro. Film music on organs is a much more entertaining way to pass the time than awful trivia questions or movie title word jumbles.
Not that trivia was escapable. The sponsors held a brief Pixar trivia contest to give away Up t-shirts. Some guy who sounded like he was drunk up at the balcony kept yelling "TOY STORY!" to every question. He was eventually right once, but still didn't win. The grand prize was pass-for-two to ride on the zeppelin. You had to come up to the stage and bring an object that says "Up" on it. I briefly toyed with the idea of running down with the press notes they gave me, which has the movie's logo on it. A little boy won with a pack of wetnaps that says "pull up here." How cute. Maybe I should retract that Hindenburg comment.
By the way, I love the 3D glasses they gave us. I'm not 100% sure what about the technology is different, but the huge blocky glasses is helpful to a bespectacled boy such as myself, whose glasses fit comfortably inside the 3D glasses as opposed to awkwardly adjusted behind it. If you get a chance to see it in 3D, do so. It looks fantastic, and never once distracting.
One hour before the movie started, there was already a long line down Castro street. It was just after six, and I knew that hundreds of people were already gathering at City Hall (notices were posted on many store fronts). I participated in the last Prop 8 march, which started at City Hall and ended up in the Castro, so I figured it wouldn't be long 'til they get here. The early birds were already there: a man standing outside the theater was holding up a sign demanding equality, the other side bizarrely saying "Make Love to a Married Man" (what does that even mean?). It was an odd sight that tickled me, since he was holding it up to a line of children and their parents waiting to see a Pixar film.
Sure enough, as we walked out of the film, the publicists were giving everyone instructions on where to exit. The rally had arrived, blocking the cross street. Flags waved, music blasted, candles burned and chants chanted. A change of scenery, no doubt. It was like going on a wonderful date and having the nightcap at a funeral. An angry funeral.
I don't hide my personal feelings on gay marriage, but I don't bring it up at every opportunity, either. The reason this was so striking, and the arrival of the rally so surreal at the time, was because of Up itself. Centering its big adventure around a very human emotion, Pixar's latest is about love. Specifically, it's about experiencing life as a human being with a companion. It's about finding your partner, growing old together, losing one another and having someone to remember you forever. At the beginning of the film, old man Carl loses his one and only love. Living alone with no children in the house he and his wife built together, he talks to the house daily as if it's her. To Carl, it is her. Then one day the authorities come and force him to leave her behind and live out his days in a retirement home. Carl refuses, not wanting to part with his love again.
Up doesn't have anything to do with marriage definitions or equality, sure, and anyone who tells you otherwise would be reaching, but there's an overwhelming sense of romance to it. There's a fight to attain the ideal of love that others wouldn't understand. To go from that, literally in seconds, to being reminded of the reality of what's going on, to see the anger and hurt in people that their love is considered lesser than my own... It made me sad. And the movie was already powerfully sad to begin with.
Photo: mattymatt (Flickr)
A truck passed in front of the Castro theater, looking like a grassroots election vehicle. A man with a bullhorn spoke. From across the street where I was standing, right behind him was the right side of the theater's marquee, serendipituously showing a double feature of Milk and the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. It reminded me of a memorable shot from Gus Van Sant's movie, filmed on location, right where I was standing. It was a cool moment to take in. I realized that I was standing smack dab in the heart of my generation's civil rights movement, and in my eyeline, I see the colorful Up balloons adorning the theater. I let the sweetness of the film play in my head again. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, I remained hopeful. Things will look up. Many will see the movie this weekend. I hope they'll feel the same way.