Sunday, June 9, 2013

Parthenon On The Prairie

Significant Other and I went to the movies last night.  Saw The Great Gatsby at the new Santikos Palladium on Highway 99 or, as I like to call it, The Parthenon On The Prairie.  I found it ironic that I was watching a movie about ostentasious opulence in a building that was ostentasiously opulent.  It has an absolutely huge lobby with restaraunts flanking the sides and second floor galleries all around.  There is so much going on in there that there is a "Guest Services" booth in the middle of it all.  I have been in airport terminals that were not as big or as busy.  Bas reliefs on the walls depicting the Greek military victories of eons past, paintings and etchings of gods and godesses, parquet flooring, Greek columns with pediments and caps, brass bling, and bright lighting everywhere. It looks as if Busby Berkely's set designer did this thing  with an unlimited budget after a long night of hashish and amphetamines.

There are 21 theaters, two of which are called "Art Theaters" and several of which are "VIP" theaters.  With my budget I can only wonder what the appointments of the VIP theaters might be.  It is rumored there is a bowling alley in there somewhere, but I cannot confirm.
There did not appear to be a ticket booth.  There were a dozen or so large flat screen TV  monitors on each wall flanking the entrance, about three feet high and proportioned so as to look like very large tablet computers.  I began operating said device and we found the movie we were going to see (Now You See Me)and several screens later I found, to my horror, a screen where one must choose the seat one wishes to occupy.  That's right:  assigned seating in an American Movie Theater.  In a Texas Movie Theater.  S.O. and I took a moment to survey the available seating options, chose two together, then advanced to the next screen, which informed us that the seats we had chosen had been sold while we were making the choice. A quick review of the remaining available options suggests that Now You See Me  will have a fairly good box office come Monday.

Thus we ended up choosing Gatsby as it seemed not as popular as the other, but alas the only seats available were down in the front and off to the right. The theater was up on the mezzanine by way of a set of stairs guarded by a blue shirted minion who checked our tickets to see if we were allowed access, as the mezzanine is also where the VIP theaters are and I'm sure they want to limit participation by the hoi polloi in all that goes on in close proximity to VIPs.  It was one of those sweeping staircases with brass rails and carpet and it was wide at the top and bottom and narrow in the middle but proportioned in such a manner as to only appear opulent---as the narrow part was so narrow that S.O. and I could not traverse them side by side (which was likley caused by the contents of her purse, those being some bottles of water, some candy, and other contraband disallowed in order to boost the bottom line of the theater).

The mezzanine is layed out much like the first floor with a restaraunt on one side and a bar at the end.  On the side opposite the restaurant is a large seating area with two very wide screen TVs.  There is no charge to sit in these areas, but one supposes their primary purpose is to provide seating for those who wish to spend their days and evenings at the bar.  The two "Art Theaters" are located in the corner of the mezzanine furthest away from the top of the stairs and next the bar which has to be sixty feet long (do you KNOW how many bottles of booze and bar impedimenta can be arrayed behind a sixty foot bar?). The entrance, of course, was guarded by two minions, these clad in white shirts with bow ties and black trousers rather than the blue shirt we encountered downstairs.  Apparently the duties of the staff is identified by thier attire, much like that of the crew of the Starship Enterprise. I wondered if there was a division clad in red shirts, thought of what thier duties might be in such a place, and prayed for them.

The Art Theater itself is one of those Stadium affairs we're beginning to see where the owners try to fit a large number of people in as small a footprint as possible, and thus array the seating vertically telling us the lie that its done so as to see the screen without the heads and hats of taller persons in front of interfering with the view.  This particular Art Theater was fairly narrow and the seating was arranged on a steep incline, the only other seating I recall having to negotiate that was as steep are those in the nosebleed section at Kyle Field.  One got the feeling that one was inside a submarine in an uncontrolable crash dive heading rapidly for crush depth.  I suddenly felt lucky that our seats were not at the top as I'm sure the vertigo induced would have killed me for sure, if not the need for oxygen.  I did, however, despair about getting out of there in the event of a fire or other event without suitable climbing gear until I saw another exit close to our seats and felt a bit better.

The seats are arranged behind long tables.  They are just slightly higher than would be optimum for eating from, and I'm six feet tall. They had a shallow ridge around them and were about 18 inches wide by twelve to fourteen feet long and thus resembled feeding troughs for Lilliputian pigs with exceedingly long legs.  Each seat is an entity itself with two, count 'em, TWO cup holders---but affords no opportunity to snuggle with your sweetie.  I wondered why there might be two cup holders, then rembered the bar, just a long climb and a short walk outside the entrance and deduced that they made provision for whiskey and chaser.  Large whiskies and large chasers.  Twelve ounce whiskies, at least.  The seats are on tracks and slide up to the table or, rather, are supposed to slide up to the table---mine did so in fits and starts while S.O.'s slid back and forth with the grace of a gazelle.  The seats are very roomy and lean back---but do not remain so.  The movement is not so fluid that it could be used as a rocking chair, but as soon as one gets leaned back far enough to see the entire screen when seated near the front and off to the right, it begins to lean you back forward to a position some designer thought would be better for viewing.  It is a constant battle to maintain equilibrium.  My guess as to who might have designed them was informed by the sudden unemployment of Soviet Special Police in the late 1980's.

Gatsby, however, was not the disappointment I thought it would be.  The sound track, while not the early 20th Century Jazz one associates with the story, was not as obnoxious as I thought it might be.  The story is well told and well acted, the pretty people are all as pretty as they are supposed to be, and the dreary ones are all as dreary.  The narration of Nick Carraway is well handled as a means to tell the story in as literary a manner as possible, but of course none of this is Fitzgerald and so much is lost in translation no matter how well the period is reproduced (or exaggerated where it needs to be). The book will always be better no matter how much money one throws at the screen. It is definetly an Art Film, but one with a big budget, big stars, and a well written story to follow.

In sum, I'd recommend the movie, with caveats, but the Parthenon On The Prairie is for those who go in for excessive opulence married to alcoholic high technology with a high maintenance mistress.  It was like someone took Astroworld, shoved it into a cube a hundred feet on each side, then dumped in the contents of Liberace's jewelery drawer and gave over management of the establishment to Paris Hilton.

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