Over a thousand people attended the screening of The Lego Movie at I4C2 on Wednesday.
One. Thousand. Plus.
What does that tell you about what the people of Gloucester want, considering everyone there could stream the movie at home online for five bucks and not face the very real risk of being crapped on by seagulls? It tells me that people long for shared experiences in an age when you can get anything you want through a handheld screen. It also tells me that the folks who put on the outdoor film series are awesome. Well done, peeps.
The official Clam Huzzah Goat Scream to you:
The experience reminded me of going to see movies at the Drive-In in W. Gloucester when I was a kid. I remember once on the screen we were facing was Jaws 2 but if you turned around and looked out the back of the car one could see Animal House. We young-uns were instructed that under no circumstances were we to turn around lest we get in big trouble for seeing the horror that are boobs. We were ordered to look straight ahead at images much more appropriate for us pre-tweens: beachgoers being dismembered by a giant shark.
But the Lego Movie is terrific, we’ve come a long way since 1978 (now the sharks have lasers!). For those of you reading this via teletype from the darkened halls within a rotting mansion deep in the Catskills (lets be honest, The Clam has some weird fans) for a hundred minute-long commercial for toys, this “kids’ movie” has a message far more relevant to modern society than any film I’ve seen short of Spike Jonze’ Her. It lays bare the differences between consumers and creators in the 21st Century with humor and charm (and lasersharks, see above).
In the Lego movie the main character Emmet is a regular-Joe construction guy whose life revolves around following the instructions provided to him by the corporate government. He likes the popular music, dumb TV shows and pays 37 dollars a cup for coffee. In a Matrix-like plot twist, he finds himself at the head of a dwindling band of “Master Builders” who make things the they want without the constraints of rules or plans.
Sound familiar? It’s the plight of following the herd or breaking free. It’s the story of every creative person, ever. Additionally it features Batman in his first comedic role.
Ok, so great. Fun movie, a lot of people came, goat scream, Batman, all that. I think this was the third time I’d seen it, maybe the fourth. But somehow taking it in next to the harbor on an inflatable screen with 999 of my neighbors on a lot that we, have been unable to figure out what to do with since before Steven Spielberg first went fishing using Richard Dreyfuss as bait, seemed strangely meaningful.
Later in the week I went to see the O’Maley Musical Theatre Summer Camp show, and I saw more of what I was starting to get a ‘cosmic page’ about. The production used old props that have been lovingly kept (Russ!) and stored for future use, costumes were repurposed from previous productions (kudos to Linda Stockman!) , the set (also built by Russ!) has been everything from a castle to a candy factory to a New York City street. Repurposed, rebuilt, switched around. It’s like a huge Lego set. Once you’re there long enough you start to see the pieces being re-used in new and clever ways. “Wasn’t that a boat two shows ago?”
Then I started thinking about all the house tours I’ve ever attended in Gloucester. I’ve even started doing it myself, when people come over you take them down to the basement and talk about the parts of your house built from other things: “This part of the structure was a fish shack that they drug up the hill once they built the freezers. You can see the floor joists are the spar from a sailing ship, a partially-burned timber from when the HMS Falcon shelled the town in 1775 and the vestigial femur of an extinct Ichthyosaurus…”
It hit me. Like a diamond brick: Gloucester is made of Legos! Everything (all the cool stuff, anyway); buildings, cars, schools, everything is repurposed, repaired and re-used. Dare I say, that Gloucester is a city of Master Builders. New is frowned on, old is better. Maybe it comes from fishing boats having to be custom-built and repaired at sea or maybe it’s because we’re on the end of the world out here and parts are hard to come by or maybe we’re just sort of wacky, but out here: Repairs are cool and bragging rights go to those who make new stuff out of old.
This is why creative people have flocked here for so long. Yeah, sure, they tell you there is “great light” but I never believed photons came in grades. Cheap liquor and an “anything goes” vibe seemed to be more likely culprits. Now, in reality, I think a lot of it has to do with the ‘Master Builder’ mindset. Not just with physical objects, but groups of people forming and reforming into new combinations, the same buildings and pieces of land with different roles and purposes. When your prime mindset is, “Hey we can take this and turn it into that,” rather than, “Tear down that weird, old stuff and build normal, new stuff!” you’re going to attract people who like taking stuff apart.
Not those who want to ditch the old for the new, but those who want to provide legacy with new life.
As an aside that is maybe related, I’ve always thought Gloucester would be a great place to sit out a zombie apocalypse. Partially because it’s easy to seal it off from the mainland, but mostly because folks here would be quick to turn power-washers into flamethrowers and bulldozers into rescue-tanks. Also a lot of us have been planning on one since we turned around in the station wagon to see Dawn of the Dead on the West screen when we should have been watching Superman on the East one.