The road, the sacred pavement We are the traffic We are what we traffic in And the truck stops here It’s no skin off my asphalt It’s just a line, a yellow line My socks are red and I’m ready to ride -
-poem by Harvey Starkweather
Parts of Joe Danteâ€™s MATINEE
(with the help of an unscientific and self-serving organizing system) ______
MANT! (Noun): 1) A creature that is half man and half ant 2) A Joe Dante movie featured in MATINEE, a Joe Dante movie from 1993 3) An acronym for the different parts in this piece ______
M is for Meta-Data 1. You are watching a Joe Dante movie called MATINEE.
2. In MATINEE an audience is watching a film called MANT.
3. In MANT an audience is watching a sock hop film.
4. A Mant then breaks through the screen playing the sock-hop film that the audience in MANT is watching as the audience in MATINEE watches.
5. A man in a Mant suit then enters the theater where the audience is watching MANT.
6. The audience in MANT that was watching the sock-hop film now watches as the man in the Mant suit runs through the aisles of the theater where the audience is watching MANT.
7. The audience in MANT warns the audience in MATINEE about the man in the Mant suit.
8. As the man in the Mant suit angrily approaches his ex-girlfriend, who is making out with a new boy, the audience in MANT warns them to run.
9. The producer of MANT approaches the man in the Mant suit, the man in the Mant suit is distracted, the kids run, the man in the Mant suit follows as the audience in MANT continues to describe everything that is happening.
10. You are still watching a Joe Dante movie called MATINEE.
A is for Anxiety Said the night wind to the little lamb, Do you see what I see? Way up in the sky little lamb, Do you see what I see? A star, a star, dancing in the night, With a tail as big as a kite, with a tail as big as a kite. - “Do You Hear What I Hear?” lyrics by Noel Regney, written in October 1962
“There’s no more Shredded Wheat in the back, there’s no more Shredded Wheat in the entire Keys and one of you will have to go through the atomic destruction with no damn Shredded Wheat. What do you think about that?!” - Grocery Store Clerk in MATINEE
“It takes a lot more to scare people these days, there’s a lot of competition. Will you give me the pliers kid? Now we’ve got bombs that will kill half a million people, nobody’s had a good night sleep in years, so you’ve gotta have a gimmick, something a little extra. “ - Lawrence Woolsey in MATINEE
Images of mushroom clouds are seen four times in MATINEE. The first time is during the opening images. The main characters are watching a coming attraction for schlock-movie master Lawrence Woolsey’s latest movie, MANT. The second cloud is seen when the film’s main character dreams it, the third during the introduction to the movie MANT, and the forth comes during the “interactive” ending to MANT. Each cloud a projection that works to blend the real fears of the Cuban Missile Crisis into fabricated ones, creating a hybrid of terror that Dante not only uses to get his characters where they need to go, but also to illustrate how horror films, whether in the movie theater or being played out by politicians and newscasters on one’s TV, essentially work.
Carol: Oh, Bill. If only you could just listen to the man in you and put the insect aside. Bill: Insecticide?!?! Where? - scene from Lawrence Woolsey’s MANT
Alfred Hitchcock: I’m generalizing.. And he’s not an army man either. Dick Cavett: Who? Alfred Hitchcock: General Izing. Dick Cavett: You like all kinds of horror don’t you? Bad puns... - Alfred Hitchcock on the Dick Cavett show in 1972
N is for Nostalgia "Experience in all our ongoing engagements has shown us that it enhances the dignity and importance of Psycho to close your house curtains over the screen after the end-titles of the picture, and keep the theater dark for 1/2 minute. During these 3 seconds of stygian blackness, the suspense of Psycho is indelibly engraved in the mind of the audience, later to be discussed among gaping friends and relations. You will then bring up house lights of a greenish hue, and shine spotlights of this ominous hue across the faces of your departing patrons. Never, never, never will I permit Psycho to be followed immediately by a short subject or newsreel." - Alfred Hitchcock’s instructions for movie theater owner’s who were playing PSYCHO
“But that’s not the whole story. I know some of you have never been in the motion picture business before and some of you have been at it a long time, but I want all of you to look at the faces out here during this picture. There’s going to be room in their head for only one thought, ‘Don’t let it get me!’ They know we can’t hurt em, but they’re still going to be scared half to death. And all of you, when you thread the projector, when you tear the tickets, when you see the jujubes, you’re all apart of it. And just when it gets the worst, when they're sitting there and their hearts are going like little trapped animals out here in the dark, we save them! And they say ‘Hey, it’s all right! Thank god! Hey, can i see that again?’” - Lawrence Woolsey in MATINEE
“Going to the movies is sort of like going to church for me. When the lights went down I would be as likely to stay for a double feature twice as I would be to just go home. I can't imagine anybody doing that today. The movies and the way they are presented are just so different. We didn't just get double features. We got cartoons, we got newsreels, we got trailers... we got a lot of stuff. Now all you get is ads and trailers -- and one movie. And it better be good because you're paying a lot of money for it and we used to get in for a quarter.” - Joe Dante
MATINEE, being a Joe Dante movie, is jam-packed with cultural references that make themselves manifest through the set, in the character’s hands and coming out of the characters mouths (and even in who is playing the characters). It’s also a movie about movies and movie-going in the particular, and as such, the references tend to stick out not unlike a giant Mant hand. But, even though everything is on the surface, nothing is superfluous. Objects and ideas serve the movie at hand (both of them) not themselves. The posters in the Strand movie theater: SIX BLACK HORSES, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, are all from 1962. A bed full of Monster magazines are a nice shout-out, but they also move along the plot and get a character from point A to point B. A made-up movie entitled THE SHOOK-UP SHOPPING CART recalls “flying rubber professor pictures” while also providing the set-up for the next scene where two men (both Dante regulars), supposedly from a religious organization, preach the evils of horror movies.
All the standard stereotypes of a coming of age movie are present in MATINEE: teenagers, a new kid in town, an absent father, an outcast but cute girl and of course, a life-changing event. Dante, perhaps because he was a teenager in 1962, creates a believable portrait of a people and their place, but this reality of character and location merely provides a cover for whatâ€™s really at play.
As the end credits roll in MATINEE, nobody has been transformed and the biggest plot point involving the lives of the characters ends up being whether or not everyone made out with the right person. As the title suggests, this is not a movie about characters but about Woolseyâ€™s spectacle. That his spectacle brings about surrogate fathers, make-out sessions and potential first loves is secondary because at the end of MATINEE the story is no longer in Key West (that story is just starting); the story being spun for the past 90 minutes is now on its way to Cleveland.
Lawrence Woolsey: You see the look on those two? It’s like their whole life got called off and then no wait a second, sorry, it’s on again. That’s how everybody looks now. People are walking around, (sigh of relief), they made it, safe. Ruth Corday: How long do you give that? Lawrence Woolsey: A couple weeks, a couple years, then bang, somebody comes along with another way for the world to end. Ruth Corday: Only this time they mean it. Lawrence Woolsey: Well, at least those two get a jump on it, Ruth Corday: Huh? Lawrence Woolsey: They’re seeing the coming attractions....
T is for Transmissions
! is for the end Now it's been 10,000 years / Man has cried a billion tears For what he never knew/ Now man's reign is through But through the eternal night/ The twinkling of starlight So very far away / Maybe it's only yesterday -Zager and Evans, â€œIn the Year 2525â€?