Aug 5, 2023

A Double Bill Of Friendship, Fashion & Feminism

Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
Show banner designed by Andrew Kern
Last night was all about female empowerment at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater with a double feature of classics from 1985 that starred several of the most talented women of their generation in stories that showed women seizing their power and taking control of their destinies.  However, this theme was not limited to the action that took place on the screen.  The night was programmed by Val, who not only selected the movies, but also filled the lot with classic 80's tunes as the pre-show DJ.

The poster for last night's event was designed by artist Sarah Karess.  She created the poster for Mondo Argento, which was one of my favorite posters of the 2022 season, and the poster for Rebel Rebel is definitely one of my favorite posters for the 2023 season.

Actress Helen Slater filmed a very nice introduction to her movie.  I'll always remember her best as Christy Willis in The Secret Of My Success.  She has also starred in Supergirl, Ruthless People, and City Slickers, but her most iconic role is the one that she played in the first film of last night's double feature, Billie Jean Davy, in The Legend Of Billie Jean.

I'm not sure how or why The Legend Of Billie Jean stayed off of my radar for as long as it did, because it is an absolutely incredible film.  I mean no disrespect to the movie for what I'm about to say, but I barely knew that this film existed.  The only time that I ever remember hearing about it at all was in a brief segment in the VH-1 series I Love The 80's 3-D.  My knowledge about the plot going into tonight's screening was limited to what was discussed in a short segment on that show, which is to say that I knew that it was the story of a woman fighting to defend her brother whose bike was stolen, and that the phrase "fair is fair" becomes her rallying cry.

In a way, I'm glad that I went into this screening with such a small amount of prior knowledge.  There are few things that I enjoy more than going into a screening at the Mahoning as a blank slate and experiencing a classic film for the first time the same way that many fans experienced it when it was first released.  In this case, that feeling of joy came with a side of guilt.  Why hadn't I heard of this movie before, or made more of an effort to watch it after seeing that segment on I Love The 80's 3-D?  It's a stone cold 80's classic that blew me away, and a movie that I would have no hesitation ranking alongside the most well-known movies of the decade, but it took me until 2023 to sit down and watch it.  I'd like to think that this was just my laziness and my habit of going back to watch the same movies that I've already seen over and over again, but I have to question whether or not I've had a subconscious bias to movies that feature a male lead.  I can't change the past, but you can bet that I'll strongly recommend this movie to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen to me sing its praises.

The second movie of Rebel Rebel was one that I had seen before when I was a teenager: the 1985 hit Desperately Seeking Susan.  It was directed by Philadelphia native Susan Seidelman and stars Rosanna Arquette and Madonna as two strangers whose lives become intertangled though a series of events that change their lives forever.  Well, it changes Arquette's character Roberta forever.  I have a hunch that Madonna's titular character Susan would keep marching to the beat of her own drummer along with whoever could keep up with her.

I was about 12 or 13 years old when I saw this movie for the first time.  I was living in South Florida with my dad, my stepmother, and my stepsister at the time.  Dad didn't have a huge home video library, but this was one of the tapes that was (and still is) in his collection.  My stepsister and I used to have movie nights in her room when we were growing up, and one of the movies that we watched together was my dad's copy of Desperately Seeking Susan.  I enjoyed it from the first time I saw it, but I was probably too young to pick up on everything that this movie had to say at the time.  It's a movie that I've grown to enjoy and appreciate more with each time that I see it.  One thing that hasn't changed since I first saw this movie is that I still can't help but to laugh out loud at every scene involving comedian Steven Wright.  The scene towards the end of the movie where he's so enamored with the magic show that he's completely unaware of what's unfolding around him gets me every time!

Desperately Seeking Susan has become a cult classic and a pillar of female empowerment in cinema for a number of reasons.  Its screenplay was written by Leora Barish.  It was produced by Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford, directed by Susan Seidelman, and it stars two icons of film, music, and pop culture, Rosanna Arquette (who was the inspiration behind both Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes and Toto's Rosanna) and the Queen of Pop, Madonna.  Last night, another important milestone became connected with this film, as it was the first movie in the 73 year history of the Mahoning Drive-In Theater to have been presented in its entirety by a female projectionist.  Krista has been training as a projectionist with Rob and Jeff, and she did an absolutely flawless job in presenting this 80's classic to the fans in attendance.

And that's a wrap on what has been one of my favorite nights at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater so far.

Video Game Weekend kicks off tonight with one of the worst movies I've ever seen: Super Mario Bros.  I don't mean the excellent animated film that was released earlier this year... I mean the horrendous 1993 movie whose trailer was so bad that it didn't convince me to go see it in theaters or even rent it on home video despite the fact that it was released when I was 12 years old and at the peak of my Nintendo fandom.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'll have more to say about the poster child for "so bad it's good" movies tomorrow.