Sunday, December 21, 2014

Under the Skin under the stars

The Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne is something I've been hearing about for years -- long before I lived here, in fact. My wife made a reference to it as long ago as our 2009 visit -- or was it our 2007 visit? -- but once we moved here, I managed to forget I ever knew it existed.

So it was with great pleasure on my part that she revived it as a date night option when discussing what we'd do when her sister babysat our kids on Saturday night. Lately she hasn't wanted to spend precious date nights on going to the movies, thinking them a poor use of our adult time, so that was a plus as well.

Our other option would have also been interesting, and will surely be the topic of an upcoming post: the Moonlight Cinema, which is in the botanical gardens and is more like the cemetery screenings we used to attend in Los Angeles. They were playing Big Hero 6 -- a preview of Big Hero 6, which doesn't open here until Boxing Day -- on the same night.

But the seductive pull of the Rooftop Cinema, with its chance to fulfill long unfulfilled (and long-forgotten) yearnings, was too much for me, even though I had already seen Under the Skin, and I usually use this time of year to focus on new viewings. She hadn't seen it, and I'm glad to say Under the Skin is a movie I want to share with people I love. (I also made a fairly convincing argument that if she envisions a date night as a time to be away from children, she hardly wants to go to a screening of Big Hero 6, which will be packed with them.)

Late-year rewatches also help me settle on a final resting place in my rankings for movies I really like, and I was keen to determine whether I just really like, or actually love, Under the Skin.

We started off with dinner across the street at a dumpling place -- mmmm -- and arrived at the top of the Curtin Building on Swanston street about a half-hour before the 9:30 start. (And remember, it's summer here, so 9:30 is about as early as you can be certain there won't be too much light in the sky.)

I thought I'd top this post with the only picture I took there -- the view from our seats -- but this one from their website gives you a much better idea what the whole venue looks like:

As soon as we got there, I realized my wife had been the smart one when she brought a jacket with a furry hood. I'd scoffed at this outerwear when we were leaving, paying more attention to the season than the actual temperatures (and the actual expected temperatures at night on a seventh-floor rooftop). I did have a lighter jacket with me, but suffice it to say we did indeed "hire" a blanket for $5. (In the interview, the blanket did a convincing job describing how it had warmed other people in the past, so it got the job).

By the time we took our seats, we could scarcely stay in them, filled as we were with that "kid in a candy store" mentality of what we would eat/drink first. Really, it was the drinks that had us in a minor tizzy, because we quickly determined that the burger and fry place below and to the left of the screen would be serving us up some french fries. (We had envisioned getting a dessert, but the lack of those options and the need for something warm quickly converted us to a dose of fried food to bolster our regrettably small number of dumplings.)

Off to the lower left of the picture you see above, there's a bar, with all manner of beer and cocktails. Having passed an up-scale Mexican restaurant as we ascended to the roof, I had margaritas on the brain, but my wife had sussed out a pale ale when she concluded that margaritas were too dear at $17 a pop. I agreed, but then disagreed with her assessment of the price. She must have viewed the second digit incorrectly, because margaritas were only $12, which we both deemed viable. When I came back with the two drinks and the blanket a few minutes later, she had our fries. I experienced a moment's regret when it seemed certain we would finish the fries well before the start of the movie, but in fact, the last scraps sustained us until about the movie's ten-minute mark.

As for Under the Skin itself, I felt about the same toward it, and perhaps a smidge less enthused if anything. After it was over, I told my wife that it was probably the movie I admired the most this year without actually loving it, and the second viewing confirmed that. That still puts it pretty high up on my list (actual spot to be revealed in about three weeks). My wife ... well, she's a mother who started the night with a margarita, so she admitted to struggling to stay awake and feeling like the movie had kept her at arm's length. Also a very valid reaction to Under the Skin. She did have lots of very complimentary things to say about it, though.

And as suggested in the title of this post, the stars did soon assert themselves against the darkening sky, and the effect was pretty damn magical. Perhaps even more magical, though, was something that was also really ghastly to think about ...

Okay, go back to the picture above ... see the lighted spire protruding from the top of that building about 2/3 over to the right, the one immediately to the right of the tallest building? About halfway in I noted that there were several hundred creatures flying in the air above that light, bathing in its warmth like moths. At first I thought they were moths, except that if they were, we would never have been able to see them from so far away.

Know what they were?


If anyone ever told you bats could not be beautiful, they apparently weren't sitting on top of a roof in downtown Melbourne on December 20th of 2014.

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