Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 21, 2014

Movie magic

Husband Art and I went to the movie, "Monuments Men," Saturday afternoon. We arrived 20 minutes before the 4:10 p.m. show and we were surprised to see a full parking lot. There were 75-100 people in a line leading to the doors.

"Must be the LEGO movie," I told Art. "That, plus this is the cheapest time to get tickets."

The line moved quickly, but we didn't get to our seats until about 4:20, 10 minutes after the posted time. But we needn't have worried. The ads for upcoming attractions seemed to go on and on. We didn't see much that interested us - mostly car chases and people and things being blown up.

Fifteen minutes and countless previews later, our movie began. The story is based on actual events from World War II. A group of soldiers - curators, archivists and other art experts in civilian life - had been charged with finding and returning priceless art works that had been stolen by the Nazis from private collections and museums. The Germans had intended to install these works of art in Hitler's planned "Führermuseum" in Linz, Austria. Art had read an article several years ago about this subject, but I wasn't familiar with the mission of the "Monuments Men."

The show, directed by and starring George Clooney, transported us to 1944. Cities and villages were being reduced to rubble as Allied forces were moving in from all directions to squeeze the Nazis into submission. Although historically-based films, such as "Monuments Men," "Lincoln," "Dr. Zhivago," and "Saving Private Ryan" swerve from the truth for dramatic effect or to fill in blanks in our knowledge, they can still help viewers understand complicated issues. And as a bonus, the audience gets to be transported to another time or place more effectively than watching the story unfold on a little "box," such as a television or computer.

For that matter, sometimes those "places" aren't even really places. "Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Toy Story" and "Frozen" are just pen and pencil or computer-generated. And while movies such as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the "Harry Potter" series are largely shot in real locations, they are modified in various ways to make them appear like no place on earth.

I don't know anyone who likes movies as much as older daughter Mariya. She had an unusually intense interest in them even as a tyke. At one point, she even wanted to go into the business. And in a way, she has, teaching a Fiction into Film class at Kansas State University. As part of the class, she has students make a short movie. Asked about what she likes best about a movie, she answered:

"I like the giant crystal-clear digital screens and the surround sound that is loud enough to make your chest cavity vibrated. I also like going with people so I can talk about our reactions afterward."

Youngest daughter Katie is also a movie fiend.

"I like that people can't get as distracted from the movie in there, unlike when you watch a movie somewhere else. And I love the previews. And going for 'Stimulus Tuesday' and getting popcorn and pop is fun."

Unlike Katie, Art isn't all that keen on the "extras" involved in movie-going. In fact, he gets pretty annoyed with people crunching popcorn, blabbing on their cell phones or otherwise doing things that distract from the main attraction. I guess he's been that way for awhile because he's often told me the story about an incident that happened one Saturday afternoon when he and his cousin Jeff went to the movies.

"I was 11 when "Strategic Air Command" was released. Jeff and I often went to the movies and this one appealed to us as we thought it would be some sort of war movie. Unfortunately, it was pretty much a love story and a lot of people came to see Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. We weren't prepared for the theater to be packed, forcing us to sit near the back. The movie was boring to us and even more so for the 5-year-old in the seat in front of me. She spent most of the movie standing on her seat looking at me.

Disgusted that her minders were not being mindful, I pulled a squirt gun from my pocket and let her have it. I wanted to startle her, but succeeded far beyond my expectations when the stream hit her squarely on her left eyeball. She started sucking air. I grabbed Jeff and said, 'Let's get out of here.' We reached the concessions area by her first scream. I was sure we would be found out, but we ducked back into the theater via another aisle, sat down and acted as if nothing had happened. We were never apprehended. That is about all I recall about that movie!"

Despite taking some artistic license with the facts, "Monuments Men" was not as riveting as many movies today. Still, Art apparently enjoyed it, judging by the fact that at no time did he pull out a squirt gun and "shoot" down anyone in the theater.

Left: l-r, sister Gaila's older daughter Gabriela, Gaila, Gaila's younger daughter Larisa, Mariya and Katie in a 2002 trip to a local theater to see a Harry Potter film; right: promotional poster for the movie "Strategic Air Command."

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