Color Out of ArcLight

I didn’t know it at the time–as we’re never aware of the precise moment before a Fall. But, as it would turn out, the final movie I saw at the ArcLight was Color Out of Space. I didn’t realize then it might be the last movie ever that I would “viddy” (to use a Nadsat parlance) there. Although I had once been a denizen of the city, I had given it all up for, well, I’m not sure what anymore. Yet that didn’t mean I wasn’t still going to visit when possible. Thus, I had journeyed to Los Angeles for a “stint.” It happened to be just as the pandemic was getting on American radar. Still only picking up “light steam” in the U.S., and California, among every other state–they all had yet to comprehend the full weight of what was to come (and many, in fact, still do).

I had decided to go see a movie as a means to “kill some hours” before meeting up with a friend who was getting off work at that normal yet highly-irregular-in-its-torturousness hour of six o’clock. And seeing a movie was one of the best ways to “hour kill” in L.A. (especially if you are without a car), with its plethora of theater options—all of which offer their own category of cachet. 

There is also a distinct and arcane pleasure to solo moviegoing in Los Angeles (though there are still too many codependent types living there to fathom such a thing). Almost as though you and the city are in some kind of romantic and conspiratorial relationship together. Which is probably why Anthony Kiedis said, “Sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in/The City of Angels/Lonely as I am, together we cry.” Additionally, the practice further confirms the city as a place with too much space (what with all those empty seats and once endless theaters to choose from), which only tends to breed loneliness in the end. Then again, it’s far worse to feel the kind of loneliness that New York offers among its always available and always squawking crowds. On that day’s particular excursion, I had decided to walk from Book Soup toward “that direction.” Where I knew that I could also stop in at Amoeba and peruse. And even Amoeba, in its old incarnation, is no more—since transferred to the corner of Hollywood and Argyle.  

In any event, it was about an hour walk to get there, though it would only be a mere ten minutes by car (maybe twenty with traffic). Along the way, I felt that familiar “sticking out like a sore thumb” sensation that comes with being the sort of plebe who walks in L.A. But fuck it, I was camp. Because yes, in addition to only the poorest walking in L.A., it’s also only the campest. Even the ArcLight managed to draw in the kitsch clientele among the yuppies and the famous. That was part of the magic of the theater. It was a uniting beacon for lovers of film from all walks of life willing to shell out the twenty-ish (sometimes twenty-plus) dollars for a ticket. But it was money well-spent on escapism at its finest. And shit, if you were the sort of decadent diva to go in the middle of the day and also add in the expense of lunch or a few drinks, well, that only heightened the sense of getting “a reprieve” from the real world all the more. 

I can recall so many “sessions” there. Whether it was spent languishing in the restaurant during an off time before my movie started, or just looking at whatever the latest costume exhibit or “book shop” offerings were. From seeing La La Land to Hello, My Name Is Doris, every movie experience was a delight in that space. The ArcLight even made film aspirants feel as though they were somehow “part of the industry.” At least in terms of reminding those many wannabe screenwriters and actors and directors that, yes, the reason people get into film in the first place stems from a dweebish passion for it.  

I had that passion (maybe I still do). Even in the face of never “making it” in my original profession of choice (screenwriting). That was probably why I opted to see one of the more obscure offerings available… in spite of Nicolas Cage’s ever-increasing cult following rendering his films anything but obscure. Yet Color Out of Space turned out to be right up there with Vampire’s Kiss in terms of esoteric Cage fare. 

As the lights dimmed, I took in the audience members around me. Most of them were in twos—it seemed like the sort of situation where the guys wanted to take their girlfriends to a movie such as this so as to force them to pass some test of “coolness.” That is, after all, “the L.A. way.” And men in L.A. are notoriously pedantic, even though the average outsider might not expect such a trait, since all talk of people in this town tends to veer toward how synthetic the women are.

There was an eerie feeling that washed over me as the movie commenced, and I honestly had no idea what to expect, but it certainly didn’t involve Madeleine Arthur riding a horse toward a lake to conduct some sort of Wiccan ritual in the spirit of how teen girls conduct them. Her character, Lavinia Gardner, would turn out to be arguably the most normal in comparison to the other family members—including Nathan (Cage), Theresa (Joely Richardson) and Benny (Brendan Meyer). Each one ultimately subjected to the madness brought on by the Color, which lands on Earth by way of a meteor that crashes right in front of the Gardners’ farmhouse.

One might say it’s the very same kind of meteor (in the form of post-pandemic fallout) that has crashed in front of not just the ArcLight, but movie theaters throughout L.A. and the United States. In the end, the Color’s appetite for decimation cannot be thwarted. And so, I can’t really think of a more appropriate final movie to have seen at the ArcLight than this one, so rife with its prophetic metaphor about moviegoing overall. 

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