Memorial Day weekend–if the weather’s good–is a magical interlude, coming at the end of “indoor” season and the beginning of “outdoor” season. There are only two seasons, really, in this part of the country. Everyone decides when one starts and the other ends, and we celebrate accordingly. Given the up and down nature of spring here, “outdoor” season often doesn’t commence in earnest until Memorial Day, or even after. This year, we had 40-degree weather on either side of the weekend, but the weekend itself was pretty nice, especially Monday.

Here in newspaperland, we get very few three-day weekends. In fact, many of us get very few weekends period. Something’s always going on and the Monday deadline is unforgiving, so some of us often work one of the weekend days, meaning we only get one true day off most weeks.

When a Monday holiday comes along, Friday becomes our Monday, which is intense, but when it’s done, we don’t have anything to do all weekend. So instead of the one extra day most people get, we really get two extra days. It’s quite a treat and only occurs on Memorial Day and Labor Day.

This year the weather was good, so the treat was especially precious.

The Memorial Day weekend is also a particularly good time for movies, and the Lake Theatre is a particularly good place to see them, so our downtown movie palace becomes a hub of considerable activity during those three days. I jumped on for two roller-coaster rides, “Iron Man” and “Indiana Jones,” both of which are way above average for the “superhero” genre, though that isn’t saying much since the superhero genre has been worn pretty thin. But Robert Downey Jr. is extremely watchable and “Iron Man” was unusually well written. And Steven Spielberg is the master of the two-hour action film, so the rides were both entertaining.

But when you break it all down, what you’re really watching in most cases is one long chase. Pretty primitive. Why are we so enthralled by hair-raising chases? No matter how cleverly you arrange them, there’s a limit to what can happen. The heroes continually make split-second decisions and calculations that always turn out right. It’s all so utterly ridiculous and improbably that after awhile the audience gets “belief suspension” fatigue. And the hazards they avoid or the catastrophes they survive keep getting more and more outlandish and unsurvivable, which strains credibility even more. It’s no longer suspenseful, just an extended sight gag.

I’m also tired of the overblown “arch-villains,” who are invariably annoying and always commit the same plot blunders of forgoing obvious chances to kill the hero, preferring instead to leave them in a horrible predicament that no one could possibly escape from–but the hero escapes anyway. So predictable.

Someone needs to find a new way to do all this.

But I digress. My real point is wondering why we “need” chase and superhero films in the first place. I don’t need them, actually, anymore than I need vampire films or mafia films or paranoid stalker films. There’s so little depth in films these days. It’s all about emotion and visceral sensation. Give us a little substance, provoke some thought along with the thrills and spills. Is that too much to ask?


I don’t mind going for the ride, but The Lake still needs to better balance in its bookings. The film “Young at Heart,” for instance, the acclaimed documentary about the senior citizen singing group that performs rock ‘n’ roll classics, would be a huge hit with the Oak Park audience, but you have to go to Wilmette or to the city (Clark & Diversey) to see it. “Small” films that the critics rave about are predictably released to the same three or four remote theaters and never find their way to The Lake–even though Oak Park audiences would love them. “Young at Heart” is a perfect example.

How about it Willis and Shirley (Johnson, that is, owners of Classic Cinemas)? We need more films with substance.

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