…of cheese. This 1978 movie, made of cheese, corn, and camp—is the kick-off to the IMA’s 33rd season of the Summer Nights film series this Friday night. Love it or hate it (our blog friend Lou Harry is definitely in the latter category—see his 3/19/08 post, Grease is an icon of American pop culture at its, well, cheesiest.
I’ve always been at the mercy of this terrible, wonderful flick. My dad took me to see it, on the first day of summer after my fourth grade year. We were late; I think we came in during the “Summer Nights” number. We both liked the visual geometry of the dances, the buoyant froth of the songs.
My friends and I started going in packs. We saw it at the drive-in, the way it was meant to be seen. We staged sock hops. One 9-year-old dressed up like a version of Sandy in fishnet hose and a leotard and rode around the neighborhood on her banana seat bike. Years later my friend made me this kitschy Grease mirror, a true piece of folk art:
Don’t get me started on the centrifugal force of Travolta’s hips as he snakes around the white car during “Greased Lightnin’.” Or the carnival Shake Shack scene, where John and Olivia shimmy in black against a colorful planar backdrop worthy of Mondrian. I’ve always loved sad Danny and the phallic hot dog scene. And the strange appeal of Crater Face.
Just two years after Grease arrived, MTV was born, and the Spandex Revolution began. Children of the 80’s will also find much to love about this year’s Summer Nights line up, which includes The Goonies and Ghostbusters. The movie schedule was built around four categories we conceived: Stylish Danger (i.e. Gilda); Alternate Universes (Dr. Strangelove), Dark Humor (The Big Lebowski), and Mad Musicals (Rocky Horror).
We also paid close attention to what cartoon goes with what movie. I’m particularly looking forward to Rabbit’s Kin (1957), starring Pete the Puma, an underappreciated Warner Bros. character. Watch for Pete before This is Spinal Tap on June 20.
Leave me your raves and rants about Grease—or Summer Nights ’08.