October 9th, 2015: The Price is Reitz

Friday’s Festivities

Well, I won a medal.

The astonishing achievement that earned it?  Tossing three consecutive wads of paper into a wastebasket no more than two yards in front of me.  This was part of the “Office Olympics” held on the 2nd floor next to the Grand Ballroom.  The folks enjoying musical chairs — yes, really — and paper airplane distance competitions seemed about as riveted as the characters of The Office might have, so the naming was appropriate.

This was after surveying what the ground floor had to offer, and it was a particularly energetic Friday under the breezeway.  The center was dominated by a rectangular foam aisle, not unlike your average birthday party bounce-house, down which a spherical cage was hurled into a set of hard plastic pins.

The cage had a guy in it.  It was human bowling.  Frankly, I can’t see the staff member doing the rolling earning a place on any bowling team; gutter balls, every single one, way to the left.

The Society of Physics at UF brought science demonstrations that easily carried the night in terms of entertainment value.  The steady flow of onlookers was electrified — groan if you want, I suffer for my puns with many, many sleepless nights — by the dance of sparks from the Van de Graaf generator and by the volunteers battling the torque of a giant gyroscope crafted from a bicycle wheel.  SPS member Gabriel explained that the society was taking these open demonstrations to the campus, to the farmer’s market, and to other local schools to get adults and kids alike interested in science.

I suspect it’s working; bravo, SPS.

“Frisbee golf” took up the southern end of the breezeway, players hurling frisbees here and there and wildly off-course trying to land them in baskets resembling neon drums chained to umbrellas.  I couldn’t tell if anyone was keeping score or not, but I suspect they were having enough fun that winning was a secondary consideration.

On the other side of the human bowling was the “Sticky Wall,” where people queued up to don Velcro suits and fling themselves onto a bouncy wall lined with clinging fabric.  In action, they resembled nothing as much as sad, drunken grasshoppers.

To the west, out on the grass, a dead woman was screaming in a water tank.

“Dunk a Zombie” was the name of the event, which saw staff member Phoebe — very cheerful, very soggy — bedecked in bloodied skeleton suit inside a carnival dunking machine.  Each person who lined up to drop her into the water (“It started out warm, but now it’s cold!” I heard Phoebe exclaim to a friend) had three chances to strike the target with a rubber ball.  One couldn’t have asked for a more enthusiastic zombie than Phoebe, flinching prematurely at the clang of every ball’s impact against the machine, howling with hunger and frustration every time she emerged from a successful dunking.  Her costumed coworker Carla was standing nearby, waiting to replace her after enough water-logging.

All this before 10:45.

The Second Floor Screen

My undocumented viewings of GatorNights feature film presentations this year had spanned a range of quality from the kinetic poetry of  Mad Max: Fury Road to the merely decent thrills of  Jurassic World (I was sadly unable to make any of the showings of Pixar’s wondrous Inside Out).  Ant-Man, Marvel’s latest superhero adventure, managed to edge closer to the former than the latter of the two I’d seen this year, even if it didn’t reach the same heights.

Of course, its small scale is part of the point, isn’t it?  Ant-Man‘s lower stakes put it in contrast with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe just as Scott Lang’s shrinking suit sets him apart from the superheroes we’ve become accustomed to on the big screen.

While the film overall feels a bit slight, it avoids collapsing under the weight of world-building and exposition like too many other modern blockbusters (even, some would argue, a few recent marvel productions).  Paul Rudd is surprisingly effective as Scott Lang, the reformed cat burglar who enters the tutelage of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, effortless in his role as this movie’s “prestige” cast member) and his daughter Hope (Evangelline Lilly).  Corey Stoll, bless him, does the best he can with the paper-thin villain he’s given (the corrupt corporate suit who becomes Yellowjacket).

Director Peyton Reed manages to mine plenty of fun and humor (most laughs being won by the peanut gallery of Lang’s burglary accomplices) from the first superhero heist movie, with a story by Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright.  I must admit, while the movie was a pleasant surprise, there lingered behind every shot the tantalizing thought of what might have been if Edgar Wright had directed the film as originally planned.  I can’t help but wonder, darkly, what made such an intelligent filmmaker depart due to “creative differences.”  Why a producer like Kevin Feige, seemingly interested in attracting the smart, creative mainstream directors and writers to his growing movie mythos, couldn’t keep a hold of this one.  What, in the original incarnation of Ant-Man, was too smart and creative for the master plan?

It may be awhile before my curiosity is satisfied, but what resulted in Wright’s absence was still a refreshing treat in-between the weighty conflicts and pyrotechnics of Marvel’s other features.

Though you can’t help but laugh when you realize that Wright was replaced with the director of a film called Yes Man.


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