It was worth the sunburn.
In the midday yesterday, with screening ticket safely ensconsed in my wallet, I walked, bussed and walked again in a zigzag path through East Portland until I reached the Hollywood Theatre, and joined my fellow geeks (many in Firefly-themed T-shirts, and several wearing versions of Jayne Cobb's infamous cap) as they lined up for the film. Members of the Firefly/Serenity fan group PDX Browncoats, including Mike "Culture Pulp" Russell (a writer I'm both a fan and an aquaintance of), sold raffle tickets to us in line. The theatre doors opened at 1, a little more than an hour before showtime, and we settled in.
The organizers then told us (including relative newbies like me) how this came about. Back one Thursday in December 2005, the last Portland-area screening of Serenity happened at the Kennedy School McMenamin's, and local fans converged on that theatre. (And hey! So did I!) After the show, certain personages leaving the screening in the same car talked about what a good night it'd been, and how they wished that maybe they could hold a screening again, and hey maybe it could be a charity screening...
...and that musing in that car grew into the worldwide event Serenity Now. Last year, on or around the birthday of Firefly/Serenity creator Joss Whedon (also the writer who brought the world Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), theatres all over the place showed Serenity, dedicating the proceeds to Equality Now, an organization created in 1992 to report and stop worldwide abuses of women. It's a charity close to Whedon's heart, and he's spoken eloquently about its mission...and why it's terrible that its mission has to exist in the first place. (Such as his sad and horrifying piece on the murder of Dua Khalil, titled "Let's watch a girl get beaten to death.") And those screenings in June 2006 raised $65,000 for the cause.
Browncoats are earning an ever-stronger reputation for generosity.
I missed last year's screening, but now as I've finally seen the original Firefly series on DVD and I'm friends with dedicated Browncoats, I knew I should be there. Serenity Now has grown in the past year: more cities over more days, and (very likely) more money donated. The Portland event grew as well, moving from last year's site (Cinema 21) to the larger main screening room of the Hollywood. Last year's sold out; my screening didn't quite sell out, but, again, larger room, more seats and all that. (I should find out if Friday's screening sold out. I wouldn't be surprised if it did.)
A little before 2, we watched Joss Whedon's May 2006 speech to Equality Now ("'Why do you write such strong female characters?' Because you keep...asking...that...question"). The raffle was held, with prizes including some of the prop money from the heist in the film. And then Serenity began.
I'm still impressed with the film -- it's emotional, funny, and dramatically urgent -- and seeing it with a perfect crowd like yesterday's adds to its impact: every hero moment, like the reveal of River Tam after her fight with the Reavers, earned huge cheers and applause. I love how the film looks and feels: it's creatively directed by Whedon; the score by David Newman is terrific; it's eminently quotable ("I'm going to show you a world without sin"; dear God); and the character work by the actors is wonderful, creating this ensemble of rogues, semi-rogues and anti-heroes who really can be Big Damn Heroes when the chips are down.
I'm so glad I went.
And I'm so glad I also went to the after-film shindig a few blocks from the Hollywood.
The Browncoats had arranged to have a food-and-drinks gathering at the Moon and Sixpence, a British-styled pub in the neighborhood. Probably about three dozen people trekked up to the place, and while I have limited bar experience, I decided to get more bar experience and so I took that walk, too. I wound up in a long, detailed and hilarious conversation with Mike Russell, talking about writing and publishing and plagiarism like the media geeks we are, as he stayed near the entrance directing people to the back porch, where the fans were gathering.
Then I went back there myself, met some more people, and wrote a message that'll be sent in a scrapbook of thank-yous and Happy Birthday notes to Joss Whedon. People posed for Polaroids that'll be included in that scrapbook, and then we signed the photos in which we appeared. (Other photos were taken, and I'm hoping certain shots get posted online; certain shots -- like this one of a woman dressed and posed as River -- will make certain friends of mine smile. I'll say no more for now.)
I sat down at one picnic table and joined in a geek-heavy discussion about sequels and adaptations, both good and horrible (Highlander II: The Quickening getting many nods, but with mentions also of the badness of The Exorcist II: The Heretic and The French Connection II). I shared my theory that it's best to watch X-Men: The Last Stand imagining that it's fanfic that got filmed. When one guy moaned over the idea of the proposed Star Trek prequel, adding "Ugh, teenage Kirk!" I replied, evilly, "Teenage mutant ninja Kirk?" And he screamed a real Rick Emerson-style scream. Also brought up -- as I ate my British-styled dinner of beef borscht soup and fish cakes (with glasses of both water and Boont Amber Ale for the drinking; yep, I let myself have a beer) -- was the potential for making Firefly fan films, the behind-the-scenes wrangling over how intense the new Battlestar Galatica gets to be, and how Leeloo in The Fifth Element is kind of a proto-River Tam. We got sprinkled on lightly during this, but never more precipitation than that; we were never driven inside.
I left the pub around quarter to nine, once again walking, bussing and then walking again to get home. And -- no surprise -- I got to bed fairly early for a weekend. Smiling.