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'Star' Struck

Out of the Darthness Comes Light: Although wise to videos and TV, very modern kids Carlos Altamirano (from left), Mario Altamirano and Brenda Ochoa were bedazzled by their first big-screen exposure.

Photo by Janet Orsi

Three kids get their first-ever movie theater experience with the re-release of 'Star Wars'

By David Templeton

Metro Santa Cruz writer David Templeton takes interesting people to interesting movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. In this--his 100th such movie-house colloquy--he takes a trio of young first-time theatergoers to see the remastered edition of Star Wars.

CARLOS AND MARIO Altamirano, and Brenda Ochoa (ages 11, 9 and 10, respectively), like most other American kids, have watched plenty of TV, have seen countless videos, can name all the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and know the plots of classic Disney cartoons. Asked if they like movies, each one exclaims, "I love movies!"

But until today, at this matinee screening of the newly re-released Star Wars, neither Brenda nor Carlos nor Mario have ever experienced a movie in a real movie theater. Born in Mexico, my guests this afternoon immigrated to the U.S.A. when they were much younger, and have grown up speaking both English and Spanish. Their lack of movie house experience is due mainly to the economic priorities of their parents.

While making preparations for today's outing, acquaintances of mine have expressed wide-eyed amazement to learn that there are thousands of children who've never been given the full-fledged, big-screen experience that most of us take for granted. Though there are no available statistics on the subject, it appears that my young friends are only the tip of the iceberg.

"Can we sit in the front row?" Carlos asks. The front row it is. Clutching popcorn and sodas, Brenda giggles in anticipation of Star Wars --arguably the ultimate big-screen film--while Carlos tries to locate the projector room and Mario theorizes about which way the velvet curtains will open and what color the screen will be.

The curtains part from the middle, the screen is a shimmering silver, and the show begins.

"I stopped breathing," Brenda whispers as the end credits roll to the thunderous John Williams score. "I kept forgetting it was a movie. It was so big, I thought it was happening to me!"

"Is it always so loud?" Carlos asks. "If the TV at home was that loud, I think the furniture would be jumping all over the place."

On the drive to a nearby restaurant for lunch, the car is full of high-decibel, well-imitated sounds of lasers, droids, wookies and Darth Vader's ominous breathing noise.

"I like Darth," Carlos says a few moments later, as we all take a seat at the table, "because he can get into people's minds from far away. He was like the dark side of Superman."

"I liked when they blew up the Death Star," Mario chimes in.

"Whenever something blew up, it made my stomach feel funny." Brenda adds. "It kind of tickled."

"Was this movie on TV a few weeks ago?" Carlos asks.

Yes, I reply, I think it was.

"I can't believe this," he groans. "I was going through the channels and I saw the part where Darth and Obi Wan were fighting. But I didn't know what it was. I thought it was Star Wars or something. I thought it looked boring, so I turned it off." He slaps his forehead, as everyone else grimaces in sympathy.

When Brenda remarks that she liked Princess Leia, Carlos says, "She was cool. Her hair looked like horns."

"Buffalo horns," Mario nods. "Or breakfast rolls."

"She was pretty," Brenda continues. "And she had talent."

"It surprised me that she was wearing lipstick," Mario grins. "I didn't know they had that in space!"

Having learned that Carlos likes Darth and Brenda likes Leia, I ask Mario to name his favorite character.

"Probably Luke, because he trusted people," he says. "But I liked C3PO because he would translate for the other robots."

"That robot can speak a thousand languages," adds Carlos, noticeably impressed. "I don't even think there are a thousand languages. Not on Earth."

"Spanish, English, French," Mario lists out loud, counting them off on his fingers.

"Indian, German, Japanese, Chinese," continues Brenda.

"And all the American Indian languages," Carlos says. "That robot probably knows all of them." He suddenly laughs, holding his stomach, and says, "When the movie was over, I felt really dizzy. Does that happen all the time?"

I suggest that perhaps his dizziness came from sitting so close to the screen.

"Really?" Brenda asks. "Then I want to sit in the front row every time!"

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From the February 20-26, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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