I’ve never been one for movie marathons, but on a recent outing to the Science Museum of Minnesota, we tested our viewing limits. It was, after all, Omnifest, a unique five-film festival with the 45 minute films running continuously on the hour. And it was only running through February 19th, which made President’s Day weekend the ultimate opportunity to sit back and take in some quality IMAX.
My parents and my two kids and I ventured over to St Paul on Friday, February 13, with a general sort of sense on how we’d spend our time there. Our membership had expired in August 2014, so the first item of business was to look at renewing. Rather than do cost comparisons online, we enlisted the museum staff to help us determine the ideal membership level based on our plans for the day and upcoming perks we’d actually use. In the past we opted for the household membership (parents and kids), however, with the grandparents in tow it seemed to make sense to move up to the Supporting (or Darwin) level so extended family members could get in on the action.
With entrance fees, five tickets for three films and anticipated discounts and guest passes for future trips (i.e. the Feb. 20 – Sept. 7, Space: An Out-Of-Gravity Experience) included, we chose the Supporting level membership. Given we had the whole day open, we optimistically committed to the 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 Omni shows The Living Sea, D-Day and Hubble and opted to bypass Flight of Butterflies and The Greatest Places. I had some doubts about back-to-back films retaining our interest, especially for the 11 and 9 year-old contingency.
We hit the gift shop and the native Minnesota (or Collectors) level before giving into hunger pangs at Chomp, the museum’s main café. I’d recommend sticking with Sarpino’s pizza. We marveled a bit at the gigantic $2.2M, 36-foot tall astronaut being assembled on the third floor (first seen at Cochella 2014) before heading over to the area devoted to the science of wind and airflow.
We paused and got caught up in a discussion about the wind turbines that pepper southwestern Minnesota’s Buffalo Ridge region. The town where I grew up, Jackson, MN, is not technically in this region, but just east of it. I never officially knew Buffalo Ridge existed, but having driven on I-90 in this part of the state during many a whipping winter wind, I knew some sort of high wind weather-pattern phenomenon was in play. My Dad, the outdoorsman, and I challenged the exhibit’s assertion that winds were generally higher at night than during the day. More research to come on that front.
After that discussion died down, we headed to the IMAX entrance for our first of three films we would see that day, The Living Sea, narrated by Meryl Streep. The highlights were the surfing, Bay of Fundy tides and U.S. Coast Guard rescue training in rough waters (i.e. The Perfect Storm). The low lights for me: the jellyfish and the ocean-bottom dwelling creature that spanned the length of a full football field. The 1995 film felt all of its 20 years.
We shuffled out of the sold-out theater, past the sixth-level Elements Café and looped right back down the motion-induced Musical Stairs to the fifth floor (lobby level) Omni entrance. Some of us could have used a java infusion from Java Lab, but no food or drink is allowed in the theater and downing a latte in only six minutes was not an option. The doors opened for the 3:00 film – D-Day: Normandy 1944. We filed in and sat in the same row and nearly the same seats as the previous show.
D-Day was the only new one of the five films showing during this Science Museum’s 18th annual Omnifest (see the Tangential review and the Strib review). My mom shot me a look before it started – were we sure the content would be suitable for the kids? Narrated by Tom Brokaw, the film used maps to make sense of military strategy, still photography, historical re-enactments and live-action aerial footage to retrace the momentous World War II turning point. It dealt with history and the subject matter in a non-violent, contextual and educational way. And it was perfectly suitable for the kids. In fact, we unanimously agreed that this was our favorite film of the day.
Again, we filed out of the theater and back into the line for our third film of the day at 4:00, Hubble. A routine set in as we took nearly the same seats in the second row at center, evoking an uneasy feeling like Bill Murray experiences in the film Groundhog Day. Hubble proved to be enlightening for our group and especially for my parents, who understood Hubble’s complexities only as they were conveyed via media in a pre-internet era.
This film posed questions about the human race and our place in space. Questions we’ve always debated and continue to ask. Drawing from my recent viewing of Gravity, I posed a question to NASA astronaut Mike Fossum on the Science Museum’s Instagram page: “Do you ever feel claustrophobic in space? #ironic.” The film seemed like the appropriate film to end our Omnifest experience and launch our interests in a return trip to the Science Museum when Space opens, February 20.