Starting with Warren Burger's tenure as Chief Justice in 1969, the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court have made it a point to set aside at least one day a month for movie night. The last screening, which was held at Justice Anthony Kennedy's residence, featured Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the latest installment in director Steven Spielberg's highly acclaimed franchise. After figuring out the seating arrangement and making sufficient pop corn, the gang was ready to begin watching.
"It took a while to get started - Ruth [Ginsberg] kept complaining about the low volume and John [Roberts] and Stephen [Breyer] wouldn't stop bickering over who actually called 'fives' on the recliner - but once things got settled I think we had a quite enjoyable viewing," remarked Justice David Souter. "Though the movie was long and not as good as Temple of Doom or Raiders of the Lost Ark, I think I can confidently express the majority's opinion that the film was a lot of fun."
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull takes place during the Cold War where Soviet agents tail Professor Jones in the hopes he will decipher an encoded message brought to him by a young man named Mutt Williams. The contents of the message bring Indiana and Mutt to Peru where they find a supernatural skull that, if it falls into the wrong hands, could spell doom for the West if not the world.
"After we finished watching the movie, we talked about our thoughts on the film," stated Justice Souter. "Almost everyone in Anthony [Kennedy]'s living room was in agreement that what we just watched was action-packed, entertaining and a great escape from the tedious legal stuff we have to do all the time."
Vigorously dissenting from the Court's view that the latest Indiana Jones movie was enjoyable, Justice Antonin Scalia passionately declared that he could not see how anyone in their right mind, especially if they were fans of the original movies, could support Spielberg's "blasphemy."
"As I wrote in Lawrence v. Texas, our great nation's history and traditions must necessarily inform the Court's opinions," stated Scalia via telephone as he prepared to fly down to Duke University School of Law to judge its annual Dean's Cup competition. "Today's majority opinion that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is pleasant blatantly flouts this principle by unabashedly praising a film that egregiously deviates from the series' original meaning and purpose. I therefore vehemently dissent."
Scalia, a self-avowed movie originalist, points to the fact that the latest incarnation of Indiana Jones is incoherent, contrived and full of elements that are completely inimical to the essence of the franchise.
"Sure the earlier movies could be occasionally far-fetched but the films were so well done that these aspects could easily be forgiven," related Scalia. "But monkeys teaching humans to swing from trees, skulls with alien powers, man-eating ants and surviving nuclear blasts in a refrigerator; these things are so contrary to the fundamental tenets of Indiana Jones that I am ashamed to be part of a group that somehow thinks this perversion is acceptable."
This isn't the first time Justice Scalia has emphatically disagreed with his colleagues concerning movie preferences. As seen in his dissenting opinions in Godfather III, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and The Matrix Revolutions, Scalia often takes offense to sequels that diverge substantially from what made the initial movie or movies great.
"The other guys can heap all the encomia they want on it but nothing they say will convince me that The Phantom Menace was a respectable film," declared Scalia in an earlier opinion. "All the special effects in the world cannot erase a lack of character development, poor acting and the presence of a supremely annoying lizard-like creature. [Director George] Lucas, by making the movie as he did, and the Court, by praising it, totally ignore the greatness of the original trilogy and therefore lay waste to the doctrine of stare wars decisis."
Justice Souter, who authored the Court's majority opinion in the Indiana Jones decision, counters that Scalia's view of movie interpretation is flawed.
"Indiana Jones, like other series, needs to be viewed as a living, breathing franchise, not a static piece of cinematography," argued Souter. "Movies should be judged according to the mores of the time not necessarily by what what worked ten, thirty or fifty years ago. Hopefully by understanding this Justice Scalia will be able to pull that giant stick out of his textualist behind and thus not be so irritable every time he comes over for movie night."