SERIOUSLY. So it's spring. You've got
stuff to do: yard work, firing up the grill, planning that summer
vacation, hitting up the local swimming pool, and whatever else your
average American does during this time of year. But there's one thing
that has more than likely been missing from your repertoire of spring
activities. Something that is an incredibly awesome, epic experience. I
speak of the NHL playoffs. Obviously, I don't expect you to watch all of the NHL playoffs. Instead, I
have a simple challenge for you: watch one hockey playoff game.
There are a few guidelines going in:
Most important: pick a team to root for. You can look at the list
of playoff contenders and choose or you can just look to see when a
game is on that you can watch and simply pick one of the teams playing
and root for them in that game. If you don't follow hockey, that means
you probably don't have any emotion tied up in any particular team,
even if you follow football or baseball. So pretend like you do. When you watch
this one game, pretend like you really, really want one of the teams to
win. And you may choose any team for any reason, whether they are your
regional team, they happen to have one of the few hockey players you've
actually heard of, or just because you like their uniforms. Doesn't
matter. Just pick one.
Try to watch a Versus channel broadcast. If you don't get Versus,
then you probably don't get any of those FSN sports channels, either,
and you won't get any of the Canadian broadcast games without a
subscription to NHL Center Ice. So that means you will have to watch
the NBC broadcast. Not ideal, but not a deal-breaker, either.
Don't watch game one of a series. Try to watch a pivotal game
three, which should be easy since all game threes are pivotal. It's
when a team breaks a 1-1 tie, starts the comeback from a 2-0 deficit,
or starts to check out of the playoffs as they fall to 3-0. No matter
the outcome, both teams will be playing hard to win game three.
Watch the entire game.
Don't jump in during the second period or half way through the first.
Don't stop watching early. Don't even skip the pregame stuff. If the
game starts at 2 PM, have the TV on at 2 PM. Remember: this isn't the
NFL, so there won't be twenty minutes of commercials, opening concerts
by already-washed-up American Idol winners, or interviews with network sitcom stars.
actually focus on what's happened so far during the series
and maybe even have a few short interviews with players. Granted, many
players are Slavs, Norwegians or French Canucks so you will hear a lot
of, "Vell ve do dis over dar and eet no work so den ve try to do dis
udder ting over dere." but they're trying, so don't hold it against
As you watch your game, keep an eye out for the following things:
The anger you get when one of your players commits a bad penalty,
giving the other team a power play.
The happiness or heartbreak reflected on the faces of the players
at the end of the game.
The two faces of hockey.
things only scratch the surface. If you like sports, hockey's
got it all. Do yourself a favor and tune in during the playoffs, which
start very soon. After you watch that one game, see if you are able to
resist finding out how the series ends. If you absolutely hate every
second of the experience, I don't know what to tell you other than to have
fun with the NBA playoffs:
The definition of "trying too hard".
Have fun with that. Really.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
MOTORHEAD? Periodically, I do ask myself questions. (Surprised?
Like why do I despise the left so much? They have different views. Why
does it always feel like a kick in the gut when they advocate their
positions? Aren't these just political and philosophical differences
intelligent people are allowed to have, even if they always assume that our positions are not intelligent?
But the answer I have to give myself is "no." The truth is that the
left is anti-philosophical. Philosophy means love of knowledge. What's
more and more apparent to me is that the left hates human knowledge and
the human experience that informs it. They have literally fallen out of
love with life. I've spoken of this before in terms of the Greek term
thanatos, but today I'm going a level deeper, all the way back to the
sensory experience that makes our minds and memories so instantly
evocative. What life feels
like to those who are actually living it.
Obviously, there's no end of ways to do this. Who is it who has made
sex into reproductive politics, a battle between male desire and female
resentments that is supposed to end more often than not in abortion
rather than families? Who has transformed the pleasures of the table
into a grim regimen of bran muffins, tofu, carob. and politically
veganism rather than the delights of the taste buds and the art of
cuisine? Who has insisted that the glorious and multifarious
differences among us need to be suppressed and squeezed flat as paste
into a bureaucratic language that says nothing and takes pride in its
loss of precision and poetry?
Leave all that for another day. Today I am simply a dinosaur
remembering the sensory delights of an age that is being prematurely
crushed out of our lives. Our president tells us he wants to reduce
fossil fuel imports while refusing to drill for more in our own lands
and waters. He prefers windmills and solar panels to the stink of oil.
He implies that he's smarter than we are and is doing this for our own
good. His energy secretary -- that dead-eyed bureaucrat of science --
wants the price of gasoline to triple
so that we'll all fall into line
with the new orthodoxy we're too dumb to understand.
Except that I have a mind steeped in fossil fuels, and it's a rich mine
of memory, involving all the senses in a way that can't be erased from
my life experience or my consciousness. I've said before that I'm a
motorhead. What does than mean? It means I've driven everything powered
by some kind of internal combustion engine all my life. Trucks, cars of
every description from Bugattis to Cobras, tractors, outboard
motorboats, diesel cabin
cruisers, airboats, and motorcycles, and I've been an avid spectator at
internal combustion displays I couldn't participate in myself --
fighter planes past and present, helicopters, funny-car drag racers,
Formula 1 grand prix cars, and on and on.
Something odd but true. The dream world of sleep can't invent or summon
such experiences. In my dreams I frequently fly, but all senses
excepting the visual are muted or absent. Fear and elation are there
but not smell, pain, or loud noises. Dreams are the mind unhooked from
its sensory bases. They are therefore pallid, muddled, and but a weak
subset of life. I think this is where the liberals and lefties live
(think pot and the Sunday NYT),
because they have never lived for real and never experienced the
physical experience. Dreams are like books. They give the impression of
sensory experience, but an impression is all it is. Why it seems to
them, ultimately, to make little sense and more than a little dreary.
You have to have lived it to feel the instantaneous aliveness of an
outboard motor churning up the tang of salt water on a bright blue blue
sea and sky. The smell and the sound cannot be imagined without the
underlying experience. Funny-cars roaring pain into your ears as the
explosion of speed hurts your eyes. The intoxicating, eerily
smell of hot Castrol-R at the racetrack. (Only one smell on earth is
better.) The perfect rhythm and thrum of a straight six motor in an XKE
or TR6, under your hand via the gearshift. The ungodly stereo howl of
four-barrel Carter carburetor opening its secondaries atop a massive
440 Chrysler V-8 with dual exhausts. The deadly synchrony of a P-51
engine throttling back for a strafing run. The simultaneity of the
throttle and instant leap forward of a fast motorcycle responding to the will of your hands and knees.
There are endless variations on all these sense memories, and
extensions too. From the rush of high speed, more energizing than
terrifying, all the way down to the satisfying but pungent putt-putt of
a small diesel in a smallish wooden boat.
Who is it that wants to take this all away from us, as if it were
collectively no more than an expression of human greed and selfishness?
People who prize too little the sensory component of
their own lives and the emotions to which such vivid memories are
connected. Which is to say that there's something about life itself
don't get and never will.
I don't want such people standing in judgment of me, now or ever. Why I
despise them so.
Shame on me or more serendicity? Until Apotheosis alerted me in his
comment, I didn't know that David E. Davis had just died. But his passing
is a milestone, as well as an echo of this post and many
others. He was a force of nature, with a lifelong love affair with
cars and life itself. He took over a boutique magazine about sports
cars (Sports Car Graphic, Sports Car Illustrated, I don't
know), renamed it Car & Driver,
set about convincing Americans that driving was not about cruising
around in boaty monsters like Cadillacs but being in control of the
vehicle, feeling its workings, and enjoying the adrenaline rush of
being a ground-bound pilot.
Several facts about him off the top of my head. He made Car & Driver a hit when, in
1964, he dared to do a comparison test between the Ferrari GTO
(megabucks) and the Pontiac GTO (a heretofore economy car called the
Tempest into which some crazed GM engineer had dropped a 390 cubic inch
V8). He declared the Pontiac the winner, thus beginning the age of the
American muscle car. His magazine became the go-to source for what was
fast, good handling, and fun to drive and own, from muscle cars to sports car to good handling sedans and trucks. It was Car & Driver
that cemented a whole generation's obsession with 0-60 times. It was
never about money and status. It was always about the thrill, the control in hard cornering,
and the kick of speed. He was, as far as I know, the creative force
behind the Cannonball Run, an illegal coast-to-coast race that was run
in actuality and subsequently became a bad Burt Reynolds movie.
But he was no paper tiger. He'd been a racer himself, back in the
days of the FIRST British invasion, in the 1950s, when MGs,
Triumphs, Austin Healeys, Sunbeams, Bristols, Morgans, and Jaguars introduced nimble roadsters to
the American public as an alternative to monster land yachts. Alfa
responded to the post above with a memory of her own dream car:
Which is pretty much the same car that David E., as we knew him, nearly
died in long before his writing and publishing career. He had a crash
that smeared his face across the asphalt and required years of plastic
surgery to (sort of) correct. But he still loved the MG.
Under his editorial control, Car
& Driver fought for automobile safety by promoting improved
handling, braking, seatbelts as a reinforcement of good driving
position, and a tiered driver's licensing system that would enable the
most skilled the greatest access and freedom on the Interstate highway
system. His magazine spearheaded and documented the American
media-driven fraud associated with the Audi sudden acceleration myth
that nearly the sank the company decades ago. CD also was integral in
fighting for European-style seatbelts which were more snug than
American women liked; problem was, the "slack" that Detroit permitted
to alleviate the breast-hugging properties that annoyed female drivers
was also causing them far more serious injury in the event of actual
collisions, which do happen. When I left the east coast for Ohio in the
early 1980s, Car & Driver
was fighting another war -- tooth and claw -- against airbags because
they were dangerous to driver safety in crashes and deprived drivers of
control of their vehicles at the precise moment when it was most needed.
I lost track during my Ohio years. Surrounded by too many station
wagons and minivans, I guess. Accidents in my part of Ohio were usually
one-car affairs. Somebody stopped paying attention and fell off the
highway. I fell too -- behind the larger car story because I was
ironically engaged as a consultant in trying to save GM as a business.
When I got back east in the 1990s, I was shocked to learn that Car & Driver had become one of
the foremost advocates of airbags. Davis had moved on to a new
magazine, less populist than CD, and I stopped reading car magazines
altogether in disgust. You see, in my consulting life, I had actually
had the chance to visit a manufacturer of airbags in Salt Lake City. I
learned straight from the mouths of their engineers that they were
explosive devices. Their principal interior component looks exactly
like a landmine, you know, the kind that blows the legs off children in
Third World nations.
What I live with every day: if my wife is an accident that causes her
airbag to deploy, it will kill her. She is less than five feet tall,
which means that she must sit much closer to the pedals and therefore
the steering wheel than us bigger folks, and she is no longer a spring
chicken. Her bones are no longer supple. When the bomb goes off to save
her life, her chest will be crushed. Thank you, loving nanny state.
David E. Davis was once an advocate for individual responsibility and
cars designed for drivers, not inert passengers. I hate the new
Mercedes ads which promise that their cars can save you from
inattentiveness and even sleep by taking over in a pinch. No. They can't.
Farewell, David E. Thanks for having fought the good fight as long as
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
MORE DIAMOND STATE WACKOS
. Delaware is 20 minutes away from here. It's a state with three
counties, only one of them inhabited and that one by one city. Which
means they're nothing but levels of government; federal, state,
municipal (Wilmington), "greater Wilmington" a.k.a. New Castle
County, and townships, of course, all piled on top of individual citizens. Does it work? No.
DelDot, the offending agency here, is a tri-state joke (NJ, PA, and
DE). We all know that Delaware traffic signage is designed to get you
lost and that DelDot "improvement" projects invariably involve years of
main artery shutdowns with no visible signs of progress ever. On any
given day, about half of the lanes of the Delaware Memorial bridges to
and from New Jersey are closed for maintenance, although, oddly,
there's rarely a DelDot truck or worker in sight.
. Probably the worst reviewed movie of all time.
Usually listed in a high position on any list of the top ten worst
movies ever made. Soft core porn. Rotten in every respect. I just
watched it again. On a hunch.
Why would I do that? The cast: Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, John
Gielgud, Peter O'Toole. Porn? I don't think so.
You know what it is? An American Fellini movie, marginally better than Satyricon. I mean, yeah, it's a movie. Good editing, art design,
acting, and a coherent screenplay written by Gore Vidal.
So what's it about? The dangers of absolute power in a global empire
with no moral basis.
Why did it get trashed? It was made in 1979, by Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione,
and it may be the best ever
representation of imperial Rome ever recorded on film --
colorful, cruel, violent, lewd, with tons of casual nudity and casual
sex (a 1979 anachronism: Patrician women in Rome had no pubic hair;
depilation was an expensive service).
It makes the HBO series Rome
look limp-wristed. (Rome
didn't have Helen Mirren screamingly giving birth in front of thousands
of onlookers. Did it?) Caligula's
probably more accurate. The big
advantage here is that the movie used British actors but not a British
writer. Face it. The Brits always see Rome as an early version of the
British Empire. It wasn't. The Brits didn't have nearly as much fun or
pleasure or lack of bodily inhibition as the imperial Romans did. The
Romans were Italians, meaning
they screwed everything in sight and kept them as naked as possible too,
so you could always see every single hole you wanted to plug.
Not British. Roman.
Which is why it's a good reminder for all of us now. They were
completely different from us.
Let me repeat that. They were completely
different from us. Yes, they had concrete and aqueducts and coliseums,
but they were pagans. And they absolutely didn't care about killing
people or performing their conjugal duties in front of slaves.
Progress? Yes. You better believe it. Not since the Romans has any
nation had the kind of military superiority over the rest of the world
the United States now owns. Do we kill everyone who harms one of our
citizens? No. Do we permit our leaders to despoil every woman and boy
they desire in every orifice they may penetrate? No. They get away with a
lot, but not that if we can
Caligula shows us that we are not
Rome.That's a good thing. And in showing us that Rome was licentious,
wild, sexually and otherwise obsessed, we are also asked if there
are limits to our new notions of diversity. If there were a Roman
Empire today, would we tolerate imperial incest, routine torture unto
death, and a cult that habitually turns leaders into gods fit for either
worship or assassination?
Having watched Caligula, I'm
now thinking it's still too mild. Let's
see Rome for what it really was. Hardcore porn acted out on the
national stage while the gladiators gladiated and the Patrician women power
fucked and poisoned their way to the top.
No wonder Julius Caesar was a stone cold killer. And no wonder Caligula
tried to kill all his senators.
What did I forget? Oh yeah. The movie. Unless you really don't like
naked women by the dozen, it's actually not a bad production. If you cn
fight your way through all the breasts and butts and bushes without
having a Christian heart attack, you'll find that all the reviews
you've read are the unfairest since the last NYT review of a conservative book.
Caligula may have been the first punk. Unless Akhenaton was.
Arguments for another day.
Why did they hate it so? Bob Guccione. And all those tits, asses, and
vaginas we good people never want to see.
Although I'm reminded of a redneck comic quip none of you will
understand: "I went to a strip bar and saw a naked vagina. You know
what they say. Seen one -- now I want to see them all."
We're always fighting the Romans in ourselves. What Christianity is all about. Me? I feel fortified for having seen "Caligula."
Monday, March 28, 2011
Blood and Death.
Is there anything
cooler than being a vampire? uh, yeah.
. A lot of
IP regulars don't think I do enough to keep up with
science-fiction movies, but I try.
Stargate Universe has
gotten considerably more
interesting in theological terms since I wrote that early review. Now
they're looking for a structural god principle at the heart of the
universe...) But I also have other fish to fry, other low genres to
keep up with. Like comic
movies. And horror movies.
For example, I even watch FearNet at Comcast On Demand, as well as the horror
stuff that makes it onto the other cable channels. Not when Mrs. CP is
around because she can't stand the gore, as I also frequently cannot.
But she knows why I do it. So many young screenwriters and directors
get their first chance to make movies by doing low-budget horror films.
In that respect it's a glimpse of the future. Obviously, not all
low-budget horror makers will become successful or important. Still,
their vision of what horror isin
an indicator of what their young audience responds to.
Which is concerning. Especially when you look at the output in terms of
trends and, well, obsessions. Of these, there are two. Vampires and
Zombies. Kids love these themes. Which are both about death.
Yeah, I know that youngsters have always flirted with death. John Keats
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness
pains my sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, ...
Of course, Keats was 26 when he really did die. Shakespeare lived longer, but his
young Hamlet also posed the life-and-death question:
To be or not to be, that is the
It isn't the question that's new. It's the way it's being posed and the
way it's being disposed. Which are alarming. Zombies are the simplest
exemplar of the problem. The first zombie movie was George Romero's
"Night of the Living Dead," made for about $10,000 in 1968. It was
crude social commentary, suggesting that selfishness outweighs all
other considerations when life-and-death issues are at stake, and its
punchline was racial. The altruistic black hero gets gunned down in the
final scene. Romero persisted, recreating his zombies into symbols of
everything wrong with modern culture until it became clear he was using
zombies as a symbol of everything homogeneous about modern American
life. Interesting and to the point? Not really. Easy and superficial if
you're a grownup. Easy and convenient if you're a kid. Everybody's dead
but you. Or so it seems until you factor in the vampire obsession.
Some of you may remember that the original Bram Stoker vampire tale was
about the conflict between good and evil. The implied sexual deviancy
of vampire intimacy then became the basis, in the counterculture, for
equating vampirism with repressed sexuality, which led indirectly, via
Ann Rice's paeans to differentness, principally homoeroticism as a
distinct path to eternal life, to the blatant romanticization of
vampirism in movies like Underworld
and Twilight, which spun the
mythology 180 degrees in the opposite direction from its origin.
Vampires are the living ones,
possessed of supernatural and beautiful
powers, and everyone else is dead.
Where does all this lead? Where it began. Death. What our pampered
youth identifies with most. Death. Courtesy of FearNet, I have a couple
of observations. There are disturbing trends in recent horror movies. I
watched two this morning which only belatedly revealed
themselves as vampire movies. They were as different from one another
as could be, but they ended in the same place. The first was called The Hamiltons, about a family which
had lost its mother and father in a car accident. An elder brother, a
pair of brother-sister twins, and a younger son were struggling on
their own. The younger son was trying to make sense of his life by
recording family scenes on a camcorder. Only slowly do we realize that
the Hamiltons are born vampires, their plight described several times
as a "disease," which results in callous and brutal killings of
innocents, accompanied by multiple other predictable human crimes --
sadism, murder, incest, and psychopathy. Our camcorder hero's
progression is from rebellion to acceptance of his "disease" and
reunion with his family. "We need blood and lots of it." The movie ends
with a rancid, unsmiling smile.
What's extraordinary is the emphasis on blood alone. The narrator and
protagonist for most of the movie is a typically disaffected teenager.
He has no girlfriend, no interests other than his camcorder, no
friends, no identity. He falls for one of his brothers's female victims
and only comes into his own when he tries to rescue her and winds up
killing her because she was already, uh, irresistibly, bleeding. He makes it clear that
vampires (a word never mentioned in the movie) are not made but born.
Everything we think about them is not true. They live in the daylight
and they are among us, all of us, our next door neighbors, our friends
in school, everyone we regard as normal. There is no happiness. They
are the living dead among us. (I won't ask you to think of a chewed up human breast as a symbol of annihilated family...)
The second movie, "Grace," seems to start from an exactly opposite
perspective. Rosemary's Baby
as opposed to dysfunctional family. The first scene is (discreetly) an
act of coitus between husband and wife. He moves while she passively
accepts without pleasure and then elevates her pelvis to let the sperm
do their work. And then we are slowly lowered into a horror movie
metaphor centered on the lifegiving properties of the female breast.
(Yes, I'd have turned it off if it were a boob movie, but it wasn't.)
The conflict was bizarre, perverse, and subtly brilliant: breast versus
death, milk versus blood, and the widow's imitation life of New Age
vegan, tepid sexuality, and empty affectations versus the brute animal
will to survive. The husband died in a car accident, the baby of his
critically injured wife was pronounced
dead three weeks before delivery, but the tofu-eating mother with the
ex-Lesbian lover midwife carried the dead baby to term, delivered it,
and then willed the stillborn child to life. Except that the infant
girl really was dead. Her
temperature kept dropping, flies swarmed her
crib, and when the baby breastfed she invariably drew blood. Tofu mom
finally tumbles to the fact that her baby is feeding not on milk but
blood and starts buying meat, from which she drains the bloody juices
for her baby's bottle.
Ultimately, she even kills to give her baby a
blood bottle. Satire or allegory? The dead husband's mother is also
obsessed with breast milk, believing she can, at the age of sixty,
still save her granddaughter because her sole sexual contact with her
husband over the years has been to keep her nipples stimulated and
supple. (She breastfed her son till the age of three; it's her
oxymoronically arid definition of motherhood.) She
still has a breast pump and it still works after she blows off the dust. She sails in to the rescue
when she learns the mother is critically anemic. She dies for her
delusion. The only hero is a spittingly protective black cat, who delivers dead rats into the
baby's crib to keep her alive. The movie ends with the mother and the
midwife (and the cat) on the road in an RV seeking blood for their monster baby --
and the formerly vegan mother's discovery, now that she's on a high protein,
liver-rich diet to bolster her breast milk -- that her baby is now teething. Final horror shot is of
Yes. Horror movies. Cheap but not trivial. My conclusions? Vampirism
isn't an obsession because it's romantic. Anymore than zombie movies
are about conformist adults. They're important to our kids because
there's something missing in their lives -- namely, life itself. They
feel themselves a herd of the dead, born
dead, advancing on the culture without anything but voracious appetites
and guiltily protective parents. They know it can't be right, the way
they feel, but all they can think of is what they want, with very
little knowledge to vitiate their desires. They have sexual desire of a sort -- akin to
the vampire's bloodlust -- but their own blood is lacking in the
vitality that leads to dreams, ambition, accomplishment, greatness and honest-to-God consciousness.
They sense that they are the
dead ones, and however much they'd like to pretend they're possessed of
extraordinary powers -- as the MSM and the public schools keep
repeating, repeating, in hopes
it might be true -- they know they're shallow, ignorant, only
a cellphone call away from comatose, and dead on
There's one more trend I've seen in recent horror movies, led, I think,
by the Brits, who used to
have a feel for such things. The new standard ending of horror movies
is for no one to survive. I
won't recite all the examples. (Endless.) The one I will mention is an
movie called Qube, which I
thought brilliant down to its last ten seconds. The heroine was Kari
Matchett, whom we've loved since Nero
Wolfe, and she survived a nailbiting two-hour ordeal that had us
all rooting for her in a movie of truly brilliant conception. She
turned out to be the heroine who solved the unsolvable problem, and
then, two seconds after she delivered her solution, she got shot in the
back of the head. Roll credits.
This is the new paradigm in a nutshell. How to spoil an otherwise good
movie in a microsecond.
Ya know? Fuck you, youngsters. If you want to die, die. Go ahead. Just
don't bother your betters with your nihilistic pretensions. I feel
sorry for you. But I cannot save you if you don't have a passion for
. So doleful, glum DRV is
complaining about an absence of uplift. Never mind posts about
inspiring cats, cheesecake and YouTube clips of Elizabeth Taylor, a Puck Punk tour de force, and an open thread designed to
invigorate our in-house political savants. Not enough for DRV:
[T[his blog has been somewhat of a
downer of late. I admit my comments have been pretty pessimistic as
well. But it really seems like it has been a while since we had an
uplifting post about racing cars, or music, or sports, or...well,
anything. I mean, come on. Haters gonna hate, knowhutimsayin? There's
still good in the world.
Can we get a little love in here?
Sure thing, DRV. Something literally
about uplift. A movie called Sky
Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Thing is, it won't be
everbody's cup of tea. A user review at imdb.com sums it up
I love it, I just can't help it...
This movie is somewhat the opposite of "Sin City". Sin City was a movie
liked by everyone and made me feel stupid for not liking it. Sky
Captain is the opposite I guess, despised by everyone and made me feel
immature by liking it. But the movie is just too good not to like,
It gives the great atmosphere of old cinema plus comic books, and it
does so perfectly using flying funny looking evil robots, strange laser
guns, and comic-book like dialog. And it was the first time I said to
myself "wow, Angelina Jolie is actually a good actress". She's nothing
like her boob-flashing movies.
And story? For me a story is good as long as it's not boring. And this
is a comic-book adaptation, it was MEANT to be silly, and it didn't
bother me at all since I was busy enjoying the film. If u're a stiff
businessman with no shred of child imagination and if u even hated Star
Wars saying "hey, this can't happen in real life", then don't watch
this movie. If u're a comic-books fan, watch it and love it. It has a
great atmosphere, great visual effects, and it's exciting. And it's fun
I said, "pretty well." It's obviously not
a great movie because it was a dud at the box office and most of you
have never heard of it. But the Sin
City comparison is apt. It's much more art design and
cinematography than a rip-roaring action movie, which it also is. Sin
City's provenance consists entirely of comic books and pulp noir
detective novels. Sky Captain's provenance is much more far-reaching,
deliberately evocative of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, H.G. Welles's The Shape of Things to Come, the
original King Kong, and the War of the Worlds, as well as early
twentieth century science fiction, the romance of the art deco
movement, and, um, heroes who save the day.
There's lots that's annoying. From almost the first scene you wish
the utterly talentless Gwyneth Paltrow could have been traded in on Cate Blanchette, and Jude
Law on Timothy Olyphant or Barry Pepper. And the annoyance keeps getting worse with every leaden line delivered by Paltrow and every simpering affectation of Jude Law. But the
enough for me. The hero's weapon of choice is a P-40 Warhawk (scroll)
with the famed, bloody shark mouth on the cowling employed by Chennault in
Burma and China. The clothes and everything else in matters of style
are late thirties glamour. And I have always loved old-time visions of
future technology, monstrous robots coupled with squealing vaccuum tube
radios, sleekly voluptuous cars, flapping flying machines, you know the kind of thing. And
there's still the Empire State Building, where the Hindenberg III docks
majestically in the opening scene, the Chrysler Building looking new,
and the Flatiron Building looking beautifully like itself, all done up
dramatically enough to look like an Atlas
Shrugged movie that veered suddenly sci-fi. Visually, it all
works amazingly well, a curious amalgam of atavistic black-and-white, semi-sepia,
and startling technicolor. I'm sure not everyone will share my
assessment of this. But it's mine, and honestly, they had me at the
first closeup of Sky Captain's vintage faceted pilot goggles and that heavily modified P-40. (Yup. It's also a
submarine with a back seat big enough for a long-legged blonde. Cool.)
The story? Who cares? Sky Captain is a standard issue comic book hero
who just might have been brought to life by someone else. Gwyneth Paltrow is
an anachronistic feminist journalist with no scruples but nice pencil
skirts. Angelina Jolie wears an eyepatch. Why not?
It's a thrill ride, definitely fun to watch, and not depressing, unless
your existential angst goes very deep.
Have fun not thinking about Obama for a couple hours.
if you'd rather see a really good
movie that isn't necessarily rah rah,
you could take the hint embedded above in the mention of Barry Pepper.
The link is to The Snow Walker.
also uplifting, but not like a story about the Bugatti Veyron.
More like, "We really are all in this together, and not all of us are
going to make it through to the other side." Is that a downer?