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Friday, July 25, 2014

GREAT SPECIAL EFFECTS


alice neel
 
Waiting at the bank drive-thru today, I was looking at the meadow across the road from the bank, about an acre between the post office and the house on the corner. The meadow was alive with Queen Anne's lace, the flower. Did not take camera, so I sat there and memorized the meadow, and now it's back in my head alongside an auditory memory, Neil Young singing, Look at Mother Nature on the run in the nineteen seventies. Mother Nature, by the twenty teens, couldn't run fast enough. International corporations that (who?) answer to no one have declared genocide---that's Christian for jihad---on Mother Nature. This new century we're in, depicted in sci-fi as futuristic, unimaginably advanced, is looking like the trend is going the other way, deconstruction of the renascence of the Twentieth Century. It was called the Reformation after the Renaissance, and the Dark Ages after the Classical Age. The present reformation was begun by the Reagan Revolution, which really was a revolution. It turned our direction away from the Progress of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, to dismantling, step by step, the social advances of the time, erasing Roosevelt's existence. Lord, how the John Birch Society hated Roosevelt. It would have been all right if only white people benefitted from the social advances of the 1930s and 40s. But somebody black benefitted. Unacceptable. The Reagan Revoution is characterized by the systematic deconstruction of every social program that benefitted black people, first, then went after any benefit to working class white people. The falsehood of trickle-down was used by way of propaganda to justify it; war on the poor is how it worked out.  
 
alice neel
 
I've been remembering a Hollywood movie of the mid-90s, Independence Day, with Jeff Goldblum and other familiar faces, the blockbuster of its week in the lights. It concerned several space ships, each fifteen miles diameter, here to scoop up the earth's surface for its minerals. They zap big cities about the same as with an H-bomb. They want to kill every living thing and take the crust we live on. I'd remembered this much about it, and recognized at the time, in its first weeks in theaters, its emphasis on what the international corporations were doing to the crust of the earth under our feet, corporations "too big to fail," too big to defeat, like the alien space ships. I ordered it from netflix and saw it two evenings ago with friends, Lucas and Judy, visiting from Georgia, their cabin across the road among the trees. Just a few minutes into it, I was ashamed I'd recommended it. By the time it was over, I saw my credibility for movie suggestions take a nose-dive, crash and burn. Again. Remembering the time I suggested they see Ernest Goes To Camp. After Independence Day, I suppose I have no credibility left. It was cheesy. It was Hunt For Red October cheesy. The president flying a fighter jet shooting down alien fighter jets, the mad scientist in Area 51 killed by the tentacled alien he kept alive to study. It was Charlie Chan and early Jane Fonda movies cheesy. It was a children's film with adult actors playing children. Befitting the cheesiest of movies, Jeff Goldblum's character is named David, emphasized several times, Hey, DAVID. His name was spoken as through a megaphone until the last dim-witted one in the audience got it. Oh yeah, David and Goliath, little man, big space ships. Duh. David is the guy everybody in the office was bored with for reminding them to put their empty soft drink cans in the recycling receptacle instead of dropping them on the office floor like they do by habit. He was also a mathematical genius who figured out how to defeat all the big spaceships at once before they destroyed our heroes the camera was watching.
 
alice neel
 
The movie started with hearing REM on the radio, It's the end of the world as we know it. I got the feeling it was telling me this could be a fairly cool movie, opening with REM. It wasn't long before I realized that was a false reading. It just happened to be REM singing that song. The Bee Gees would have been more suited to the movie. REM gave false hope. The wave of the movie's rhythm went from corny to really corny. The genius's eureka formula that defeated the impregnable amounted to a glorified third grade science project. The drama wasn't even gripping. It brought to mind a movie I made the mistake of seeing with Jon Voight, Anaconda. It was so blatantly corny that when Anaconda struck, I laughed. It was too ridiculous to regard in any way but hilarious. Independence Day was not quite as bad as Anaconda, but they are in the same bottom league. David saved the world by slinging the stone, planting a virus, and killing Goliath with one rock, and taking down the whole fleet of evil space ships with one virus. David had to fly a jet into the computer system of one of the devil ships, assisted by Will Smith piloting his jet. Responsible white man with genius mind and responsible black man with genius skills save the world, the white president and first lady, too. The story involved the white house, military planning spaces, hundreds of televisions with graphs on them, a general standing around looking authoritative. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, each had a love interest that gave them hope when there was no other to be found. Goldblum's white girlfriend wanted with a Protestant zeal to be hyper-successful, advisor to the president. Goldblum had to outdo her important role by saving the earth and humanity with it.
 
alice neel
 
Will Smith had his babe he gave an engagement ring to, Vivica A Fox. They had an uncanny way of finding each other when they needed to. One time, she was in the ruins of zapped LA, dragging her little boy around, son of Will Smith, the actor, running from ruin to ruin looking for her man, and found him walking on the salt flats of Nevada. Oh, there you are, baby. Thought I'd never find you. Often, I felt like the movie was about to break out and reveal its true self, a John Waters film. The cast was familiar from pop movies, though I could only name a few, the ones already named. The general, an actor I've seen a dozen times, the stereotypical general, turned out to be the shortest person in the movie. I started noticing him early in his appearances that he seemed awfully short. He looks like he is at least six feet tall, when he may be no more than five feet. It came to the place for me that every time he was in a scene I was looking at all the other people in relation to him, assessing his actual size. In his  uniform surrounded by short people, he looks like a big man. In the same movie with Jeff Goldblum, basketball player height, the actor playing general, whose name I have never known, looked almost like a midget among the other actors, even with Goldblum when he was sitting down. It seemed somewhat jarring to realize this clich√© general I've seen at least a dozen times was so short. These were the kinds of details that occupied my mind for lack of anything else to pay attention to. About an hour into it, Lucas got up and went to bed. Judy and I elected to see it through, laughing at ourselves for wanting to see it through to completion. The greatest laugh of all came when the town drunk, who flew a crop-dusting plane like a cowboy, was seen flying a fighter jet. Major transition. Mister Common Man sacrifices his worthless life that others might live, saves the world by flying his jet into the space ship's vulnerable spot to make it explode. Or something. The film was interesting only as an allegory, and one very poorly realized. I couldn't help but think of Fifties sci-fi movies like This Island Earth or It Came From Outer Space. Independence Day had the same quality, but with great advances in filmmaking behind it. It was a movie that about all anybody can say of it would be, great special effects, like was said of Jessica Lange's King Kong. The substance of a Tom & Jerry cartoon drama. 
 
alice neel herself
 
 
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