Sunday, September 28, 2014

Not at a Theater Near You

It might be over-stating the case to say that Hollywood movies have become Infantilized…vacuous comic books on a big screen. Certainly there is still a pocket of adult themed films usually held back until December for award consideration as if to appease the cineastes. Today’s L.A. Times has an article about some “high-risk” projects soon to be released. Yet half of them are by European directors. Also available through Netflix streaming is a fine array of foreign films which have never found distribution here. Ample proof that the art of cinema is still alive....just not here.

But for the most part American studio films aim only at my senses which are numb after a few previews and my hormones that are already spent. Heart and head have to be parked outside. The crop of blockbusters that show in theaters are deleterious to my fragile well-being. They spook and snooze me at the same time.

On my no-watch list are those about zombies, vampires, sharks, dinosaurs and man-eating tomatoes. No ghouls or grotesqueries. I’m also averse to coming-of-age films in which the characters are 37 years old with arrested development at age eleven. I’m done with haunted houses on dark and stormy nights. I have no interest in watching ninety minutes of explosions, close-ups of carnage with body parts or car-chases through a market place destroying dozens of fruit stands and assorted human beings.

I don’t care if they love all this in China. They also eat dog and scorpion. They loved Jerry Lewis in France but I won’t hold that against them. There’s no accounting for taste. Of all the millions poured into film-making can’t one studio accommodate the aging boomers and parents of boomers?  Are we, the chopped livers, not also a market?

The Brits know how to do it. All their world’s a stage. I’d rather watch Michael Kitchen grimace and twitch than Adam Sandler snicker and stare. European movies know what to leave out. They understand the power of the under-statement. They leave room for me to enter. Hollywood over-explains. Each scene foretells the next because it is formulaic.

I know that every story has already been told. But not quite in this way with those nuances by these actors. There is sufficient mystery in human relationships so one doesn’t need to introduce inter-galactic creatures invading our bloodstream with supernatural powers.

I’m aware that much of what was produced in bygone days was junk. But among the pablum were watchable films that didn’t rattle our sensory apparatus. The dream factory invented Noir. They sent our toes tapping with musicals. Capra defined Americana. Welles punctured it. The two Hepburns charmed us. Bogey hard-boiled us.

Now the covered wagons are gone and we are left adrift in the wasteland with a shuttered gate on the factory and broken windows. There is a speckled banana growing black in the fruit bowl.  Stories are rotting, untold, behind this window, that off-ramp.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Born Again

Here I am back as a millennial born when the clock struck the century. It was Y2K, the day the computer disaster didn't happen but it's been fairly disastrous ever since. True, I am semi-literate and hooked on post-apocalyptic movies, isn't everybody? I haven't a clue what our new war is all about or even that old one way back in naught three. 

I wish grandpa would stop calling me to fix his computer; I’ve been doing that since I was six. He couldn’t explain our current fighting in Syria, how we choose the ruthless dictator who gassed his own people over the masked sociopaths. He said we are bombing this extreme Muslim group because they cut off the head of two journalists. But our ally, Saudi Arabia, decapitates an average of four heads a week. So now our old enemies are our temporary friends but we don't want our new friends to win, just not to lose.

It’s too complicated for youngsters to understand, he said, after I installed his new modem, recovered his hardware, re-programmed his software, down-graded his cookies and up-graded his apps.

When he turned on the baseball game I knew it was time to leave. He offered to forego the game if I would stay to watch a Marx Bros. movie with him. He was laughing so hard he didn’t see me slip away. Too slow for my taste. Talk, talk. talk and then that guy with the harp. Pul-ease!

Grandpa promised me a new pair of hiking shoes if I got a library card. I already had walking, trotting, running and moseying-around shoes but I needed something to climb with.

I humored him about the library but the place is too quiet and what’s with all those books? It’s so yesterday. Why would I read a book if I can get the summary online in a few sentences? I’d probably need a power drink to keep awake anyway.

Do I really care what happened before I was born? Lincoln, Aristotle, Da Vinci…fine, I hope they all got along. If they couldn’t figure out how to live together in peace I don’t want to hear about it.  My inheritance is belched air and forests of stumps.... perfect for a makeover.

And why do I have to know how to tell time? Clockwise, what’s that? My watch is digital. Ties? Shoe laces?..whats wrong with Velcro? I’m saving up for my first tattoo. Pass the kale salad with extra quinoa and some carrot and cucumber juice.

I have my eyes on a multi-lingual Asian atheist I met on my new cloud. I figure we could move to some undisclosed location where they’ll never find us to pay off our student loans. I've been tracking an island in the Indian ocean but it isn't there anymore. " A" my name is Alias and my wife's name's Aimee. We live on an Arctic ice floe and we raise arugula. The future belongs to us.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Roosevelts

I was transfixed by the 14 hour chronicle of the Roosevelts shown on PBS this past week. It returned me to that time in both tangible and ineffable ways. Footage and commentary were seamlessly joined. There was something about FDR’s intonations that moved me then and still does.

I entered this world a few weeks after his inauguration in 1933. As shown in Ken Burns' documentary, families gathered around for his fireside chats. I remember that scene growing up, even the cathedral-like speaker of our radio and his patrician voice like no other, a perfect fit for that new medium. PresidentRoosevelt was one word. There was no other one for my first twelve years and when he died it was God who died. And my innocence.

It isn’t possible for me to recall that period without his presence as if it always carries his voice-over narration. Without necessarily understanding the complexity of the issues we listened and believed. We had the moral high ground. It was a felt experience. The world was coming apart but the American people were together. Was this my youthful unknowing? Perhaps. I shall never know.

I only know the March of Dimes collection box for polio passed around in the movie theaters. The FDR buttons I collected in 1940 for my beanie cap. His open car that passed my apartment house in the rain in 1944. And the sight of people crying on the sidewalk when word came on that Thursday afternoon that he had died. It was like a death in the family. Hearts broke and in breaking the nation’s heart grew stronger.... at least for a while.

The war would soon be over and with it the end of those simple times. Or was that my childhood vision coming into new consciousness? Our former enemies became our new best friends and our ally suddenly our enemy. Pernicious racism had not been addressed. He had made a Faustian pact with the southern states. The forces of Conservatism once more returned. Reviled by certain corporate heads and bankers, that man in the White House, as he was derisively called, somehow saved Capitalism from alternatives that had swept Europe.

The film showed that against the duplicity inherent in politics there was always Eleanor Roosevelt whose compassion and humanity had FDR’s ear. Without her voice in his ear we might never had heard his. The arc of her life was a model of We shall overcome. Her moral outrage, vision and courage has proven to be the tough act no one could follow.

The American Century began with Theodore in all his bluster and invigoration, his redefinition of government, reining in of rapacious capitalism, preservation of the natural landscape along with his slaughter of wild-life whose habitat it was. He was the most intellectual and literary president we’ve ever had and perhaps the most child-like. His legacy was a mass of contradictions. We still live with some of them and a long list of new ones.

The Roosevelts both shaped the century and were products of their time. One wonders if their presumption of continuing progress is a delusion or if that faith just requires an amplitude of vision from a distant perch.  The national unity FDR either created or presided over is desperately called for. Where are you Franklin and Eleanor?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Just Another Ho-Hum Day

It didn’t start out well. I had put a shirt in the washing machine that turned out to say, Dry Clean Only….in Chinese. Then I drove to the mail box at a four-corner stop sign in which all the curbs are painted red. I pulled over to drop in my matching red Netflix only to see a police car waiting for me. What was this... entrapment at a pedestrian only mailbox? Or maybe I made a wrong turn and ended up in Ferguson, Missouri.

However the officer approached with a benign face and said he had instructions to drive me to the airport. I was needed at once for the White House conference to solve the Issis mess.

True I had a track record of untangling a potential crisis when eleven families had each offered spaghetti for a P.T.A. pot luck dinner. But that was fifty-one years ago. And then there was the time I negotiated a settlement at a board meeting of condo homeowner’s. The hot-button issue was whether visiting grandchildren had rights to the swimming pool.

I mulled over these accomplishments on the chartered jet flight to Washington. Of course this wasn’t the first time President Obama had summoned me to weigh in on some vexing issues. Hadn’t I prompted him to do some end-runs around the bozos in Congress and even halt the Cuban embargo? Soon to come is the normalization of relations with Raoul Castro. Mark my words.

I was whisked off to meet with the inner circle in a subterranean bunker three floors below the basketball court. My advice was to call Vlad and tell him to keep his shirt on, cool it in Ukraine and set up a conference call with his friend, Assad. Let them meet in Putinograd, formerly St. Petersburg. We promise a neutralized buffer-state in Kiev. In return (Ras)Putin gets Assad to join with arch-enemy neighbors: the rag-tag Iraqis, oil-slick Saudis, Old-Young-Turks, our new best friends... the Kurds, and maybe even the hated ones in Iran to squeeze Issis into oblivion. What they do next is up them. Let them re-draw the map according to their own passions.

If our senator hawks have the itch to put their boots on the ground tell them to FedEx them to Syria or better yet let them all go. Other than McCain none have worn a uniform since the Boy Scouts. I would also urge we get all our news people out of the region. We can watch Al Jazeera for coverage.

My second proposal was for American Evangelicals to convene a world-wide conference with their fundamentalist counter-parts in the Muslim world and Jerusalem. They all speak the same language starting with Abraham. They can compare gods. Maybe have a food fight in a house of mirrors so they might see what knuckleheads they all are. They might even learn what a metaphor is and how their holy texts were never intended to be taken literally.

By now it was getting late and I needed to get back and pull my pajamas from the drier. For my services I only asked that the next executive order mandates all mailboxes allow for thirty-second parking.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Gibbous Thoughts From a Lunatic Moon

Your planet looks so calm from up here. So blue dotted with clumps of land that look like they used to fit together. Of all the gin joints in the galaxy the creatures that roam your orb must be celebrating day and night....but I hear otherwise.

And here I am in this cratered hunk of celestial debris. I don’t mean to complain particularly with all the green cheese I could ever ask for. Then we have that cow jumping over nightly while we dance by the light of. Thanks for that Hey diddle, diddle moment.

Consigned as we are out here to mere satellite status we laugh at earthlings for all those songs written about us. Frankly we’re tired of it all. Can we help it for being over-rhymed with June, spoon, swoon and lagoon? I’ll see your Looney Tunes and raise you a dearth, worth, girth, birth and Colin Firth.

You’ve had your fun with us. Don’t think we are ungrateful being a sonata or serenade. But we are not a paper moon and we have no moon river.

We moon dwellers use to resent being associated with lunacy however after observing your earthly shenanigans we think you are the ones ready for the loony-bin.

We are modest folk out here but assert our pull and pleased to set your calendar. We have a Man in the Moon, happily married. Together they see to it that your ocean tides are raised on schedule even if we go into near-vanishing mode in daylight.

Mostly we are nocturnal prowlers patrolling the night sky occasionally answering the howl of a wolf. Why we appear full to you in spooky movies is your problem. If I had my way we’d be a crescent reclining all the time. Though we possess little it is also my favorite apostrophe.

My advice is for you folks to visit more often. We enjoyed your small step for man. You are long overdue for that giant step for mankind. Stop abusing yourself like a wrecking ball. Get a grip. Or a gossamer thread to steady yourself. It seems from here that your dish ran away with your spoon. I fear if you go we go with you.

We’ve given you a blue moon, a harvest moon and our moon over Miami. Now it’s payback time. All we ask is you behave yourself.