April 6th, 2009

NCC-1701 Regula

Reunitings and floating cars

My dreams last night weren't just eventful for me: I watched someone get to hug someone he hadn't been able to hug for a long time. And after that, I got to hug my Grandma Jean, someone I haven't been able to hug for a long time. Brief visits by the dead: a vivid and wistful-feelings-causing dream situation. Grandma Jean and I then had a conversation both maddening and hilarious: me trying to tell her something important and her joshing with me, a wry grin on her face.

I also traveled in the dream-world. I rode in...well, if it was an elevated train, it was really elevated, I mean like blimp-height. And I looked down on a bridge that worked, um, without benefit of actual decks: vehicles simple were suspended between the railings and above water, and traveling just fine, thank you. And, embarassasingly, if I dropped anything from where I was, it floated down then over and around and up and back to me, sticking to the window. (You don't want to know what I tried to drop.) Somewhat disconcerting, in a couple of ways.

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Kind of emotional and, at times, again, maddening dreams this time. But vivid, and I don't give up my vivid dreams for anything. I've long been a vivid dreamer. And usually my dreams aren't this, um, disconcerting.
Blow My Mind

A Slew of Reviews!

This week, I've dedicated myself to posting a whole bunch more of my old movie reviews. By "old" I mean from 1997 to 2000, back at the Hermiston Herald. Just over a week ago I installed myself at my parents' place, a computer in front of me and a pile of my old clippings to the side of me, and I typed up many reviews so that I'd have electronic copies of them again. I'll post one or two a day for a while. I have enough to do that for a while.

This reposting starts in my next post...
Good Omens

FLASHBACKS: The American Godzilla, 5/26/1998

“It’s Gojira, you freakin’ moron!”
– Audrey (Maria Pitillo) reacts to a news report in
Godzilla

For years Hollywood has done everything it could to American-ize Godzilla – all the way back to when they dropped Raymond Burr into the first film and changed its name to Godzilla from Gojira.

Gojira. That’s pronounced “Go-ZHEER-uh.” One of the wittier moments in this new Godzilla makes a note of that – an inaccurate news report calls the creature Godzilla, and the name catches on.

There was almost a new film that would’ve come out summer 1996. Jan DeBont of Speed was going to direct, but he said no and made Twister instead. That script [by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who went on to write the Pirates of the Caribbean films] had Godzilla coming ashore at San Francisco and doing damage until we incapacitate him, tie him up and carry him with a fleet of helicopters to a research facility on the East Coast, where disaster strikes and the giant reptile breaks out…into New York.

You know, that would’ve been cool. It would’ve been cheesy and full of problems – why would the only place to take a 200-foot-tall monster be within Godzilla-walking distance of New York? – but it would’ve been cool; I’d’ve loved to have seen Godzilla strapped down like he were Gulliver in a flying hammock, or something.

You see, Godzilla is not fundamentally cheesy or ridiculous (the first film in 1954, from what I hear, is actually pretty harrowing) but he became that in all those sequels – and Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s new Godzilla really doesn’t do much to change that, despite the monster’s sleek new look, the special effects detail or the witty ad campaign.

In fact, the film itself barely made an impression on me. Uh oh.

In this version, French nuclear tests in the South Pacific have mutated a reptile into 21 stories of pregnant lizard looking for a nest. In quick fashion he rampages across the South Pacific, Tahiti, Panama, Jamaica and the North Atlantic until arriving in New York, like he knew it was a place he could hide. That’s the problem: why New York? Obviously it’s because New York is a famous town and it’s fun for us to see it demolished, but it would’ve been nice if they had come up with some pseudo-scientific explanation for a lizard crossing half the world so he could lay eggs in Madison Square Garden.

It’s this problem of not thinking the story through that’s frustrating, especially for a wannabe storyteller like me. Emmerich and Devlin (let’s call them E & D for short) work in the pulp science fiction tradition, full of joyful demolition and flat characters. That’s what StarGate, Independence Day and Godzilla boil down to – and because these two guys write their films so fast, like the pulp science fiction writers did in the 1930s, there are mistakes galore.

The thing is, I think E & D could really do some wonderfully memorable films…if they discipline themselves to be as intelligent and interesting in their scripts as in their visuals.

You see, I like E & D’s visuals, because they happen on such a huge scale – I loved watching dozens of helicopters swarm over Manhattan, or the battle between Godzilla and three submarines, or when a cab with our main characters stays less than one step ahead of the creature during a chase in the film’s final act. And the monster here, as redesigned by three-time E & D collaborator Patrick Tatapoulos (they even named Matthew Broderick’s character, Niko Tatapoulos, after him) is a smart job of making Godzilla work as a seemingly real animal, not the infamous man-in-a-suit.

But E & D have an odd sense of casting, which can backfire; many of the actors in Independence Day seemed to be in their own little movies. Godzilla is mainly peopled with TV actors – including not one, not two, but three Simpsons voice talents – and an Army major is played by a guy from Hot Shots!

The actors just don’t have the presence to make an impression, unlike Will Smith’s star turn in Independence Day. (Of the principal actors here, Hank Azaria seems to fit the best, with his nicely off-kilter face and New York attitude, but Broderick is mostly bland.) There’s also the Asian terrorist from Die Hard at the beginning.

The things I notice when a film is not making an impression…

And a running joke at the expense of Siskel and Ebert, who are not E & D fans, is a cheap shot in a film loaded with cheap shots.

But amidst all the noise and screeching characters, one of my favorite scenes was actually a moment of calm, with Godzilla blinking at Tatapoulos while composer David Arnold plays his “in awe of Godzilla” theme – which is a pretty cool piece of music. And a little detail I enjoyed appears after Manhattan is evacuated, and electric signs at the tunnels read “N Y C CLOSED TO THRU TRAFFIC.”

To sum up, Godzilla himself is actually pretty cool – but he’s surrounded by silliness. And what Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich came up with is numbing silliness that didn’t make an impression on me…which is the wrong kind of silliness.

And Godzilla doesn’t even use his roar that much. Tsk tsk.
Scorpio

Feeling through a feeling

There’s backstory to this:
Sometimes it's a personal breakthrough just to know you can fall in love.

I think that, when I finally have more than a crush on someone, I'll be able to tell. And that I'll be able to act on it.
You see, I’ve figured out some needed stuff about myself recently. I have a crush to thank for that.

During the last several months, I’d realized that I had strong feelings about a friend of mine. At least two people reading this know whom I’m talking about, but knowing who she is isn’t required to get the points I’m about to make. In more ways than one, she is not available, but knowing that intellectually sometimes ain’t enough to accept that and go on. It took some more processing by me.

She and I talked this weekend, thanks to e-mail and me finally being able and willing to admit this to her. We’re still cool. We’re still friends. I’d finally reached the point where not telling her seemed dishonest, and I want to be honest with her. She deserves that.

Still, it’s a vulnerable thing, to admit feeling this. And guess what? I have very little experience being vulnerable like that – or, to be more exact, letting myself be vulnerable like that. It explains some of why I’ve dated so little. (Or how with some women, I’d only reach the “hanging out with her a lot without actually asking her on a date” thing. That happened a time or two in college.) It’s that terrifying hurdle of saying I feel this about you, and I don’t know if you feel anything like this for me but I hope you feel that feeling and I hope we can find if we share that. Obviously many people pass that hurdle – I got thinking of Peter David’s story of how he finally admitted to his future wife Kathleen O’Shea how he felt about her – and obviously most of us know how terrifying it can be. Often makes for hilariously awkward stories later, but it happens, dammit, and I haven’t been open enough to the possibility of it happening to me. The standard reason applies: fear of getting hurt. That simple. The feeling’s strong enough that one worries about it boomeranging into your face if you let it out. But connecting with others is more important than not connecting because of that fear. Simple, but true. Maddeningly simple sometimes, but still true.

I’ve had another realization while working through this: I haven’t been in love before. I once thought I was, but as fond as I am of Alicia, a fondness that goes back to 1996, it wasn’t love. We tried; we did what we could to be good to each other; it didn’t work; we spent a year-and-a-half apart; and Alicia, bless her, reached out to me and said We did have fun together. I hope we can have fun together as friends. And we did, and we have. And it’s worked so much better with us as friends than it worked with us as a couple.

But no love yet. Not that kind of love, at least; not that partner love. I do love my family: a different love. I do love my friends: another different love.

But – and this is the key thing – I have the strong, deep feeling that I’m more ready now to recognize love when it actually happens. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking Okay, this thing I’m feeling about this person: WHAT am I feeling about her? What level of feeling does it reach? I need to figure this out, or I’ll risk staying stuck in this self-imposed emotional limbo. Eventually, I knew: It’s a crush. A strong one (maybe even stronger than the one I had for Lori back in college, and that was a strong one, as anyone who knew me my first year in college could tell), but it doesn’t cross that threshold into what sometimes lies beyond a crush. Love can start as a crush. I’ve seen it happen. But there’s the risk of a crush being self-centered. There’s the risk that you’re crushing not on the person, but on the ideal of that person, or the idea of that person. And that’s not fair to that person.

I’ll put it simply: I know I can be in love. And that brings such a feeling of possibility, of potential. I can connect that way with someone, with their strengths and weaknesses meshing with my strengths and weaknesses as we (I hope) become stronger as a pair than we’d be apart. People have told me before that love can happen, that often it hits you when you weren’t expecting to feel anything like it. “Struck by the thunderbolt,” to borrow one of Mario Puzo’s better lines. But you have to be open to the possibility. And I haven’t.

I think I can be now.
  • Current Mood
    hopeful hopeful
Me 1

9/21/1999: Short Takes: The Matrix, Analyze This, and Office Space (FLASHBACKS)

Movies, movies everywhere – and no time to review them. Let’s just look at movies on video this week, OK?

The Matrix: In my initial review, I mentioned how this film – true action insanity that’s like the best John Carpenter film John Carpenter never made – has fun with puns, like the computer “bugs.” (Huh huh, heh heh, cool.)

Here’s another of those puns: Remember Carrie Anne-Moss? She was the striking actress – it’s for people like her that they coined the term “striking” – who played freedom fighter Trinity.

The pun? In this film, she’s basically a more beautiful version of Keanu Reeves.

Analyze This: Even if nothing else in this funny film had worked, it would’ve been worthwhile because it shows someone remembered: Robert DeNiro can be funny! A photo of him, where he’s just shrugging with a “whadduya gonna do” grin at the big mob meeting at the end of the film, now hangs at my desk. It makes me smile.

Maybe the plot-motivated stuff (the authorities trying to bust the mob men) isn’t all that funny, because it’s just functional as it moves the movie along, but DeNiro and Billy Crystal make up for it.

Analyze also makes me ask, no, demand, this: put Lisa Kudrow in a drama*! Yes, she’s built her career on playing ditzes in comedies, but her best moments in Analyze This are her being mad-as-hell instead of being funny.

And the title is cool, too.

Office Space: Mike Judge rules. I practically gulp air while laughing at Beavis and Butt-Head, and King of the Hill is gratifyingly askew, funny in a low-key way but which still reminds us that Hill was co-created by a Simpsons producer.

Here, Judge makes his live-action debut directing and writing a spoof on work. Ron Livingston of Swingers is the Everyman at the center of the film; he does programming at a business whose corporate logo is a square peg in a round hole (I’m not kidding), and he hates his job until he decides simply not to do it. Not that he quits or anything; he just shows up each day and does nothing productive.

And gets promoted.

No, I won’t say why. But as always with Judge, the humor is really in the details (even in something as broad and vulgar as Beavis and Butt-Head). There’s a small gag with a phone, for instance, where the phone does something that I don’t think a phone can do.

And in keeping with Judge’s work on things like Hill, Office Space has the feel of a low-key cartoon; there’s Stephen Root as the walking cartoon character Milton, who Judge created for animated skits for Saturday Night Live. Here he’s this huge, squat man with a tiny voice who always looks lost, and who gets shuffled from desk to desk to help the company (but not him) be more efficient.

The nicest Office Space moment for me isn’t even the funniest: Livingston having a revelation about his life that leads to his aggressive slacking. You simply see something seem to change in his eyes, and he slowly (slowly, slowly) smiles a quietly blissful smile.

_____
* Which has happened a few times, thank goodness: Wonderland with Val Kilmer comes to mind...