Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
It is fitting that the Fourth of July weekend was filled with much style, very little substance. I spent the entire three days looking for something fulfilling, and was repeatedly disappointed.

It all started with a viewing of Spielberg's remake of "War of the Worlds". Now granted, I think that Spielberg is one of the greatest builders of suspense cinema has ever had. But where "Jaws", "Jurassic Park", "Minority Report" and "Close Encounters" balanced their suspense with true imagination, "War of the Worlds" is simply a series of cliches and recycled images that have their last ounce of suspense expertly juiced from them. It's like a car made up of old parts but with a shiny new cover.

The movie gave me two crucial revelations. The first is that we desperately need to come up with better aliens. The naked, bug-eyed, slimy creature with a huge noggin isn't interesting to anyone anymore. Make him furry, give him a toga, do something different. Wouldn't it be great if civilization was being wiped out by a band of very cute but very deadly aliens? ("Awww, come here, you. You are so adorable. What's your name? Can you say Norman? Norman? What's that you're holding in your haAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!")

The second is how zombie/disaster/alien movies led us to believe that they have a "happy ending". We have spent two hours witnessing death and destruction that is unlike anything we've seen in modern society. And yet because the half-dozen characters who are the focus of the film are alive, we feel happy when the end credits start rolling.

I always feel uneasy by this. What about the billions of people who died? Where's their story? I mean, it's nice that Tom Cruise made it out alive, but what about the mechanic who was one of the first people killed in the movie? Why couldn't we have had a two-hour story of his life followed by a five-minute finale in which aliens rise from the ground and zap him into dust? Must we always follow the character who best fits Syd Field's rules of cinematic story structure? And for that matter, why do the quick deaths always happen to cameos and extras? Why do the supporting and lead players always have the slowest deaths possible? Wouldn't it be more interesting if Tim Robbins is here one second and then *POOF* gone the next?

I also watched "The Rocky Horror Show" (now playing at the Maverick Theater through August 13th...Shameless plug) again before taking over the role of Brad next weekend. While a more original offering than "War of the Worlds", it has the same entertainment-only flavor that is the trademark of the Maverick. I sat in the audience, watching these people I knew and liked performing, and I shouted back the witty comments that have been time-tested through countless midnight showings of the movie ("I don't like men with too many muscles." "Just one big one!"). But I couldn't help but wonder if the show is as entertaining to someone who doesn't know the cast members or the shoutouts. I guess I'll find out this weekend.

On Sunday, I went to see a local theater company take a sophisticated, witty English play and remove any sophistication or wit from it. What they gave us instead was misguided casting, weak accents and an unbelievably loud doorbell. As the very funny dialogue fell flat, the audience was given new reasons to laugh, none of them good. As we left, one of the company members apologized for the show, assuring us that usually their shows are better, and my search for something stimulating and nourishing was still unfulfilled.

As the Fourth of July came upon us (enter your own joke here), I found myself unexpectedly watching the movie "Joe Dirt". I sat there, watching David Spade rely on his mullet and redneck accent to be funny (Comedy Tip: It's not what you look and sound like that make you funny, but what you do with what you look and sound like). Okay, I'll admit it was foolish to wish for anything substantial with "Joe Dirt", but ever since the surprise of "Pleasantville", I've had high hopes for High Concept.

So finally, I gave up. If all I was going to get this weekend was sugar, then I was going to stop looking for steak, so to speak. I decided the way to end this weekend would be to go to Downtown Disney and watch Disneyland's fireworks display. It promised to be the shiny object to end all shiny objects. Brey and I arrived to see what, oddly enough, could have been a scene from "War of the Worlds". People were camped out everywhere, from the parking garage, to the tram kiosk, to every square foot of Downtown Disney, joining me in my quest for meaningless entertainment.

Then, something amazing happened. Just as the fireworks were starting, Brey asked if we could get something to eat. We made our way through the crowds to the restaurant at the Anaheim House of Blues. The entire time, I was only able to hear the fireworks, and its sound resembled that of a small town being obliterated by air-dropped bombs. I imagined that it was a real bombing, and I wondered if I would be the lead of a two-hour story, or if I would simply be a cameo.

We walked into the restaurant which, like most of the things at Downtown Disney, wants to achieve a certain feeling and can't quite get it right. I retreated to the bathroom and suddenly found myself having cologne sprayed on me by the attendant. I was dressed in unwashed clothes and had unwashed hair...but I smelled great. I had suddenly turned into the very thing that I was surrounded by this entire weekend.

When I returned to the table, I looked in Brey's eyes. She'd recently had some life-changing decisions sprung on her, and I could see her going through them in her head. I suddenly thought about what she means to me and what I would do if I ever lost her. The thought terrified me.

I reached over and took her hand, and - despite the deep, meaningful thoughts running through both of our heads - we talked about light, entertaining subjects. And for the first time that entire weekend, I felt truly fulfilled.

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