Friday, June 17

Edelstein and Morgenstern Are Tied

Interesting Point/Counterpoint, or whatever they call the thing, in this week's Slate, with David Edelstein and Joe Morgenstern discussing a topic near to my heart: "Did George Lucas and Steven Spielberg Ruin the Movies?" So far it's mostly notable for the fact that Morgenstern has yet to show. I'm still going to call it a draw at this point, because Tuesday Edelstein confessed his love for Jaws.

Maybe you love Jaws too. Maybe you think it's a tightly-plotted thrill ride of an entertainment. I've got no real beef with you. There are certain blockbuster flickers on the DVD shelf or upstairs with the prerecorded videocassettes that I would go on a strict Brussels-sprouts-and-Coors-Light diet rather than watch, yet I still love my wife. Feel free to enjoy whatever you like, without asking my permission. After all, this is America, or at least it used to be. But I hate blockbusters. I'm allergic to them. Not only will I not pay to see a blockbuster, I won't see any movie that shares a theme with one. Or a cast member. I won't see a movie if it has a gaffer who's ever worked with Spielberg. My reaction is so strong that I can come to hate movies retroactively. After Troy I now refused to acknowledge I ever saw Das Boot. In fact, I now pronounce it "boot" just out of spite.

About a year ago I thought I might actually start watching all the blockbusters I'd missed. As it happens, that began and ended with Jaws, a movie I found so utterly pedestrian, so silly and shoddy that I almost welcomed the intense pain that is Richard Dreyfus, like it kept me from falling asleep in a snowstorm. There are experiences you avoid for years and once you finally cave in you realize were no so bad as your imaginings. This was worse. Several orders of magnitude worse. I had thought I might work up some shared cultural capital with my fellow citizens. What I wound up sharing, with some, was that it gave me nightmares.

The list of blockbusters I've never seen is impressive. Titanic, certainly. E.T., Lord of the Rings, anything with Arnold, Bruce, or even Tom Hanks. I've never seen more than a two-minute segment of Gone With The Wind. Nothing animated, Roman numeralled, or named for a comic book. I've got no real objection to their hegemony over the nation's dwindling number of movie screens. I'd just as soon stay out of those places as do prison time for making the guy behind me eat his cell phone in under thirty seconds.

I did see the original Star Wars. It was not my choice. I was in the company of a college student/waitress with the carriage of an Amazon, except she still had both breasts. It wasn't worth it. Dear God, it was not worth it. The crowd--mostly adults, this was--started stomping their feet and cheering and hissing the Bad Guys. Yes, hissing. I couldn't believe what was happening. Had there not been one of a very fine pair of boobs resting on my arm I would have yelled, "Fire!" honest to god. Or marched to the front of the screen and screamed, "You are not dirt-besmirched Depression kids trying to laugh off your empty bellies for a hour! You're effing proto-Yuppies, though we haven't had need to invent the term yet. Fuckin' get ahold of yourselves, go home, do some bong hits and listen to Boston, or the next thing you know Ronald Reagan will be president!"

I have never forgiven myself for putting my own needs above those of my country.


James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

Yeah, I should have made that stay home and listen to Boston. This was Indianapolis in 1977, norb. If I'd said, "Go home and listen to the Ramones," the six hippest people in the room would have thought I meant the Ronettes.

Anonymous said...

I thought the reason we fought the Fascists and the Communists and now the Terrorists was to protect our freedoms. Freedom to watch things blow up in slow motion. Freedom to bogart that joint. Freedom to have a very fine pair of boobs resting on one's arm. So you weren't being selfish, you were just showing us the reasons to keep on fighting.

And by the way, does The Blues Brothers count as a blockbuster? 'Cause otherwise, I'm with you all the way, Doghouse.

Anonymous said...

I saw Star Wars, too, but the only boobs present were myself and the guy driving. We were Science Fiction fanatics, special effects junkies, amateur filmmakers (Horror/SciFi/Animation Schlock Division), Boston listeners, and without girlfriends at the time, which I suppose should be self-evident. It was satisfyingly distracting for us and helped dull our adolescent pain for a short time. I may not share your opinions 100% (perhaps only up to 75%), but I believe I understand what you are talking about. I tend to avoid most all movies these days, but I still have my guilty favorites.

Anonymous said...

I blame Boston for many of today's problems. And Kansas and any of those other 70s bands named after places.

And Richard Dreyfus. If I could punish all my enemies, I would strap them to theater seats and run an endless loop of 'Mr. Holland's Opus' before their eyes until they fell into soggy heaps.

Anonymous said...

I sympathize, really.
On the whole, I just don't like movies that much, but by God, if my partner wants to take the housemates to see "Baby Batman" or whatever it is, and you want to camp out in front of classic movies for hours, I'll hand over the Raisinets, and disappear quietly into the next room to read a book or something.
I do, though, have a tragically unholy love for monster movies, blockbusters or no, crappy or not-as-crappy-as-they-could-have-been.
It speaks to my misanthropy, that's all. I love me the movies with the monsters eatin' people. The more people, the better.
I don't think it's a legitimate genre or a fine use of time, I just like to see celluloid people die, and so much the better if they happen to be actors who annoy me anyway.
I'm just all about the archetypal Vengeance Of Primativism on this arrogant species.

Anonymous said...

I blame any "musical" group named after a geographical site. This criterion would include Boston, Kansas, Chicago, Bay City Rollers, etc. Aaarggh! The image of the Bay City Rollers is in my head and sounds of "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!" are echoing in my brain. Curse you, Doghouse.