I’ll save the Times Square quotes for tomorrow, when I’m desperate for material. I will reserve judgment on this until tomorrow, because I am sure Newsweek with clarify matters - the flag was photoshopped, the unnamed source was mistaken, America is not dead, it is merely pining for the fjords. What’s more, it’s vaguely disturbing for people to write irritated entries on their personal websites about these issues; that way lies Brownshirts and bookburning. Best you stand there and take it like a cow takes a warm, lubricated suppository. The new mantra: acquiescence to transnational corporate media is patriotic.

No one’s suggesting they have to be edited by Jingo Fett. Just don’t get het up if anyone gives them the Pepsi Finger, okay?

Believe it or not, I finally saw “The Incredibles.” I rarely see movies in the theater, so I missed the big-screen run. I bought the DVD the day it came out, but saved it for some Special Night when I could enjoy it without distraction. Well, I had plenty of time this weekend. I was almost afraid to watch it, frankly. You don’t know what it’s like to get a billion emails from people telling me I’m going to love a movie so completely I will want to be buried with the DVD, and dug up and reburied if it ever comes out on High-Def Blu-Ray discs. So along comes Friday. Perfect time. Perfect mood.

Unfortunately, I’d already rented “Team America.”

Never was a South Park fan. It may be funny, but it’s also ugly and screechy, and never caught my eye. It’s odd, but I can watch something once, think “That was clever and amusing,” and still never care to watch it again. When I was younger I had more interest in television, and actually looked forward to adding another obligation to my viewing schedule. O how rich the banquet! But now I realize that I don’t care much for any of it, and will leave this earth without seeing any Law & Order spinoffs or CSI: Yakima or any other show on which millions are lavished and on which millions depend.

No, I prefer the infinite subtleties of Beavis and Butthead. But I had some exposure to the South Park creative team, so I wasn’t surprised by anything in “Team America.” Oh mercy, it was funny. Maybe I’m just a sucker for interminable puppet puking, but I thought it was brutal, cruel, mean, unfair, and hilarious enough so you still wore a rictus during the so-so parts. You could almost hear the writers jumping up and down laughing and screaming when they saw the rushes for Janine Garofalo’s death scene: man, who knew a puppet could have its head blown off so expressively? I wasn’t completely comfortable with using 9/11 as a punch line, but I’m a humorless scold about some things, that being one. I have to admit, though, it’s a brilliant satire of all those US-forces vs. the terrorists movies we’ve suffered through in the last few years. You know, the ones with the Arab militants as the bad guys. The ones full of jingoistic drivel about Special Forces. The ones that feature all sorts of slam-bang action designed to make you feel good about our side and hate the other.

You know, those movies.

“Team America,” in other words, maybe the first movie that satirizes a genre that doesn’t actually exist. I know, I know, it’s a satire of the Bruckheimer junk. It’s a satire of a movie Bruckheimer might as well have made. But still. It felt a bit like having “Casino Royale” as the first Bond movie. the part about Team America ruining all the monuments in foreign lands was funny, because – well, because we’re America and we don’t aim, right? It never ceases to amaze me that the country with the biggest weapons – nukes – bothered to invent a bomb that could fly through a window and blow up everything on the right side of the room that started with the letter “K.” But hey, it’s all a joke. We’re trigger happy cowboys with bad aim who don’t care what we hit, and Kim Il Jong is a megalomaniac who wants to sell bad weapons to terrorists and runs a police state. Hell, everyone takes a hit! Relax.

And I did. Sort of. Mostly. Pretty much. You have to have a sphincter of infinitessimal tightness not to laugh at a bawdy puppet movie because you detect the faint harmonic overtones of (gasp) moral relativism. If you can't laugh at the "Freedom Ain't Free” song, you have clenched your buttocks so tightly your flatulence cannot be released without making a high keening sound only dogs can hear.

Then again, the “America (F*ck Yeah!)” song has a different version in the end credits: Wal-Mart (F*ck Yeah!) Gap (F*ck Yeah!) Baseball (F*ck Yeah!) NFL (F*ck Yeah!) Rock and Roll (F*ck Yeah!) The Internet (F*ck Yeah!) Slavery (F*ck Yeah!)

Because, you know, Americans are so into slavery these days, which we like totally invented anyway.

I think that was a little insurance policy the boys bought for themselves.

Why are there all these dogs outside in my yard? Hold on. Back in a minute.

In any case, there’s something empty at the bottom of the movie, and yes, I know I am talking about something conducted entirely in the medium of puppetry. Underneath the satire is the same old dodge: everything’s a joke, and only a fool takes it seriously. What’s the song? “Life is just a bowl of cherries / don’t take it serious / it’s too mysterious.” But there’s a difference between that sentiment and asserting that life’s just a bowl of hard clay-flecked cat shite. I never got the impression that the South Park creators stood for anything except making something funny, which is preferable to a team devoted to making grim bleak movies about the lives of meth-addict dishwashers in Omaha and other such uplifting archetypes, I suppose. But it’s not enough to be opposed to hypocrisy and cant; that’s a rather adolescent stance, and it was old the day “Catcher in the Rye” entered its 3 millionth printing. You have to stand for something. I gather that Parker and Stone stand for making fun of Jerry Bruckheimer movies, actors, and bad country music. Not enough for a coherent political philosophy, but enough for a funny puppet movie.

I plan to see Star Wars this week, because it’s the law. I watched Episode 2 the other night to reacquaint myself with all the many subtle & ingenious intricacies of the plot, because I’d hate to find myself sitting in the theater, thinking: okay, the little green troll with the floppy pizza-slice ears is important somehow, but I can’t quite recall why. And what’s all this about the Force, anyway? I’m missing something.

I’m still impressed by the movie’s look, the sound, the costumes, the level of ingenuity demonstrated by every frame of the movie in which the insipid words or insubstantial characters do not ruin. If it came from Lucas, it’s krep. It’s like the reverse of Orson Welles – the intellect at the center of the enterprise is bereft of novel ideas, but is kept afloat by indulgent studio support and willing talent. The dialogue in AOTC isn’t completely unlistenable – better Lucas should write exposition dialogue than anything emotional, or you get love scenes in which characters say “I hate sand. It’s dry and gritty. I much prefer your vagina.” Or whatever “Anny” said. But even in the exposition scenes Lucas has an ear made not of tin but some metal alloy created specifically for its inability to channel sound; hence he has his big bad guy announcing not just the creation of an Army, not just an Army of the Republic, but a Grand Army of the Republic. So the Empire is the North, marching to put down the rebellious breakaway South. I’m supposed to root for the slavery side. Noted.

Is there any living screenwriter who’s worse at naming people and places? Naboo, for God’s sake.

Still can't wait to see Episode 3. Pathetic, I know.

Then, “The Incredibles.” Which was. Died, went to heaven, etc. Tron me up, let me live in that world; you’ll hear no complaints. More about that tomorrow; I bring it up just to compare it with the other bits of juvenile pop culture I sampled this weekend. “Team America” was made by 17 year old boys who cut class to smoke cigarettes. “Star Wars” was made by a sophomore who was bumped ahead to the senior class because of his smarts, but never fit in and spent lunch hour drawing rocketships in his notebook. “The Incredibles” was made by 30 year olds who remembered what it was like to be 16, but didn’t particularly care to revisit those days, because it’s so much better to be 30, with a spouse and a kid and a house and a sense that you’re tied to something. Not an attitude; not some animist mumbo jumbo, but something large enough to behold and small enough to do. “Duty” is a punchline in “Team America”; it’s a rote trope in Star Wars that has no more meaning than love or honor any other word that passes Lucas’ cardboard lips. But it meant something in “The Incredibles,” and all the more so because no one ever stopped to deliver a lecture on the subject. Best Pixar Movie Evar.

But more tomorrow. Plus the Diner. See you then.

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