A month ago we went to a neighbor’s house to plan the Halloween party. The kids ran off to play downstairs. After a while I heard a horrible clatter; the house shook as if pounded by a giant robot. I went downstairs to investigate and discovered they were watching a movie about a house being shaken by a giant robot. Transformers! The boys were rapt, and (G)Nat seemed interested, too; she was loathe to leave, and expressed interest in seeing it again. I said I’d have to watch it to see if it was okay for her.
As if I needed an excuse.
I rented it a few days ago. “It’s awesome,” said the film geek clerk at the video store. “When Optimus Prime showed up, I like weeped.” I said I had no such nostalgic childhood chords waiting to be strummed. But I’d heard it was interesting to watch, if only to see the state-of-the-art for special effects in 2007. I got the HD version, and watched it over two nights. There are a few things you simply have to accept. I have no problem believing there are sentient robots who speak English and call themselves Autobots and one of them sounds Black and is named Jazz, but I remain unconvinced that Megan Fox was a high schooler. Who cares? Such details - and every one of the ancillary contrivances, clichés, and low-humor moments - become completely irrelevant within six minutes, because IT’S THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Or so it feels while you're watching. It's simply too much fun. Too much explosive, pounding, shrieking, ridiculous, giant-leaping-robot fun. Plus, Megan Fox's teeth are so white she could light the way in a total eclipse just by grimacing. Why, there’s even pathos; if the imprisonment of Bumblebee didn’t tug at your heart and make you think of Kong brought low, you have no heart, and probably prefer antiseptic French sex tragedies in which people smoke and glare and say cruel things. Give me robots. I don’t think there’s anything an antiseptic French sex tragedy can tell me anything about the human heart I haven’t figured out for myself, but before I watched this movie I knew next to nothing about Autobots. I wouldn't say I have a confident grasp on their rich, diverse culture, but it's a start.
It was late when I finished it, and I crept quietly to bed. Later - ten minutes, an hour? - I heard a thump and some footsteps: (G)Nat had a tummyache. Hmm. I’d had one earlier that night, that queasy blooming nausea that indicates the peak of the small bug or the start of a big one. Since my wife had a big presentation to make the next day, I took (G)Nat to the guest room to sleep. Her stomach hurt a lot, so I tried to take her mind off it. We laid in the bed in the dark and listened to the clock tick. It was two AM.
“I watched ‘Transformers,’” I said.
“No fair.” She winced, rubbed her tummy.
“Did you see the part where they pulled that guy’s pants off and we saw his underwear?”
"That was funny.”
"It was. His underwear said 'Aloha.'" Somehow when I first saw John Turturro in a movie, I didn't think I'd be discussing this moment in his career with a sick seven-year-old.
“Tell me more about the Transformers,” she said, snuggling close.
So I explained the plot, such as it was, and went into great detail until her mind was off her tummy. (Little children do not have stomachs. They have tummies.) Eventually I bored her to sleep, and she slept content. The first thing she said when she woke?
“Tell me more about the Transformers, Dad.”
“There will be a sequel,” I said.
It’ll probably have Gerald Depardieu as a French Transformer who turns into an Eiffel tower and a tiny yippy Peugot sidekick who smokes a lot. AND IT WILL BE INCREDIBLE.
Kidding. Slightly. It is interesting that the movie made 403492 grillion dollars, whereas the Cruise / Redford / Streep oration about War Being Bad averaged thirty-seven cents per theater. As many have noted elsewhere at great length, anti-war movies are unpopular. The theories vary: the public is tired of the war, the movies are lousy, the public doesn’t want to see Uncle Sam portrayed as the sort of guy who can’t wait to hook up a Diehard to the harbls of an innocent exchange student rounded up in the Bushilter Mandatory Scoop-Up-The-Dusky Initiative. Both sides will probably come to rest on the last answer, but for different reasons. One side takes cruel comfort in the fact that Americans CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH, as another Cruise movie so memorably accused, and the other side is convinced that Hollywood is so besotted by the vapors in its ideological pleasure-dome it cannot conceive of making a war movie that isn’t a glass of warm spinach juice – or, if it’s slam-bang rah-rah in concept, is laden down with hints and tics and cues designed to insulate the producers from the inevitable protests from all corners. You can almost hear the sighs of a producer looking at an incredible script about the drive to Baghdad, a straight-forward story that complete with straight-ahead, matter-of-fact drama: it’s a great script, but my wife’s all hooked up with Code Pink. Not that I care; they’re a bunch of nuts. But I can’t stand the people who think they’re a bunch of nuts for reasons different than mine. Also I’m going to get CAIR writing letters to the editor, and my kid reads that paper. Well, she reads it online. Maybe. I don’t know. It would probably show up on MySpacebook or something. But no one’s going to get hard looks if Tom Cruise comes out against torture, right? I mean, who’s gonna boo that at Cannes?
(Thank you, Mr. Strawman! Thank you for stating so succinctly what I suspect and believe. Remarkable.)
It’s an old subject, and I was moaning about this years ago. And I probably said the same thing: where’s our “Casablanca”?
Just one little outtake from Gastroanomolies today. Cerulian Headgear Un-Butter brings you Dark N'Sweet:
The Blue Bonnet lady unnerved me as a kid; that thing on her head seemed like the megaphones they put on dogs to keep them from chewing their stitches.
Addendum: (G)Nat wants to see “Mr. Magorium’s Fantastical Flying Emporium and Whizamagoo Wonder Phantasmagorium” or whatever that movie is called. Dustin Hoffman + weird accent + whimsy + a strong, redolent Wonka vibe minus the Roald Dahl darkness. I expect lots of speeches about believing in magic because it's important to believe in magic, as well as follow your heart. Perhaps also your liver.
They’re not just using Pilot, for GOD'S SAKE, they're using the Breakfast Machine music from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” as the music bed for the ads. They have no shame. They should have also realized it'll make millions of people think of a famous satire on Microsoft marketing, which - given the soulless calculation evident in every fame of the trailer - probably isn't the vibe you want.
Still here? Buy the book! Thank you very much. Also: a film-geek clerk should be called a Glerk. They deserve their own term.