I like 2004 already. But that’s because I have an inexplicable preference for even-numbered years. They seem more balanced than odd numbered years, somehow more serene.

You know, like 1968.

But I like it even more for the movies I have been promised. Ah Hollywood, extending my adolescence unto the end of my days. The Spider-Man trailer made me very interested in something I hadn’t thought much about. I figured I’d see it, and it would probably be quite good for what it is, and then I’d buy the DVD, my dutiful consumption of this particular slab of pop culture complete. But now I want to see it tomorrow, please. And it made me want to seek out the geek boards where people are complaining that the villain has but six arms.
Hes named Doctor Octopus for a reasen ok? Because he has eight arms??? How can he be Doc OCK when he only has SIX arms! This movie will suck so bad Luca$ will want to do the third oen and have Spidey fight JarJAr or no maybe ewoxs or something.

But the real treat was a movie whose title makes you sit right up and bark Yes! Or it makes you roll your eyes and look for a slow, aimless, sort-of-funny movie about gently-bitchy Spanish 20somethings and their picaresque sexual adventures as they come to grips with life at the funeral of their father, a former Franco officer who sired them all . . . etc. You know the kind of movie. It always plays at theaters that have trailers for movies like “La Spume D’Hiver,” which won some useless award handed out by a bunch of Euro-dorks who smell like ashtrays. Yes, that was it, the Golden Ashtray, that was the award. “La Spume D’Hiver,” winner of Le Cendrier D’Or. And they always star some old blonde who was hot years ago but now she’s crinkly but still kind of hot, and she smokes all the time because she’s like at her sexual peak or something but her husband has a mistress, so she nails a train conductor in a public bathroom and then they talk about Sartre. And the next trailer is for Indistinguishable Central American Village Drama #234 – well, look at that! It revolves around a big dinner with dishes indiginous to the Guapo region of El Salvador! Never saw that coming!

You know, that kind of movie. Where was I? Right: The movie I like, the movie that appeals to fx-addicted wobby-bellied dullards who’ve been trained by Hollywood to spurn nuance and storytelling for the brash percussive thrills of onscreen carnage, is called – seriously – “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.” As far as I can tell it involves the invasion of New York by many gigantic Met-al Monsters. It involves zeppelins, dashing pilots, all that wonderful pulp-fiction rubbish. I wouldn’t be so enthused if it didn’t look like a Hugh Ferris sketchbook come to life. It’s a dreamworld Manhattan of the 30s, and I can’t wait to spend 100 minutes there. Even the unnerving sight of Angelica Jolie (Voted “most likely to pull a knife on you during sex”) doesn’t bother me.

Out of curiosity I looked at “The Chronicles of Riddick,” which I honestly thought would be about a boxer. It starts out looking like something greenlighted the day after the first Lord of the Rings box-office numbers came in. Holy crap, get me an epic with people walkin’ around in robes talking about big stuff happening! Now! Then it gets a sci-fi drift; then people start opening their mouths, and they sound quite modern. Now it all looks cheesy and stupid. I hit pause, go to the website, check out the plot.

It gets worse. The bad guys: Necromongers. Their adversaries: the Furians. Our British-accented grande-dame narrator: Aerion. Sigh. This is the sort of script that makes you fear the devious, underhanded race who sell out the Furians will be the Sellonians, or the Devyites.

Says the synop: our hero, Riddick, has traveled to the planet “Helion” where he finds “a progressive multicultural society.” And the gritting of teeth began anew, since we know what we’re going to see: one of those perfect societies that always showed up in the latter Star Treks, where everyone wears tunics, has perfect skin, spends their time eating fresh fruit and contemplating pottery and the absurdity of constructing planetary defense systems. (They usually have warp drive and doors that go whoosh, too.) This celestial Berkeley is threatened by “Lord Marshall,” who puts our hero in “a subterranean prison.” Those three words tell me right there that a depressing amount of the film will take place in dimly lit sets with lots of dripping water. Then he gets out and things blow up, I suppose.

But. But. Halfway through the trailer I heard a familiar growl – Why, that’s the ethnically ambiguous Vin Diesel, isn’t it? Has he fallen this far, this fast – the trailer isn’t showing his face or blaring his name. When he finally appears it’s hardly the iconic moment when the Hero reveals himself. Then it hit me. Ton o’ bricks time. This is the sequel to Pitch Black. It’s a David Twohy movie.

Okay, that’s all I need to know. I’ll be there on day one.

When the DVD comes out.

And I was right about that LOTR thing, incidentally. I remember reading that there wouldn’t be one sequel to “Pitch Black,” but three. Yes, friends: a trilogy. A VIN DIESEL trilogy. Could be cool; it also looks depressing as hell. But it’s a Twohy movie. He’s a smarter, better, craftier Roger Corman who doesn’t waste a buck and loves his work. Enough for me.

Last night I watched half of the third Indiana Jones movie. I haven’t seen it since it was in the theaters, many millions of years ago. Better than I remembered, and certainly better than that bitter, nasty, violent, shrieking, interminable “Temple of Doom.” What were Lucas and Spielberg thinking? How could anyone watch the first movie and think “it’s good, but it needs a small boy talking pidgin Engrish and a scowling harpy whose screechy voice can knock barnacles off a ship. Also, someone should pull someone’s heart out of someone’s chest.” The third is so much better. It has Nazis. An Indy movie requires Nazis.

While many were annoyed at having Sean Connery as comic relief, it works for me now. When the pressure is off a movie, you judge it differently. It no longer has to be the Greatest Movie Experience Ever – it can be what it is. Sure, it would have been interesting if Connery had been Indier than Indiana himself, but it didn’t happen and it’s not going to happen, so sit back and enjoy. Connery brings one exemplary moment of pure craft to the film; when the father and son realize they’ve both slept with the same blonde Nazi temptress, they say not a word. It’s all done with expressions, and in this case it’s the acting equivalent of two blues guitarists trading licks. It’s a wonderful moment. But it doesn’t excuse the bad Hitler.

Why do all the Hitlers in the movies look like somebody other than Hitler? Sometimes it seems as if they just stick the little ‘stache on an actor, shoot novacaine into his facial muscles, and say well, aren’t you just hitlery, you! Next time do a wider casting call. Put up billboards. LOOK LIKE HITLER? NOW’S YOUR BIG BREAK.

Finally: just to admit I am a total lowbrow, I watched part of “Meet Me in St. Louis” the other morn when Gnat got me up early, and I didn’t like it. Blame my overall disinterest in the period; I understand why the era fascinates some, and that’s fine – but it does nothing for me. The songs, the architecture, the fashions, the politics - meh. I know the Trolley Song backwards and forwards, since it’s on one of Gnat’s Cds; it’s a great piece of American theatrical history, and I like it. I like it more for the background vocals, which have a certain sound that was ubiquitous then and utterly lost today. Those voices in those harmonies – you don’t hear that anymore. So I’m not just looking at the movie, thinking: hey, make it so the trolley blows up if it drops under 20 MPH! No. I’m just saying that I like six musicals, and this isn’t one of them.

As is my way, I went to imdb.com to read what other people thought. I came across a review that gave me pause:

As our wonderful dream of democracy slips away under the jackboots of our Attorney General, I look back in my lifetime at what we had when we were 'good people' . . . ee it again for all the great songs, the nuclear family's interaction, and feel like you have your nose pressed against a show window, looking at a world that we lost somewhere along with our innocence, our ethics and our faith. Yes, it really didn't exist even then, but we still had the dream. We weren't marching off to conquer other countries, but to save them, for real, not for pretend purposes.

The movie takes place a year after the end of that idealistic, innocent, altruistic American exercise we call the Phillippine-American war. You can enjoy the full spectrum of her reviews here. It’s a reminder: if you ever find yourself so burning with political fury that you can’t WAIT for someone to give you an opening, remember the immortal words of Lou Grant to Ted on his wedding day.

Ted, you know the way you are?

Yeah, Lou?

Don’t be that way.


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