November 26, 2004



I'm hardly a bellweather (Hollywood has little to worry about) but...

Wonderful day which began with a 7 a.m. trip to Target. I've never been an early morning shopper, or even a black Friday shopper, and frankly, I don't think anyone's missing all that much. I got the conventional toys on the six year old's list; my main problem is that his unconventional wishes include oddities like a life-size Egyptian sarcophagus (preferably containing one mummy; its ability to come back to life is optional...). Now that I've accounted for a good portion of his gifts (the rest I'm ordering over the Internet, and no, this is not among them), I can drag him around with me for the duration of the holiday shopping spree (a good deal of which I'm actually accomplishing as I type this -- for which he'll no doubt be grateful).

I took the boy to the National Museum of Natural History, which is always one of his favorites -- dinosaurs, skeletons, giant squid (two of them!), a couple of sarcophagi, and so on. While wandering through the exhibit on ancient seas, I noticed the trilobites. When I was a kid, I had a plaster cast of a trilobite -- it's still in my old room in the ancestral home. The six year old seemed intrigued when I mentioned it to him; for my part, I was reminded of a book I'd seen a while back but hadn't bought.

After lunch, the rest of the day was mine. I mentioned to my wife yet another bit of Alexandrivel, in this case a bit from a review I heard on the radio: Angelina Jolie appears, when visited by the adult Alexander, no different than she does when Alexander is a child. My wife suggested that since I seemed to be so fascinated with how terrible it was, I shouldn't deprive myself of the displeasure of seeing it myself. Barring that, perhaps I should go see some movie I actually want to see.

Instead, I ended up in Borders, where I found a copy of Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution by Richard Fortey. Then I wandered over to a Starbucks, found a table in the corner, and read.

It's not that I don't like movies, per se, or don't like seeing them by myself (When I worked at night in my younger days I used to love spending afternoons by myself in a movie house) but I've noticed of late that when I do spend money on films, it's either to rent or even buy things I either should have seen years ago but missed, or to see things I saw years ago and for whatever reason want to see again. There are a few movies I wouldn't mind seeing -- the Grudge comes to mind (though I'd rather see it with my wife -- we both enjoy horror films), but so much of Hollywood's output seems to me to be ... well, how does one put this? -- not quite in synch with the zeitgiest. It would be as if General Motors or Ford or Chrysler decided, at the moment that high gas prices and fuel efficient Japanese imports conspired to drive down their market share in the 1970s, chose to concentrate on bigger, less efficient gas guzzlers in response. I am not so much speaking of Hollywood's utter lack of curiosity regarding September 11 or the War on Terror -- I don't see movies to get caught up on current events. Rather, I think, it's the emphasis Hollywood continues to place, after all these years, on self-actualization (as the psychobabblers would put it). There's a wonderful episode of the Simpsons, in which Homer has been so conditioned by Hollywood movies like Animal House to regard college deans as repressive tyrants that when he encounters one who, it turns out, is kind and fair and cool, Homer is incapable of abandoning the stereotype. So too Hollywood, which began to lose me, I think, around the time of the English Patient. In that film, there's a scene in which the man having an affair with another man's wife desperately needs a jeep or some other kind of conveyance. Because World War Two has just broken out, the British soldiers are reluctant to give him one. It's an effective scene -- I distinctly recall someone hissing in the theater when the Brits turn down the lover, and I have to admit that were it not for a silly insistence I have on trying to see things from someone else's point of view (that of soldier who soon enough will be the only ones fighting Hitler seeing a foreigner demanding one of their jeeps), I too might have hissed. As it is, I couldn't help concluding tha tthe message of the film was that in this crazy love triangle, the problems of the world don't mean a hill of beans.

As a child I loved Peter Pan -- or at least the Disnified version of it, which, after all, had Pirates and Indians and a maneating crocodile and all sorts of interesting things going on. But while never having to grow up can be an appealing fantasy for children, it's not exactly the best prescription for adults to follow. So why should I shell out money to see a film that appears to argue the opposite?

Perhaps I'm wrong -- perhaps there are dozens of hard-nosed Sam Spades in the films I'm missing, refusing to play the sap for anyone. But I suspect there aren't, and, given a choice between a few hours in a darkened room with overloud speakers and a few hours in a bright cafe with trilobites, I'll choose the latter...

Posted by Ideofact at November 26, 2004 11:40 PM