Monthly Archives: July 2007

riding in cars with boys

I almost didn’t see Georgia Rule — only the brutal heat of Iraqi summer and the boredom of waiting for flights at Balad Air Base chased me into the theater. I was anticipating the worst, a seriously bad time, treacle on the order of Thomas Kinkade; the trailer makes it look like the worst possible edition of the annual or semi-annual going-back-to-grandma’s-makes-everything-better tradition in Hollywood. (What self-loathing there must be among screenwriters and producers, that they compulsively, repeatedly send recalcitrant teens — their younger selves? their own obnoxious offspring? — to the country to shed their urban, media-saturated ways and re-learn the good old-fashioned virtues of hard work, courtesy, and love for family!) From the trailer, one can see all the key elements aligned exactly as they must be in one of these self-flagellating pageants — the brittle, wisecracking teen, the mom with problems of her own, the stern but patient grandma, the handsome love interests for both mom and daughter, the uptight townspeople who reject the girl, lessons learned, catchphrases used like hammers against the temples of both naughty adolescents and weary audience members.

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a camel is a horse designed by committee

Note that the clarity of thought practically jumps off the screen here: although the Code is almost the same number of words as the Creed (112 vs. 121), it is organized into six sentences of moderate length and complexity, compared to the Creed’s thirteen, mostly simple sentences. The sentences in the Code are all grammatically correct, and only two of them engage in the listing of bullet points, where the entire Creed can, itself, be seen as such a list. It is free of redundancies and repetitions. And it is free of bloat; where the Creed forces a soldier to blather on about being “an expert and a professional,” without ever defining what those things mean, the Code lays out a set of principles in clear language without throwing in a lot of empty, pride-puffing keywords.

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da jesus versus the macguffin in a no-holds-barred cage match

We are used to characters showing up in action movies just to move the plot forward. Some are more interesting than others, but we accept their quirky behavior and improbable characteristics because, after all, somebody has to explain how you can get dinosaurs out of tree sap, and somebody has to get past all the computer locks in the Nakatomi building vault. What’s interesting about Transformers is that Bay&Co. have gleefully jumped past that old architecture — irrelevant, wacky characters as supports for the plot — and into the brave new world — characters and scenes which forward no plot, MacGuffins all, yet set adrift, Sam Witwicky no less than the cube, all equally pointless, all sewn together with the inarguable emotional logic of anime, where characters pose in absolute stillness for long seconds, then hack each other to bits, for reasons as fluid as loyalties in a dream. Do we need the 19-year-old Australian beauty who works for the NSA and is improbably also friends with Anthony Anderson? Do we need John Turturro hamming it up as the ultimate Man in Black? Do we need to know that Mikaela’s dad had a criminal past? Indeed, is there anything in this film that could even reasonably be marked, “Point A” or “Point B” — let alone actually lead from one to the other? Who cares? Each scene, each bit of business, succeeds or fails on its own. And a surprising number of them succeed.

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