Monday, October 08, 2007

Co(s)mic Relief

"Sunblock to Traceman... copy please."
Traceman to Sunblock, loud and clear."
"Get us in the picture, pronto!"
"It's the final stretch...three rogues will converge on you in 97 seconds. 15 seconds to thrust..."
"—Thrusters are on rev. Slight turbulence to starboard, dollar-size perforations visible on canard. P'rhaps ammonia."
"Hold the boosters... hold, hold 'em. Wait for current to cut out... Resume boosters."
"Boosters on and at full. Copy. Leverage acceptable.
"Engaging target at 0.75c and accelerating. Left rudder abraded, expecting jolt, possibly detachment. Awaiting instructions."
"Reduce thrusters to 0.70c. Monitor turbulence, search for a low exit. Taxi her in, don't stretch 'er flaps too much..."
What I have reproduced above are dialogues for a sci-fi film. As you can see, it is actually nonsense, I made it up just now; the technique being to simply envision a kiddie-bimbette with a serious look chewing Doublemint and clad in tights with juicy figlike lips split open with moist desire (oh yes, that too comes when the lips are wet), and all the necessary appurtenances for a weighty space-skirmish (meaning, male sidekicks gaping in wonder and lust). Since it is a dialogue, it presupposes a male, which in this case can be a staid, clean-shaven, battle-scarred old bulldog going around with the name of Captain Protter (Hollywood always chooses the commanders to have British names, in deference to the patriarchy). The technique here is to invent, within the span of a few minutes of screen time, an entire language that is however decided beforehand.

To produce the blockbuster (as in movies, not as in ærial warfare) is quite straightforward. First you apply to BSC for a nice casting lady, and she will hire the rest of the cast. With the butter taken care of, you can go scouting for bread, which is when you approach the various 'trade unions' in Hollywood: the working machinery of the Big Six. Seasoned professionals who, by virtue of their immense experience and the reproducibility of their highly specialized work, are able to invent new and new situations with only minimal changes from what they routinely do. (It's quite like you wear green trousers one day and blue the next. It's all so disconcertingly simple for those with the training, especially since they make the rules.) And when it all falls into place, the result is engaging for the 100-odd minutes (the duration of the movie being decided by the number of times a cinema could screen it in a day; at most places in the US one could screen a 100-minute cinema five, or six, times.) the viewer gasps and groans in suspended animation throughout the duration of the extended pot-boiler. (It's like a continuously accelerating metro.) The idea is to break tons and tons of vitrified water (as in 'cool') on the heads of the hapless viewer who has 'chosen' this mode of 'leisure.' (The lucky ones engage in chick-tweaking or tuning or whatever, at least they pay no attention to what's going on and hopefully don't recollect anything but their personal adventure.) Intermittent gasps and lewd curtain calls emanate from a predominantly male viewer population, some of whom, as we have already noted, are searching and groping away in oblivion in pleasant company (jouissance?).

My dears, this is how a Hollywood action blockbuster is made; specifically, this is how films like James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day are made. And when we first watched that movie (we were sooo young then), our minds blank slates, our eyes two tubes, and as if memory never existed, as if the world was fused into us, we felt like we were in the presence of God. It never struck us that the melting man was incredibly crappy, now that we openly proclaim that the business of the melting man was to look real. But we don't question God (I was an unbeliever even then but I loved Arnie, he was God). And with the Soviet Union all gone (it was already gone, but we were too close by to realize), the whole Terminator junk takes on a comical aspect. We shall have to breed a Godzilla from the microbe to have a deserved screen villain.

It was as if every growing boy's mind explodes into adulthood with the Hollywood thriller from the point of a pistol. It is not that they make a hash of it. They certainly don't, that's why they are still in business (with all those TV channels going Bruce Lee at them) and growing. What I care for, at this point (I was 15 then, 30 now: the film cleaves my life in two) is what it does to the excluded lot - the ones who care what they see on screen - and to what they hold for those that are to come. The answer, predictably, is grim. But grim is what reassures us, we're post-modern.

And I grew up so.

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