Baby Moons and Okay Movies

June 3, 2009

Last night, some friends who are also entreprenuers here in Staunton asked if we’re going to take a “baby moon” before our tyke is born in August. “A what?” we answered. A baby moon — sort of like a honeymoon, but it’s when expectant parents go on a trip as their last hurrah before the baby is born. Because, you know, our lives are supposed to end once the baby is here.

We said no, no baby moon, but we are making an effort to sate our appetites for things that we know will be difficult for the first few years after we cross over into the parenting universe. We’ve been eating out a lot, for instance, and are about to head down to Nashville to a convention where we’re both guests. And we’re seeing a shit load of movies. Some are great, some are okay.

A great movie was The Watchmen. Of course it was so long that I think my bladder ruptured, but it was surprising for a superhero movie, at least to me. Here we have your typical tale of men in tights in a place where cliched rain comes down constantly, especially when they’re fighting. You can’t shake a stick at a movie theater these days without pointing out some shlock where people fight in the rain — that, or where something blows up behind them while they walk casually away, or where they leap headfirst away from an exploding something or other. . . . But I digress. I loved Watchmen. It was mature. The characters were complex. There were gray moral issues instead of just black and white ones. And it wasn’t wall-to-wall action; they actually had a few slow moments to allow us to take a breath, which has the effect of making the action all that more memorable. The story was also morally ambiguous in some ways: you have to give kudos to a movie that has the balls to show a pregnant woman getting blown away in during the Vietnam War. (Well, okay, maybe there’s nothing morally ambiguous about that part. But there were some morally ambiguous moments elsewhere. Really, really there were!)

I also liked Terminator Salvation a great deal although a majority of people seem to think it was dreadful crap. It reminded me a lot of the first Mad Max movie, and I thought it had a good story. Its one, glaring flaw, that I could see, came when the terminators in the Skynet concentration camp/factory didn’t blow away Kyle Reese the instant they identified him. There was nothing in the movie that indicated Skynet didn’t know that Reese was going to be John Connor’s father, else why were they looking for him? Still, I don’t understand why the movie is so widely hated. Maybe people are reacting to the radical departure in format from the previous movies: no Arnold this time, no time travel, no futuristic robot in a modern setting — rather, lots of futuristic robots in a futuristic setting.

I didn’t see it until after it left the theater, but I also liked The Curious Case of Benjamin Button very much, although again it was a bladder-buster. (Glad I saw it at home.) It was a sentimental, unusual, and well done story, unmuddled by a sound track that got in the way. The only real objection I had to it was when Benjamin just up decides that he can’t be a father to his daughter and abandons his family. That was completely out of character for him. Up until then, he had always been depicted as a devoted family man and somebody in complete acceptance of his condition — and that everyone around him was in acceptance of his condition. It just didn’t make logical sense that he would suddenly take off. Maybe the writers needed him to do that in order to satisfy their outline — a cardinal sin of storytelling. Or maybe they finally realized the movie was getting too long and so had to compress part of his life. Whatever, it was a stupid plot development. The rest of the movie was great, though.

Other new movies I saw and enjoyed were Dragonball, Wolverine, and the new Star Trek. Sure, I can understand why purists had problems with Dragonball and Star Trek: “Go-Ku’s hair isn’t long enough, and they changed his backstory so that he’s not a Saiyan!” “But the Enterprise was constructed in orbit; not on the ground!” Again, whatever. (And for what it’s worth, all perceived continuity problems in Star Trek can be explained by the Romulan’s time travel, which altered the subsequent time line in big and small ways.) They were all still fun movies. The only problem I had, again, was shared by Star Trek, Wolverine, and the aforementioned Terminator Salvation: there was so much, nonstop action, that we never had a chance to catch a breath. As Richard Nixon once said, you can’t appreciate the heights until you’ve experienced the lows. Bad rock music has the same problem: a lack of dynamics.

And please, please, can we stop with the handheld, herky-jerky camera work? If I wanted that level of amateurishness, I’d download the stuff off of my own camcorder. A failure to keep the camera steady does not enhance the experience. It only calls attention to the cinematography, kind of like a writer who’s unable to write a dialogue tag without an adverb. Get out of the way, Mr. Director. You’re ruining the illusion of being there.

Anyway, the baby moon continues. In the meantime, I’m curious to hear what other people think of this summer’s selection.