Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Get me a fire extinguisher for my hair

Longtime readers know that I have a low threshold for the sorts of things that ordinary Americans do every day without a second thought like grocery shopping on Saturdays, impossible left turns, kiddie sporting events and seeing popular movies when they first come out. So when Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince was released, I made my kids wait until I judged the theater would be less like St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday, which turned out to be a good move. No clueless idiot in an Tahoe tried to run us down in order to be able to drop her darlings right at the theater's entrance, no one spilled popcorn on our feet or talked loudly during the film, or kicked the back of our seats or anything like that. In general, the sort of people who see a popular movie on Monday morning at 11:45am are the sort of people I will be on the same page with. Is it any wonder there were only about 20 people there?

But I'm not here to talk about Harry Potter, although it was an excellent film, I thought. No, I'm here to talk about the coming attractions. It's not like I never before realized how completely ridiculous movie trailers are--and who is the guy who does the voice-over for all of them? He must be making pots of money. Anyway, for some reason, on this Monday morning, the coming attractions became an embarrassing symbol of the inanity of American popular culture.

First came a trailer for the movie 2012 in which the voice-over guy spoke to us about "mankind's oldest civilization," along with images of ancient temples. "Oh," I thought, "A movie about Sumer, how interesting." But no, it turns out he's talking about the Mayans, whose cultural apex was between the years 250-900AD. The Sumerian civilization dates back to about 5,000 BC. I know what you're thinking: "It's just a movie! Stop being such a pedagog!" Maybe I am a bit of a stickler for accuracy, but is it too much to ask that Americans be even minimally knowledgeable about a civilization native to our very own continent and not label one that came after the Egyptians, Cretans, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans as "oldest"? Couldn't Mr. Pots-of-Money have said "An ancient civilization"? At any rate 2012 isn't really about the Mayans, but about the end of the world as predicted by them. It looks like it might be worth watching for the special effects, but I wouldn't expect anything profound.

Then came a trailer for the new Disney picture, The Princess and the Frog. A typical Disney fairy tale, with a twist--the princess is black! They draw her wearing a white gown to emphasize that fact and how, exactly, a princess-type person fits into what appears to be Mississippi of the 1930s is a mystery to me, but let's not discount Disney magic!

Next came an ad for a Sherlock Holmes movie. OK, I admit that this movie looks like it might be good, at the very least because it stars Robert Downey jr. Robert Downey jr. as Sherlock Holmes! I admit I've never actually read Sherlock Holmes stories (but I saw some on Wishbone), but judging from the trailer, it looks like the screenwriters may have taken some liberties with Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle's writing. But Robert Downey jr. is a big draw, and if that isn't enough, Jude Law plays Dr. Watson. Still, it's one of those movies that opens on Christmas day and Christmas Day movie openings are one of those things that I find apalling and other Americans do not. I'll see you at the Monday matinee.

Then came trailers for a couple of completely forgettable movies involving thrilling stunts, explosions and a kid who sprouts an old-fashioned telephone out of his head. The final trailer was one of those with a big build-up: no images but chalked words on a black screen and the voice over guy blathering in a way that let us know this movie is really special. Now, scenes of a furry creature carrying a small boy and a middle class pseudo-hippie family and we are initiated into the full glory: we are in the presence of the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are! All bow now, please. The voice-over tells us that it's based on one of the "most beloved books of all time," a bit of a stretch, although I don't deny it's very popular, especially among free-spirited people who attended small liberal arts colleges. The images fade to white chalk credits on a black ground and tell us that the movie is based on the book by "the author Maurice Sendak." I'm glad they made that clear or I might have gotten confused and thought they meant the astronaut Maurice Sendak, or the Olympic gymnast Maurice Sendak. Good Christ, people! Shit like this is the reason Americans are the laughingstock of the entire world. Physically, I am sitting quietly at my computer, but mentally, I am running in circles and my hair is on fire.

Interestingly, the Sherlock Holmes movie trailer made no mention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author or otherwise. It is my great misfortune to have been born in a country that not only does not value the seriously literate, but treats them with ridicule and scorn.


  1. In the interests of not ranting on your blog, I will simply say that I agree with everything you said and then leave it at that.

  2. I have Grandpa B's well-worn copy of the complete Sherlock Holmes I'd be happy to share. Let me know and I will pop it in the mail! Let's just say that the screenplay writers have taken more than just liberty to adjust the writings of Doyle.

    Well said on the rest!


  3. I think the telephonesis kid movie is by Robert Rodriguez, so it will likely not suck and might actually kick much ass.

    I also saw HP on Monday, at noon. In Goshen, Indiana, which actually has a 14 screen theater in an ancient strip plaza . . . with stadium seats. All 9 of us were seated in relative luxury, with those rocking seats and no heads to block the view.

    I think I'll need to see the Sherlock Holmes flick, but I'll also need to find someone who won't mind my constant ducking down low and hiding behind my fingers.

  4. I love it when you get sarcastic. Your blog post covers exactly what I THINK during previews but am not allowed to voice since Mr. D has NO patience for me.
    Now I shall hope to someday sit through trailers with you so we can be witty together;)

  5. Read Sherlock Holmes. Better yet, get some out on Books on Tape, and let someone read them to you.

    I'd follow Robert Downey Jr most anywhere, but the trailer looks like like this is a travesty of the icy thrill that is Doyle's writing.