Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Brighter Tomorrow

I've been on a hiatus from my blog for a while. I think that I have taken my editing process too far and often talked myself out of posting along the lines of, "Who really cares?" I guess the question is: does one write a blog because they have something to say or because they think it's something people want to hear? (Read. Whichever.) Ideally, I suppose that you would hope that both are true.
I have noticed that my texts to friends are getting longer and more elaborate, so I do at least have something to say. Let's see if any of it's at all interesting. I do have the safety net of having named this blog for the superfluous, so I don't have to bother with being important, at least.
Like many people over the last couple of days, I have been stunned by the attacks in Paris. (And, yes, I do realize that similar attacks have occurred in less iconic cities and the outcry and showing of support on social media has not been equal to that for Paris, and, yes, we should probably reflect on that, but I don't really feel like now is the time when we ought to be throwing guilt upon grief.) Paris is a dream city for so many people - even for those of us who have been there. That a city filled with so much art, history, and culture could be set upon by hateful, armed men whose only aim is terror and death is like a punch in the stomach.
Since the Oklahoma City bombing, I have taken the approach of only checking in periodically when terrible events such as this unfold. I find that there is too much misinformation and speculation from too-eager newsrooms - and now from social media as well - to get anywhere near the truth of what is happening. Even now it will probably be a couple of days before we really know the what and the why and even longer until we finally understand the how.
I logged out of my computer and went for a walk. Then I came back to my apartment, checked in again, logged off again, put on a "popcorn" movie (Enter the Dragon) and went to bed.
The next morning, I checked only the BBC app on my phone for any updates. I decided that I needed more escapism, and I put in the movie that I had rented while out on my walk: Disney's Tomorrowland.
When I saw the trailer for this film originally, I wasn't terribly keen on it: just Disney looking to cash in on yet another "theme park" movie after The Haunted Mansion and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. When I saw that Brad Bird was helming the movie I started to change my tune: I'm a big fan of The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, and I really liked the new trajectory he created for the Mission:Impossible movies with Ghost Protocol. When it was finally released in theatres, and critics began to savage it, I decided that I was going to forego the popcorn and giant soda expenditure and wait until it was available in one of those crimson-colored rectangular machines. (If they want me to say "Redbox," they can pay me to do so.)
Anyway, yes, there are problems with the movie. I think that the two-hour runtime is problematic. Either they should have tried to tell less story and make it the usual 90 to 100 minutes, or they should have told the story they wanted to tell and let it go to three hours. Also, if you're making a family sci-fi adventure, you might want to avoid giving the bad guys guns that obliterate people.
Problematic, however, does not equal unenjoyable. This is a fun film, and the interplay among Clooney, Britt Robertson, and Raffey Cassidey is entertaining. (I did find it interesting that Disney went with the then 24-year-old Robertson to play the teenaged protagonist rather than promoting one of their many tween and teen stars. She's believable and very good. I just think it's interesting.)
The visuals are terrific. I'm sure that there is a term like "Steampunk" for the look of 50s and 60s conceptions of space and the future, but I don't know what is. Whatever it is, I love it, and Brad Bird recreated it beautifully. There is also a Steampunk/Clockpunk scene featuring the Eiffel Tower that is pretty spectacular as well. (That scene, of course, held a different context for someone watching it that Saturday morning.) While some have criticized the "political" slant of the film, I found the message to be a powerful - particularly that morning when I knew that my Facebook feed was awaiting me with more harrowing images from across the Atlantic.
I don't want to give too much away, but the story (somewhat clumsily) introduces an old parable early on: the two wolves. Now I have heard this story for many years. It was a Ute allegory when I first heard it, but then I grew up on the Southern Ute reservation, so who knows its real origin? I've heard it attributed to the Cherokee and the Apache and the Navajo as well. Whatever the actual source, the story is this:

An elder sits down with his grandson and tells him, "Inside each of us is a battle between two wolves. One wolf represents greed, anger, jealousy, fear, hatred, and despair. The other wolf is love, peace, forgiveness, kindness, and hope."
"Which wolf wins?" asks the grandson.
"The one you feed."

Tomorrowland also raises an interesting question: whatever happened to that 50s and 60s vision of the future? In the 60s, Gene Roddenberry told television audiences that, in the future, we would be exploring space as one people - regardless of race or gender. No one would be starving or poor. The only hunger would be for knowledge.
Now, one of the most popular television shows is about the last few humans barely staving off a zombie apocalypse with antiquated weapons.
This is not to say that there aren't hopeful stories of the future now or that there weren't dystopian visions of the future back then, it's just curious to see which are and were more widely embraced.
Which wolf is being fed?
Again, I don't want to give too much away, because - despite a few problems - Tomorrowland is an entertaining film, and I think you should see it. I may have been swayed in my opinion somewhat by a definite need to transcend the world of that Saturday morning and feed a different wolf for a while, but, then: couldn't we all feed that wolf a little more often?