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@ K. 2004 05 25
Independence Day made a pile of money. I saw it in the multiplex, liked several things about it. Will Smith is always wonderful and Jeff Goldblum paired with him beautifully. Neat to see the professional nerd all buffed up. But in a couple of details a civilized audience would have hooted the movie off the screen.
Independence Day reminded me of a British documentary I once saw which supposedly “imagined” post-nuke horrors in England. Everyone stood on line. Everyone behaved himself. I don’t doubt that the English would face catastrophe more orderly than most — after all, order has been their shtick for centuries; but I bet even England would be chaotic after a nuke. The extras didn’t even look very stressed: or grieved.
Independence Day shows the White House, big symbol, and the rest of DC getting zapped by Martians. But the president is safe. Everyone still treats him with extreme deference.
No, no, no. Everyone would kick his head down the corridor. Mussolini gets his ass kissed when things are going well; Mussolini gets decapitated when the bombs fall.
The president is taken to some secret facility in New Mexico. It’s been kept secret even from the president. He’s a bit taken a back for a moment but then takes it right in stride and goes right on thinking he’s in charge. Ah, I too was deceived, but now I know the truth. AND everyone keeps treating him with deference: as though he’s in charge: as though he’s ever been in charge: as though he’s ever been anything but part of the fake scenery, part of the illusion of democracy.
Governments hide things from the people. Governments hide things from the executive. The executive hides things from Congress. The military hides things from both. Government is hiding, lying … misrepresentation. All that order is an illusion. The English have been changed a little bit: on the surface. But not the Italians: and not Americans: I bet.
But catastrophe unmasks all of that. Civilized people would plan catastrophes, schedule them, just to restore honesty on occasion.
I say a few words about Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow in my module on Conservatism and also in my Judgment Day Scrapbook. But I’ll also add here: the film shows the US Vice President conspicuously not hearing the scientist. After the catastrophe, who runs the show? The Vice President, now President. The former President, none too bright himself, has died. The VP, now P, says he’s learned. Maybe so: but catastrophe-stuck refugees would not be listening to him, would not be following him.
Now: compare reality: it’s the citizenry who haven’t listened to the scientists all along: the White House really did represent the public: head in the sand. The question shouldn’t be does the V-P learn; but does the public learn? I don’t think so. Nature will teach the next species: nature itself learning along the way.
It’s not on the map.
2005 02 27 Hollywood night on ABC, so Fox shows Independence Day. I’m rewatching bits and pieces: between blog posts, dinner, fetching desert … When it came out I’d seen it at least one and a half times. This time I’ve seen enough fractions of it to perhaps bring it over “two” viewings.
First let me say that this time around is far and away the most pleasurable. For one thing, I’ve already mocked it. I’m on record for a few of its faults. Therefore I can ignore that and enjoy the hell out of its many virtues: primary among which is its cast. Seeing 1996 versions of Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox … and James Duval (looking like a Lou Diamond Phillips sibling).
Getting out of bed, Will Smith shows a leg at least half as good as Tiger Woods’. Smith’s Ali mimes are great.
Judd Hirsch acts almost as Jewish as Mel Brooks in his heaviest shtick.
Believe me: it’s out there.
Nevertheless, the themes noted above stand out like plague. And this time I culled a line or two.
Smith tricks an alien into crashing his ship against a canyon cul de sac. Now he’s dragging a alien corpse toward his air base. Along come a fleet of ‘Bagos, grinding the desert to sterility. Smith agrees that he’d be glad to hop a ride to the base. “It’s not on the map,” says the confused mobile home driver.
Information is kept from the president. Information is kept from the public. Yet somehow we’re supposed to be able to defend ourselves from hi-tech attacks?
Maybe. If the aliens lie amongst themselves at anything like the rate we bombard ourselves with misinformation.
This viewing also recalls to me an old boxing movie. Some big stiff from South America has been managed through a series of fixed fights, to a championship fight: where the opponent has NOT been paid to dive. Our poor spic gets his head handed to him.
Now the manager drops him, pays him off. His share of the millions he’s “won,” after the manager allows for expenses, comes to thirty cents: only a few million left over for the manager himself.
But I’m a good fighter, protests the lug, not understanding that it’s all been scripted so neatly that the casting doesn’t matter. With regret, the manager instructs the way over the hill assistant to enlighten the lug. The old old man punches out the night’s loser with no difficulty.
In the 1950s when I saw that movie on TV it didn’t occur to me to wonder why the fixers hadn’t bothered to find a big lug to fool who actually could fight.
Making his movie, Emmerich used the very best special effects he could conceive of and pay for. The Day After Tomorrow, being made a few years later, has even better effects. Yet he also used good actors; not lugs: making up the difference with the effects.
Yet according to the movie, the White House doesn’t need any such intellectual integrity.
“Deniability” is the reason offered for keeping the executive ignorant.
In the fight movie, at least the lug has the sense to see that he’s been had and to shut up. Independence Day‘s President Pullman goes right on thinking his top dog: and the moron bureaucrats also go right on pretending he’s in charge.
Compare Shakespeare’s Richard II. That’s a play where the king finds out that the jig is up while he’s still in office; only there, everyone, down to the chambermaid, treats him with open contempt once the mask is off. A lame duck king.
That’s what Independence Day is missing: a Bolingbroke: a Henry IV to run things while Richard II still wears the crown.
2010 07 05
I just showed the movie to my beloved, Jan: to make the same points made above to her. A new image, a new phrasing, occurred to me.
I recall a cartoon from decades ago: Nancy perhaps. A rich girl in Nancy’s school class is assigned to write a story about a poor girl. She shares her results: “Once there was a poor girl. She lived in a poor mansion with her poor parents. The butler was poor, the maids were all poor, even the chauffeur was poor.” Independence Day tries to imagine a situation in which the United States isn’t the top power and imagines a world in which the United States is still the top power, even after it’s destroyed. The little rich girl couldn’t imagine poor except in terms of rich. Independence Day tries to imagine a catastrophe and fails to imagine catastrophic results. They talk about deaths but show thousands of RVs running around in the desert, planes, motorcycles attached, all full of gas, the people all full of beans: and resolution. No, no, no. Read the final chapters in Piers Anthony’s Geodyssey series: there you’ll see catastrophe imagined that’s actually catastrophic.
2014 06 16 I’ll drawl on related considerations in the shadows of WWZ.