Thinks about going to a movie this weekend; ah-ha! Liam Neeson has a movie which opened last week; a white-knuckle thriller about a US air marshal on board a hijacked airliner.
Not my cuppa, actually – but Liam Neeson is one of the few actors around who can convincingly play an adult man doing a job … like an air marshal.

*Does internet search for reviews of Non-Stop. Look, I work for a living. Do you think I want to waste $10 on something I might not get a good two hours of enjoyment out of?*

Oh, dear. Making the villain the survivor of someone murdered by Islamic terrorists on 9/11, and a veteran, with a military member as a side-kick?

Really?

Look, if there had been a whole stream of movies from Hollywood since 9/11 where survivors and military were the good guys, maybe I might be inclined to cut some slack for an unexpected plot twist. Alas, this is Hollywood, behaving in the movie manner which we have come to expect of them since 9/11.
No sale. I hereby put on my magic Cassandra hat and predict that Non-Stop will sink at fly-over country box offices as if it had a fifty-pound lead weight strapped to it and dumped over the Mariana Trench.

Well, the early critical reviews are out and the knives are in: the latest movie remake of The Lone Ranger looks to be tanking like the Titanic,(the original ship, not James Cameron’s movie fantasy) although the some of the reviews posted at Rotten Tomatoes are favorable, most of them are entertainingly vicious. Jerry Bruckheimer again goes over the top from the high-dive with a half-gainer and a jackknife on the way down, all with the noisy special effects, Johnny Depp was promised that he could wear bizarre hair and a lot of makeup and it appears as if the ostensible lead character is just there…

There have been so many iterations of The Lone Ranger, on radio, television and in the movies, and each one added its conventions, characterization and images that now it has become a creaking tottering edifice built of clichés. No more growth is possible, just a recitation of the same old verities. I believe that we can do better by the old Wild West, and so I propose a very, very radical solution; to reboot the Lone Ranger by amputating it from the post Civil War never-never-land of mid-20th century imagining and transplanting it squarely back in pre-Civil War Texas, with forays perhaps into Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana, and to New Mexico – perhaps even as far as California. John Reid would be the sole survivor of a ranger unit ambushed and wiped out by – oh, whoever would be the villainous gang of the time; a scalp-hunting gang, villainous Comancheros, cattle and horse thieves from the Nueces Strip. Really, any sufficiently well-organized gang of baddies from the period would serve. He could even be a survivor of the Mier Expedition, escaped from Mexican custody and found near-death in the wilderness by Tonto … who could be a Lipan Apache or Tonkawa scout.

And thereafter, the two would roam the southwest as it was at that particular time, with attention to actual historical figures and facts. They could do all the fighting of evil-doers and injustice that the plot would require; a pair of fearless and adventurous friends. (Ix-nay on any suggestion of gayness, mostly because I’m damned tired of that particular character development.) Keep the horse named Silver, though. But lose the silver bullets, the white hat and the mask. Sorry – but the first is impractical, given the weapons of the time, second given the custom of the time … and in the days before wide circulation of photographs, you could be a total stranger once you were five miles away from where you lived and worked. One didn’t need a mask – in fact, in the real Wild West that would have made the lone Ranger even more noticeable. “Hey, who was that masked man? Did you ever see the like? Oh, I heard tell of him …” Whereas, sans mask: “Hey, who was that guy? Oh, just another saddle tramp, passing through; don’t pay him no mind…”Keep the sense of honor, though – the chivalry, the sharp-shooting and the unwillingness to kill, unless there was no other way. I know this seems radical – and loosing the mask might be seen as heretical – but the situation calls for radical steps. Look, this latest version had Tonto with a crow squatting on his head, so I believe we have reached the point where something must be done to resuscitate our popular cultural heroes.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz.net at at www.celiahayes.com)

I am almost sure that telling a historical story through a movie is fraught with as many perils for the story-teller as doing so through the medium of historical fiction – it’s just that the movie-maker’s pratfalls are so much more … public, I guess is the word that I’m fishing for. There are big-name, serious historical fiction writers who abuse history almost beyond recognition in their attempt to weave a tale of the past – Philippa Gregory, anyone? – but to my mind, the really, really egregious mainstream offenses are committed in the service of movie-making. I was reminded of this again, in reading yet another 100-year-anniversary-of-the-Titanic sinking, and how James Cameron had to apologize to the descendants of First Officer William Murdoch for the manner in which Murdoch’s character was maligned and his fate dramatized in Titanic … all in the service of punching up the drama a couple of degrees. Which was really not necessary, since – like most dramatic historical episodes – a strict accounting of the facts usually provides all the drama required. More »

As I wrote – gosh, how many years ago in the Brief – about wishing that Hollywood could find it in their heart and wallets to make movies that didn’t kick military members and veterans in the teeth; now they finally come up with one: Act of Valor, after lo, these many years. It looks as if looks as if the regular movie-going public likes Act of Valor as much as the movie critic establishment seems to despise it. Or so I can see from the Rotten Tomato ratings. But hey – opening weekend box office figures tell something. And if it cleans up on subsequent weekends, maybe, just maybe I might have hope that the usual Hollywood ‘tards can connect the dots.

And about time, too. But I still think the ‘Obama gets Osama’ drama is going to fall flat, unless the current administration works with their folks to drag us to see it by the bus-load.