Come and See

Drive-ins. Today Google’s opening page honors Drive-in’s 79th anniversary with a bubble-gum pink ‘Admit One’ ticket see-sawing in front of a sign that reads oogle. Last night by coincidence, I saw one of the most unforgettable films of my viewing life.

The power of film! I am still reeling from an unconventional movie made in 1985 called “Come and See.” Not since my younger brother and teenage me saw Jaws at a Galveston drive-in (double-billed with Capone) and next day had to build courage to step into the Gulf, has a film disturbed me so.

I gave the film a chance because 1) It was on the AFI top 250 list and I never heard of it, 2) The filmmaker tells the story of a young boy. Ever since Mark Twain and Harper Lee, I’m a fan of stories told from a child’s point of view about adult experiences. Come and See is a startling tell.

Image

After a vile runt of a boy shouts invectives to his tall likable friend, the camera rolls with two excited Russian boys as they search for a forgotten  battlefield. They pull up war gear and rifles deep from the sands of an overrun Russian position of the unstoppable German invasion of 1941. The runt dons found Nazi battle gear, imitating a meanness that he believes will suit the German occupiers he later meets. The eldest boy carries home a Russian rifle to  join the Partisans. He charms away his little twin sisters and anxious mother to run off a meet them. The Partisans reject the hopeful lad along with their favorite pretty girl mascot. Sending the innocents home from their forest camp, the Partisans head for the front. The boy and girl share disappointment of their rejection. The next day, left alone, they enjoy an idyllic time until the look to the sky. Strange parachutes open, the SS descend, and the boy and girl face their helpless fate together.

At first it is uncomfortable to see actors and actresses emote deadpan, full frame, directly into the lens. But the director  does not want you to be comfortable with the subject – and focuses us on this – one extermination of over six hundred villages in Belorussia. The focal length is short, making the actress cross-eyed, adding a sense of idiocy to her naivety of the world.

You can forgive the film for some too-long takes because the pacing sets you up for a final thirty minute run which is perhaps the most breathtaking, non-stop war scene ever filmed.  The uniforms and obscure gear are entirely authentic of 1943. Some of the scenes are genius – a flash that we see with the girl that would mean everything to the boy as they are fleeing. After some courage, she utters the image in short words. The rolling camera has more juice than the napalm & helicopter Ride-of-the-Valkyries vertical assault in Apocalypse Now!, or the terror of the Omaha Beach landing in Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers.  The camera rolls and floats with the endless victory of cruelty, shear madness, and horror that a few actors actually experienced in the invasion of their homeland in World War Two.

There are few predictable moments. Sometimes you get stuck in a scene with a Quentin Tarantino cruelty we must endure.  At other moments there is a Fellini-esque vitality of raw moments that I have never seen in a Hollywood depiction of war. There is no stand-out villain Nazi like Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, the entire mixed-German platoon wheels an invisible zeal of distinct beer house characters – except they are dead sober, being at war for years. The film is a marvelous intertwining of direction (Elem Klimov), writing (Ales Adamovich), and cinematography (Alexei Rodionov). The actors may have been over their heads, for how can a boy credibly act, react, and emote such witness. The unsettling soundtrack and original music complete the film’s psychological pacing. I admire a film shown from a young boy’s point of view that avoids the easy way out of first person narrative overdubs. Raw images, raw acting all the way. This is a cinema experience no US teenager will ever experience from a car seat. And that is unfortunate, not because this is one of the early heroic uses of a steadicam when they weighed 100 pounds, but because you walk away feeling in your gut the horror of something that really happened to us, the human race.

Freedom to Hear Richard Dawkins

Going to a public event where people on the sidelines shout into megaphones and flash signs to .. do what? In fact, the protest is almost the point – to not hear a speech by Richard Dawkins.  About 5,000 people have come to downtown San Diego’s Golden Hall, middle agers and up with a surprising number of twenty-somethings. Groups inside represent atheists, freethinkers, conscience causes, and the Atheist Party in this election year. On screen PowerPoint bon mots roll by, put up by the show organizers “Don’t pray in my school, and I won’t think in your church,” “God? lol” stuff like that. Over the excellent PA comes “Imagine” – part of, I guess – the white man’s atheist playlist. Definitely missing “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”

Crowd at Golden Hall listening to Richard Dawkins

Alternative thinkers 2012-Apr-6-San-Diego

After learned speakers talk about the devolution of American values caused by religion (one of Edward Gibbon’s main conclusions in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire pub. 1776), I hold my wife’s hand because this is a rare event. On stage is Sean Faircloth, a politician. Refreshing words, but heavy-handed enough for an impatient older man to shout some long message, the gist of which is “I came to hear Richard Dawkins speak.” The crowd does not like their freedom to hear abridged by the protestor. Sean gives polite thanks for coming tonight. After ten political points he hands off to RD.

Richard starts in his firm British voice with some joke about pro-life Republican believers. Life begins at conception, but sadly for them, ends at birth. The speech is mainly about the intelligence behind intelligent design by comparing natural with rational selection. He is chock-full of ideas, illustrated in PowerPoint. Among the many: intelligent design by adaptive selection appears to be the only mechanism in the universe we know nature uses so far; rational selection is easier. Then a deep analysis of the scope of religious evolution – the oddness of commandments, Saint Paul’s redemption of sins policy, Abraham’s immorality to slay his son (Is it moral to listen unquestioning to anyone? Is it moral to kill on command? Is it moral to kill one’s own son? ) Lots of moral morsels. Then about forty minutes into it, after his moral imperative: mind your own business, he dives into why religion appears to be popular – a counter-poll shows people mask their fears of appearing unpopular when asked if they are Christian, the want to believe in supernatural things having a therapeutic effect on people with psychosomatic problems. “I have been talking long enough.” The slide show ends without any finish or closing remark.

QA is very interesting, points out my wife at dinner over my commemorative entree. The first questioner starts out softly and then rolls into a protest, a guy testifies about Jesus’s love for Richard Dawkins, and does he oppose his lamb who died for him. Oh God. A few good replies come to mind. Oh, you Mormons are all alike. Ah, Love? But Dawkins is polite saying he has already answered and disengages after a few shakes of his proverbial foot. Must be why I ordered grilled lamb for dinner tonight. Now that’s a lamb to love.

Question two is also from a theist with other ancient axes to grind. Then a guy who won’t quit, invites him to be on his radio show. Dawkins masterfully answers saying he refuses to debate issues that simply do not need debating (creationism). Then a your-books-changed-my-life fan quests: “To arrive at your profound views, did you take hallucinogens?” Answer: “Sadly I did not.” A book signing on stage shows he is perspiring and worn. He cannot see the 500 people lined up. All his books are sold out.

Does the Freedom of Speech necessarily imply the Freedom to Hear?

Led Beatles Mashup

To listen to it, click here.   When I heard the Soundhog mashup in the car on the I-15 off XM satellite on the Breakfast with the Beatles show on April 1.  Amazing work as is. Needs a “radio cut” that is tighter in the middle and not so many ends. 4 minutes. Click on the pic to see Yoko Ono, then download the throbbing mp3 to hear the singing megagods rethrashed.

Great moments in literature – Mojave Crossing

Rolled out the trash in Escondido Monday night. This paperback probably fell out of another bin. Picked it up. Made it mine. Under the cover, the teaser:

DESERT SHOWDOWN

It was hot and still. Far off over the desert a dust devil danced among the Galleta grass and the creosote brush, but I saw no dust of human make. It could be we had shaken them. Maybe we would have no trouble after all.

What made me turn my head I’ll never know, but glancing over my left shoulder I caught just a glimpse of a rifle muzzle as somebody drew sight on me.

Mister, I left off of that rock like I was taking a free dive into a swimmin’ hole, and I hit that heaped-up sand on my shoulder and rolled over. When I came up it was on one knee, the other leg stretched out ahead of me, and my Winchester coming up to firing position.

Get’s me to the first paragraph.

When I saw that black-eyed woman a-looking at me I wished I had a Bible.

Stop. I could see where this hombre was headed. Read this find to my wife after dinner all excited. She tells me this is why the male species needs to be exterminated.

Louis L’Amour – Mojave Crossing 1964

Greatest Movie of 2011 (so far) Hobo With A Shotgun

If you still believe in the power of film:

This is the kind of movie my bachelorhood allows, Joanna being out of town.

I just watched “Hobo With A Shotgun.” Mesmerizingly Brilliant, Astonishingly Insane, Powerfully Profane, and most important, shot in amped up Technicolor. As you may not have time to see it, I have distilled the pivotal essence.

The scene. Rutger Hauer confesses his soul (recall Blade Runner). Before  newborn infants at the delivery ward with a bloody shotgun in hand is, if you can believe it, far better than the magnificent Ridley Scott moment, setting free the doves when his hand expires. Cinema rarely has such fine acting moments. This reel is one chomp of existential delivery after another. See it with a vengeance – the minimum is two glasses of wine.

Hobo and Newborns

Hobo sez

The immortal words:

“A long time ago I…was one of you. You’re all brand new and perfect — no mistakes, no regrets. People look at you and think of how wonderful your future will be. They want you to be something special…like a doctor, or a lawyer. But, I hate to tell you this, but if you grow up here you’re more likely to wind up selling your bodies on the streets, or shooting dope from dirty needles in a bus stop. When you’re successful you’ll make money selling junk to crackheads. And you won’t think twice about killing someone’s wife…because you won’t even know what was wrong in the first place. Or…maybe, you’ll end up like me…a hobo with a shotgun. I hope you can do better. You are the future.”

Library of the Future

“ESCONDIDO — The Escondido Public Library has launched its eBook download service. Patrons can browse the collection online. The service is free with a valid library card. The program can be downloaded from the library’s website to a computer, iPad, electronic reader or smartphone.”

No more moldy books with underlines, browsing in the stacks, thumbing through middle pages and having to wash your hands. Days gone by. Infinite books ahead.

Not going to use the recommended Adobe EPUB reader –  a piece of crapulent programming. I type in the URL and browse the ebooks, mostly bestsellers. In “New Arrivals” – Steinbeck’s “Mouse and Men”. I click on an old arrival.  “Place a Hold.” 14 readers pending, “You will receive an email when the selected title becomes available for checkout. Once you receive the email, you will have 3 days to check out the selected title.”

So they have perfectly replicated the worst part of the library experience – having to wait for the single copy that the “library owns.” If I remember correctly, the first ever libraries were medieval with chains attached to the books.

It has been an hour since I placed a book on hold that has (0) Readers waiting. Either the volunteer librarian is still making a PBJ or they are having a heck of a time trying to file the digital book in the Adobe Shelf Filing Software – Civic Edition. But then they probably are sharing the one legitimate license between all the civic libraries forced to participate in some councilmen’s free lunch scheme.

Mark Richard Beaulieu

PS – A week later I got an email notice for one of the books. You enter your library card # and pass through some hard to follow tree to put the book into a cart. You can check it out for 7 or 14 days. You are supposed to load this .acsm file into the appropriate Adobe software to read it, although I have another reader. I finish in one hour, realizing the book is not my cup of tea. Courteously I go to the library site to let the next reader have it. There is no way to “return” the book or indicate you are finished. Obviously a scam to keep the publishers happy to keep the book out of circulation, yet appear to be offering the title for the community.

MRB

The Revolution Will not be Televised (what I heard)

Gil Scott Heron passed, and this is his classic. I used it to score one of the first Adobe Premiere movies made.

The Revolution Will not be Televised
You will not be able to stay home brother.
you will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
you will not be able to lose yourself in a stare in hip hop and skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will be televised

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you
by Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams or Spiro Agnew to eat hog balls confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by the shape of the war theatre and will not star Natilie Woods or Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner

There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mays pushing that shopping cart down the block on a dead run
or trying to slide that color tv into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able to predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay

There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still lifes.
or Roy Wilkes strolling through Watts with a bright red and green revolutionary jump suit that he has been saving for just the proper occasion.

Green acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Hooterville Junction will longer be so damn relevant
and women will no longer care if Jack gets down with Jane
because black people will be on a the streets looking for a brighter day
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no hilights on the eleven o’clock news
and no pictures of hairy-armed liberationists
and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Jack Webb or Francis Scott Keyes nor sung by Glenn Cambell, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Engelbert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will be back right after a message about a white tornado, white lightning or white people.
You will not have to worry about a germ in your bedroom or a tiger in your tank a giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with coke

The revolution will put you in the driver seat
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will be no rerun brother,
The revolution will be live