It's been so fucking cold here that I thought
Christmas would never come. This is a time to be with loved
ones. Not right now. Right now it's January and any rational
human being is crying himself to sleep thinking about what a
God damn waste he's made of his life. I mean December. December
is a time for denial and, subsequently, joy.
This year, though, I damn near thought I was
going to spend Christmas alone thanks to all the God damn snow
and airport cancellations. Not exactly alone; Mrs. Filthy and
the dog were here too. But the end of the year is the time when
I become a crafts-project widow, finishing in second place to
whatever projects my wife finds in the latest issue of Apartment
Crafts Lifestyle magazine, like a fish-stick Santa, and
making her own actual-size Christmas tree out of old newspapers,
flour, water, pruning shears and twelve cans of Rustoleum. We
still have the coat-rack she made out of chicken bones from
last year, and besides the fact that she could have cleaned
the carcasses a little better, it's quite a conversation piece.
Christmas came the night the Mrs. used the entire
dozen cans of paint and we were trapped in a tiny apartment
with the windows closed and the heated pumping the lead-based
paint fumes around the living room. I got lightheaded, Mrs.
Filthy got randy and the next thing I knew, I was running down
Olde Wadsworth with my underwear in my hands (which had a mean
and healthy streak of shit in them-the diet is right) and a
police cruiser bathing me in the most glorious, brilliant Christmas
light I've ever felt. I swear to God, with all the people watching
me in the spotlight, I knew exactly how the Angel Gabriel felt
the night he got all juiced up and told Mary God was going to
knock her up. I'm not going to get into specifics except to
say I am not pregnant and I saw Rudolph, a talking snowman and
Mets manager Willie Randolph that magical night. A night that
restored my faith in the holidays, not the least of why is because
the city jail was overcrowded so they let me go home to sleep
off my paint high.
Oh, yeah, nobody came over at all. As it runs
out, though, it wasn't because the airport and roads were closed.
My relatives and my wife's just hate spending time with me.
I can live with that.
So, we are finally dug out after three successive
snowstorms. People who drive cars have it easy. Even when it
snows three feet they can pretty much tell where their car is.
Hell, I know where my Falcon is, but you don't drive lightweight,
rear-wheel drive, bias-ply-tired cars on ice, so I use my bike
in winter. Even sober, I have a hard time remembering where
I left. When it's under a yard of snow, it's damn near impossible.
I spent four days this past week just sort of shuffling my feet
in old familiar places hoping to stumble across it.
I did, finally, and was able to ride down to
the Olde Town Cinema to watch Children of Men in an empty
theater. What a God damn good of moviemaking. I know Willie,
Rudolph and Snowie would have loved it, and if I can find them
again I will tell them.
Children of Men has a fairly standard
premise that feels like a lot of other dystopian sci-fi stories.
It takes place in a war-torn near future full of bureacracy,
xenophobia and awful filthiness. The filthiness and nearness
of the movie's future looks like what Spielberg probably wanted
for Minority Report, but director Alfonso CuarŪn does
it way more effectively. You can taste dirt in the food and
feel grime on the floor in nearly every scene.
Clive Owen is like a lot of movie heros before
him: reluctant and disinterested, but drawn in against his will
and slowly committed. He plays a numb bureaucrat in a world
20 years ahead where all countries have collapsed except England--presumably
because of their manners--and all women have been rendered sterile
by pollution, war, using too much hairspray, etc., for more
than nineteen years. So, humanity is in its last throes and
the haves and still trying to keep the have-nots away from their
stuff. The government does what it does best and instills hysteria
and blame in its people. Primarily they do it through trapping,
caging and dehumanizing immigrants from other, destroyed countries,
claiming they are the problem. Hmmm, that sounds familiar.
Owen was once a political activist, along with
his ex-wife Julianne Moore. But after the death of their son
some twenty years earlier, he has gone cold and buried himself
in paperwork. Moore, on the other hand, has stayed active, and
now works with a group ostensibly trying to protect the rights
of the immigrants. That's how Owens gets dragged into helping
transport a young, pregnant African (Claire-Hope Ashitey) out
of the country and to a (maybe fictitious) group called The
Human Project before the government can either exploit or bury
As I said, it sounds like a lot of sci-fi plots.
What is truly amazing, however, is the subtext. In a typical
Hollywood movie like Blood Diamonds, there is no subtext.
The grassfucking director is so smug has to be explicit about
every God damn point he wants to make. That means speeches and
cardboard characters. Not in <Children of Men. I don't
think anyone gets to say more than about three sentences at
once, and it's never directly about what CuarŪn and about a
half-dozen screenwriters are trying to say.
The movie's unspoken commentary is about many
things, and largely done well. One is how compromised the goals
of the fighting factions are. There are terrorists, immigrants-rights
fighters and the government, all of which have lost their paths
due to greed, corruption, ego or want of power. Another is CuarŪn,
a Mexican, speaking on the shitty, inhuman way immigrants are
treated in countries built largely on the backs of foreign labor.
He reflects on what happens to activists as they age. Michael
Caine plays the aging hippie who no longer agitates but recedes
into the woods where he can pretend to be politically alive
while actually hiding. Owens is the kind who gets worn down
until he becomes part of the problem. Moore is the one who stays
true to her ideals and--good news for people who can't stand
her acting as much as I can't--gets killed early.
Another thing CuarŪn does really well in both
the Harry Potter he directed and this is not fall in
love with hi tech bullshit. He applies it like an expensive
topical cream at the free clinic: only where it's absolutely
necessary. And that keeps the focus not on razzle-dazzle, but
on the story and subjects.
Four Fingers for Children of Men.
It's a fine fucking movie. What a damn good way to start 2007.
The rest is sure to be shitty and sad, but at least it started