Saturday, July 7, 2012

- Life Imitates The 70's Disaster Film

By anyone's estimate, the 1980 movie Airplane was a brilliant classic. It was originally designed as a take-off on a series of disaster films from the 70's, but it did it so well that it launched its own genre of comedy films. It so perfectly violated the rules of 'serious' film making and so flawlessly ridiculed the cliché's of American culture, that an entire generation of film makers continue ripping it off to this day. It was a spoof not a remake, and that was it's brilliance. It made fun of the visibly silly being treated as if it were serious, and laughed out loud at its success rather than trying to duplicate it too closely.

As a rule I don't care for remakes of great movies. The 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet set in gangland coastal California with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes was pretty good. I think most Shakespeare versions get a pass. But beyond that I think remakes are a waste of effort from a film industry that is as bankrupt creatively as it is morally. Remakes don't qualify as art - they aren't even honest theft of art. They're nothing but the work of a vain and shallow industry filled with hacks, trying to paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa because it would make her look more like them. Imagine a remake of Lawrence of Arabia, or Breakfast at Tiffany's. Imagine "The Godfather" redone with a wooden Ryan Reynolds as Michael Corleone, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the aging Don. I feel dirty just writing it.

So it might surprise you to hear me say that I think there might be room for a remake of Airplane today. Airplane's genius was as a take-off of popular culture. And our popular culture is at least as ludicrous now as it was during the Carter era. Think about it. We can have Al Gore radioing in from the tower demanding that the airplane's engines be turned off to lower its carbon footprint - ignoring the fact that the plane will certainly crash without them. An Al Sharpton like character can be strolling the aisles accusing everyone of racism for putting creamer in their coffee. Obama dressed for the golf course and followed by a gaggle of sycophantic reporters can show up periodically blaming everything everywhere on George Bush. And everyone on the left side of the plane can accuse Ted Stryker, the passenger trying to keep the plane from crashing, of partisan obstructionism.

It's actually the perfect model for 21st century America. An airplane in crisis full of shallow lunatics too self obsessed to realize the danger they're in, with a dead pilot and crew and rapidly dwindling fuel supply. In the meantime, some passengers will be complaining that it's discrimination not to give them a turn flying the plane even though they obviously don't know how. Others will be demanding that the plane be modified to run on wind power while the plane is still in the air. A Ron Paul like character can step up to say reasonable and prudent things now and then, only to be shouted down and pummeled by the mob. While everyone with any recognizable authority is either demanding immediate gold plated retirement packages or is waiting in line to give oral sex to the "illegal alien" autopilot. Include a Cameo from Snookie and a little T&A and it's the perfect Hollywood film for the 21st century.

Ok, It's a mish mash I know, but what do you want from me? I'm a quant dammit, I'm not a screenwriter. And unfortunately, those people who actually are screenwriters don't have the sense of humor to see what's really funny about America anymore. Liberalism has always been about self absorption and could never effectively poke fun at itself. And in Hollywood, everyone who matters is an all too serious liberal. To them only bourgeois conservatism is a suitable subject for ridicule, while even the most ridiculous aspects of liberalism must be treated with reverence. No wonder they don't have any new ideas.

The guys from south park might consider something like this, but I'd have to figure out how to get Eric Cartman and the that Jewish kid into the cast. And I think a transgender couple who insist that everyone DO call them both Shirley would be an appropriate homage.

Maybe instead of an airplane it should be an out of control high speed rail system. That opens up the potential for all sorts of 'train goes into the tunnel' punch lines. Or maybe the train stays right where it is while the rest of California goes speeding into the Abyss. That can bring back the whole 'earthquake' 70's disaster genre as well. And if there is a movie theme worthy of revival in the 21st century, it's the concept of seeing ordinary people coping with ultimate disaster.

So in a way, America in the 21st century really is life imitating art - or at least what passes for art in Hollywood. These days our films are all about the fairy tales of the past, while the disaster movie is occurring outside the movie theatre. Economic collapse, unraveling of social cohesion, even the nation's capital has been blacked out for a week or so. And all the while our 'leaders' are hanging out in Hollywood or the country club, and pretending everything would be fine if the people would just shut up and listen to them. All we need to make it perfect is for Joe Biden to go on the Sunday talk shows and demand that people stop calling him Shirley.

He does look a little like Leslie Nielsen now that I think of it.


Bzod said...

Love it. The problem would be casting, as everyone in HWood would be worried about offending those in the George Clooney and Matt Damon BO fundraising circuit. While they're all whores, offending, BO, Al Gore, the greens, etc., even in a movie, might be a bridge too far.

Chess said...

This flick ranked up there wih Caddyshack.I stopped dating a gorgeous babe because she just didnt "get it". I knew right then and there we were not long term compatible..
Can you imagine in this day and age The Beave's mom saying she speaks jive?
I miss Leslie Nielsen..He went and did the Police Squad spoofs.They were good also to drink pour a drink and turn your brain off.

What we really need is to make a movie with Nielsen and a retired NFL star who mudered his wife and got away with ...That would be a great flick....

frithguild said...

I'll never get over Macho Grande

Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

Airplane! was one of those old movies that I insist my wife watch (she is not from the USA), so she understands the multitude of cultural references that I still made today about that movie.

A majority of the old stuff she doesn't care for. She did find Airplane! to be funny though.

chess said...

Who's in control of that bucket, Lieutenant?

Some guy by the name of Ted Striker, sir.

Ted Striker!

Do you know him, sir?

Never heard of him. (pause) That's not exactly true. We were like brothers. We flew together during the war. We were close, we were close, until...

Until, sir?

Until that day over Macho Grande...

Over Macho Grande, sir?

No. I'm afraid I'll never get over Macho Grande. Forget it, Lieutenant. It wasn't a pretty picture.

chess said...

Chess said...

Sory but now you have my brain clicking one liners..Another guy I loved was Bob Hope...To me this may be one of the best liners that still fits today

chess said...

Sorry...that was a repeat.

Tom said...

Elaine Dickinson: There's no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you'll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?

Or how to run a country?

Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...


Speaking of 'Police Squad'

I got in so much trouble as a kid sneaking downstairs and turning in the TV to watch that show. It was only on very late at night.

chess said...

Hell....I didnt remember that one.. So dam slap stick that they are hilarious...I always liked the part where he went to the guy in the lab trying out new weapons and shit....Now all I get on tv are "reality " crap.. No writing just swallow the jar of worms or lay in the box with snakes. Wow..reality?