You’ll be relieved to hear that I finally saw Babe: Pig in the City, which — as Daniel Radosh and some of his friends promised me years ago — may be the darkest kids’ movie I’ve ever seen (as one might expect from the director who brought us not just Babe but Mad Max, the Road Warrior). As The Empire Strikes Back did for the original Star Wars movie, this gives us a grimmer turn to our heroes’ story — a turn so grim that my friend Laura Braunstein, a Dartmouth librarian, says she’s seen an academic paper likening Babe: Pig in the City to Dante’s Inferno. By the time you reach the moment where the grim, Gandalf-like narrator is explaining that Babe’s “brief life” is flashing before his eyes as he faces (in slow motion) the apparent “moment of his annihilation” at the jaws of a pit bull, you’ll be laughing out loud at how perverse the whole thing is, and if you have children, they’ll be in tears.
Indeed, one of Radosh’s pals said he actually called Universal, in his capacity as a teacher, to ask what they were thinking in releasing such a dark children’s film, to which someone at the studio, he claims, confessed that since the whole movie was shot in New Zealand and Australia, it was pretty much a done deal before the execs back in the U.S. had much of a chance to reconsider releasing it or ask for substantial rewrites.
(I suppose the dark humor about a good-hearted rural character in the frightening big city also bears some resemblance to the sorts of Holly Golightly-type narratives I mentioned last week when I reviewed Rules for Saying Goodbye, so you might consider watching the movie as a supplement to your attendance at the June 20 Debate at Lolita Bar featuring that book’s author — and speaking of that, I have one more thing to say about the culture of the Upper East Side: this area’s sometimes considered the Republican-friendly part of Manhattan, yet here, last Tuesday, the Republican candidate in a special election for the state legislature — a fortysomething former prosecutor who was pro-choice, pro-gay, anti-gun, pseudo-environmentalist enough to oppose a garbage facility in the neighborhood, and endorsed by the left-leaning New York Times — still lost, to the Democratic candidate, an openly bisexual twenty-eight year-old with cerebral palsy who vows to be an advocate for the disabled — and who got 64% of the vote. Yeah, it’s like rural Alabama here on the Upper East Side. Watch out! We kill hippies!)
And speaking of an unexpected darkness from New Zealand, rumor reportedly has it that Elijah “Frodo Baggins” Wood’s next role will be…Iggy Pop, in a biographical film about that wild, shirtless, drug-abusing, self-mutilating proto-punk (who says he once decided to check himself into rehab after waking up amid garbage bags on the Bowery, having allowed himself to be beaten by his former bandmates from the Stooges, dressed as Nazis, as part of a drug-addled piece of performance art he did at CBGB’s that literally ended with him being thrown out with the trash — on the bright side, you can sink pretty low, then, without sinking as low as Iggy Pop, and he’s still considered a success). The only similarity I can think of between mild Frodo and wild Iggy is height, since Iggy is, as he sings, “Five Foot One.”
(On another punk note, I recently stumbled across a piece of visually-weak but aurally-OK footage of what has to be one of the gothiest moments in history: Peter Murphy, formerly of Bauhaus [best known for the song "Bela Lugosi's Dead" from the opening scene of the vampire movie The Hunger], singing guest vocals for Nine Inch Nails as they cover the Joy Division song “Dead Souls,” which NIN previously covered on the soundtrack of The Crow — any gothier and this clip would be dead. On a more beautiful note, though, here’s Peter Murphy solo — and looking pretty vampiric himself — doing his best song, and arguably the best song of the 1980s, “Cuts You Up.”)
P.S. To get back to cute-animal movies, though, I just want to note that regardless of what the people from the pound say (and they never know for sure with the mutts in their possession), I still say my parents’ late, great dog, Uber, seems to have had some Tibetan terrier in her, and by way of further evidence, here’s footage of two Tibetan terriers frolicking, and I think anyone out there who met Uber will see the resemblance (mainly the grayish one):
P.P.S. Word reaches me that relativist philosopher Richard Rorty is dead. I guess whether that’s a good or a bad thing is a matter of linguistic convention, though. (UPDATE: My friend Jacob Levy, more capable than I of summoning enthusiasm for a philosophical foe’s sheer academic and performance skills, has written a somewhat more detailed farewell to Rorty — scroll way down past the postmodernly blank white space.)