Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Robosaurus and the War on Terror (with 2008 movies preview)

robosaurus.jpg Our debate last night at Lolita Bar — part of an ongoing debate series I host that was recently mentioned by USA Today thanks to cute pop culture columnist Whitney Matheson and cute interviewee Nichelle Stephens — was about how to balance deference to the past with hope for the future, one of my favorite topics. I did not expect, however, that the most glorious embodiment of the retro-futurist fusion of yesterday and tomorrow that I learned about last night would be something not mentioned during the debate itself. I speak, of course, of Robosaurus.

One of last night’s panelists was L.B. Deyo, who hosts a similar debate series, sister to our own, down in Austin, TX. L.B. explained after the debate that another of his hosting duties in Austin recently — timed to coincide with the opening there of the giant-robot movie Transformers — was the emceeing of an appearance by Robosaurus, an actual, fire-breathing, car-rending-and-eating, mechanical, forty-foot-tall dinosaur. YouTube, thank goodness, has an amazing clip of Robosaurus doing its thing (this is much cooler than the car I saw transform into a big robot at a monster truck show in Madison Square Garden about fourteen years ago — that robot lectured the audience about the importance of avoiding unhealthy drug use and the creation of pollution, while it pumped thick, cough-inducing fumes into the enclosed Garden).

I mention Robosaurus not merely because it’s cool, nor even because it was the cause of AintItCool.com editor Harry Knowles declaring L.B. a “genus” [sic] after seeing his unique emcee skills, but because I think Robosaurus may be the key (at this troubling juncture) to winning the War on Terror. You see, my friend Meredith Kapushion (who created the blog Pieces of Flair) learned while traveling in the Middle East that the place is rife with nonsensical conspiracy theories, most of them dealing with the Jews and/or Americans, since Arabs tend to live under totalitarian regimes with state-run media they don’t trust but no reliable alternate sources of information. And one man she met (in Egypt, as I recall) told her he was concerned because he knew that “Americans are building dinosaurs to eat Arabs.” Really.

My first instinct, as a professional critic of unproven claims, was to think “We have to debunk these sorts of absurd claims!” But that may be a hopeless, never-ending task, especially without access to the state-run media of these squalid Middle-Eastern hellholes (if you can’t even convince brainy Western academics that democratic Israelis are to be preferred to their homicidally-deranged, propaganda-spewing, hate-fueled Muslim neighbors, who’ve been trying to kill or exile Jews since long before the U.N. started spitting out its chronic ritual denunciations of Israeli land grabs, what hope is there of mollifying the Arabs themselves?). Perhaps the path of least resistance, then, is to encourage belief in the conspiracy theories most conducive to our victory in the clash of civilizations. “Leak” to Al Jazeera footage of L.B., as eloquent a spokesman for American values as ever I have known, intoning about the might of the indomitable U.S. military, while behind him, Robosaurus does his thing, striking fear into enemy hearts and testifying in twisted steel and burning rubber to the true value of our superior civilization (I’m told Stephen Colbert has already praised Robosaurus, which is a start).

I suggested all this to L.B., and he courageously and patriotically offered to go my plan one better. Via e-mail, he said:

Leaking the video to Al Jazeera would be good. Better, by far, would be for me to ride Robosaurus right into the field of battle, roaring Arabic curses into the microphone. This is our nation’s last, best chance.

This is, if not the stuff of legend, at least the stuff of monster movies, and that reminds me that on another mighty-beast note, Lost co-creator (and creator of next year’s movie re-launch of Star Trek, with Matt Damon as Kirk, Adrien Brody as Spock, and Gary Sinise as McCoy [UPDATE 7/27/07: Nope, the guy who plays serial killer Sylar on Heroes will be Spock -- and a fine choice he is, though it suggests the earlier casting rumors should be ignored -- oh, and Leonard Nimoy is confirmed for a framing sequence, which I for one hope will confirm that in his old age he eventually helped the Vulcans and Romulans reunify, the way they would have if I'd gotten around to writing that Star Trek novel trilogy I once planned between jobs]) J.J. Abrams appears to be directing a Lovecraft-influenced giant-monster movie with a viral marketing campaign so coy that even the trailer (being shown prior to Transformers) does not give away the name of the movie — but it looks cool.

It also kicks off (on January 18, 2008) what will be the most nerd-blockbuster-packed year yet in human history (and I say this remembering full well how good 1999 and 2003 were). If all goes as scheduled, 2008 will bring to theatres — brace yourself — all of the following:

Iron Man (starring Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow) 5/2
The Day the Earth Stood Still 5/9
Speed Racer (by the Wachowski Brothers of Matrix and V for Vendetta fame) 5/9
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (since they’re skipping The Horse and His Boy, this’ll be the last entry in the series before it starts turning into a really weird — but fun — cross between Christianity and a Salvador Dali painting, I might add) 5/16
Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods (Indy vs. commies for ancient-astronaut artifacts) 5/22
The Incredible Hulk (with Ed Norton replacing Eric Bana and Liv Tyler replacing Jennifer Connelly) 6/13
Batman: The Dark Knight (with Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes — not to mention Heath Ledger as the Joker and Thank You for Smoking star Aaron Eckhart perfectly cast as Two-Face) 7/18
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (once more from the man who brought us Pan’s Labyrinth) 8/1
Sherlock Holmes [summer]
Whiteout (based on a great crime comic about a female cop in Antarctica) [summer]
Wolverine (starring Hugh Jackman and directed by the man behind Live Free or Die Hard and the Underworld movies — and the first Underworld movie has one of the most beautiful opening sequences in nerd-film history, I think, not to mention a lead character who’s clearly a rip-off of the vampire character also named Selene from the X-Men comics, but apparently Marvel doesn’t hold a grudge against him for it, nor perhaps against James Cameron for seemingly getting the plot of Terminator from the X-Men comics story “Days of Future Past” — but then, they’re in no position to complain, since the X-Men writer Chris Claremont clearly lifted a plotline about eyepatch-wearing gangleader Callisto lusting after, capturing, and crucifying Angel right out of the movie Barbarella, in which Anita Pallenberg plays the [at one point] eyepatch-wearing gangleader who crucifies Barbarella’s angel sidekick Pygar — what goes around comes around [UPDATE: Nope, now it appears Gavin Hood, director of the Oscar-winning film Tsotsi, will direct Wolverine.]) [summer]
•James Bond 22 (featuring the boyfriend-turned-terrorist mentioned in Casino Royale) 11/7
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (6 of 7 because by now you’ve seen 5 twice already) 11/21
Star Trek (It makes sense to start over. Each series just stuck people on another ship that usually had the same name anyway.) 12/25

And I’m not even listing tons of other geek fare — which may also be good films but that given my personal predilections I will likely skip just because with a year this bountiful one has to draw the line somewhere — such as remakes, sequels, or adaptations of Get Smart, Horton Hears a Who, The Italian Job, Escape from New York, The Mummy, Death Race, Where the Wild Things Are, The Wolf Man, and so on. When will we find time to hold debates in bars, defeat terrorism, and elect another president?

P.S. Special thanks to Louise Julier and Jonathan Funke, who delivered last night’s projector (for Kevin Walsh’s building slides) in spite of getting in a fender-bender only minutes earlier — and big up yasself, girlfriend Koli, for supplying and operating the associated laptop.


vivi said...

Off topic but a suggestion:

July 13 there was almost a thousand news stories about the mom who was taken off a flight because the stewardess told her to keep her 19 month old kid quiet and the mom rebuffed her. There’s not a lot of info about the incident, but it clearly hit a nerve. I”d like to watch a debate on whether or not we should have the option of child-free restaurants, flights, etc., or a separate section for families in restaurants, planes, etc. Some argue that paying for a service (a flight) or an experience (a restaurant meal) entitles them to a certain quality of experience; others say it’s discriminatory and anti-child and adults should take it in stride. At the far ends are people exchanging “Breeder morons” and “Selfish child-haters” epithets. Could be very interesting.

Todd Seavey said...

And check out this recent blog entry to figure out where I stand: