November 1st, 2008
Among the hundred-and-fifty or so commercials I see repeatedly on cable news every day is one telling me to vote NO on Proposition 4. This is the “Parental Notification” measure championed by the Christian Right. I agree with the ad’s message, but the seaminess of the abortionist is overplayed. He might just as well be twirling a moustache. The whole look of the spot — it’s forced obviousness — suggests somebody on the NO committee was on the set, insisting that the director amp up each of its elements: “Bend a few of those venetian blinds. Make the “doctor’s” sneer sneerier. Give him a dirtier jacket. And tell him to slouch more.”
Tonight, to tear myself away from the polling news and Palin pranking, I thought I’d make better use of my HBO subscription (I normally turn it on only to watch Bill Maher’s “Real Time”). Anyhow, I tuned in just as the much praised “Eastern Promises” was beginning. My pocket review is that David Cronenberg should go back to filming avant-garde screenplays because crime stories require actual story-telling talent. I checked the Rotten Tomatoes website and discovered 89% of the reviewers disagree with me, but as usual, they are wrong.
As scene by corny scene unfolded, it began to dawn on me that it might have been Cronenberg, himself, who directed the “No on 4″ commercial. The same look. The same elbow-in-the-ribs demand to get it. And the jumping-off place for both the commercial and the movie is a pregnant teenager.
As in most disappointing movies there was a point where your heart sinks. The hour you have invested is yanked out and waved in your face like a share of GM stock. In “Eastern Promises” it’s the big fight scene. I should have known something was amiss when the bad guys saunter into a sauna the size of a supermarket. The head-knockings, stabbings, and gratuitous gymnastics play out for a quarter-hour until Viggo Mortensson, the hero, kills his foes. Except for Viggo’s nakedness and the wisps of steam, it was like any hoked up fight of any action genre. Good guy is a tenth of an inch from death when he flips the bad guy into a hammerlock. Bad guy places knee on adam’s apple of good guy, who is choking to death until good guy frees up thumb and gouges out bad guy’s eye. I think directors should probably get in a few fights before they try to stage one.
This isn’t to say I will give up on HBO any time soon. I am in danger of overdosing on pundits and polls. The cable news channels are like having a selection of whiskeys sitting out on the table: Hey Fred, try me. This time I’ll turn you loose. But it doesn’t happen. I pick up the remote but I don’t put it down until I pass out.
In six hours of viewing, which is typical for me these days, I see at least 90 minutes of political advertising. I find my lips moving along with the narrators, I know the ads so well.
If I can just get myself to watch something else. Even a Cronenberg movie. Or read a book. Yeah — maybe after Tuesday.