Another Week Ends

1. We open this week with a less-than-implausible doomsday scenario envisioned by The Onion, a world […]

Will McDavid / 6.13.14

1. We open this week with a less-than-implausible doomsday scenario envisioned by The Onion, a world in which reboot films will come to wreak havoc on civilization. Fortunately, the newssite reported this week that “Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Enter Talks To Reduce Stockpiles Of Unproduced Reboots”. More below:

Conceding the time has come to limit the proliferation of new movies that simply rehash old ones, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. have entered bilateral talks to reduce their considerable stockpiles of unproduced reboots, sources confirmed Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after the first day of tense negotiations, members of both sides said that while building up enormous arsenals of remakes has long been their top strategic priority, the number of such revamped sci-fi franchises, action films, buddy comedies, and children’s movies now in development has reached levels that represent an existential threat to the medium of film worldwide.

“We recognize that after years of pouring money into the same old material over and over again, we are one misstep away from unleashing something truly awful on our fellow man,” said Universal president Ronald Meyer, explaining that while hundreds upon hundreds of unproduced reboots sit stored in his studio’s vaults, it would only take the release of a single new Hulk film to devastate most of North America. “Should one party ever preemptively unleash an updated Edward Scissorhands, it would almost certainly be met by the deployment of a redone Labyrinth, causing an unstoppable chain reaction of similar retaliations across the entire industry.”…


While pleased with the steps taken during the first round of discussions, reports indicate that both sides still remain deeply troubled by rogue studio Lionsgate, which many suspect of secretly developing a fifth Expendables treatment.

Shame on The Onion for suggesting, even satirically, the idea of a Scissorhands remake; hopefully any screenwriters out there stopped reading well before that sentence. Because, well, it would work: Benjamin Button meets Man of Steel, etc. Unfortunately, these remakes, except when (very) well-done, tend to be a bit pandering, tend to sacrifice script, tend to be indifferent to reviews because so many viewers feel like it’s a rite of passage or cultural necessity to view them. And the producers generally know that they’ll make a good profit on opening weekend alone. On the viewers’ side and the producers’, there seems to be an increasing inability to take risks – or so some would allege. Not that there’s anything wrong with remakes – they can be immensely entertaining – but there’s so little financial incentive for good reviews that they can risk widening the gap between pop and high art, which seems like a shame. On the positive side, though, one can still hope for a snidely meta Escapist remake, or to see a big-budget version of the Samuel-Saul-David thing.

2. Father’s Day: The Atlantic, in a tone leaning toward unfounded surprise, reports that fathers have a significant impact on their children’s development. (Though even this time of year, you can sense some discomfort, almost apology, for even such a tepid affirmation of male identity.) Anyway, the writers do get credit for getting this out there, though mothers probably still take the day with Tupac’s “Dear Mama”:

It’s unexpectedly good, and full of genuine feeling. The Wall Street Journal, for its part, feels more at ease discussing the impact of fathers:

Many researchers believe dad’s bond is expressed a little later, when the father serves as a secure base allowing the child to explore and take risks. This is hard to study in a lab. Animal studies, however, show that baby rats deprived of rough-and-tumble are more aggressive and lack social skills as adults.

Christopher VanDijk tunes in closely to signals from his 4-year-old son Liam that he wants to play. “He gets this mischievous look on his face, and you just kind of know,” says Mr. VanDijk of Denver, an at-home dad. “We have pillow fights. And I pretend like I’m going to eat his ears. There’s lots of squealing.”

Liam sometimes takes the lead, saying, ‘I’m going to scare you, and when I say, “Boo!” you have to say, “Ahhh!” ‘ Mr. VanDijk also watches for signals that Liam is out-of-control or frightened. “There are times when you put on the brakes,” he says.

Finally, a tearjerker courtesy of Gawker: an adult son remembers from childhood his father’s wish for a ’57 Chevy, his dream car.

“Belairboy” explained on Reddit that he actually purchased the Chevy 2 years ago, after “pulling 60 hour work weeks over 6 days a week for a few months” at his factory job. He stored it in his unused garage and kept it a secret until the promised day finally arrived.

And for those less in the Father’s Day spirit, The A.V. Club releases its playlist of songs about bad dads.

3. Ralph C. Wood, a Christianity and lit scholar from Baylor, published an exceptional article on “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sorrowful Vision of Joy” last week. Some highlights below:

As C.S. Lewis rightly noted, a “profound melancholy” pervades the entire epic. Despite Tolkien’s claim to have imbued his epic with profound Christian convictions, even if silently, his great work climaxes with a grand victory won only through a woeful defeat.

The conundrum that Tolkien’s readers and critics have not thus far resolved is precisely this: why such a melancholy ending? The question is compounded by Tolkien’s celebrated argument, made near the end of his splendid essay “On Faerie Stories,” that when fantasy reaches its fullest achievement, it strikes deeper truth than other literary forms – not in spite of, but precisely because of its happy endings…

True fantasies finish happily, Tolkien argues, thus providing consolation for life’s tragedy and sorrow. Yet their felicitous outcome is not escapist. The ultimate victory is always produced by a disaster, by a sudden and cataclysmic turn of events, which issues in surprising deliverance. Tolkien invents a word to describe this saving cataclysm. He calls it a eucatastrophe: a happy calamity that does not deny the awful reality of dyscatastrophe – of human wreck and ruin.

The miraculous though violent turnabout serves to demonstrate that death and defeat are not final; instead, the ultimate truth is Joy – “Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.” For Tolkien, the Resurrection is the ultimately eucatastrophic event, for the world’s salvation is won in and through the worst of evils, the Crucifixion. Hence the link between fairy-story and gospel: “this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men – and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.”


4. Trekkies and hermeneuts, this article on the shift from ‘Talmudic’ flexibility on the details of the Star Trek tradition, toward an obsessive, harmonizing ‘fundamentalism’, is a must-read. From Adam Kostko:

It’s not that continuity isn’t an issue (TNG, for instance, spends a lot of time explaining to us just how transporters and warp drives work and trying to develop something like consistent rules of use) but how continuity is an issue implies a very different kind of relation to the source material than in later incarnations of the franchise…

If one can’t directly return to [the earlier] moment of fabulation and indeterminacy, the need for some kind of break is implied; and so, you get the necessity of a reboot. It’s here that the relation between Star Trek  and religion—in particular, Christianity—becomes most telling. Abrams-Trek ties its ‘parallel’ universe to the original, and so is in many ways still stuck in the same harmonization-game. Instead of an actual break that might allow us to return to Star Trek’s animating concerns in a new way, what we get indebts us all the more to the fundamentalist mode. We get in Abrams-Trek a kind of post-Evangelical take on Star Trek: stripped of the more contemporarily ‘embarrassing’ bits of the mythology, but still beholden to a level of continuity, and paradoxically making it even harder to newly address the problem to which Trek might respond. And so, the sorts of nods we get to fandom involve getting straight the name of the first Captains of the Enterprise, all sorts of universe-continuity details, etc, but throw out the post-monetary society in favor of Budweiser and Nokia.

5. The Huffington Post contributes this, a sympathetic and pretty funny monologue of “5 Minutes in a Mom’s Head“:

What are they fighting about? A highlighter? In a room full of toys that I paid good money for, these kids are fighting over a highlighter? Speaking of toys, I should probably wash their stuffed animals. What if they’re full of dust mites. What if there’s an entire city of dust mites right behind Tenderheart Bear’s eyes? A dust mite community with freeways and infrastructure and elected dust mite officials. I need to be more on top of this stuff. Why can’t I be a normal, responsible, Pinterest mom? I haven’t made my baby one sensory table or ice tray full of colorful little finger foods.

What do I need to do today… return calls, answer emails, return texts from days ago… people probably think I’m so rude. I need to get organized. I need to organize this whole house. This room is a mess. I saw on Oprah that your bedroom is a reflection of your marriage. God please don’t let that be true. I need to declutter. At the very least I need to put away all of this laundry. It’s a bad sign when you run out of laundry baskets and start using clear storage containers. But first I need to take all of the clothes out of all of the drawers and sort. I’m tired of seeing my 4-year-old put on 2T pants. But they kind of look like capri pants, right? I just hate getting rid of clothes. Especially when I know they can’t be passed down. Maybe we should have another baby. I don’t feel done. I feel crazy and stressed out, but not done. Would I need a bigger car? I am not driving a minivan.

Martin Bergmann, Ph.D., New York.

6. The Atlantic reads more studies and discovers that mutual kindness is the key to a happy marriage. A few good quotes (“people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship”, link added), but one can’t help hearing Law (“you can’t criticize me – it’ll kill the relationship”, is how I imagine myslf responding). New Republic reposts an obituary of Saul Bellow; “Dad Not Going To Pay Someone To Fix Marriage When He Can Do It Himself”, The Onion warns; and speaking of which, offers a photo series on psychoanalysts in their offices (above), a series with a disconcerting ambiguity reminscent of Armed America. Happy Father’s Day and World Cup (and Thrones finale)!



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