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Street Conversations: Gifts for Strangers.





Gifts for Strangers.


You bought a DVD?

No. I bought the 1987 John McTiernan classic, Predator.


On DVD.

In a two disc set.


For your eighty-seven year old grandfather?

Yes.

Well, I think so.


You think so?

He could be turning eighty-eight. I’m not sure.


Still, are you sure this is the right film for him?

Why not?


He’s eighty-eight.

There’s no age limit on film appreciation.


It’s a generation thing.

It’s like, if someone gave me the Wiggles… what do I want with the Wiggles? I mean, sure, the Wiggles are fine if you’re five. There’s all that colour and a bunch of guys singing and dancing with a dinosaur. There’s even a pirate. Five year olds love it, but it’s really not me.

Are you comparing Predator to the Wiggles?


Did I say that?

Well—


No.

I did not say that.

I’m simply pointing out that an eighty odd year old man might not appreciate the so-called classic that is Predator.

That you think it’s a classic is extra lame, by the way. Serious serious lame. I’m having trouble coming to terms with the fact that you know the director’s name. All I can say right now is that you have an unhealthy geek level.

My geek level is not unhealthy.


There’s just some director names you should not know. They’re what I refer to as the Hack Directors of the world.

This is another one of your theories, isn’t it?


Yes.

I hear a whole lot more of these ever since you became single.


Yeah, well, living vicariously through your cybersex life isn’t as fulfilling as you think it is.

You’re just jealous cause you can’t type and jerk off.

What’s this theory, anyway?


No, I’m not going to tell. I don’t need anymore of your pop culture contempt.

Come on, I want to know.


No.

Come on. You know you want the minute of attention.




Okay.

My theory is that there are basically three kinds of director. The first is your Artist Director.

They are the kind of director whose film actually has a style and substance that raises them above the majority. Think Takeshi Kitano, Ang Lee, and John Woo before he went to Hollywood and made films with Ben Affleck in them. Basically, when you hear one of their names, you instantly know that you’ve got to see that film.

They got to be Asian?


No. Just my examples.

The second kind is the Shit Director. This is the kind of director who makes films that are so appalling that you’re insulted on every level, from aesthetics to intellectualism to simple pleasure. Think Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg, and John Woo after he came to Hollywood and made films with Ben Afflect in them. When you hear their name attached to a film, you know that it should be avoided at all costs.

They got to be American?


It helps.

The third category is the Hack Director. This kind of director just churns out films. Everything in it is bland: story, actors, look, music, everything. They’re not bad films, really, but you don’t want them for any kind of stimulation. You just watch their films to the pass the time until one day you die and, at the Gates of Heaven, Jesus rips up your video card so you can’t borrow movies and waste your afterlife.

That’s where your man who made Predator comes in.

You put a bit of work into this theory, didn’t you?


I haven’t had sex for in five months.

I wish you’d share less.


Says cybersex boy.

Fuck you.

Anyhow, you reckon Pop isn’t going like Predator?


I kind of doubt it. It’s like the Wiggles for straight ADD boys: full of colour and noise and manly man who don’t touch each other in that special way.

What made you think it was a good idea, anyway?

Couple of months ago I was over there and he was talking about Arnold. We were watching the American news, and there’s this story about Arnold as the Governor on it, and how he’s executing his first prisoner.


Really?

Yeah.


That’s disappointing.

That’s what I thought, but Pop, he’s all for it. He’s like,

“We should have the death penalty here. Send some of those fucks to the chair, fry them up. Make their eyeballs melt.”


He said that?

Well, no.

But he was for it, y’know?

Arnold is the man, apparently. He reckons that Arnold is doing a great job, which I thought was a bit odd, considering that all he knew was that Arnold was frying some poor fuck.

Anyhow: we’re sitting there and suddenly we’re having this conversation about the death penalty and Arnold and all I can bring to the conversation that won’t upset him is that I like some of Arnold’s films.


Commando is kind of about the death penalty.

I don’t even want to know.

What I really wanted to say was hey, fuck the death penalty. I wanted to tell him how I once heard this thing where they said that before inmates are taken into the chamber and killed, they are given this booklet that tells them how they’re going to die.


What, like details?

Vivid details.


That’s fucked up.

That’s what I reckon. But what can I say? I don’t want to argue with him, but I don’t want to agree. So I just sit there and talk about Arnold films.


Was he interested?

Not really.


Then why you buying him Predator?

What else am I suppose to get him?


Gift certificate?

No. Way.

Gift certificate says you don’t care, man. You know that. If you give someone a gift certificate, what you’re saying is you don’t care enough to even bother spending ten minutes thinking about them.

You might as well give them nothing.


Predator isn’t going bridge the gap between you and your Pop.

I’m not thinking it will. It’s just a gift. It says,

“Hey, you’re family. I gave some thought.”


And that’s all you want to say?

That’s all I want to say.


You would have been better off with a gift certificate.

(Street Conversations is an eight week project. Prose and photography with the link being that you're on a street. That's the gimmick. Gifts for Strangers is week six. Previous weeks are Wires, Jesus, Words for Friends, Love, and Hate. And yes, I did change the title of week three to better fit the overall structure. It's allowed. There are two more weeks left. Can you feel the excitement?)

Comments

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mariness
Mar. 22nd, 2005 11:49 pm (UTC)
Look, dude, all I can say is if you're gonna be attacking American directors for stuff like this, you just can't do it without mentioning James Cameron.

Oh, and yeah, this is hilarious.

benpeek
Mar. 22nd, 2005 11:59 pm (UTC)
i had to keep myself limited. there was the john woo joke and the needless slagging of steven speilberg, which i always enjoy, and... well, i didn't want to get carried away.
mariness
Mar. 23rd, 2005 12:11 am (UTC)
Ok, yeah, but missing a chance to knock James Cameron?

Titanic! Terminator!

The joke just writes itself, really :)



benpeek
Mar. 23rd, 2005 12:57 am (UTC)
i dunno. i think maybe you've got a thing against cameron that i don't have. maybe your cameron is my speilberg.
mariness
Mar. 23rd, 2005 01:09 am (UTC)
Titanic had an Evil Villain.

The ship is falling to the bottom of the ocean and lots and lots of people are dying and its all very very sad and Cameron has to give us an Evil Villain and Chase Scenes on a sinking ship.

What more can I say, really?

ex_hestia
Mar. 23rd, 2005 10:52 am (UTC)
Titanic has a villian? Now wonder I've never seen it!
Y'see by this criteria Terminator is a hack movie and Titanic is shit. Dangling between the hack and the shit is just problematic. Best not to mention Cameron at all.

Now Bruckheimer... *pulls chimpanzee fear face*
mariness
Mar. 23rd, 2005 06:51 pm (UTC)
Titanic doesn't just have a villain. It has a hack villain, who does things that make absolutely no sense in the context that he's about to sink into the Atlantic and drown, just because he's a hack villain, so he has to do everything that a hack villain would do. You can even predict it, bit by bit.

The general result is to create a wellspring of pity for the poor actor in the role. I sense he's probably a nice guy and all, but it's a bit difficult to act well when you're not just mouthing cliches, you're acting them.

Bruckheimer is another rant entirely. The only director in the world that can have people go, "WE MUST ESCAPE FROM THE FIRE BEFORE WE GET BURNED" -- and then have them run directly into a metal tube in the heart of the fire for protection. Geesh.

(Anonymous)
Mar. 24th, 2005 02:30 am (UTC)
Have you noticed that Titanic and George of the Jungle have the same story? They follow each other in plot and characters until, in one, the ship starts sinking, and the other, Ape gets kidnapped.

Robin Pen
mariness
Mar. 24th, 2005 02:22 pm (UTC)
Defining the problem with both films, really.

ex_hestia
Mar. 24th, 2005 10:26 am (UTC)
ROFLMAO
This conversation has just made me realise that I've missed out on a lot subject matter for rants just by avoiding mediocre movies.
mariness
Mar. 24th, 2005 02:22 pm (UTC)
And don't you feel bitter about that now ? :)

studebakerhawk
Mar. 23rd, 2005 12:44 am (UTC)
Very funny stuff. But i'm feeling anal, so here i go.

Kitano never sold out and never went to Hollywood and would sooner gouge out his good eye with a rusty melon-baller before working with that vile leprous scourge Ben Affleck. Closest thing he did to a US project was Brother, which wasn't bad, but he followed it up with Zatoichi, which was exceptional.

I don't know what prompted that rant. But i should have prefaced it by saying i liked your piece, which i obviously did.

In fact looking back now, i see that i DID preface it. Damn.
benpeek
Mar. 23rd, 2005 12:55 am (UTC)
come on, man, what do i look like? some guy who doesn't know his takeshi. of course he didn't sell out and work with affleck.

that's why i say it's john woo who did that :)

BROTHER was okay. i liked the final scenes especially.
bodhichitta0
Mar. 23rd, 2005 12:47 am (UTC)
Funny. And now you've posed a question that will haunt me til bed time. Would I rather watch Predator or the Wiggles? And what kind of hell universe would THAT be?
benpeek
Mar. 23rd, 2005 12:56 am (UTC)
it's the hell universe that all parents will eventually find themselves.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 23rd, 2005 01:32 am (UTC)
Hmmm, Wiggles vs Predator...

- Wake up Jeff, some big nastie just took Captain Featherswords head off.
They sing wake up Jeff
- Quick, into the Big Red Car
They Sing Big Red Car
- I can't belief Captain Feather sword is dead.
- Yes, he's a cold potato
They sing Cold Potato
- Did you see him, his guts were ripped out.
They sing Hot Spaghetti
-What are we gonna do guys?
-Nothing, that thing got ont he wrong side of Dorothy.
They sing Dorothy the Dinosaur
-She ripped that Predator a new asshole.
-We love you Dorothy
All the kids run out with Dorothy and do a dance

The End

Robin Pen
benpeek
Mar. 23rd, 2005 02:08 am (UTC)
that's an unhealthy geek level right there with the song titles, robin.

on the other hand, i think it would have made a better film that aliens vs predator, which i didn't mind.
bodhichitta0
Mar. 23rd, 2005 05:21 pm (UTC)
It's like chocolate and peanut butter! The combination is better than either of the originals. :-)

The sad part is--I know every song you referred to. It can be hot potato or cold potato though yes?
shadowsandice
Mar. 23rd, 2005 03:45 am (UTC)
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<_<>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<_<

>_>

I <I>like</i> Predator.
benpeek
Mar. 23rd, 2005 04:53 am (UTC)
yeah, so do i. it's part of my unhealthy geek level.

i really like that line. it's so catchy. i'm going to drive everyone insane with it.
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