Archives For California

[SPOILER WARNING. SERIOUSLY. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN OBLIVIOUS, ER, OBLIVION, STARRING THOMAS CRUISE MAPOTHER III BACK AWAY FROM THE INTERNET NOW. Thank-you.]

I know, I know. Oblivious… I’m sorry, Oblivion came out almost a year ago. But it’s new to me. As in I’ve only just seen it. The reasons for this are many, but come down to: $. And my movie $ were spent elsewhere last year. (And I didn’t even think of seeing M. Night Shyamalamdingdong’s After Birth).

I’m not saying Oblivious, I’m sorry–Oblivion–is bad. It’s… entertaining. To a point. It’s entertaining in the ways the most Hollywood “high concept” pictures are entertaining these days.
In fact, I imagine the pitch going something like this:

Studio flunky #1: “We’ve got this great piece. High concept. Dystopian future. Like Hunger Games.  Only not.”

Studio Exec: “Tell me more. What do you mean like “Hunger Games?”

Studio flunky #2: “Well, it’s like Hunger Games in that it’s set in a Dystopian future. That’s what’s like. But you know what? Think more in terms of alien invasion. But not.”

Studio Exec looks perplexed, but give his best “Temba, his arms open” look and gesture: “Tell me more.”

Studio flunky #1: “Yeah, it’s dystopian like Hunger Games, but if you think more like Independence Day meets Michael Bay’s The Island you’d be closer to the mark.”

Studio flunky #2: “Yeah, that’s totally it! It’s Independence Day meets The Island! Cause we’ve got an alien invasion and clones!”

Studio Exec: “Clones? Where do the clones come in? And who’s it got? Who’s attached to star?”

Studio flunky #1: “Well, you know how ID4 had Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum? We think we need to mix it up like that, too…”

Studio flunky #2: “Yeah, instead of those guys, we’ll have Morgan Freeman and Tom Cruise!”

Studio flunkies #1 and #2 in unison: “And it’s a total misdirection! We start in media res, and make the audience think one thing–when it’s totally something else! Tom Cruise is a clone!”

Studio Exec: “Tell me something I didn’t know.”

Studio flunkies exchange a bemused look.

Studio flunky #1: “There’s of course a love interest, a resistance group on earth, and cool special effects. And a happy ending!”

Studio flunky #2: “We think it’s got legs. It’ll do boffo box office.”

Studio Exec: “Where do I sign?”

————–

I call the film Oblivious, because, #1 the studio heads have to be completely clueless when such hackneyed tropes get used over an over again; and #2, they count on us, the movie going populace, to be completely oblivious when they do so. The story really does borrow heavily from both The Island and ID4. There is an invasion, but it happens before the movie’s beginning. We think (are in fact told) that humanity won the war, but ruined the planet (when the the truth is we did not). This is totally telegraphed, and by the time the big twist drops, we know. I knew what was coming: Tom Cruise is a clone. Not only that, but like Bay’s before: there is no Island (in this case, Triton). We’ve seen it all before. We’ve seen it done better…

I wanted to like Oblivion. I really did. But the ending? Ugh. Total Hollywood! Not only do they blatantly steal the “blow up the alien mother ship” sequence from ID4, they take the sacrifice the Tom Cruise character makes, and take a dump all over it with a tacked-on, schmaltzy happy ending. A sacrifice is a sacrifice precisely because it costs somebody something.

But not, I guess, in Hollywood.

Where far too many folks are, you guessed it, oblivious. Or maybe I’m just cynical and jaded.

Nah.

Having recently spent some time in southern California, I can attest to the fact that it has a culture all its own. The temperate climate seems to breed a people that are by-and-large very laid back and friendly (except on the ubiquitous freeways–which one, if one wishes to get anywhere, cannot avoid).

More than the love Californians bear for their weather, the beach, the surf, the ocean, they seem to love two things:

Their Pho.

And their smiles.

As my wife and motored around, taking in the sights, smelling the briny air (and exhaust), what we noticed more than anything else was:

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Pho. Vietnamese noodle bowl.

These Pho (pronounced “fuh”) joints seemed to be as plentiful (if not more so) as Circle-Ks in Phoenix. There was literally one on every corner. There was Pho Huang, Pho To Chau, and Pho King.

Almost as ubiquitous were the dental offices. We passed one which advertised “Open 7 days a week, 365 days a year.” Californians seem to love their teeth so much that going to the dentist on Thanksgiving, or Christmas, is a priority.

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Look at those choppers!

It became a joke as we drove from Anaheim to Huntington Beach: “Look, Hon! A dentist’s office! Look another Pho joint! Pho Dim Sum Big Doc!”

The preponderance of these two types of establishments leads me to conclude that Californians love nothing more than to sink their pretty pearly whites into big, steaming bowls of Pho.

Pass the Siracha! But don’t forget to brush!