Last night I went to see the latest installment in the "Men in Black" franchise, "Men in Black III." My client, has signed Tommy Lee Jones, a co-star in the movie, as on-screen talent and I felt it important to see his latest opus. I saw it in IMAX 3-D, to boot, my first encounter with such amazing technologies.
"Men in Black" is not the sort of movie I ordinarily go to. In fact, I think the last 'shoot 'em up' movie I saw in a theater was a James Bond vehicle, "Quantum of Solace." To my eyes that flick lacked everything that makes a story: character, plot, setting, humanity. In fact, it depressed me. It seemed, as so much does, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Over the past few weeks in American basketball titanic struggles have taken place pitting two old-guard teams, the San Antonio Spurs and the Boston Celtics against two upstarts, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat.
This morning reading about these clashes I came across this by Harvey Araton in the "Times." "The great Oscar Robertson has often complained that the 21st-century player knows only how to play in the air, an overstatement borne of some truth. Of course, stylistic extremism — airborne or grounded — is no advisable path to glory."
For the uninitiated, Oscar Robinson was the Michael Jordan and LeBron James of the 1960s. Routinely leading the league in scoring, assists and dazzle. In fact in one season, 1964-1965--he averaged for the season a "triple dozen."
Having seen "Men in Black" and the trailers to a handful of putative "Men in Black" look-alikes, including "Prometheus" by Ridley Scott and "Spiderman (Roman Numeral)" the phrase stylistic extremism strikes a chord.
The sensate-ness of these films is overwhelming. The theater boasted its sound-system had an output of 12,000 watts. Forget about American drone strikes killing suspect Al-Quaeda operatives. We could probably blast them out of their compounds with soundtracks.
The blasts, the booms, the chases, the effects, the stunts, the protheses are all magnificent. There's never been anything like them. Just as in the Celtics-Heat basketball series there's never been any team like the stylistically extreme Heat. Watching them play, watching LeBron bull through mighty defense like a tornado through a toothpick factory, you ask yourself "how can he lose?"
Yet, the Heat are down three games to two. And the Celtics, stylishly restrained may not play "in the air" as the Heat do. But they are a better team on the ground.
I did not hate the "Men in Black" movie. I confess, even today with all my intellectual pretense, I enjoy a good barn-burning page turner. And that's what "Men in Black" is. It's a comic book. It's cotton candy. It disappears the moment after consumption.
Here's my point, if there is one in this ramble.
As a workaholic father of two I get precious little time to consume entertainment, precious little time when I am not serving the needs of my client, my employer, my family or my friends. I want the slim seconds of time I do have to count for something.
I want meaning in my entertainment. Truth, insight, laughter, beauty.
Stylistic extremism just isn't filling.