Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Evil Genius

So, if you can't think of anything better to do with your weekend, I highly recommend a double feature: The remake of "The Omen" and "The Da Vinci Code."

The latter film was already given far too much discussion here a few days back. "The Omen," on the other hand, is another story.

I was lucky enough to see it at a screening held in an old Gothic Lower East Side synagogue, now part of some kind of charitable foundation, but still pretty rickety. Behind me sat Liza Minelli. Mia Farrow was leading the actor-boy-Damien (still apparently in character, based on his sour expression) around by the hand. What could be more terrifying?

Well, the film was spooky in spots and cheaty-scary in others (there are more than one sudden jump cuts sync-ed up with Very Loud Dramatic Music so that you jump as much from the volume as the images). There's at least one scene where you think, "Yeah, they could have made that better." I point to a dream-sequence (not immediately obvious that it is so) where Julia Stiles is brushing her teeth, and Damien wheels by on his Razr scooter. They cut to see him looming in the doorway, then cut back to her. She turns, not sure if he was there or not. A better scene would not have included the cut; he'd have just wheeled by and paused and then gone on, and if you as a viewer missed it because you were focused on the foam in Stiles' mouth, sucks to be you. But that's not the movie we were seeing.

The one particularly spooky/surreal moment comes when Mia Farrow is feeding Damien strawberries. It shouldn't be spooky or surreal, and yet it is: They're on chairs facing each other, and in his playroom, and he's just intensely watching her as she puts plump berry after plump berry between his teeth. Which naturally turns his mouth a smeary red. And then off he goes on the Razr again to commit mayhem. That's an effective scene.

But what I liked best was Liev Schreiber. When he's in grief in a muscle shirt in a darkened Italian pensione, he was the embodiment of hotness. And I've never been a big Schreiber fan before. Talented, sure. Sexy? Not my type. But he's the best thing about the movie.

Anyhow, I like the contrast. In "The Omen," the Church is so ineffectual and weak that it can't control its priests long enough to prevent them from giving The Antichrist away to some random family; in "Da Vinci" the Church is so overwhelmingly powerful that they can cover up a major revelation for 2000 years. Some consistency, folks, eh?

But the truth is that you really shouldn't go see either film. Or if you do, include "Who Killed the Electric Car?" on your list of future pictures to see. I went to that last night (it opens June 28). For those who don't live in California, and for those who don't own cars (I'm two for two) and for those who don't think about car emissions/global warming/environment issues (okay, got me there, I'm concerned regardless), it might not seem important. And yet, and yet.

In essence: We used to have electric cars. Way back, early on. Cheap petroleum got the better of electricity, however, and at that point nobody'd heard of smog, and asthma, and lung infections in children, and so they said, so what if most people prefer the quiet efficiency of a big appliance you can charge up at home? And so they dropped the electric car. Fast forward, and there's word that an electric car is a viability. California's emissions board decides to get on board with this and passes a law requiring 0% emissions in a few years. (That means the car manufacturers would have to sell cars with zero emissions by that year in California, or not sell at all.)

Know how when you get a chore handed to you you really don't want to do, and so you drag it out and fuck it up just a little here and there, until finally mom/boss/whoever comes over and takes it from your hands and says "If you can't do a good job, don't do it at all" and you're all relieved because you dragged your ass and now you're free of that?

Translate that to the car companies/oil industry and you've got the recipe for why the electric car failed. It really didn't fail: They had excellent, inspired engineers who made slick little futuristic cars, they got celebrity endorsements, they had waiting lists and people willing to charge it up. But the car manufacturers and oil industry would rather squeeze every last dollar out of a dying industry (combustible engines) than move forward, and so they refused to actually sell the cars. They leased them. And then sued California. Which backed down, and negotiated. The leases were not renewed. And I tell you, I'm still not a car fanatic, but waste gets me -- and watching GM round up all of those slick little cars and put them without regard on the backs of trucks to be squashed -- for no good reason -- made me sick.

There's much more to the documentary, of course. But understand this: Whatever you thought was wrong with electric cars (and honestly, I thought they were still around, just had never gotten a big rollout yet) -- you will be proven wrong.

When I go to LA later this year, I'm going to try and rent a Prius. It's as close as I can get, at least for now.

Besides, Damien told me I should.

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