Burn baby burn

18 11 2009

I fucking LOVE apocalyptic movies!

Death! Disaster! Mayhem! Whoo hoo!

And if they’re religiously themed? Even better.

Now, I define apocalyptic broadly, to encompass existential ends, partial ends (of countries, cities) as well as the mere possibility of world’s end.

Oo, world’s end—let’s see, Childhood’s End, an Aldous Huxley (Arthur C. Clarke—h/t C.) novel about—yep—the end of the world. Read that one (the, uh, first time) in high school.

So let’s extend the love for all things apocalyptic to novels, as well.

It should go without saying that these movies/novels are often awful. Children of Men was a very good movie (and so-so novel), but that, I think, was an exception.

Terminator 2 was pretty good, but really, really, really long.

Terminator? Okay.

Terminator 3? Okay. (I missed Linda Hamilton.)

Terminator 4? Umm, is that on Hulu? Maybe if I ever sign up for Netflix. . . .

Goofy apocalyptic is good, like Independence Day. Or what was that movie with Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche about the volcano in Los Angeles? Goofy is what it was!

And certainly better than the Pierce Brosnan volcano flick—which, while it had Linda Hamilton, did not have Sarah Connor.

So, too, with Deep Impact Armageddon (Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck comet movie) and the Morgan Freeman/Tea Leoni comet movie (Deep Impact). You’d think the Freeman/Leoni duo would kick Willis & Affleck’s asses, but, no: Deep Impact Armageddon wins by goofiness.

Prophecy, with Virginia Madsen and Christopher Walken—really, you have to ask? Christopher Walken! And bonus with angels and Satan and stuff!

Much better than End of Days, with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Too stodgy.

The Ninth Gate? Not really world-ending, but really fucking weird. And Satan and stuff.

Stigmata? Not really at all, but it had visions and angels and stuff. And Gabriel Byrne.

Waterworld? Nuh. Kevin Costner, not in his lovable-crank personna (Bull Durham, Tin Cup), but just annoying crank. But Dennis Hopper was fun.

Day After Tomorrow? Please. (And while I’m certainly willing to watch bad bad-end movies, I’m not willing to pay 12 bucks to do so: 2012 will have to wait.)

War of the Worlds? I have the Tom Cruise version stamped on my brain. Too muted. And Tom Cruise. . . .

Oh, and On the Beach. Odd, but great. The first half is a bit of a caper flick, with Fred Astair and Ava Gardner (man!) and stiff-and-honorable Gregory Peck, but still (SPOILER), no relief: everybody dies.

The Day After played on t.v. in the 1980s, to much hue and cry. I saw it again a year or two ago, and while it was mighty cheesy, still.

Testament was not cheesy. I still (mis?)remember the scene in which Jane Alexander is sitting in next to sun-filled window, sewing, her face determined. It’s only in the voiceover do we learn that this is a shroud for her daughter.

28 Days Later gave me nightmares for a week—then terrified me out of sleep six months later.

Didn’t see 28 Months Later, however—tho’ if it streams on Netflix (if I ever. . .) then, maybe.

I should catch up with all the old George Romero flixs. While I’m not a big horror fan, zombies work.

World War Z, by Max Brooks. Have you read it? A fine bit of reportage. Sparked an unfinished bit of writing from me, on the ethics of zombie-killing and -experimentation.

Margaret Atwood has written a number of apocalyptic novels, although these tend toward collapse-apocalypse as opposed to war/violence-apocalypse. Oryx & Crake was hilarious and cold—just right; her new book elaborates on the O&C theme and is, according to a number of critics, better than the original. Hmpf.

And then, of course, The Handmaid’s Tale—I’m currently using that in one of my pol sci classes. When I polled the class on when/whether they would try to escape the totalitarian Republic of Gilead, most of them were of the I’d-wait-it-out variety. Really? I all-but-yelped. Only one student was with me: as soon as we lost our jobs or our money, if not sooner, we’d be gone.

Turn me into an Unwoman—no suh!

Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway. What? You still haven’t read it? Honestly, what’s your excuse?

There’s more, of course. Fahrenheit 451. Don DeLillo. The Plot Against America. Walker Percy. Peter Hoeg. Jose Saramago. 1984. A couple of Marge Piercy’s. A couple of Mary Doria Russell’s. William Gibson.

Science fiction? Speculative fiction? Whatever. If the earth is in peril/ends, it’s in.

C. was going to start an apocalyptic book club at the bookstore, but a necessary manager bailed. Still, I’d expect that she’d have even more to offer.

And, again, quality is not really the point, here. Even the books or movies I slagged I’d still (re)read or watch (again).

The point is that they are 1) fiction; 2) fun! and/or terrifying!; and 3) the world ends!

Should I mention that a number of us have made plans to see The Road Christmas night?

The director had better not make it ‘inspiring’. . . .

Advertisement




Walking in your footsteps

26 04 2009

REM’s It’s the end of the world as we know it or Lou Reed’s Fly into the sun (opening lyric: I would not run from the holocaust/I would not run from the bomb) are the more obvious titles to a meditation on the apocalypse, but what the hell, we here at AbsurdBeats like to mix it up once in awhile.

Where was I? Ah yes, little blue-green planet goes boom, death, devastation, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a great theme for books, and I have a particular weakness for B-grade movies about an imminently-imperiled or just-toasted Earth. I’ve also had my share of nuclear nightmares, and the movie 28 Days Later added zombies into the nighttime bad-dream rotation.

As a general matter, however, I don’t much worry about the end of the world. Oh, I’m not really joking when I tell my students that I’m glad I’ll likely be dead before the environment collapses, and I won’t be suprised (though I will of course be shocked) if a dirty bomb is lobbed into some urban center. And yes, I keep my eyes open to the damage microbes can do (thank you, Laurie Garrett, for that), and am not uninterested in reports of a nasty strain of swine flu flying around.

Still. If the world ends, it ends. It’s sad to think that we as a species would have blown our chance (and the chances of our fellow creatures) to have figured out how to join the universe, and that in ending ourselves we probably will have destroyed the evidence—the art, architecture, music, literature—that we were more than just violent and greedy idiots.

But this is a detached sadness: if we’re gone, there’ll be no one around to mourn or regret. Death is sad for survivors, not the dead themselves.

C. recently posted on her ‘go’ bag, a pack to which she’s been adding what she’d need to survive if she had to get the hell out of the city. It’s not a bad idea, and given my predilection for preparedness, I should probably put a pack together as well.

But, as I noted in a comment to her post, I have no desire to survive a truly world-ending event. To tramp down ash-laden roads, as do the father and son in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, in search of some place beyond the fire? Forget it. Or to wait around a few days or weeks or even months for my skin to fall off? Pass. Maybe one shouldn’t go gently into that good night, but when the world ends, so do the good nights.

What of disasters which simply alter, but don’t end, the world? Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con isn’t exactly waving a ‘The end is near!’ sign, but he’s mighty interested in those who do. Sharon Astyk (at Casaubon’s Book) similarly waives any claim to apocalyptic thinking, but she’s preparing, nonetheless. Gather ye rosebuds (and corn and whatnot) while ye may, because the times they are a-changin’.

I dunno. I tend to skim those pieces on how This Time! we’re gonna be thrown back to the farm, what with this modern way of life collapsing under its own decadent, alienated ways and all. Neither Dreher nor Astyk is a particular fan of modernity, and each seeks a return to a less individualistic, more communal way of life. It’s not that I’m accusing either of actively wishing for The Big One, but they do sense opportunity in a series of little earthquakes.

I’m more po-mo than pre-mo, and have had my own arguments with modern theorists and my own criticisms of modern life. But it’s also the milieu of my life, and that of my friends and family, and we have been shaped by this modern world. Yes, I think there’s got to be a better way to live—but until I come up with that better way, for all of the inhabitants of this little blue-green orb, I’m not about to cheer the end of this fucked-up, violent, compromised, weird old world.

And if things change drastically? Well, that happens, periodically. Unless we do manage to blow ourselves to smithereens, we’ll manage with what comes next.

That’s what we do.