Life in the Upside Down

So how was your week?

Did you know the fourth (and final?) season of Stranger Things dropped on Netflix?

What about that sequel to Top Gun, the trashy, watchable and massively popular 1986 film starring Tom Cruise that I never quite liked (Note: Oh, who cares, Chair?!) but yet managed to be moved by (Spoiler Alert:  I can’t reveal that moment but it’s as cheap, effective and mind-numbingly obvious as anything to come out of the 80s).

Anyway, do you know that Top Gun: Maverick (2022) is having the biggest opening of any Tom Cruise film EVER this Memorial Day weekend, grossing upwards of $260 million internationally?

Everything old is new again

I bet you didn’t know THAT.

But even if you did, who cares, right?

Because none of it truly matters when you’re livin’ life in the upside down.

If you don’t get that reference, the Upside Down is the crazy underground alien world we were first introduced to in the first season of Stranger Things.

It is an evil, ruthless, violent dystopian place where anything can happen and you will more likely than not, not survive.

Think of it as, well,  an American classroom in the midst of a school shooting.

Too soon? 

I don’t think so.

Might as well just cut off the top of the pole

I can tell you that episode one of ST’s fourth season opens with a short sequence that ends with a series of cuts to the maimed, bloody corpses of a group of pre-teens at the hands of…  Oh, well, why spoil the fun?

Just know that the Duffer Brothers once again have their hands on the deadening pulse of America. 

So much so that several days ago there was a warning card inserted right before the episode began that lets us know this season was shot a year ago, and that we’re saddened by the recent blah, blah, blah, etc. etc., etc….

But talk about prescience.

It’s like Eleven could sense… the most predictable thing

On the other hand, maybe these images, cuts and, well, shots are just the kind of thing we take for granted these days.  And what are writers anyway except a delivery system of artistic truths for the masses to see and contemplate and feed upon?

At least that’s how I talk about us when I’m at my most cynical.

And this would be one of those times.

There is no sense to be made of the shooting deaths of 19 children and two of their teachers at an elementary school in the small town of Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday because one can’t make sense of the insane and nonsensical.  That’s what makes us categorize those events as such.

Senseless

And yet there is no lack of would-be sense makers trying to deny the obvious with lies, tortured statements and contorted half-truth answers to the obvious.

Here is a list of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S, over the last two decades.

The majority of these were done with military style weapons like the AR-15, the gun of choice for that 18 year-old shooter at Uvalde.  The gun the NRA backed Republican Party refuses to ban. (Note: Heck, they don’t even want universal background checks).

And there is a reason for that.  This gun can shoot a bullet a second, eviscerating the flesh, bones and organs of its human targets like no other weapon in our history.

It’s speed and efficiency has made it BY FAR the most popular and PROFITABLE  gun out there.  And that’s quite an accomplishment since at this point there are way more guns than people in the U.S.

You read that right.

Who else is mad as hell?

No wonder the shooter bought two of them in the course of a week, along with more than enough ammunition to kill all those kids two or three times over.  And no background check required,  you can’t even get two handguns until you turned 21 and, anyway, these AR-15’s are much quicker, faster and FAR more fun.  Speaking from the merely logical perspective of an 18-year-old, they are the best and most efficient way to achieve your goals.

And yet we’ve got the Texas governor (Abbott) and senator (Cruz) on TV mansplaining to us all sorts of things.

– It’s single parent families and a lack of religion that has helped create all this.

– It’s mental illness (Note: Duh) in the last 20 years, especially because you used to always be able to buy rifles at age 18.

– It’s a excuse to take away everyone’s guns, a Democratic hoax to take over and politicize every single awful thing in the world to their favor rather than address the issues real Americans care about.

– Only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns.

Of course, in reality Texas ranks last of all states in the country for money allotted to  mental health services and effectiveness in treating them.  It is also one of easiest states in the country to buy and possess a gun thanks to recent legislation signed by Gov. Abbott that vastly expanded gun rights.

The fact is, you can buy and carry pretty much any type of gun anywhere at any time. 

As for that final statement, more than a dozen police officers, all of them presumably good guys with guns, stood inside that elementary school on the opposite side of a classroom door where a bunch of children 10 and under lay bleeding, screaming, terrified and begging (Note: via recorded 911 calls) to be rescued.

Make it make sense

But the good guys were wrongly ordered to stand down by their supervisor when they should have gone in, or so it’s being said right now.  This was a different story than was announced on Tuesday.

 And it might get even worse by next Tuesday.

But suffice it to say, there is nothing simple about this story that any good guys vs. bad guys scenario might possibly address.

As much as the top elected officials in Texas and in the world of Republican politics want to make this into a simplified tale of life in the wild, wild west.

It is nothing of the sort.

This is life right now.

And as long as we remain the RIGHT side of the aisle up, we will stay forever in the upside down.

Lady Gaga – “Hold My Hand” (from Top Gun: Maverick)

Mission Implausible

By all accounts Mission Impossible – Fallout, starring the bionic version of Tom Cruise in more ways than you can count, or would want to – is a hit.

It opened worldwide this weekend and has already accrued about $140,000,000 plus ($60 mill in the US alone) at the box-office.

It is the best reviewed of all SIX films in the franchise, receiving positive reviews from 100% of our country’s top film critics – all of whom should be ashamed at the ease with which they have been lulled, co-opted and otherwise seduced into dropping their necessary job description of sometime party pooper.

That’s right.. I said it.

And it is a BIG hit with filmgoers, earning a 93% favorable audience rating also from Rotten Tomatoes  – the universal, and in this case, totally unreliable, arbiter of what is generally good, bad or middling at the movies.

For in truth, the only area the new M.I. movie excels in is seeming to be a wonderful, diversionary summer entertainment.

Yes, Mr. Cruise looks almost the same as he has for decades if you squint a bit in the way he seems to be permanently doing these days, though to his credit with exactly the same seemingly earnest, genial manner.

still short though #shade #lifts #imtallerthanhim

And sure, Mr. Cruise also appears to have just as much stamina as he ever did as he drives motorcycles through the streets of Paris at top speed, parachute jumps out of planes from 25,000 feet in the air, and gets in and out of helicopters that he himself glides up and down and through and past various mountain tops and other quite dangerous terrain.

And of course, ABSOLUTELY, for you doubters (Note: Or party poopers, because someone has to be and live in the real world), that IS actually the real Mr. Cruise DOING HIS OWN STUNTS – EVEN THE DANGEROUS ONES!!!

The filmmakers have given countless interviews stating it is this action star’s commitment to authenticity that makes his appearances in this franchise so convincing.

I’m so impressed

This, of course, is amusing in a film where nothing is convincing or makes much sense at all, even in those rare moments when the twists and turns are discernible. Though those are not to be confused with any other number of other scenes where some poor actor has an unsellable chunk of dialogue designed to summarize the objective of the next set action sequence and make it believable.

There was a time when summer action movies like Die Hard or Indiana Jones (#1 and #3), or even November releases like the Daniel Craig as Bond remake of Casino Royale, found a way to give us death defying thrills along with memorable and even vaguely human characters whose actions didn’t need to be explained but instead simply unfolded. These kinds of films were not so much deep but infinitely watchable diversions where fantastical still things happened and the day was still saved by seemingly superhuman, larger than life guys.

The difference was these guys were flawed, they failed – often fatally – and their outer shells didn’t look as if they had been dipped in formaldehyde and frozen for all time. They were slicker and wittier and quite a bit less wordy than any of us real people but when they spoke they nevertheless actually sounded as if they could be us if we were possessed with great luck, superhuman strength, a fab outfit (or two or three) and one or two fancy gadgets.

OK.. maybe not every gadget.

What they were not, or at least what they never seemed to be, were manufactured for maximum audience tastes – an amalgamation of major studio index cards.

A director, a writer, an actor or even a costume designer (or some combination thereof) somewhere along the way gave these guys a real soul and took him beyond a carbon copy of an action hero. Instead, they invented a true man who rose into the role of hero, often against his better instincts because at heart you knew that as far as the world goes, he was not crazy enough to think that HE, ALONE, COULD FIX IT.

Of course, the above might be exactly why we have a character like Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt currently burning up the box-office – a guy whose ex-wife even says she sleeps better knowing he’s on-the-job.

Never Forget

It’s an uber desirable contemporary fantasy to have this kind of slick looking guy come in and save us from our worst selves with no discernible super powers other than his own moxie and experience. It’s even more tempting that he be someone who has been around a long time but still seems ageless – with hair that’s a real color and outfits that don’t so much show off his wealth but the flattering lines of his body.

He’s almost like an Apple Edition of our much-needed 2018 action hero – a high tech version with all of the all-American qualities we need to take our country back.

Excuse me Chair, what am I.. chopped liver?

Now, if only he were real – or at least seemed that way. We could either put him to work immediately or use him as a model to train someone else to help get us out of the mess we’re currently in.

As it stands now, however, he’s a mere shell of everything we need. Much in the same way that we are a shell of everything we once were.  Or will be, unless we find out a way to rescue ourselves.

That’s our real Mission – should we decide to accept it.

Mission Impossible TV Show Theme Song