[SPOILER] A Pilot Weeping, A Review of Top Gun: Maverick
As the Memorial Day themed church service began this morning, I just knew I was going to be in the right mood to cry during the movie in the afternoon. Some days ya’ just know.
The opening sequence confirmed what I suspected—but the dam held.
Oceans, forests, hills, deserts, mountains, jungles, and, oh yes, skies are the appropriate natural descriptors for how much emotional size was packed into each and every scene. Skies and skies of feeling, packed onto a smaller and smaller IMAX screen.
Still, squinted eyes were able to hold back the waters.
Somewhere in the training sequences I consciously decided that I was going to just let it happen, no matter who might look over and see.
When Phoenix has the birdstrike, her quick identification of the malfunction and even quicker reaction to save the aircraft struck a chord and finally a few tears came out. It felt amazing.
Then when Maverick surprisingly appears to run the course in 2:15, there was no holding back. No sobbing, mind you. But definitely communication from my soul in the form of slow building tear bombs dropping down my cheeks.
I wanted Maverick to succeed. He’d been talking like a boss the whole movie, and finally he was going to show the world that he could back up his words with action.
My life looks very, very different than it did leading up to and during my time in US Air Force pilot training. It’s astonishing to me to even consider who I was then and who I am today. But more astonishing is how this movie affected me. It brought to the surface something long buried deep within.
That something is the following fact: Pilot training was the last time in my life where I wasn’t embarrassed to do my best.
We all did our best.
Not anymore. That’s not allowed.
I’m up to fifty pushups five times during the walks with my toddler, these days. Right out in public. Fifty. Cars driving by. Same spots. Neighbors able to see. Fifty. All the way down and up. Fifty. I’m forty years old and struggle to do fifty pushups, but I also know that not one person who may happen to see the struggle can do more than me.
That’s the closest event (maybe these blogs when I’m in the mood) I can consider as one in which I give my best anymore. Even my best friend from college doesn’t want to play when I really put effort in.
But my pilot training class of ‘05? We did our best.
What’s changed? Now that’s a weeping good question.
The End of Dreams Is Bittersweet
Showtime is 5pm. I’ve dreamed of seeing Top Gun: Maverick for probably 32 years. As the hours count down, I’m not sure that I want to wake up anymore.
I saw Top Gun for the first time at a friend’s house in 3rd grade, shortly after moving to a new city. It would’ve been early 1990. Soon after, I then sat in a tv/video store in the mall where they had a laser disc of Top Gun playing just the first half, basically until Goose died on repeat. My mom was off shopping and was perfectly content to leave me perfectly content as she did. Then, somewhere along the way I got the soundtrack on cassette tape and listened endlessly.
That opening. It’s like the reason surround sound was invented for home theaters. A laser disc copy was at another friend’s house and we fired it up too, mostly for the bass of the opening scene.
Top Gun. It has been the movie that never was going to have a sequel, and yet was so beloved that everyone wanted a sequel—assuming it could be done right.
I told the squadron commander at my first unit post-pilot training, “I am the guy who saw Top Gun and said, ‘I have to at least try to do that.’ That’s about all I know.”
He respected my honesty, even as he probably wished I knew a little bit more about what I had gotten myself into.
So many memories of that movie are woven into the memories of my actual life. There’s no separating the two. Art influencing life, life influencing art.
It all ends in a few hours. Above all, one dream has been searchingly saturating my life for three decades: Top Gun 2.
When the credits roll, I will still be a pilot. But when the credits roll, there will not be a boy’s dream of becoming a pilot; there will not be a boy’s dream of Top Gun 3.
So this is it.
The end of dreams is bittersweet.
Review of the Hype Surrounding “Top Gun: Maverick“
The hype is real. The hype is palpable. The hype is fantastic.
It’s the kind of hype that inspires. It’s of a sort which begs the question, “Is it possible he actually made the perfect movie?”
I’ll say this: the just released official music video for Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” is the perfect music video for a film soundtrack’s main song.
I’m officially applying for pilot training.
Review of Matrix Resurrections, By Lana Wachowski
When it comes to any Matrix movie, the only question that needs to be answered is, “Was it right?”
Before the release of Matrix Resurrections, the answers would’ve been, in order, “Yes”, “Yes”, and “Yes”. With the release of the latest installment, the first three films are now treated as one (Trilogy), and Matrix Resurrections is the sequel.
So is Matrix Resurrections right? In other words, can anyone be the savior? Put another way, can a cat? Can A.I.? Can a woman? Can a couple? Can the planet? Can an idea? (Or does it have to be a man, bloody man?)
Let’s be clear about this. In the Trilogy, the hero was still a man. Or “man” in the mankind sense of the word, but bounded by individual-ness. In Resurrections, we’ve added to the options. Like the Trilogy, the fight isn’t mano y mano. But unlike the Trilogy, Resurrection’s fight removes the requirement that is be one against many.
The fight, the conflict, according to Lana Wachowski, is against boundaries themselves.
Oooh. Sounds sexy.
In short, however, the answer to the question must be “no”. Matrix Resurrections is not right. Boundaries exist. Consequences occur.
Single sentence Wrap-Up: While visually pleasing, curiosity satisfying, and fun like an age-old game of “tag”—but we’re chasing and being chased by ideas—for all that, there was no new “bullet time”, and the avant-garde idea is so idiotic that it could only be suggested by an emperor in new clothes, that is, Larry Wachowski.
The Vaccine Is The Blue Pill
He fights for us still!
About COVID Relief Checks, A Review of Tenet, by Christopher Nolan
SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t need Christopher Nolan and his latest sapio-sexy film in order to believe that there are no parallel universes or, what is the same, that we’re all living in one big tapestry of existence. I didn’t need him to highlight that entropy is conceptually unbound from time. No. I already believed it and have proved it. How else could I have spent my COVID money before it was even deposited, huh? How else?!
As the old proverb goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
Confession: I’ve been entraipsing through time my entire life. And it’s fantastic.
(To be sure, I needed the money because I thought I had all the books I would ever need—I was wrong. Now I have all the books I will ever need.)
Two Ways Jack Reacher Stayed Healthy
Obviously we watched Jack Reacher last night. I was struck by two parts. The first is when TC explains how, through training and repetition, someone not smart can be made to appear smart. It reminded me of what I was trying to say about illiterate children.
Secondly, my dad told me today that he did not buy the toilet paper that was seemingly destined for him to buy as it sat on the shelf at the store. I repeat: my dad did not buy available toilet paper. Hear me clearly: the toilet paper had his name, in cursive—at least if you look in the right light—on the packaging and he did NOT buy it. Bravo. That reminded me of TC’s answer to the blonde’s anxious query, “Should I be afraid?!” Cruise says, “Are you smart?” Blondie says, “Yes.” Tom then says, “Then don’t be afraid.”
Review of Joker, by Todd Phillips
The new Joker film is excellent. More than excellent, it is beloved. The dilemma facing me is that I haven’t read one review which accurately captures precisely why it is so beloved. But I know why. And I can explain it succinctly.
The new Joker film is so beloved because it surreptitiously names the elephant in the room, and consequently it offers the audience freedom to bathe in the joy which accompanies naked hope.
Our “culture” is inundated with the idea that “nurture” has won the nature/nurture debate. But not the Joker folks. Instead of pandering to what’s en vogue, they created the most brilliant safe space imaginable (the bleached white halls of Gotham’s legendary Arkham Asylum) and peppered it with a hysterical clown’s slippery, speedy, and blood-soaked footprints. We find ourselves tickled by how Joker gleefully stays one step ahead of the pursuing wet-nurses. But we aren’t empathizing with Joker’s claims of victim-hood, no. What we’re doing is enjoying the feeling of hope. We are basking in the sunlight which is the hope that his chaotic crimes will finally motivate someone to rise and defeat him and all his kind.
In other words, Joker is so beloved because it finally said what we all feel: It cannot be all nurture. Our blood has to have something to do with it. Joker’s blood must have something to do with his behavior. And Bruce Wayne’s blood, likewise, will have something to do with his behavior, with the reason that he becomes Batman.
One must not forget that Joker is the loser.
My Dream Dad, A Review of Ad Astra, Starring Brad Pitt and by James Gray
The idea of evaluating my father seems odd to me at this point of my life (and his). Instead, I want to create a subtle distinction between evaluating my father and sharing with you characteristics of my dream dad. I want to do this today because of the feelings Ad Astra evoked.
Ad Astra is Mr. James Gray’s new, and remarkable, film starring Mr. Brad Pitt.
Ad Astra is also the perfect vehicle to bring my dream dad to life because it makes bold decisions–just like my dream dad would stare into the immensity that faces every man and boldly step forward, world watching.
Scenes in Ad Astra which are unbelievable at face value are presented with such force and gravity that the viewer can only be intrigued to see where all this is going–in the same way that my dream dad would behave in a manner that would continually intrigue me.
Indeed, the movie does go places, too. We travel with Mr. Pitt to Neptune in hopes of finding my father. Der, I mean, Pitt’s father. In fact, we’re looking for Pitt’s father because of his mysterious behavior, both generally in his having desired to antisocially voyage so far from terra firma, and particularly by his recent actions as leader of the “Lima Project”. Likewise, my dream dad is definitely a visionary and thereby a leader of unmatched proportions.
Most importantly, all along the epic and beautifully rendered space journey, the story is one of fatherly encouragement and belief in the son’s ability to do better than himself.
One flashback, near the film’s too-soon conclusion (much like my dream dad’s ‘conclusion’ will forever occur too soon), includes a four or five word sentence that can only carry its tremendous meaning in the gravity-less environment of our fantastic imaginations. But those few words are all my dream dad would need to say to let me know I was finally respected as a man.
And my dream dad would definitely let me know when I had achieved that high goal.
Dangerous Historical Revision vs. Dangerous Bad History, A Joint Review of Black Panther by Ryan Coogler and 12 Strong by Nicolai Fuglsig
I don’t fantasize anymore. When I was younger, I loved the way movies elicited some fantasy or other. After Sandlot I could almost see my foot aligned with the mound’s rubber at Wrigley. After Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves I could think of nothing but splitting an arrow with an arrow. And after Top Gun, well, I went on to become a military officer and pilot.
Fantasy no more.
Over the last two nights I finally watched Black Panther and also gave in to the hope that 12 Strong might get it right. These movies are both fantasy action films. They both include a healthy admixture of current events and fiction. And they both elate and inspire their fans. But, by my thinking, they, the resounding box office success of Black Panther especially, beg the question, “Can inspiration be dangerous?”
Black Panther‘s make-believe portion is what I struggle to understand. I do not identify with, neither am I inspired by, the notion that, “all along my people actually were capable and smart and possessed the technology to change the world for the better.” In fact, I find it troubling. More troubling is I think I’m alone in this because I am afraid to even type it.
Naturally, there are millions of reasons why the idea doesn’t inspire me, but I only want to highlight the one reason why it shouldn’t inspire anyone at all: unlike every other superhero movie, it is entirely based on pernicious historical revision. And given that truth depends on the events of history, we might consider the implications behind using historical revision as inspiration.
This takes us to 12 Strong. With 12 Strong we have a different type of fantasy, a different type of revision. The film begins by unnecessarily reminding the viewer of the, not just one, but many attacks that Bin Laden and friends perpetrated on the United States, the last of which being 9/11. Unlike Black Panther’s bright-color-clothed, ancestor worshiping character’s, this movie’s characters achieve depth only if in a kiddie pool. And while Thor’s men certainly declare that they are inspired by him, his greatest strength seems to be undecided. Is it that he can both speak Russian and ride a horse? Or that he got really–and I mean really, really–mad when he saw the news that fateful morning? (So mad that he kicked over his desk!)
Unlike Black Panther, 12 Strong does not actually revise history. It’s too cowardly to even attempt that. It surely is bad history, but Wakandan-like revision is nowhere in sight. For example, there is no discovery that the terrorists actually love the United States. Nor does some soldier wander into a mountain cave and discover that the United States’ actual forefathers (you know, the ones secretly sabotaging all the Taliban’s bad seed’s biggest plans) have kept alive an underground resistance within the same cave system wherein the bad tribes hid from shame all these centuries.
Nope. You won’t find any of that. Instead, 12 Strong merely works very hard to make sure that no one can say the military response to 9/11 was unjustified. (There’s even a scene where some Taliban leader shoots a burka-wearing woman who had been teaching little girls how to read–something which he believed Allah forbids. Yeah, that’s it. It was their illiteracy that we were pissed about.) By the way, the fact that any American thinks additional explanation for military response to 9/11 is necessary at all speaks louder than any graphic representation of barbaric beliefs ever could about whose side they’re on.
In the end, I guess I do fantasize. I fantasize about the day that we admit that our way of life is under attack every moment, from every angle. I fantasize about the day when we admit that it’s okay–in fact good–to have power and use it. I fantasize about the day when any one of us defends the Founding Fathers of the United States of America as champions of freedom. Do you hear me? I fantasize about these things.