Well as I said I would, I have. I just saw ARMAGEDDON here in Austin, away from all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood (in Florida) premiere, and unlike the Godzilla reversal, I loved it a second time. But as usual let me do the set up.
I woke up this morning after 17 hours of sleep, coming off of a 52 hour straight run of no sleep. My father woke me with, "Come on get up, Armageddon starts in an hour!" Oh, just in case you didn't know, my father loved the film even more than I did. So I sit up and begin downloading email. Lots of email with ARMAGEDDON as the subject line. So I could only presume it has to do with my premiere coverage.
"Your best review yet!!!" "You fucking sellout" "Glad you liked it as much as me" "How much did Bruce Willis pay you at Planet Hollywood!" Exactly what I expected. I know going to the premiere's will do nothing but breed contempt for me and the site from a segment of my readership. I know this going into it, why then do I go? Because it's fun. Because it's an experience I would not otherwise have. Do I know that all of the glitz and all of the glamour will affect me? Yes, that's why I include it in the review, that's why I always include my day in the reviews, because the film itself is never ever in a vacuum chamber. A film seen alone in a room is still affected by the viewers' own private experiences. Therefore those private experiences must be brought up when explaining the affect the film had on the viewer.
One reader forwarded me reviews from Roger Ebert, The New York Times, USA Today. They are of course extremely negative. As was the Variety review before it. And so far the only positive reviews I have read were the reviews from Hollywood Reporter and the Austin American Statesman's Chris Garcia. Garcia compares it with the best from John Woo. What do I think about that? Well, I rate HARD BOILED and THE KILLER above ARMAGEDDON, but I put FACE/OFF on an even keel with it. Sure yell and scream at me all ya want. Call me names, throw a gigabyte of hateful letters at me, but it won't change the way I feel. The very same that going to a premiere and having a publicity dweeb tell me and reenforce my opinion with, "I've never quite seen anything like it" and "Wasn't that an aaaaaaamazing film." does nothing to me as well.
By the way to address the naysayers. "First off a week ago Planet Hollywood Online fired me, and everyone else because Planet Hollywood wasn't going to continue supporting it. So by the normal person's reaction level I should have bombed the living fuck out of the film, because isn't that the way you are supposed to feel after your boss fires your ass? I mean from a financial point of view I'm pretty much fucked. Dad and I aren't selling collectibles anymore, if the advertising doesn't start paying soon or if my book doesn't sell... well then I'm pretty much fucked, and will have to go back to selling collectibles, which we stopped doing because Planet Hollywood had hired me. So that's alot of pent up hostility that I could have hurled at the personification of that 'boss' that fired me, but instead I love his movie. Not because he's paying me (which he ain't anymore) but because I honestly love the film. Just as the reviewers from Hollywood Reporter and the Austin American Statesman did."
So after reading the mail, which I knew was coming. Just for the record I had 16 'you're a sellout' letters and 38 'saw you on E!, you kick ass' or 'loved the review' letters. So it wasn't even a majority. I understand the negativity aimed at me for going. Just like everytime Siskel and Ebert love a Disney film and you read the newsgroup discussions about what a pair of sell outs they are because their television show is financed by Disney. Whoa! Wait a second, you telling me the guy (Ebert) who gets a big huge gigantic paycheck from Disney television is a sell out when he gives ARMAGEDDON, Disney's gigantic huge summer film One Star! No, he ain't a sell out, same as me, I ain't a sell out either. But see this is the problem. Writing is a living. To make a living someone has to pay you. Ebert chose to get paid via Disney when he and Siskel went that route. They knew it would look bad, but they knew deep down that they were honest people, so they took it. Same as alot of you folks would, I ain't saying all, cause god knows some sort of 'Eliot Ness' type will raise his/her arm and say, "not me". Well fine.
Also to address the whole payola bit. Disney paid my way out there, but I incurred $150 bucks in cab fair and misc. expenses which came out of my pocket to go see a friggin movie. How many of you would pay $150 dollars to go see a movie? That's my NEGATIVE cost. That's right, I didn't get an honorarium, no gift check redeemable at THE DISNEY STORE, no 'I'll pay the rent this month' thing. Nope, I wrote the check to pay the rent this morning just like you, and like you there ain't a whole lot left in the bank after that check clears. So enough of this payola crap.
So Dad and I head off for the theater, mainly talking about 'Damned if you do" and "Damned if you don't" scenarios, etc. When we arrive at the theater the parking lot is basically empty, except for a school bus of kids going to see DR DOOLITTLE. We buy our tickets, and head in. We are here 30 minutes early and there was only one other person in the theater. Just like the audience for GODZILLA the second time. Well, I comment to Dad, "Uh oh, one person, same theater, I'm gonna hate the movie" Dad and I begin laughing to our seats. Then as the thirty minutes go by the theater begins filling up. About two thirds full. Notably unlike GODZILLA. This was for a 12:30 screening on a Wednesday at the Highland 10, the same theater and day of the week as the second screening of Godzilla.
Yes, I still love the film. This time the first moisture didn't appear in my eyes till the scene where Bruce has all his men around the table and he's telling them what's happening. WHAT ON EARTH!!! Well, it's like this... sure that ain't an emotional scene for a lot of ya, but I can't help but imagine telling Hallenbeck, Glen, Robogeek, Johnny Wad, Paul, Copernicus about the end of the world and how we are the only things to stop it. I mean can you? Can you imagine getting together your closest group of friends around a table and telling them that y'all are all gonna have to go do something that'll probably kill all of ya, but the world will survive because of it. To me... for whatever insane reason, that is a powerful scene. Now I can say I didn't get as emotional as often the second time. But it did strike me as a fantastic movie.
Not the best movie ever, not as the best movie this year. Hell not even the best movie I have seen in the last week, that would be BLADE RUNNER which I saw last Friday as part of the Warner Brothers Film Festival. On my ratings of favorite films of the year it goes like this.... 1.Six String Samurai, 2.Vampires 3. Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, 4. Out Of Sight 5.Armageddon. In my list of the best movies of the year it doesn't make my top ten. But I enjoy the hell out of it. Now the Austin American Statesman reviewer calls it "The Best American Film This Year" Ummmm that's a bit strong, but then he hated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Why does the film hit me the way it does and why do the people that hate it, hate it so. Well I'm gonna try to answer that.
In the movie there is a throw away side plot line about Will Patton's character. From the looks of it he was married, or in love with this lady once and had a kid with her, and now she has a court order to keep him away from her and her kid. There is zero development on this situation, no effort to make us understand why this has happened. And it's purpose is sheer emotional manipulation. It hits me and my dad so hard. I mean massive amounts of tears and smiles. Why? Why does that get me and my father? Because my mother took me and my sister away from him. He was everything to me, she was a bitter alcoholic. And I remember what it was like to see my father after months of not seeing him. I remember counting the days, the seconds till I could run up and hug him, to spend 48 hours with him. To listen to his voice on the phone. I know what it's like to not have all that you love, and then to be reunited for a short time, knowing it's not forever. And all of that, all of those feelings, those experiences.. I carry all of that with me when I see that scene.
That's why I say film is a personal experience, why rating a film with stars or empty popcorn buckets is useless, because film ultimately is about who you are. What experiences you have and how they form the mind that analyzes all that you see and hear. With me a still from Casablanca brings the French National Anthem and Paul Hereid and Ingrid Bergman and the immortal Rick singing in defiance of the Nazis. That's from a still. When someone says the word "Huh" it reminds me of my mother drunk and angry as hell screaming "HUUUUUH?" Why? Because that's the way my mind works, because I react and remember experiences and they are all cross referenced in this card catalogue I call my mind. I don't know if everyone else is like that, sometimes I don't, but I know we all have memories, some choose to shut them down, I open them up, I take the brake pedal off and let them flow.
That's why even the worst films sometimes work for me, that's why I liked THE POSTMAN, it struck something in me, deep down, and I wish I had a chance to edit 10 minutes out of it to make it perfect for me. This film has several moments, several pieces that work like that. But overall I love the characters. From Bruce to Billy Bob to Ben to Bear to the Bottle Rocket guy, all of em. Hell I even like the guy who wouldn't put on Roddy Piper's sunglasses.
So why do some people absolutely hate the film?
Well I've given this a lot of thought, and I don't think I can answer it completely because I'm not one of those people that pretends to know all sides to everything. But I have read several bad reviews from regular fans and from Ebert, USA Today, Variety and the New York Times. And I think to some people it's in the suspension of disbelief. For example it bothers Ebert that they walk around like they are in normal gravity on the asteroid. Well, to me the little backpack thing that Jennifer Steen explains about with the little thrust thingees is the 'universal translator' that let's them walk around. I accept that, sure it's probably impossible, same as Trek's 'Universal Translator' but hell maybe it is possible, so I let it go. Like I said, this is the Bruckheimer Universe and to me that takes care of a lot of scientific implausibilities.
Some people are angry that NASA gave this movie all the cooperation they did. One guy at the Premiere Party was angry about this (he hated the movie) because he felt NASA should never endorse something that is bad science. Well, that is a point, but the way I see it is this, it shows NASA solving a problem that could save the earth. It shows the space program overcoming adversity and being that 'dream' that those of us that have built NASA rocket models have always felt it was capable of. I think NASA saw this as a TOP GUN that showcased them, I agree. You may not. That's your right. I do know that at the Aerosmith concert after the Premiere, I was surrounded by NASA Astronauts, a Colonel and some scientists, and while we waited for the concert they talked about the film. About how they loved it, and how they thought that kids would want to be astronauts because of it. That might very well be why NASA did it, because they wanted a great big recruitment sign called ARMAGEDDON that might get kids wanting to go to space.
One anti-ARMAGEDDON person hated the film because it was the most patriotic load of shit ever. Well, read my POSTMAN review to find out what I think of patriotism. Suffice to say, I am a patriot. I celebrate July 4th. I'm an Eagle Scout and always will be, same as my Dad, his Dad and his Dad. I don't think the United States is stupid, or that an American Flag is cheesy. I believe in ideals, that's why Mr. Smith Goes To Washington works on me. My patriotism goes further though. I get all wispy eyed when I hear other country's anthems, I love national anthems, they tend to be embroiled with emotional pride. That gets me. So does that make me a creme puff? No, I just licked my hand and it wasn't at all like licking a creme puff, those are good, trust me, I've had a few. At the same time I understand those that don't salute a flag, or hold the presidency with honor. They have had different experiences and different feelings, that is what is so great about people. We feel differently, we think differently, and I love differences. I don't look at skinny people and think, They should be fat like me. I don't look at bald people and say They should have hair. To me, I'm glad I'm different, and in this case, If I like Armageddon and you don't. That's fine too, it'll give us something to talk about in line May 25th, 1999 when we're all the same.