Unification News for August 1996
The Last Daze
by Evans Johnson
This review originally ran in "The Mountain Sun," a weekly newspaper in Kerrville, Texas, where Evans and his family live. He is the theater/movie reviewer for the paper.
This summer's hit films are finally bringing into focus what's really going on in Hollywood: the seers of America's Babylon realize these are the Last Days. As Crosby, Stills and Nash sing it: "We've got to get ourselves back to the Garden."
At the beginning of history, religious texts state, something was lost: innocence. God lost His children, and we lost our Father. But as a rule parents do not abandon their children, and the basic tenet of Judeo-Christianity is that God longs for our return. For that homecoming to leap from faith into reality, we have to restore what was lost by the act of the fall.
And that act was sexual. Why else did Adam and Eve cover their "lower parts?" If eating a fruit had been the ultimate sin, would they not have covered their mouths? But what does this have to do with the movies?
A singular theme links many recent films: the redemption through goodness of women who have made their living through sex. Consider "Leaving Las Vegas," "Casino" or "Mighty Aphrodite." More immediately, consider these three summer blockbusters.
"Independence Day," which features a terrific cast-especially Brent "Data" Spiner and Judd Hirsch-spins out one plot involving a pilot and an exotic dancer. Asked why she strips, the young mother responds that the job pays well, and her little boy "is worth it." She has just saved several victims of the cataclysmic alien attack. At movie's end, she and her boyfriend are wed.
Disney's animated treat this summer is "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." The studio has had a powerful string of hits over the past decade, each featuring a voluptuous lass showing ample cleavage. Perhaps this is a ploy to entice dads to bring their offspring to the movies.
Whatever. In "Hunchback," the gypsy Esmerelda is voiced by and modeled on current pinup queen Demi Moore. She is a street dancer, and the artist who drew her left very little to the imagination.
As the arch-villain-and much of Paris-lusts after her, Esmerelda emerges as a death-defying heroine for her people.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's summer smash (ouch!) has him guarding a federal witness in "Eraser." Who plays her? Why, it's Vanessa Williams, who is rebuilding a career once thought doomed by pornographic photos taken a good while before she won-and was stripped of (ouch, again!)-the title of Miss America.
Each of these movies is well made, and the elements I've cited are not central. However, they are there. Each strives to summon scenes of human goodness, of trust, of sacrifice. Each succeeds.
True, "Eraser" treats violent death as occasionally humorous, and thereby is the least attractive of the three. "Independence Day" does not. The audience's fear of the aliens grows with the actors toward anger, rebellion and ultimately victory-at a cost of millions of lives.
This movie harkens back to Frank Capra's stirring films from the depression and the war years. The violence is not so graphic that you need to cover your children's eyes. The patriotism-to earth, on a worldwide level at the climax-is stirring. And, as has been widely noted, the special effects are, well, very special.
Disney's artists are so good that "Hunchback" lifts you away from the animation frequently-even from the violence done Quasimodo's mother. Several critics have praised this as Disney's finest effort.
But through each film there is this subtle message: it is time to retire the oldest profession. For Hollywood to even hint at this, the Last Days must have arrived.
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