For Russell Edson
If not for flesh’s pretty paint, we’re just a bunch of skeletons, working hard to deny the fact of bones. Teeth remind me that we die. That’s why I never smile, except when looking at a picture of a ghost, captured by a camera lens, in a book about the paranormal. When someone takes a picture of a spirit, it gives me hope. I admire the ones who refuse to go away. Lovers scorned and criminals burned. I love the dead little girl who plays in her yard, a spectral game of hide and seek. It’s the fact they don’t know they’re dead that appeals to me most. Like a man once said to me, Do you ever feel like you’re a ghost? Sure, I answered, every day. He laughed at that and disappeared. All I could think was he beat me to it.
In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.
All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.
The Dandy Warhols cover Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” Porchside beer-swigging tunes for Tom Hamilton’s commercial breaks.
Christmas was looking pretty ugly for Hollywood this year. Following 2010, which soared to a finish with jaw-droppers like “The King’s Speech,” “True Grit” and “Black Swan,” 2011 dribbled away with mediocre showings for “We Bought a Zoo” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” not to mention yet another insipid goddamn Chipmunks movie. Box-office sales sank ten percent.
We won’t say this often (or ever again), but thank God for Tom Cruise.
Cruise’s latest Mission: Impossible flick is a sleek, bulletproof specimen that resurrects all the infectious pacing and brazen improbabilities of the well-trod, but still not tired, franchise. The movie opens on a caffeinated high note, with Cruise breaking out of prison to the tune of Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” Once out, he joins forces with team members Simon Pegg and Paula Patton and the trio heads to Moscow, where they plan to infiltrate the high-security Kremlin. The film earns major points with a clever espionage scheme involving a projector and a screen, punctuated by Pegg’s well-placed comic relief.
When the Kremlin is bombed, the mission falls apart and the group, deprived of agency support, decides to go rogue.
In true M: I style, the plot gets nearly impossible to follow from there, with director Brad Bird expertly steering the cast to breathtaking setpieces in India and Dubai. Fortunately, the stunning visuals are as simple as the plot is convoluted. Bird navigates scene after palm-sweating scene with relentless aplomb, and Cruise’s blithe arrogance is the perfect foil to the nervy, vengeful Patton and Pegg’s twitchy humor.
The clean, wrenching finale — and the poster’s photo op — comes at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’stallest building. As Cruise clings to the dizzyingly high glass exterior with failing equipment, a billowing sandstorm looms in the distance. Say what you will about Tom Cruise (and we will), but the stunts — he did them on site, himself — and the visceral, spine-tingling tension is worth every penny.
“What is all this shit about angels? Have you heard this? Three out of four people now believe in angels. What’re you, fuckin’ stupid? Has everybody lost their fuckin’ minds in this country? Angels, shit. You know what I think it is? I think it’s a massive collective psychotic chemical flashback of all the drugs—all the drugs—smoked, swallowed, snorted, shot, and absorbed rectally by all Americans from 1960 to 1990. Thirty years of adulterated street drugs’ll get you some fuckin’ angels, my friend.”