2017-04-13

sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
My verdict after seeing James Goldstone's Rollercoaster (1977), a cat-and-mouse thriller featuring on-ride footage from the Rocket at the now-defunct Ocean View Amusement Park and the Great American Revolution at now-Six Flags Magic Mountain as well as scenes filmed generally at Kings Dominion:

"Too much plot; not enough point of view."

To be fair, I also enjoyed the concert footage of Sparks performing at the fictionalized opening of the Revolution, especially since I hadn't known they were in the movie at all (the internet tells me it is one of their greatest regrets), and I was delighted to learn from [personal profile] spatch that the filming of Rollercoaster directly inspired the formation of American Coaster Enthusiasts, but the plot mostly consists of George Segal running around and Richard Widmark being annoyed and Timothy Bottoms actually being quite effective as a quiet-eyed, precisely spoken domestic terrorist who looks barely old enough to buy his own drinks but is heavily implied to have seen action in Vietnam, which without any further development or motivation for his plan to extort a million dollars from the heads of five major amusement park corporations in exchange for not bombing any more rides (his backstory was cut from the movie lest the audience feel sorry for him, the internet also tells me) makes an interesting and slightly dubious snapshot of the anxieties of the time. I don't know that there's any great societal significance to the subplot in which Segal's divorced character keeps having to palm his shared custody weekends off on girlfriend Susan Strasberg because he's too busy taking phone calls from the bomber, although it is neat that his daughter is played by fourteen-year-old Helen Hunt and she already sounds exactly like herself. I think that may have been the human interest that I was supposed to care about, but which mostly got in the way of me enjoying Bottoms' methodical underplaying and the coaster history. I felt the same way about the camera's tendency to cut away from the hurtling twists of the track in favor of the riders' reactions: yes, fine, human faces are all well and good, but this is for all intents and purposes a point-of-view video of the first vertical looping coaster built since Coney Island's Loop the Loop—and that was torn down in 1910—and the part where the horizon turns over is essential. We know the riders are enjoying themselves, screaming at the sky with their hands up for the g-forces. We know the terrorist in the last car is preoccupied with his plans and therefore not enjoying the air time nearly as much as he should be. You bothered to kick viewers in the rear with Sensurround on the film's original release; you want something that immersive, stop breaking up the first-person experience! I realized when I got home that scriptwriters Richard Levinson and William Link were the creators of Columbo (1968–78, 1989–2003) and the film is structured not unlike an episode of that show, with the details of the crime and the identity of the perpetrator shown from the start; I almost wished it had been one. I will put up with a lot of silliness for the sake of Peter Falk.

I think the moral of this screening is that I need to go ride some roller coasters. Luna Park opened last weekend. Ditto Six Flags New England. I have to wait till May for Canobie Lake. Oh, New England. I like your weather fine when it's not seesawing wildly between November and July in April, but does it have to be such hell on coaster culture? This appeal brought to you by my fast-moving backers at Patreon.
sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)
At 7:32 pm local time in Afghanistan, it was eleven in the morning in Boston and I was asleep. On the one hand I suppose I might have wanted to be awake for the historic moment of the first combat use of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, since it is the largest non-nuclear bomb we have ever dropped on people. (We have one larger, I read; we've never used it. I don't want to feel that might be coming.) On the other, I don't know what difference it would have made, since bombing first and holding press conferences later appears to be the order of the day. I can't even tell when this was planned or decided. If the president was directly involved—coyly, he won't say—I imagine it appealed to him because of the hyperbole. Even if it does nothing but worsen the chaos and raise more anger and shift the Overton window of acceptable firepower, "Mother of All Bombs" sounds tough, right? Definitive. The last word. Somehow I doubt it.
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
There is an absolutely spectacular sunset going on beyond the kitchen window, sheets of flaming violet and hot pink neon-glowing through the barely-leafed branches of the trees, and I am reminding myself that the cataclysmic eruption of Krakatau in 1883 which produced such red skies at night for months after the blast involved something like a dozen times the explosive yield of the Hiroshima bomb and enough atmospheric ash and dust that it dropped temperatures worldwide and threw off weather patterns for the rest of the decade and so it is unlikely that this evening's sunset in Boston has anything to do with this morning's bomb in Nangarhar when we're not even talking kilotons of TNT, but this is the way my brain works. It isn't a distraction when it does real harm. The current music is a track I just picked up and have been listening to for the last hour. The lyrics are barely a snapshot and the chorus gives the effect of an anthem while feeling at the same time utterly arbitrary, as though these lines are simply where we were when the groundswell of guitars and synth kicked in. It falls apart as suddenly and unnervingly as it opened gently. Its "ordinary sunset" is always going to look like the one that caught my attention as I went to heat up some more water and contemplate dinner and found myself thinking about the nineteenth century instead. I guess it makes a change from the twentieth. I want to be able to think about now and not feel it sleeted through with echoes: wars, fires, lies. It is the wrong time of year to be haunted. These are not ghosts I want to let in.
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