"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 4 August 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.

X-Men's $55 million dollar first weekend gave the understated Anna Paquin vehicle a plausible claim to be the movie of summer 2000. Strangely, though, the movie's principle features — restraint, avoidance of money shots, the modest achievement of not screwing up a lucrative fanchise — are not the sort of qualities that move a summer event picture beyond its built-in fanboy audience. Filmmakers who hope to copy the film's success must look for other selling points besides stunning fight scenes or heart-pounding action. According to the rash of features and interviews in magazines, on TV, and online, the creators of X-Men firmly believe in their startling message: Discrimination is indeed bad. Scenes from the Holocaust open the movie, establishing the ponderous mood from which kung fu wire work and last year's special effects are always the tragic end result.

Many creative people have used the horrors of World War II as fodder for popular art. Both Vincent Ward and Kurt Vonnegut used the bombing of Dresden as a metaphor for emotional devastation. Comedians Roberto Begnini, Robin Williams and Jerry Lewis utilized Nazi atrocities as velvety black backdrop against which to appear, respectively, more romantic, heroic, and tragic. But X-Men trumps them all with the audacius breadth of its central metaphor, seeking not only to encompass the central lessons of the Holocaust but the competing philosophies of the American Civil Rights movement, specifically that little-reported portion of the struggle where Martin Luther King and Malcolm X funded elite militias that constantly beat the crap out of each other.

As such, X-Men has become our favorite movie of the summer, too. In the otherwise untrustworthy Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton reminds us that fantasies are important because they help us appreciate the wonders of reality, separating cause from effect. Three-quarters of a century later, we've had all the reality we can stand. Forget all that George Lucas/Joseph Campbell Babylonian hero mythology crap. If inarticulate metaphors about real-world events help us get through the day, then bring on the inarticulate metaphors. The Matrix may tell us that to conquer the false face of everyday reality we have to look like Keanu Reeves, carry guns, and kick the crap out of Hugo Weaving, but that sounds a lot easier than losing weight and finding a new job. We at Suck plead with moviemakers to follow the lead of director Bryan Singer, and suggest the following obvious avenues of exploration on a project by project basis for forthcoming fantasy blockbusters.


Having paid his Hollywood dues directing a Kevin Costner baseball movie, director Sam Raimi is set to bring the next big superhero film to life. Bitten by a radioactive spider, young, picked-on, teenage nerd Peter Parker gains superhuman abilities and learns that with great power comes great responsbility.

Spider-Man is obviously a story about workplace mismanagement and whistle-blowing. Unlike Karen Silkwood, who only seemed to whine, whine, whine after being innundated with radioactive energy, Peter Parker knows that the proper response to suffering from a sloppy workplace is to explore fetishism and score a completely unethical job taking front-page pictures of yourself for a local newspaper.

Harry Potter

Thanks to the cinematic mastery fantasy director Chris Columbus displayed in the smash worldwide hit Bicentennial Man, he was awarded the next big film franchise, J.K. Rowling's light fantasy about a lonely boy and the school for wizards.

A massive exploration of western educational approaches would be like taking candy from a baby here. Clearly, more children would pay attention in school if they received vouchers that allowed them to study in magical lands. At the very least, the movies should point out that young people better remember ideas presented to them with colorful-sounding names, by dropping "mysteries" into educational standards, and by repeating the same plot over and over and over again.

Lord of the Rings

Peter Jackson's three-picture take on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved fantasy trilogy begins in Christmas 2001 with Fellowship of the Ring. Filming continues in New Zealand, much too far away for any motion picture executives to fly in and pull the plug.

The late Professor Tolkien reportedly created his fantasies in support of imaginary languages he created for his enjoyment, which is sort of like starting a band because you bought a bunch of empty CD containers. Still, making up your own languages is the loneliest activity imaginable, so we forgive him. Tolkien rejected one popular reading of his mid-century bestseller, that of the Cold War struggle between competing empires, for reasons known only to those who've read all eighty-three of his son's respectful and necessary hardback books on the subject matter. Clearly, however, Tolkien was a fan of really short people walking in the woods, so we suggest Jackson play up Tolkien's "quest" as a combination of the Eco-challenge and a search for proper facilities.

The Incredible Hulk

Rumored at one point for Bill Paxton, back when a major effects movie starring Paxton was a good idea. Mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner becomes gigantic, superstrong green giant The Incredible Hulk whenever anyone takes his parking space or uses "impact" as a verb.

Set in the American southwest, they say, because that's where nuclear testing takes place, The Incredible Hulk is an obvious metaphor for the United States treatment of Native Americans. A white guy getting loaded and punching a bartender in the mouth fails to get anyone riled, but a man of color putting the Charles Barkley on a fellow patron ends up with the army involved. If the discrimination theme is too close to this summer's X-Men, than a return exploration of the late Bill Bixby's mid-70's wandering alcoholism might be just as good, including Bixby's persecution by the tabloids and his habit of showing up in the homes of fellow actors, known as "guest stars" in the language of the television show.


Nicolas Cage was attached for several years to a re-do of the 1970s Christopher Reeve vehicle, best known for its prescient on-screen depiction of the voices in Margot Kidder's head.

Even though Cage has left the project, the next Superman movie is obviously about America's middle age, as a slightly-balding but still-popular superstar finds himself stuck in a series of ridiculous tough guy adventures with an all-star cast.

Battlestar Galactica

Television's Star Wars clone, Galactica made a household name out of Richard Hatch, gave Fred Astaire his finest role, and provided the biggest laugh in The A-Team's opening credits. Lorne Greene, in the itchiest-looking costume in television history, played the head rancher.

Unlike The Terminator, which played up men's preoccupation with machines as tragic folly, Battlestar Galactica should be about humanity's happy death wish. A planet full of badly-dressed, decadent nitwits who use inexplicable slang, they prefigured their own death by creating robots built like Dick Butkus and arming them with laser rifles. The movie should play up the ecological travesties brought on the home planets and every historical circumstance where indigenous people were riled to the point of revolt.

By reducing the Holocaust to dramatic backstory for a superhero movie, Bryan Singer has confirmed his role as the first great director of the 20th Century. Who picks up the baton and runs with it from here is unknown, but travesties and real-world abominations exist in plentiful supply for those smart enough to use them. Spielberg can have his museum; we're talking a toy line here.

courtesy of 40th Street Black
pictures Terry Colon

40th Street Black