Cycles (FYE #3)

This week, we examine cycles. Are our lives and our culture locked within cycles? Are we aware of it? Should we be aware of it? Or is there a certain folly in paying too much attention? Our quest for answers has us talking with bike shop owners and a Finnegans Wake reading group. We reveal how Raiders of the Lost Ark caused two teenage boys to become consumed by a relentless cycle of remaking the movie they loved with limited cinematic resources. We also talk with Scottish novelist Ian Rankin about how he returned to Inspector Rebus and got caught up in cycles he couldn’t quite describe and Lesley Alderman, the author of The Book of Times, who shows us how being aware of time doesn’t necessarily preclude you from finding enticing new cycles of existence.


Like Riding a Life

We begin our investigation into cycles by wandering around Brooklyn on a cold Saturday afternoon talking with various bike shop owners about how the cycles of life relate to their passion for bicycles. Our gratitude to Fulton Bikes, R&A Cycles, and Brooklyn Cycle Works for sharing their thoughts and feelings, which range from calmness to restrained anger. (Beginning to 4:11)


Commodius Vicus of Recirculation

Every month, the Finnegans Wake Society of New York gets together in a Spring Street apartment and reads aloud a page of James Joyce’s cyclical masterpiece. And then they discuss the page, whatever theories they can find, for about two hours. Organizer Murray Gross tells us why it’s important to slow down. Other members tell us how they became unexpectedly married to the book. (4:11 to 10:09)


Standing in Another Man’s Cycle

Are cycles a red herring? I spoke with the novelist Ian Rankin to get more answers. Rankin’s latest book, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, marks a surprise return to the Inspector Rebus series, which Rankin had closed out in 2007 with his 17th Rebus novel, Exit Music. Somehow Rebus eluded retirement and manged to cajole Malcolm Fox, the protagonist of Rankin’s new series, into the mix. This seemed as good a time as any to press Rankin on whether he’s caught in a pleasant cycle. Our side trips in this conversation include consideration of Anthony Powell, the A9 Motorway and its homicidal possibilities, Skyfall, 20th century policing instinct, and how men in their sixties get into fistfights. (10:09 to 40:15)


Pardon Me, Do You Have the Time?

We meet Lesley Alderman, author of The Book of Times, a collection of time-related data that will make your more conscious of the clock than Christian Marclay. But we learn how being aware of the time doesn’t mean you can’t find enticing new cycles hiding behind the corners of your complex existence. (40:15 to 45:51)


Raiders of the Lost Remake

It was 1982 and three twelve-year-olds in Mississippi decided to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark. This was before the Internet, before the movie had been released on VHS. These kids had to hustle. What they did not know was that their ambitious project would take up their next seven summers. They would grow up making this movie. We talk with Chris Strompolos, who starred as Indiana Jones in the remake, and Alan Eisenstock, author of Raiders, a new book documenting the remake. Was all the fun and youthful ingenuity a mask? Can a cycle of remaking beget a new cycle of remaking? (45:51 to end)

Photograph by Steven Sebring.

Loops for this program were provided by Psychotropic Circle, DextDee, and HMNN.

Follow Your Ears #3: Cycles (Download MP3)

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Why George Lucas Should Be Punched in the Face

Get it while you can before Lucasfilm shuts the site down: Frank Darabont’s 2003 draft (PDF) of Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods. I’ve read the first 50 pages (when I should be doing other things) and it appears that David Koepp and George Lucas dumbed Darabont’s draft down big time, diluting many of Darabont’s ideas for the final cinematic product. Henry Jones is in the draft. Marion has dialogue that matches her Raiders incarnation, complete with many Casablanca homages, and she’s married! Indy gets drunk and sings. Indy mutters “Damn kids” when he sees the hot rodders and kicks ass in a car chase.

Yeah, there’s still the bullshit about the four waterfalls and the lead fridge. But if we had to deal with Lucas’s contrived story, Darabont’s version is the Indy 4 film that should have been made. Spielberg and Ford both loved it. It was Lucas who got his talentless knickers in a bunch over the idea of presenting “his” hero as even remotely flawed. (via Vulture)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The fourth Indiana Jones movie is a piece of shit. Gone is the sense of wonder. Gone is the great love of Republic serials. This is a movie made by two men who have misplaced their ability to have fun. Lucas and Spielberg’s collective contempt for their audience is evident from the opening shot, where the Paramount mountain dissolves not into a bona-fide peak, but a gopher hill. That’s right, a gopher hill with a bunch of bad CG gophers running around. (And if you think that’s bad, there are also bad CG monkeys in this movie too.) What the fuck is this? Caddyshack 3?

Typically, the opening Indiana Jones scene features an exciting set piece that sets up Jones as an ass-kicking protagonist and establishes a breakneck pace that the film must live up to. But not Indy 4. Instead, we get a bullshit cruising race between some Russians and some smarmy teens. Where the fuck is Indy? And then these Russians go to Area Fucking 51, shoot the men at the gate (with one of the big baddies leaning down to tie his shoe, a ridiculous visual) and are somehow able to walk through the entire base and into a warehouse containing some of the biggest secrets collected by the government without a single security guard around. (They can’t all be positioned at the gate.)

But where the fuck is Indy? Oh yeah. He’s in the trunk. He gets out, mutters “I like Ike” to prove that he’s American and all, condemns the Reds (in case we missed the “New Mexico 1957” title) and then there’s a ho-hum shooting scene before we venture into an hour of relentless chatter about geoglyphs and the like (although you’ll see the plot coming a mile away) and Shia LaBeouf as sidekick Mutt Williams, a character so bland that I actually longed for Kate Capshaw’s screams, which is something I’d never thought I’d do.

Should I tell you about how they turned Marion from a spunky, self-sufficient sidekick into a more or less helpless chick who drives the truck? Appalling. I’m sure the idea to put the hussy in her place (domesticated no less!) came from Lucas, and I want to punch him for it.

Should I convey to you the constant mimesis as marketing? At one point, Indy tells Mutt about an adventure with Pancho Villa he had “when I was your age.” And it’s nothing less than a plot summary for a Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode. Something that has nothing to do with the plot. Someone knocks over a crate in the warehouse and oh ho ho, it’s the Ark of the Covenant! Harrison Ford pushes his hat down while traveling in the plane. The same way he did in Raiders! And it is this constant repetition of moments from previous films in which we are expected to be charmed. Harrison Ford even says, “I have a bad feeling about this,” the dreaded line from Star Wars. The constant recycling suggests to us that nobody really wants to create anything original, that Han Solo and Indiana Jones and Harrison Ford are all the same. So why care really?

Harrison Ford looks good, but seems considerably irritated to be in this picture.

Cate Blanchett gives the worst performance of her life, unable to sustain a convincing Ukranian accent. (Her Australian seeps through in every sentence. Didn’t they have a dialogue coach on this?) She juts her chin forward, wears a preposterous black wig in a bob, and spends most of her time pacing with her hands folded behind her back. This is what is considered a convincing villain. I longed for Honey Ryder.

The plot is preposterously pedestrian. Lucas wasted nearly twenty years and several screenwriters on this. And what is the end result? An embarrassing Chariots of the Gods premise that will surely earn David Koepp’s screenplay a spot on the Razzie longlist.

It’s not all bad. There’s one very fun jungle chase scene in which Mutt and Cate Blanchett get into a sword fight, each of them on a separate vehicle. I liked some over-the-top red ants that munched upon victims. This is largely due to Spielberg’s half-hearted attempts to make something of this crappy material. But none of this comes close to the tank scene in The Last Crusade, the wondrous mine chase in The Temple of Doom, or any moment of Raiders.

This was the first Indiana Jones picture in which I didn’t have much fun. Not content to simply ruin the Star Wars franchise with the last execrable trilogy, George Lucas has made a mockery of the Indiana Jones universe, and will be rewarded with millions of dollars for insulting his audience and cheapening his creations. He doesn’t care. He is Hollywood’s answer to Kenneth Lay, defrauding his audience of the pleasures he is now incapable of generating.