?

Log in

What a week I'm having - Myth Happens

Sovay
Date: 2017-02-16 23:58
Subject: What a week I'm having
Security: Public
Music:Carolina Chocolate Drops, "Why Don't You Do Right"

The funny thing about Eugene Levy in Ron Howard's Splash (1984) is that I barely remember noticing him as a child. He wasn't like John Candy, whom I almost forgot existed until I saw the film again in my early twenties, but his obnoxious, obsessed marine biologist—Walter Kornbluth, whose Muppet-grade eyebrows could be seen even behind his chunky black-framed nerd glasses—did not go into the same indelible memory file as Daryl Hannah's Madison reading antique maps in a sunken galleon or unfurling her fins in a salt-filled bath by night. He was part of the plot. He was the antagonist. I acknowledged his heel face turn in the third act, but by then it was more important that the heroes were trying to get away from sneering Dr. Ross and surprising quantities of the U.S. military.1 The painful physical comedy that was Walter's moral comeuppance was more confusing than anything else. It was only on adult rewatch that he became sympathetic to me, holding his cheap copy of the Star Confidential with its front-page picture of the woman who walked naked out of the sea at the Statue of Liberty, with none of his colleagues willing to look him in the face and Dr. Ross contemptuously cutting him down; it is the kind of redirection that always interests me when it works, because after all the time we have spent watching Kornbluth shout and stalk and shove his way through the script, a bristling, defensive, abrasive man whose dreamer's sense of a sea with more in it than heaven and earth, Horatio, has strangled into a short-sighted fixation on proving the existence of mermaids, it is unexpectedly no pleasure to see him reduced to the picture his colleagues hold of him—a crackpot, a nobody, a know-nothing, a fool—swallowing wordlessly as there go the last rags of his reputation and even his old teacher laments that his best student has turned out a schmuck. He sits afterward with his head in his hands, knowing exactly how he sounds and unable to let his siren song go: "She has legs out of the water, she has fins in the water—you taught me that, Dr. Zidell, don't you remember? You taught me all the legends. You used to bring me into your office. You used to show me charts on the walls of where sailors had claimed they saw mermaids." For the first time we hear something other than short temper and monomania in his voice, the precocious student who became a scientist for the same reasons as many a scholar before him, searching for the mystery off the edges of the map—Heinrich Schliemann wreathing his wife in Helen's gold, Arthur Evans excavating for the Minotaur. Of course, Schliemann blasted down through multiple Troys to get to the one that felt true to him and Evans poured concrete all over his Minoan fantasy. Sea-struck Walter is the hero's tarnished mirror, tangled up in his own issues like drift nets and drag lines. He'll have to flounder out of them before he can help anyone, including the people he hurt in his self-centered quest for vindication, and I suppose it's an occupational hazard of being the quasi-villain in an '80's romantic comedy that he incurs a broken arm, a neck brace, and various bruises and contusions in the process. "Six fun-filled days," Madison answered when asked how long she would be in New York City, how long ashore, "six days . . . and the moon is full." Walter gets beaten up twice by the same angry couple, accidentally Novocaines his own leg, tumbles through a basement window: "What a week I'm having!"

Anyway, this afternoon I saw the same doctor for the second time in three days and was prescribed a steroid inhaler to help with the coughing fits and the fact that I've basically got asthma until the bronchitis clears; then in aggressive self-care derspatchel and I went for dinner at Five Horses and I bought the secondhand trade paperback of Cole Haddon's The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde (2011) from Comicazi that I'd been thinking about for the last month or so and all the time I'm walking with a cane, intermittently coughing myself blue, and speaking at a whisper when I can talk at all, and about the third or fourth time I summed up the situation to a stranger with "It's been a terrible week," I realized I was hearing plaintive, aggrieved Eugene Levy. At least none of me is currently in a cast. Don't be ironic, universe.

1. If the hair and the leggings and the incredibly young Tom Hanks didn't signal its decade, Splash is immediately identifiable as American science fiction of the 1980's by the way the third act comes down to a chase scene with the government. The last time I watched this movie in 2010, I had to reassure a five-year-old that the American Museum of Natural History is really not in the habit of snatching people off the streets and experimenting on them, even if they do have fins. The movie remains an unparalleled source for dramatic shots of the old Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, however, and the reason that I along with an entire generation learned how to say "Hey, babe! I got a twelve-inch penis!" in Swedish at an entirely inappropriate age.

10 Performable Epics | Tell Me a Story | Share | Link



Lady Mondegreen
User: ladymondegreen
Date: 2017-02-17 13:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

a bristling, defensive, abrasive man whose dreamer's sense of a sea with more in it than heaven and earth, Horatio, has strangled into a short-sighted fixation on proving the existence of mermaids

Reminds me of the recurring refrain in Billy Pilgrim's Hurricane Season "At the edge of the mariner's map is written/beyond this place lie monsters." Obsession with proving, discovering, or conquering the impossible seems to go part and parcel with sea stories.

I may have to rewatch Splash at some point soon. I think I last saw it before I moved to the states.

Reply | Thread | Link



Sovay: Otachi: Pacific Rim
User: sovay
Date: 2017-02-18 06:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Otachi: Pacific Rim

Reminds me of the recurring refrain in Billy Pilgrim's Hurricane Season "At the edge of the mariner's map is written/beyond this place lie monsters."

I did not know there was a band named Billy Pilgrim; that's great.

Obsession with proving, discovering, or conquering the impossible seems to go part and parcel with sea stories.

That would be why the siren is the sea's avatar: not just the song you can't stop hearing, but the song that promises all the stories.

I may have to rewatch Splash at some point soon. I think I last saw it before I moved to the states.

It's one of the movies I saw so many times as a child—we had a taped-off-the-television copy missing the title credits but fortunately none of the actual story—that I have no way even of guessing how many times that was and then did not see again for something like fifteen years. Watching it again in grad school was a fascinating experience because I had remembered correctly almost every folkloric detail and a respectable percentage of stray pop-culture references that may or may not have meant anything to me in elementary school ("It's the saddest thing I ever saw"–"It's Bonanza"), but had somehow managed to forget almost everything about John Candy and everything that looked like a romantic comedy of the 1980's rather than a pure shape of sea-change and return. Once that was accounted for, most of it holds up amazingly. I'm not so sure about the third-act escalation, but see the 1980's. Anyway, parts of it will always be in my head.

Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



asakiyume: Sea Dragon
User: asakiyume
Date: 2017-02-17 14:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Sea Dragon

Irony is overrated; the universe should know that by now.

Sea-struck Walter is the hero's tarnished mirror, tangled up in his own issues like drift nets and drag lines. He'll have to flounder out of them before he can help anyone, including the people he hurt in his self-centered quest for vindication --oh man. this is HUGELY identifiable.

There's another redirection in here which I appreciate from a storytelling perspective: the apparent villain is not the actual villain; the flamboyant threat distracts from or hides a much more hard-nosed, sinister threat.

Reply | Thread | Link



Sovay: Otachi: Pacific Rim
User: sovay
Date: 2017-02-21 22:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Otachi: Pacific Rim

Irony is overrated; the universe should know that by now.

I'd like to think so! The human appetite for it appears insatiable, but I'm pretty sure this is one of those situations where you shouldn't feed the trolls.

--oh man. this is HUGELY identifiable.

And Levy sells his turn with silence more than anything, which means the audience really notices after all his yelling. I had remembered for years the scene of Madison in captivity, her fins tattered from rough handling, her scales peeling, how desolately she hides her face against her broad, fading tail while her hair hangs like pale weed in the arc-lit water; I had forgotten until I saw the movie again that it's Walter on the other side of the glass. He doesn't say anything. He's just looking at her. He doesn't have to say anything for the audience to know that this is not what he daydreamed about, all those frustrated, fruitless years. He saw her once in the open sea: that was miraculous. This is wrong. He's even tried, against all his natural tendencies, to object civilly to Ross' dehumanizing regimen of experiments and examinations, making a brave if doomed effort to hang on to his temper in hopes of being taken seriously until the withering dismissal he receives—"You're not a member of my team! Run along now, Walter, and see if you can't find a unicorn"—puts the last nail into the idea of Ross ever listening to him. Now he takes off his glasses to meet her eyes; it is the one time we see him without their heavy frames defining his face and for all I know she's a vague reflecting blur to him without them, but it is the clearest gesture he can make of letting her in. She closes her eyes and turns her face away, curls back against herself in the cloud of her hair. And for the first time that we've seen he doesn't blow a fuse, doesn't start shouting, doesn't even swear; his mouth twitches slightly as he replaces his glasses, not quite self-mockery, but an acknowledgement. And after that, when Allen finds him, he's more than willing to help.

There's another redirection in here which I appreciate from a storytelling perspective: the apparent villain is not the actual villain; the flamboyant threat distracts from or hides a much more hard-nosed, sinister threat.

Well, the apparent threat is a threat—Walter does pose a danger to Madison—but it's because he isn't thinking beyond himself; once he does, he realizes he has to stop what he's doing and mend what he's done. Dr. Ross is dangerous because he doesn't care. That is absolutely more sinister to me.

Edited at 2017-02-22 02:25 am (UTC)

Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



gwynnega: lordpeter mswyrr
User: gwynnega
Date: 2017-02-17 19:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:lordpeter mswyrr

I haven't seen Splash since it was first in the theater. I should rectify that.

I hope the universe realizes you don't need any more on your plate at the moment!

Reply | Thread | Link



Sovay: Rotwang
User: sovay
Date: 2017-02-21 22:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Rotwang

I haven't seen Splash since it was first in the theater. I should rectify that.

See above—I think it generally holds up!

I hope the universe realizes you don't need any more on your plate at the moment!

Thank you! So far, knock wood, no broken bones that I know about.

Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Fighting Crime with a Giant Dandelion Since 2013: Libellula julia
User: pameladean
Date: 2017-02-17 20:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Libellula julia

Excellent aggressive self-care.

P.

Reply | Thread | Link



Sovay: Lord Peter Wimsey: passion
User: sovay
Date: 2017-02-21 22:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Lord Peter Wimsey: passion

Excellent aggressive self-care.

Thank you!

Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Elizabeth Hunter
User: lillibet
Date: 2017-02-18 06:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

That's a beautiful re-viewing of that character.

Reply | Thread | Link



Sovay: Claude Rains
User: sovay
Date: 2017-02-21 22:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Claude Rains

That's a beautiful re-viewing of that character.

Thank you. It always interests me when people suddenly pop into focus for me.

Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Browse
My Journal
Links
Tags
 
Browse