Issue #30/55, December 29, 1998 - January 14, 1999  smlogo.gif

Krazy Kevin's Kino Korner

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Nothing to see here

I don't know what point there is in taking a look back at the year in movies as seen from a cinematic backwater like Moscow, but my absentee editors are all hepped up on this feel-good year-end business, so here goes.

For starters, even in a relatively good year (like 1998, for example) we only get to see about half of the films that are supposed to be good (e.g., Saving Private Ryan, The Truman Show, Wag the Dog, Out of Sight), and pretty much none of the ones that actually might be good (e.g., A Simple Plan, Our Friends and Neighbors, Rushmore). And just about all the good films that eventually ended up here this year (were there any, even?), were probably from like 1997 or earlier, which really made a fellow feel pathetic back in pre-crisis days when most ticket prices were hovering around the ludicrous $15 mark.

But the really pathetic thing is the way Moscow was only too happy to go along with the developed world in making that manipulatively mawkish soft drink of a movie known as Titanic into the most important worldwide phenomenon since that whole Hitler thing back in the '40s. Which meant that aspiring Russian consumers were every bit as psyched about the damn thing being the biggest money-maker in history and winning as many Oscars as record holder Ben-Hur as your average suburban Phoenix multiplex victim. The Cinema Center at Krasnaya Presnya is still showing the thing like 27 times a week, for chrissakes. Maybe the Russia media never got around to publishing gushy fluff pieces about fat-ankled secretaries watching the seafaring epic four times in a row on their lunch break and crying their eyes out every damn minute of every damn showing and how you're not human or something if you don't get dehydrated from the flow of tears while you're watching, but that's probably only because most folks in Russia can't afford to see a movie four times. (And at least those with sufficiently developed English skills were able to read reprints of such articles in The Moscow Times.)

But Russian journalists did something much worse, in my opinion--they actively incorporated as many allusions to the movie as possible into their stories, to gain some kind of populist appeal among readers I guess. Even at this late date, you can hardly get through a Moscow newspaper without seeing at least one "after the iceberg" or "Titanic tragedy" that clearly alludes to the 1997 movie more than to the actual event, which was probably invented by Hollywood anyway. Granted that the August events gave the analogy heightened resonance, but these fucks had latched onto the two or three endlessly repeated (and not particularly sonorous) turns of phrase long before the shit hit the old fan.

When Chernomyrdin was fired, he was the mighty, unsinkable prime minister unpredictably sunk by Boris "the Iceberg" Yeltsin. Ditto for Kiriyenko when he was axed, even if a more apt comparison would have been one of the rescue dinghies that was never recovered. I imagine that Primakov, upon his ascension to the post of prime minister, was likened to an iceberg "sinking" the Titanic rift between the Duma and the President. And the assassination of Starovoitova was most certainly described as an iceberg-striking-type event after which nothing would ever be the same again. Just till old Yeltsin finally kicks. This whole conspiracy has an unmistakably Maheshwarian journoslut rehash to it, so I guess it was inevitable that old Rajneesh would eventually happen upon the "story" in true ex-Moscow Tribune-staffer style at least three months after every third-rate hack in the civilized or uncivilized world had been there, done that, and fallen asleep in the La-Z-Boy. Sure enough, early December saw the publication of the Vij's now infamous "Clubbing after the Iceberg" piece in The New York Times "Styles" section or something. Kudos to Mr. Mahesh for even working in a reference to Di Caprio himself.

No doubt the more pedantic among you are wanting to explain to me that these are all victimless crimes, and shouldn't I just ignore it all if I find it so bothersome? Wrong. Last spring I went all the way to Georgia to avoid the mess. I was minding my own business on a nearly empty overnight train from Tbilisi down to Batumi, and who should I share a compartment with but a pudgy Georgian teenage girl toting a stack of Leo fan mags six inches thick. She made me look at every last picture of the boy wonder and say no, I didn't think he was putting on weight or has been spending every free moment snorting monster lines of coke off the bare ass of a bulimic not-quite-supermodel named Fenta. Then there was the critical retrospective of Leo's filmography. The story about how Leo and friends gave up the reserved table they were sitting at in an eilte Hollywood when the rightful reservers showed up. The day before, the poor girl had been by an April Fool's Gag in a Tbilisi paper claiming that Leo would be in town for the local premiere of Titanic. Needless to say, there wasn't even a Titanic premier, let alone a Leo appearance. That kind of stuff can be pretty depressing, even if it was a pretty good gag and all. I'm not kidding.

God damn, even I'm even getting sick of this shit. Let's shift gears a bit and consider for a moment a movie that was just released in the United States in time for Oscar season and which--Abraham willing--won't be in Moscow until after I've entered my terminal coma in early February. I'm talking about You've Got Mail, a putrid little number possessing at least three characteristics (Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan, Nora Ephron yuppie New York fantasy romance schtick, one big advertisement for America Online) that, just taken individually, would be enough to make most members of the eXile editorial staff vomit. Now that they've been united into a single plodding piece of crass commercialism, it is highly possible that the absolute worst movie in history is finally upon us. Sometimes, it's not so damn cool to be a part of history. The good news is that there's no way in hell it will ever be as big a deal as Titanic.

Still, I can't help but fear that the middle-of-the-road truth lies between these two horrific movies. I'm not about to venture a guess as to which of the two is closer, but you can bet that wherever it is, Steven Spielberg won't be too far away. And if all that makes me a jerk of the first order, then so be it. And don't complain either; I warned you at the outset there was nothing to see here.

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