A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Clunk! Clang! Clunk! Clang!

And so another season of "24" counts down. Yes, it's a guilty pleasure, and yes, it's sometimes little more than terror 'n' torture porn for Dick Cheney and the dittoheads. And I bailed on last season when Jack Bauer's Rambismo got completely out of control. But like Michael Corleone (or for that matter, like Jack Bauer) I keep getting dragged back in.

I admit it's nice to see Bill (James Morrison) and Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and even the implausibly resurrected Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) again, even if Tony and Jack seem to be engaged in a contest to see who can out-glower the other. And if you can compartmentalize away the right-wing politics, the glaring continuity gaps, and the complete absurdity of the premise that all this is taking place in "real time" -- it seems, for example, that no place in L.A. or, this season, D.C. is more than a commercial break's distance from any other -- then you can have a litte fun.

For me, the pleasure of "24" is watching some really fine performers do what they can with really awful material. Who can forget Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart as the Logans? And this season we have the miraculous Cherry Jones as the president, a part she plays as a kind of mixture of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and Margaret Thatcher. And the wonderful Janeane Garofalo, who seemed to be taking on Chloe's old role as the put-upon techie brainiac until Chloe herself showed up and got into a split-screen duel with her over control of the security system. We can only hope that Garofalo and Rajskub get lots of screen time together.

This season's McGuffin is a gizmo that can override all the security protocols of the federal government, including air traffic control. And the villains are African warlords on a genocidal rampage, who seem to have their fingers into everything, including the murder of the son of the president and the first spouse (a gaunt and glum Colm Feore). The ripped-from-the headlines premise of "24" has always been bogus, however. Best to just sit back and disengage your expectation that any of it should bear a resemblance to the real world.

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