Burton on the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 27
July 6-12, 2000
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When the Storm’s at the Movies, I’ll Stay Home

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is on the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

–Gerald Manley Hopkins, 1844-1889

h, wouldn’t it be nice to be out on the sea, the Chesapeake or any waters where no storms, perfect or imperfect, come? No fishing trips scrubbed before departure time, no angling cut short once out in the boat. Just smooth waters, no rocking boats, no gear slamming around cockpit or cabin, no green on any faces.

Sorry landlubbers: No such guarantees. Water and weather are fickle. Boats, whether big or small, are all the latter when the weather gets snotty.

It’s like being on an airplane in turbulence. You hang on, maybe say a few prayers, and you ride it out. Seconds seem like minutes, minutes are eternity — though after the plane is back on the runway, or the boat at the docks, you won’t keep any of the promises you made to the Lord or yourself while bumping about in the air or on the waves.

So now this summer, at movie houses where buckets of popcorn cost enough to make a down payment on a boat, the big feature is a so-called blockbuster by the name of The Perfect Storm, which prompts one to ask:

“Just what is a perfect storm?” To my way of thinking, it is one that comes when you’re already battened down dockside or when winds don’t kick up more than a ripple. The latter is wishful thinking.

I’ve got another question: If a quarter of a century ago, after seeing Jaws, viewers were afraid to dunk a toe in Deep Creek Lake or Utah’s Great Salt Lake, what’s it going to be like with friends, or Momma and the kids once they see and hear on the screen the commercial fishing craft Andrea Gail tossed about like a match stick in the North Atlantic?

I confess to not seeing the movie; nor did I read the book, though pressed to by many acquaintances. But I’ve read and heard enough about both to reach the conclusion that even if the theaters sold popcorn at 10 cents a barrel, I’d stay home and read Moby Dick or Captains Courageous.

After all, I dug deep enough into my pockets to take wife Lois to see Titanic, went the route with soda pop, popcorn and candy, even dinner before — and all I can say is if that flick was the best of the year, I don’t miss much by staying home when movies are on the household calendar.

At least when I’m home with a book and things get too melodramatic or unrealistic — which they rarely do in the biographies and autobiographies I’m addicted to — I can close the book and reach for another.

It’s hard to do that when your wife is in the next seat at the movie house her eyes glued on some Hollywood hunk like Leo DiCaprio — with four bucks worth of dry popcorn remaining in the big bucket on her lap.

What’s Real to Hollywood?

'Tis said The Perfect Storm is based on the true and heroic experiences of the six aboard the Andrea Gail in the infamous Halloween weekend of ’91. Come on, we all know what “based on” means in Hollywood lingo.

You don’t know? Well, I’ll tell you. The date might be reasonably accurate, there might be the same name or two, why even the name of the boat might be the same. But from then on, the imagination and ingenuity of the director takes over.

Don’t let facts and reason interfere with what goes on the screen. The more gripping the flick, the deeper into the popcorn bucket the horrified and mesmerized viewer reaches — and anyone who has been to the movies in the last decade knows the movie house chains make more moola on the white puffs than on the tickets.

In some newspaper movie reviews, I see more stars alongside The Perfect Storm rating than I saw on a clear winter night when living in Alaska. One exception was Rex Reed in his column courtesy of the New York Observer, a weekly rag that covers theater, politics and business interestingly though from an unconventional approach.

As for those scenes you will see if, hoodwinked by all the pre-release hype, you head off to vicariously ride out a perfect storm in the safety of an air-conditioned theater, be reminded that Reed calls the production a “triumph of digital processing and technology with a $120 million dollar price tag that could cure cancer.”

Hey, just seeing hundred-foot seas, or some director’s animated imagination of them, is enough to lure some skippers and first mates to the theater. If the little woman remains reluctant, remind her that George Clooney is the man at the wheel of the ill-fated Andrea Gail.

It will matter not that swordfish chasing Capt. Billy Tine (Clooney in drag) is a greedy scoundrel putting everyone aboard at risk because of his relentless machismo, just mention the actor’s name — and the little woman will be alongside you faster than the Andrea Gail went down once the battle was lost.

Oops, I’m not supposed to mention that. The hypemasters who promote such freeze-in-your-seat extravaganzas want the ending to be kept secret — as if no one read the best-selling book. But you know Hollywood. It surprises me that they didn’t try to keep from us what happened to the Titanic after it hit that big ice cube.

I hear from a few who have seen the flick that you might want to bring ear plugs: Howling winds make an awful lot of noise, not to mention thunder that rattles your ear drums or the constant pounding of the waves. You might also want to bring your sunglasses: I hear the lightning can burn the corneas right out of your eyes.

But as in real life, thrilling adventures make heroes, and those who watch the boob tube will be seeing many replays of this flick next winter as Oscar time approaches. It probably won’t be the acting, instead the digital sound and visual effects that make the actors bigger than life or death. Technology and directors can turn a flea-bitten mutt into a grand champion.

Rex Reed wrote the flick is “a brilliantly executed boy’s adventure.” But you can get that kind of excitement by popping up a big sack of Orville R’s micro-wave popcorn, then boarding a friend’s 22-foot rag mop for a day on the Chesapeake when the breeze whistles at 35 knots or better when you don’t get out of sight of land.

But come to think of being relentlessly bashed around by howling winds and soaked by whitecaps riding atop waves almost as high as the masts on some tall ships, perhaps you’d better head for the movie house where, at least, you can hunker down with hands covering eyes and ears, the seat won’t be tumultuous — and the popcorn will stay dry.

So much for my review of a movie that I didn’t — and won’t — see. Now you probably understand why you don’t see my name under the regular “Flickerings” review column in this publication. Hype turns me off.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly