Look, I know everyone’s pissed off at me. I get it. I shall … temper my statements. The Lesser Half constantly drones on about this, that I should temper my statements. “You should temper your statements,” she says. (Can she be unaware that tempering is how chunks of pot-metal get annealed into flesh-cutting weapons?)
So be it. As my Portuguese step-grandmother used to put it, implicitly claiming authorship, as usual, “If you cannot say notheen nice, don’t say notheen.”
Here’s what I won’t say about the pitcher.
What I won’t say is that Arrival is an ill-advised remake of a very beautiful Woody Allen film called Stardust Memories. Perhaps his most beautiful, many people believe. Several people. Two people.
Same plot, for example. Aliens arrive speaking weirdly but with great cogency on the human condition. “You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.”
Same tortured characters, too. While watching Arrival I half-expected Charlotte Rampling to appear, reprising her role as the nut-case Dorrie, possibly in the form of a third alien.
And same trip to the hinterlands, every effort hampered by a convoluted bureaucratic infrastructure: seriously, what is the difference — I won’t say count the tents — between a suburban film festival and a mobile defense unit?
And, additionally, what I won’t say is that the aliens’ language is constructed of expertly blown smoke rings. Nor that these grizzled beings — with bad feet and worse skin — seem to be puffing their way through three packs a day merely in order to talk. Why would I? After all, hasn’t this always been true of superior beings, even right here on Earth? Hannah Arendt, for example.
Moreover, what I won’t say is that Arrival, a pitcher depicting strained interactions between a black man, mumbling, bristling at the prospect of new vocabulary words getting added to his documents, and two slender white people who, in a handful of days, manage to transcribe into heart-warming English this aforementioned multidimensional non-linear alien language utterly lacking in phonemic letter-forms — that such a pitcher might be categorically racist. And don’t get me started on the bizarre notion — because I won’t say it anyway — that, although Americans are dutiful, thoughtful, sensitive irenicists, Chinese military despots, on the other hand, look for any excuse to start firebombing, only to turn into twinkly-eyed Buddhists the minute a pretty white girl whispers into their ear. )
Similarly, what I won’t say is that Arrival, like most recent Hollywood pitchers, is about a child, possibly a white child, who was or is or will be stricken with a fatal illness. Since they don’t specifically name the disease, I’ll go out on a limb here by not saying that it’s some obscure form of leukemia. (And again, why they didn’t call the pitcher Arrival Girl is absolutely beyond me.)
Do I need to say what I won’t say — that we should sit down, wring our hands, and offer empathetic concern to a director who imagines that an alien space craft might look like a giant turd? Literally a floater? Or that anyone with a nickel’s worth of dignity would want to crawl up inside one of those things?
Finally, what I won’t say, definitely won’t say is … eew.