THIS WEEK’S LOSER REVIEW: ARRIVAL

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.

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Aliens landing, in “Stardust Memories” (1980)

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.

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Arendt, a more-advanced life-form

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.


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