The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Lyrics for Wednesday

Thunder Road
By Bruce Springsteen

The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again.
Don't run back inside, darling
You know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're all right
Oh and that's all right with me

You can hide 'neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now I'm no hero
That's understood
All the redemption I can offer
Is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now

Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow back your hair
Well the night's busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heaven's waiting on down the tracks
Oh, oh come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run
Oh Thunder Road, sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back
If you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride it ain't free
And I know you're lonely
For words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free
All the promises'll be broken

There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of their burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch
They're gone on the wind
So Mary climb in
It's a town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win.


Lyrics because we just ended the evening watching the Kennedy Center Honors show, where I got to hear Melissa Etheridge and Sting sing Springsteen songs, and Jon Stewart explain growing up in New Jersey, and dozens of wonderful actors perform Mel Brooks material, and various other lovely moments, the funniest of which may have been Ben Stiller interrupting his tribute to Robert De Niro first to call Springsteen a god, then to look at Obama next to him and say, "Hey, it's the Nobel guy!" Before that, we had dinner with my parents since they're spending New Year's Eve with my sister's family -- crab cakes and noodle kugel, plus my mother-in-law's holiday cookies for dessert.

And before that, we saw Avatar. I know it is unpopular to declare unabashed adoration for this movie, so I am just going to come out and say this: the last time I had such a strong emotional reaction to a movie from start to finish, I was in elementary school and the movie was Star Wars. I understand why people have problems with some of the racial and ethnic issues in the film, which remind me of similar storylines in many other films, and I can see where someone could be bothered by the choices of a partially paralyzed character, though I think it's very specific to the person rather than any sort of blanket statement devaluing people in wheelchairs. That said, I have nothing but good things to say.

Avatar felt to me like a collaboration between Hayao Miyazaki and Peter Jackson, with art direction by Josephine Wall and cinematography by Donald McAlpine (who did both the 2003 Peter Pan and Paul Mazursky's Tempest), plus input from Darren Aronofsky and Ang Lee. The early scenes on Pandora are some of the most beautiful ever produced on film -- we saw it in 3D, though not IMAX, and there was never a moment when the visuals distracted me or failed to convince me that I was looking at an alien world. The early scenes in the jungle remind me a bit of Jurassic Park only with fictional creatures instead of extinct ones, and once Jake begins to learn the ways of the Na'vi, they remind me a bit of Lothlorien -- another unreal place that I believed in utterly while seeing it on film.

My other frequent point of reference, believe it or not, was Disney's Pocahontas, which next to Mulan is my favorite Disney film by a long stretch. The scene where Jake meets Neytiri's father, the ancestral tree, the problematic attitude by someone from an imperialist culture toward someone whose people have no interest at all in what his people have to offer them (if you have issues with the distorted history and mumbo-jumbo religion rather than tribal specificity in Pocahontas, I understand, but if you're one of those critics who can't get past the fact that the film characterizes her as an adult woman with breasts and desires, you're depriving yourself of possibly the most well-rounded female character we've had from Disney). There's definitely idealization of and condescension toward the natives in both films, but compared to Pocahontas or, say, Oscar winner Dances With Wolves, there's less emphasis in Avatar on the heroic white man among the people of color -- their world and their knowledge are the heroes here.

Lots of the film feels familiar if you know your Greek and Norse mythology and if you've seen Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, movies based on comic books, etc., you'll be able to tick off many familiar tropes. Some people have called these cliches, but in this film they feel more archetypal than hackneyed to me. Visually, the film never stops offering surprises, and I guessed wrong in several cases about who would live and who would die. I understand that Grace couldn't survive the attempt to move her consciousness into the avatar body because there had to be doubt for Jake as well -- then his decision to give up his human life whether or not he could become a Na'vi has a much bigger impact. I thought Trudy would die flying her helicopter into the shuttle, and I really thought the corporate goon would be killed for his spinelessness. (Okay, I did know Tsu'tey was a goner because he was supposed to marry Neytiri, but I was happy the film sidestepped the predictable hatred between the men after the initial conflict.)

Cameron's films generally have very strong women and this one is no exception. Sigourney Weaver's Grace is wonderful from her first scenes storming into the command center demanding that her project be taken seriously right up to her reaction to being shot ("This is really going to ruin my day"), and although I was a bit afraid Trudy would end up on Jake's side because of unrequited love since that's such a cliche of action movies, I was delighted that she made the choice purely out of ethical concerns. I also appreciated both her unhappiness that becoming a martyr might be an inevitable result of this choice and her courage in the end, when she realized that martyrdom was inevitable and she could only hope to fight for as long as she could.

The battle at the end went on too long for my taste, but it was far less interminable than the one in The Return of the King, which nearly ruined the movie for me yet didn't hurt it at the Oscars. I was in tears during the scene where the Hometree was destroyed -- again, it reminded me of many other things, from The Fountain to Michael Chabon's Summerland to Shel Silverstein to the White Tree of Gondor -- I thought the voice and movement acting in the avatar bodies was exceptional, in fact I think the scene mourning Neytiri's father is the best performance I've seen from Zoe Saldana. So sorry I keep explaining myself and switching tenses -- this isn't meant to be a formal review -- I just really loved the film and am boggled that more people haven't told me it's the must-see of the past few years.

Since I cannot overstate the beauty of the imagery in Avatar, by way of parallel, here are some photos from Longwood Gardens' conservatory decorated for the holiday season, taken on Sunday:


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