Monday, September 28, 2020

The Best Movies of My Life: Die Hard (1988)

Kye and I don't really have what you might call regular Christmas or Thanksgiving traditions. Aside from her, I have no family to "go home to" each year; aside from her brother, who lives in Colorado, she feels very strongly the same way. We have each other, and we have our TARDIS, and our dork kitty, and the enchanting beauty and solitude of the southwestern Oregon rainforest and coast. We don't make a big turkey dinner, we don't really exchange gifts, and we have zero patience for the blatant and grotesque consumerism that injects itself with horse steroids this time each year. We very much aren't "people persons"--especially this time of year. If you think this makes us both "Scrooges," then have at it. The truth is, we aren't. At all.

The masses have almost entirely forgotten what it means to connect to a season, or even to one of their cherished holidays. Like Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving, because it's a grotesque holiday to begin (and end) with, one built on lies told over centuries; and as for Christmas, Jesus is not "the reason for the season," which actually belongs to ancient Romans and the festival of Saturnalia and was conveniently stolen by Christians way back in the day. Historians worthy of the title (as opposed to fundie Christian ones) can't agree on Jesus of Nazareth's actual birthday, so there you go.

If I were to celebrate any day of this season, it would be the Winter Solstice. On that short day, I feel very connected to this world and the cosmos. It reminds me of just how transient everything is, my life in particular. A couple of weeks after that is my birthday, which just etches that annual reminder ever deeper into my consciousness.

The world is literally dying from days like Black Friday (or the day after Christmas, itself now blackened and plasticized); from our collective refusal to get off the consumption teet; from our endless desire for status and the shiny trinkets that display it. "The reason for the season" should be, above all, to give thanks to this aching, sagging, moaning and burning world for putting up with our hateful asses for so long, and to resolve to change our ways. No, not get a gym membership or to stop eating bon-bons! How about instead something a little less selfish and a little more helpful to the rest of the biosphere, hmm? How about something like consuming less, simplifying your life, going organic, joining a farmer's market, writing your congresspersons in favor of the Green New Deal, flying less, that kind of thing. How about it? I'm sure Jesus would very much approve.

Anyway, back to the main topic of this blog.

We do enjoy a tradition of sort this time of year, which is to watch movies that remind us of the season in some way or another. Die Hard is one of those films; and as it happens, the random number generator picked it from the list of movies we own.

You've probably seen the film a thousand times--as we have. Still, here's a quick summary.

Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a tough-as-nails New York detective who arrives in Los Angeles Christmas Eve to see his ex-wife (Bonnie Bedalia), who has risen high in the ranks of a big international corporation that is throwing a party in its new and as-yet-unfinished headquarters.
Ostensibly, he's there in an attempt to reconcile with her, but, as far as I can remember, that is never made clear. He takes the elevator to the high floor where the party is being thrown, picks a fight with her, and feels guilty as she leaves to deliver a quick speech to the other corporates. It's at that point that all hell breaks loose, as a slick group of thieves posing as terrorists lock down the building and take the partygoers hostage. McClane, terrified as he peers out the crack of the office door, makes a run for it.

From there he becomes, as he puts it, "a fly in the ointment" to the robbers' well-laid plans; and together he and they literally destroy the new headquarters in an effort to kill one another and to, in the case of the thieves, deceive the police, who have been led to believe that the robbers--and possibly McClane as well--are terrorists.

The film was probably the pinnacle of the entire "hero goes it alone" genre of the 80s, which offered dozens more of its ilk. Think Rambo or Rocky or Beverly Hills Cop or Aliens. It isn't a true genre, because, if you watch those films, you see that every hero has many helping him or her along the way. But it's fashionable these days to rank on the genre; don't ask me why.

McClane has his ex-wife, for example. She does her best to keep the head bad guy, played brilliantly by Alan Rickman, in the dark as to McClane's identity. He has a cop in his corner, played by Reginald Vel Johnson, who tries to talk sense into his superior, and who keeps in contact with McClane via walkie-talkie. It's true that that's about it for his support group; but does that make them meaningless? Give me a break.

Die Hard was the vehicle that shot Bruce Willis into the stratosphere, but I'm convinced it's the supporting cast that provided the fuel. Alan Rickman by himself makes the movie. I've got nothing against Willis; I think he's a great actor; but Rickman is ... a friggin' god. Without his villain to Willis' hero, the film isn't even half as entertaining.

Bonnie Bedalia and Vel Johnson, too, are spectacular, and provide poignant and humorous moments throughout. And let's not forget McClane's limo driver (the company picked him up at the airport), played by De'voreaux White.

I saw at least two of the sequels, though I can't remember exactly how many. That's how forgettable they are. Don't bother.