CGI FRIDAY, VOL. I, MMXII
The Amazing Spiderman
CGI Friday is an exploration of the contemporary meaning of the passive mass experience as exemplified by the digitally tricked-out Summer Hollywood Blockbuster (SHB). To heighten the impact of the bright lights, loud noises, and pathos-mongery characteristic of the SHB, the reviewer will watch the production while intoxicated. To capture the shell-shocked delirium resultant thereto, the reviewer will capture his reaction before up-sobering. Enjoy.
I love superheroes. It feels funny putting the ‘e’ in ‘superheroes,’ but that’s neither here nor there. Given this love, I’ve been decidedly stoked to catch a glimpse of The Amazing Spiderman in three dimensional, special-spectacle-enabled transfer. No director worth his blockbusting salt would shy away from buckets of first person gyroscopic Spidey-motion as he hurtles himself down the Big Apple’s skyscraping avenues like the turbo-charged Tarzan that he is. Marc Webb (teehee) answers the bell here, and so with gusto, but more on that later. To prepare myself, I thought it best to try to meet Mr. Parker on his level by cracking open a bottle of purportedly curative Laotian Snake Whisky (sic.). Snake Whisky is a hopefully-not-noxious spirit that is infused with the entire intact body of a baby cobra and some twiggy plant material. The plant matter could itself be curative in nature or maybe it’s there in the way of habitat-mimicking interior design, intended to make the cobra or the spirit of the cobra more comfortable in the bottle. The label claims that “rheumatism, lumbago, (and) sweat of limbs” can be treated if a dosage regimen of “twice a day, eacha small cup before meal” is followed. The image on the label suggests, furthermore, that a brawny, snake-fighting physique will also be obtained. As Peter Parker acquires his spiderness through the bite of a superspider (super because radioactive in the Maguire editions, super because specially bred – somehow – to transfer ‘cross-species genetic’ material by means of a bite, or not meant to, but somehow able to do so (or something) in the current Andrew Garfield presentation), so I would become a dry-limbed, serpentine, superstrong Snakeman by consumption of Snake Whisky(!), “Real Speciality of Done Sao Iceland Laos,” and thus rival my hero for mutated excellence.
Four hours later, the verdict is still out regarding the efficacy of Snake Whisky to induce superhumanity in adult white males. What I can say is that my fear of liquor blindness, jake leg, or some other such prohibition-era malady put me off my popcorn. I can also say that The Amazing Spiderman is ‘awesome’ in just the way that my generation has meant that word since we learned its slang usage in elementary school, which is to say, not actually awe-inspiring, but merely satisfying in a more-or-less visceral way. [At this point, the bell for the Snake Whisky began to seriously toll, because, well, I kept drinking it when I got home to write the piece. My attempt to write a grown-up review began to flag at this point and ultimately failed. See below for that aborted attempt under appendix A. -Edit.] By which I mean: lizard army, Emma Stone’s legs, Emma Stone’s eyes, gyroscopic Spidey motion, Spiderman as skateboarder, the as-yet awesomest Stan Lee cameo (fuuuuuuck), Denis Leary, an actual Spiderman web, all three dimensions, stylistic allusions to Alien, stylistic allusions to the Japanese artist who painted the birds-eye-view umbrellas on the bridge, the power of make-believe, Denis Leary’s Godzilla jokes, the New York crane rally, Emma Stone, crane-play in general.… I stop here, but I could go on writing a list of the ‘awesome’ thangs in this movie for a longer duration of time than the movie itself lasted. I think.
The familiar tropes of the Spiderman saga are well-handled. The acquisition of superpowers by a brilliant but awkward teen is adequately deployed as an allegory for the beginning and end of the pubescent horror of the uncool highschool experience. The problem of teen dislocation, a.k.a., bratty self-centeredness, is addressed in the classic Spidey dyad of the clowning of the school bully and the death of Uncle Ben. In the case of the tyrant of the quad, a newly spideyfied Peter begins his confrontation with ‘Flash’ in defense of a meekly innocent girl, but ends it with a crowd-pleasingly ‘cool’ but cruelly humiliating clowning. The moral of this narrative thread is that defending the weak is good, but only if it’s undertaken for its own sake, unclouded by personal grievances or vendettas. The same moral development is expressed in the intensified and protracted thread of Uncle Ben’s death, which, in every telling of the Spiderman story, is a direct result of Peter’s irresponsibility and selfishness. Peter’s assumption of responsibility for that death occurs in two stages. First, he masks up to find the man who shot Uncle Ben, targeting only criminals who fit the profile of the killer. Only later, and due to
1. A Manifesto on Barcraft
While I love a poised potation as much as the next man, I must confess that I’ve recently begun to tire of a certain trend in barcraft, namely, the pronged tendency to make evermore elaborately finicky drinks for an increasingly fussy audience of drinkers. More and more I encounter decoctions made with a half-dozen liquid ingredients, to say nothing of herbs, fruits, and (yes) twigs.
I’m no outsider to this discussion, by the by, as I recently made something I called a Pimm’s-Most-Fey which featured (nay, included: only constellations and award ceremonies can have as many as five stars) New Amsterdam Gin, Pimm’s No. 7, lemon juice, house-made strawberry preserves… and Thai basil… and Fentiman’s Dandelion and Burdock brew… and a ribbon of orange peel for garnish. The name I chose reflects the loving fastidiousness of the beverage and hopefully takes some of the sting out of its overwrought conception. The saving grace of the thing is that I could have named it ‘delicious’ and the shoe would’ve fit.
I’m guilty as I charge, therefore, and I cast miraculous boomerang-rocks at tweaky bartenders.
I see many a bill of ingredients wherein a wayward drop of bitters or a flavorant poured a whisper dry spoils the stew. If a given effect can only be engendered under the most perfect of conditions, where only just the right gauge of rosewater droplets will mask, but not overwhelm, your dosage of cinnamon liqueur, then I’m guessing that there may be an easier way to skin that cat . Let it be known: in both Heaven and Hell they’ve found a simpler path.
To this end, I was thrilled when Jessie walked into the bar and proposed The Frisco. He gave an elegant recipe. Four parts rye, one part lemon juice, one part Benedictine. I knew this was going to be a bright, if not to say tart, offering in the sour category.
How did I know? The 4:3 sweet-to-sour ratio is à la mode in today’s rendering of the Classic Sour, where the ‘sweet’ is understood to be ‘as sweet as 1:1 simple syrup’ and the sour to be ‘as sour as lemon or lime juice,’ In The Frisco, the lemon - which is surely the less-sweet of the sour options - is paired in equal portions against Benedictine, which is slightly less sweet than simple syrup. Also, given that rye is generally the drier of the American Straight Whiskey options, we can expect The Frisco to lay a tangy pique on the palate. And bright the Frisco is, even for a sourtooth like me. Damned bright.
While I was preparing to run the drink down by way of a comment on the mercurial passions of drinkers in different eras as regards relative sweetness - i.e., a nice way of saying the thing is simply out of balance - the drink was doing the magical thing all alcoholic drinks do: it was undergoing the evaporation of its alcoholic content, wafting aromas into my nasal passage from the rear and leaving tannins and citric acids behind on the tongue and cheeks to cling and simmer. Just as I was about to speak, a thought struck whose implications promise to stick: I realized that I knew the sour finish of the Overholt Frisco; I knew and loved it well. It bears the marks of the finish of a good-but-not-great Blanc de Noir, the Red Baron in the princely family of Champagne.
“Holy Shit,” I thought to myself.
This realization spun me right around. I asked myself why I needed cocktails to perform one way while allowing wines to behave in others. Hitherto, cocktails had lived in a world of three realms. Some drinks I enjoyed all of the time. Some sweeter drinks I enjoyed after dinner with desserts and cheese. Some hearty drinks I enjoyed at brunch. Fascinatingly, I realized (or the Frisco taught me) that in ten years behind a bar, and close to twenty in establishments with them, I had accepted a certain role for liquor drinks, despite all of my purported experience, knowledge, and ‘creativity’ with them. The Frisco, in its simple splendor, has laid open the Pandoran Box for saveurs cocktailliennes that, like wines, simply are what they are and should be learned and studied in and for themselves, meaning that a home should be found for them among your hours and meals and not a version of them which suits me, you, or anyone.
Oh fellow travelers, suit yourself to this task, and not it to you, lest I and mine reap a lion’s portion of what should be our great roundtable feast.