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Soundtrack — A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector

Christine & I saw Elf this evening, after a pleasant meal at Cafe Presto, where they charge $3.75 for really good Penne Arrabbiata, play cheezy Italian Disco music, and ring a bell every time someone settles their account…

About the movie–well, it won’t be on my top 25, but I enjoyed it. I’ve liked Zooey Deschanel since I saw her in Mumford (she was also, as far as I’m concerned, the best thing about Almost Famous and The Good Girl) and I’d like to see her get a chance to carry a movie soon. Her performance is more of the same John Garfield “things-aren’t-going-so-well-for-me, but-I’m-onto-this-conspiracy-and-I’m-amused-by-it-all” stuff that she’s done (to perfection) before, but Elf reveals that she’s got a really good, jazzy, singing voice, and now I’m even more impressed…

Will Ferrell? His brand of humour is not my style at all, but I did laugh quite a bit, especially at the line “He’s an angry elf.” (If you’ve seen the film, you know what I’m talking about–if you haven’t, I can’t explain it to you). There’s a lot of stuff about the importance of “belief in things you can’t see”–and I don’t like that brand of Christmas-mysticism at all (but I’ll spare you that rant for now; it’s coming soon though–you’d better watch out!) One cool aspect of the film is that Favreau’s North Pole renders hommage to the Rankin/Bass version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (complete with bewhiskered snowman–Leon Redbone filling in Burl Ives), which I like to think everyone loves… Christine–the world’s biggest Mary Tyler Moore Show fan–crackled with joy every time Ed Asner appeared on the screen, and that’s always nice too!

Now then! What was I saying about Spidey and Emerson?

Oh yes–whim. “genius”. super-powers. Putting on the mask. Retreating to the study. Swinging into action–creative anonymity. Transcending your situation– not in order to “merge with the infinite”, or dispel the mirage of the world, but to “gain perspective” on the concrete things you love–your friends, your city, your world, the only things that matter–and make an impact…

Emerson wrote (in “Self-Reliance”)

“I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me. I would write upon the lintels of the door-post, Whim.”

And keep in mind that Emerson uses “genius” as a synonym for “creative urge”, or “vision”. I think this describes Peter Parker’s actions pretty accurately. He goes out to “clear his head”, “unwind”, etc. Sounds like a writer, cracking his/her knuckles, getting ready for something to happen on the page, as opposed to in his/her life… Doesn’t it? The idea that super-powers are a metaphor for an artistic sensibility has been with me since I first picked up a comic book, and I think it holds up rather well. And note how often Peter worries that his spider-man shenanigans are merely an escape from the web of personal relations… Certainly, his “genius” leads him to shun Aunt May, and Gwen, and a host of others, over and over again–but he keeps at it, even though he can never be sure that he’s doing the right thing, it just feels necessary, and (hopefully), it benefits everyone, in the end… All of this plays into my long-cherished notion that Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is a very important pop-cultural link in the chain of transmission from the Puritans to Marvel, and I’m preparing to write an article that explores this in depth…

Good night friends!
Dave

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