A Few Good Mensch: How The Jews Saved Earth, Again, in Independence Day Resurgence

The original Independence Day was about a lot of things: stinky alien corpses, Will Smith hitting things, the White House exploding, Data from Star Trek getting possessed, unspoken words between lovers, families reaching across distance, and nerdy Jews.

The two main characters were a studly action star and… geeky, scraggly, hairy, fussy, introverted Jeff Goldblum.

Independence Day was mostly considered “Will Smith’s summer movie this year.” People said “Did you see the new Will Smith movie?”, not “Did you see the new Jeff Goldblum movie?”

It’s surprising, therefore, that Independence Day: Resurgence is a Jeff Goldblum movie. While there is a “Will Smith” character (a similar-looking actor who plays his adopted son from the first movie), he’s hardly on screen at all.

The franchise’s sequel-switcheroo changes everything. It even changes the way I think about the original. 

Mensches

To briefly summarize Independence Day Resurgence:

On the 20th anniversary of the attack, the aliens return. They want to kill us again.

The aliens blow up our satellites and most of our defenses. They wreck our landmarks. The odds look bad.

The president gives a rousing speech. Humans rally. There’s a fight. Some live. Some die. The aliens win. The end.

Just kidding.

After watching the movie, my husband was confused about the huge part that David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum)’s father, Julius Levinson, played in the film. This time around, he doesn’t have any brilliant ideas. He just putzes around and uses a lot of Yiddish. He could have been removed from the movie entirely and not affected the plot a whit.

Mr Levinson is the comedic relief,” I said. “This movie is basically a Jewish comedy with aliens.”

And I realized, after I’d said it, that it was true.

In my heart, David Levinson had always been the protagonist/mastermind. Will Smith was a pawn in Levinson’s game of mental chess against the aliens.

This was the movie version of Garry Kasparov (who had a Jewish dad!) vs Deep Blue — humanity versus the Other.

What’s interesting here is that humanity typically treats Jews like the Other. They’ve historically been treated like second-class citizens, yet they’re the ones spearheading the campaign against the aliens in these films. Their oddness — their unconventional approach — is what usually makes them loathed. But it gives them the intellectual edge here.

Jews are the underdog of humanity. Humanity is the underdog of this fight.

The Independence Day series is a David and Goliath battle, maxed out. 

It’s basically Bible storytelling.

With aliens.

Which makes the plot really simple and archetypal.

Depending on your point of view, that makes Independence Day 1 & 2 either classic or stupid.

Most critics agree that the movie didn’t need to be made twice. Independence Day 2 was a re-hash of the first, with a deluge of callbacks and references. Though it doesn’t break any new ground, it did make me re-consider the first movie in a new light.

And also? It was a shit-ton of fun.

10 Lesser-Known Horror Movies To Enjoy Before Halloween

I used to be terrified of the dark. I had a night-light until I was 18. I held my pee until I was in agony because I didn’t want to leave the safety of my bed. I made my brother — my younger brother — sleep on the basement couches with me on the weekends.

Now I can’t get enough horror.

I don’t even mind the shitty stuff — but today I’m going to talk about some really great movies. I’ve divided ten lesser-known horror flicks into three groups: funny, ill-thunk, and classic. There’s something for everyone!

Everyone except my childhood self, that is.

Horror-Also-Funny

1. Final Girls. Contemporary teens get trapped in an 80s slasher flick they know by heart. Can they prevent the deaths of the characters — and themselves?

2. Housebound. In lieu of jail, police ground a fully-grown woman to her parents’ home. (Does this really happen in New Zealand?) The protagonist uses this time to investigate the mysteries of her probably-haunted house.

3. Creep. A man films a shady subject — and his creepy wolf mask.

Horror-BadIdeas

4. The Shrine. A cult kills anyone who sees the statue they’re guarding. Filmmakers wisely decide to check the statue out for themselves.

5. Absentia. This public service announcement warns about the dangers of running — and of attempting to negotiate with an unknown tunnel-monster.

6. Splice. Rogue scientists decide it’d be swell to mix human DNA into the creatures they’re creating.

Horror-Classic-Creepy

7. Six Souls. A man’s multiple personalities turn out to be murder victims. Research into the murders reveals a daisy chain of disaster and creepiness that may be impossible to stop.

8. Red Lights. A professional debunker goes head-to-head with a psychic who might be the real thing.

9. Frailty. A father raises his sons in a religious tradition that involves murdering people in their shed. Then it gets even more messed up.

10. Session 9. An asbestos cleaning crew starts playing recordings they find in a dilapidated asylum. (Maybe, in retrospect, this should go under the “really bad ideas” category, but I’ve already drawn up the graphics.)

If you have any recommendations for horror movies, please let me know. I would love to talk terror with you.

Five Fandom Friday: Guilty Pleasure Edition

This week’s 5FF is guilty pleasures. I’m so embarrassingly lowbrow that most of my geeky joys come from this category.

I’ve (sadly) whittled it down to the top five:

Fandom-Guilty

1. Space Cases. I still watch at least an episode a month of this slightly-terrible 1990s Nickelodeon sci-fi show. Something about it’s right. Like Doritos, or the perfect bra.

2. Plushy & doll tie-ins. Oh look! It’s a cute version of something I like! I’ll take five. (The worst offenders are these damn dolls. They’re taking over my house.)

3. Low-budget sci-fi. Give me your tired! Your poor! Your UFOs dangling from a string!

4. Sexy villains (and anti-heroes). Loki and Bucky/Winter Soldier rule Marvel. Morgue is my & my husband’s favorite person on Freakshow. We’d all rather hang out with Harley and Joker than Batman and Robin. Heaven’s nice, but Hell has all the interesting people.

5. Robots. Big or small, complicated or simple, humanoid or angular, with or without feelings. My favorites are Data (Star Trek), Bender (Futurama), Agent Smith (Matrix), the Daleks (Doctor Who), the Jaegers (Pacific Rim), THELMA (Space Cases), and Wall-E. I prefer funny ones that are on the verge of self-awareness. All shows would be improved with an android companion.

Other things that didn’t make the cut include:
– reading fanfic
– complaining loudly about all the good shows getting canceled
– SyFy Originals (movies or shows)
– ogling pictures of cosplay
and
– looking up actors from old TV shows on Facebook to see how they’re doing.

That last one’s creepy.

We should maybe have a Five Fandom Friday that’s like “what’s the creepiest thing you’ve ever done, as a fan?

I’m sure people have done some damn creepy things.

3 Movies You Should See: Jurassic World, What We Do In The Shadows, Inside Out

Movies rock. They’re perfect: short, emotional, funny, and pretty. When they suck, they’re only 2 hours; when they’re awesome, you can see them again and again.

Here are a few films I wouldn’t mind seeing again:

Squad-Goals-Web

Jurassic World (5/5 stars, theaters): In this movie, Jurassic World (a successful Jurassic Park) has flagging numbers because people are getting bored of the dinosaurs on offer. They decide to boost park attendance by creating a new dinosaur with oodles of new cross-bred features.

Except, whoops, they made it too smart. Dammit.

So it tears the park a new a-hole. Chris Pratt and his sort-of-domesticated Velociraptor Motorcycle Squad have to handle it.

Pratt-Dinosaurs

This actually happens. ^

Tons of stuff explodes. People die. People get attacked by Pterodactyls. The T-Rex from the first movie makes an appearance. Jimmy Buffett makes a cameo in which he runs from dinosaurs holding 2 margaritas.

I’ve been told by many people that he film is stupid and riddled with plot holes. (Like no Jeff Goldblum, and the fact that Chris Pratt keeps his shirt on the entire time.)

Well, obviously. The entire franchise is dumb. But come on. Live a little. 5/5 stars anyway.

Shadows

What We Do In The Shadows (5/5 Stars, Amazon Prime): Welcome to the anti-Twilight. This mockumentary is schlumpy, unattractive middle-aged New Zealander vampires. Despite their ability to fly and murder people, they are wonderfully banal. They argue over who does the dishes. They have trouble finding victims and deciding what to wear.

This movie’s shot like The Office. It’s awkward. There are long silences. People look at the camera. Characters say really stupid things.

I personally adore the mockumentary genre. I loved Best In Show, Borat, and Parks & Rec. This is a great addition to the cannon, if you like that sort of thing.

4 Sci-Fi/Horror Movies To Watch This Weekend

Real talk: you need to see the new Mad Max movie immediately.

Before you scoff at me, you should know that this movie features no anti-Semites (that we know of) and the protagonist is actually Charlize Theron with a steampunk cyborg arm.

I know it sounds stupid, but this movie is epic, and must be seen in theaters to fully enjoy. It’s a surroundsound whiplash orgy with a shocking 98% on rotten tomatoes (almost unheard of).

Imperator-Furiosa

This film is so feminist this guy’s scrotum killed itself (please click that link).

It’s also visually intense.

MadMax-Branding

Have you ever really considered the notion of “branding”? Cattle gets branded. When you wear a logo, you’re basically tying yourself in with a company — being owned by it.

In this movie, one of the most important things I noticed was the villain’s (really cool) skull-in-steering-wheel logo everywhere. If he were a cat, he’d have pissed all over this entire movie.

It’s on his face. It’s on his cars. It’s on his slaves. It’s on his wives’ chastity belts. Keep an eye out: this notion of ownership is very important to the film. You will be rewarded for your keen eye. The world-building is exquisite.

You will also be rewarded by the amazing guitarist-on-bungee-cords character. He’s a Civil War drummer boy on steroids. He. is. so. metal.

Other films I’ve seen lately: 

Movies-Seen

Housebound (Netflix). A young woman is put on house arrest with her parents. The house is haunted, and there might be a murderer on the loose. This movie’s the perfect mix of funny, creepy, and outright weird.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (theaters). I saw this movie. I enjoyed this movie. The movie ended, and I haven’t really thought about it since. One of the hallmarks of a good movie, I think, is whether it sticks with you, but this movie slid right off when I exited the theater. There were so many characters and action scenes that the plot took second place. Nobody really got a chance to shine. That said, if you want to watch things punch each other and blow up — admire Robert Downey Jr — this is for you.

Ex Machina (theaters). At what point can artificial intelligence match human intelligence and emotion? Can artificial intelligence have emotion? Rage? Love? This movie deals with these heavy topics as an AI creator, his employee, and his AI manipulate each other toward a suspenseful climax. Though the trailers portray this as an action movie, it’s really more of an indie thought piece.

Enjoy your theater-going, friends — I’ll be back soon with books. (Nerdy!)