Close Range

And suddenly it’s Friday.

Our weather is taking a turn–not quite as horrific as all y’all up north with your ice storms and blizzards and below zero temperatures, yet it still a turn nonetheless. There was a quite nasty and wet thunderstorm that passed through here yesterday afternoon, and the temperature began to drop precipitously and noticeably. The governor made an announcement of some sort yesterday–severe weather alert or something of that sort–and it’s probably something I should research a bit more, I am slowly realizing as my first cup of coffee kicks in. If we’re in a severe weather alert of some sort, I should probably know more about it than this vague recollection of something I saw in passing somewhere on social media yesterday. And if that is indeed the case, well, it’s just as well the parades were cancelled ahead of time anyway.

Parades aren’t as much fun when it’s cold and raining.

Not, of course, that cold or rain would stop us from going out to the corner.

Okay, so I looked and I don’t see anything; I’m not sure what the governor’s message or whatever it was I saw somewhere was about, but at least for today there is no threat of severe weather in New Orleans. It’s forty-eight degrees–it doesn’t feel cold in the Lost Apartment, but one never knows; the interior temperature is not always an indicator of the exterior–but it is gray and grim outside. It rained most of the night too–a thunderstorm woke me up in the middle of the night (never fear, I was able to return to sleep quite easily) and so everything outside looks wet. I don’t think I am going to go outside much today–I will go to the gym tomorrow–as I have to work at home today and once today’s work-at-home duties are over I have to dive headfirst back into my book–and so shortly will have to head back into the spice mines. I haven’t decided what film to watch during my condom-packing duties, but I am starting to lean toward the teen movies of the 1980’s. I had thought Risky Business was free to stream somewhere, but I couldn’t find it anywhere yesterday…but Prime suggested Taps to me, and since the idea was to view early Tom Cruise films performances (at least the ones before Top Gun), and he was in Taps–in fact, I think it was Taps that first got him a lot of attention–and I had never seen Taps, I thought, why not? So I clicked play.

I wsa vaguely aware of the film at the time of its release, and knew vaguely what it was about–military school being closed, cadets seize control of it–but had never seen it. I also knew that it was Timothy Hutton’s first star vehicle after he won an Oscar for Ordinary People, and that it–like many other teen movies of the early 1980’s, had a bunch of early-in-their-career stars in it who made good impressions on critics and audiences–Tom Cruise in particular. I’d forgotten that Sean Penn was also in it (if I ever knew; I think this preceded his breakout role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High; I seem to recall his follow-up to that was Bad Boys, which was set in juvie, and after that he was on the fast track to stardom), and I don’t think I’d ever known that Giancarlo Esposito was in it as a beautiful young man. There were any number of other faces I recognized–one of the younger kids I’ve seen in other things, but I couldn’t place him or his name while I watched and I still am not completely sure who he was (a quick google search turns up the name John P. Navin Jr., who played one of the cousins in National Lampoon’s Vacation)–and another was Evan Handler, young and with hair, years before he joined the cast of Sex and the City.

I’m really not sure why I never saw Taps, either in the theater or on cable, to be honest. I’ve always liked Hutton, and (surprise!) I’ve always been drawn to stories about all-male environments for teenaged boys or young men. I loved Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline (the book is a favorite; I’ve never seen the movie) and also Lucian Truscott IV’s Dress Gray (again, the book and never watched the film); I’ve always enjoyed seeing the group dynamics play out in those environments. But watching the film, I couldn’t help but reflect how dark the movie was in tone–it’s very anti-military, really–and is actually very attuned to our present day world, which the film can be extrapolated to expose and perhaps even be seen as a warning. The devotion that the headmaster, General Rache, (played by George C. Scott) and the school inspires in the young boys under his watch is very disturbing–particularly given what we know about cults and how they operate nowadays. The boys’ rebellion to save their school is misguided from the very beginning; a decision is made that they do not agree with and decide they are not going to abide by it, even if it means violence and seizing control of the school. They are obviously breaking the law–and as the movie went on, I couldn’t help but think yeah, this movie isn’t going to end well–a lot of these boys are going to wind up dead…

But then I remembered they were majority white, and breathed a little easier…because of course the National Guard and the police would never use violence against privileged white boys. The tragic denouement of the film is in perfect accord with the darkness of the plot and its warnings about how easily people can be indoctrinated and what mass delusion can look like and how dangerous that can be certainly are timely in our present day America. It’s definitely an anti-war film–more specifically, an anti-military film, and in that regard is more of a Cynical 1970’s Movie than it is an 80’s teen movie; and again, it’s a lot deeper than my original impression before watching it led me to believe. Timothy Hutton is fantastic in the lead role–all of the boys are terrific–and there’s this wonderful moment with George C. Scott, when he’s talking about how military leaders are often considered “mad” because of the decisions they have to make, knowing that the men under their command could die or be permanently maimed or injured but having to make those decisions….how can it not drive you mad? It was also interesting seeing Scott play the scene, considering he won an Oscar for playing Patton…and thought, they cast him specifically for this speech, didn’t they?

And of course, now it has me thinking about a long dormant crime novel idea I had set at an all-boys military school.

And yeah, on that note I need to head back into the spice mines.

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