Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Film Corner!

Below, the trailer for the upcoming box office smash from Steven Soderbergh Contagion, the working title for which my top secret sources (full disclosure: I don't actually have any top secret sources) have informed me was Oh Noes! White People Are Getting Sick, Ya'll!


Dame Gwyneth Paltrow was at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new factory, at which people of Asian descent were present (UH-OH!), according to the voiceover by her movie-husband Matt Damon. He is asked if she mentioned seeing anyone who was sick, and he says nope! Over a scene of Dame Gwyneth Paltrow hugging her movie-child which is supposed to be heartbreaking (but isn't, because, really, everyone's pretty tired of her waxing anecdotal in real life about favorite fishmongers and her didactic preaching about grody fatties, so if there's one person we're prepared to view as a cinematic metaphor for self-indulgent celebrity and thus respond with apathy as her privileged character dies of bird flu, it's Dame Gwyneth Paltrow), Matt Damon says, "She said she was just jetlagged." Whoops!

"ONE TOUCH" ominously looms onscreen, stark text floating against a backdrop of, I dunno, red blood cells and coffee grounds or something. "TRANSMISSION."

It is at this point that I begin to recall, not in a conscious way but a visceral way, in which a memory does not lay itself across the mind but crawls up from the depths of one's gut, dragging behind it a creeping unease, a time in which men (mostly) were dying of a disease the name of which my nation's president would not utter, and there was talk of TRANSMISSION through water fountains and sweat and kisses and maybe all it took was ONE TOUCH. And I'm really grossed out by this movie, because, while the stuff of that memory shouldn't be off-limits, the fact that this trailer doesn't seem to share that memory with me at all, just seems to pretend it never happened and this is just entertainment, makes something well up in my throat, disgust I think, and I remember having this feeling before with other "disease thrillers" that want to deny in the interest of fun and profit what should be a communal memory that gives us all pause, we people of a certain age.

Anyway! I soldier on.

Dr. Kate Winslet exposits to Matt Damon that "the average person touches their face three to five times every waking minute; in between, we're touching doorknobs, water fountains (!), and each other." Scenes of people touching things. Scenes of Dame Gwyneth Paltrow getting sick. Cut to Dr. Laurence Fishburne expositing, "So we have a virus with no treatment protocol, and no vaccine at this time."

"ONE INSTANT" ominously looms onscreen. "INFECTION."

Dame Gwyneth Paltrow is in the hospital. Matt Damon is panicked. She does not have a history of seizures! She makes some kind of contorted face. (ACTING!) Cut to Dr. Fishburne telling Dr. Winslet, "As of last night, there are 32 cases."

"ONE CONTACT" ominously looms onscreen. "CONTAGION."

"Unfortunately, she did die," Dr. Someone-Who-Looks-Like-Hank-Azaria-with-a-Beard tells Matt Damon, who doesn't get it. The doctor has to repeat himself. Matt Damon is shocked! "What are you talking about?!" he shouts. "What happened to her? WHAT HAPPENED TO HER?!"

It is at this point that I start to think about the privilege of being a (relatively or objectively) rich, white, straight, Western person, where your partner/spouse dying of a virus for which there is no medicine (either at all, or available to you) is such a rarity that you cannot conceive of its ever happening to your family, and I Google statistics on malaria deaths worldwide, and I read about how malaria killed between 708,000 and 1,003,000 people in 2008 alone, 89% of which occurred in Africa, and about how "Malaria is the 2nd leading cause of death from infectious diseases in Africa, after HIV/AIDS," and suddenly I am just HATING this fucking trailer, and I don't even care if the movie has some awesome message (spoiler alert: it doesn't!) about rich, white, straight, Western persons taking for granted that we PROBABLY WON'T DIE OF A CURABLE AND PREVENTABLE DISEASE, because it's being marketed as: "An action-thriller centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak." Barrrrrrf!

In fact, DOUBLE BARF because also I already saw this movie when it was called Outbreak.

Anyway! I soldier on.

Because white people are getting sick, there are helicopters and government types looking concerned and concerns about someone having "weaponized the bird flu." Dr. Fishburne says, "Someone doesn't HAVE to weaponize the bird flu. The birds are doing that."

LOL WHUT. What is this movie?!

Enter Jude Law, who's playing a Professor of Counting from Cockney University: "On day one, there were two people, and then four, and then sixteen. In two months, it's a billion. That's where we're headed!" In case you are a visual learner, images of two, four, sixteen, and one billion people are helpfully provided.

National Guard. The president is going "underground." (LULZ.) Panic. Suspicious media. Destroying samples in a lab. Monkeys in cages. Empty airport. Trash piled up on a city street.

UH-OH! Dr. Winslet is sick. Dr. Fishburne promises to get her "out." There are lots of people whose lives are affected—lots and lots of WHITE PEOPLE. Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, John Hawkes, Marion Cotillard… GOOD THING DR. FISHBURNE IS SO INTERESTED IN SAVING THEM! Except for Dame Gwyneth Paltrow, of course. Who already died. RIP GOOP.

"NO ONE IS IMMUNE" ominously looms onscreen. "TO FEAR."

Montage of more "action thriller about a deadly disease" stuff. "It's mutating!" someone says. Of course it is.