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One weathercaster called it a “must-see light and shadow show by the Old Master Himself,” but I can’t say this last solar eclipse was worthy of the recommendation. Not even total, and staged (in my location anyway) behind a thick cloud cover that served only to diffuse the vivid contrasts essential to any dramatic effect, the “Old Master” might have been faxing it in from deep space somewhere for all the incandescence it could claim. Quite frankly, as light shows go, I thought more interesting work was being done at the Electric Circus back in the '60s.

Now let’s please not have any misunderstandings. I’m aware that I’m criticizing the performance of a venerable figure who, over the eons and in every conceivable form and category, has compiled an impressive oeuvre. If I have to confess that a lot of His stuff is not to my taste, that I find much of it heavy-handed or impenetrable (when, indeed, it is not distracted and slack), this doesn’t mean I’ve failed to recognize the enormous contribution He’s made.

I’m thinking, of course, of the models some of His stunning manipulations of the more volatile natural elements provided for the Irwin Allen disaster films. And, to be sure, there’s His introduction of death itself which, brilliantly counterbalancing His earlier invention of genders and sex, forestalled the unwieldy prospect of twenty-thousand expansion teams in just the American League East (and, say, the 2003 playoffs extending well into the 2010 season). But that’s hardly been the limit of this remarkable innovation’s reach and impact. In its absence, "Scream 2," which everyone agrees was even better than "Scream," would doubtless have languished in perpetual turnaround since filmgoers would have found the emotions of fear and panic depicted in the original much too weird and elusive for a sequel to ever be greenlighted.

What’s more, we can be reasonably certain that the popular denouement of the “happy ending”—the product of an inevitable backlash—would never have been developed.

So while it’s often, for me, like feeling obliged to respect whatever that was that Marcel Marceau used to do, even as you knew that one more minute of it and your lungs were going to erupt with blood, I’m more than prepared to honor the “Old Master’s” achievements. It’s just that I’m not what you’d call a huge fan. What puts me off most is...well...it’s His LORDLY attitude. I could forgive Him a lot—yes, even those tedious revivals of His wind-and-water specials that take out half a state—were He less disdainful of His audience, less willfully opaque and ambiguous. I know this “mysterious ways” thing is a cornerstone of His persona and I can understand His reluctance to give it up. But, bordering on the pathological, His aversion to making His meanings known is wearing a little thin, don’t you think?

I’ll allow that, however disappointing it may be, it’s ultimately of small consequence when He mounts a shoddy eclipse. But it’s something else again when, for one especially egregious example, He leaves you to blow out all your circuits trying to figure just where Hannity and Colmes fit into the notion that if you’re on the planet it’s for a reason.



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The following comments are for "No Stars for the Eclipse"
by Robert Levin





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