The title quote for this essay comes to us from Barack Obama, the former President, and a man whom I greatly admire. The quote has been distributed widely over social media to us liberals, and refers to our campaign for Joe Biden and other democrats in the upcoming election.
I’ve been wondering whether the quote unintentionally applies to life in general. Seems unfair if it does, but still.
We can find plenty of faults with “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension,” which is a cult sci-fi favorite from the mid-1980s. The plot is confusing and overstuffed with ideas that don’t really go anywhere. I never was able to figure out why the rock band and the scientists were the same people. The lone woman of any consequence, who has the unfortunate name of Penny Priddy and was played by Ellen Barkin, doesn’t have much consequence to speak of, and won’t win awards for feminist role models.
Ah, but otherwise. We get the manic performance of John Lithgow in a fright wig as the villain, with that insane Italian/Martian accent that he dreamed up—that’s worth the price of the VCR rental. We get some great before-they-were-famous turns from Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd, neither of whom is on screen long enough as New Jersey and John Bigboote (as in Big-boo-TAY), respectively. We get dialogue pearls that seem like they were secreted out of the 8th dimension of the title, such as “Wherever you go, there you are.” and “Laugh while you can, monkey boy.”
The movie engages because of its unanswered questions, most of which suggest themselves somewhere in the middle of the film and then stubbornly refuse resolution as the plot motors onward. To wit:
Why are some of the alien names either normal (John O’Connor, John Parker) or borderline-normal (John Whorfin), while others call for eyebrow raising and head scratching (John Yaya, John Smallberries)? And just what does “John” mean in the alien tongue?
Why do the good aliens look and talk like Rastafarians?
Are the heroes meant to be cowboys? They interact with a total of zero cattle, as far as I can tell, and they don’t speak in western drawls.
Why is Jeff Goldblum, and only Goldblum, dressed in weighty and awkward chaps over his pants, which serve no purpose other than sartorial? Is the costume meant to exaggerate Goldblum’s cowboy credentials because he is so obviously Jewish?
Then, there’s the ending.
While the credits roll, Our Heroes walk along a barren concrete landscape that looks like (and in fact, is) the concrete floor and embankments of the Los Angeles River. They walk separately at first, and then join together, with a happy kid in front. Along with musical accompaniment, that’s it, that’s the ending.
What is the meaning of the scene? Where are these people in relation to the story, and why are they there, and where are they going? Answers are neither offered nor suggested. The ending to Buckaroo Banzai relates only to itself, which might be why it’s so memorable—and revered, by fans. Two related examples: the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover, and the David Pumpkins sketch from Saturday Night Live, circa October, 2016.
For our wedding anniversary, my wife requested, and is receiving, some very nice luggage. We are traveling nowhere, of course, because of the pandemic. But I understand and appreciate the idea. If you can’t actually have the vacation, you can get close with the accouterments. I have been looking at old travel brochures, same thing.
I am hoping that the (hoped for, please let it happen, please please please) Biden administration promotes cellulosic ethanol. This is a process that converts cellulose—aka, the inedible tough fibers of plants—into a useful fuel. Currently, ethanol is refined from corn kernels, which are the same kernels that could be used to feed animals. Cellulosic conversion could run on the stalks and husks, making a corn crop a lot more profitable for the good farmers in Minnesota and Iowa and Wisconsin and other states with tight races for Congress and the Presidency.
C’mon, gang, cheer with me. What do we want? CELLULOSIC ETHANOL! When do we want it? REAL SOON!!!
Jeff Goldblum is the hero of us middle-aged Jewish guys who imagine ourselves succeeding in the great big world. In movie after movie, he is always the smartest guy in the room, always up for a foolhardy mission (he and Will Smith save Independence Day), always stylishly dressed (except in Buckaroo Banzai), and has at least a fighting chance with the beautiful women (see Davis, Geena.) A quick review of his Facebook page shows that he’s promoting the LA Foodbank and is a fan of Jane Goodall. Way to go, Jeff.
I have imagined myself meeting Barack Obama—and losing it. From the catastrophic election of 2016 onward, I imagine myself shaking the hand of the former President, looking him in the eye, and then collapsing in his arms in tears. Assuming Biden is elected next week, I can now pretend to greet President Obama with great pride, and as a man should.
I have been sending out postcards and orating on my blog and generally stoking the fires for democrats in this election, and I’m vowing to myself to keep going to Election Day. And beyond, if that proves necessary.