I’ve said before that I get some wild ass dreams. Maybe it’s the side effect of Cialis or maybe I should stop eating popcorn before I go to bed. But at any rate, these dreams can really fuck up my day.
The latest one involved the guys from Cum Town and an LSD trip that I won’t go into. But it got me thinking about the most fully fleshed out dream I’ve ever had.
About ten years ago, I dreamt about a dictator that summons his advisers to a dinner and everyone had to wear war paint. When the meal was served, the food is revealed to be the pieces of carcasses from the dictator’s vanquished enemies. One guys is served a dude’s face. This alarms the advisers who request foreign assistance to topple the dictatorship.
Obviously, the US responds by deploying an elite task force, led by a commander that was a drama major in college. Unfortunately, other nations have an interest in this country, so they too deploy special forces to take over the government. Without warning, the US task force is killed off by a competing nation and the commander is held captive. To make matters worse, even more competing nations pile into the country, escalating into an orgy of death and destruction.
Good news is: the dictator is killed. The bad news: the entire country is in ruins.
Of course, I’ve added more detail and commentary as time progressed. I really wanted to turn this into a novel, screenplay, etc. US military intervention was, at that particular moment, still a point of contention. Now that discussion has shifted (what a difference ten years makes) so I don’t know if I will ever flesh out this dream into a full blown story. But the nihilist in me still loves it: while outwardly it appears political, the story ultimately turns anti-political by devolving into pure action schlock. Everyone is a bad guy, so you root for everyone to die as you enjoy the spectacle of some poor nation getting blown the fuck up.
So please, somebody write this story into a book, movie, or whatever. Cuz I’m too lazy to do it.
“Just be warned,” Joe said to me, “Hell ain’t what you think it is.”
“You just have to see.”
Joe, Pete, and I gathered our divinely blessed weapons and proceeded to the cellar in the woods. Joe went into the portal first, then Pete. I hesitantly went in last.
I felt my body break down into its molecular and atomic parts while time and space melted down. Then reality reconstructed itself and the three of us were in a large theater.
On stage was a nude couple: one an elderly woman and the other an average-looking dude with an abnormally large dong. A horse was also on stage. It was a community theater production of Equus.
“Ah shit. Now I know what you mean,” I said.
We rushed out of the theater, side by side, weapons on ready. We were men on a mission, a mission to find…and kill…Jezebel. And more importantly, we had to stop the dead from invading the earthly realm.
Outside the theater, we hailed a cab. The driver stopped and we all piled into the back. “Does anyone want to sit up here with me?” the driver asked. “Son of a bitch,” I said then got in the front seat.
“Where to?” the cabbie asked. “Downtown” Joe replied.
The cab driver then blasted Jon and Vangelis from the radio and was humming along. I turned to the backseat.
“Hell seems more boring and mildly irritating,” I said, “much like Minneapolis.”
“Yeah, but imagine spending spending eternity here,” Joe replied.
He had a point.
The cap pulled up to a downtown bank. We all piled out of the car. “Are you sure that the Empress of Hell and all of Damnation is here?” I asked.
“Of course, with their ungodly interest rates, there’s nowhere else she could be!” Joe said.
So the three of us…a wizard, an idiot, and a guy with a shotgun…walked into the bank lobby. We went up to a loan officer.
“We’re here to see Jezebel,” I tell the man.
“Do you have an appointment?” he asks.
I cocked the shotgun and blasted a hole in his chest. “She’ll be with you shortly,” the loan officer replied.
Security guards rushed into the lobby and began firing indiscriminately. Pete became an absolute beast and started slicing away with his machete. Joe unleashed fire bolts from his staff. I unloaded shell after shell from my shotgun.
As we looked over the absolute slaughter of security guards, with blood and guts strewn about the lobby, Joe nodded his head. “I think our plan is working out pretty good,” he said.
“I’m out of shells,” I said and dropped the shotgun. Then I pulled out the .38 and kissed it. “But I still got six shots.”
We all went into the elevator and Joe hit the button for the 666th floor. “Holy shit!” I said. “How many floors are in this building?”
32 minutes later, we arrived. Jezebel was in a conference call with all of her minions. She was planning the final stages of her Hellish invasion of earth.
“What took you so long?” she asked.
“Your slow ass elevator,” Pete said.
“You think your earthly powers can stop me?”
I lifted the .38. “Nothing can stop these bullets sister.”
Most nights I can’t sleep. Most nights I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking about a film. Usually, it’s not a great film that’s keeping me up. It’s a film that could have been great, but everyone fucked up.
One such movie is Enemy at the Gates (2001).
It’s a shame. This movie could have been dope. So what happened?
Now forgive me, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve watched it so I won’t go into plot details. But the screenwriters shouldn’t have committed to telling a love story AND a game of cat and mouse.
Individually these stories could have been interesting on their own. The Battle of Stalingrad was such a test of the human spirit that it provides an interesting backdrop to any story.
But Enemy at the Gates falls victim to a very serious problem…a problem that plagued so, so many movies of the era: it tries to have it both ways. It wants to be a gritty war film AND appeal to 90s sentimentality.
“But it’s based on a real historical account,” you might say.
And lo and behold, this is largely true. Of course, it takes a few creative liberties. I doubt Joseph Fiennes’ character was real. Same with Ron Perlman’s…a character that I hated so much because it seems to have been included for expositional purposes only. Because the film takes such liberties…it is a movie after all, and not a documentary…then pick a lane.
If I were making this movie, I would have focused exclusively on the chase between Ed Harris and Jude Law. But there’s no sense in crying over spilled milk.
Enemy at the Gates appears to have been one of the last of the so-called “90s, mediocre, sentimental historical dramas.” I don’t hate all of these movies. In fact, I go to bat for perhaps the greatest example of this genre: Dances With Wolves.
“Can you believe that Kevin Costner beat Martin Scorsese at the Oscars?” everyone says to me.
No. That’s not surprising at all. Have you seen the movie? I will pound the table every chance I get: Kevin Costner DESERVED his Oscar.
Quote me on that.
Honestly, as much as it pains me to say this, if there’s a flaw with the movie, it’s the screenplay. That’s a big one. This might not have been obvious to audiences then, but it’s clear 32 years later. BUT, it appears to me that Costner was involved in the project from the moment of its inception, so the script was suited to his strengths.
Could anyone else have made Dances With Wolves?
And here’s where Costner excels: every character…EVERY last character…has their moment, however brief, to shine. When Stone Calf is killed, you feel it. Even when LT. Elgin is killed, one of the “villains”, there’s a shred of sympathy for him. This helps you become immersed in this lovely, bloody world.
Costner approaches the subject matter, much like his character, in a child-like, gentle manner. Not a detail is missed. It felt genuine, and not at all like it was trying “to have it both ways”.
It worked. It worked so well that nobody was able to emulate that style. They tried. But where every mediocre 90s historical drama failed, only Kevin Costner succeeded.
I’ve always said that my dream job is to be a television writer for some dumb, formulaic show on basic cable.
This is because I’m not only lazy, but I’m also intrigued by entertainment that wants to have it both ways: it wants to display violence in a gritty, realistic manner while simultaneously ignoring the consequences. An example is SEAL Team and SWAT.
I find these shows delightful: many people die, friends get killed or mangled, yet every episode ends with the cast laughing over drinks or in despair over a romantic relationship. It’s completely hypocritical, it wants to show real violence while also numbing us from the true horror of it all.
But all of these programs have identical story beats: the team (SEAL or SWAT) causes disruption, a male lead is banging a female superior, the superior’s superior rips into her, the team is given an imperative to fix the issue, moral quandary ensues, some people die, the day is saved, the team slaps each other on the back, the female superior informs the male lead that their relationship can’t continue, male lead is sad, executive producer credit is shown. (Sometimes there’s a “B” story featuring a secondary character, but no one gives a shit)
These stories can be written sitting on the toilet. And I spend A LOT of time on the toilet.
Damn it! I wish someone hadn’t stolen my copy of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.
It’s my favorite holiday movie!
Seriously though, it’s probably my favorite POW film. The first time you watch it, it’s kinda underwhelming. Certainly not the kind of thing you’d expect from the director of In the Realm of the Senses.
But it’s actually one of the rare films that get better the more you watch it.
David Bowie plays a British soldier, Jack Celliers, who is taken captive by the Japanese during WWII. The camp commander, played by Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, becomes obsessed with him. Bowie and Sakamoto, not known for their acting, actually carry the film quite well.
Meanwhile, Tom Conti’s Col. Lawrence and Takeshi Kitano’s Sgt. Hara have a contentious yet mutually admirable relationship.
The emotional highlight of the film is when Lawrence and Celliers get locked up and scheduled for execution. The two confide in each other some of their regrets. We’re shown flashbacks of Celliers high class upbringing and his relationship with his younger brother. Lucky for them, it’s Christmas. Sgt. Hara gets drunk and grants the two of them a reprieve.
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” Hara says.
At the conclusion of the film, the shoe’s on the other foot. Hara is a POW yet Lawrence is unable to prevent his execution.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is unusual for a war film in that rather than focusing on death and carnage, it explores human relationships, understanding, love, and regret.
I just wish whoever borrowed my copy would return it 😢
“Well shits assholes,” I said to Dr. Sí. “We’ve been looking for you. I guess the search is over! Can I go now?”
“Not so fast,” he responded. “I need to know where your Kill Squad is going.”
“First I want to know what happened to Angelika,” I demanded.
“Fair enough,” he said. Then Dr. Sí turned to the corner of the laboratory. “Angelika, come join us.”
Angelika stepped out, all dolled up with her red hair flowing down to her shoulders. “Sorry James,” she said. “You’re not my type because Dr. Sí is my type.”
The two kissed passionately in front of me.
“I do want to thank you, Colonel James, for returning her to me,” Dr. Sí said.
“Hey, not a problem,” I replied. “Can you return the favor by removing this explosive collar from around my neck? Once when they realize Angelika’s missing, this thing will blow my head off.”
“First, where is the Kill Squad going?”
“They’re probably coming here!”
“We are certainly not at where they are going.”
“Then what are you worried about?”
The doctor turned around and looked at a computerized map of the Hawaiian islands. “I am a man of science, colonel. In order for my experiments to work, I need EXACT measurements. I cannot afford unpredictability. So again…where is the Kill Squad going?”
I was running out of time. The collar was going to detonate at any moment. Then I remembered…
“$2 million,” I said.
“Yes, $2 million and I give up the coordinates of the Kill Squad plus any other state secrets you want in order to sweeten the deal,“ I replied.
I was bluffing about the state secrets part. I didn’t know shit.
“$1 million,” Dr. Sí responded.
“Deal. The coordinates are 113.998N 737.746W. Now get this collar off of me!”
Dr. Sí laughed and ordered the guards to remove the collar. “Thank you for your cooperation colonel,” he said. “But as an insurance policy, I’ll place this collar on one of your acquaintances.”
The guards rolled in Mr. Ree, strapped to an upright gurney.
“They kidnapped me too,” Mr. Ree said. “Can you believe that bullshit?”
“Ohh come on,” I said. “Don’t kill Mr. Ree! He’s cool! Besides, that thing will detonate before the squad reaches its destination!”
“That’s just a chance I’m willing to take,” Dr. Sí replied.
“Look, I don’t give a damn about Admiral Majors or the Kill Squad. But there’s a woman that’s traveling with them: Izzy. Please don’t kill her,” I pleaded.
“Colonel, relax,” he said. “I’m not looking to kill anyone, except for Mr. Ree over there. I just want to see that thing go off.”
“I don’t understand.”
Dr. Sí put his arm around my shoulders and started walking me around the laboratory. “I understand your confusion. You see, has anyone told you the truth about that missing nuclear scientist?”
“To be honest doctor, for this entire mission, I’ve kinda been asleep at the wheel. I don’t even know that scientists’ name.”
“Ah, let me show you.”
Dr. Sí opened a door and out walked an old man in a lab coat. I think I was supposed to be impressed by this.
“I don’t know who this is,” I said.
“That’s J. Robert Oppenheimer.”
“J. Robert Op…the father of the atomic bomb?! What are you? Some kind of fucking moron?”
“You cloned him?”
“No asshole! I brought him from the past into the future! Don’t you get it yet? I invented time travel!!”
I walked up to Oppenheimer and looked him up and down. “Welcome to the future,” I told him. “We killed Hitler.”
“I know that, dumbass,” he replied. “We should have dropped the bomb on him!”
I looked back over to Dr. Sí. “So what? You invented time travel. Big whoop. How can you use that against the Kill Squad?”
“That’s why I brought my friend Oppenheimer to the present. You see, we created a new kind of weapon: a time weapon.”
“That sounds pretty fucking stupid, Dr. Sí,” I said. “How can you weaponize time?”
“Well you see, if you can triangulate the space time continuum, the quantum field fluctuations will…”
“Okay, sorry I asked,” I interrupted. “That science shit is boring. Cut to the chase. What’s gonna happen to the Kill Squad?”
“I will fire a plasma energy weapon at their coordinates. When the weapon reaches them, it will generate a quantum field around them and they will be transported to a different time and place.”
“My god,” I said. “A non-destructive weapon. You’re a genius Dr. Sí.”
“So you’re not a complete fucking idiot after all,” he replied. “It is far more humane than the nuclear weapons of the last 80 years. Imagine: no more nuclear fallout, no more mass death…we simply transport our enemies to a different time, different place.”
I looked around the laboratory…at all the scientists running around, to Oppenheimer, to Angelika, and then over to Mr. Ree.
“I cannot deny your genius, Dr. Si,” I said. “But it appears that the only one in danger here is Mr. Ree. If you’re really are humane, you’d remove that collar.”
Dr. Sí nodded. “I suppose you’re right, Colonel.” He looked to the guards. “Remove the collar.”
The guards walked over to the gurney and removed the collar. As they were about to dispose of it, it detonated, killing and maiming several of them.
Out of the confusion, Oppenheimer attacked one of the guards, grabbing his machine gun.
“Put down the gun Oppenheimer,” Dr. Sí said.
“No,” he replied. “You’ve been holding me hostage here. I’m not your puppet!”
“But Bob,” Dr. Sí pleaded. “We’ve been building something special here. Don’t you want to finish our work?”
“No! No more weapons!”
More guards rushed into the room, forcing Oppenheimer to drop his gun.
“Sorry Bob,” Dr. Sí said. “It appears your time is up.”
Mr. Ree was released from the gurney. The two of us were ordered to raise our hands and were rounded up with Oppenheimer.
“I’m Amish now,” I said to Admiral Majors and Izzy. “I don’t believe in violence anymore.”
“You mean to tell me we drove all the way to Pennsylvania from Los Angeles just for you to say you’ve taken a vow to never kill again,” the Admiral asked.
“Yes. I killed a man in cold blood. Not out of justice,” I replied. “I felt pure hatred. And I hope to never feel that again. That’s not God’s way.”
“The man you killed was a bent cop AND a serial killer. Fuck that guy!”
“No,” I said. “You see this,” I pointed over to the wide green pastures. Off in the distance, Amish brethren were erecting a barn. “This is God’s way. Hard work and community. That’s what will get us to heaven.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this bullshit,” the Admiral replied. “So you wanna play hardball eh? Fine. $2 million. I am offering you $2 million of tax payer money to join my force. One of our top nuclear scientists have gone missing, and we have reason to suspect that the Ionian Liberation Front is behind it. You’ve dealt with those guys before. If you change your mind, you know where to reach me.”
The Admiral stormed off. Izzy bashfully stood around.
“What’s her name,” she asked.
“Miriam,” I replied. “She’s a good woman. She’ll make an excellent mother.”
“I’m happy for you,” she said. “I’m seeing someone too. I gave Admiral Majors a hand job on drive over here. He’s taking me to dinner tonight.”
“I wish you two the best of luck.”
“Thank you,” she said. “Goodbye James.”
After I finished tending to the cattle, I washed off the bull semen then went to the homestead for supper. Miriam served me up a plate of beans and cornbread.
Miriam was a plain and simple Amish woman. We married during the fall harvest. Her father was Ezekiel, one of the community leaders. He was generous enough to take me in.
“Didist thou havest a good day,” she asked.
“I did Miriam. This is a well-earned supper after an honest day’s work.”
“The Lord hath blessed us. I am pregnant with child.”
“This is swell news indeed. The community with rejoice at the announcement.”
We smiled and held hands while we sat around the fireplace. I was loading tobacco into my pipe when Ezekiel stopped by.
“The Lord has brought forth good news,” I told him. “Miriam is pregnant with child.”
“Praise the Lord indeed,” he replied. “I am going to be a grandfather.”
The two of us went to the porch to watch the sunset. I took a match to the pipe. “So what brings you by Ezekiel,” I asked.
“I’m afraid Brother Peter is not doing well,” he said. “He won’t likely survive through the night.”
“That’s a shame. Miriam and I shall pray on it.”
“Unfortunately, I bring more bad news. Bandits have returned and stole four more chickens. We don’t have the funds to replace them. I’m afraid that we are having trouble feeding the children and the harvest isn’t bringing what we need. Times are hard indeed.”
“The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away,” I said.
“I wish someone would do something about these bandits. They have drained all of our resources for the winter,” Ezekiel said.
I puffed on the pipe and rocked in the chair. “I’m sure the Lord will provide.”
That night I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. I sat up and kissed Miriam on the forehead while she peacefully slept.
I grabbed a shovel and hid behind the chicken coup while I waited for the bandits. I heard twigs snapping and bushes rustling. They were close.
“Stop right there or I’ll bash your head in,” I told the two bandits.
They laughed. “You’re Amish,” they said. “You can’t hurt us.”
“Grab my cock and find out,” I replied, referring to the rooster.
We had a stare down. I waited for one of them to make a move. One went for his pistol and I smashed the shovel right on his dick.
“My dick,” he yelled.
The other one leapt at me and I knocked his clean off his shoulders. Blood sprayed all over the coup. I went over to the other man laying on the ground.
“Don’t kill me,” he yelled. But I smashed the shovel right into his guts.
I buried the bodies deep in the woods.
I took the shovel and began digging behind the barn. Out of the dirt I pulled out an old oak box.
The warm breeze blew through the trees while the sun beamed down. Dead and mangled bodies littered the jungle floor.
I rested beneath a tree, waiting for the Angelikas.
A chopper rattled in the distance. The trees rustled as it hovered overhead. Four ropes dropped down to a clearing in front of me.
The four Angelikas lowered down.
“You’re coming with us,” they said.
“Not today sisters!”
I attempted to fire off a clip, but my rifle jammed. I threw the weapon down. If it came down to hand-to-hand combat, I was fucked.
Three of the Angelikas attempted to corner me. One stood back. I threw a grenade, but one caught it and threw it back. The explosion knocked me back a few feet.
The chopper continued to hover overhead.
As I laid there in a daze, I suddenly remembered: Izzy packed my burst action Beretta. The Angelikas were inching closer. I pulled out the sidearm and unleashed the three rounds into the chopper.
I could see the pilot’s brains splatter across the glass. His body leaned forward and the helicopter came careening down into the jungle. As it exploded, fire rained down onto the three Angelikas.
They might’ve been genetically enhanced. But as I’ve learned time and time again, no one is immune to the destructive force of a fireball.
I walked towards the last remaining Angelika. She instantly cowered down.
“Don’t kill me! I’m the original, I’m not genetically enhanced,” she screamed.
“He’s holed up at the abandoned airstrip a few klicks away.”
“You’re taking me to him.”
I held her at gunpoint as we journeyed towards the airstrip. Franco was in the hanger while his private jet rested on the runway.
“Here’s your communist mole,” I told him.
“Excellent work, Mr. James,” he replied. “Now that I can trust you, I’ll reveal to you my secret plan.”
Franco turned around and removed his eye patch. A brilliant flash of gold appeared from where left eye once was. He laid a steel briefcase on the table.
Inside was a ridiculous looking retinal scanner.
“When I run my golden eye through this retinal scan,” he said. “50 scud missiles armed with nuclear warheads will fire from beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Each aimed at a major city in the Western Hemisphere.”
“You’re a madman, Mr. Werner,” I replied. “You’re not even gonna attempt to blackmail world leaders? What kind of villain are you?”
“Once when the world’s major cities have been destroyed,” Franco continued. “They’ll blame the communists, and leaders of the world will have no choice but to use my services to defeat them.”
“Billions of people will die, just so you can make a profit,” I replied.
I’ve seen these cases hundreds of times: madman wants to destroy the world just so he can make a few extra pennies. People will do anything for money these days.
“With that type of destruction,” I interjected. “Nuclear winter could last ages. Are you sure that you completely thought the consequences of your plan, Mr. Werner?”
Franco pondered for a second.
“Shit, I guess I didn’t,” he replied. “Oh well, it’s a risk worth taking. But tonight, we feast!”
Franco left the hanger. Angelika was locked up behind a gate.
“James,” she said. “Franco killed my friends, my family. All I’ve ever wanted was justice. Please don’t let him do this.”
Franco returned with his servants. They were bringing in cartons full of local cuisine out of the jet. He poured a glass of bourbon, then lifted it to make a toast.
“If you stray a foot, I’ll murder you where you stand,” one of the Angelikas told me.
All the mercenaries, 40 of us in total, boarded the black hawks en route to the jungles of Honduras. The three other Angelikas disappeared hours earlier. Only one was left to watch me.
“Why are you after Franco De Werner?” I asked her.
“In addition to killing our comrades, he holds the key to a secret nuclear arsenal somewhere under the Gulf of Mexico. If we can capture him, we’d control enough fire power to destroy the Western Hemisphere,” she replied.
Well fuck me, I thought. Angelika(s) plan was to massacre the mercenaries in the jungle during their communist hunt, forcing Franco down to Honduras.
I was caught between a rock and a hard place: between a diabolical madman and a kill squad of four genetically enhanced clone-ladies
“But why me though?” I asked. “Are you aligned with the mafia? Are they still pissed because I torched the shit out of them in the woods?”
“Just shup and do what you’re told.”
The choppers dropped us off on the beach. We set up camp for the night. All the men gathered around the various fires, cracking open one Keystone Light after another.
It became a beach party.
I stood watch along the tree line. Angelika handed me an MK 556. She pushed me up against a tree and grabbed my dong.
“Remember,” she said. “I am always watching you.”
She then kissed me and disappeared into the jungle. I began to cry.
The men started to get rowdy. I told them to quiet down, that the communists could be watching.
“What are you afraid of, Carlos?” replied Tiger Tanaka, the most ruthless of the bunch. “You’re the most notorious arsonists in Eastern Europe. Quit being a puss.”
Tiger then pulled out a Henri Selmer saxophone and started rockin’ out like he was Clarence fucking Clemons. This noisy instrument was echoing across the bay and into the jungle.
“Damn it Tiger! If you don’t put that loud piece of shit away, I will shoot you myself!” I yelled.
“I ain’t afraid of nothin in this jungle!” he yelled back.
Ironically, a tiger then jumped out of the woods a mauled his face off. The men quickly scattered into the jungle, leaving their weapons behind. I fired a few rounds at the animal before it disappeared.
“There’s tigers in Honduras?!” one of the men yelled. I shrugged.
Angelika must have something to do with this, I thought.
The men attempted to retrieve their weapons. Every time they got close, the tiger would reappear and drag one of them into the woods.
“It’s an ambush,” I said. “We must fall back.”
“Fall back into the jungle?! WITHOUT OUR WEAPONS!” said Thomas Jane “Little” P.P., the explosives expert.
“Calm yourself, Little PP,” I replied. “Fall back and we’ll regroup.”
As the men retreated, trip wires began going off. A fireball would light up the sky and body parts would fall back into the trees.
“We’re gonna die!” screamed Little PP. He ran ahead a few yards in front of me before falling into quicksand.
I extended my rifle to pull him out, but he kept sinking deeper. “I don’t want to drown!” Little PP yelled. “Please kill me, Carlos!”
When I realized that I couldn’t rescue him, I lifted up my rifle and fired one round into Little PPs chest. I watched as his dead body sunk below the surface.
The screams of men continued to echo across the jungle. I heard growling behind me. The tiger was near. I fired a few rounds into the bushes and ran off.
I hopped across a trip wire and hid behind a tree. “Come at me mother fucker,” I said. The tiger jumped out and hit the wire. The explosion was brilliant.
Tiger blood rained from the sky.
I sat down and radioed in.
“To Angelika or whoever’s listening,” I said. “Tiger’s dead. Both tigers are. There can’t be very many of us left. But I’m still standing. If you want me, you’re gonna have to come down here and get me.
But be warned: it’s gonna take more than a tiger and a few land mines to kill me.”