The arbiter of art

So I dreamt that David Spade walked up to me to start some shit. Then I punched him in the stomach and said “you ain’t so tough without Chris Farley.”

Anyways

Director/Screenwriter Paul Schrader, on his infamous Facebook account, reposted an article of Elizabeth Olson defending the Marvel films (I dunno, didn’t read it). This predictably started a shitstorm in the comments.

Listen, I don’t know what “art” is. It’s “expression”, I guess. That’s all I can say. The Marvel movies aren’t my cup of tea. At least not yet. Whether or not they are art is not up to me.

But would I consider Death Wish III, Robocop 2, and loads of other schlock as “art”?

Yes.

So actually, under my criteria, the Marvel films easily hurdle the “art” threshold. But the bigger question is: will people remember and still be discussing these films 20 years from now?

The “disaster craze” of the 1970s… the Towering Inferno, the Airport films, Earthquake, etc, with their big budgets and all-Star casts…were all financially successful but hardly anyone remembers them. Someone compared the Marvel movies to Westerns of way back when, but I think they’re much more similar disaster films of nearly 50 years ago.

Someone once said that the Academy Awards shouldn’t be decided until at least 10 years after a film’s release. This gives it time to resonate with the people instead of simply handing out accolades because it felt good in the moment.

I agree with this.

So are Marvel movies “art”? Yes.

Are they quality “art”? I guess time will tell.

once upon a time in montana iii

I couldn’t hit shit with my six shooter. I missed every target.

J Robert Oppenheimer’s 10 year old son, Malachi, watched and nodded his head. “Did you really know my father from the war?” he asked.

“Sure, why not?” I replied.

“Whose side did you fight for?”

“Uh, Abraham Lincoln’s?”

“Which detachment?”

“963rd, 9th battalion, 4th infantry, uhmmm, at the Battle of Waterloo?”

“Did you get injured?”

“Oh yeah. All over.”

Malachi scratched his head. He knew I was full of shit. “Are you sure that you didn’t know my father from the future?” he asked.

“How do you know about that?”

“He has a time machine in the barn.”

Malachi took me into the barn and lifted a large tarp off a time weapon—a similar looking time weapon that sent Mr. Ree, Oppenheimer, and myself back to 1879.

“Does it work?” I asked Malachi.

“Of course. My father built it. He can make anything work.”

Oppenheimer stood at the entryway of the barn. “That’s enough Malachi,” he said. “You run along now.”

Malachi shook his head. “Yes father,” he said and went back to tending to his chores.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this, Bob?” I asked Oppenheimer.

“It doesn’t work.”

“Malachi says it does.”

Oppenheimer paced back and forth, rubbing his hand across his face. “Look,” he said, “we can go over this all day. Sure, I can send you to the future, the past, whatever. But it’s almost impossible to get you back to YOUR timeline. I’m sorry James. But we need to look at the present. You’re here. Mr. Ree is here. I need help. This community needs your help. Please help me. I can’t fight Dickleburg on my own.”

I thought through his words. “You love Malachi,” I said. “But did you know that I have a child back in that timeline? If there is a chance, however slim, to get back there, I have to take it. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were me?”

Oppenheimer nodded. “If I’m going to help you,” he said, “then we have to secure these goldmines. There’s a property in gold that makes these time weapons work. To secure the mines, we have to defeat Dickleburg.”

I pulled out my Korth 357.

“I’m no good with those six shooters,” I replied. “But I can shoot a fly’s dick off with this 357. Can you help me make more bullets?”

“That I can do.”

TO BE CONTINUED

once upon a time in montana ii

“Bob,” I said, “you know us. Just set us free and we won’t cause trouble.”

Sheriff J Robert Oppenheimer locked Mr. Ree and me in jail. He sat behind his desk. He look tired, haggard, and was pounding a whiskey bottle.

“Sorry boys,” he replied. “But we have enough trouble with Dillon B Dickleburg coming into town and buying up all the gold mines. This town is a powder keg.”

“Well shit Bob! You are a man of science. You said that gold was a part of your time travel weapon. Just build another time machine and send us back to our timeline.”

“Like I said, even if I could do that, it’s highly improbable that I can get you back. In fact, it’s definitely impossible with 19th Century technology.”

“Have you even tried? Come on, you were a legend in our timeline. What happened to you?”

“You just don’t understand.”

A ten year old boy then walked into the jailhouse. He went up to Oppenheimer and gave him a hug.

“Who are these men papa?” the boy asked.

“These are just strangers Malachi, now go home to your mother. She’s been looking for you,” he replied.

The boy rushed out of the jailhouse.

“Ohh I get it now,” I said. “You’ve settled down. You traded in your lab coat for a badge.”

Oppenheimer put down the whiskey bottle.

“I arrived in this timeline through the spacetime ripple 15 years before you two showed up,” he said. “I met a woman, we settled down. I now have a son that I’d do anything to protect.”

“I’m just asking for your help,” I replied.

“I killed countless people with those damn nuclear weapons,” Oppenheimer continued. “Not again. I have an opportunity to do it right this time. I’m going to do whatever it takes to protect my family and this community from dangerous people like you.”

“Bob, please,” I said. “We’re not here to cause problems. In fact, if you need assistance handling this Dickleburg fellow, Mr. Ree and I can help.”

“You two have done enough damage.”

There was some commotion outside. I could hear one of the deputies ask “how can I help you Mr. Dickleburg?”

“Ah shit,” Oppenheimer said. He grabbed his shotgun and walked outside. “What seems to be the problem?” he asked.

“Mr. Rockwell up in them hills has been chasing us off that land,” I could hear Dickleburg saying.

“I’ll have you know, Mr. Dickleburg, that Mr. Rockwell is the rightful owner of that property. If he wants to chase you away, he’s well within his right,” Oppenheimer said.

“Why sheriff, all I want to do is offer him a business proposition.”

“Now Mr. Dickleburg, I’d advise you to leave that man alone. If you have a message for him, I’ll make sure he receives it.”

I could hear Dickleburg pull out his six shooter. “I own this town Sheriff,” he said. “I am the rightful owner of that property and all the property around it. That means I own you.”

I could hear the clicking of Oppenheimer’s shotgun. “The people of this town are the rightful owners,” he said. “You go back to that company of yours in Helena and you tell them that if they come back, there will be a bloodbath.”

“I’ll be back,” Dickleburg said. Him and his men galloped away on their horses.

Oppenheimer came back into the jailhouse. He took the keys, opened our jail cell, and handed back the 357.

“Men,” he said, “I now pronounce you deputies of Elkhorn, Montana.”

TO BE CONTINUED

once upon a time in montana

“It’s hard being a gay man in the old west,” Mr. Ree said.

“Word. Wait…you’re gay?” I asked.

“Well I wouldn’t say I’m gay. But I exclusively have sex with men.”

I took a sip of whiskey. My mind was on other things.

We were in Montana. I reckon the year was 1879. Mr. Ree and myself have been stuck out of time, out of place, for the last two years.

Time travel does strange things to a man. For one, it strips you completely naked. Mr. Ree and me were found in San Francisco, ass to ass, behind a brothel on Haight Street when we emerged from the plasma ripple. But it does something else: you realize that everyone, and everything, you’ve ever known is out of reach.

I’ll never see Miriam again. Or my unborn child that I left back in another timeline.

But Mr. Ree maintained hope. “We might as well get filthy fucking rich,” he said. The gold mines in California were stripped by 1879. Resigned to our fate, we travelled to Elkhorn, Montana to start a new life.

As we sat in the local tavern, townsfolk glared at us. One burly man came up to our table.

“We haven’t seen your kind ‘round here before,” he said.

“So?”

“We don’t take kindly to strangers. I reckon y’all better drink your whiskey and ride out before sundown.”

“Why don’t you mind your own business buddy?” I said. “We ain’t bothering you. How about you ride your fat ass back to your table?”

“Them are fightin words.”

“Damn right pal! You don’t want none of this!”

“Now gentlemen,” Mr. Ree interjected, “there’s nothing here that can’t be settled by a good old fashioned duel.”

The burly man nodded. “I’ll see you outside.”

“The fuck are you doing Mr. Ree?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about it. You got a Korth 357. You’ll blast his ass into the future,” he replied.

“Ree, this is 1879,” I said, “they don’t make bullets for this gun yet. I gotta conserve my ammo. Besides, wouldn’t I be disrupting the timeline?”

“Nah. According to J Robert Oppenheimer, this is a new timeline, remember? We can do whatever the fuck we want.”

I just shrugged and walked outside. The burly man was standing in the street. The townsfolk all stood around.

“Alright,” I said, “fastest draw wins, or however this bullshit works.”

The burly man opened his duster, exposing his six shooter. “Ready whenever you are,” he said.

We had a stare down. The townsfolk stood around nervously, waiting for the fireworks.

Suddenly he reached for his six shooter. I drew my 357. The sound thundered from my gun, echoing across the town and down through the mountains.

I shot off the burly man’s suspenders. His pants fell down, exposing his ass and penis.

I twirled the 357 and placed it back my holster.

Suddenly a shotgun blast went off. The townsfolk scattered. Out of the shadows appeared a man dressed in black. His spurs jingled as he walked towards us.

“I won’t have this nonsense in my town,” the man in black said.

I recognized the face.

“I’m James,” I said. “And this here is my partner, Mr. Ree.”

“I know who you are,” he replied. “And if you fire that gun again, I’ll shove this shotgun right up your ass.”

“Doesn’t sound like much of a threat,” I said.

He stepped a little closer.

Could it be?

“I’m Oppenheimer,” he said. “SHERIFF J. Robert Oppenheimer.”

TO BE CONTINUED