' Cinema Romantico: Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

Last year I made eye contact with Rahm Emanuel. I was walking to the train station in my neighborhood, where the Mayor of Chicago lives nearby, and as I approached from the west, a luxurious black SUV rolled to a stop on the little side street that spills out onto the main street right alongside the train station. A guy in a suit came around to the SUV back door, opened it and out stepped Rahm. His vantage point meant he was looking straight down the sidewalk toward me as he exited and so, for a second, our eyes locked, which prompted me to give my best Chicagoan “Yeah, I know who you are and I don’t care” look. Because he was only a few steps ahead of me, I wound up ascending the stairs to the train platform right alongside him (and his security detail). “And did he say ‘good morning’ to you?” my girlfriend wondered when I relayed the story. “You, his constituent?” “No,” I replied. “He did not.”

Emanuel typically takes public transit one day a week as a kind of offering to the common man, to demonstrate that he, fancypants Mayor, is not so different from us, lowly L riders. That’s why the covert smartphone photos of Emanuel on the El occasionally popping up on social media don’t strike me as an invasion of privacy. He wants you to know he’s riding the train like a regular ol’ joe! The only reason he is riding the train in the first place is to be seen! Is it specious? You’re damn right it’s specious, which I feel like he has to know on some level, and yet there he is anyway. And as I waited up there on the train platform with Rahm, who was drinking coffee and reading the paper, and props to him for still subscribing to a print paper, my mind flashed back to “Batman Begins.”


“Batman Begins” recounts the story of the Wayne family in flashback, wherein Bruce’s father Thomas has contributed to a struggling Gotham City by building a train that’s basically the El in Gotham form. He explains: “People less fortunate than us have been enduring very hard times. So we built a new, cheap, public transportation system to unite the city.” I love that line so much because, as a decade-plus Chicago resident, I have gleefully gone car-less to be an all public transit, all the time kinda guy. I adore public transit. I think our country should put more emphasis on it. Ha! And “Batman Begins” knows it’s hard out there for public transit because in the present day scenes the new, cheap, public transportation has become old, decrepit and vandalized. It’s a dangerous place to be. And yet, there is Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), assistant district attorney, riding it anyway, all alone, late at night, getting attacked by muggers.

Narratively she does this so that Batman can swoop in, save the day and tell her he’s on her side. Of course, the plausibility patrol might wonder why in the hell Rachel Dawes is riding such a clearly unsafe train to begin with. But that’s exactly what I love! She is a true believer in public transportation, not taking it, a la Rahm Emanuel, to be seen because who’s gonna see her? Perhaps that makes Rachel Dawes a hero, but I think Rachel Dawes would simply call herself a public servant, not above the plebeians but among them, identical shared passenger strands stitching together the republic, e pluribus unum.

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