' ' Cinema Romantico: What a Time to be Alive

Monday, July 03, 2023

What a Time to be Alive

Aside from Keira Knightley’s monologue about the virtues of vinyl records, of course, the best parts of the rom com “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012) in which a planet-killing asteroid bears toward Earth are the introductory ones. Despite apocalyptic conditions, Dodge (Steve Carrell) sticks to his routine, still going to work, still running on the treadmill. The end is nigh, but life goes on. And set against the backdrop of usual disaster movie chaos, looting and people in the streets, Dodge’s somnambulance assumes a surrealist comic tone. Or at least, I thought it did until last week, when Chicago, like so many other North American cities, was afflicted with a smoke-filled sky from Canadian wildfires, obscuring the downtown skyline and ratcheting our air quality up to dangerously unhealthy levels. But just as so many Americans were determined to act as if the COVID-19 Pandemic wasn’t happening even when it very much was, life in Chicago, very oddly, went on, people jogging and walking their dogs, lounging in beer gardens and by pools, even going to the Cubs game, 37,072 people to be exact. “The smoke was definitely weird,” said Cubs starter Jameson Taillon. “But once you’re out there for a little bit, I feel like you get acclimated to the smell and the density in the air.” By gawd, that’s the dreaded New Normal’s music! Air like secondhand smoke? Eh, you get used to it.

I pictured a planet-killing asteroid hurtling toward Earth, so close you can make it out in the sky, and construction workers seeing it from the parking ramps they are still in the process of erecting, and salarymen contemplating it from cars on freeways and public transit on their way to the office, reprimanded by the boss for arriving seven minutes late with fire and brimstone looming right there through the venetian blinds. 

I imagined an ID4 spaceship appearing out the window of a shareholders meeting that just keeps going on because the possibility of the Lockheed Martin stock price soaring when the very city housing the very conference room in which they sit gets incinerated is too tantalizing to ignore. 

I envisioned another “Jurassic Park” set entirely within Isla Nublar Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Jurassic Park where customers keep showing up demanding to be seated and beleaguered managers instruct the doomed wait staff to keep their noses to the grindstone even as dinos run violently amok just out the window. 

I saw the scene from “L.A. Story” where Steve Martin gets politely mugged at the ATM (“Hi, my name is Bob, I’ll be your robber today”) reconceptualized for the next Zombie Apocalypse movie in which people still out on the town line up on the sidewalk to get cordially bitten by the undead. 

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