Monday, June 30, 2008

O Wall-E, Wall-E, or The Water is Wide

"Looks like it's going to start up again out there," said the Union Square Whole Foods cashier as she loaded my contributions to Sunday afternoon's patio barbecue with J. and co. into a double-bagged paper sack. (They've gotten rid of disposable plastic bags, of course, and I had wondered for a moment whether I was going to have to pay for a carryall like at Ikea these days.) It was still dry as I took the steps down to the L for Brooklyn, but the Floridian-like weather pattern was making its presence felt again by the time I got out at Graham Ave. and waited under one of the sleek new bus shelters that only do so much when the rain is really coming down. The bus didn't show up soon enough to prevent me from scrapping the wait and giving in to a soaking. The BQE overpass eventually provided some slightly derelict respite and a moment to contemplate the weekend's culture.

The Times reporters might've added another item to their list of lesser-known New York City waterfalls, had they seen the drain pipes gushing or the highway ledges leaking yesterday. Unseen cars rushing by above added to the aquatic display as they splashed through puddles, spraying water over the edge. Somehow, the sum effect was more bracing than what I'd experienced on my (abbreviated) bike tour of Olafur Eliasson's $15 million contribution to the East River waterfront. A good solid thunderstom can do that to me, and there was something about being both caught outside and yet somewhat protected from the elements that delivered the kind of mind-to-body reaction that I thought of the other day during the artist's talk. The Waterfalls will be around for a few months, so I'll have more time to live around them and perhaps come up with different experiences, but I guess at the very least they made me see the art in the drainage of the highway. (And I guess the BQE is becoming something of a muse these days, what with Sufjan Stevens' recent work by that title at BAM and all.)

The other thing I couldn't help thinking about was my soggy earth-friendly paper bags, which seemed to be biodegrading before my eyes. They weren't going to make it to the get-together, let alone be around 700 years from now for a little robot like Wall-E to clean up. The movie, however, is bound to become a classic and here's hoping sticks in our collective memory for years to come. The first half is one of the most artistic things ever created in the animated form. You really do forget you're watching a cartoon. The opening sequence with the combination of a slightly hokey but still endearing and upbeat show tune and a deeply realized post-apocalytpic urban landscape is up there with the beginning to Woody Allen's Manhattan in my thinking. Much has been made about the lack of traditional dialogue through the first half. I didn't find that made things drag at all. If anything, things happen more quickly than I expected. We're introduced to the shape and feel of a future Earth with little extra time to zone out. The satire of the second half is just playful enough without losing all of its bite -- or its self-awareness. And the end titles are a masterpiece in and of themselves: a name-that-style, whirlwind tour through the history of art, complete with 1980s-style video-game graphics of the film's characters to finish things off. I look forward to seeing it again.

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