The Blog of Brian Ballard Quass

Comedy routine about the movie Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Belated Fire






Bring me my chariot of fire...
after giving it a tune-up and an oil change, of course





Toodles, gang, and welcome to the Zodiac Lounge. Remember, Drinks half-price until 7:00.

Titters, very scattered applause

Look at that truck driver over there at table 18: He's like, "Toodles? What kind of stand-up routine is this, anyway?"

Don't worry, sir. I'll be indirectly affirming my masculinity shortly. But when you're as comfortable in your manly skin as I am (and indeed I'm very close to sighing contentedly in this connection even as we speak) you're able to radiate that confidence on the installment plan, yes?

Deathly silence


And now that I've puzzled everybody in the room -- or maybe even scared them --

Has anyone here seen "Chariots of Fire" yet? The movie? Oh, you have? Really? All of you?

Well, come to think of it, it has been out for quite a while now, hasn't it? -- still, I only just got around to watching it last night on DVD. (It's been on my "to-do" list for the last 25 years -- first to see it in the theaters, which I never did, then to see the VHS, which I never did, and finally to watch the latest DVD version of the film, which I SO did last night that it isn't even funny, girlfriend, I am telling you! -- whatever that might mean.)

So now, may I have the envelope, please. (Oh, this is so exciting!)

I don't mean to disappoint anybody, but I'm not here to praise director Hugh Hudson, but to bury him, so to speak.











Half-Price Sale on all Chariots of Fire

We will NOT be undersold!








I mean, for starters, the movie seemed... I don't know, dated somehow. (Don't ask me how.)

No, seriously, I do have a bone to pick with the Colin Welland screenplay, at any rate.

Mind you, on a certain "prima facie" level, the film may be called "great," insofar as it won four Oscars, has an unforgettable theme song, and has proven to be a real crowd pleaser over the years.

But I submit to you nonetheless, ladies and gentles, that if you cross-examine your movie-going soul vigorously (that is to say if you slap it around a little under a bright light and you insist that it come clean at long last or, so help you, you'll "take this whole interrogation thing" to some unspecified yet ominous-sounding "new level"), you finally do uncover one or two scruples regarding this 1981 classic:

Boo


"Boo" is it now? In the words of a certain David Letterman of television fame, "Don't make me come out there!"






All Chariots Must Go!

...to make room for the 2011s!





Titters


My main objection is that the film seems, at some level, too self-consciously intent on creating the uplifting impression with which it ultimately leaves the viewer, with the all-too-timely editing that moves the movie along from morality play to morality play, in the obvious service of the picture's overall message, however admirable that message may be in and of itself. It's as if the filmmakers didn't trust reality to elevate the soul in the way that they intended to do, so they achieved their goal by editing out any of the cross-currents of moral ambiguity with which real life is usually fraught, thereby straining the audience's psychological credulity by beatifying the heroes (Eric Liddell as unvarnished saint) and vilifying the villains (Master of Trinity as Snidely Whiplash himself, whom one almost expects to see rubbing his hands together at any moment in an excess of maliciously discriminatory glee, mumbling some heartless comic-book laughter along the lines of "Mouha-ha-ha!" -- until, when he hears that the Jewish Abrahams has ultimately triumphed at the olympics, it would not have been wholly out of character for the Anglo-Saxon esthete to have shouted: 'Curses! Foiled again!')

Titters


Boo!


I mean, don't get me wrong: prejudice is wrong, wrong, wrong: But it does not follow that we need Hudson and co. to effectively super-impose Chyron graphics beneath the principal players, alternatively reading "Good Guy" and "Bad Guy."

Boo!


Did I mention that drinks are half-price until 7:00? (Jeepers-creepers, gang: What a web we weave when we practice to undeceive the cinematographic zeitgeist of 21st-century America!) Are you kidding? Itsy-Bitsy-Spider doesn't know the half of it! (Whatever that means, right, gang? Ha ha! Ahem.)


Boo!


Look, all I'm saying is, it's maybe not a coincidence that this film has become so popular with certain fundamentalist church groups over the years: groups who, by definition almost, have no problem whatsoever with the absence of moral ambiguity and even consider it a virtue -- never mind the fact that the details of their religious certainties are so often at logical loggerheads, so to speak, with the fine dogmatic print in the religious beliefs of the rival sects in the neighborhood, not to mention the contrasting credos of the rival religions throughout the globe.




Chariots of fire

No Money Down on a Brand-New Chariot of Fire




Scattered applause, murmured assent, a few lingering boos


Thanks for the scattered applause and, as 'twere, murmuring assent. (The only thing that troubles me now are the few lingering boos that I'm still hearing out there!)

Laughter



Still, even a heart of stone like my own was moved (to very wet eyes indeed, if not to positive TEARS!) by the musical affirmation of the human spirit just before the closing credits when the boys choir at Gonville and Caius sang "Jerusalem" with those famous words by poet William Blake, their voices seemingly lifted skyward on the magic carpet of the vibrant pipe organ that accompanied them -- and I was moved, moreover (I must admit) not simply in spite of the moral certainties expressed in the ringing lyrics' of the hymn but because of them:


Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!



Applause


Now let us pray.

No, seriously, you've been a great audience, so here we go: One final "toodles" for the lot of you -- and this goes double for table number 18, yes?

Toodles, gang! (Someone get Paul Bunyan here another drink, will you? I think he's still not quite comfortable with the concept of masculinity on the installment plan! Well, all I can say to that is: Grrrr! sir! Absolute GRRRRRRR! Aye, I be so -- Oh, you don't know the half of it, I assure you, sir! Not the bloody half of it, sir! Humph!)



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