03 May 2011

Stuck in the Fast Lane

Listening to: Berlin, "Take My Breath Away." But this version, paired with Michael Jordan highlights. The entire soundtrack to Top Gun is a gold mine. Previously I already covered how great the Top Gun anthem is, and how the song they play over Goose's death is the saddest song of all time. And you can't forget the contributions Kenny Loggins put into the soundtrack, although I still think this album was his greatest work.

I went to watch Top Gun in the theater yesterday, as part of its twenty fifth birthday celebration. When the movie originally came out, I was only eight years old and too young for the PG rating. For some reason I remember exactly where I was when we were denied being able to watch it. Later, when Top Gun came out on VHS, George and I watched it twice a day for weeks. Our babysitter fast forwarded through the steamy make out scenes as we covered our eyes.

At recess my friends and I would spread out our arms and swoop around making machine gun and missile sounds. Okay maybe it was just me because I had no friends, and in retrospect I can't believe I was never beat up on the playground. Or encountered a MiG-28. During this time, I also somehow got my parents to sign me up for one of those mail clubs where they send you info packets about military planes once a month. You collected them in a binder and then find it years later collecting dust in the back of your closet. What a racket those things were. I was also really into model airplane building for awhile in there too. Basically Top Gun made me the man I am today. I'm not sure how it affected George but I'll have to ask her. What parts did she identify with? I don't even know what her favorite parts of the movie were actually. I smell a potential podcast coming.

Up in San Francisco, George has the Top Gun DVD so we tend to put it on in the background when there's nothing good on TV or her Britney concert discs just aren't hitting the mark. So I can't say that I haven't seen Top Gun in awhile as we probably average one viewing per year or so. However, before I headed out for yesterday's historic day, Ameer and I were debating what were the true morals and lessons behind Top Gun.

See, I had always thought that Top Gun was about team work and finding your wingman. I thought it was a buddy movie about the importance of friendship and sticking together. Maverick starts out as a cocky lone wolf but then discovers the strength of the pack. Ameer contends however, that Top Gun was about something else entirely.

"It's about breaking rules and winning. Coming out on top even though you shouldn't, because you're stubborn and hard headed. You'll get the girl, win the championship, and save the world. You can even do a fly by after for fun." Ameer continued to make a strong case for his take on the movie. "His name was Maverick! He broke flight rules, broke professional/relationship rules, and even went into the girl's restroom!" That's true, he did go into the woman's bathroom -- something I've only done on accident.

So Ameer's point is that if you're good enough to be the hero, Top Gun teaches you that you can do anything you want. Hum. I'm not comfortable with this take as it violates everything I'm about in life. I believe in playing by the book, not being Kobe, and striving to be prepared in any competitive situation. Flying by the seat of your pants is something I'm vehemently against. I think directed studying, extensive planning, and proper execution wins the day.

But after watching the movie with fresh eyes yesterday, I do have to admit that Ameer has a point. While it's true that Pete Mitchell doesn't listen to anyone, thinks he knows best, is an arrogant bastard, basically kills his best friend, and never does what he's supposed to do in battle, he does step up when it counts. The thing is, I realize that sometimes you do need someone to just take the shot. Being overly prepared can also lead to the weakness of being too aware of your limits. Maverick never had those limits and by believing that he was better than everyone, he saved Iceman's ass and won everyone's respect.

I guess this would explain why my life post-Top Gun has unfurled like it has. For over twenty years I've been getting all the wrong lessons out a seminal childhood movie. I've been looking around for my wing people when all along I should have been concentrating on being a legend and a hero. Damn. Is it too late to start over?

This recent GQ article, The Day the Movies Died, lays out a convincing argument for Top Gun being the reason our blockbusters suck today. Mark Harris is probably right in his assessment, but Top Gun is still a great movie. And although Quentin Tarantino did his best to shed insight into what was really going on in the film, it hasn't affected my rewatchings of it. Although most of the theater audience clearly had seen QT's take and laughed at all the parts I was trying to take seriously.

"At their most basic, their movies weren't movies; they were pure product—stitched-together amalgams of amphetamine action beats, star casting, music videos, and a diamond-hard laminate of technological adrenaline all designed to distract you from their lack of internal coherence, narrative credibility, or recognizable human qualities. They were rails of celluloid cocaine with only one goal: the transient heightening of sensation."
-The Day the Movies Died-