Check out the Scene's "Movie Clock" (www.nashvillescene.com/cgi-bin/movieclock.cgi) and, if you look very carefully, you will discover an unforgivable omission. Films like Hellboy, The Punisher and, God help us, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed have all been appraised by our merry band of movie reviewers. In fact, as far as I can tell (I admit I didn't check all of them), every movie in town has been reviewed by Jim Ridley et al.
I'm talking about NASCAR 3-D: The IMAX Experience, now showing at the Opry Mills IMAX theater. It is, I must say, a heckuva film, and the perfect dramatic appetizer before heading over to Bell Forge to see The Passion of the Christ.
That's what I did, anyway, and on Good Friday no less. It was the first day off I had had in months, and I was determined to see these two moviesone for pure enjoyment, the other for the same reason I watched the final episode of The Apprentice last night: Everyone else was doing it. (Plus, in the case of The Apprentice, the Preds were getting rocked by the Red Wings on Channel 28, and I couldn't bear it anymore.)
I am a NASCAR convert, having once detested the sport so much that, if I had just read that last phrase and someone else had written it, I would have been compelled to grab a pen and scrawl an angry letter declaring that auto racing is NOT A SPORT and that if the writer had any sense at all he would at least have the courtesy to put the word "sport" inside quotation marks. Just like you may have been about to do. Well, don't. Put down the pen and back away. No e-mails either. I've heard it all before.
Yep, I was once one of those people. I even had the impudence to mock those who were in hysterics over the loss of Dale Earnhardt back in 2001. But then I went to a race, and, despite my very best efforts, I was hooked. I still am.
That's why I went. I even deigned to wear those damned 3-D glasses they give you. They've come a long way, but I still don't like having to wear a contraption on my face while I'm trying to watch a movie.
It was worth it. Watching the race footage on the giant screen (how the hell did they weave the camera between the cars as they were going 150-plus mph around the tracks?), hearing the roar of the engines, and ducking when the tire came flying at me. Good times all around. And only 45 minutes long, which is just enough.
The film's narrated by Kiefer Sutherland, which fits. He seems to have a thing for blue-collar Americahe even spent some time on the rodeo circuit and became a champion roper. I'm not 100 percent sure what a "roper" is, but it sounds cool. I used to dislike Kieferhe was in Young Guns, for heaven's sakebut with this and his stint on FOX's 24, I'm now a fan.
Plus, Kiefer could kick Robert Redford's ass. Before the film, we were subjected to an annoying preview for something called Sacred Planet, some environmentalist Disney treacle narrated by Redford that looks as preachy and ham-handed as those "The More You Know" public service announcements NBC broadcasts all the time. These people obviously do not know the NASCAR audience. Redford looks at a beach and says, "Golly, I wonder what will become of these lovely sand dunes?" A NASCAR fan looks at it and says, "This would be a great place to put a racetrack." Which is pretty much what they did at Daytona Beach a few decades back. They showed it in the movie. In 3-D. IMAX-sized 3-D.
The Passion was not in 3-D. Mel Gibson had to go all conventional on us and spare the viewer the sight of Jesus being scourged over and over and over and over and over and over again in three dimensions. That's actually kind of surprising, since, by the looks of the movie, Mel was trying everything he possibly could to create a gore-fest at the expense of the actual story. My guess is, if the idea of 3-D had ever entered Mel's head, he would have run with it all the way, just so audience members could have the full experience of blood spatter droplets Coming Right At Them. But he didn't, and I am thankful for that. There was no way he could have topped the flying tire anyway.
On balance, The Passion was worthwhile, although I can't imagine having any desire ever to see it again. Once was more than enough. But the NASCAR filmthat I would go see again, even if it does cost 10 bucks. Guess it shows you where my priorities are.
A NASCAR/Passion double feature is certainly not for everybody, especially not, I suppose, on Good Friday. You must have a strong stomach, and, even more importantly, no shame whatsoever. Fortunately, that suits me.
Along those lines, I've got a great idea. NASCAR has its own Christ figure in the person of Dale Earnhardt, known to fans as "Number 3" or "The Intimidator." Earnhardt was the most popular driver on the circuit and died after crashing into a wall during the final lap of the Daytona 500. His death only made him more popularit's safe to say that no living NASCAR driver has as many fans as the late Dale Earnhardt continues to have. He is to auto racing what JFK is to American politics or Elvis is to music. His death resonates more than his life.
Just like, you know, Jesus. So here's what I'm thinking: NASCAR hires Mel Gibson to make a film chronicling the last 12 hours of Dale Earnhardt's life. It would have everythingNASCAR's France family (the bunch that runs the whole show) would be like the Roman Empire, with Bill France as Pontius Pilate, Earnhardt rival Jeff Gordon could be Caiphas, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (aka "Little E") would stand in for Mary. And the final crashwell, that would be in 3-D of course. That wall...Coming...Right...At...You.
That's something to look forward to. They should schedule it to open on Good Friday 2005. I'll be first in line.