A 31-year-old vs the MTV Movie Awards

I haven’t watched MTV in years. It’s common knowledge that the network has phased the music out of its programming the way organ harvesters have dispensed with the pleasantry of leaving you in a bathtub full of ice. Train wreck TV is not my cup of tea. I don’t watch the Douchebag/Date Rape Challenge.

So why would I sit through this crap? Like many teenagers in the 90s, I enjoyed MTV. At the time, it really did seem like it my generation’s voice. I mean, c’mon: Daisy Fuentes. Yo! MTV Raps. The Maxx. Aeon Flux (before the shitty movie). Bill Clinton kinda admitted smoking pot. The churches and the parent groups HATED Beavis & Butthead, which made it even better.

And of course, there were the MTV Movie Awards. It actually took itself seriously back then, but also had a sort of renegade flare. Some early winners were Denzel Washington for Malcolm X, Tom Hanks for Philadelphia, Pulp Fiction, Seven, Menace II Society. Plus you never knew what antics some famous person was going to pull, As a budding, teenaged film buff, this was the only award show I really enjoyed.

Fast forward to 2012: MTV is has unapologetically embraced its destiny as a bloodsucking, corporate leviathan. I do not have cable or satellite. The few shows I follow are seen online or at my cousin’s house, because DirecTV and Comcast are also bloodsucking, corporate leviathans.

As a half-assed experiment, I wanted to see if I, a cynical remnant from the tail-end of Generation X, could at all relate to whatever dog and pony show the network overlords had coordinated with the movie studios via smart phone.

But since I had better things to do that Sunday night (A Game of motherfucking Thrones!) there was no way I was watching the Movie Awards live. I instead went to MTV.com and saw “the entire show on demand.”

  • The abridged version consists of 40 clips. Between each one, I was forced to watch 60 seconds of advertisement. Most of these are the same 30-second commercial played twice: a crude Axe Hair tie-in with Seth MacFarlane’s questionable decision/teddy bear movie, Ted.
  • So the opening act is a band called “fun.” (with a lower case f and a period). I have no idea who the hell they are. The song is somewhat less painful to take in than the frontman’s face. He is joined by singer Janelle Monae. Her face is pleasant, her voice is tolerable but her name does not ring any bells with me. This idea is already shaping up to be fantastic.
  • Host Russell Brand hypes up the audience, which seems to be nothing but celebrities and young girls, by periodically shouting “Twilight!” and “Hunger Games!” I wince every time.
  • Obviously, Brand is no Ricky Gervais. He launches a few Beiber/Kanye/Kardashian sex jokes as well a reference to his own failed marriage. He jokes about Michael Fassbender’s cock and stashing cocaine under Charlie Sheen’s seat. I’m really confused as to who the target demographic of this show is.
  • A dead-eyed Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg really don’t give a shit as they present Best Onscreen Dirtbag (which apparently has replaced the Best Villain category.) Jennifer Aniston wins, who just so happens to be the biggest actor and only female nominee.
  • One of the only times the between-clip ad is not for Axe Hair/Ted, they show a surprisingly hip, musical commercial for State Farm. At the end, it briefly directs me to State Farm’s facebook page if I want to see the full video. I marvel at the estranged and convoluted relationship music videos now have with MTV.
  • Next clip is Sway awarding a couple of hot blondes an upgrade to the front row – sponsored by State Farm.
  • Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield emerge from a huge sullen image of Spider-man to present the nominees for Breakthrough Performance. Emma Stone reads a little foulmouthed tough talk off the teleprompter to make herself seem edgy.
  • Annoying animated bunny graphics are now edited into the nominee reels. I recall when they once showcased what was cool about the actors’ performances. Now they’ve spliced in little puppet shows for… what, exactly? The girl from The Descendants wins. I haven’t seen it and I can tell from the mild applause that neither has most of the audience.
  • Cute-as-a-button Emma Watson and a couple of guys from a movie called The Perks of Being a Wallflower present Best Male Performance. Hunger Games guy wins. The Hilton Sisters are in the audience. I forgot they used to be a duo.
  • Backstage, some dapper little dude talks about a running fan vote for the Best Hero Category as if this were election night.
  • Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth come out. Stewart is not as insufferable as I had braced for. The Best Female Performance reel features cartoon kitties as Thelma & Louise. I wonder how many kids will even get that reference. Hunger Games wins. Cue Jennifer Lawerence’s 16-second pre-recorded acceptance speech shot on a couch.
  • Charlie Sheen seems like he’s doing a bad Tony Stark impression.  He actually tells the audience to applaud for cult classics. In a high point of the night, the camera cuts to one the Hunger Games actors candidly giving a droll, patronizing clap. Sheen claims his own life has been a party movie and compares Project X to the clusterfuck of his own psyche.
  • There’s a montage of action-packed clips from Old School, House Party, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and others with a list of Party Movie Basics detailed as BEER, BABES, MORE BEER, PARTY FOULS, DESTRUCTION. It’s interesting that the reel also shows drug use but they avoid showing the word DRUGS. Either way, it’s an enthusiastic training video for all the future Amateur Night connoisseurs. Project X is then dubbed an Instant Cult Classic.
  • Wiz Khalifa gives a decent performance. I’ve heard him but never actually seen him. I’m impressed by the tattoos on his ribs, which had to have hurt on a guy that skinny. But is that mustache drawn on his face?
  • Keeping in line with MTV’s priorities, the Best Music category has been reduced to a 30-second nod. Sway breezes through a brief acknowledgment of the other nominees, but LMFAO is already present with their award. The song is “Party Rock Anthem” from the 21 Jump Street remake soundtrack. (Jesus Christ…) They look like an SNL parody of douchebag DJs.
  • Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg and Leighton Meester from the latest Sandler flop “That’s My Boy” present Best Kiss. They give a couple of lame jokes setting up a larger joke that’s only saved by Sandler calling Meester a “whore.” Twilight wins.
  • Brand cracks a joke with a censored punchline that didn’t get so much as a chuckle before introducing Steve Tyler and Joe Perry. They both look exactly like Joan Rivers. They earnestly introduce the “MTV Generation Award” for Johnny Depp. It’s a decent montage that amazingly doesn’t consist entirely of Tim Burton movies.
  • Depp plays guitar with The Black Keys, incidentally making the whole MTV movie-music tango come full circle. When he accepts his golden popcorn, he has a curious humility about him (possibly stoned) that resembles old interviews of Hunter S. Thompson.
  • There’s a chuckleworthy skit about an archery coach that reminds me that there used to be WAY more skits.
  • Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender come out to the score of Prometheus (which doesn’t work at all for this) and perform a silly staged beating to introduce Best Fight. Warrior was nominated. Hunger Games wins.
  • 21 Jump Street seems to have a LOT of nominations. Did it really perform that well?
  • The backstage guy announces that Harry Potter has won the Best Hero Award. I guess it wasn’t important enough for any on-stage fanfare.
  • Then there’s a whole awkward stripper bit with Channing Tatum (whose movies are getting a lot of attention tonight), Matthew McConaughey and that True Blood werewolf biker. The show is losing me.
  • There’s a semi-funny collection of interviews about Emma Stone and some achievement award she’s getting. I completely zone out of her heartfelt speech.
  • I’m close to aborting this abortion when Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman come out to talk about the new Batman film. A montage that apparently includes Heath Ledger is omitted from the chopped version I’m watching. Bale is choking up. They introduce Christopher Nolan, who says a few things about The Dark Knight Rises that we already know before introducing new footage from the film.
  • Aaaaand OF COURSE they don’t show the fucking clip on the MTV website. What a bunch of bullshit! Despite the fact that I’ve already seen it on pirate sites a couple of time, I still feel cheated. The producers very deliberately waited till the show was basically over to reveal this little Easter egg (or lack thereof).
  • The final, unexpected highlight is Jodie Foster introducing Movie of the Year. I like the play-along way she calls the award the “most prestigious”. She also “jokingly” condescends the category as “the most outrageously awesome sex scene between a vampire and a zombie from the future that also includes an explosion and some heavy petting.”
  • The nominees are raced through to get to the Twilight winner speech. The audience has reached the limit of their attention span. Stewart jumps on stage to take the award like she’s retrieving bills from the mailbox. I probably don’t have a right to do this, but I cringe when werewolf boy thanks the writer of the series.

Final thoughts: Well, Music Television, you’ve reinforced that I’m too old for you, you have no soul, your audience has no taste, and movies kinda suck lately. The MTV Movie Awards seems to have devolved into a vulgar Kid’s Choice Awards. I feel there’s a lesson to be learned here if one were to trace the network’s path from a supposed symbol of defiant youth to a marketing-obsessed purveyor of mediocrity, but I fear I’ve grown too stupid in the last couple of hours to make the connection. Perhaps that was their plan all along.

Rundown of the Burning Man Desert Arts Preview 2012

The event had the feel of an informal breakout room presentation. Though not a costume party, there were touches of playa chic in more than a few attendee’s attire. A table in the back served wine in clear plastic cups. As far as burners go, this was definitely not the sound camp club scene. It was an older crowd, many of whom I suspect were at Burning Man in the 90s pre-BRC. These were the people who invite you into their camp off the street to have some BBQ tri-tip.

The whole thing had a certain down-home respectability. If I walked away with anything, it was the understanding that the yearly themes are not for the casual partygoer to bitch about when they can’t “participate” with a cleverly purchased costume.

The themes, arbitrary as they might be, are for the architects who sculpt the skyline of our playground with the stuff of their dreams.

Anyway, here’s the rundown. Please pardon the switch to present tense. Just think of it as a flashback:

Neverwas Haul: Delightful couple Kathy O’Hare (aka Lady Impetuous) and Shannon O’Hare (aka Major Catastrophe) dish on improvements to the Burning Man staple, including an interior motorized lift, updated Camera Obscura, and some engine repair (thank God!)

In camp, they will have a steampunk forest consisting of metal trees with gears and a video of Jules Verne movies. It’s worth noting that Major Catastrophe is the best dressed person in attendance. His combination cap, epauletted coat and steampunk goggles make him look like a supporting character in Escape from New York (I just can’t think of which.)

http://neverwashaul.com/

Anubis: 50’ sculpture of the Jackal god, Anubis. A spiral staircase in the back will lead to the head, which will offer a panoramic view. Dan Fox (whose birthday is today) also worked on 2011’s Trojan Horse, which he praises as a great experience he wanted to repeat.

http://www.indiegogo.com/ANUBIS2012

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anubis/109956135785586

EGO: The word EGO in large letters. Laura Kimpton, creator of the Celtic Forest, also crafted the big words OINK, MOM  and the iconic LOVE (which will apparently be featured in a new Rolling Stone).

EGO will be 20’ x 16’ made out of wood and plaster molded trophies, animals and religious relics. 150 different molds were created. Kimpton emphasizes the creed “We are an animal, but we’re not the #1 animal on Earth.” She tells a nice anecdote about meeting someone who introduced herself as the “world Scrabble champion” who mistook her Celtic Forest for being anti-intellectual.

The word will burn at midnight after the Man. The trophy pieces that don’t burn will be free for people to pick up and take as souvenirs.

http://laurakimpton.com/portfolio/installations/big-words/#1

Zoa: Jessica Hobbs of the Flux Foundation impressively showcases her background as a marine biologist. All named after jazz greats, “Billie”, “Etta” and “Nina” will have sound-reactive lighting at night. The three, wooden seedpods will burn on Wednesday, undergoing a metamorphosis and revealing pedal-powered interactive fire sculptures.

(NOTE: Props to Hobbs for using the word “xenomorph” to describe her creations.)

http://fluxfoundation.org/portfolio/zoa/

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fluxfoundation/flux-presents-zoa-a-metamorphosis-in-three-parts

The Circle of Regional Effigies

34 wooden effigies from around the world will be burned Thursday at 9pm:

  • Arboria (Sacramento)
  • Baby Bon Temps Brûlée (New Orleans)
  • Blukis (Lithuania) – negativity-absorbing stump
  • The Boston Cod Piece (Boston)
  • Cargo Train (Great Lakes)
  • CarouShell (San Diego) – a working carousel of sea creatures
  • Chords of Wood (Orange County) – a fire-spewing guitar
  • CowFed (Houston) – giant bull
  • Dragon Lotus (Colorado)– will contain giant moving leaves
  • Fertilitree (East Bay)
  • The Gateway (Reno)
  • Grow Fourth (Portland) – I’ll be honest. I don’t remember seeing this at the presentation, and I already deleted my recording. It’s still on the official page, so I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt and list it anyway.
  • Growing Pains (Midwest)
  • Happy as a Clam (Maine) – giant clam
  • The Hatchery (Dallas)
  • Jozi (South Africa) – 20’ fertility doll
  • Kokopelli Rising (New Mexico)
  • Le Portage (Montreal) – two small versions of the Man holding a canoe
  • Life Tree – (Vancouver) – climbable double helix
  • Missed Conceptions (Tallgrass)
  • Naglfar (Sweden/Denmark) – Viking ship
  • National Treasure (DC Metro) – 20’ graffiti decorated Washington Memorial
  • The Nowhere Bell Tower (UK)
  • opalEssence (Idaho) – aka the Space Potato
  • PsychoPhilia (Victoria, BC)
  • Rise of the Planet of the Moose (Toronto) – version of the Moose Man from the regional burn
  • The Roeblingagon (NY) – a climbable interpretation of the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Secret of the Bees (Utah)
  • Seraphim (LA)
  • Stella Octangula (Mid-Atlantic/Philadelphia)
  • Tendrillar Woods (Seattle)
  • The Twisted Upright House (SF/North Bay) – a climbable lighthouse sitting on a bed of driftwood
  • Valley of Heart’s Delight (South Bay) – a climbable water tower “harkening back to the days of farm country”

Some of these will be featured at Precompression on June 30th.

http://www.burningman.com/installations/art_core.html

The Burning Man Project – Harley Dubois of the Borg explains the timing of Burning Man’s move from LLC to nonprofit. She gives a very succinct Powerpoint presentation listing their ambitions outside of the playa:

  • -Support the regional burns
  • -Contribute to SF by helping local artists, engaging communities and partnering with the Black Rock Arts Foundation and others
  • -Big art for small towns – namely Reno, Fernley and Gerlach
  • -Commissioning Fly Ranch as an art park, nature park and/or a possible location for a regional burn.

http://www.burningmanproject.org/

http://blackrockarts.org/

Otic Oasis 2.0 – Melissa Barron and Gregg Fleishman. Fleishman, who has an obvious love of geometry, is a man of few words tonight. Barron, also known as Syn, more than makes up this. Otic Oasis is a 38-ft, climbable, honey comb-like structure made of interlocking pieces of wood. It will be removed on Friday, not burned.

http://www.greggfleishman.com/

http://www.oticoasis.org/

Burn Wall Street – Otto Von Danger, a creator of 2010’s Megatropolis, completely steals the show. He promises that we will feel we are in physical danger when his structures burn on Friday night. Von Danger recommends we all wear astronaut pants.

I had heard of the Burn Wall Street project before, but I’m genuinely awed by the levels upon levels of satire and symbolism that’s going into this endeavor. It’s obviously politically charged and a somewhat devisive work. The creativity behind the sentiment is what makes it a searing message (no pun intended) beyond most Burning Man art and political statements that I’ve seen. Make no mistake: Otto Von Danger is not a rabid, confused hippie. He’s a mastermind.

Some basics include:

  • The oversized Bill of Rights on the ground that will be donated to an Oakland school if it doesn’t get ruined by visitors trampling on it.
  • The Bank of UnAmerica – you can bring your real-life foreclosure notices to post on the wall and see burned with everything.
  • Goldman Sucks – contains a giant jungle gym where you can climb the corporate ladder for the highest view of the playa.
  • Merrill Lynched –  will house 4 large murals and screen projections of riot footage at night.
  • Chaos Manhattan – bank tellers will charge you gift schwag for walking, breathing, etc.

Von Danger is obviously very passionate about the piece and doesn’t hesitate to use the podium as a call for socioeconomic change. The entire project will cost $100,000.

http://burnwallstreet.net/

http://www.facebook.com/BurnWallStreet/info

Temple of Juno – David Best, the man who needs no introduction, throws out a few specs about this year’s Temple: 75% recycled wood. A 100-ft “or maybe 200-ft” wall with benches on the inside. He doesn’t say much about the inspiration behind the design to us, but I imagine that’s been documented elsewhere.

David Best a soulful man who doesn’t seem too comfortable explaining his work to an audience tonight. I don’t blame him. He truly speaks through his work.

Apparently, Best is also a grief magnet. I swear he has more stories about people who’ve lost loved ones to suicide than anyone outside of the mental health sector.

http://www.templecrew.org/juno.html

http://laughingsquid.com/the-temple-of-juno-at-burning-man-2012-by-david-best/

***UPDATE*** – Burn Wall Street was pretty disappointing. It looked and sounded great on paper, but  up close it was bland and seemingly unfinished. It also burned a day late, which I didn’t get to see. I’ll more into it when I finish my BM retrospective. I just feel like I should at least address it here because I spoke so highly of the piece.

 

SF’s Deepest Dives – Part 1: The 21 Club

Image

21 Club is just a two-block stroll from that pedestrian heart of the city, Powell Street Station. Now this is only a block or two into the Tenderloin, but it looks, smells and feels much deeper. The corner of Taylor and Turk is a busy little intersection with an artfully painted crosswalk.

It’s about 6pm and I’m with two British drinking buddies, Tom and Emily, who have just come from the Financial District. There happen to be about a half dozen, large black citizens in worn black hoodies conversing in front of the building. I briefly wonder what percentage of San Francisco’s politically correct, yogalates crowd would invent an excuse to walk the other way. We are, of course, ignored as we pass between them and enter the establishment.

[FYI: Your humble narrator is indeed half-black himself, but this is irrelevant.]

There are 7 people sitting at the bar and our entrance attracts everyone’s attention for a moment. (Cue the record scratch) It’s an ethnically mixed crowd, the average age being maybe 50. Most of them have a face like Danny Trejo, including the one woman. A basketball game is playing on a 21” screen in the corner. Boston vs. Miami, I think.

Emily asks Frank, the bartender/owner who looks much healthier than his clientele, if she can put her bike in the corner. We find seats in front of the window with a clear view of Taylor St. There is a stack of Philippines Today in the corner of the window. The cover reads CORONA GUILTY. Embarrassing, I have no idea what this means.

[FYI: Your humble narrator is indeed part Filipino himself, making this relevant.]

Tom orders us drinks and I take note of the mishmash of things that decorate the 21 Club.

The windows are lined with SF 49er’s/Bud Lite hangers (the kind of advertisements that double as Super Bowl decorations). There is an antique rifle above the center of the bar. A sign reads CAUTION: RATTLESNAKES HAVE BEEN SIGHTED IN THE ROUGH.

Another reads NO DOGS OR IRISHMEN ALLOWED ON THESE PREMISES. Babbleheads, masks, trinkets, a worn Hoobastank bumpersticker.

The bar itself displays Seagrams 7, Bacardi, Smirnoff, Old Crow, Jim Beam, Cutty Sark. The most top shelf libation appears to be Hennessey. It is literally on the top shelf.

Tom points out that Frank is from Guam. Incidentally, a variety of cans of SPAM decorate the center shelf. I can’t tell if some of them are international versions or just store brands. Emily says that the woman at the end of the bar doesn’t seem to like her.

On the wall near the bathroom is a framed two-page spread. The section is Tenderloin Stars. The title of the article reads “Frank, Barman of the 21 Club.” http://www.studycenter.org/test/cce/issues/119/ccx.119-cp4&5.pdf

On the other side of the room is a small framed article from Esquire Magazine with the title “Best Bars of 2008” presumably featuring 21 Club. http://www.esquire.com/features/best-bars-in-america/best-bars-list-0608

There are several books nearby including Physician’s Desk Reference, Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding and, to our amusement, Glenn Beck’s “Arguing with Idiots.”

Tom points out the more-prominently displayed book “Lost in America: A Dead End Journey.” It was apparently written by one of the regulars.

An ambulance wails down Turk St. The front door of the bar is open and we all have front row seats to the siren symphony.

It’s at this point I notice that those of us inside the bar are not the only ones with front row seats. There is a man standing outside the window with his face nearly touching the glass. His ratty, faded black hoodie is unzipped exposing his bare chest. He is staring at Emily like a shipwreck survivor peering at a glass of water. There’s nothing too provocative about her attire, unless you count the slightly low cut of her T-shirt. The man outside apparently does. I consider slapping the window, but I have no idea what this unpredictable wretch would do.

His G-rated peepshow is interrupted when he finally notices the 6’2” Tom sitting next to her. And just like that, the man’s demeanor shapeshifts before my eyes. He suddenly smiles and waves bashfully at Tom. He laughs and pantomimes a gesture of harmlessness as if to say “Oh, you know me. I’m just foolin’ around, boss!”

But he does not leave. He chugs the remainder of his King Cobra and slams the can on the sidewalk as if having scored a winning touchdown. He continues to peer into the window and as soon as Tom turns towards the TV, his focus slams back to the English girl sitting between us. His prison-rape gaze is so shameless and lustful I would not be surprised if there were a strange puddle on the sidewalk. I figure this a good time for me to go the restroom and let Tom be a hero is the demon should break the glass.

I take a moment to browse the fairly modern jukebox. It has the classics you’d expect: The Doors, Patsy Cline, Metallica. There’s also The Black Keys, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse and interestingly enough, IZ.

Aside from a strip of flypaper over the toilet, the men’s room is in better shape than I expected. The sink is surprisingly clean, but maybe nobody washes their hands. I decide to give my audio recorder to Emily later to critique the lady’s room.

When I come back, there’s a Snoop Dogg/Johnny Cash mashup playing over the speakers. The outdoor voyeur is thankfully gone. A man in a wheelchair is now talking to my friends. I can tell that he’s not a veteran or panhandler. He’s a clean-cut Maori fellow and his chair has nice, custom 25” aluminum rims. The kind you usually see on lowriders.

His name is Rodney and he’s part of the AXIS Dance Company, which integrates dancers with and without disabilities for modern contemporary performances. He’s apparently been dancing for 16 years. Rodney moved from New Zealand to SF 5 years ago and is quite knowledgeable about the Tenderloin. He’s a charming guy and our chance encounter with him is a testament to the unpredictability of the city.

The overall mood of the 21 Club has perked up. The people sitting at the bar are all chatting and laughing. They may not be strangers to hard times, but none of that matters now. Frank is in a good mood, not just working, but seemingly hosting. He’s clearly a shrewd but generous barman of a bygone era. He’s obviously seen a lot go down over the years while running his business here. I make a note to talk to him in more depth later.

At around 7:15 the smell of marijuana floats in. Almost like the sunlight shining through a gap in the clouds, a more hopeful-looking breed of pedestrians suddenly appear in clear contrast to the passersby we’ve watch for the last hour. People with fresh clothing, healthy strides and smooth complexions. People who appear to have jobs or classes they’ve just come from. What may be the first toddler I’ve seen all day walks in front of the door with his mother not 4 feet away.

The 21 Club’s charms are apparent for those willing to venture where yuppies and hipsters fear to tread. It’s a nostalgic retreat for the neighborhood folk to leave their troubles at the door.

And out the window, we see a rotund, middle-aged woman drop her shorts and take a piss on the sidewalk. In her hand is a bloody piece of tissue. On her face is the strained look of someone who has waited as long enough. Tom and I turn our heads out of courtesy and disgust. Emily has gone to the bathroom and missed this exhibition.

Michael Jackon’s  “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” is playing on the jukebox. After leaving a puddle and bloody rag on the sidewalk, the woman pauses in front of the open door to dance enthusiastically to the music.

And speaking of bodily functions, I’ll now cap off this edition of Deepest Dives with:

EMILY’S LADIES ROOM REPORT:

“Now here I am in the ladies’s room of the 21 Club. There is a notable population of animal life demonstrated by the flystrip hanging from the ceiling covered with what I can only describe… as a horde of small flies. There is a hole in the ceiling, which goes… I do not know where. Perhaps into a black void of stench. The artwork, on the other hand, uplifts this environment. Some quality of, why I would almost say, Cubist faces sketched throughout the facilities. On the wall in the toilet is inscribed something to keep up our spirits ‘Chin up. Cheer up. Panties down.’ That’s all for now. Thanks so much for tuning in. Bye bye!”

A mildly spicy sci-fi jambalaya (my mostly spoiler-free review of Prometheus)

I couldn’t help but enter the theater with high expectations for this one. Not just because “Ridley Scott’s return to science fiction” was so heavily touted, but because I also paid $21 to see it in IMAX 3-D.

Let it be known that I am a fan of IMAX, not of 3-D, but they have been largely inseparable thanks to the great (ahem) engineers of box office profit.

I stayed away from reviews and the spoiler-heavy TV spots.

The movie is as visually impressive as you might expect, and I can admit that the effects are worthy of the IMAX 3-D experience. The story, however, falls short of its own Herculean ambitions. It plays with religious and existential concepts and frightens you with many unexplained biological terrors but never ties it all together. Even the tie-in to the universe of Alien was unexciting for me and may have actually weakened Prometheus as a stand-alone film. Although he’s not the most consistently excellent storyteller, I really wanted more out of Sir Ridley Scott this time around.

Also, a couple of scenes were editted a little awkwardly. This tells me that, as usual, Scott plans to release an extended Director’s Cut. Unless there’s a completely different ending, I doubt it will be enough to make this feel like a complete film.

But Prometheus isn’t entirely without merits. The primary actors gave excellent performances, particularly Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as a long-suffering, yet idealistic archaeologist and Michael Fassbender as the indispensable and ambivalent android David.

I can’t praise the nuance of Fassbender’s performance enough. You find yourself liking David, who clearly aspires to be more than just a machine. Although he’s full of dandyism and courtesy, you are frequently reminded that he has no soul and thus, has the morality of a crescent wrench.

Rapace refreshingly brought some Lisbeth Salander-intensity to the role of Elisabeth Shaw. The movie’s more suspenseful scene was powered by her solo A-game performance. It was unfortunately a suspense that the rest of the movie sorely lacked.

Charlize Theron smoldered with alpha-female authority as the curt corporate bigwig the way a block of dry ice emanates fog. She was impressively understated.

Idris Elba was decent as the captain of the titular Prometheus, but I felt the British actor was slightly over-exaggerating his blue-collar American schtick.

Guy Pierce gave a brief but excellent performance under a ton of old-man make up, but his appearance in the movie is baffling. I expected much more use out of his character considering the trouble they underwent to age the actor so convincingly. This is indicative of my biggest problem with Prometheus: it’s spends too much time creating mysteries and not enough time solving them.

I wish that this movie were as smart as it wants to be. I feel like movie audiences need smart stories, but smart science fiction is necessary for several reasons. One is that Hollywood needs to stop spoon-feeding us multimillion dollar, alien invasion, explosion-porn based on toys and board games.

We need more movie like Moon with Sam Rockwell. It had an intriguing, solid story regardless of its low key trappings. Hell, I even liked Pandorum, despite that it’s third act resembled a Milla Jovovich flick. It may have under-performed, but Pandorum maintained a suspenseful atmosphere fueled by the fear of everything that can go horribly wrong in outer space. Its final act surprised me and finished with a satisfying conclusion.

The fact that Ridley Scott and his writers (one of whom wrote for Lost) couldn’t meet the same level of storytelling with several times the budget is more foreboding than Prometheus’s ominous trailers. I’m afraid Sir Ridley’s losing his touch.

The movie still gets a B- (matinee). I suppose that’s only disappointing because we all wanted an A this time.

UPDATE: In hindsight, I give it a C.