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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Independence Day (1996)

I so clearly remember seeing this one in the movie theater with my parents. And I even more clearly remember that seeing it made me late for rehearsal (my first community theater production! The Sound of Music! I was a nun!). I was simultaneously put out that I was late and terrified that an alien invasion was imminent.


My father was deep into UFO... let's say "literature" most of my childhood. Like most humans my age, I was traumatized by Unsolved Mysteries from a young age. I had recurring nightmares - really intense and seemingly real - about aliens coming into our house and coming for me. While I was primarily plagued with the idea of "greys" (and, honestly, still am), the aliens in Independence Day were pretty intense for my 12-year-old self. But somehow it became one of my favorite movies and a staple in the VHS and then DVD players. I got really into what I'd now categorize as "disaster porn" films. Specifically the Roland Emmerich variety. It's a very specific subgenre of disaster movies. Lots of casual death and destruction. And I just don't have the stomach for it anymore. I used to love the artistry of vast models used to depict chaos and destruction on a global scale. I chortled (ick) at explosions. And now... golly I just can't do it. I remember it started with the movie 2012 and it's just grown since. I had a hard time focusing on this viewing, and it's been a time honored July 4th tradition for a majority of my life now.


There's still a lot to love. It's the best Emmerich by far for characters. Bill Pullman's Tom Whitmore is surpassed only by Andrew Sheppard (of The American President) for me in terms of fictional presidents. And golly, he was dreamy. He's still pretty cute but I think Independence Day was the height. Imagine having a charismatic, empathetic, young father, war hero president! Imagine! His speech is, of course, amazing. I wish it hadn't been marred in the last couple days by a beer commercial but it holds up otherwise. I'm just enamored with such a motivated, thoughtful president.


Jeff Goldblum is, as ever, fabulous but I just wish we'd have always let him be weird. Let Jeff Goldblum be weird, you cowards! Seeing what he's capable of with Spielberg and Waititi, I only want deranged, eccentric sexpot Goldblum. We get glimpses here but it's never enough.


The other characters are, sadly, marred by the horrible sequel. But I always love Judd Hirsch. Always. And baby Mae Whitman is so adorable! Much appreciation to Ben for muttering, "prepare to die, obviously" during Mary McDonnall's death scene. We love a call back to Scott Pilgrim in this house.


This is one of the only really pro-military movies I still enjoy. I wanted to be a fighter pilot so badly when I was young (more on that when we reach Top Gun, I'm sure) and the military characters here are almost uniformly admirable. Robert Loggia!! Adam Baldwin before we knew he was a jerk! They're so very noble and so very bad at the logistics of literally anything. I kept getting distracted by the poor planning. Ah well.


On the heels of Jaws, it was funny to watch the attempt to make Randy Quaid's Russell character a modern-day (25(!!!?) years ago) Quint. Drunk but ineffectual. Working through his trauma but inflicting trauma on his kids as he goes. Just such an odd character to root for. His cartoonish sacrifice is... tonally odd. Good luck, buddy, indeed.


Wood, clay, acrylic paint. Base is 10"x10". "Could've Been at a Barbecue"





Takeaways:

-So this is one of those pieces that I was really annoyed with myself because I wish my brain would have chosen something easier. But in the early scenes, I found myself doing what I normally do in movies that feature presidents: checking out what art they chose to deck out the Oval Office. I'm always excited to see what real presidents pick, too. Fictional presidents almost always get a Frederick Remington statue (cannot blame them - pure American mythology) and it's almost always the Bronco Buster. I'm a huge fan of Remington's work and then I couldn't stop thinking about it. So... here we are.

-Problem being, Remington's work is really dynamic and this movie doesn't have a lot of human based action. Literally all we get are the attack in the autopsy room which is very blurry and then Will Smith punching and then kicking the alien. So I picked the kick and tried to dramatize it a little. I looked to women's soccer players because they have remarkable fluidity and grace in their kicks. I failed to capture that totally but it was a cool deep dive into terrific reference images of human musculature.

-I was really committed to doing this in bronze. I thought for sure I could buy a reasonably priced baby shoes bronzing kit somewhere but I couldn't find one. I'm pretty darn happy with the paint job.

-Humans are difficult, friends. I was mostly happy with the sculpt but lost some detail/clarity when it got baked. There was *no* good way to prop Capt. Hiller up in the oven without smudging bits. Ah well.


And here's a quick digital bit that was in my brain that I dashed off. I hope it makes you giggle like it made me giggle.


Next week is an incendiary device made of feelings and design work: The Fall. Have a great week!

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