Friday, December 24, 2010

The Almost Me

If I had been a boy, my name would have been Zachary. Zachary David. I like the name Zachary. It’s classic and modern at the same time. I don’t think names that start with “z” will ever go out of style. Only recently have I ever spent time pondering the nonexistent life of this almost-me. I think he—Zachary, I mean—would not have been too different from the actual me.

He has dirty blonde hair that changes shade with the seasons, just like mine. He has light brown eyes and a few freckles that only appear in the sun. His skin is fair but not pale, and he enjoys reading and Sudoku. He’s at least a little unstable, like me, but who isn’t? He was in band in middle school because his grandfather played the saxophone, and continued in high school because he’d fallen in love with making music.

He probably decided to learn to play guitar or drums somewhere along the line because he likes rock music and wants to impress girls. He’s never had a girlfriend though, because he’s a little nerdy and socially awkward. He hopes that when the right person comes along, he’ll know. He’s got a tough outer shell but he’s a softy on the inside. Don’t tell him I told you.

He’s a good older brother. Nobody messes with his little brother and sister without hearing from him. He makes good grades without having to work too hard. He’s stubborn and tenacious. He’s also got a caffeine addiction he picked up from his grandma.

He didn’t read the Thoroughbred series, so he doesn’t have a crazy obsession with horses. He likes dragons, though, and ninjas and pirates and other various hardcore things. He read the Alex Rider books, but felt no compulsion to watch the movie because he did not find the actor who plays Alex dreamy, even with his English accent. As a result, he did not waste a year of his life stalking said actor.

He wields the sword Sarcasm like an extension of himself, fluidly and precisely. He isn’t into purses, but he likes shoes. Guy shoes, you know. He skies and snowboards, but he likes snowboarding better. He doodles, but he doesn’t doodle flowers or horses; he doodles dragons and superheroes and spends time wondering what superpower he would pick if he were to one day get struck by lightning or fall accidentally into a vat of toxic waste. He knows neither of those things will ever happen.

That was Zachary, the almost-me. Perhaps he exists in some alternate reality somewhere. I hope you enjoyed getting to know him. I certainly did.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unstoppable: The Movie that Never Ends (Get it?)

Friday night, I went to see Unstoppable. I didn't really want to, but a bunch of my friends were going (and you know I'm extremely socially dependent), so I sucked it up and drove across town. My last-ditch effort to convince our group to buy tickets to The Tourist was unsuccessful, but I was armed with sour gummy worms and ready for whatever sap this heroic and emotional movie was sure to throw at me.

The movie started off as expected, setting up for disaster with the train full of kindergarteners, the careless workers, and the witty, good-looking hero learning the ropes on his first day on the job. Even the "mentor" archetype appeared, right on schedule, in Denzel Washington's character. Are you excited yet?

The train inevitably leaves the station, no one at the controls, no air brakes, and in full throttle. I didn't know it yet, but that was probably the most suspenseful part of the whole movie. There is a very limited number of times you can build up to something that turns out not to be the climax before your audience loses interest. Suspense takes emotional investment, and after more than one disappointment, we stop investing. Unstoppable plateaus so many times I couldn't even tell you what the actual climax was. I don't think there was one.

In fact, the train of kindergarteners completely disappears from the story after the first thirty minutes or so. It seems to me they must have met with some tragic disaster separate from the unmanned train and no one noticed because all the policemen and media in the state were wholly consumed by the next impending anticlimax.

Because it was not what I expected, my initial reaction was pleasant surprise; it was not an overemotional tearjerker. The problem was, however, that it wasn't over-anything. It was just boring. And with a movie about an out-of-control train (oh yeah, it's also carrying hazardous materials, in case your snorkel was still above all the clich├ęs) barreling forward at seventy miles an hour, it seems to me it took the director a conscious effort to disappoint. So, if that was the case, congratulations Tony Scott, you succeeded.