Saturday, May 23, 2009

Let's talk about... Student of the Week.

In the fifth grade I had a teacher named Mrs. Alexander. I can remember my teachers names all way back till about fourth grade by this point and I'm not sure how far back other people can remember but considering I'm about 21 and I don't blank back a good... ten years now, I'd say I'm doing pretty good.

But I was talking about Mrs. Alexander.

I'm talking about her because like most primary school teachers, she had an activity that was meant to boost her pupils' self esteem by choosing one amongst them to become student of the week.

Ah, student of the week. It was a hell of a title because it implied that whoever was chosen was the most special of them in the entire class room, nay the school, NAY THE WORLD! Could you imagine how special that student would be? It wouldn't matter how inferior you may have viewed yourself in the mirror or how other students would treat you on the playground or at lunch or during group time. That shit was unimportant! Being student of the week transcended that trivial grade school nonsense that would make other kids feel bad about themselves. It was magnificent!

A young Ramon Villalobos would hide his anticipation for weeks and then months until it was his turn to take his rightful place in front of the Recess lines. He would daydream while other students got to keep a journal of the dirty stuffed mascot (Bernie) that the student of the week would take in his or her charge about the far more magnificent journal entries he would transcribe.

There would be no mind-numbingly mundane adventures of a family trip to grandma's house or an afternoon at the park watching siblings play baseball in the the inconsequential town little leagues. That was kid stuff! A young Ramon Villalobos thought tirelessly about the things he saw on TV and transpose himself into the blatant Blair Witch Project rip off specials about aliens and come up with a fantastical adventure that would blow the entire fifth grade class away. It would come time for them to write special compliments about him and draw pictures for him and the other students would pontificate about how cool he was, how funny he was, and of course, how good of a friend he was. Sure, when it was time to write compliments for his classmates, there was always a feeling of awkwardness as he always got the sneaking suspicion that the other kids in class didn't like him or trust him. He would scribble something and try to relate his compliment to the story they had shared in front of class. He'd write, "That sounded fun. You're[sic] story was good. You are a good student of the week. I hope you have a good week last week." Like the unintelligible little liar the public school system had brought him up to be and hope whoever was on the receiving end of the compliment didn't notice his insincerity too much. That they didn't realize that the story sounded boring, that it was awful, that he or she was in fact a HORRIBLE student of the week, and that he could give a crap what kind of week they had. He'd squirm as they would receive a bound book of compliments that following Monday of class and it was time to choose a new student of the week.

How Mrs. Alexander appointed a student of the week always seemed to mystify me. It was seemingly random but such an important decision could not have been handled with such indifference. She would have been toying with fate to choose a name out of the hat. No, there was a method of her madness that always evaded me. Until, of course, I was chosen. At that point I understood that with two months left of school, she had ran out of truly special students and was scraping at the bottom of the barrel before she could end the charade and rack her brain for other ways to fill an elementary school week that could keep the students busy while she sat in a corner wondering why she had a doctorate in Mathematics. I remember finally being chosen after my equally uninteresting friends and even after Anthony, one of the bigger class misfits. My only saving grace was that I was not chosen after Heather, easily the biggest reject in the fifth grade. No, two months away from the cut off point was good enough for me.

Unfortunately, the stuffed animal adventure was not in the cards for me and I had to hope my own natural charisma would shine through in my less than exciting retelling of my week spent with Bernie. To this day, I forget exactly what happened with me and that damned sack of disease ridden cotton but I do know that whatever it was that happen, I didn't sell it to the best of my abilities. I was dead on my feet, floundering as a sea of fifth graders stared at me bored, heads tipping back and I tried to pass the time allotted for student of the week.

And I did.

The real tragedy of my tenure as student of the week was still to come though. I knew that I should expect my book of compliments to be filled with thoughtless gestures, obligatory kudos that came with being the student of the week but I didn't earn through being a legitimately interesting person. But that's not really what happened. Yes there were a few dollar store sentiments (the same I scribbled out on a weekly basis) in the stack of recycled line paper, but to my surprise a number of students commented about what a great artist I was. How fantastic I could draw. How they wished they had my talent.

But I didn't buy it.

I probably never will.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Let's Talk About... Star Trek

So I saw Star Trek today and usually I'm not one to go all, "Let me share my feelings about this movie I like so much." But what can I say? I'm compelled. And, a little tired and lacking the proper restraint to just turn off my computer and go to sleep.

The movie starts off to a pretty great start. There is an Enterprise looking ship named the Kelvin investigating a weird lightning storm disturbance that they can't explain and onboard is none other than George Kirk. Who? Well that's Captain Kirk's dad who seems to be every bit bad ass as Kirk without any of the charisma but who the hell is Captain Kirk without charisma? (coughRikercough) Nobody that's who. Despite my having no real feelings for this dude who takes helm of this vessel after the first captain is all "Oh no, this Romulan dude with a face tattoo just stabbed the shit out of me," the scene that follows of his pregnant wife evacuating the ship whilst giving birth to her son and talking to George as he stays aboard to fight as his ship gets epically owned by those aforementioned tattooed Romulans is pretty damn moving. It could have been the over the top score or the flashy colors that were quite frankly, blowing my mind, but I thought it worked tremendously well and I got a little choked up as little James Tiberius Kirk was being named and his father knew he was right about to die.

From there, we get some shots of little Kirk stealing his step dad's car and rocking out to Beastie Boys and a scene where little Spock beats up a bunch of dickish little Vulcans for talking about his mom. You'd think its the 90s but it's not. Then of course, they age to right where they should be so the movie can get on with it. I'll be a little more ambiguous about the plot from here because that's entering some mighty dangerous spoiler territory and in the interest of those of you who want to watch this movie based on what I have to say about it (ha!)

What I will say though, is that walking into this movie, I had a pretty fair amount of faith in Zachary Quinto as Spock but I knew my enjoying this movie would be totally dependent on what I thought of Chris Pine as Captain Kirk. If he sucked this movie would suck and if he rocked this movie will rock and I am pretty happy to say his performance much more closely resembles the latter option. Yeah, I'm sold. Chris Pine fucking ruled in this movie. Without doing a lame Shatner impersonation, Pine walks a very fine line between confidant and asshole and manages to be likable whilst getting his ass handed to him in nearly every fight of the movie and being a dick poor little Spock. It was the small things like the way he tilted his head and gave really breif pauses and subtle but odd emphasis to certain words that made him acceptable as Captain Kirk as the real thing is off doing the Raw Nerve and is not... you know... a spry twenty year old that is going to jump around shit like he's Batman the way Chris Pine does.

Which brings me to another thing I liked about this movie. Star Trek has been done a thousand times by now but I must confess, only The Original Series and Next Generation did I feel were worth my time. I felt like beyond that, they just tried too hard to be fresh and new and when I saw ads that said this isn't your grandpas star trek and star trek isn't JUST for nerds any more I got a bit uneasy in the stomach. Roger Ebert's big criticism of the movie seemed to stem from the fact that where the Original Series offered a lot of interesting moral dillemas, social commentary, and philisophical view points expressed in the form of oddly painted humanoid aliens, the new movie has shit blowing up. And that's a valid point but I don't think this movie was without its "ideas." Like the first Planet of the Apes, this Star Trek film seems to have a pretty strong question about free will and becoming who you are supposed to be. Sure, that's been done to death, but how many times has it been done with lasers and people with pointy ears? Don't answer that. Ebert seems to have been liking a lot of movies where the characters spell out the points of the movies in these big budget movies that are supposed to appeal to geeks. He loved The Dark Knight where they speak like characters in a Greek tragedy and pretty bluntly express their motivation which I can overlook because I get they aren't doing it for me. He similarly loved Watchmen for spelling out in plain speech all of its big ideas that were in the comic book but I'm not sure always needed to be said in a live action movie. Then again, a lot of the Watchmen stuff went right over a lot of people's heads anyways so maybe it wasn't so plain... Nevertheless, Star Trek brings more ambiguity to these ideas and I applaud them for giving the audience a tad bit more respect than to talk down to them like seven year olds the way I felt when Joker would break into a "we are so totally alike, Batman" monologue.

The point is, this movie adds a lot of the action and the shit exploding that the other series never really were able to have because of technology or budget issues or lack of vision or whatever. They just never had it and because the movies were a little drier than say, Star Wars, I think a lot of people rightfully couldn't get into it.

There are a lot of mythos to Star Trek that I think makes people more hesitant to watch movies called Star Trek but J.J. Abrahams and crew seem to wrap everything up in a shiny package and still maintain a lot of the elements that those damn Trekkies will love. I'm not the biggest fan relative to those crazed lunatics that get parodied all the time, but in the short time I've been into Star Trek, I've gotten pretty damn well acquainted with it and this movie does not let that part of me down.

So anyhow, Instead of trying to write a coherent review (not my strong point) Instead, I'll make a list of things that were awesome about it.

- Simon Pegg as Scotty. I was going into this with the totally biased standpoint that this would be the highlight of the movie to me because I love Scotty and I love Simon Pegg so... its just put two and two together, isn't it? He was just the same drunken, crazed, lunatic genius bastard that I expected to and wanted to see.
- Kirk destroying that Kobayashi Maru test, I didn't see that coming and it had the audience laughing like crazy.
- Spock Prime's first spoken line in the movie. Holy crap, I got a little teary eyed... but that might have been just because I had other things going on in my head.
- Checkov tweaking out and a bunch of people saying his name so it sounded like "jackoff"
- Sulu being a bad ass. Very rarely does fencing come in handy. I think when you have a super bad ass folding sword, and you are fighting on a platform that is shooting a giant lazer underneath you it just adds a little more drama to the occasion.
- Captain Kirk getting a proper heroes quest. Because every iconic character needs his very own hero quest Joseph Campbell style.
- That big freaking Romulan ship. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the Romulan's with their cloaking devices used to be a little more subtle than creating massive black holes that their massive jacked up space ship that was constantly turtle-poking around in. Nice touch, doing a direct 180.
- McCoy. That is all.
- Not a Klingon in sight. Don't get me wrong, I love Klingons. They are such violent assholes, how can you not love them? It's just... they are so the stereotypical Star Trek bad guy. Romulan's are a little more off the map and won't turn off the people who probably associate Klingons too much with the overly geeky Trek image.
- Spock beating the living crap out of Kirk. He was just mad because he got so dissed by Kirk. There is a reoccurring trend where if you talk about Spock's mom, he has to go street justice on your ass from now on.
- Winona Ryder not getting beamed properly. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! What the hell you creepy little Russian!? I thought "You can do dis!"
- That obligatory Red Shirt Casualty. He was sooo dispensable.
- San Francisco getting jacked up. They just can't stay away from Cali, these space dudes.
- The smug satisfaction that this movie looks technically more impressive than ANY Star Wars movie by far and Star Wars has very little breathing room to make a legitimate rebuttal. OWNED.

So anyways, yeah. That's what I thought of the new Trek movie after like a little thinking and no sleep. Totally deserved its positive Tomatometer rating. I'll leave you with this.