There are those who, from an early age, show exceptional God-given talent and skills or are driven by a strong inner desire to achieve great things while on this Earth. They have their life’s path mapped out as a toddler and end up changing the world with their immeasurable contributions to humankind.
Then among us are those with dreams and aspirations, for the most part well intentioned; yet as changing and unpredictable as the seasons. I tend to find myself inhabiting the second group, not by choice, but by nature ... a sort of meaningful existence attention disorder.
Occurring at various unrelated times of my life, an endless list of goals has formed — from the whimsical and ridiculous to the unobtainable or incredibly satisfying. Along the way, I’ve dreamt of being a cowboy, a feature writer for MAD magazine or a paleontologist. I’ve aspired to play bass guitar in a funk band, become well known as a world famous hot dog push-cart vendor, or as a wood carver with a knack for whittling exquisitely detailed mahogany peg legs. Other pursuits have included being a well meaning husband, an uncommonly cool father, a poet (who didn’t know it), or a landscape design engineer. I have craved the renown I might garner as an abstract artist or a sought after pastry chef. As varied and wide ranging as that list is, there remains one career path yet untraveled ... that of a movie critic. I shall now attempt to rectify this oversight.
Let me state for the record that I am no Siskel. I am no Ebert. I wouldn’t even compare myself to Gene Shalit (though I would sell my soul to grow a Shalit moustache). I find it an almost appalling notion to sit in a musty and dark auditorium full of strangers who are less than shy about loudly vocalizing their inability to follow insipid dialogue and minor plot twists. Excluding the obligatory parental attendance at Disney animated films over the span of two daughters ... and making a concession for the 387 consecutive home viewings of “The Lion King” upon its release to VHS ages ago, the last movie I remember voluntarily attending (or enjoying) was “Driving Miss Daisy” back in 1989. I’ve been coerced into watching others since then, the most recent after my dear wife convinced me (with the help of a massive Hollywood ad campaign) to fork out some hard earned cash on “Captain Phillips.”
For those unfamiliar with the premise of the film, it was a stereotypically simple Hollywood rendering of an actual CNN story (of which the 24/7 news coverage obviously wasn’t enough for those who gorge themselves on the misfortune of others) concerning the capture of a cargo ship by Somali pirates in, of all places, Somali waters.
Tom Hanks plays the lead role as Captain Phillips, while affecting an unconvincing New England accent somewhere between Forrest Gump and Ted Kennedy. The first hour of the film plods along as Hanks drones on about how to recognize Somali pirates, how to elude Somali pirates, how to interact with Somali pirates, etc., while the remaining 74 tension-filled minutes elevates to a snail's pace as Hanks spends it bobbing in a lifeboat while being punched in the face and cursed at by (you guessed it) Somali pirates. On a positive note, the pirates were real actors and not stiffly animated computer-generated images.
And there you have it. Now that I’m an official film critic, I anxiously anticipate filling out next year's Academy Awards ballot. Until then, I think I’ll master the accordion or take up home dentistry.
Chuck Mason, a self-described opinionated wiseguy, resides in Princeton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.