Letter to Mark

©2002 by Stephanie Lee Jackson


"Yellow Woman" by Sam Roloff

Ordinarily I would never, ever go to see a movie about L.A. street racing. Never. When the preview roared past at Cine Guanajuato, it reminded me of that poster all the freshman guys pasted up in their dorm rooms circa 1985, the one with the Corvette and the wine bottle and the female torso--streamlined, chiaroscuro--entitled Choices. Only with an obnoxious sound track and some explosions. Kathleen turned to me and said, Guy movie. Pass.

But there is not a lot to do in Guanajuato. We get two feature films a week, when the Uni doesn t have a film festival going, and the next closest theatre is in Leon, an hour away by car. Admission is twenty-five pesos, twenty on Mondays, which works out to about two-fifty $U.S. Otherwise, I must repeat, I would never have gone to see The Fast and the Furious. Certainly not if I were living in a real city, with real book stores and theatres and bars and cafes, not for nine-fifty.

My admittedly low expectations were realized, except when appeared. I was transfixed. Who is that man? The built, bald one with the construction worker accent and the fifty-word vocabulary? That is a Real Man. By the end of viewing this plotless piece of fluff, I was convinced that Dominic Torretto was the sexiest man alive, and that I was the only one who knew it. I hung around for the credits, and was devastated. Dominic Torretto s real-life name is Vin Diesel. Vin Diesel?

Blarrrgh. That is too much.That is the sort of name that eleven-year-old boys choose for the superhero they re going to grow up into. That is the sort of character that thirteen-year-old girls tape pictures of in their locker. That is the sort of thing that people grow out of. Nobody names their child Vin Diesel. I must be seriously regressing.

I went to see The Fast and the Furious again. It was discount night. The rickety plot construction, lack of character development and total absence of depth were even more glaringly obvious than they were the first time around. Dominic Torretto was still sexy, and a noticeably better actor than the rest of the cast. He made lines like You broik her hoart and I ll broik yor neck sound original and convincing. I went to the Internet Movie Database and surreptitiously typed in Vin Diesel.

Blarrrgh, again. I was not the only one who had noticed. The largest Vin Diesel is the Sexiest Man Alive Internet fan club has over eleven thousand members. One can download Vin Diesel photo galleries for pasting in one s locker. One can use Java applets to cybersmooch these photos, one can use different Java applets to beat up those scumballs who are not nice to Dominic Torretto onscreen. There are whole chat rooms devoted to him. It boggles the mind. Run away! Run away!

On the plus side, I noted that Mr. Diesel started life with the respectable tag of Mark Vincent, and only adopted his more egregious moniker while employed as a bouncer at a Manhattan night club, not while auditioning for a video game. I could see how this might be a forgiveable career move; the very cry of Yo! Diesel! We godda problem over here, must have subdued many a potential Situation. I also discovered that Mark wrote and directed a couple of critically acclaimed short films before gaining actual paid employment as Super Hero of the Month. His first short, Multi-Facial, was reviewed on IMDB as intelligent and thought-provoking; restores hope for the short-film genre. All right, then.

I was unable to stomach the idea of viewing TFATF third time, however, and the matter might very well have ended there. But then I found myself alone in a Monterrey hotel room one evening, breaking a return trip from spending Dia de Gracias in the Etas-Unis. The only thing to keep me company was a great big TV sporting Showtime, which the porter kindly turned on before leaving. I sat through The World Is Not Enough, reliving my high-school crush on Pierce Brosnan; as Bond, unfortunately, I found him too crude; I liked him much better as Remington Steele. I was about to desprender the TV and open up my Barbara Pym novel when I saw him. There he is! Oh God, this movie looks awful. Guess I ll have to watch it, though.

It is for other pens to enumerate the many and obvious logical and literary failings of the movie, Pitch Black. Well, though, I must say that I have personally experienced a total eclipse of just one sun, and it does not ever GET pitch black; the horizon stays afire the entire time, and the eclipsed state of affairs does not last longer than ten or fifteen minutes. Also, that there is no way that a deserted, almost water-less planet could sustain flesh-eating monsters in such numbers; also it is a pretty big coincidence that a bunch of people could crash-land on a random planet and immediately start breathing the air; also, oh, forget it. Suffice it to say that my disbelief was not suspended, except when Riddick was onscreen--chained to a chair, even. He seared the soul as the dangerous criminal who escapes and saves the day, sort of. Two-thirds of the way through the film I was bouncing on the bed, pointing at the screen, screaming Real Man! Real Man! aloud, as if any of my ex-boyfriends could have heard me.

I did, however, start to worry a bit about Mark. I wondered if he knows that if one bulks up muscle to such an extent, one has to maintain it forever, otherwise it all converts to fat; it doesn t just evaporate when one cuts a workout. I didn t want Mark to find himself one day up a dead-end alley, physique-wise. And his co-stars! That lead chick was pretty enough, in a generic sort of way, but had the personal magnetism of a dung beetle next to Riddick. There was a point in the film (I don want to give the plot away, but this much is safe) where Riddick harnesses himself to a bunch of heavy equipment and hauls ass across monster-ridden wasteland; it struck me as a metaphor for the way Mark was hauling the script along on the strength of sheer brute charisma. I was particularly impressed with the way he delivered his line, after dismembering a flesh-eating monster with his bare hands; It didn t know who it was FOCKin with. Hard to pull that one off, indeed.

Further perusal of IMDB proved that Mark will not be hurting for work in years to come; he s already signed for the sequel to Pitch Black, entitled something likeThe Aventures of Riddick, for some ungodly sum of money. Also he s got something else coming down the pipeline which stars John Malkovitch. So I can decently invite a friend to see it with me, if it ever comes to town. And, since I am no longer thirteen years old, I can get a handle on the idle fantasies of meeting Mark at a Manhattan literary function, and knocking his socks off with my sparkling wit and acrobatic dance improvisations. Anyone who dates Michelle Gonzalez is simply never going to look in my direction; I can accept that.

I can, however, deliver my own quiet plea, and post it on the Web, in the hopes that someday Details magazine will hire me and publish it. Mark, darling, you are the Real Thing. When you get to pick and choose your scripts, and you will, pick at least one or two by Mamet or Shakespeare; you can handle it, and Those Who Care will thank you for it. And if you have any say at all as regards leading ladies, go for a chick with chops as well as bone structure. Girls who have done duty on the cover of Seventeen magazine ought to be Right Out. I m thinking Gwyneth, I m thinking Penelope, I m thinking Isabella Rossellini if she were twenty years younger. I don t want to see you pushing against cardboard any longer. Do this, and I promise that when I move to Manhattan, I spend the ten bucks.

Back to Op-Ed