The Life of Zi, aka the zombie flick

Turns out, a zombie apocalypse might be the only way to end the Israel-Palestine conflict. That’s one lesson learned from Brad Pitt’s fantastic World War Z. But can Pitt save the zombie genre from audience fatigue? I doubt it — not while he’s saving the world and raising all those kids. So the job falls to me. Today’s blog: Shelley’s zombie movies. (No WWZ spoilers.)

This weekend brought a movie duo: World War Z and The Life of Pi. Seeing both in a 48-hour period is a bit like eating a hotdog basted in curry. There’s something odd about the combination, and it sparked a long, confusing, and circular conversation. (The more my stomach thinks about curried hotdogs, the more I think about planning a dinner party. Yum.)

So I wanted to write about The Life of Pi. Remember, English majors, Pi is the famous math number that never ends. Pi is the protagonist’s nickname.

My deep thoughts … (long breath) … The use of the name Pi reflects the story’s religious thread in which God and the universe, like Pi, the number, not the person, are never ending; and the story illustrates Pi’s question about why God would dump into His own son into a life with miracles but also tremendous suffering, and somehow the answer is related to suffering bringing beauty and peace; and then there’s the modern day Noah’s Ark; and choosing faith without proof; and the link between man and beast; and subtext about the Garden of Eden; all told within the framework of magical realism and–

Then my head exploded.

Instead, I chose Brad Pitt’s World War Z for today’s blog. No spoilers. If you can’t trust a childrens book writer, who can you trust?

Here’s why WWZ is a great film. There’s more movie, less zombie. You’ll still get your fix of flesh-eating terror. But WWZ is the big picture zombie movie. Instead of focusing on a couple of strangers trapped in a mall, fighting the walking dead, WWZ uses wide-angle lenses. How would society fall? How would our institutions respond? How quickly would scientists become top dogs, bumping football players and the Kardashians into a boiling vat of meaninglessness?

(Yes, the Walking Dead has its own big-picture view. Yes, WWZ the movie throws WWZ the book out the window. Just work with me here, ok?)

So then I wondered just how much ghoulish entertainment we can take. Are zombies destined to be the next vampire craze, where the only remaining plot twist involves a handsome family of vegetarian zombies, one of whom falls in love with a frail virgin named … (copyright?) … Nell.

Someone, some noble and brave artist, has to break the zombie rules and reinvent the genre. That someone is probably not me, but let me get the conversation started.

“Shelley’s Zombie Movies”

1. In my zombie movie, the beasts can only be killed if they’re shot in the ring finger on the right hand. (Am I the only fan bored with the blow-to-the-head rule?)

John: Face down the zombie, Roger. Nail him in the ring finger! Right hand! Hurry, Roger, hurry!

Roger: uh … my right or his right?

John: Just do it or you’ll die!

Roger:  uh … see, we’re facing each other so I’m unclear whether you mean I shoot his right hand, which is my left, or shoot his left hand, which is my AAAAAAHHHHHHH. HE GOT ME. DON’T LET ME BECOME ONE OF THEM!!!!

2. In my other zombie movie, zombies can be cured only if they eat the people they love most in the world. When they return to human state and realize they ate loved ones, the former zombies are so heartbroken and flat, they turn into figurative zombies. The movie’s really an exploration of love and relationships, like Beaches or The Bodyguard.

3. In my other zombie movie, a young boy stumbles upon a crazy solution: zombies freeze when they hear the Chicken Dance. The boy spends the whole movie trying to convince Our Nation’s Leaders that his idea works. Then world is free, the boy’s a hero, and  the Chicken Dance becomes our national anthem, an anthem with no words, just arm flapping and clapping. Polka displaces hip hop on Top 40 radio.

4. In my other zombie movie, the infestation is a real-life pandemic. Pharmaceutical companies get government contracts for zombie vaccines and cures. Execs charge a fortune for the drugs. The rich, who own shares and control the market through stock derivatives, are immediately saved, but the poor will die unless they apply for huge bank loans they’ll never be able to pay. Congress launches an investigation into banking and investing practices to appease the public. Then, one-percent of the surviving population will develop Guillain-Barré syndrome from the vaccine, leading to the world’s largest class action lawsuit in which lawyers get 90 percent of the settlement.

Oh, then Michael Moore will make a documentary about the whole mess, Capitalism 911: Bowling for Zombies. Bill O’Reilly will accuse Moore of “hating America.” Life will be normal, at least on FOX TV.

5. My other zombie movie is a sequel comedy. The Center for Disease Control hires Shawn (of Shawn of the Dead) to manage the U.S. zombie outbreak after his success in Great Britain. Trust me, it’s very, very funny and very, very British, because all the moms are called “mums.”

See why Brad Pitt needs me?

And did I mention WWZ’s twist ending is nuclear war with only the zombies surviving? Just kidding, and I’m sorry. It’s tasteless to joke about movie spoilers.

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