Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Finally saw Apocalypto

We finally watched Apocalypto last night. It was unfortunately a marred library DVD so we periodically had to fiddle with the controls and change players when the scene froze, and missed some seconds of the action, of course right at the cliffhanger scenes.

Nonetheless, it was bleeping brilliant. Mel Gibson may be a tortured genius, but this proves he's a genius for sure.

Gibson used a cast of actors totally unknown in the States, many with no previous movie credits, and did the whole thing in Mayan with subtitles. That took huevos. (We will forego to quibble with the assumption that everyone in the culture area speaks the same language.)

Briefly, it's the story of a pre-Columbian Indian village in the jungle that is raided by a Mayan war party seeking captives, some for slaves but mostly strong young men for sacrifice on the top of a pyramid.

One young warrior named Jaguar Paw manages to hide his pregnant wife and young son in a hole in the ground, from which they cannot escape without help.

However, he is captured and taken for sacrifice. Due to an eclipse, plans change and he is instead used for cruel sport. Captives are released to run while being pelted with arrows, slingstones and atalatl darts. Jaguar Paw manages to escape, killing one Maya warrior in the process. A war band led by the dead warrior's father chases him through the jungle as he attempts to reach his family before they starve.

(This is a bit reminiscent of a classic Cornel Wilde film, The Naked Prey.)

The movie works well on many levels. It's visually beautiful, the action is heart-stopping, the human relationships are very well-portrayed in the time available, the costume and technology are accurate and the fight scenes are excellent. It's a bloody son-of-a-gun, but then, tell me how to make a movie about the Mayan culture at that point in history that isn't?

Apocalypto was nominated for Oscars in four areas, none of them for acting or directing. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe and a few other prestigious critics awards.

It actually won awards from the Central Ohio Film Critics Association and the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards.

What the heck gives? This was easily the best movie of all this year's nominees.

Well, that was the subject of discussion between my wife and I after the movie. She thinks it's because of Gibson's meltdown, with attendant disgraceful anti-Semitic tirade.

I think that while that certainly didn't help, a lot probably had to do with the fact that the film showed pre-Columbian Mayan culture as savagely brutal on a massive scale. Hollywood PC has it that only Western culture is irretrievably base and indigenous cultures live in idyllic harmony with nature.

Remember John Boorman's The Emerald Forrest? I actually liked it a lot, but the cloying screen message at the end "They know what we have forgotten" made me want to barf.

Gibson dared to remind audiences that history is that proverbial "nightmare from which we are only beginning to awake"* and that the history of the West (which intrudes into the scene at the very last minute), for all its brutality is actually an improvement on the normal state of the world throughout history. Now that's a frightening thought!

* That quote is attributed to James Joyce by one source I consulted. Another Irishman counter-commented, "History is a long nightmare during which I am trying to get some sleep."


  • At 10:04 AM, Blogger gun-totin-wacko said…

    Ah, but we must recall the words of the Great Historian Neil Young:

    "Hate was just a legend
    And war was never known"

    While he wrote this of the Aztecs, I'm sure it's every bit as true of the Mayans.

    And we know that Muslims and African tribes had nothing to do with slavery either.

    It would be nice if movies like this could be shown in high schools (or at least colleges), in order to show students that it's perhaps possible that other cultures were not inherently superior to that of the West.

    But that would of course be wrong.

    And I hope that other readers can detect the wee bit of sarcasm that runs through this comment.

  • At 6:29 PM, Blogger Galt-In-Da-Box said…

    Gibson's anti-Khazar remarks are attributable to his religious brain-filthying; the erroneous assertion (recently remade by Benedict) of Vaticanism that basically says "If you ain't one of us, you've missed the bus" to anyone other than traditionalist Papists.
    Western Civilization, though far better than the Mayan one, may well see something similar to it reappear during it's demise: The conservative revolution is over, a hollow-at-its-core, externalized movement that has been reassimilated into the socialist collective, and though many have speculated and theorized a "North American Union" coming, the reality is we are going to lose the western US to Mexico probably within the next 10 years, largely due to what Ayn Rand's John Galt referred to as "blank out" - the psychosis which develops when people deliberately refuse to see self-evident truth due to fear or "positive" delusions.
    Your diagnosis about political correctness is correct. This mental disorder is pandemic in the political, academic and entertainment realms where constant altruistic obsession has led to self-loathing and abuse. Given this almost completely willful ignorance and complacency, if individual attitudes do not change, we will be in a new dark age by the middle of this century.

  • At 9:25 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Let me guess, did you have a Catholic upbringing?

    I'm guessing because in my experience people with repressive Catholic (most often Irish)backgrounds tend to become militant atheists (often Objectivist) or flakey neo-pagans.

  • At 9:52 PM, Blogger Galt-In-Da-Box said…

    Actually Steve, by the time I was 11, I had been exposed to just about every asinine spiritualist delusion imaginable, including funny-mentalist Catholicism, during which time I realized you cannot separate politics from religion, because religion IS politics.
    One can however, steer clear of them by reading what they tout but never practice, and practicing it: The Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, &c. Ayn Rand merely helped me make sense of, cross-assemble and extrapolate from them.
    Most people have tiny comfort zones out of which they never venture. I simply bring mine along, expanding its borders through assimilation.

  • At 8:47 AM, Blogger gun-totin-wacko said…

    Actually, I was brought up Catholic too. 12 years of parochial schools, and as soon as I left for college, stopped attending mass.

    Now I'm an agnostic, hoping to start my own church someday... working name is The Church of Divine Democracy (awful, I know). It's all about Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Democracy is good, totalitarianism and Islam bad. Every thing else good.

    Maybe a "cult" would be a better name for it.

    At any rate, how does that affect the Catholic upbringing theory?

  • At 4:16 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Maybe I'd better elaborate, perhaps in a longer post.

    My observation has been that people raised by parents who use religion as a club ("Eat your veggies or God will punish you"), which tend to be either certain kinds of Catholic or fundamentalist Protestant - tend to react against it by becoming militant atheists or sometimes neo-pagans.

    A militant atheist is not, as Eric Hoffer noted, a non-believer but someone engaged in a desperate search for belief.

    Neo-pagans construct a totally ahistorical set of quasi-religious symbols, and present themselves as persecuted. For many it's a way a White kid can pose as an oppressed minority.

    At any rate, in either case they are not dealing with a bad religious experience, they are simply demonizing it.

  • At 6:47 PM, Blogger Galt-In-Da-Box said…

    BTW Steve, I broke down and rented Apacalupto this weekend. Your review was spot-on: It was a masterpiece, and the Hellyweird left could not see over their agenda to give it the kudos it deserved.

  • At 11:12 AM, Blogger Plastic Yank said…

    "Gibson's anti-Khazar remarks are attributable to his religious brain-filthying; the erroneous assertion (recently remade by Benedict) of Vaticanism that basically says "If you ain't one of us, you've missed the bus" to anyone other than traditionalist Papists."

    And this is erroneous how? ;-)


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