Monday, January 15, 2007

Blood, Sweat and Tapirs

I’ve always had mixed feelings about New Year’s Resolutions. On one hand, it can only be a good thing to have a cold, hard stare at the year ahead and set yourself some goals. On the other hand, you don’t really need one special day to outline some plans. Self-improvement works all year round!

Nevertheless, at the end of a year, I tend to have a flick through my almost-spent diary and have a last glance at what happened during the previous 52 weeks. 2006 was a quiet year for me in some ways. My social calendar was anorexic. Hardly saw any movies. Didn’t see my friends or take my wife out as much as I would have liked. Sure, there are valid reasons for some of that – time, money, circumstances…

But sometimes, it’s just a matter of inertia. Not making the most of fallow time that ends up being frittered away on the inconsequential and the unsatisfying. In 2007, I want to address that. This means getting of my ass and Doing. Rather than letting the minutes of my life slip away, I’m keen to fill my time as much as I can.

With that in mind, I’ve been forcing myself through the wind, the cold and the rain to get myself to cinemas when I have a couple of hours to spare. So last Sunday afternoon, I dragged myself to see Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.

Before I get into that, let’s think about Mel for a second, because I think it’s important to separate the art from the artist. The fact that John Wayne was known to espouse a belief in white supremacy doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of Rio Bravo or The Shootist. Charlton Heston’s role as a spokesman for the National Rifle Association doesn’t taint the pleasure I take from Touch of Evil or Planet of the Apes. And just because Mel Gibson is an alcoholic anti-Semite with a penchant for referring to female police officers as “sugartits” doesn’t automatically contaminate the hypodermic of adrenalin fired straight into my tear ducts by his latest directorial effort Apocalypto.

Now, I was never particularly enamoured of The Passion of the Christ. I respected it and maybe even admired it a little. It’s an ambitious piece of work. But I sure as hell didn’t like it. Brutal and self-indulgent and heavy-handed. I can live with the first two. I’ll only tolerate the latter if you’re Oliver Stone.

But Apocalypto? What a fine, fine movie. I didn’t expect that.

On one level, a cautionary tale about the end of a civilization that destroys itself from within before being pillaged from without. The other level is that of a relentless chase movie through the Mesoamerican jungle. Mel liberally splashes the screen with gore, and I don’t mind that one bit. I’d go into more detail, but this one should be sampled with as little pre-game build-up as possible. AKA says “Check it out”.

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