Volume 76, Number 30 | December 20 - 26, 2006

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Apocalypto” (-)

I am happy to report that Mel Gibson’s movie on pre-Columbian Indian civilization is a clinker. 

“Apocalypto” opens with a tranquil scene of a peaceful tribe on a hunting expedition.  Levity is directed at one warrior who has been unable to impregnate his wife and is apparently in need of the modern drug Viagra.  Suddenly, the peaceful village is overrun by a savage war party that burns huts, kills villagers, and captures men to sacrifice and women to rape.  A long chase scene takes place after one captured villager escapes.  Separated from his wife and son, he suffers the “Perils of Pauline,” and after a while his ability to run and avoid capture in spite of his wounds becomes unbelievable.  

I had expected to see a film about the great Mayan civilization in Central America and the Yucatan, which rivaled the Aztec civilization in what is now Mexico.  Instead, it is about two primitive tribes — one made up of peaceful hunters and the other of savage killers.  The Mayans and Aztecs were brutal in their human sacrifices and collection of prisoners, but there was much more to them that you won’t learn from this movie.  Missing is information on the Mayan culture and an exposition of their brilliance, architectural works, and their astronomy.  Mayan descendents, of which there are millions, are going to be very angry.  

The movie’s ultimate failure, which I hope will be the case, could not happen to a guy more deserving of failure than Mel Gibson.  I assure you that if I thought his film was worth seeing, I would say so, notwithstanding my ill will toward him.  But when an individual engages in anti-Semitism and racism as Gibson has, penance is required in addition to an apology.  (You will recall his rant against the “f----ing Jews who are responsible for all the wars in the world.”) 

Allah Akbah, God is good, and apparently the Lord has determined that Gibson’s penance is the failure of this movie.

“Stranger than Fiction” (-)

The strangest part of this movie for me was seeing Will Ferrell play a dramatic role rather than a comedic one.  He does a good job with a non-absorbing script.

IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) hears a female voice in his head depicting his life as though he were a character in a novel.  Mystified and frightened, he sees a psychiatrist, Dr. Mittag-Leffler (Linda Hunt), to ascertain what is wrong with him.  Ultimately Harold is referred to a college professor, Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), who tries to identify the voice he is hearing and compiles a list of possible authors who could be writing about Harold’s life.  Novelist Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is in fact writing a book in which Harold is the central character, but the professor dismisses her because she always kills off her protagonists.  Meanwhile, Harold has fallen in love with a tax-delinquent hippie and bakery shop owner, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), whose return he’s auditing.  Gyllenhaal is splendid in her role.  

In his review of the film, Robert Ebert wrote that it was a “thoughtful film” and a “moral tale.”  The plot might sound interesting to you, but I found it boring, and in my opinion, this is one movie that you can skip.      HS, with whom I saw the film, said, “I concur.  Movies whose plots depend on the supernatural should be particularly comic or tragic.  This one was a soap opera, highly unflattering to nerds and obsessive compulsives.  But what movie ever treats us well?”

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