Saturday, August 31, 2013

Movie Review: “Killing Season”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

   What can be said about Robert De Niro and John Travolta that has not already been said? The wealth of material both men have done is more than adequate to show that these are two of the most talented people to ever grace the silver screen. Playing opposite each other for the entire film as war weary and battle hardened soldiers from opposite sides of the Bosnian War, continuing their conflict eighteen years after the war’s end, both actors deliver performances that will capture your attention...with some scenes having you want to look away.

The Plot: 
   Benjamin Ford (De Niro) is an American war veteran of the Bosnian War that has retired himself to the serene calm and quiet of the Appalachian Mountain wilderness. Leaving the war behind, but never really escaping it’s lasting effects, Ford lives a life of seclusion from his estranged wife and avoids the efforts of his son to connect, via a new grandchild, for fear of interacting with his ex’s new beau...the best man at his wedding.

   Emil Kovac (Travolta) is a Serbian war veteran of the same war, that has been motivated by his lust for revenge on the man that shot him in the back and left him for dead (Ford), and haunted by the atrocities he committed during the well as those he witnessed on his family as a child. Reconciliation comes at a price as he seeks to find closure by confronting Ford.

   Traveling to America, Kovac encounters Ford, who doesn’t remember him, and befriends him to learn more about the man that will become his prey. After inviting Ford out on a hunting trip, Kovac springs his trap...and both men engage in a personal war that will see both men endure horrible physical brutalities and physiological calamity.


The Verdict: 
   The beginning of the film is very interesting as it gives some interesting and disturbing facts about the Bosnian War that I had not previously known. The battle scene hooks you immediately and contrasts the solitary mano-y-mano conflict that will transpire throughout the rest of the film. 

   I have no issues with the acting, it was what I was expecting from both actors given the content of the film and the characters they were portraying. Travolta’s fake Serbian accent was very entertaining to me...but I find foreign accents interesting anyway. His mannerisms also seemed to fit as it looks as though he took great care to move, gesture and nuance as one would expect someone from that region of the world to do. Kudos to that.

   The gore in the film was detailed and magnified with close camera shots to make sure the full effect was experienced. These were the things that kept the film interesting because in all honesty, after a while of each man getting the upper hand on the other, it became more redundant than the original plot of the film itself. One man going after the other for revenge is certainly not a new endeavor in films...but the constant chance situation that each man benefits from to get the upper hand on the other just became ridiculous.

   Although there are some great scenes in the movie, and the fact that both actors, while not delivering Oscar performances, deliver some good acting, the script weakens the overall film. This is especially evident in the ending, where both men seem to come to terms with what they have been through in the the unlikely cost of simply brushing aside what they just went through during the movie. I guess sometimes an apology really does make it all go away. When considering all of this, this film probably could have had a higher rating in it’s sights, but when it unleashed the final could only hit 2.5 cinnamon sticks, out of 5, in my cup of tea.

Rating: 2.5/5

Friday, August 30, 2013

Are You Misunderstood...?

   Chances are that at some point you have been, and will be again. It’s just a part of the human interaction and since everyone isn’t always on the same page, sometimes not even in the same book, misunderstandings happen. Sometimes it’s easy to identify the issue, but at other times whole conversations can happen and it go unnoticed, that the subject was never agreed upon.

   “Wait...are we talking about the same thing?”

   Perhaps you’ve heard someone say this or experienced it yourself? You’re having a conversation and everything is going well when a word or expressed idea triggers a heightened sense of awareness and you realize that something doesn’t a piece of a puzzle, that upon further examination, doesn’t quite match, but matched well enough to blend with a bit if applied force.

   With so many words sounding the same, but having various meanings...mixed with the interpretations and intentions of the various personalities that emerge in conversation, it’s a miracle we can communicate at all. Blessed is the person that can effectively realize that the conversation they are in, isn’t the conversation they are having. It’s happened to me on more than one occasion, but I haven’t always been fortunate enough to realize it before the tone and mood of the moment has shifted in a decidedly negative direction.

   As bad as that gets worse.

   It’s bad enough that misunderstandings happen just by sheer bad luck and the butchering...and proper use, of the English language, but the issue is compounded when you come across someone that understands you, but is willfully ignorant of that fact. Instead of an acknowledgment and moving the conversation forward, they would rather feign ignorance and stagnate the dialogue...usually for their own nefarious purposes.

   “Let me be clear”

   Indeed, I find myself saying that much these days. I’m sure most take it as an intended precursor to my explaining something in the simplest terms with clear emphasis on the intended points. Little do they know I’m really asking them to let my words slip through the thickness of their skulls. See what I mean? I’m misunderstood (clearly) but choose not to correct the point for the sake of moving the conversation forward.

   It’s even worse when communicating through social media...ala Facebook. I’ve become the type to cut and paste things already said, to emphasize the relevance of my retort. Not only that...but you’d be surprised how many people have no clue what they are saying and are oblivious to the fact that their thoughts have not made it to the screen...despite typing a flurry of words intended for that purpose. Somehow...seeing it again (through cut and paste) gives some clarity.

   Effective communication is the key to unlocking more meaningful and rewarding human interactions...miscommunication is the deadbolt that keeps us separated from our true meanings, and the rewards that often accompany clarity.

   Are you misunderstood? A question you should often ask yourself. Are you understanding? An equally important question that also needs to be asked
   The old adage “Say what you mean and mean what you say” could use a bit of updating. Added to that should be “...and make sure you understand, and are being understood.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

History By Design

   I have always thought that history was a matter of fact. Past events that happened, retold in the present or documented for future reference. Of course, I was aware of the old saying...proven true through investigation, that history is written by the victors. Simply put, if you have two groups at violent odds with each other, and one wipes the other out...the surviving group can write or say anything about the other side, and there would be nobody to say differently. History, as designated by the whims of a particular group. I had never seen this actually happen...until now.

   Let me be clear, I’m not talking about a surviving group from conflict, just the fact that history has been rewritten. History has been designated by people wishing it to be presented differently than it really happened. I know this to be true, since the event I’m speaking of was witnessed by my own eyes.

   When I was a child, somewhere in the range of five to seven years old, I saw a documentary on television. I want to say it came on PBS, which would be Channel 2 in my area, but my memory, as good as it is, isn’t that good. The documentary was on Elvis Presley. As a child, he was a hero of mine. I liked his songs, I liked his moves, I liked doing impressions of him. My mother wasn’t too thrilled with my choice, but let me experience my slice of the world anyway. 

   As I watched this documentary, my slice of the world would forever have a different taste to it. The year was somewhere in the range of 1976 to 1978 (but probably 1977 since that was the year he died). I remember the dark green rug in our living room with light green patches. I remember the grey Zenith television with rabbit ears on it. I remember thinking I really saw colors...while watching a black and white television. The most profound thing I remember, is hearing and seeing Elvis say “the only thing a negro can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my records.”

   As a child, I was confused. I was hurt and deflated. My hero wasn’t all I thought he was, and the world was filled with controversy. My world, in the seventies, was filled with constant reminders that as a black child, I was different. The civil rights movement was still fresh and being bused to a predominately white school came with dealing with the ignorance of some children while being integrated by the school institution. Interesting times, to say the least.

   I remember after seeing Elvis say that, the emotions I felt and the need to have help to process them. I looked at my mother, in shock...only to see her mixture of pain and vindication. Her pain for me having to experience this utter deflation as reality replaced my fantasy...and her vindication that her disapproval of my choice of hero was justified. That day resonated with me forever and as I grew older, I integrated it in the reality that people are constantly changing their political and personal beliefs...and despite all that, a talent or gift manifests with no regard for those beliefs.

   Now...for some reason, I decided to look in on that old footage, only to find that not only can it not be found, but history has changed! Now, Elvis never said that according to nearly every source on the internet. It was a myth, an event that showed up in print, but proved as false soon after. What?? Wait...really, what??

   This is, without a doubt, one of the most profound things that has ever happened in my life. Again, I’m having trouble processing, but my late mother isn’t around to offer any guidance or voice an opinion. Therein lies the problem...without historical evidence (the footage) or a majority of people still around that witnessed the event, history is being designed...not remembered.

   The VCR made it’s way into homes in 1975, but you had to be affluent to afford we didn’t have one. Not that it would make a huge difference since there can always be the claim of “photoshop” or fake footage by those that simply refuse to acknowledge the truth. I have never read that Elvis said those words, that was never my introduction to all this. I was sitting in front of the television, watching it some twenty years after it was said to have been written...and summarily, disproved.

   I’m not excessively concerned with how Elvis is remembered, it is what it is...and I saw what I saw. However, experiencing the remaking of “history” has me questioning how much other history is really history...and how much is designed and/or forgotten, with something not accurate taking it’s place. How many elderly people can recount certain events and say that the way it’s being presented is not the way it really happened? How much footage of the past has been destroyed or lost leaving us no evidence of the footprints where time has already stepped? This is the most disturbing aspect of history, now becoming a myth.

   Worse trying to figure out how to stop it from happening again. It seems technology has outstripped our good sense in using it, and now we can make a video show us anything we want. Reality no longer withstands the recording of itself and the greatest sufferer of this is the truth. In a world where there is no truth, there is no history.

   Welcome to the Matrix.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Butterfly Effect

   The Butterfly Effect. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Edward Lorenz coined the term from a theoretical example of a hurricane being caused by the flapping of a butterfly’s wings weeks earlier. Now without going all chaos theory on you...let that idea sink in and tell me you haven’t been a victim, or observed another become a victim of this.

   Let me say, I’ve done some things...minor at the time and with little thought given beyond the moment, that later developed into something for which “hurricane” would be an appropriate analogy. To put it simply, every action has consequences...and sometimes even inaction facilitates a consequence. Of course actions produce results, that’s the nature of life...always being in a state of constant change. No, what I’m talking about specifically are small, seemingly inconsequential actions, that manifest into world-ending situations. Well, I’m exaggerating a bit (or am I), but you get the idea.

   If you’re thinking that you’ve never seen an example of what I’m talking about in real life, think back no further than the last time you saw a California forest fire on the news...raging across vast woodlands, displacing people and destroying homes...caused by the flick of a lit cigarette. A small action probably deemed inconsequential by the careless smoker, touching off a raging inferno that leaves massive destruction and ruined lives in it’s wake.

   Bring the scale down a bit, and we have a word or two said in jest...that leads to an altercation that ultimately ends the lives of innocent people. Oh yes, stuff like this really happens. The Butterfly Effect happens more often in everyday life than we probably give thought to it.

   I find that interesting since we seem to give thought to it in our visual entertainment. There was a film called “The Butterfly Effect” (also “The Butterfly Effect 2” and “The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations”), a science-fiction take on the life pattern of change and consequence. Recently “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox” hit store shelves and gives another example of a change  that alters reality. A classic story really when you consider what happened in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Yes, extreme and impossible situations are presented in all these films, but the underlying truth of them remains: a small change can have large and lasting effects.

   This is not a new idea or some awesome revelation that has come to me in a dream. All this is to simply be a reminder that our decisions can cascade like a Domino Effect...and even worse, into a Butterfly Effect. Sure, when on the cusp of a big decision or faced with unique situations, we probably give more thought to  the consequences of our actions. However it’s the small decisions, the actions we barely take notice of that we probably should also give some thought to their future ramifications.

   Nobody can predict the future with any accuracy worth noting (and I mean far ahead, mapping the consequence of each action and reaction). Few people will read this and put into practice trying to think through the multiple possibilities of the effect of their simple action. Indeed, such a task might seem to be more of a problem than actual problem solving...but imagine if the effect of this simple (relatively speaking) action was to avoid the Butterfly Effect. Would it be worth the effort?

   Only time and your own personal experience can answer that question.