Miles on Movies


reviewed by R. Miles Mendenhall

“Apocalypto” (2006)

Good action, bad history. I waited a few weeks to see it because I was not sure I wanted to support Mad Mel’s sadomasochism. But from the reviews I read it didn’t sound as bad as any modern slasher flick. And the subject matter deeply interests me.

As a chase movie with warriors fighting with flint edged clubs, spears and arrows, plus the jungle environment, it works and I’m a sucker for that stuff. But Mayan urban civilization collapsed long before the conquistadors showed up. And mass slaughter/sacrifice was not characteristic of Mayan culture (it was for the Aztecs).

So the timing of the major events is bunk. But the issues raised: urban vs. rural, religious fervor supporting despotism, despotism exploiting religious fervor, deforestation and overpopulation, decadent elites using spectacle to remain in power, are all timely issues.

If you liked, “The Naked Prey” you’ll enjoy this film. If a protagonist with an arrow hole through his liver and upper chest running through the jungle at full tilt while pursued by stone killers is too implausible for you, and I had a little trouble with that aspect, then skip it.

Does this success redeem Mel baby for shouting at a traffic cop that “All the wars in the world were started by Jews!” during his recent DUI stop? Nah. But this is a good action film; too bad it furthers racist stereotypes of indigenous Central and South Americans.

Plus the fake nose, ear and lip piercing kept bugging me. They appeared at just the margin of authenticity, but trying to figure out how they were faked, which is pretty easy, was distracting. And I never knew that Mayan was spoken with a Portuguese/Brazilian accent…


House (Broadcast TV)

Speaking of madmen, how many intellectual doctor shows feature an opiate addicted asshole who gets away with insulting everyone around him, his boss, patients, colleagues both subordinate and peer, because he’s just so damn smart? He is the only one who can figure out obscure, complicated, baffling and life threatening cases as a hospital diagnostician.

British comedic actor Hugh Laurie has created an amazing and compelling character, one part uber-shit and another part tragic clown. I can’t speak for the verisimilitude of the medical science, but it’s pretty convincing from my layman’s perspective. And his American (U.S.) accent is pretty darn good, much better than the lame attempts the American actors make at various forms of Brit speak.

I’ve been watching the new episodes and older reruns for the last month or so (Channel 2, on Tuesday evenings for the first run shows) and I’m hooked.

Maybe because the combination of intellectual debate and brutal interpersonal office political jockeying, plus the zinging barbs that “House” flings about himself, make for some of the smartest, funniest, saddest, most intriguing TV since the demise of “The West Wing”. Maybe because I wish I were in a professional position where I was irreplaceable and could get away with telling everyone the blunt, brutal, cold hard truth. A fantasy, but an intellectual fantasy. It almost makes me miss grad school. Almost.

And House gets as good as he gives. The in-his-face analysis of his friends, is as rough in its own “love bombing” "we’re here to support you, get some help" ways as his astringent putdowns. This really is a well-written show.

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