Sunday, May 11, 2014

Kangleon - Reaction Papers: A Beautiful Mind, The Life of Mammals & Godzilla (3)


A Beautiful Mind

There is beauty in madness. Or so people would argue when asked why films such as Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream and David Fincher’s Fight Club draw them in. In the case of John Nash in Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind, though, we wouldn’t have to nitpick through the dust and rubble of madness to unearth beauty, because it is always there; it presents itself to the audience as if its sole job is to soothe the heart. John Nash’s family and friends only saw the brilliant of his mind, not his blatant cries for help. Well, at first. I think that’s when beauty is most dangerous: when it is used to mask something atrocious, vile.

We all have our demons—they nestle in the darkest parts of our vulnerable hearts and, like cancer, they work their way out from there and they grow on us, though people other than ourselves don’t always notice.

The best way to win over them is by first acknowledging that they exist: that they live within us and that they talk to us, some in whispers as soft as the winds of spring, some as loud as the roar of waves in the summer.

It took John’s wife and colleagues a lifetime to convince him that he’s mentally ill. We have to surround ourselves with people who take to heart that Corinthians verse that goes, “love is patient, love is kind.” But ultimately, it was still John who had to tell himself that his demons were all in his head. “She never gets old,” he tells his wife when he could finally see things clearly. It’s funny how a man who pays so much attention to detail in searching for hidden patterns missed something that was staring him right in the face: that Marcee ages not.

Next is working our way through it: actively fighting back the urge to kill ourselves to silence the voices. It’s admirable how John literally had to scream at his demons in an attempt to make them go away. It was shown in the film that even in his old, withering age, John could still see them, but he chooses to ignore them, to not let them get to his head again. That is the kind of determination we have to carry with us because our demons, they never really leave us. They’re always there, monitoring our every move, waiting for us to let our guard down. The struggle is real, yo, but the most important thing is for us to understand that who or what our demons are do not define us. We are not our demons. You are not your demons.

The Life of Mammals: The Social Climbers and Food for Thought

The Social Climbers focused more on monkeys, while Food for Thought focused on apes. Both documentaries were intelligent and thorough, never leaving silent questions unanswered.

I’ve always believed that there are two levels to understanding human behavior or nature: first is classifying or accepting what kind of person you’re dealing with—a depressed person? A clown? A Madonna? Most people stop at this level of understanding. “Oh, she’s depressed, that’s why she always keeps to herself and sometimes skips school to get high,” or, “he’s the class clown, that’s why he’s always making a laugh about everything. He’s hilarious!”

The next level, however, deals with exploring why or how they came to be like so. Why did they turn out like this? How? What pain did they have to go through to become the people who stare back at them in the mirror every morning? The answers to this never ending succession of questions are what truly propel us closer to each other.

So I guess, in a way, answering the same questions about monkeys and apes made me understand them better than just knowing hard facts about them. Like how some apes like to make their existence known by feasting on the weak, no matter how young, because it boosts their ego. The meat they get is just a plus on their side. And the theory that we evolved from them must mean that beneath our upright walking and comprehensible ability to speak, our baser instincts are still telling us that to survive this world, we must trample on the weak, use them as elevation to get to the top. It all boils down to a familiar phrase: survival of the fittest.

But monkeys and apes aren’t all that bad. I myself don’t know why I chose to give emphasis on their more brutal side, when they have better qualities like resourcefulness, showing astounding intelligence that reminds us of modern humans. Resourceful when it comes to food, at least. In one of the documentaries, it showed how when monkeys and apes find a plethora of food, they make it a point to exhaust it, in the most creative way possible like using a stick to get honey from beehives and cracking nuts open with rocks.

The mental capacity of both monkeys and apes and their somehow striking resemblance to the modern human is no doubt good grounds for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, but I can’t help thinking that if that’s true, how come we haven’t evolved ourselves into more adapting creatures? Like how most Filipinos are still balbon, when, clearly, the season in the country is either absolutely sweltering or oppressively humid. Ah, well, maybe leave this musing for another time. 


Truth be told, when I first set foot inside the mall this morning to watch Godzilla, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. I have never been fond of malls, with all the people bustling about with their own business, leisurely walking at paces comparable to a newly circumcised boy’s, nor was I a fan of cinemas in malls, where couples go on dates, and families strap their toddlers to the seat as they whine and thrash all throughout entire films, while other people talk and give unsolicited commentaries on literally everything: from which trailers the cinema was screening to how a character’s make-up was a bit off. Everything overwhelms me, and my being the least patient person I know does not help one bit.

Surprisingly, Godzilla was not as bad as I expected. A lot of familiar names rolled through during the opening credits like Seamus McGarvey and Alexandre Desplat, and I thought, “well, if they got Desplat to score and McGarvey for cinematography, then I think I can put my faith into this film.” A lot of familiar faces made appearances, too, like Walter White (Bryan Cranstone), Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), William Seward (David Russell), Ginger (Sally Hawkins), the chairman (Ken Watanabe), and Martha (Elizabeth Olsen).
The first sequence was set in the Philippines, 1999. A fusion of awe and amusement washed over every single person sitting there in Cinema 2. People take certain pride in seeing their country(‘s name) flashed on a Hollywood film. That was about the only time I didn’t feel like smacking everyone around me. The rest of the film as alright, trouble stirs, notable people in the main character’s life die, though not his wife and son (they always seem to escape death by mere seconds!), countless other people who are not related to the main character die, trouble escalates to global disaster, the titular Godzilla saves the main character / the day / the world, and everybody metaphorically salutes him and lets him return to the depths of the sea, and then boom, closing credits. 

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