Show Biz
All the limp wristed "critics" and horrified liberal women gossip columnists
lisp their "horror" over Apocalypto and the violence it portrays, but in spite of the bad press from all the usual suspects Mel's epic seems to be taking hold at the box office (laterst figures are a huge $6K per screen). I've seen it and really liked it, but I have to tell you that I know more than a little bit about the Maya civilization, its practices and customs, as well as its mysterious sudden collapse. Archeologists have been puzzled over the cause for the better part of a century and came up with nothing that made sense. Modern archeology has finally been able to bring sophisticated techniques to bear and the question has been answered: The Mayan people starved to death. Actually starved. The reason for the starvation was a climate change which made growing the corn that fed millions of people impossible. It also caused the jungle animals (deer and wild pigs) they ate to flee to other climes or starve as well. As the supplies of food rapidly vanished the peaceful co-existence between the various tribes which lived off the fat of the land in various cities turned to war against each other. Savage but futile raids in search of food conducted by the starving inhabitants of each city ended with everyone dead or starving in the surrounding jungles, their glorious cities left abandoned to the weeds and the endless fields of dead corn.

The Mayan was a civilization so dominant that it had no competition, no one that might have developed a different staple crop and new methods of farming. Ideas like crop rotation, a different food crop, adapting their water supply to flood irrigate their fields, methods that the Mayans could copy did not exist. One could say the civilization collapsed because of success.

The Mayan civilization, while wonderful in many respects, had one glaring and still festering sore; they sacrificed human beings to their Gods in pagents so extreme, so immense, that Hitler admired its scope and was actually copying it when the Nazis finally determined a method to solve the "Jewish Question." The Mayans sacrificed humans to the Gods for every conceivable reason and to solve every problem under the sun. Their sacrifices featured the removal of the heart while the person being sacrificed was still alive, the removal of the head with dull knives, and burning alive in a pyre. People were "trained" since their childhoods to be the ones sacrificed. The parents were thrilled that one of theirs would join the Gods. But individual sacrifices weren't all. Many of the sacrifices involved hundreds of victims, usually prisoners of war. Some experts think thousands at a time were separated from life, and the priests or their helpers lined the steps of the pyramids with the heads of the deceased as a constant reminder to the Gods of the bounty they received. What explorers and scientists discovered were skulls.

And so Apocalypto.

Gibson has made a movie set against the backdrop of a violent civilization in its death throes and engaging in one last violent civil war that might save their society. So the movie is violent. Starving savages turning upon one another while still sacrificing to their Gods, hoping for a victory in battle that might bring back their food supplies ain't pretty (one of the chase scenes is through a corn field that is completely dead). The story is one of a single family trying to survive against every possible threat. I thought that Gibson told a terrific story, photographed it in a stunningly effective way, and we all can see that Gibson is a guy who knows his craft so well that there isn't a dull scene or moment, performed on a set to die for. But like every movie these days...IT WAS TOO LONG BY AT LEAST 20min. BTW: There was applause at the end, a custom here in LA when the audience likes a movie. And no discussion of the movie would be complete without mentioning the complete absence of computerized mobs. Every scene is filled with real people, and boy does it show.

What about the Gibson anti-semitism? I'm half Jewish, was brought up around tons of Jews, my aunts and uncles are all Jews, I learned all the stuff, but for some reason I'm not offended by a drunken tirade. To me, "it's the movie, stupid."

And it's one hell of a movie. BTW the breathless claims by reviewers that audiences were walking out in the middle because of the violence is a lie. My son and a friend saw it last night and he said NOBODY walked out and there was applause at the end. Nobody walked out when I saw it either. Or when my friends saw it.

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