Sicario – the film that hits you repeatedly with a plastic bat

You hear a movie’s great. Then you see it and didn’t like it. What does that say? Well, a couple of options are in play:

1) Everybody else is right, the movie’s great

2) You’re too stupid to completely understand the movie

3) Aliens and/or alcohol drugged you so much you couldn’t follow the movie properly

4) Everybody else is wrong, the movie’s complete garbage

At any given point, all or one of the above apply to my movie viewing experiences. But for Sicario, I’m going with option (4).

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Blunt, Brolin, and del Toro view the film creator’s designs for the most pristine of plastic bats.

Everybody loves this movie. It’s some kind of award winning masterpiece. And I’ll admit, it has some top notch features. It’s well shot, has a beautifully dark score, contains mostly interesting scenes, and has swell acting. I think this is why folks think the movie is awesome. On the surface it’s well done. But when you peel back the onion everything underneath is just wrong. It’s like those onions that bring the fruit flies into your humble abode.

If I could name one key gripe with this flick, it’s the unjustified suspension of reality. Not all movies need to be knife edged real. Movies are all about escapism. They take you somewhere special, or they bend the truth to make a point, or explore possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t exist. But Sicario makes it clear almost immediately that it has a larger purpose. It’s a running commentary on the war of drugs, American policy, morals, etc, etc. About 1/3 of the way through the movie I said to mine doggies, “This flick is Syriana II”. And so it is. And Syriana sucks too.

In order for you to buy the film’s message that our reality is wrong, you’d think the movie would have to be grounded in some kind of its own reality, right? Otherwise the message would get clouded by lunacy? Nope.

Kindly observe this limited list so that you can understand why I think this movie hits you repeatedly with a plastic bat and asks you to not think. They just want you to admire the beauty of the film, swallow the message, and not think too much.

1) In the first five minutes we’re asked to accept that one can store 40 corpses in a suburban Arizona home if only you hide them behind drywall. There’s even three guys just hanging out in there like it’s nothing. Eh, I’m pretty sure drywall aside, that this home would smell like five blocks away. But it’s dramatic, so they put it in there.

2) Juarez is depicted as a vacation spot worse than Mosul. Blunt looks on from a nighttime El Paso roof to see the Juarez skyline alight with explosions and machine gun tracer fire. Eh, I looked at that skyline almost every night I was in El Paso for years. I never saw any of that nonsense. In the years I was out there, I never heard one gunshot. Contrast that with my fairly standard east coast suburban hovel where I’ve heard at least a dozen gunshots over the years. Granted, most of those shots are jackasses shooting trees in the small woods adjacent to my back yard, but the comparison remains valid.

3) Blunt, del Toro, and Brolin alongside a dozen stereotypical American commandos (scruffy beards included) erase eight cartel gunmen and one corrupt Mexican cop on the Bridge of the Americas in front of several hundred people. We the audience are then treated to a throwaway line via the team radio about how this incident is so common it won’t even be news in El Paso. Oh, how cynical! This movie is so darkly intriguing. Give those geniuses an award. Eh, I’m pretty sure if nine men die on the Bridge of the Americas that the whole planet would know in about four minutes.

bridge-of-the-americas

Gee, I wonder what occupation these bearded gentlemen must have?

4) We find that the CIA’s plan to assassinate a cartel boss apparently can only entail the use of a former Medellin killer who can infiltrate the bad guy’s compound to exact his revenge. Eh, this would come as comical news to the Mexican Marines who have killed or captured dozens of cartel bosses over the last decade in deadly raids. At great cost to themselves and their families.

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Mexican Marines (not depicted in Sicario), escorting El Chapo to his second opportunity to die in prison.  No matter what you do in life, you will never be as awesome as these men.

5) Ultimately, Brolin admits to Blunt in a plot twist that’s quite humorous that the CIA’s grand strategy to defeat the Mexican cartels is to help the Medellin and/or Columbian cartels regain turf because they provided more stability. Truly! In order to swallow this completely bullshit notion, you will need have never heard of the following concepts:

a) The evisceration of the Medellin cartel and the overall recovery of Medellin as a decent city

b) The capture of the Columbian drug trade by the FARC and the Columbian war against said entity

c) The belief that the Columbian cartels of the 1980’s and 1990’s were somehow not the agents of chaos and destruction that they really were

d) The very idea that an American whole-of-government operation can conduct any such secret evil plan without it ending up on the front page of the Washington Post

e) That the CIA will threaten to and/or actually suicide people who state that they’ll tell folks about this evil government conspiracy

Hey I’ve got news for all you conspiracy lunatics: Everybody talks. America is not Soviet or Putin Russia. Everybody talks. As one of my references, I draw your attention to the ultra-secret CIA run black site program conducted after 2001. This was as deep a conspiracy as you can get. Yet here we are about a decade later and you can read online and determine just about every aspect of the operation, right down to the price the CIA paid for the freaking Polish buildings.

Again, I wouldn’t bring up this absence of reality, except that Sicario takes itself so damn seriously. You’re meant to feel their message. The plastic bat is at work. You will be made to agree with this nonsense. Well, I will not. This movie is only mildly entertaining, but is overall, just not very good. My Guests and I would not recommend.

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Sorry, God’s too busy to meet your shitty movie.

Coba – where humanity doesn’t make sense

I got distracted last night during what was without a doubt one of the better games of the year in Bengals – Broncos. For you see, while the game is great, the commercials are long and the flags are many. So I flipped, and ended up watching a documentary on the Mayans on the breaks.

It was on some C-grade network I’ve never heard of called AWE, and it was a Japanese production. According to the Internets, it was called Secret Civilizations: Incan and Mayan Worlds Royal Dynasties: Deep in the Jungle. Which is quite the mouthful, and in any case, I only saw the Mayan portion.

It truly grabbed my interest to the point that at times I was actually annoyed that I had to flip back to the game. It certainly didn’t help that most of the middle 75% of the game it was just straight 3 and outs for both teams. But I still didn’t catch the whole documentary, just parts.

My travel to Mayan lands was a brief one day trip to Coba from Cancun where I attended a wedding. But my fascination with Mayan culture both on-site and last night is that it just doesn’t make sense.

Ponder the Mayans for a moment:

1) Established a complex city-state based system that mirrored the period and technological development of other advanced cultures; but built this civilization literally out of the floor of a jungle

2) They didn’t let the jungle destroy them and prospered for 2000 years; but then essentially almost completely faded from existence until the Spanish put the final stake in them

3) Achieved some of the world’s most advanced discoveries in astronomy, mathematics, writing, and agriculture; but decided not to use the wheel

4) Practiced some of mankind’s more disciplined humane tactics of warfare and dispute resolution; but also had a penchant for human sacrifice that involved flesh and organ removal on a live subject

Given how far the Mayans advanced, you could certainly talk yourself into the game of, “Why didn’t the Mayans conquer the Spanish?” A post that answers this question would take a long, long time. But, I think, in short it comes down to:

a) It’s just really, really freaking hard for humans to live and prosper forever in the middle of the jungle

b) When a critical component of your religious and political culture involves live human sacrifice, it speaks to a deeper malaise that likely caused all kinds of other problems we can only dream of

c) It’s just really, really freaking hard for humans to live and prosper forever in the middle of the jungle

I didn’t take any pictures in Coba because I had it in my head that this would be my single, one day journey where I put away the lens, and just looked around with mine own eyes. My only memory of that day is forever inside my brain. I’m content with it.

When in Cancun, just about any tour company has day trips to Coba available. It’ll take you a few hours early van ride, you visit multiple sights, and you’re back just before dinner. You’ll not regret it.

You can climb the pyramid in Coba and get a full view to the horizon of the surrounding jungle. And you’ll bask at just how vast that jungle is. And how miraculous the Mayans were that they built such things in such a place. The Mayans don’t make sense, but they were quite the culture with what they did, and it’s inspiring.