All posts by Ivan Gaudi

English amateur, French beginner, young padawan, Parzival fan, idealess idealist. A Terran. Send feedbacks!

Upcoming 2014: Transcendence

“Is anyone th3re?”

Credits to MOVIECLIPS trailers.

Let me tell you what I think about this trailer in one sentence:

Underneath the star-studded cast of Johnny Depp and Co. lies a truly exceptional story that has a potential of being (probably) the best sci-fi movie ever, if only it was to be put in the right pair of hands.

Go watch the trailer. You won’t regret it.

The Lone Survivor: Outnumbered in The Front Line

Live to tell the story.
Live to tell the story.

To tell you the truth I thought this movie will contain less gore and more drama, at least that’s what I’m expecting when I watched the trailer. Turns out the screenplay shoved plenty of gory scenes, which was made complete by the excellent acting from Wahlberg and Co.

Synopsis

The entire story was based on Operation Red Wings. Now I don’t know about you but this name is completely unfamiliar to my ears before I watched the movie.

If I’m the military commander-in-charge I would consider this particular waste of lives a failure. To be exact, too much casualties is just the tip of the iceberg. You get to endanger nearby villages, waste one good Chinook, top-notch officers, and you’ll never know if your enemy turns out to be smart enough to make copies of looted M4s. Believe me, M4 terrorists are just too much to take on.

The operation, like other standard military operation, started with a recon mission which involved four personnels.

(From left to right) Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Danny Dietz
(From left to right) Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Danny Dietz.

In short, three of them died. Their cover was blown by shepherds from the nearest village and you can guess the next part.

There is some falling-from-the-cliff parts that I really need to give credit. Whoever did the sound effects is genius. The ‘CRACK’s made my uncle (who was also watching beside me at that time) go “ooh, that’s gotta hurt” and “aah, ouch, euh!” Frankly, I feel no better.

After being hunted down by the Talibans for an hour or so, the captain of the unfortunate team, Lieutenant Murphy, decided to make a call for help in open space since the signal reception was very bad. He died from several shots aimed at his back, but his try was worth it.

Backup showed up several minutes later, and Luttrell (The ‘Lone Survivor’) and his other teammate Axe cheered as they heard the familiar ‘chop-chop-chop’ sound of a helicopter’s rotor. But a single rocket from the Taliban’s RPG took care of that and as well the misson’s commander-in-charge (played by Eric Bana, I’ll always remember him as Hector from Troy. He’s cool).

Axe died after being shot to death precisely at his head, but Luttrell survived after concealing himself in an opening of a hill. He was bruised, battered, and severely injured at that moment.

The next day Luttrell was found by some friendly members of the village in a water source, practically dying. Luttrell was then carried to their house and had his wounds taken care of. He was also given food and water, something he missed for possibly two days. Meanwhile, Luttrell’s host sent a handwritten note from Luttrell to the nearest U.S. military base through a messenger.

Why are you doing this to me?
Why are you doing this to me?

Not long after that, the suspicious Talibans checked the houses of the villagers, finding Luttrell at last. They were about to execute him when the man who rescued Luttrell took an AK-47, muttered some words at the Taliban, and cocked the gun in front of their face as he aimed it towards them. The other villagers did the same.

Luttrell, for the second time, had his sorry ass saved by the locals.

The Talibans swore revenge against the villagers while reluctantly leaving, putting on some frowns on the villagers’ faces. They are now officially in war with that particular brutal Taliban gang.

Meanwhile Lutrell has not fully recovered. He can’t do anything but rest and moan. Poor guy.

The next day the Talis (call-name for Talibans) came as promised, bringing full armaments with them; RPGs, LMGs, AK-47s, grenades, you name it. The villagers valiantly stood up with only several looted AK-47s.

When it seemed like the village is going to be destroyed utterly by the Talis, U.S. Black Hawks comes out of nowhere, practically annihilating the Talis deservedly. The gunship you get to control at Modern Warfare also put on quite a show with that sort of heavy bombardment, scattering the Talis with no sweat.

In a dramatic end, the military doctors brought back Luttrell from his certain death. Happy ending sometimes felt good, and this movie showed that.

Main Characters and Their Stories

Marcus Lutrell
If I don't go home, you don't go home.
If I don’t go home, you don’t go home.

Marcus Luttrell is a former U.S. Navy Seal and also the only survivor of Operation Red Wings. He was born in Houston, Texas, in November 7 1975. After being sent back home, Luttrell founded the Lone Survivor foundation that helped soldiers like him to get back on their feet and continue living their life by moving on.

Truthfully I can’t say if Wahlberg’s involvement in being Luttrell is exceptional or super-awesome or anything. If I’m to judge his act in this movie fairly, well, he’s just a bit more than what I call the ‘standard professional acting’. Nothing much, actually.

The real-life Marcus Luttrell had a son named after his last-second teammate, Axe. He now lives in Texas, possibly his hometown.

Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson

[while sighting in a Taliban fighter] You can die for your country, I'm gonna live for mine.
[while sighting in a Taliban fighter] You can die for your country, I’m gonna live for mine.
Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson died fighting in Operation Red Wings after having his head shot. Well, not right away, but I assume he died of blood loss before he got shot at the head by the Talibans. Axe was born on June 25 1976 in Cupertino, California. He was married to a girl named Cindy in December 2003, and thus one of his last words are:

Axe: If I die I need you to make sure that Cindy knows how much I love her.
Luttrell: She knows.
Axe: And that I died with my brothers – with a full fucking heart.

For his gallant service in the operation, Axe was awarded Navy Cross, Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Navy Good Conduct Medal.

Lt. Michael Murphy

(Talking to Luttrell) Marcus. Never out of the fight.
Marcus Luttrell: [after finding his lost gun in the middle of the fight] See? God’s looking out for us. Michael Murphy: If this is what happens when God is looking out for us, I’d hate to see Him pissed.
For his remarkably great reputation, somebody actually made a movie about him. It’s called Murphy. Go on, check it out.

Michael Murphy had a great neighborhood reputation, earning the title ‘The Protector’. According to several sources, Murph (his nickname) saved a homeless man from being bullied, saved a disabled girl in his school from being bullied, and also had experience at being a pool lifeguard in summers. Murph was apparently a pretty smart dude too before he got involved in military. He graduated from Penn State university with honors and dual degrees in both political science and psychology. Talk about a perfect guy. Oh right, I forgot to tell you his birthplace and stuff. He was a native New Yorker, born May 7, 1976.

For his outstanding service this dauntless Lieutenant received lots of military awards, such as the Medal of Honor (not the game), Silver Star, Purple Heart, Commendation Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon. It was also necessary to mention that a park, a destroyer, and a missile are named after him (USS Michael Murphy, ha ha ha).

Danny Dietz
Fuckin' look at them, man. They fuckin' hate us.
Fuckin’ look at them, man. They fuckin’ hate us.

Oh, we don’t get to talk about him much now do we? In fact I think I haven’t mentioned him before this. Some of the most ‘exciting’ and good scenes were made of him, technically. Dietz was married to Maria Dietz, which was shown communicating with Dietz through an email (spoiler: asking for an Arabian Horse for her wedding present). Dietz was also seen dying grasping to a paint brochure in which he was in the process of deciding his house’s wall paint color. He loves drawing, which made him really upset when one of the Talibans shot his drawing hand, and…hmm…oh yeah, he was born on January 26, 1980 in Aurora, Colorado.

This particular war martyr earned a black belt in Taekwondo from the Korean Academy of Taekwondo (wonder why he doesn’t whup some Taliban ass with the Karate Kid kick, you know, the one with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, anyway,) so don’t mess around.

Receiving no less military rewards than his teammates, Dietz also get to be remembered through a larger-than-life bronze statue erected at his hometown.

Highlight

So I’m gonna keep this one short.

Again and again I must say, war brings nothing but death. Sure, the winning side might get spoils of war and stuff, but that was nothing compared to the value of a life.

Besides that, I must say the sound effect on the scene where the four brave men jumped off a cliff is just cracking! I can’t imagine what will the movie be like without them. It was wicked. You know what? You must feel that one yourself. The video-shoot was also inch-perfect on every angle. The director must’ve been a crazy genius, you see, combining such close shooting angle and that awesome, awesome sound effect.

Overall? 4.5/5. Extra half for the appreciation of the gallant efforts of the team. Superb show!

Soekarno: The Dilemma of ‘The Greater Good’

Another self-explanatory movie poster
Another self-explanatory movie poster

I was actually planning to release this review last week, but instead I took a break for an angpao-collecting spree. You can say it went perfectly well. Yes…

Anyway, I put a lot of hope on this review because I’m not fooling around when it comes to talk about my country. So I was expecting you guys to correct me.

Synopsis

As a young man, Soekarno was studied and well associated with both his native homeland (Java and the culture and his fellow Javanese) and the occupying Dutch government (Soekarno can speak fluent Dutch and was well aware of their ‘classy’ traditions). Other than that, in his young age Soekarno lived in a time when Indonesian political figures started to rise; and Soekarno was very lucky to have one of them as his mentor: H.O.S. Cokroaminoto. Inspired by his mentor, Soekarno decided to learn public oratory. Years later, Soekarno became a local political figure and hero towards the people of Indonesia (still in Dutch government occupation), as he is a person with a high skill of public oratory and therefore was capable of igniting the public will of gaining Indonesian independence. The Dutch officials was well aware of that, and in the Dutch occupation period he was put into exile or jails for countless times. But he did not give up. He wrote speeches and letters secretly from his exile or jail in order to get the public’s sympathy. Soekarno, in a nutshell, has an ultimate weapon that the Dutch occupants di not have at that place and time: he had the people. He captured the hearts of the people in a mesmerizing way that the local people, once fearing the Dutch from head to toe, began to doubt their power. The Dutch government was well aware of this, and they hopelessly fight through media propaganda and exiles.

The people's man.
The people’s man.

But the Dutch did not see the Japanese force coming in. The Dutch were not taking the Japanese force very seriously (in my opinion) until it’s too late. The Japanese came, overthrew the Dutch government and military force, and became the new occupant in the Nusantara (Indonesia’s former name before her independence). The Dutch, now aware of what they’re dealing with, tried to smuggle Soekarno and his family out; because they realized what a great asset is Soekarno towards the Japanese, and they feared what was to become if Soekarno joined the Japanese. You just think about it: Soekarno is indirectly the ruler of the Indonesians. He is able to raise up their spirits in a, well, spirited way, and he can frankly make them do anything he wanted them to do. He is the people’s man. He is Soekarno (Bam Bam BAAAAMMMM). Back to the smuggling part (ehm, sorry, got carried away). Soekarno did not want to leave, even though he knows he’s dealing with a force that is totally different than the Dutch government. During Dutch occupation, Soekarno is still partially untouchable due to the existing Dutch law. It was a shield to him to freely express his opinions, as the Dutch were more to democracy rather than fascism or communism (monarchy, actually, but still, the queen of Netherlands must not act so rashly towards Soekarno, because her people may disagree); and Soekarno, as you know, was a truly exceptional public orator. Soekarno is capable of capturing several Dutch’s heart in the Dutch mainland.  The best part is: however mad is the local Dutch government towards Soekarno in Indonesia, they still have to follow orders from the Netherlands capital, Den Haag. In short, the Dutch occupants cannot treat Soekarno anyhow as they want. They have to comply with rules. On the other hand, Japanese were far more brutal. As Soekarno said, the Japanese force will not hesitate in ending a man’s life, not like the Dutch, where the man would be probably judged in a court first. Since in that time Japan was an empire with some sort of a caste, ordinary people have no power at all. Of course, they have rules and laws, but to the Japanese they can do anything they want in an occupied country as long as their superior officers allowed them (maybe like the Generals, Captains, etc.)They are also known for their brutality in dominating another country (like the infamous war event Nanjing Massacre). In short, Soekarno had just lost his best pal the law. Say goodbye to the age of laws, make way for a new era of brutal occupation. Just when the dream for national independence seemed to fade away with the absence of ‘fair’ laws, the Japanese called their trump card: an irresistable devil’s deal with Soekarno and company (Moh. Hatta, the future first vice president of Indonesia, and Sutan Sjahrir, an independence collaborator, too): the Japanese offered independence in exchange for helping them in the ongoing Pacific War. Many Indonesians always thought that our independence was gained through blood and glory; through death of heroes, and through heroic struggles. So this scene delivered one hell of a blow towards the pride of the nation, as you might say. Up to this point, there were two important figures that we must remember: Soekarno and Sutan Sjahrir, because both of them are like magnetic poles. Soekarno believed that by cooperating with the Japanese, there will be less casualties; while on the contrary, Sjahrir was disgusted by the idea of cooperating with their occupants. They are the two extremes, yet with the same core belief: that Indonesia will be independent sooner or later. Later on, Soekarno must also face a personal conflict. His love towards other woman made him left his second wife, Inggit, for Fatmawati.

Inggit, Soekarno's second wife (out of seven, if you're curious).
Inggit, Soekarno’s second wife (out of seven, if you’re curious).
Fatmawati, the weaver of the first indonesian national flag (and Soekarno's third wife).
Fatmawati, the weaver of the first Indonesian national flag (and Soekarno’s third wife).

After several household fights, Inggit decided to leave Soekarno. Sad to say (I am an Indonesian, and I’m a bit embarrased to say that my national hero is also a women chaser), Soekarno married Fatmawati as his third wife. But his problems did not end there. The Japanese asked for preposterous requests such as women (that scene is truly heart-breaking), resources, and Soekarno’s help on their propaganda. Ario Bayu as Soekarno played his role very well to depict Soekarno on those scene, that actually Soekarno did not want those to happen; but for the sake of independence, he did those (half-heartedly). On the other side, Sjahrir continued his undercover independence effort on gathering the nationalist youths to prepare them for their independence. Other than that, Sjahrir also continued his illegal activity of listening to the international radio to check on how the Japanese were doing. To his joy, the Japanese were losing. At the same time, the Japanese force fulfilled their promise towards Soekarno and gave him Indonesia’s independence at Vietnam. But just when Soekarno was about to celebrate this hard-earned achievement when he was kidnapped not long after he got back to Indonesia again. The kidnappers were the ambitious nationalist youths that forced Soekarno and Hatta to proclaim Indonesia’s independence immidiately because Japan had lost the war and therefore Indonesia is without any occupants, for the first time in three centuries. The youths saw this as a golden chance to proclaim Indonesia’s independence. Soekarno and Hatta were not amused being tricked by the Japanese. You see, if Soekarno saw this coming, the downfall of the Japanese force, then Soekarno wouldn’t have to cooperate with the Japanese; letting his people suffer at the hands of them, or worse, killed. The Japanese, true to their words, offered help in the process of proclaiming Indonesia’s independence. Finally, Indonesia was free and independent on the historical 17th of August, 1945.

The original Soekarno reading the proclamation text.
The original Soekarno reading the proclamation text.

Main Characters and Their Stories

Soekarno
Soekarno.
Soekarno.

His original name was actually Kusno, but the name was changed by his father because he was frequently sick (some native Indonesian still believed in the mystic tradition). Soekarno can speak Dutch, Japanese, Javanese, English, and Bahasa Indonesia (as far as I know), so he is a learned man. In the early scenes, Soekarno was seen flirting with a Dutch girl (when he was young). We can conclude that Soekarno was well associated with several upper-class Dutch in his life. Other than that, he is also well-associated with middle-lower class of the local people. So we know that Soekarno is well-associated with two different worlds; the upper and the lower, the occupant and the occupied. It was thanks to his inspiring mentor H.O.S. Cokroaminoto that he became an excellent public orator. Many said his mastery at public oratory in Indonesia is second to none.

Soekarno had many wives. Well, not all at once, but still it’s a bit shocking isn’t it? So don’t be surprised when you meet one of Soekarno’s son or daughter. Perfectly normal.

What else to say about him? Many, actually; but my mind just can’t stop reeling too fast at this point, thus leaving me speechless. But if it helps, I wanted to say that he is no doubt a huge contributor to Indonesia’s independence, and against all other opinion I wanted to say that the image of him valuing lives above everything else is something I truly uphold.

As Terry Pratchett (is his name spelled right? I guess) said it in a fine way (in his book ‘Nation’), “When much is taken, something is returned”. Soekarno had just the faith  to get through all of his people’s suffering to watch the glorious moment of his country’s independence.

Fatmawati
Fatmawati, Soekarno's third wife.
Fatmawati, Soekarno’s third wife.

Sorry to say, my first opinion on this photo was, “yeuch”, and most probably you’re in the same boat as I am. Anyway, onwards to Fatmawati.

The famous wife was played by Tika Bravani, a talented young actress from Indonesia. Historically, Fatmawati is widely-known as the woman who sewed the first Indonesian national flag. Dramatic.

Soekarno married Fatmawati when she was 15 (sounds like Hugh Hefner all over again). Fatma (her shortname) was Soekarno’s student at a school in Bengkulu, taught by Soekarno during his exile. It was her which made Inggit (Soekarno’s second wife) and Soekarno divorce, which gave me a thought about Bob Marley. No woman no cry, right?

Fatma gave birth to to three daughters and two sons; grand total of five, in which four of them, Megawati Soekarnoputri , Sukmawati Soekarnoputri , Rachmawati Soekarnoputri and Guruh Soekarnoputra, is still politically active. Beat that.

Mohammad Hatta
Central figure, up top.
Central figure, up top.

A gorgeous acting was delivered by Lukman Sardi as Mohammad Hatta. I just felt it, you know, the classic hunches you usually get? The actor and the supposed character blended in better than Coffee Beans’ Original Ice Blended, which is saying something (sometimes I prefer Coffee Beans rather than Starbucks).

The calm upbringing he frequently put on is the highlight, because I always thought Mohammad Hatta as the backstage guy, never a spotlight guy. He is a key figure to me because I think he is the middle point between Soekarno and Sjahrir, in which Soekarno prefered submitting to their occupants as a step towards their independence and Sjahrir (a hot-tempered little guy) wanted a rebellion. So yeah, you can say his existence at that situation a ‘divine intervention’.

He is well-known as the first Vice-President of Indonesia and also a friend to Soekarno. There’s probably still much about him but I guess the essence of it is that as the second wheel, you will play a role no less crucial than the big boss. That’s what happened to Hatta anyway; and Nehru, and probably you.

Highlight

At last, highlights. Word count: 1772 (personal record).

I’d like to start with my personal favorite, the one I’ve mentioned in the Letters to Iwo Jima review. It’s about lives, human lives.

Many people were disappointed after watching this movie, (mostly Indonesians) and they have the right to. Who on this particular planet laughed at his/her country’s humiliation? Probably separatists, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about us (unless you’re a separatist). Us, as in, people that are proud of their motherland. But after several scenes of Soekarno letting his people suffer at the hands of their occupants, personally the bastards that produced this movie took down several notches on my nationalistic spirit.

Not fun. At all. I am totally not amused.

But after several days, I realized that Soekarno did it out of a belief that he had, and I think that is truly remarkable. To let people harshly treat us in order to give a chance to live for the others is quite a gem.

In my eyes, Soekarno let his people suffer for the greater good. He let them suffer rather than to die in a useless open rebellion (useless, because the Japanese’s military force is superior in almost every aspects) to let them have a taste of independence. Of course you can die when you suffer, but that’s a risk Soekarno is willing to take for the greater good of Indonesia.

See it like this: your parents pushed you to study hard so you can get a good score. Your parents know you might be very unhappy towards them and treat them harshly, but for their son (or daughter, I’m not being sexist), they are willing to take a blow.

Soekarno is, in my eyes, a national ‘father’.

Thank you for reading this. I’m looking forward for comments and corrections. Sampai nanti! (Until then!)

Upcoming 2014: Edge of Tomorrow

Live. Die. Repeat. Familiar?
Live. Die. Repeat. Familiar?

So I am in the mood of new movies, and I found this. The first look of the poster did not impress me much (probably did not impress me at all) since these days this kind of movie poster is just mainstream (I mean, come on, you’ve got to know movies with sci-fi, war, and Tom Cruise in their posters. Well, maybe one or two. Okay fine, with Tom Cruise omitted, then). So really, at first I was let down by the first look, yet the tagline was too catchy for me to give it up. So I give the trailer a shot, and personally I think you should too.

It was worth my time.

So yes, my mind has changed, and short to say I am all jittery waiting for this movie. It better  be good, because if it ain’t, well, let’s just say that when a disappointing result meets a high expectation, crap happens.

In a glance, this movie reminded me of Source Code, MOHA (Medal of Honor Airborne, because of that first scene where the soldiers dropped from the plane), and something that comes from Halo (even though I did not play Halo, still, the soldiers looked familiar to me). With the existence of Tom Cruise in this movie, it only reminded me of one recent movie: Oblivion. Simply, I gave Oblivion a 3.5/5 for it’s shallow plot, though I gave an extra half credit out of pity and for their good screenplay.

So what do you think? Will it be better than Oblivion or not? Will it be a great movie to watch with your geeky girlfriend (or, if you’re a girl, boyfriend)? Will Emily Blunt give a notable effect on the movie (I am kind of curious about that)? Comments below folks,  tell me what you think. Until then!

A Beautiful Mind: The Courage of The Heart

The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.
The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.

Truthfully, I really love the poster from the bottom of my heart. There is another version of this movie’s poster, but I think the one that described what the movie is about more accurately is this one. Even more truthful, I just can’t stop loving the movie. One word to describe it all: touching.

Synopsis

This movie actually has the similar conflict with the movie Forrest Gump, where the main character has a mental problem. The difference is Forrest Gump suffers a low IQ, while here the main character suffered from schizophrenia. Who is the main character? It is no other than the celebrated John Nash; the 1994 Nobel Economic Sciences prize, and guess what? He is still alive! Basically, this movie is a biography of John Nash coping with his paranoia, which is caused by his mental illness (schizophrenia). Nash, an exceptional mathematician, is an asocial, paranoid, and an eccentric figure. He is obsessed by finding an original theory during his early times at Princeton, and he finally did (in a bar). For the revolutionary theory he has found, he managed to get a position in a prestigious wing in MIT (Wheeler Lab; but in fact, this is actually fiction. See http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2002/nash-0213.html) since then, he taught classes and utilized the facilities MIT has lent them with his two partners, Sol and Bender. Since he got married with one of his students, his delusions reached a new low; he began to believe that he was a part of some secret service that has the intention to stop a communist party from succeeding in blowing up a ‘portable nuke’ on American soil. Nash was supposed to look for codes that was embedded in magazines (such as LIFE) and deliver them to a drop location where he will collect the ‘confidential documents’ to a postbox. This delusional conspiracy he is involved in made him more and more paranoid by the day, until his wife, Mrs. Alicia Larde reported his paranoid behavior to a psychiatry hospital. The recognition of his mental illness opened up a new chapter, as Nash took medications and therapies and struggled to cope with his dulled mind (side-effect of the medications he took). He finally couldn’t stand it anymore and secretly skipped his medications, which caused his delusions to come back. Nash, believing he is still in the ‘secret conspiracy’, continued his obsession with cracking codes embedded in magazines while neglecting his household duties. His wife finally finds out about this, and at first went mad at him. But soon Nash figured out by himself (intellectually, as he put it) that his delusion IS a delusion that is not real. This, again, opens up a new page for him, where with the enormous dedication from his wife he attempted to cope with his mental disorder without medication. There are several times where he reluctantly willing to go back to his medication, as he couldn’t stand his mental delusions anymore, but with the support of his good wife, he went through. This story about a brilliant man with ‘two helpings of brain but half a helping of heart’ is overall heartbreaking and introduced the world of a schizophrenic to our common eyes. To me, personally, this movie is a close second to Forrest Gump, whereas Forrest Gump has more humor in it. The soundtrack is truly exceptional. It produces the subtlety yet escalated tension in several action-packed scenes very well. It blended very well with all of the scenes in the movie. The song itself also described the whole core of the movie in a delicate and precise way. Top class, and must I say; tres bien! Russell Crowe was very natural in this movie. He speaks in a West Virginian accent so fluently that I am leaded to believe he is originally from West Virginia, which is not true. His act as a schizophrenic person is also a gem of this movie. He used body gestures all the time to appear agitated, and he also arranged his facial expression in what I must say, appeared to be a ‘disturbing person’s’. The four right words to describe Jennifer Connelly in this movie is perhaps  ‘seducing, attractive, patient, and smart’ in this movie. But in my opinion, there is one word to describe it all: ‘aggressive’. Yes folks, her eyes can pierce through yours and her voice, soothing as it seems, have the power to make you submit to her. I might as well imagine Yoda saying, “Strong, the force is inside her. Aggressive, she did not look. Out, watch.” Credits also must be given to Paul Bettany and Ed Harris for being a ‘perfect delusion’ in Nash’s world. Ed’s naturally great act made me believe that at first, Nash is actually involved in a real conspiracy; while Paul’s exceptional act made me believe that he really do exist. Somehow, in a way, both of them made me relate to a schizophrenic’s world.

Introduction

So what is schizophrenia? Let’s beam up our old ‘know-it-all’ pal, Wikipedia.

“Schizophrenia (/ˌskɪtsɵˈfrɛniə/ or /ˌskɪtsɵˈfrniə/) is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by impaired emotional responses. Common symptoms include delusions, such as paranoid beliefshallucinationsdisorganized thinking; and negative symptoms, such as blunted affect and avolition.” Wikipedia

Below is a self-portrait of a schizophrenic.

Courtesy of Wikipedia. Such a helpful pal.
Courtesy of Wikipedia. Such a helpful pal.

I can’t say I understood all of the above before watching the movie. To my former self, hallucinations of a schizophrenic must be something that is temporary, easy to shrug off. But I never thought schizophrenia could drive someone to his/her edge only from their own hallucinations. This movie showed me that to a schizophrenic, the line between reality and its counterpart is a very fine one. I’d like to coin a phrase from Nash’s psychiatrist at this point:

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?” Dr. Rosen, Beautiful Mind

That guy certainly knows what he’s talking about.

Main Characters and Their Stories

In total, there are several important characters that arguably earned the dignified position as the main character. But I will crown only two out of the lot, since the story basically spins on this particularly courageous couple; John Nash (Russell Crowe) and his wife, Mrs. Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly).

There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is.
There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is.
I'm sorry, just give me a moment to redefine my girlish notions of romance.
I’m sorry, just give me a moment to redefine my girlish notions of romance.

As I said before, the movie was touching. But to be more particular, it is actually courageous. The only thing that drives Nash is courage; a courage given by his wife’s dedication, and for the first time Nash cannot rely on logic and reasons alone. It is courage that he held onto, his belief that he can overcome his mental disability without medication; the courage that he acquired from his wondrous wife, Mrs. Larde.

There’s not much of a background to Alicia Larde in the movie, so let’s talk a bit about her.

Her full name is Alicia Esther Lopez-Harrison de Lardé; quite a name, and she was born in San Salvador in El Salvador. She was smart and has an ambition to be ‘the next Marie Curie’. She first met Nash at an Advanced Calculus for Engineers class and, let’s just say the term ‘love at first sight’ is a perfect fit to the situation.

“A pair of odd ducks, then.” John Nash, Beautiful Mind

Highlights

I will discuss about the ability of the disabled first as a tribute to all with the problem. Disability, you might say, literally disabled you effectively to live the life of other normal people’s. But as my old man said, when a door is closed, another will open somewhere; you just need to look for it. Take a look at John Nash. He is paranoid all the time, putting it mildly, as well as his son. Both of them became mathematician of prestige; John Nash earned a Nobel prize, and his son earned the privilege of being a top chess player and an artist. Look at it this way: a disability made you impossible to improve in some skills, which made you focus more on doing what you can; which made you sharpened those skills more frequently than normal people does. Normal people are like jack-of-all-trade-but-master-of-none, but disabled people (I really think I need to switch the term ‘disabled into ‘special’ here) are, you can say, an ‘ace’-of-a-trade.

What is that? You said you’re normal, unfortunately? Well folks, here’s the good news: normal means more options! What I just said earlier above is the TENDENCY of what normal people did, not their ‘fate’. Look at it this way: you can be anything you want, you just need to FOCUS (my old man always said that). Normal people usually didn’t get anywhere because they don’t focus on only one thing, instead they ‘greedily’ try everything they wanted to be. The result? They’re usually halfway this and that, never reaching their final destination. Focus, my folks, is the key; and ‘special’ people are just so good about it (Come to think about it, I think this lesson is best learned from the famed movie Forrest Gump. Recommended at the best).

That’s not it. The main highlight of this movie is actually the power of the heart; the power of love, belief, and courage. In a deleted scene, John Nash has said: “Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.”

“Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.” John Nash, Beautiful Mind

At the beginning of the movie, Nash was supposedly told by his elementary teacher that he has ‘two helpings of brain but half a helping of heart’. Now most of us nowadays usually think that actually it is good to be that way, and that is why most of us are wrong. As John Nash put it delicately when he made a speech directed to his wife, “I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.”

“I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.” John Nash, Beautiful mind

To put it in an easier term, who will you choose for your lifetime partner in a deserted island; a brilliant and multi-functional robot which did not know any emotions, or a stupid, dumb, and slow human that has ‘twice the helping of heart’? If you pick the first, then I’ll stay away from you. If that makes you happy, then you are most definitely not a person, because a human is always in need of an emotional embrace as part of their social need. Take John Nash for an example. Without his loving, caring, and supporting wife, he’ll be a hobo for sure. According to Sylvia Nasar, Nash’s biography author: “If she hadn’ t taken him in, he would have wound up on the streets.”  Deep down, a person; however asocial he/she is, will always need that emotional embrace. They need someone who loved them from the heart, care for them no matter what, and support them in a time of distress.

John Nash: "And then, on the way home, Charles was there again. Sometimes I miss talking to him. Maybe Rosen is right. Maybe I have to think about going back to the hospital."  Alicia Larde: "Maybe try again tomorrow."
John Nash: “And then, on the way home, Charles was there again. Sometimes I miss talking to him. Maybe Rosen is right. Maybe I have to think about going back to the hospital.”
Alicia Larde: “Maybe try again tomorrow.”

Review: An easy 4/5.

Let’s Get This Straight

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Letters From Iwo Jima: What is War?

The official movie poster of the movie "Letters From Iwo Jima"
The official movie poster of the movie “Letters From Iwo Jima”

     So, the first movie review (excited!). Well, not really the first, since I used to review movies in a geek-ly kind of fashion in front of my buddies most of the times, so yeah.

     The honor of being the first movie to be reviewed by a common folk goes to…(drumroll…) Letters From Iwo Jima!

     Now wait a minute, you might say. The movie’s boring as much as boring could be, some might say. Even my own old man fell to a deep sleep in the early minutes while watching it with me. Probably, yes, it’s VERY boring; but to me, the movie’s a gem. It changed my naive perspective of, “wow, war is awesome!” Into something like, “so many dead people. So many futile deaths.” Which actually is the definition of war, in a nutshell. Told from the losing side of the Japanese at their brave-beyond-mention final stand at Iwo Jima, this story really is worth your time to watch (I know, I know, three hours).

 Synopsis

As the director of this movie, Clint Eastwood changed the perspectives of common people towards the battle of Iwo Jima drastically; even myself, as I always thought that in that particular war, the Japanese are so savage and brutal. Letters From Iwo Jima is a (literally) awesome history-based war movie which is self-explanatory from its name. It is based on the infamous bloody pacific war located in the volcanic island of Iwo Jima, where 20,000 souls were lost on the defending side (the Japanese) and less than 1,000 were captured. The movie is consisted of Japanese dialogues nearly all the time, so we have that feel of a different war atmosphere, the one where the soldiers were all Japanese and has their body and soul tested beyond measure through the time of distress, not that “KILL THE AMERICANS! KILL, KILL, KILL!” kind of atmosphere of war. The performers were excellent as they were very natural in their acting and the characterization is something to admire, since telling the difference between each same-uniformed soldier can be hard to do without a good one. The movie also has an expert tension build-up through the switching of the scenes, several emphasized dialogues, and a huge portion of credit for the great natural performance (the expressions on their faces were very touching). The mental of the soldiers and the brilliant plans of the acting general were the main highlights of the movie, and almost all of the scenes in the movie were based upon it. The camera shooting was also something to be amazed at. How they managed to shoot the right landscape for the right time to have the maximum feel and effect is just spectacular. The muted color on the movie gave a touch of reality and tragedy; the two important element of the movie.

 Introduction

What is Iwo Jima, you ask? Iwo Jima is an island southeast of the Japanese mainland.

The location of the infamous island of Iwo Jima. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The location of the infamous island of Iwo Jima. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The U.S. army were trying to occupy Iwo Jima in order to guarantee the success of launching an attack at the Japanese mainland. Think of it as a military outpost of strategic advantages. If the island is captured, then the thought of the Japanese force surviving the barrage of attacks from the U.S. army is just impossible, since the U.S. had the liberty to replenish supplies anytime and had a safe place to retreat, if needed. The U.S. will also have a base near enough to Japan to launch their strategic bombers on them. The best part is: the Japanese force  just can’t do anything about it, since they were outgunned, outnumbered; and may I say, too orthodox to take desperate measures. In WWII, Japan was an empire that values traditional values very, very high. They uphold honor more than anything. They believed that dying in a Banzai charge (hint: a suicide attack) is far more honorable than retreating, which is just wrong, since retreating and recollecting forces has more chance of victory than doing a suicide attack, where death is 99,99% certain. Sure, it may work in comic books, movies, and books, where the heroes were trapped in a desperate situation and they heroically charged. But suicide in real world is real, which is saying a lot. In short, the Japanese force values honor more than the slightest chance of victory; and that, my good common folks, is their key to defeat. Before continuing, I think I skipped an explanation about “honor” here. Samurais. Familiar to your ears? Sure! Samurai Jack, Power Rangers Samurai, The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise, etc, etc. These were fictional examples based on the Samurais (I’m not really sure Samurais come in different colors like in the Power Rangers series. Especially yellow). Historically, they were loyal royal (I know, it rhymes) warriors of the Japanese Empire, serving under lords who ultimately served under the Shogun; the second-highest rank in the Japanese Empire. The highest is the Emperor himself, of course, but the Shogun is the one  that took care of everything; so that, say, the Emperor could kick back and relax. Back to Samurais. These remarkable warriors have their own sets of rules, mainly based on the Bushido: the way of the warrior, literally. It’s this guideline the Samurais were expected to follow in their life, similar to the European chivalry code, actually. An important part of this set of rule concerned the importance of honor.

“When one lost their honour or the situation made them lose it, the only way to save their dignity was by death. Seppuku (vulgarly called “harakiri“, or “belly-cutting”) was the most honourable death in that situation. The only way for a Samurai to die more honourably was to be killed in a battle by a sword.” Wikipedia

Since the U.S. troops didn’t use swords of any kind ( I don’t think combat knife counts), the Iwo Jima force was left with no choice in order to save their honor. They were to commit Seppuku, or they were to do the Banzai charge (suicide charge, in an easier term). Retreat, of course, will result in shame to them. Don’t ask me why retreat is a shame, I’m born just before the year 2000.

Main Characters and Their Stories

I think there are only two main characters, since the movie was mostly based on their viewpoint. Let’s start with a former baker who has no experience with front-line wars and guns and whatsoever, yet a smart-enough man who values life more then honor. His name is Saigo. He’s a scrawny, naive, newlywed man who had a wife and a newborn baby girl at his home.

Saigo, the smart man who values life more than honor. Courtesy of Google Images.
Saigo, the smart man who values life more than honor. Courtesy of Google Images.

     To me, Saigo is one of the two guys in the movie that makes sense. When a soldier openly disagreed with a higher officer (at the risk of his death) in the matter of both Banzai and Seppuku, you’ll know he’s the only one around with a healthy brain.

     In many of the movie scenes, Saigo was portrayed as a man with the realistic mental of a war soldier with no experience. Some may call this a cowardice, but frankly I think they will change their mind if they were put in the same distressing situation. Not only Saigo, several of his friends were portrayed in this way, too. Throughout the film, waning confidence is always depicted on these soldiers ‘from Mars’ (the term ‘these man from Mars’ is actually real, since the Japanese survivors of the brutal war looked inhumane, only weighing around 30 kilos). As I observed in many war movies, the soldiers were more frequently portrayed from their ‘heroic’ sides, not their mental vulnerability. But in this particular war movie, where we see war from the losing side’s point-of-view, the word ‘war’ is clearly defined, because that is war; full of losses, deaths, and unsure victory. How will you feel when you are in a situation where death is certain, suffering is even more certain, and yet your goal is beyond your reach? To put in in a commoner’s term, how will you feel when your chemistry teacher sets up a pop quiz in just five minutes, you have to memorize fifty pages of atomic crap in that long minutes, and yet you knew you would fail?

     Other than Saigo, there is General Kuribayashi. He is a Japanese general who is apparently smart enough to hold Iwo Jima for approximately 40 days rather than a quick, brutal defeat from a futile fight at the beach. You see, Iwo Jima is an island, and if a war were to commence in an island, basically you need to set up a beach defence; trenches, mounted machine guns, artilleries, all at the beach to hold the attackers at bay. But Kuribayashi did not want to do that. He knows that the U.S. had more better armaments than him and that his troops will probably be shot at from the range, and that his troops will be sitting ducks to air raids, especially they had no aerial support whatsoever. When we are talking about american air raids; folks, we are not messing around, especially when there are no air supports to hold them off.

Yes folks, it's Ken Watanabe from "The Last Samurai" as General Kuribayashi.
Yes folks, it’s Ken Watanabe from “The Last Samurai” as General Kuribayashi.

Although his  assisting officers argued with him concerning the beach defense, Kuribayashi continued to proceed with his unusual plans. His assisting officers were definitely surprised when he said the word “tunnels” , and yet these tunnels were a wondering marvel several decades later to Japanese archaeologists, and proved to be a precious underground shelter from the U.S. army’s artillery bombardment. Before the war, Kuribayashi actually had a visit to the U.S., where he was assigned to learn the Americans’ ways (maybe in an attempt to exploit them in later days of conflicts). He was amazed at the technological advances the Americans has made, and was struck by wonder on how friendly they were. In his parting day with his community, they prepared some sort of feast to Kuribayashi as a token of gratefulness, along with a gift (a Colt handgun, I think). Kuribayashi was clearly moved by this gesture. As I was saying, Saigo was one of the two people who clearly values life more than honor, and the other people who did that is this good-guy general. Kuribayashi did not foolishly order Banzai charges around like a boss; no, he believed in preserving the lives of men to achieve victory, and that is war is all about: entirely about victory, not entirely about honor.

“I don’t know who he is, but the Japanese General running this show is one smart bastard.”  Marine Corps General Holland Smith

Kuribayashi had a wife, a son, and a daughter. In the movie, flashbacks of his experience in the United States frequently began by mentally addressing his son, Taro. This shows that this guy is apparently a family guy, too.

Highlights

There are several lessons that I can pick from this gem of a movie. Let’s start with the obvious: men’s life are far more valuable than anything else, including honor. It made me realize that, honor is not found in deaths, but on the other hand, honor is found in the deeds of a man’s life. The longer you live, more chances of doing good deeds you will get, and I think that’s all honor is about. Good deeds. There is also another precious lesson I get from a scene in the movie, when Baron Nishi, a Japanese Olympic athlete (and gold-medal winner in horseback riding) took in a wounded U.S. soldier and picked up a little chat. It was touching, and it hits me: I am seeing future. In the future, when globalization became a major problem yet a problem solver, people will understand each other better and conflicts will lessen. The discharged Kempeitai officer in the movie said it all: “I was taught that the Americans were savages”. With toleration, there will be less enemies and more friends; you tell me folks, do you prefer enemies or friends? As Jesus (I am not a Christian nor Satanist, if you’re wondering) said it in a very fine way: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,”. Tolerance is not an easy thing to do, but it bear great fruits that can help you in the future.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” Jesus, KJV Translation

Another highlight in this movie is perhaps teamwork. Kuribayashi is not trusted by his assisting officials, and through the movie continued to be referred as ‘behind-the-desk’ general or ‘an American sympathizer’. Because of this, many of his key assisting officers turned their backs on him and did what they think is right: to die with honor in a Banzai charge rather than retreating (as told by Kuribayashi) with shame. Kuribayashi is actually trying to save their lives, but due to the lacking trust his assisting officers had, his plan to hold Iwo Jima failed (in a courageous fashion). Teamwork is always the key to success in an organization. The final lesson I picked is perhaps the most important one, since it is the most agreeable and universal one. As I said earlier, the movie opened my eyes to the brutality of near-real-life war, emphasis on the word ‘near’. I played a lot of war games, such as Call  of Duty, Medal of Honor, Stronghold, Command and Conquer, etc. All in all they were fun. Heck, I even enjoy burning my own men with flamethrowers or trapping my own swordsmen with hundreds of lions. Death, in games and entertainment, is equal to fun; which is very ironic, since death must belong with tragedy and distress. This movie is actually the first movie that depicts the tragedy of war, and what this war actually stands for: empty hopes of world domination and empty glories, honors, and purposes. In one way, it is shown to me that way. But being a pretty upbeat guy, I also noticed the different purposes of these futile deaths. Sure, some dedicated their life to the Japanese Empire, or honor, or even to ego. But if there’s anything worth quoting from the movie, it’s Kuribayashi’s sole purpose in going down fighting to death: “The tunnel-digging may be futile. The stand on Iwo Jima may be futile. Maybe the whole war is futile. Would you give up then? We will defend this island until we are dead! Until the very last soldier is dead! If our children can live safely for one more day, it would be worth the one more day that we defend this island!” Which, saying in an easier term, he fought to preserve lives, not honor, not the Empire itself, not ego, but lives of men; the single thing that is valued beyond golds, silvers, diamonds. Again, in a cruel irony, men themselves saw this backwards; that golds, silvers, and diamonds are more valuable than their own lives. War, is always futile.

“The tunnel-digging may be futile. The stand on Iwo Jima may be futile. Maybe the whole war is futile. Would you give up then? We will defend this island until we are dead! Until the very last soldier is dead! If our children can live safely for one more day, it would be worth the one more day that we defend this island!” General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)

To close this review, I want to quote a particular famous last words. But before that, I’d like to finish off this movie-of-the-week review by saying a huge huge thanks to you readers. I’d also like to remind you guys that this work is free to read, copy, or used IF, that’s the big if, you kindly care to give me some credit. Comments are very welcome, as long as it’s relevant with the topic.  Once again, thanks a LOT!

 “All officers and men of Chichi Jima – goodbye from Iwo.” General Tadamichi Kuribayachi

Rating:  Personally I’ll give 4/5, but I felt a need to give extra credit for the war heroes; so instead, I gave a 4.5/5.