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Reconfiguring Mythology

(I wrote this essay a few years ago after watching the first ‘Avengers’ movie and before the showing of “Prometheus.” Screenwriters and movie producers have mined the pages of Mythology and Legend for their movie projects. Both Marvel and DC (and their partners) keep coming out with movies where their resident superheroes either make friends or clash with mythological and legendary characters and creatures. Watch “Wonder Woman” and you’ll see how elements of “Greek Mythology” were fused into the movie. Go watch the latest “Transformers” movie next and find out whether Merlin, King Arthur and the knights of the round table sided with the Autobots or with the Decepticons.)

Recent movies I watched (“Clash of the Titans”, “Thor” and the “Avengers”) have brought me endless amazement.  Amazed because my favorite characters in classic literature come alive in fresh story lines stuffed with visual and sound effects  that are breathtakingly outstanding and astounding.

But more than the amazement, the said movies  also inspired  me to revisit the subject in Literature that I have always considered most interesting – Mythology.

Of course we know that the Titans are entities from Greek Mythology. Seemingly, movie producers are casting their lots on the Titans nowadays. “Prometheus” (which is the title of the movie that soon I will be watching) himself is another Titan.  What remains to be seen is whether or not in the movie Prometheus plays out his role of stealing the heavenly fire for the benefit of humanity.

Conversely, Thor and Loki, who appeared in both “Thor” and “The Avengers” are both characters in Norse Mythology.

Generally,  script writers and movie producers  are seemingly mining the pages of Mythology  for their movie projects.

Movies similar to the aforementioned clearly show how enormous advancement in technology  benefited  Mythology.  There’s nothing now that creative writers can’t describe in their narratives that 3D and 4D computer graphics can’t project unto the silver screen.

The unbelievable visual  effects made possible through Computer Graphics Imagery (CGI) thrill movie goers and startle them no end. This is one of the best ways to present Mythology. All those imaginary creatures, out-of-this world settings and incredible circumstances would no longer be left for the audience to imagine but for their eyes to feast upon.

What would be the educational implications of this modern rendition of Mythology?

Teaching the said subject has become easier and learning on the part of the students become more fun. For teachers, the movie versions (or even just a few clips) of stories from the pages of Mythology may serve as their audio-visual materials. Discussions during  classes will be greatly augmented by the visuals students see in the movies. Lest we forget that the current generation of learners  are visual. The better they learn when presented with images, pictures and colors. With the right  movies, they learn while having fun.

It could be true that the movie versions of Mythology may make students disinterested with reading but one thing we should bear in mind is that the learning landscape has changed. Through viewing learning could be achieved as well. Viewing, just like reading , has lately been classified as a macro skill in language also.

These reminds me of the suggestion made by one of my students in Creative Writing before. She said that to make sure that the students would read the original story and not just rely on the movie version one activity that could be designed is ask them to find the portions of the original story modified in the movie version.

Could it be that learning Mythology becomes more effective through “viewing” than through “reading?” This is not saying that today’s generation of learners should no longer be encouraged to read. For each area of knowledge there is a corresponding macro skill most applicable. Methinks that for Mythology it is “viewing.”

However, teachers need to pay attention to the discrepancies between the original story and the movie versions. They have to warn the students about such.

For instance, in the movie “Troy”, the Trojan war took place in less than a month. In the original story (Homer’s Iliad), the war ended after ten years. The movie also shows Paris killing Menelaus which is not the case in the original story. The foregoing are but a few of the many discrepancies.

The teachers have to be on the lookout for possible changes to the original story. They themselves need to recognize the changes so the students get to be informed.

Perhaps the movie producers needed to tinker with the original storylines of the “classics” to make the movie versions more cinematic. Understandably, not all the details in the original stories can be included but at least the brains behind the movie production be sensible enough not to change significant details in the story.

Another thing that teachers should be ready for are questions like “Are the Hulk and the Iron Man mythological characters?”

“Myth” is traditionally defined as a story about gods, heroes or imaginary animals which has been handed down  from  one  generation   to another from primitive  times  and is  usually of a religious nature. Additionally the  purpose  of myths is   to explain some belief or natural phenomenon.

Should the foregoing definition be considered, the Hulk and the Iron Man are not mythological characters. In the movie “The Avengers” only Thor and Loki fall in that category.

Experts differ in opinion as to whether or not the companions of Thor and Loki in “The Avengers” be classified as mythological characters. Others contend that they are simply fictional  characters or superheroes that appear in comic books. Their stories do not bear the prerequisites for a myth.

Some are saying that stories in the comic books are part of “modern mythology.” It is not. In a strict sense the term “modern mythology” is delivering classic mythology using as medium the modern technology available nowadays.

What could really be considered as modern version of mythology are the “urban legends.” “Batman,” also a famous character from the comic books is said to be part of urban legend. Thus, if the  comic book character Batman, technically, is a Mythological character, urban legends being a modern version of Mythology, what about the rest of the comic book characters?

Then, the discussion goes in full circle again.

But who knows, with characters from Mythology and comic books finally brought together either as friends cooperating or enemies locking horns in the movie “The Avengers” a redefinition of the term MYTH may follow.

Source: Reconfiguring Mythology

“DON’T BREATHE”: A Review

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Would you not hold your breath if breathing may lead to your death?

This, probably, is one of the best suspense-thriller movies of the year.

It appeared to be just an ordinary home invasion movie in the first 26 minutes. That much time was used for the “exposition.” There are movies that took lesser time to introduce the characters and to establish their motives. But once the “rising action” started on the 27:11 mark, when the deceptively helpless blind man asked “Who’s there?,” I found it difficult to leave my seat. From there, the roller coaster ride begins with the switchback going in no other direction but up  and hits lots of twists and turns.

The source of the conflict is clearly “man against man.” But it’s not a predictable struggle between two opposing forces. It’s not the usual good against bad stuff for neither of the sides is good. Rocky, Money and Alex are thieves. What about the blind man?

The blind man, a military veteran living alone in an abandoned neighborhood, is about to be a victim of the trio targeting the money he received as a settlement after his child died in a reckless driving incident. So one would think that the blind man plays the role of the victim. But wait! The thieves would end up getting victimized by their victim. The blind man was supposed to be helpless (being blind) but his military experience gives the viewers a perception that he has special skills. What gives him a distinct advantage in the struggle, aside from the gun in his hand, is his familiarity of the nooks and crannies of his house.

The prey turned predator.

Will Rocky, Money and Alex succeed in getting the blind man’s money and come out of the house alive?

A portent of the horror that the young thieves are about to experience came when the Rottweiler, which turned out to be owned by the blind war veteran, came charging at them while they were on a car spying on the house that they were about to burglarize. Luckily, the windows of the car were up.

Rocky witnessed helplessly how Money was killed by the blind man and how he sealed his doors and windows to ensure that no one else would enter (and get out of) his house.

In the basement, when Rocky and Alex were trying to find a way out of the house, they discovered that actually the blind man kidnapped and impregnated Cindy, the young woman who killed the military veteran’s child.

Accidentally that the blind man killed Cindy when some of the shots he fired missed Alex and Rocky and hit Cindy instead.

The movie succeeded in making me glued to my seat… on its edge to be exact. I postponed peeing until I saw the final credits rolling. The scriptwriter did a masterful job in building up the conflict leading to the crisis. The most difficult thing to do in a movie is to maintain constant tension in a limited setting like a house. With so limited a space the writer managed to keep the action going.

This, however, is far from being a perfect movie. There are a number of loopholes.

No! It’s not how on earth did the blind man not hear the barking of his dog when the thieves arrived. I was wondering why too. But when Money opened the living room there I found the answer: He was fast asleep, the windows are tightly closed, and the TV was on.

Here is one of the loopholes… Rocky and Money are lovers yet in no part of the movie you can sense that the two are in love. What was more obvious was Alex likes Rocky.

What about this?…How could the BLIND man have succeeded in kidnapping Cindy? Unless he has an accomplice. His mad dog could have not done it for him.

Another one…The opening scene, where the blind man could be seen dragging a bloodied Rocky, could be considered a spoiler of some sort. Having that in mind, as the action progresses, it gives the viewers an impression that the movie would end up with the blind man coming out victorious in the struggle.

From that scene, the movie proceeds to flashback.

I think that that scene gives some anticlimactic effects to that exciting sequence where Rocky succeeded in luring the Rottweiler into the car and had the dog locked up inside. It allowed me to correctly guess that when Rocky was standing about to celebrate her freedom the camera would roll in an angle where the blind man will been seen coming to grab Rocky from behind…and that, exactly, happened.

That’s the end of the flashback…but not the end of the movie yet. There are 5 more minutes left after that.

I tried to guess what would happen after the blind man recaptured Rocky. I thought that that was it…the blind man getting Rocky back is already the climax. It turned to be just the beginning of the end. Rocky being brought back to the house would only pave the way for an exciting ending.

Rocky was lying on the floor helpless and defenseless against the blind man. Then what seemingly could be considered a “deus ex machina” appeared…an insect, the ladybug.

I recalled seeing a ladybug in the movie once in the beginning and again at that instance toward the end. Rocky also had a tattoo of the insect in her left wrist. She also mentioned in her narrative about her childhood how the ladybug made her feel safe. With both Money and Alex  dead, seeing the ladybug again in her most difficult situation, brought courage back  to her. She made the alarm sound to confuse the blind man and repeatedly hit him with a crowbar.

The climax came at exactly the 1:20:43 mark. The blind man, after taking a series of blows to the head fell to the basement.

Rocky came out of the house alive and with the blind man’s money…but the blind man survived.

The movie ended with Rocky and her sister leaving Detroit for California.

The Confession Wives (Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real): A Review

Ang-dalawang-Mrs.Real

Admittedly, I got tired watching Filipino drama series shown on Philippine TV. The story lines are so repetitive that it diminishes the element of surprise which is a key ingredient in literary appreciation. Instead of the suspense killing the audience, familiarity with the story line kills the suspense then bores the audience.

Then came GMA 7’s TV series “The Confession Wives” (“Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real”).  It’s a story about a philandering husband who married another woman. After going over its synopsis,  I said “nothing new.” So, I did not bother to watch… until my wife  asked me to find on You Tube the episodes of the said TV drama that she missed. With nothing else to do I decided to peep on what she’s watching. Result: For the first time in years that I eagerly watched a Filipino drama series.

How many times have we watched a movie and TV drama about unfaithful husbands? How many times have we read stories about men not contended with their wives so they resorted to having extra-marital affairs? We know that when the wife learned about it all hell breaks loose. We know that when men got caught they had to choose between their wives and their other women.

The foregoing is also what GMA’s “Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real” is all about. Familiar situations yet the story, generally, succeeded in veering away from becoming predictable. Every scene, actually, is climactic stuffed with twists and turns. Watching it is like riding an emotional roller  coaster.

Elements of the rising action are beautifully put together as the story geared towards the climax. The climax itself was something unexpected. I have a penchant on rightly guessing how things would turn out in a story but this one had me wrong several times.

Yes, same story line but delivered differently.

Different not because the actors and actresses, if I may use an oft-repeated phrase, “gave justice to their roles.” This is no longer surprising. It is a given. These people are trained to act out roles.

It is different because the whole story is a realistic rendition of life.  And this is exactly what literature is… a faithful reproduction of life.

Characterization and dialogue are consistent with literary realism. The story as a whole presented universal truths about men and women, about family and society making it acceptable even to international audience.

Anthony (Ding-dong Dantes), the husband, is the embodiment of the popular belief about men – “that men are polygamous in nature.”  Henry (Robert Arevalo) and Tino (Tommy Abuel), fathers of the two women married by Anthony, are themselves not clean. Both of them have had extra-marital affairs themselves. Among men in many parts of the world, womanizing seems to be a natural thing.

But the story also presents the good side of the male specie through Jun (Jaime Fabregas), a disciple of monogamy. He is a  loving husband to his wife Sonia (Conie Reyes) and a supportive father to Anthony.  Chaos descended upon his family for all the troubles created by his son yet he keeps his family above water. He was the glue that keep his family together.

On the other hand, Millet (Maricel Soriano) is an epitome of a martyr wife. While almost violently that she reacted to her husband’s infidelity, while she was offended to the utmost upon learning that Anthony married another woman, she forgave him.  That’s how wives are, they always stand by their men. As much as possible they must preserve the famiy. Umeng (Susan Africa), the mother of the other Mrs. Real, Shiela (Lovi Poe) also chose to stick by her husband, Tino, even if she discovered that the latter, just like Anthony,  had another woman and actually fathered a child.

Millet and the other Mrs. Real,  Shiela (Lovi Poe) and her mother Umeng (Susan Africa) represent women who are at the receiving end of an ongoing notion that it is okay for a man to have another woman. Like many women in society, they unwillingly embrace the dictum that men will always be men. Or maybe they are drowned by fear that life may not go on without their husbands.

Aurora (Celeste Legazpi) and Sonia (Conie Reyes)  are the typical mothers protective of their children. They are pained to see their children suffer and they would do anything to alleviate their suffering.

In real life,  we criticize people for the things they say and do. We do the same in the drama series,  we pass judgment on the characters.

We approved the positions taken by each of the families affected. They did what they needed to do to protect their loved ones.

But while we expressed sympathy for some characters, most especially Millet, we criticized some. The harshest criticism fell, not on Anthony, but perhaps on Henry.

Why not on Anthony? He is the most sinful of all the characters. He caused all the troubles. But why was he not crucified. To err is human to forgive is divine. Anthony committed mistakes but  tried to correct them. He tried to put things in order thereby earning the forgiveness and sympathy of the viewers.

And why on Henry? Because he is so unforgiving. He plays his moralism to the extreme. He did not forgive Anthony and sued him for bigamy despite the pleas made by his wife and his daughter and Anthony’s mother.

When Millet fell into depression we considered it to foreshadow the possibility of Henry finally forgiving Anthony. But the story did not give the audience what it expected. Millet getting ill all the more strengthened Henry’s resolve to go hard against Anthony. The case Henry filed prospered.

The viewers disliked Henry for such a hardline stance, although it was out of love  for his daughter that he ought to do what he did. Any father would want to punish anybody who would hurt their children.

While Anthony went into catharsis starting from the moment he got caught for his infidelity and culminating in what he did during the trial when he retracted from his “not guilty plea” declaring his willingness to go to prison and be punished for his wrongdoings for the troubles he created that even led to his father’s death, Jaime on his part, took until the time that Anthony finished serving his prison time to have his own catharsis and finally forgive him.

The hatred and passion for revenge simmered down as the story march to its denouement. There was reconciliation and acceptance at the end. “All’s well that ends well!”

The lesson is clear, when you do something wrong, brace for the consequences.

The TV drama may have changed the way people look at the plight of women crying a river while languishing helplessly in the shadows of their husbands’ infidelity. It may have also sent a clear signal to Anthonys  out there that they could be chewing more than they could swallow.

The Confession Wives (Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real): A Review.

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