On Injustice and the Dark Knight

Without meaning to imply that I’m an unsung hero, events that occurred today brought me back to one of my favorite scenes in the movie The Dark Knight. This scene made me cry then, and remembering it now makes me cry too.

[Gordon’s son follows Gordon down to where Batman lies unmoving next to Two-Face’s corpse]

Gordon’s Son: Dad! Dad, is he okay?

Gordon: [relieved as Batman slowly pulls himself up to his knees] Thank you.

Batman: You don’t have to thank me.

Gordon: Yes, I do. [both look at Two-Face’s body on the ground] The Joker won. Harvey’s prosecution, everything he fought for – undone. Any chance you gave us at fixing our city dies with Harvey’s reputation. We bet it all on him. The Joker took the best of us and tore him down. People will lose hope.

Batman: They won’t. They must never know what he did.

Gordon: Five dead, two of them cops? You can’t sweep that up!

Batman: No. But the Joker cannot win. [kneels down next to Harvey, whose scarred left side is facing up] Gotham needs its true hero. [turns Harvey’s head so that his unmarred side faces up]

Gordon: [immediately understanding] No!

Batman: [quoting Harvey Dent] “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” I can do those things because I’m not a hero, not like Dent. I killed those people. That’s what I can be.

Gordon: No, no! You can’t, you’re not! Batman: I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be. [hands Gordon his radio] Call it in.

Gordon: They’ll hunt you.

Batman: You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me, set the dogs on me. [In the voiceover, Gordon speaks at Dent’s funeral, then destroys the Bat-Signal, Alfred burns Rachel’s letter, and Fox destroys the sonar device] Because that’s what needs to happen. Because sometimes… the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded. [Batman runs]

Gordon’s Son: Batman? Batman! Why is he running, Dad?

Gordon: Because we have to chase him.

Gordon’s Son: He didn’t do anything wrong.

Gordon: Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.

There’s a certain baggage that comes with being where I am now at work.

With what we do, we’re at the end of the long chain of support groups that makes things happen. When and if someone majorly screws-up somewhere along that chain, we are the ones who will sadly and ultimately look bad.

Today I was told that after all we had done to get things to come together at the last minute in spite of everyone else’s screw-ups, that ultimately we still dropped the ball on this one.

Out of anger, total and utter disbelief and frustration, tears angrily poured down my face. I lost coherence in front of my boss for the first time since I started this gig.

Maybe it’s the idealist in me. There’s nothing wrong with expecting honesty, integrity and decency among the people you work with, right? Nothing wrong with holding a deep-seated hope that the truth will prevail and those who deserve to be reprimanded — will be reprimanded. And those who did their best and did it right in spite of everything — would, well, be left alone.

I’m not even asking for a pat on the back. I don’t need it. And I can give that pat on the back to my own people. They deserved it.

I’m not asking for acknowledgement either. It’s our job. It’s what we’re here for.

The last thing I expected though is what I got. To be told that my team messed up.

I think everyone else knows the truth.

And I know that as all things unfold, the truth will eventually come out. And heads will roll, tongues will wag, punishments will be meted out. But no apologies will ever be made. All I’m sure to hear will be denials that this was the intent. To be told that maybe I overreacted to words that didn’t mean what they meant. To be told to calm down, stop being so defensive, and then to be patronized. And then pressured again to deliver as though nothing happened. And then everything will be back to normal.

But it won’t change what happened today.

I always wondered about this. When my previous boss was still around, I never realized how difficult it was for him. Now I look back and admire his patience and resilience. And mostly, I admire how he was able to hold it all in and keep it to himself.

I don’t have as strong a grip on my emotions when pushed — as he does. I still wonder how he managed to stay here for almost 3 years and put up with this.

When all is said and done, I know I won’t walk away. I’ll stay and fight. Today was just a setback.

Luckily for me, I have a team of 14 rowdy, crazy but awesome people to take care of and protect. Without them, my job wouldn’t mean anything. Without them, I wouldn’t have a reason to be here anymore.

There are people who cause bad things to happen simply by being who they are. Whether it comes with malicious intent, or whether there are just some loose screws somewhere in there.

There are those who sit back and watch as things unfold before them — staying  neutral and objective about everything. Keeping themselves far removed from conflict as best as they can.

And then there are those that are pushed to fight whether they want to or not. But by simply being who they are, problems seem to flock to them like bees to honey. It’s unfortunate for them too that these same problem-solvers are the ones who feel the strongest urge to protect those in their flock even if it means raising hell for it and looking like the bad (insubordinate) guy.

I can’t say that I’m like the Dark Knight.

But hell, I certainly know how he feels.

And knowing me, I’ll fight fairly even if some people don’t deserve a fair fight. Knowing me, I’ll eventually just let it go and entrust it to the universe to even things out… after I’ve made a point. I’ll keep quiet and take it in, take it on and believe that eventually, the truth will reveal itself. Suck in the fact that none of this is fair. Forgive the fact that a gross injustice was done to me and mine. *Sigh*

The Lovely Bones

Here’s a movie that will get you thinking about many things.

First, the eternal, persistent question of whether heaven, hell and purgatory truly exist… and if they do, what do they look like and what would it feel like to be there.

Here, they say that in heaven, you have no memory. But there’s nothing but lasting peace. And here, everything that ties you to this Earth is finally severed and you’re just free to be.

In some way, it brings comfort when thinking about the frightening prospect of mortality and death.

And then, it also gets you to think about the ever-elusive thing called justice.

For most of my life, I’ve been taught that when we’ve been wronged, we leave it to God or the Universe to mete out whatever punishment or consequences one rightfully deserves. So all my life, I’ve taught myself to just calmly accept the wrongs done to me by others and just move on, in the belief that the universe has a way of putting things to right. Never seek vindication yourself because ultimately, it’s not for you to decide what another human being deserves.

I’ve rallied this moral issue for a long time. In serious discussions with my husband, and on separate occasions with my mom, I’ve always said that people get what they deserve. And they’ll get it when the Universe wants it, and how the Universe wants it.

This belief has always brought comfort to me, and has helped me bring comfort to others. It has always helped to think that for as long as I live a good, decent and honest life and do no wrong to others, everything will ultimately be okay. And conversely, those who choose to take the path away from goodness will also get what they ultimately deserve.

And so does this question now linger in my head a day after watching “The Lovely Bones“. He (the “bad guy”), eventually suffers a gruesome death.

I found myself questioning though whether this kind of justice or vindication was even close to being enough. Perhaps it was too much to expect that while heaven is beautifully painted in the movie, that maybe they’d give a glimpse of hell too… just so we could see if truly, bad people do get what they deserve in this lifetime and beyond.

And finally, the thing about moving on from grief. To many, it’s a reality today and everyday. Suffering the death of a loved one; continuing to live with the pain brought about by abuse and maltreatment; coping with catastrophic mistakes that have an almost permanent effect on people you love…. everywhere we turn, there will be someone grieving for something.

In its painfully real depiction of how people deal with grief and the long journey towards finding a middle ground, I do love how this story paints the picture that at the end of seemingly never-ending battles with pain, there always comes an ending and a silver lining. Nothing in life is permanent… not even pain. And perhaps for as long as we never give in to despair, there will be better days.

From the standpoint of a movie, as usual, Peter Jackson and his crew have created a beautifully done movie. The CG is awesome and awe-inspiring. Although it did border on being a bit too cheesy and emo at some point, bravo nonetheless for the quality of storytelling and cinematography. Casting was, as always, impeccable. Screenplay and script… well, could’ve been better at some point. But not bad, on the overall.

The best stories I’ve seen, heard or saw were always the stories that left me wanting for more. The kind that made me feel it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t over, and that I still wanted to find out what happens next. These kinds of stories, cheesy as this may sound, that somehow change a little bit of me or how I see life, the world and everything around me.

I still can’t decide if I really liked the movie or not. Some things about it, I liked a whole lot. Some, I didn’t. But yes, 24 hours later and I’m still thinking about it. And I will definitely buy the book.

A movie that does this to you and more… ain’t such a bad thing.

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, drop me a note and tell me what you think. If you haven’t, hop over to your local video or book store, borrow or buy a copy, then share with me what you think.

The End of Happy Endings?

There are those who love watching movies or TV shows that intricately mimic real life and all the joys, aches and pains that come along with it.

When I was an emo kid in my twenties, I loved watching these kinds of shows. The ones that gripped my heart and emotions and made me silently weep or bite my fingernails in nervous tension. The ones where the the good guy does not get the girl. Where the terminally ill guy does not get a second chance at life. Where the kind-hearted girl-next-door gets raped, hacked and slashed by the serial stalker/ rapist/ killer, who just happens to get away scot-free.

Back then it was easy to regard stories like these with perfect equanimity.

In my thirties, I seem to now gravitate towards watching or reading stories that end on a high note, for a change. Not that they really  happen in real life, but who cares, right? That’s why they’re movies, or TV shows, or books…. unless we’re talking about Reality Shows.

One of my favoritest romantic movies of all time is Notting Hill.

I’ve always found Hugh Grant’s clumsy, shy, and provincial naivete exquisitely charming and adorable. Contrast that with the worldly, sophisticated and privileged diva that is Julia Robert’s famous-actress character. It’s the perfect fairy tale, only this time, it’s the guy who gets the girl he never thought he’d get.

It’s funny how nowadays, most of our shows don’t seem to have a happy ending anymore. It’s a happy ending with strings attached, never just a simple happy ending.

The last movie I saw was “Up in the Air”. It won several awards in the Oscars, it had George Clooney, and the trailers seemed really cool — so what’s not to watch?

Well, I ended up getting depressed after watching the movie. Geez.

Why can’t we just go back to the classic movies and shows that leave you feeling good?

The ones that reassure you that despite all the struggles, hardship and pain, there’s always something to look forward to at the end? The ones that leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling that temporarily restore your faith in the timeless values of love, friendship and family? The ones where the good guys succeed, the bad guys fall?

The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for instance. Peter Jackson’s and J.R.R. Tolkien’s brilliance aside, it’s just such an excellently written and directed movie with such an evocative screenplay. I can’t help but be completely swept into a make-believe reality whenever I watch the darned thing. Who’d think LOTR is a happy ending, right?

But c’mon… at the end of the 10-hour marathon, I always feel a swell in my heart when Aragorn finally gets crowned King of Gondor. And who could forget the delightful moment when he kisses his one true love in front of the entire humankind, no less? And the Battle for Helm’s Deep… when Gandalf comes riding from the East at the break of dawn on the 3rd day with the Riders of Rohan to bring renewed hope to humankind just when everyone thought it was the end… who couldn’t feel a chill? And the electrifying, gripping scene of the One Ring finally dissolving in the fires of Mordor….

Call me strange, but when I feel that the world about me is getting too painfully chaotic, watching the Lord of the Rings always reminds me that in the end, there’s something good and better that’s hiding just around the corner. And if you could just have faith and believe and have patience… it will come.

So yes, call me a geek and a sucker for happy endings.

Real life is tough. I may not believe in happy endings (with no strings attached) in real life, but it certainly makes the ride a little easier to believe it is possible…

Lessons from the Anti-Heroes

We can always learn a thing or two about dealing with injustice and grief from today’s fictional anti-hero heroes and icons. (indulge me for a while in this post as I talk about fictional characters as though they were real).

I wager many fans of thriller and suspense flicks actually love Hannibal Lecter as much as they love Clarice Sterling. I know I do. After all, he does what we all just wish we could do but dismiss as even a remote possibility owing to our long-held beliefs of right and wrong. When karma takes too long to get back at those who did wrong to you, it’s almost tempting to contemplate revenge and vindication.

But that was one of the very few things my mum has carefully instilled in me since I was a young girl. Never exact revenge, and never will nor want for anything bad to happen to anyone, even to those who have wronged you. The world has a way of righting the wrong, but just let it be… and don’t cause for any of it to happen.

And so I just take vicarious pleasure watching and contemplating Hannibal Lecter’s life principles. Not that it makes his methods right, nor does it make him any less of a madman, nor is what he does right in any way. But you gotta admit. He  does what we all just wish we could do in a less extreme way. Hurt the ones who hurt other people. Lecter generally takes good care of the people whom he has dubbed as “people who are worthy of being a part of the human race”. He lets people like Clarice Sterling live. He offs the opera singer who cheats on his spouse; tortures and terrorizes the ambitious, dishonest journalist who gives little regard for what is morally right… effectively, he is just ridding the world of morally ambiguous people.

I have a handful of friends and acquaintances who classify as “don’t ever mess with me or you’re dead meat“. They’ve gotten justice at people who’ve wronged them in ways I can never even imagine doing (and yet, it’s nowhere even remotely close to Hannibal, okay?). On the one hand, I cringe at the thought of willfully causing hurt or pain to someone else…. even if it is only to seek justice (not even revenge). Even if repercussions on the recipient of justice are mostly emotional scars.

On the other, part of me admires their tenacity and will to get the justice they feel they deserve.

Where do you draw the line?

Every decision and action we make, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has corresponding actions and reactions. It’s not so far from making a decision everyday on how we behave towards humanity.

My husband gave me an interesting insight last night. As we were watching a documentary on History Channel about the Legacy of Star Wars, he told me to pick up lessons from Anakin Skywalker’s journey to the dark side. It began with just one incident: his mother’s death. Not only did it awaken his lust for revenge and power, but it brought out the strongest emotion that led him down the path to the destruction of his humanity: fear.

And so it begs the question of what to do when people have wronged you. It’s so easy to seek vindication and justice but sometimes, you wonder. At what cost does it come? Whose feathers do you ruffle? How many individual’s lives will you alter? Whose spirit will you crush?

Perhaps those are the same questions that plague Jack Bauer. (Jack Bauer, the perpetual martyr in the TV show 24)

I used to joke that next to God and the others powers-that-be in the Universe, Jack Bauer is the next rockin’ hero.

He takes bullet after bullet of crap to save his country. Several nuclear bombs, suicide bombers, biological warfares and homicidal terrorists later, Jack Bauer still keeps coming back to save the day. At what cost? His life, his wife, his daughter and all the other things that matter in his life.

Never one to seek revenge or vindication for himself. Always does the right thing. Always takes the fall even when he should be the last person to take it. Seeks to protect others before himself. Decides always for the greater good even if it’s at the expense of his own life.

Does a person like that truly exist? If there is, I’d like to meet this person and take him away from his awful reality, give him a taste of the good life for a change.

Like many fans of Jack Bauer, I draw comfort from the possibility that a Jack Bauer exists in this lifetime. A character like him restores my faith in humanity (although watching his enemies affirms the cynicism that the human race is often in a state of total, utter disgrace) and reminds me that there are people who will go beyond the call of duty to do the right thing.

The whole point of this discourse? Nothing much. Maybe except for the fact that life will always be unpredictable and we will always wonder why things happen to us that we feel we don’t deserve. And maybe we really don’t, who’s to say?

Perhaps if there’s anything you can take out from pop culture’s icons today, it’s this: we can never ever lose the part of us that’s good, that’s kind and decent. That’s what it means to be human. Every single day, we cannot lose our humanity. Every word we say, every thought we think of, every action we do irrevocably shapes the person we will become someday.

Paranormal Activity

I will always love the horror genre. And I say this even though I deliberately go out of my way to avoid watching horror flicks nowadays. In my younger years, I devoured horror movies like I devoured Pringles Original.

When hubby and I watched the famed “The Ring” movies (the Japanese version) in Cinemanila way before it became the famous, commercial movie that it is now — we sat way in front. While most had their eyes covered when our famous lady Sadako appears hideously from outside the TV, I was mesmerized more than anything.

Sixth Sense was okay. The Others had a fascinating theory.

I think the way I viewed horror movies changed because of the “Exorcist: Director’s Cut”. It didn’t help that we watched that late on a gloomy rainy (and stormy!) night in a cinema where the electricity suddenly went off in the middle of the movie, right after Linda Blair’s unforgettable spider walk (even writing about that damned spider walk still makes me uneasy). BBC calls this “still one of the most terrifying films.” And I can’t agree more.

For ever since then, I started becoming chicken.

Not too long after the “Exorcist” fiasco, hubby and I also watched the movie that most people I know barely even blinked: The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Most people I know said that it wasn’t scary at all. The movie was after all, made to resemble more of a courtroom drama and thriller rather than a horror movie. And I do agree. Watching the movie itself wasn’t scary nor terrifying.

It was the days that followed watching the movie that terrified me out of my wits. I couldn’t sleep for an entire week. The face of Emily Rose haunted me everytime I would close my eyes. And worse, just the thought, the possibility that something like that could happen and did happen – well, that’s frankly what freaked me out.

Monsters, goblins, ghouls, vampires and all those horrendous, physically deformed and outright terrifying creatures that go bump in the night have never really scared me. Deep inside I’ve always known that it’s unlikely to happen in this lifetime. So… creatures like Sadako, Edward Cullen, Count Dracula, and all those wall-scratching, floor-scraping, hideous hags with black, stringy hair worn over an old, lacy, antique dress — that’s pretty much nothing.

But the demon in ‘Exorcist’… the devil who possessed Emily Rose… even the unnamed and unseen demon in “The Shining“…. the things you can’t see but can hear and feel…. those can keep me up for an entire week or give me nightmares on the nights when I conk out.

That’s where I’m now filing this movie. “Paranormal Activity”. The movie which cost less than 50,000 USD but has been earning millions of dollars. Starring ordinary people; directed and produced by ordinary people. Quiet, unassuming, no frills, no fancy-schmancy lighting, acting and directing.

No goblins, ghouls and disfigured faces wearing the demonic eyes of the devil. No masturbating on a crucifix. No head twisting 360-degrees and vomiting acid, bile and slime.

If you didn’t know any better, you could actually stop and think about the possibility that’s it a true story. That was at least, what the producers had first done. So people who watched the movie without knowing that it was still mostly a work of fiction, were simply terrified out of their wits.

This is the kind of movie where while watching it, you kinda just partially hide under the blankets with the lights on (in our case we watched it in broad daylight) and your hand on the remote control. You wait for a truly terrifying scene, one that’s too scary you can’t even look at the TV set directly — but it never really comes. Not in this movie. Which is just perfect because at some point, you might start thinking – “I can’t take any more of this” cause your heart is just pounding so fast…

And finally when it ends, you just breathe a sigh of relief.

This was me yesterday afternoon. And I thought it was already over. But then when I lay down in bed at night, I could still see the house and the bedroom in my head… I can still see it now, more than 24 hours after.

How Do You Think the World Will End?

Sunday was Post-Apocalyptic Movie Day.

After lunch, we decided to watch “The Day After Tomorrow”. We’d already seen this in the movie house before. I remember liking it, and I remember being fascinated by this theory of how the human race ends.

I did like it again.

Aside from liking Dennis Quaid, I have a fascination for the different scientific explanations and theories that revolve around the principle of Global Warming. In fact, someday I think I will put together a summary of all the different fiction materials (on books, movies, comic books) with the different theories on Global Warming.

That aside, imagine if a super storm did hit the entire world… and how timely, considering all the freak storms that hit various parts of the world this year. A super storm like Ondoy which in a few hours was able to bury most of the city in deep water. Only, this super storm in the movie brought not only flood but below freezing weather in the eye of the storm, enough to freeze anything moving in open air within just a few seconds.

Yes, the human race ends with the coming of another ice age.

After “Day After Tomorrow”, we hopped over to our next door neighbor to catch “2012”.

This time, the world ends a little bit differently than “Day After Tomorrow”. The story is a little bit different too..

(Spoiler alert!)

This time, the world ends because the earth’s core gets too hot. The balance of forces in the world has been massively disturbed throughout all these centuries and lifetimes. Somehow, the world now needs to correct itself and restore balance to itself.

So volcanoes erupt. Massive earthquakes split the ground open and swallow cities, skyscrapers, bridges and everything else in its path. Giant tsunamis devour everything else that the earthquake doesn’t destroy.

And when the earth’s land masses begin to break up, the earth’s continents, islands and countries move and shift. Suddenly, what used to be the North Pole is now Central America. What used to be the Siberian mountains is now China. And of course, being the nerd that I am, I found it fascinating once more.

Before watching this movie, I’d already heard mixed reviews about it. But I liked it. An original premise, brilliant acting by John Cusack and the hilarious Woody Harrelson. Awesome screenwriting (seriously, this is the only Post-Apocalyptic movie that made me laugh uproariously many times over).

I like watching movies like these simply for the entertainment value. I’m also a fan of science fiction, especially when the science fiction is more science than it is fiction.

The end of the world to me has always been a vague notion  of something that either physically happens sometime in this world’s lifetime… or happens in the metaphorical sense of death and spiritual rebirth.

For believers, many fear this day of reckoning when the world turns to black, and calamity befalls the earth in succeeding bursts, enough to wipe out most of the human race.

But to me, I’ve always felt that if the world ended today, it would be a fate that’s far too kind for mankind and all its imperfections. (But this sentiment is one which comes from a person who believes that in death is where we will receive our reward of light, love, hope and peace from a life well-lived and well-loved.)

Hence, I’ve never believed the world will end in the physical, literal sense that we think… not in this lifetime. Which is why I was a bit taken aback when someone asked me,  “do you believe 2012 is gonna happen?

I first answered by saying, “who knows?” And I think moments after pondering the best way to answer this question – that’s the response I still have and will stay with.

Who knows? Who knows really how the world ends? Who knows how the human race faces extinction? Or if it will ever will? Who knows, maybe by the time our physical earth falls apart, space travel would already have been made possible, and other planets and galaxies would already be inhabitable by the human race? Who knows, really?

No one.

That’s why if there is a lesson to learn from Post-Apocalyptic pieces of fiction such as these… it’s simply to keep living each day as though it were your last. You’ll never know what comes tomorrow… if it will even come.

Sage wisdom through the ages. Works everytime.



The Twilight Phenomenon

I’ve always wondered about what made the “Twilight” series of books so popular.

A couple of years ago, before “Twilight” became the “Twilight” of unforeseen (and undeserved, in my opinion) epic proportions, a fellow fiction-lover lent me her copy of the book.

I finished reading it in a weekend, and couldn’t wait to finish it. Not because it was such an enthralling, engaging read… but because by page 3, I was bored out of my wits. I just didn’t have the heart to not finish the book, I have this thing about not reading books that are lent to me.

Naturally, after returning “Twilight”, I declined the offer to borrow and read the other books in the series. I forgot about it and lost myself instead in other books that were more deserving of my time.

Much to surprise a few months later, I started seeing copies of the book on desks of officemates… officemates who don’t even take up reading as a hobby.

twilight-book-coverThis was the first time I heard avid praises about the book. People would say that the premise and plot were ingenious — a human falling in love with a vampire — so unique, so they said. And the story so well-told — again, so they said.

Far too many times I’ve passionately explained why I don’t agree with both rave reviews.

The story is not unique. Hundreds of books have been written about humans falling in love with vampires; vampires falling in love with humans; and even vampires who fall in with werewolves.

You don’t even have to look far. I take personal offense for the genius that is Joss Whedon, the Director who created pop culture sensations like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, the vampire with a soul.

The story and the premise are nothing new.

This is itself, if quite forgivable though. I’m a believer that no ideas are completely new. Somewhere, somehow — after generations of ideas that flourish into literature, art and film — there’s no such thing anymore as a completely novel and unique idea. Every story already has hints of elements and flavors from here and there.

Now on the second point, the story was not well-written at all. In the tradition of a great story with a great build-up, a breathtaking climax, and an ending worthy of applause — this book had none of any of this. It was flat and monotonous from beginning to end. How lethargic the tone of the book was at the start was still how lethargic the book ended.

Even her writing style left much to be desired. Short, clipped sentences that evoked no emotion, no excitement, no build-up. All she did was narrate the day in the life of a girl named Bella. And if my days went by the way the narrative of Bella’s story went, I would have lived a very flat, uninteresting life.

But I can shrug off a bad book. I never regret reading any story, good or bad.

I only started reacting violently when I began hearing of interviews with the author, who, when confronted about how critics echoed my own sentiments about her ho-hum writing style, said that “I’m not a writer. I’m a storyteller.

And again, the only thing I can say about that statement is – well, she also kinda sucks as a storyteller.

But I do salute her for getting many people to start reading again. Whether it’s a good book or not, I guess doesn’t matter as much when you consider that the literacy rate in the Philippines probably went up for a while because of Stephenie Meyer and “Twilight”.