martes, 24 de febrero de 2015

I Don't Want to Kill

   I had twisted my ankle when running, just after killing my first target on this campaign. Of course, I knew I was going to have to kill but it had caught me by surprise. Well, to be precise, she had caught me by surprise. I had been trying to put my weapon in the right configuration for shooting long range but then she appeared and raised her weapon. The look on her face was the one of a crazy person, her eyes all swollen and her hair a little bit everywhere, as if the madness had given it free reign over the head.

 Scared as I got, I shot her without even thinking. I just pressed the trigger and she fell dead in front of me, her madness flying away from her body, every limb just collapsing on its on weight. I didn’t stay behind to check on her, although I would have wanted too. Somehow, I thought she wasn’t really dead, just trying to fool me or maybe injured. But I never knew as I ran away from the fire that came from down the hill.

 My mission consisted in setting a vantage point on the top of the hill and start acting as a sniper from there. Others should then join me and we could stop the whole battalion before it reached the near port city. If the enemy took that part, we would be destroyed for sure. That port was our hope to launch a proper invasion to our enemy’s strongholds across the ocean. But first we had to destroy what battalions they had left behind after our consecutive attacks on their military.

 I had not been raised as a military. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing half of the time. But there were people there that assured me they needed my help and that they would be there to guide me through the whole process. Well, that was true up to that moment in the hill. So I just ran for the top and, once I was there, I settled myself by some thick bushes. This time, I was able to get the configuration of my very modern weapon right. I took a position there and took a look through the visor.

 Down the hill, it seemed as we were winning. I could see the general destroying a tank by himself and a group of soldiers attacking a group of enemies. There, I realized how awful this all was: blood and the stench of death everywhere. It really smelled like scorched meat and I knew I didn’t want to know where that came from. The sound of shooting that had followed me for a while was now very distant and a thought presented itself to me: will they need me?

 What if they defeat the enemy without my help? Maybe I won’t have to kill again… I mean, if that girl was dead. Because if she wasn’t… But how would she be alive. My gun was so close to her and I was sure the bullet had pierced through her chest and she had collapsed to the ground. My God, is this was people have to go through? I never wanted any of this. Any death and blood on my hands… But it’s too late.

 An explosion drove me out of my thoughts. One of our airplanes had exploded very high in the sky and the pieces were falling heavy on the battleground. Maybe we were winning the ground battle but it appeared they had the upper hand in the aerial part of this confrontation. I guess this is my time to come in and help.

I started shooting and, it has to be said, I was very good. One shot and they fell dead and my companions had noticed because they were able to pierce even more into our enemies flank in order to take their antiaircraft vehicles. I lost count of how many people fell because of me, how much blood I was accumulating on my hands. At one point, I started to cry because I couldn’t stop and I could see nothing but the dead falling at my hands.

 Then I realized everything was about to finish. The army had penetrated the flanks and was destroying everything and using their vehicles to take down their own planes. It was something awful to see but even more horrible was the fact that many of the men that had helped me with my training, seemed to be enjoying all of this. They were corpses and blood everywhere, but some of them were already celebrating, laughing and doing victory dances.

 Disgust ran through my veins. I wanted to vomit right there, which I did, just as the last few airplanes our enemy had began to retreat. The disappeared fast and then my radio began to beep but I didn’t acknowledge the sound. I just grabbed my weapon and threw it down the cliff on which I had been kneeling. After that, I just walked down the hill, ready to die from a mysterious bullet if it came to that.

 In a matter of minutes I was joining the rest of the army but I didn’t want to be with them or with anyone else. I was disgusted by me, by them, by everything. This could not be the only way things could be solved. It was impossible that the only way we had to make ourselves be heard was to kill each other and, worse, enjoying it.

 I have to say I was a bit relieved when I saw that many other men seemed to be thinking the same as me. Besides, the stench of the battlefield couldn’t be ignored. After all, this was a warm region and bugs were already having a feast with the rotting corpses lying everywhere. I wanted to close my eyes until I reached the camp but that was impossible. Not only because of the terrain and the distance but because when I closed my eyes, I kept seeing her dying in front of me.

 The number of corpses began to decrease and I knew we were about to enter friendly territory. By then, I had already made up my mind: I was going to leave the army and find another way to help the people. I had entered this war because of the injustice and cruelty the enemy had brought upon us but I knew we couldn’t respond their brutality with even more brutal and sanguinary acts.

 When we finally got to camp, I walked straight to my bunk. I grabbed a small bag and put my few belongings there. I also took of my clothes and change into a plain green shirt and jeans, which hadn’t been washed in some time. The whole time I was there, the radio kept beeping.  I left without talking or even staring at anyone, headed for the command center. As I expect, the general was there. He seemed unharmed. He asked me why I hadn’t answer to his calls. I only took out my radio from my chest pocket and gave the radio to him.

-       I won’t need it anymore.

 He took it but didn’t stop looking at me, confused first and then angry. He asked me what that meant and I explained I couldn’t kill. I couldn’t live my life enjoying the death of others, even if they had done so many things to me that I’d rather not remember. The general proceed to threaten me to be court martialed but I reminded him I wasn’t a military but a civilian in military garments. I told him I had left them in my bunk except for the boots, which I needed because I had no shoes to wear.

 Before he could say anything else, I left the place. Many soldiers stared at me while I walked towards the main gate: some of them with defiance in their eyes, some of them just scared to death. Maybe their reaction was because they couldn’t do that. Almost all of them had entered the military, they weren’t civilians like me that had been tricked into thinking they could help a hopeless race.

 No, most of them knew what they had singed up for. And they didn’t mind. Eventually, they would all become killing machines, the ones the rebellion needed to destroy the enemy forever, without any possibility of retaliation from their part. But that was impossible; someone is always going to want revenge, for one thing or the other, in one way or the other.

 Real peace is impossible with such resentment, such hatred based on ignorance, which is by far the largest and most effective weapon armies and governments have at their hands. I know that the enemies didn’t want to torture me as they did. They were brainwashed to do so, as I was to think that by killing others I would feel better or happy. I won’t, never. Because only cowards shoot first, and doubt later.

lunes, 23 de febrero de 2015

My Right Toe

  Stupidly, I had bumped my foot into a chair. By night, my big toe was a big red ball throbbing and hurting horribly. My beautiful partner helped me a bit but he was too grossed out by it so I had to take this matter into my own hands. Resisting the pain, I tried to make the blood and pus that had formed when the nail got stuck right into the flesh.

 After along time of moaning and panting, I dried my wound, cleaning it with all kind of products and then putting a bandage al around my toe to keep it free from infection. My sleep was not very good and, the next morning, I saw it still hurt a lot. Before leaving for work, Patrick told me to call Laura, a neighbor that happened to be a nurse. Mondays were her day of and she might be able to help on what to do with my toe.

 I called her on the cell and she came right away. We had helped Laura moving in after divorcing her husband and we had become great friends. Also, she left her daughter with us when she had to stay too late at work and her sister wasn’t able to babysit. The little one was adorable and we liked to have her in order to watch a lot of children movies and give her all kinds of bad and good food.

 After examination, Laura told me to call the pharmacy and ask for something to reduce the swelling of my toe that should be good if I stayed a couple of days at home. It would heal eventually but not if I worked too hard on it, and as my work consisted on walking a lot, this meant I couldn’t go anywhere.

 After Laura left, I called my office in order to tell them I wouldn’t be able to go for a couple of days because of an accident. My partner there got very worried and threatened to come home later and, before I could tell her it was all ok, she had hung up. The drugs from the pharmacy took some time to arrive and it was odd, for me, to receive the deliveryman wearing my pajamas barefoot. I didn’t really like not wearing socks or footwear but Laura had been adamant about it. The man warned me that the pills made you sleepy, which I loved instantly.

 When the man had left, I took one of the pills and swallowed it with a big gulp of water. I had never been very good at taking medicine, even the simplest ones. Maybe it was because my mother was so overprotective when I was little and she kept trying for me to take vitamins and codfish oil. She forced me so often; I think I created an utter dislike for anything that comes from a pharmacy or from a doctor.

 Patrick called shortly afterwards to check on me. I told him I couldn’t move a lot, only applying some hot water on my toe every so often. He sent me a kiss and promised to be there as soon as he could, which I knew was not very soon because he was an assistant in a sports team and those people loved to stay in one place talking and arguing for hours and hours and even if they didn’t have an incoming match, they would discuss all the games they had seen during the weekend, which could take some time.

 I personally didn’t like sports that much but when I met Patrick he tried to make me be a little sportier. He failed tremendously although now I can watch a whole football game without the need to check my phone every five seconds or pretending to go to the bathroom. I do get bored still but I guess love can conquer all differences, if one is committed enough.

 It was funny that when I turned on the TV, a tennis match was on. Then the doorbell rang and, slowly, I walked to the door. Strangely, my foot felt heavier, more swollen even. Didn’t the anti-inflammatory work? It was Laura and her little daughter. The little one was carrying a green backpack and a doll in her arms. They both came in and then Laura started talking fast: apparently her sister had a problem with her car and she had to go and help so she wondered if I could take care of her daughter Amanda.

-       Sure.

 To be quite honest, I don’t really get children that much. I mean, I like Amanda a lot but Patrick is always around when she comes in and he’s such a good guy with kids: he knows lots of games (or maybe his improvisation is really good) and kids like him a lot because his funny and just great.
Me, however, not so much. I mean, I can be creative because it’s part of my job but being a only child and having no close relatives younger than me, I never had the experience to take care of any of them.

 My first idea was to change the channel and put on some cartoons. I had no idea what kids Amanda’s age liked to see. Actually, I realized I had no idea how old she was. So I asked. She was so interested in the cartoon that she only put one hand up, with all her fingers stretched. Then I saw one more on the other hand, that she hadn’t put up. So seven years old.

-       I haven’t had breakfast. Are you hungry?

 She nodded, not really paying attention to what I had said. I went, slowly, to the kitchen. I almost hit a counter in the kitchen with my feet and had to cover my mouth to curse. The kid, luckily, didn’t turn to look at me. Apparently cartoons were much more interesting than the limping man in the apartment.

 After a fast look, I realized we had nothing good for a child to eat. Both Patrick and me ate granola for breakfast and I was sure kids didn’t like that. But I did so I poured some on a bowl with almond milk, because I’m weird that way. I found, at the back of a cupboard, a few cookies covered in chocolate. Was she allowed to have sweets this early in the day?

-       Amanda?
-       Yeah?
-       What would you like to eat?
-       Mm…

 She took quite a long time to say she was rather thirsty. Luckily, we always had plenty of fresh orange juice so I poured some for her on a small glass, which I thought was best for a child. I put it in front of her, in the coffee table, but I didn’t know if she had seen me. Her eyes looked as if she had been hypnotized or something. Then, the doorbell rang again.

 Apparently the doorman let anyone in, as it was a man handling pamphlets for a new Chinese restaurant. I told him we only needed one menu but he forced a bunch on my hands. As I couldn’t move, that was most probably a crime, or so I thought. I closed the door but then it was the intercom ringing. My toe was throbbing more than ever when I answered: we had bought a new dining table and I had totally forgotten about it.

 So for the following thirty minutes, I had a child drinking juice and watching TV, two men trying to get everything in the tiny elevator and then out, a bunch of useless restaurant menus and a toe hurting like mad. I was already cursing my luck when an older lady, a neighbor, came to complain about the noise the guys from the furniture store were making. I tried to be nice but then the old bat put her cane right on top of my foot.

 I don’t know if it was on purpose but I pushed the lady aside and made her fall on a chair by the door. Then the man in the living room dropped the table heavily, scaring the life out of Amanda, who screamed loudly and starting crying noisily. The man dragged the chairs in, as I helped the old lady up. I then screamed at them for damaging my floor and the lady fell again and I almost fell with her but apparently faith hates my foot as one of the guy’s dropped a chair right on it.

 I cursed so loud and hard everyone stopped making a noise and just stared at me, like I was mad or something. Then, I saw Patrick’s face and he was visibly confused by everything.

-       I got the day off… What’s going on?

 Behind him was Victoria, my partner at the office. She looked worried.

 Done with the world, I just decided to fall onto the sofa and let him deal with everything. Finally, with a huge pain on my foot and the sounds of people crying and screaming and talking again, I fell asleep. The medications had kicked in.

domingo, 22 de febrero de 2015

SPECIAL: Oscar Predictions (Winners)


My final predictions with who will, could and should win, the latter only taking nominees into account (or we could be here forever). Let's start:

Best Picture

Will win: Boyhood > Of course, the race is between Birdman and Boyhood. But personally, I think the latter will win to its universality, which Birdman lacks. Of course, it's 50-50 right now so, who knows.

Could win: Birdman > The movie has performed very well in major awards and some of the guilds, the key ones, no less, so it's quite possible that the Michael Keaton vehicle will be able to win the top prize:

My vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel > I think it's the most complete of the films nominated. It uses all the tools that cinema can take hold off and is able to tell a compelling story in the most visual and entertaining way.

Best Director

Will win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood) > Yes, I know González Iñárritu won the DGA but Richard Linklater's work is much more showy and it's certainly hard that his effort to make his movie is going to be ignored. Besides, Alfonso Cuarón's last year's win may put them off from voting for González.

Could win: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman) > No doubt, the two top races are head to head and any of these guys could win. Both works are good enough for the prize.

My vote: Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) > ok, they were all good but no movie showed the director's ability to handle his craft more evidently than Foxcatcher. I still don't get how it was that the movie wasn't nominated in the Best Picture category. Miller is a brilliant, dedicated artist and he should win one of these soon.

Best Actor in a Leading role

Will win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) > Another tight race in which I believe voter will prefer the young "newcomer" than the old veteran. Remember Mickey Rourke losing a few years ago? In any case, Redmayne's physicality and love for the character makes a win very deserving.

Could win: Michael Keaton (Birdman) > He's the face of one of the top two movies of the year and he's pretty good at it. But I feel his record with the Academy and the fact that his character is not that lovable or close, will make him lose at the end.

Should win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) > My favorite of the bunch although I would have loved to see Timothy Spall nominated...

Best Actress in a Leading role

Will win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice) > She has been locked for a couple of months. She's a beloved skilled actress and this is a recognition, not only for her great work in this film, but for her career up to this day.

Could win: Marion Cotillard (Deux jours, Une nuit) > She won lots of critics awards and she is definitively second to Moore although I think it would be a very big surprise if she did won. Foreign language performances are still not that appreciated, in any case.

Should win: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) > Shameful the Academy didn't embrace one of the best thrillers to come out in the last few years. She was brilliant as the crazy and manipulative wife in a loveless marriage.

Best Actor in a Supporting role

Will win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) > For some reason, villainous types are loved greatly in this category. Although not all have won, Simmons performance is too good to be ignored as the cruel, crazed music conductor.

Could win: No one really. J.K Simmons has been locked for months and there's no way he could loose.

Should win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) > Too showy to miss. None of the other gentlemen gave that kind of performance. Not even Norton which, to me, is a very overrated performance.

Best Actress in a Supporting role

Will win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) > Her character is the strongest one of her movie and she shows it every so often. The growing old process is specially remarkable for her as she matures before our eyes, just as her character's son does.

Could win: Emma Stone (Birdman) > Love for Birdman may be strong enough to topple Arquette out of her prize. Besides, Stone is widely beloved as an actress and they may want to give her a boost with an award, even if her character is not all that strong.

Should win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) > She's locked. Let's get real.

Best Original Screenplay

Will win: Birdman > This one seems safe for the movie about a former movie actor trying to put up a play while being hunted by his past. The dialogues are quite remarkable and the movie is quite original in the way it's delivered to the audience.

Could win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > It has won some other awards in this category and I bet many voters were attracted to it because the story is so original, witty and clever. It deserves at least one prize.

Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel but also Foxcatcher. Both screenplay were very clever and real pieces of cinema.

Best Adapted Screenplay 

Will win: Whiplash > It is normally the original screenplay category that prizes bold new directors and screenwriters but I do believe this time it will be Chazelle's movie about the world of music that will attract the votes.

Could win: The Imitation Game > WWII has always attracted the Academy and this movie has aspects to be liked by any kind of person. Besides the movie has eight nominations and its hard to see it walking away empty handed.

Should win: Whiplash > Whiplash is an actual original piece that deserves to be recognized, even if its a bit of category fraud.

Best Animated Feature Film

Will win: Big Hero 6 > Disney struck gold and got to our hearts with this moving piece of animation that, as always, finds a way to have a happy ending while dealing with grief and pain. Besides, the character and story are too good to ignore.

Could win: How to Train Your Dragon 2 > Succesful with the guilds and even more after The Lego Movie's snub, this piece also deals with grief and pain but also love and family. It's another one of those tight races we love.

Should win: Big Hero 6 > I loved it. Although Princess Kaguya was not bad at all and a win might bring the Academy close to Studio Ghibli again, after that awful snub for The Wind Rises last year.

Best Foreign Language Film

Will win: Ida (Poland) > And, once again, Academy veterans love WWII and, although that's not the main subject of the movie, it is pretty close to it. A nun finding the truth about her family while meeting an aunt she had no idea existed. It's a very good story and the acting is to be remembered.

Could win: Timbuktu (Mauritania) > After winning many César awards (the french Oscars), I believe this movie may have a big chance to win. Americans love to talk about terrorism and it has France behind it whic guarantees quality.

Should win: Leviathan (Russia) > This is the movie with the best premise and with a strong support by the guilds. Maybe it will win...

Best Documentary Feature

Will win: Citizenfour > The Academy, from time to time, loves to get political and confront the audience with the reality of their world. And what best way to do so that by awarding a daring journalist for her work on a key figure of today's world stage.

Could win: The Salt of the Earth > Wim Wender's documentaries are always beautiful and compelling. However, he has failed to win for a long time. Maybe he's due for a second award.

Should win: Finding Vivian Maier > The premise sounds gorgeous and I'm really sorry not having seeing it yet.

Best Documentary Short

Will win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 > Well, its the United States and they love to give prizes to documentaries made about their own problems and this one sounds like something they would go for.

Could win: White Earth > Another local piece that sounds interesting.

Should win: Joanna > My favorite premise of all five: a woman is told she had three months to live and decides to start a blog about it.

Best Live Action Short Film

Will win: The Phone Call > Sally Hawkins as a helpline worker... Sounds good enough for a win.

Could win: Parvaneh > Immigration. What's not to like?

Should win: Aya > I find the premise funny and worth of a look: a man confuses a woman for his assigned driver.

Best Animated Short Film

Will win: Feast > Apparently it's very good animation and it has been well marketed. A man's love life seen through the eyes of his dog.

Could win: The Bigger Picture > Uncommon animation sometimes attracts voters.

Should win: A Single life > Premise sounds interesting: Pia can travel through her life when she plays a vinyl record. 

Best Original Score

Will win: The Theory of Everything > Besides Redmayne's performance, everyone agrees the score is one of the best parts of the movie. And it helps that the composer has never been nominated because the Academy loves to give prizes to newcomers in this category.

Could win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > Double nomination would normally mean more chances to win but that has proven not quite true with the Oscars. Maybe this time it will happen?

Should win: Interstellar > Without a doubt the best of the bunch: you can play it without any images and it's still magnificent. It deserves to win. Besides, Hans Zimmer hasn't won since The Lion King. 

Best Original Song

Will win: Selma > This will be the only place where this movie will be recognized and, I have to say, it shouldn't. Studios are making all kind of things to trick the rules of this category in order to get in. To me, the song play in the credits and shouldn't be able to compete. Sorry but that's the rule.

Could win: The Lego Movie > Another snubbed movie that may find solace in this category, however unlikely that may be. Selma will have heavy support here, to the low amount of nominations it garnered.

Should win: Begin Again > The best song of the bunch, no doubt about it. It's played at least twice by two characters during the movie and it never feels forced or out of sync with the movie itself.

Best Sound Editing

Will win: American Sniper > With six surprise nominations, its hard to think it won't get at least one and this category is perfect as sound effects are quite important throughout the movie and they used them wisely.

Could win: Unbroken > Another war movie that excelled in it's use of sound to depict certain conditions, specially the one related to the airplanes and the prison camp.

Should win: Interstellar > Not as heavy use of sound as it the other two movies I mentioned but they sure did a great use of them, in this science fiction piece.

Best Sound Mixing

Will win: Whiplash > We're talking about mixing and musicals normally do well here. Of course, this movies is not a musical at all but it engages us into the plot with the sounds produced by an obsessed drummer.

Could win: American Sniper > It is very likely that they could win both. It happens frequently and wouldn't be all that strange.

Should win: Whiplash > Music and images carry the film. Impossible to overlook it.

Best Production Design

Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > Both scene decoration and art direction are simply marvelous to the detail in this fine period piece. Everything was done to the minimal perfection and it should be rewarded.

Could win: Mr. Turner > Recreating the life of a painter living between the 18th and 19th centuries sure proved a challenged for the talented artists that brought us closer to the England of that time.

Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > It's showy, colorful, clean, beautiful and just breathtaking.

Best Cinematography

Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > It's classic but a bit daring too and it's a rather calm film, using many of the techniques cinematographers today avoid.

Could win: Birdman > Lubezki's cinematography is brilliant although it looks better because of the great editing, that sadly wasn't recognized by the Academy. Somehow, I doubt he will be honored twice in a row.

Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > But although great, I have to say it's sad not to see the beautiful work of Hoyte Van Hoytema recognized in the category, for his beautiful work in Interstellar.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will win: Guardians of the Galaxy > Besides being a box office hit, which helps, the movie's best feature is the makeup work. And science fiction has often being recognized in this category.

Could win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > Tilda Swinton's character, in particular, is showy enough to make a the movie win.

Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > The movie is just to beautiful to overlook.

Best Costume Design

Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > Milena Canonero is to great to be ignored. Her work is simply marvelous on this movie.

Could win: Into the Woods > But they also love Colleen Atwood and her work in many movies, even the ones that weren't that popular with the public.

Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > Canonero deserves that Oscar, her fourth.

Best Film Editing

Will win: Whiplash > Fast paced, lots of different frames and angles and a story that advances pretty fast. And it's all about the editing.

Could win: The Grand Budapest Hotel > Although it might be more because of its cinematography, the movie relies on a soft form of editing that many often ignore.

Should win: Whiplash > Editing in its best form, without a doubt. Although Birdman is not a movie I love, this category was theirs and somehow it missed.

Best Visual Effects

Will win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes > No one understands how the first one lost this award to Hugo. But the sequel is equally brilliant when using motion capture technology as well as creating new characters with it.

Could win: Interstellar > It has done well with critics and with the general public. Besides, being a movie with a message may be good enough for many voters. Anyway, many sequences and specially the robots are just brilliant.

Should win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes > Motion capture technology has not being properly recognized with an Oscar and this should be a first step to actors being nominated for their work in that new artform, post-Avatar of course.

Final Count
Will win

Whiplash = 4
Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel = 3
The Theory of Everything = 2
Still Alice, Birdman, Big Hero 6, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, American Sniper, 
Guardians of the Galaxy, Ida, Citizenfour, Feats, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, Selma = 1