Review: Suicide Squad


Suicide Squad has been the hope of fans that DC might start making movies that aren’t depressing soliloquies on the interchangeability of good and evil. Which is odd, considering Suicide Squad is specifically about “bad guys” acting as heroes, but it’s the tone people seem to want changed, rather than the message.

I went into the movie with high hopes, and didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought. The tone of Suicide Squad fails to live up to the wacky-punk of its promotional material and trailers. This makes sense – from what I understand, the movie was filmed in the tone of BvS, and then desperately recut at the last second to try to make it more like the trailers, which were clearly more popular.

It did succeed in a few places where BvS failed. Most importantly, it was internally coherent. I’ve heard people say that BvS is really good if you’ve read the comics, but that just means that it failed as a movie. Movies aren’t supposed to rely on people already knowing the story to tell a coherent tale. Suicide Squad tells a good story of the “good guys” using the “bad guys” to save the world, with fairly standard depictions of the government-run as heartless and evil. Refreshingly, the bad guys were all depicted as actual bad guys, even if a few of them are eminently relatable.

I’m not a fan of this Joker, even as I recognise the different style it’s promoting. Put simply, this Joker isn’t beguiling. Previous incarnations (Batman & The Dark Night) were gifted orators, and even if you didn’t agree with them you could see how they might convince others – think about The Joker talking to Harvey Dent in the hospital. This incarnation had none of that seductive banter, which is a shame because in this movie, where they show a psychiatrist falling in love with the Joker. That wasn’t believable, at least as it was shown in the movie.

A major part of superhero movies are the fight scenes, and they were good in this movie, but there weren’t enough of them. There was a lot of bluster and macho posturing, but that tends to fall flat in the action stakes. A lot of the action sequences from the introduction, where they provided the background of the characters, should have been put in the story. They could have been more exciting, and served the plot instead of the backstory.

All in all, I give the movie 7/10. It had some good parts, but there should have been a lot more. They could have gotten away with a bit more wacky oddness, and a bit less exposition. I mean, the most surreal part of the experience was watching Stephen Hawking hawking cars before the feature. If you like the previous few Batman movies, and you’re a fan of the comics, you’ll like this movie.

Landing Down Under

I left Mexico a week ago, and it seems like longer. The plan to get ready to move to Australia had a hiccough when my university told me the subjects I studied earlier in the decade can’t be used if they were finished more than five years ago, so if I start second semester 2016 they are valid, whereas if I wait until first semester 2017 I’ll lose them all.

So a couple of weeks later I’m here, near the bottom of Australia, trying to acclimatise to some unnaturally cold weather.

Despite more than a decade overseas, and moving to a different city within Australia, this place has the familiarity of home. The broad Australian accent, the frequent and insincere apologies, the rampaging “thank-yous”, the big sky and the brick houses and the smörgåsbord of international restaurants.
Pineapple Tim Tams
There are other things that I forgot about, and that I’ve gotten used to being missing. The footpaths are wide and flat and people actually use them. Whenever I paused to cross the road the cars would stop for no reason, and I’d think they were nuts but I’m impatient so I’d just walk… and then after the third time I realised the cars were stopping because of the pedestrian crossing I was on. Actually stopping at a pedestrian crossing.

There’s a lot I’m going to miss about Mexico, but it’s good to be home.

Leaving Oaxaca

We left Oaxaca, just before all this mess with the teachers and the government started. That was a coincidence, but the school our kids went to there is one where the teachers are at the protests, so I hope they’re all OK.

My wife’s contract ran out, and although there were offers to extend it a number of factors convinced us to leave. Mainly the heat, and the bugs, and the unclean water. We all had persistent heat rash and we were all sick, and although the mosquitoes are slow and stupid there is an inexhaustible supply… so we packed up and came back to Cuernavaca.

When we were finalising the decision we had a discussion with a gringa who has been living there about four years, married to a local and running Sexy Pizza (which has really good pizza, by the way, especially the supreme). We asked her what the rainy season was like, to see if the plain horridness of the climate would soon come to an end.

“Last year it was awful, it didn’t rain. It’s supposed to rain in May, but it didn’t. Then it didn’t rain in June, either, not ’til the end of July. It just kept getting hotter and hotter. It was horrible,” she said. “But it’s not always like that, my first two years here it did rain. It was crazy. There were hurricanes and storms and everything flooded. So, you know.”

“Yeah. We’re gonna leave.”

So we did. We’re reveling in the cool, and thinking that our trip to Oaxaca was a great success. The main goal was to check that we actually liked living there instead of just holidaying there, and we did discovered we don’t like living there. The government forces killing the protesting teachers is also getting closer to where we lived, to the point where our social networks started seeing posts on how to protect ourselves and warnings to take the kids away.

A lack of internet and free time meant that I didn’t post as much as I hoped to while in Oaxaca. There are some good memories I’d like to share before I drop this trip for good and concentrate on my move to Australia.

The Wedding of the Year

Further along our block some neighbours built a stage that completely blocked the street and had a party, with a full-sized big band playing. They let off the loudest fireworks I’ve ever heard – the sort that remind you of anti-aircraft batteries. We found out the huge party was for a wedding, and the size of the party meant “the bride must be very valuable”, according to one local mother. Across the road they dug a fire pit, about three metres long, one metre wide and I have no idea how deep. They butchered a cow to cook there. They butchered it in one of the neighbouring yards, and there were huge buckets of offal along with all the bits that they would toss into the fire. That’s a lot of meat.

Fire Pit

A Small Dip in Rio Grande

A great way to cool off in Santa Rosa, if you have an hour or two, is to drive to Rio Grande for a dip in the river. It’s mostly shallow beside the town, and the kids loved going there to swim and chase tadpoles and frogs. As you walk you stir up the sand on the bottom, and fish swim in looking for food, so they swarm around you. People wash their clothes there, so there’s some soap and rubbish from that, but besides that it’s very nice.

I said it’s mostly shallow, but Poncho managed to find the one place where he couldn’t stand and had to bounce up above the water before I dragged him out. He was scared, but fine – but for some reason Nerida thought it looked like fun and kept trying to copy him by going into the deep part. She’s an odd girl.

Kids swimming in a river

The General Vibe

In Santa Rosa people sleep in houses, but mostly live outdoors. A lot of houses have the kitchen outside, often surrounded by plants and vines, maybe with a tarpaulin roof. So as you walk along the street you’ll hear sizzling and chopping, and smell cooking. People will sat and chat in the veranda or yard, because it’s too hot to sit indoors. We spent most of the time outside in the hammock and chairs, with the kids on the tire swings.

Just down the street from us there’s a rickety shed built from corrugated iron, and orange light seeps through the slits and holes at night, and sad ranchera music is played inside. I thought it rural romantic, until I realised it is someone’s house, not shed.

Santa Rosa has its own festivals just like every other town in Mexico. This is from a large printed lona with information on the town and calendaria festival:

It is for this that Santa Rosa de Lima is a magical community rich for its popular culture, art, architecture and natural resources, but above all for its people proud of their culture ((milenarias)) which is the expression of a town that has a past, a present and a future.

I think they cut and pasted this from some brochure. I suppose you could argue for the town having culture, and art in the form of traditional clothing, and natural resources in the form of dirt and mosquitoes. But there’s no way you could argue the architecture is anything to take any not of whatsoever.

I return to my homeland of Australia and to university… what zany adventures await me? I bet they involve calculus!

I Hear The Rain

Well, not really. It didn’t rain, but we weren’t the only ones fooled. The evil ants went looking for a new home and picked the dumbest of places – some tried nesting on top of the water in our water tank. I had to scoop them out with a sieve.

We drove to Puerto Angel tonight, and there were frogs and crabs edging across the road. Here comes the wet season…

(and yes, another Femmes reference)

Life is Sweat. Anyone Who Tells You Differenty Doesn’t Live In Santa Rosa

I have to shut down in the afternoon because the heat and humidity is too oppressive. Unfortunately the kids don’t shut down…

If I’m not inside motionless with the fan directly on me, I’m motionless outside in the shade hoping for a stray breeze. I’m actually glad there’s no room inside for the kitchen – the heat would be insupportable.

Many people live outside in this way… there’s a house around the corner with the kitchen outside and beside the street. They’ve surrounded it with vines and pot plants, so as you walk past a wall of green you hear the sounds of a kitchen and smell cooking chili and wood smoke, because most people still cook over wood.

At night, as you walk down our street, you see a ricketty shed built from corrugated iron and scrap wood, with orange light seeping through the holes and sad ranchero music blaring out. It’s a great visual, and you wonder if it’s some kind of off-the-record bar or just some guy spending time in his shed eith a beer and radio and maybe some mates. In the day you think to look in the yard to try to figure it out, and see it’s the only building on the property – there’s just chickens and banana trees and a sheet hung in the corner for some bathing privacy.

Flood Proofing Streets Tututepec Style

Hey, remember that street near my house that went underwater when it rained? They’re fixing it. First they pushed over a lot of trees, for some reason…maybe to accommodate ridiculously large dump trucks.
Street Repairing
Then they brought in several of those trucks and dumped maybe a dozen tonnes of sand in the street, and then they flattened it out. The street is now roughly two feet higher, and now lies above the concrete paved road that joins it. My first thought was since the street flooded because the properties that lined it didn’t leave anywhere for the water to drain, now the water will flow off the street and onto those properties. However, our street didn’t flood because it was a foot or so higher, piled with sand. So maybe this will work.

That implies that the water will be there as it was before, soaked into the sand, but people will be able to walk and drive on the sand above the water. Which in turn suggests that maybe the water table is far closer to the surface here than I gave it credit for.

Since the crazy weather, they’ve come and scrapped the sand off our street, so I’m a little concerned as to what will happen when the rains come.

I await the wet season.

Festival Time In Tututepec

Tututepec has its celebration for the anniversary of the foundation of the town in mid-April, a large event that combines the regions cultural highlights – basically dancing and livestock. During the day there was an animal show, a guess-the-calf’s-weight raffle, singers, free food and a horse dancing show. The kids were most impressed when one of the dancing horses shat in the middle of the arena, but that’s kids for you.

At night there was a demonstration of traditional dances. These events are quite common — anyone who has traveled to a Mexican city has likely seen a show like this, with groups from around Mexico dancing on stage. The main difference here is that all the groups were from individual towns within the municipality, demonstrating the traditional dances of that particular town. This is why Mexico is described as having a mega-diverse culture… it’s not just the country or the states that have different customs and traditions, it’s each town, and quite often each suburb or diocese. It’s possible these traditions will ebb away as highways are built across the land and TV and the internet become more common, but it’s equally possible they’ll be maintained, even if it’s only a in retro or anachronistic way.

I was most impressed by the dance from Jamiltepec. It’s the Mexican think I’ve ever seen — and the dancers from Juquila included an El Torrito. The Jamiltepec dance was a little bit cantina, and a lot wedding-of-the-year. The women wore colourful dresses with intricate designs and the men wore the traditional white outfit of rural Mexico. The dancers moved frenetically, had a lot of fun, and shouted a lot. They had a cry of excitement and warning, like a mix between a baying dog and a cock crowing, which they’d let off at random intervals and which reverberated around the square. At one point they formed a circle, and one woman put her fingers on her head like horns, pretending to be a bull, and charged at a man dancing like a matador and waving his paleacate (bandana) like a bullfighter. At the end the man fell over.

The most Mexican part was when the dancing was paused for insults. Everyone would stop and a couple would go up to the microphone, and the man would make vulgar comments about what they wanted to do to the woman sexually. The woman would then give a scathing reply that the man was too pathetic to even jerk off to the woman and it would be a pleasant day in Santa Rosa before she slept with him, and then people would laugh and give the baying crow in appreciation.

The dances from Juquila were very similar to those from Jamiltepec, except that the men wore colourful shirts and the movements were a tad more constrained. However, at the end they pulled out an El Torrito, which is a paper-maché bull in a wooden frame covered in fireworks. They light the fireworks and then charge at people with it, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. This one was different from those in Cuernavaca in that they concentrated on fireworks that made painfully loud noises rather than ones that spat out dangerous amounts of sparks.

The dances from other towns varied more (and they may have been from other towns in Oaxaca, rather than just the municipality). The most indigenous style had people dressed with colourful semi-circles on their heads that were maybe a metre across, and other garb and decorations that showed prehispanic roots. It’s the first dance I’ve seen that actually included people leaping and gamboling, with a graceful movement where the dancers seemed to follow a curved path in the air. The trick probably involved swinging the legs, and it’s damn impressive.

Another group reminded me of Chinelos on stilts. The dancers were on stilts, dressed in a crude mockery of old-style Spain, and danced to music that jitters and twirls like latino jazz. The dance itself was a weird shuffle, but the movements were precisely defined. I’m sure it was developed in the same way the Chinelos of Morelos were — too mock the Spaniards.

There was a very Spanish dance with just two people, in which they moved energetically and the woman lifted her dress a lot. The final dance was from the municipal capital, Tututepec itself, and was far more sedate. The women wore a white sheet wrapped around them leaving them backless, and the dancers moved slowly and elegantly through the moves.

At the end of each group’s demonstration the dancers through things into the crowded, various bread products in brightly coloured wrapping. The kids passed out long before the end, though, it finished pretty late.

Unsettled in Santa Rosa

Hubris and optimism look very similar from the inside…

Other aspects of Tututepec aside, there are some basic factors that may limit our time here. The muggy heat is close to unbearable, for a start — although we suspect that may be exacerbated by our town, which is particularly windless. However, Karla is attacked by mosquitoes to such an extent that her legs look like she’s wearing polka dot leggings, and nothing she does seems to help. The baby and I have both developed a rash, probably a heat rash, but possibly from chlorine. And, while I’m whinging, food is more expensive here than in Cuernavaca. Apparently they transport the food to Oaxaca City and then back down to the rural areas, which strikes me as idiotic.

I’m also having trouble with my devices — my phone no longer connects to my computer, so I have to transfer video files to my tablet via Bluetooth, then move them (not copy them, it won’t do that, only move them) via SD card to my wife’s laptop, from there to a USB drive and from there to my desktop. Whenever I’m in the car I put on Bat Out Of Hell just so I can yell the line:

Nothing ever works in this rotten old hole, and everything is turning out lost
And nothing really rocks, and nothing really rolls, and nothing’s ever worth the cost.

Certainly, our current lifestyle is not one we wish to continue. It’s possible that if we bought land on the coast or in the hills — where there’s breeze — and built a house to suit us, and found people with similar world views to join us, we’d love it here. However, that’s a big investment for something that isn’t guaranteed.

Of course, this means our move here was a success, since the whole point was to see whether we’d enjoy living here as opposed to just coming for holidays. It would be a great place for a part-time house, though, where you didn’t stay here during the worst months.

There’s been a lot of cultural activity recently, and I’ll put up a post on that once I get my devices working.