Monday, May 18, 2009

Wanderlust :: Angels & Demons







I've seen the paranoma of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower.


I've been on one of the highest peaks in Salzburg in my Birkies instead of good, hardy footwear and had a blast looking through the clouds and fogs at the city beneath us.

I've watched dawn creep over the city of Rome from our hostel window, with the ever present St Peter's Basilica in the horizon's backdrop.

And watching Angels & Demons yesterday triggered my wanderlust after going though the photos which I took in Rome and the Vatican City in 2007.
Justify Full
I was glad to watch Angels & Demons with my Rome/Vatican City travelmates, C and S. C and myself read the book way before our trip, though I still can't recall if it was a coincidence that we managed to make a stop at most if not all of the stops which were featured in the book/movie. After reading and watching the Da Vinci Code and actually viewing the Mona Lisa in 2005 and The Last Supper in 2007, I've come to the conclusion that Dan Brown might make for entertaining mindless fiction, because he does a very poor job in researching for his books and coming up with conspiracy theories and symbols which does not add up upon closer inspection.

Among all of Dan Brown's works, I liked Angels & Demons the most. Not just because of the conspiracy theory element and how it explores some of the best which Rome and the Vatican City has to offer in terms of architecture with religious significance, but because it also tackles the theme of religion and science, which is a topic close to my heart, me being a social scientist and a Christian too. Some friends express surprise when they find out that I'm a Christian, though a lapsed one. Maybe it's because I do not go on about my religion and I do not practice saying grace before I partake my food. Some friends have also tried to ask me to test the extent and the knowledge that I have of the Bible. I usually handle their questions with ease. But it's not the religion that I have an issue with. It's my grappling of the idea of faith, of believing in something which cannot be seen or have an easy explanation for. And as my knowledge in the sciences grew, the more problematic faith became to me. Had a couple of encounters where the pastors were unable to address my questions and their frustration added on to my sense of disillusion.

Angels & Demons draws a lot on this theme of religion and science, the tension which exists between the two and how both can be reconciled. The movie did not do this central theme justice, but rather, ended up painting an ugly, simplistic picture of a religious fanatic within the Vatican who was plotting against to capture the world's attention as well as to discredit science and the Church's old enemies. The book had a characters, one who was a priest who ended up working at CERN, as well as the Head of Cern, which were not featured in the movie. There's more background information on the characters which explained why they behaved the way they did, including Ewan McGregor's character.

More about the movie: SPOILER ALERT! I felt the movie was fast paced and action packed. But more could have been done to further flesh out the characters, especially the main ones. Vittoria Vetra, for example, was a strong female lead meant to complement Robert Langdon in the book. However, in the movie, the more petite Nigella Lawson lookalike looked meek and frightened most of the time. Wassup with that?! And the way the assassin was killed off - lotsa unanswered questions: Was he from the Vatican as well? Or was he a killer on hire? And why did he off himself like that? But overall, given the limited screen time they had, I think Ron Howard did an alright job with the movie version of the book, a quick paced movie with lotsa effects and action to compensate for the lack of good filming locations, a credible plot and cast (the cardinals did look like a bunch of scared, cigarette-smoking old men and some looked like they belonged to the Italian Mafia more than the Vatican, the Great Elector looked rather sinister as well). One thing about movies with secret societies: it's tough to pull it off without looking like a raving lunatic, looking out for clues, drawing implausible relations and conclusions. Recall the movie, Number 23?

I've recently discovered this series on the Hallmark Channel, American Dreams. I love this show because it guest stars contemporary singers such as Brandy, Lil Kim, Hilary Duff and Jason Mraz to cover the oldies of the 60s! :)


That will be the day - Jo Jo as Linda Ronstadt

Well that'll be the day
When you say goodbye
That'll be the day
When you make me cry
You say you're gonna leave me
You know it's a lie
Cause that'll be the day that I die

When Cupid shot his dart
He shot it at your heart
So if we ever part then I'll be blue
You kiss and hold me
And you tell me boldy
Well that someday that I'll be true

Well that'll be the day
When you say goodbye
That'll be the day
When you make me cry
You say you're gonna leave me
You know it's a lie
Cause that'll be the day that I die