I'm trying to write up Apocalypto this afternoon, and I stepped out to go to the cafe to find the streets full of cops: Apparently somebody gave a a 9mm-salute after a funeral a half-block away. So, I'm thinking about violence. And violence in movies. I mean, one of the ideas that drives me crazy in the cultural discourse is the idea that violent films lead to violent acts. But you know what? If violent popular culture led to gunfire, there wouldn't be anyone alive in Japan. And within a week, I've seen two films, both incredibly violent -- and one of them excited me and engaged me and challenged me, and the other just left me bored and unhappy and angry.

I think that violence in movies is like film in movies, or music or color or costumes; it's an element, and the question isn't how much of it you've got, it's how well you use it. (If you look at them closely, I contend that Pulp Fiction is a much more moral film than Forrest Gump. ... Which is a story for another day.) But my pick for the best film of the year, Children of Men, is full of violence -- upsetting, real, grim stuff that's still depicted with artistry and vigor; my least favorite film of the year, Apocalypto, is also full of violence, but it's clammy and silly stuff -- boring and blood-soaked and incredibly obvious. (And again, more on that later.) But as violent as Apocalypto was, it didn't make me want to kill anyone by committing human sacrifice. Or using poison-frog darts. Or a club. Or whatever. Or, if someone's going to be pointing anything out of their window on the street where I live, I'd much rather have it be a movie than a gun.

How was your day?