Thursday, January 14, 2016

When I first read that the team behind Birdman were intended to do The Revenant, I thought, how they will pitch this project to the studio. If you think of this using Hollywood lingo, I will say that the idea will be Dances With Wolves meets Man vs Wild meet Gladiator. Sounds crazy right?. But in a way is what this film is about: Empowering native Americans, by putting the whites as the bad guys, then having the main character survive a pretty traumatic experience in the wilderness in order to avenge the death of a love one and finally succeed.

Everything sounds pretty cool in paper, but if you have a director like Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu behind, is probably less simple and more elaborated tale. The Revenant is the story of a group of trappers that are hunting in the Louisiana Purchase territory under the command of Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). Suddenly they been ambush by the Arikara tribe, which cost the lives of part of Captain Henry team. In the group they have a very experience guide Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio) which is traveling with his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) half white, half Native America thanks to Glass relationship with a woman from a tribe. The trappers leader is John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who seems to be antagonist of the whole expedition.

After the group escape from the Arikara ambush, they decided to leave their boat behind and continue by foot in order to escape from the tribe. The trip becomes more complicated when Glass is attached brutally by a grizzly bear, who is trying to protect her cubs. The group decided to carry Glass with them, until Fitzgerald pressure Henry to leave him behind and sacrifice him.

Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu directs this masterful film with a very strong vision, the film was shot chronologically allowing the actors and the team create a powerful story. Emmanuel Lubezki cinematography is beautiful and is so intimate, perhaps because he use natural light most of the time, in order to keep the film uniqueness. Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy delivers a great performances which I believe deserve to be rewarded. Ryuichi Nakamoto, Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner original score is a work of art that blend perfectly in the film visuals.

The Revenant is a stunning film that is not only the tale of sacrifice, journey and struggle, it’s also a film that represents rawness of life and beauty and the same time. Life is like that: rough and beautiful. You just have to find a way to live with both.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The beginning of a ritual where two women are involved. A girls transition to a full women? A couple’s union? or perhaps the departure of innocence?. This is the first scene that we see in the Guatemala’s film submission for the Academy Awards “Ixcanul” directed by Jayro Bustamante

Maria (Maria Mercedes Coroy) is a seventeen year old girl who lives with her parents on the slopes of an active volcano en Guatemala. Maria’s dad Manuel (Manuel Antún) works in a coffee plantation with his wife Juana (María Telón). Maria is a curious girl and of course she is interested in boys, among the farmers is Pepe, her love interested and the one who will take her most sacred possession for a girl, her virginity. At the same time Maria’s parents have arranged a wedding with Ignacio one of the managers of the plantation, a sort of powerful guy to them. This will assure some future for Manuel, Juana and Maria, the idea of keep their land and a house.

In a chain of events Maria get pregnant of Pepe, who ran away from to the United States, looking for a better life. This situation complicates Juana and Manuel’s plan of getting Maria married to Ignacio. They are naive and Ignacio knows how to manipulate them. He is the representation of change, how dirty is society and how can control weak people, using mean tricks, like ignorance.

Ixcanul is spoken in Mayan for most of the film, which makes the movie more mysterious for the audience. In a tradition of films spoken in more friendly languages, the risk pays off. Like Apocalypto or The Passion of Christ spoken in unused languages brings life to the movie and create a sense of more down and dirty experience.

The film explore family values, traditions, Mayan myths and also how modern society is responsible of Indian cultural demise. Ixcanul tales the tale in a cyclical way getting into a full closure helping the audience to see Maria starting as a seventeen year old girl, becoming a woman right thru our eyes, just for the sake of her familiy future.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Every human being encounter a moment of identification, to their profession, surroundings and mostly their sexuality. The independent community, Hollywood and the several countries around the world have challenge the status quo presenting stories about people who are looking for acceptance to their sexuality, personal habits and their expressions. Most of the people with lifelong identification, have challenges on how society see them, but specially understand them.

Films like Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood”, Kimberly Pierce “Boys Don’t Cry”, Duncan Tucker “Transamerica”, Neil Jordan “The Crying Game”, Stephan Elliott “The Adventures Priscilla Queen of The Desert”, Almodovar’s “Todo Sobre Mi Madre”, David Cronenberg “M. Butterfly” and Alain Berliner “Ma Vie en Rose” tells the story of women, men and even kids who are not identified with their sexuality, they are also filled with personal conflicts as human beings. The movies present dramatic situations, comedic situations and sometimes crazy dream sequences to explain the audience what is happening in their minds.

In Tom Hooper “The Danish Girl” he presents a very dramatic tale of Einar Wegner (Eddie Redmayne) a popular landscape painter in the mid 1920’s and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) a portrait artist. The couple lives in Copenhagen, enjoying Elinar successful career with the typical marriage, ups and downs and also having challenges trying to sell Gerda’s work and their efforts to get pregnant.

Looking for different ideas and ways of express her work differently in order to find representation in different countries, Gerda’s ask Elinar to pose for her, wearing female gowns and using silk stockings. Elinar see himself identify with this. In a beautifully shot, edited and performed scene, the audience understand in a few seconds his struggle on wanted to be a woman, but also his excitement and mental transformation. This becomes a epiphany for him. Unaware of this Gerda thinks is a game, so she plays along discovering the shocking truth, right thru her eyes.

The Danish Girl is a powerful film who tries to tell the story of Elinar Wegner in the best way possible. Sometimes going from the dramatic to the brotherliness of been corny. Tom Hooper delivers his well used wide lenses view of several spaces to create a emotional landscape which is very rich thanks to Danny Cohen cinematography, Eve Stewart Production Design and Art Direction by Grant Armstrong and Tom Weaving. The scenes are alive and look like the paintings created Gerda and Elinar. This 3 artistic aspect of the film makes the film very sensitive and specially unique. I hope this four talented people get rewarded. Another aspect of the movie is the beautiful film score by Alexander Desplat.

Eddie Redmayne delivers a powerful role, with a very intense transformation, but sometimes have the nuance of previous performances. Alicia Vikander shows a promising performance that could be improved with other roles. Finally someone who steal the show in their scenes is Gerda and Elinar’s dog Jack Rusell Teddy (Pixie)

Monday, January 4, 2016

In the very beginning of time women were consider the weak spot, the runner of the household and the caretaker of our kids. But women were never consider capable of been entrepreneurs, capable of develop ideas or capable to run companies. It took time to get the idea and been able to respect them from what they are and capable to do. First was the vote and their rights and later show that men can be weak too and run a house without them. Movies showed that in the past decades. From “Nine to Five”, “A League of Their Own”, “All About Eve”, “Channeling”, “Bend it Like Beckham”, “Funny Girl”, “Thelma and Louise” “The First Wives Club” and “Erin Brockovich”

In the film Joy directed by David O Russell, he tells the true story of Joy Mangano a divorced woman living with her two kids, father, ex husband, mother and grandmother under one roof. The story is been told from the grandmother point of view played by Diane Ladd and develops in a very strange structure that makes the film complicated to follow. The film start with Joy already divorce living with her family and the arrival of his dad who is been kicked out from his home. The ex husband an aspiring singer from Venezuela played by Edgar Ramirez, Joy’s mom Virginia Madsen an obsessed person who loves to spent time in bed watching soap opera, Joy half sister Elisabeth Röhm and overachiever who constantly humiliates Joy in front of her kids and finally Joy’s dad played by Robert De Niro who never believed in Joy and her creativity to come up with ideas for inventions. Joy is creative and wants to achieve better quality of life for her kids and their family. Her grandmother supports her, but her parents don’t understand her, until she come up with a great invention that will change the market forever.

This foundation was set on the first minutes of the film, finally the movie goes back to Joy childhood, explaining who is she and her family and continues in a chronological order. This starting point of a movie filled with chaos for the audiences, who needs to understand why the characters are there and where they going. Opposite other movies, like Goodfellas who start in the middle in the movie, it justify why they do that and is done with so much style thinking on developing the characters in just a few minutes. Joy starts as a mess and continues as a mess. The film is about Joy - Jennifer Lawrence but is been told from her grandmother point view, which appears on screen soon enough to tell what ever is necessary about her, but you never understand things like dream sequences or several motives of the characters. You laugh in some situations but others you are lost, because you are hoping to see the story of a woman who create this empire and you end up seen a story of a destructive family and the invention a mop.

Don’t get me wrong Joy life could be something better, probably like Erin Brockvich, but is not compelling enough to do that. David O Russell waste actors like Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd and Virginia Madsen and weak characters who barely said something meaningful, they are just puppets surrounding Jennifer Lawrence who is the start of the movie, besides her outstanding performance, Joy can be a film easy to forget.

The lights go dark and a red and black screen with the illustration of a stagecoach and the title Overture appears. The music by Ennio Morricone starts and you know that you are witnessing movie history here.

This is the 8th film by Quentin Tarantino. “The Hateful Eight” a film shot in 70mm ultra panavision by the renown cinematographer Robert Richardson and the intention is to create the experience that we lost over digital in the late 60’s.

“The Hateful Eight” is divided by six chapters which introduce a very peculiar cast of outlaws who don’t have any remorse of kill everyone to achieve their goal. A trip on a stagecoach carrying The Hangman (Kurt Russell) and The Prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) it’s been stopped by a unwelcome passenger “The Bounty Hunter” who is carrying a 3 dead bodies who needs to bring into town. Then another unwelcome passenger shows up, but this time of chapter 2, “The Sheriff” (Walton Goggins) who needs to get into town for his assignment, the new sheriff of Red Rock. During the stagecoach ride the story unveils showing every character true colors and real intention of their journey to town, including one of the movies let motive “The Lincoln Letter”

Finally they arrive to Minnie's Haberdashery where they meet with the rest of the characters “The Mexican” (Demián Bichir), “Little Man” (Tim Roth) “The Cow Puncher” (Michael Madsen) “The Confederate” (Bruce Dern) where the story take shape into a major conflict that involves: racism, US north and south, justice and poison.

Tarantino creates a theatrical experience never seen on his films, probably because his movies moves all over the place and tells the stories by so many points of views, which involves several narrators and locations. This time the film explore a single place where the conflict start and ends. The film is bloody like we used with him, violent and satirical. The dialogues are witty, sarcastic and filled with profanity. The story develops in a linear way until a point where Tarantino brings his magic touch.

“The Hateful Eight” is a great film that brings back the essence of westerns with a twist of pop culture.

If you really want to experience this movie in glorious 70mm try to catch up in their special engagement roadshow. Overture, Intermission and a nice program as a souvenir.

Journalism in films is a great subject because the movies explore the process of a investigation, the main characters, ethics and also the power of the system. So many movies have done great work: Michael Man’s “The Insider”, Alan Pakula’s “All the President’s Men”, George Clooney “Good Night and Good Luck” Ron Howards’ “Frost/Nixon” James L Brooks “Broadcast News”, Roland Joffé “The Killing Fields are among those films.

In Spotlight directed by Tom McCarthy journalist is questioned on his core. In 2001 The Boston Globe hires a new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) with the promise of searching for better stories and more solid journalism work. Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) is the head of “Spotlight” team a group of journalist of the Globe whose articles are investigative nature, but can take up to a year to publish. The film start with an incident of a priest who is be taking a police precinct in Boston for allegedly molesting a kid from the parish in the 70’s the case seems to go under the table when the archdioceses gets involved to solve the problem. Tom McCarthy set the foundation of the story by proving that this is lawless crimes that can be hide so easily in front of the police. Back to 2001 Baron reads a small article that talks about a pedophile priest John Geoghan and how the archbishop of Boston knew about it and did nothing to stop it. The spotlight team is been asked to start an investigation about the peophile cases in the church of Boston.

The spotlight team start to work Michael Resends (Mark Ruffalo) Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) with a lot of skepticism but quickly revealing shocking information about the victims, their abusers, and how the elite was forced to hide the truth to keep an image of a perfect clerical society in Boston.

The film is powerful with strong performances by all the cast, Thomas Newman deliver a compelling original score, Tom McArdle gives the film the perfect pace on a outstanding editing.

Spotlight is not about journalist who becomes heroes, is about the power of ethics and the search for the truth, it’s also about mistakes made and when you search for that truth you have to risk so many things in your life.

It’s a cold and a beautiful beginning of the winter in 1952. The workers of a major department store are getting ready to welcome shoppers during their Christmas holidays. Among them we see a shy girl Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) a temporary shop girl in the toy department and aspiring photographer.

A stunning woman walk into the store, Carol looking for the perfect gift for her daughter. Therese sees her and get interested in her, probably is mutual. After a very simple conversation Therese is able to sell to Carol a train set and thanks to a lost gloves will be the very beginning of a intense relationship.

Carol (Cate Blanchett) is a sophisticated woman of the New York society, who enjoy a good life, she is unhappy. She is going to an awful divorce with her ex husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) which appears to be a manipulative business man, a possessive person and also misogynist who put

Todd Haynes directs a story of two women are looking for happiness. For Haynes this is not a virgin territory. In 2002 he directed “Far From Heaven” where a housewife Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) discover her husband is secretly gay and subsequently falls in love with Raymond (Dennis Haysbvert) her African American gardener.

In the film Carol love is forbidden, because is between two women who cannot find themselves around the arms of another man. Is 1952 is a time of innocence, but also is a conservative time where family structure it;s very traditional and formal. Homosexuality was a disease and in fact was treated with doctors.

Carol is blackmailed with her little girl to be the model housewife in order to quit her relationship with other women. The film explore unhappiness in the most happy time of all Christmas, men Misogyny’s and also lack of women empower in a time where america was interested in keeping their women’s in the kitchen.

This film is stunning when it comes to cinematography art direction and costume design. Blanchet and Mara have a perfect chemistry, but also are powerful in their roles.