Sunday, January 28, 2007

three movies

Been watching classy movies these days. Two of them at the theater and one on DVD.

I enjoyed "The Illusionist". It's quite a rare movie. An intelligent mainstream movie. There used to be dozens of them every year, now we're lucky to get this one. It's about a magician who runs into his teenage crush from way back. Only problem, she is engaged to be married to a future Emperor. That's all one can really say. Edward Norton is great and Jessica Biel is pretty good. A fun movie.

I also liked "Volver", an Almodovar movie for people who don't especially like Almodovar movies. There are no gimmicky sequences here, no kitschy scenes, no transvestites. It's a movie about secrets and bonding between women, especially mothers and daughters. Penelope Cruz is so damn good here. How can she be so amazing and sexy in Spanish movies and so annoying in American movies?

"Notes from a Scandal" is also really good. An aging, lonely lesbian who develops a crush on young teacher. She learns that the teacher is having an affair with a 15 year old student. So she blackmails herself into her life. Judi Dench is great as the lonely woman, simply because she portrays the character as a real person and not as a "psycho from hell" we see in so many movies. Cate Blanchett is also great as always.

There you go. Three classy movies that satisfy the brain and are very entertaining.
Anyway I have "Slither" on DVD to watch so I don't become too highbrow.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I just saw this terrific independent movie on DVD. Maggie Gyllenhaal gives an amazing performance as an ex-junkie coming out of jail and trying desperately to reconnect with her 6 year old daughter. This is heartbreaking stuff and there are a couple of scenes that stay with you and that explain so much without being obvious about it. This is also one of the few movies that show how hard it must be for someone to try get rid of a drug dependent life. Check it out.


"If you achieve success you will get applause,
and if you get applause you will hear it.
My advice to you concerning applause is this:
enjoy it but never quite believe it."

Robert Montgomery, actor

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I remember seeing this movie when I was a little boy. It's a mostly forgotte comedy about a Puerto Rican man(Alan Arkin) who wants a better life for his kids, away from the Bronx. So he goes to Miami, puts his kids on a small boat, hoping that people will think they came from Cuba and some rich Cuban family will adopt them. It's an outrageous concept, but the movie is pretty good. A strange mix of realism and sitcom humor.

One weird thing about seeing this movie now is that in 1969 the world of crime, junkies, gangs presented in this movie was so alien to our island. It was a world of the "boricuas de alla", of the Bronx. We were safe here. But seeing it now, all the social problems presented in the movie are here. We have turned into the Bronx of 1969.

Kind of sad if you think about it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

more strange double features

I saw some pretty interesting movies this week. At the top, "The Last King of Scotland", a movie about a young Scottish doctor who goes to Uganda as a way tof rebelling against his family and ends up as the personal physician of Idi Amin. The movie traces the strange bonding between the Scotsman and Amin, a ruthless dictator obssesed with all things Scottish.

The movie shows us the strange world of Idi Amin but it also shows the hypocrisy of all politicians. When he seizes power, he gives a speech that makes one realize how all politicians are scumbags, as he promises "more housing, more roads, more jobs.". And, of course, all he really plans to do is bankrupt the country. Haven't we heard that before?
This movie is playing at the Metro in Santurce.

I also saw " Bandidas". OK. So I saw it because the DVD cover featured Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz showing cleavage. But this is a pretty entertaining little movie. It really doesn't take itself very seriously. It kind of reminded me of Louis Malle's "Viva Maria!". A nice movie to see when one wants to simply be entertained.


"The things that are really for thee,
gravitate to thee."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, January 14, 2007

how's this for a double feature?

Saw two movies this weekend. "Children of Men" at the movies and "Devil wears Prada" on DVD.

"Children of Men" tells a story set in the near future when women are unable to have children (cause unknown). Great Britain is a paranoid state in whcih illegal inmigrants are sent to camps and there are terrorists acts everywhere. In the middle of this, a subversive group finds the only woman on earth capable of having a child. And they must protect her from the bad guys (the state, well, almost everyone). It's up to Colin Owen to do it.

This excellent movie, from a novel by PD James, is an intelligent, unpredictable and truly exciting science fiction. In these days when sci-fi means so shit Marvel comic book movie and when "V for Vendetta" is considered "deep" is the real thing. An Orwellian, "Soylent Green", "I am Legend" type of great science fiction. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron ( "Y tu mama Tambien"), this is a rare thing. An intelligent mainstream movie. It's playing at the Metro and at Plaza.

As for "Devil Wears Prada", well...believe it or not, it is quite an entertaining movie. A chick flick a guy can actually enjoy. Meryl Streep is great, so is Anne Hathaway and especially Emily Blunt. This is a cool movie that talks about commitment to work but also the commitment that one has to make with quality of life and being with the people you love. Having gone through that phase myself and deciding on the side of quality of life, I can appreciate what this movie says.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Billon Dollar Brain

One major casualty of the Cold War were great spy movies. Somehow the world of spies worked better in the context of the US-USSR battle. Now spy movies are about terrorists and, quite frankly, terrorists don't make for great villains. They don't because they are of a one track mind, and quite frankly, not very interesting. With the Cold War you had moles, people double crossing each other, double agents and truly interesting characters.

I was reminded of that last night as I watched this excellent 1967 movie starring Michael Caine as Harry Palmer. There is so much to enjoy here. The Cold War antics.
There's a Texan who's a religious fanatic and sees the world in terms of us against them and wants to start WWIII (hmmmm...)There are some nice action sequences, but it's all about intelligence, about outsmarting your opponent. Damn I miss this kind of movie.

Try catching this film playing on Showtime at odd hours.


There is an interesting moment in life. And it is when one realizes that the point of life is not to change the world, but to change oneself. To stop looking at the faults and the agendas of every other person and to simply try to change that little corner of the world that is you. To try to make that small place a better one, a more peaceful one. And maybe, with that peace you can make a difference. A small one, but a difference indeed.

I don't think that moment in life comes suddenly. It wasn't like I thought about that out of the blue. It came quietly and slowly until one day, it simply made sense. That's all. And it does.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bye, bye lights

Nothing says Christmas is over than the act of removing the Christmas lights from the balcony. Lights are such a symbol of the season and their removal brings home the idea that Christmas is over, gone, finito. You realize at that moment how fast time has flown by. How the other day you placed them there thinking that the season would last a long time.

Maybe that's why, I've noticed, people still have their Christmas lights on after January 6. They want to feel like it's Christmas a bit longer. They are refusing to face the fact that the "normal" year has begun again. So they leave them on for a few days, until their minds are ready to face the fact.

As for me, well, today is Sunday so it still feels like a Holiday, so I will leave the on tonight. One more night. Tomorrow, as I face a long day at work, I will remove them. And face reality. Maybe.

Pandora's Box and Louise Brooks

I had read that this was one of the best DVD's of the year. The Criterion Collection DVD of silent movie "Pandora's Box". And it is a true discovery. A great print of one of the great movies of all time. And it is not only a great movie but it also features what many consider the firt modern actress in cinema, Louise Brooks in an amazing perofromance so full of life and sexual energy that it is amazing to think that this movie was made in 1929. A tale of a woman who destroys the life of everyone around her, the movie is also a portrayal of life isn the carefree 1920's and of pre-Hitler Berlin.It is also the first cinema portrayal of a modern woman, independent, aware of her sexuality and not afraid of a world dominated by men.

But it is mostly about Louise Brooks, a Kansas-born actress who went to Holywood, was too independent for her own good, made two great movies in Germany, went back to Hollywood, refused to submit herself to the casting couch and retired from movies. Forgotten for 30 years (she even became a sales woman at Saks), she was rediscovered by French critics and staged a comeback in which she was finally recognized as one of the great actrsses of all time.

Ths is one great DVD.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Happy Three King's Day

The Black Dahlia

This movie was one of the big flops of 2007. And in terms of reviews, it received so so-so notices. And even though it is not a great movie, it is an interesting one. It is a fictional story built around a true life murder in 1940's Hollywood. A wannabee actress was found butchered beyond belief in a LA. The yellow press of the day named her "The Black Dahlia" and it was big news for a couple of months. The killer was never found.
Writer James Ellroy turned this story into a best seller and now director Brian De Palma turned into a pretty good DVD flick. It has good period atmosphere, good acting and the mystery angle is interesting. A nice flick for a dull night.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Good Shepherd

The "pre-Star Wars" 1970's were a great time for movies. A time when Hollywood mainstream movies were intelligent, thoughtful and character driven. And more important mainstream movies had adults in mind and featured grown up themes such as love, loyalty, sex in a serious way. Now look at Plaza's movie schedule and every movie is made for 12 year olds.

Except this one. This excellent movie, directed by Robert De Niro, reminds me of the Golden Age of the 1970's. A movie about the beginning of the CIA, it is also a movie about life's decisions, about friendship, love, loyalty, regrets, family. This is a terrific movie. And it is great to see Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie(heartbreakingly beautiful here) in such a fine, adult movie. And it is good to see DeNiro in a small, but touching role, a million years away from his recent self parodying performances. And Tammy Blanchard as the one woman who got away from Damon is amazing.

There are no chase scenes here, no CGI, just real life with all it's problems and issues. I loved this movie.

By the way, it is playing at Plaza theaters only during the daytime. I guess during the night that screening room becomes the fifth one showing " A Night at the Museum".

Monday, January 01, 2007

on a new year

We all make promises to ourselves on a day like today. Most we never keep, I suppose. There were times when I would do the cliche thing and write them down. Then I decided not to do that. Well, I am back to writing a few resolutions. But instead of having a list with 20, I will place them under one single category. I want to be more at peace. Sounds simple. Yeah sure. I know it isn't. But maybe thinking about that will help me react to all the things I face every day. Someone hurts me, be at peace. A negative thought comes to my mind, be at peace. You get the picture.
I hope to do that. And smile more.ok, that too.