Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In praise of John Wayne

As I watched the movies being shown on TCM and Westerns Channel celebrating his 100the Birthday, I realize people from my generation and people from places like Latin America tend to hate John Wayne. To them he represented the Ugly American and American arrogance and imperialism. Well, they are wrong. He was simply one of the greatest movie icons of all time.

His reputation as a war mongering conservative was probably based on his pro-Vietnam war movie "The Green Berets". But forget about that one. Watch the beauty of "Red River", enjoy his great acting in "The Searchers" one of the great movies of all time. See his sense of humor in movies like "Hatari!", "True Grit" and even "Rio Bravo".

And say what you will, he was an actor who truly dominated the screen. He had charisma and such presence that any movie he was in inmediately became "a John Wayne movie". Ask that of Orlando Bloom.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

movies I saw this weekend

This weekend I saw two very different but very interesting movies.
First, there was "Play Dirty" stariing Michael Caine, one of the most cynical war movies ever made. The kind of movie that a Hollywood focus group would hate. In it, a group of criminals are sent on a mission to destroy some oil deposits in North Africa during WWII. This sounds a lot like "The Dirty Dozen", but it isn't. There is not a sympathetic character here. These are real criminals doing the work. And the officers and generals don't fare any better. Everyone is "playing dirty". And the ending, I won't even begin to write about it.

I am a big fan of Somerset Maughm. "Of Human Bondage" is one of my favorite books. One of those books that you read at the right moment in your life and can change you. SO I was looking forward to this movie based on his lesser known "The Painted Veil". And I was not disappointed. This is one great movie with excellent acting. It's about love, marriage and simply being human. I wonder why this movie did not pick any Academy Awards (maybe because it is actually a good movie?). Anyone catch this one on DVD or Video On Demand.

yeahhhhh (she lost)

We don't have to deal with stupid parades this year.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Black Book" -movie of the year- and it's only May

The director of "Showgirls" has made the most exciting, dramatic movie of the year. Yes, Paul Verhoeven has gone back to Europe and respectability with "Black Book", a terrific WWII movie about a Jewish woman who becomes a spy for the Dutch underground and faces all kinds of hardship and adventure. This is the kind of movie that keeps you guessing what is going to happen next. It is a thriller for adults. The movie is three hours long, but one doesn't feel it. This is great filmmaking and storytelling.
Don't miss it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Mystery of Picasso

One of the great mysteries in life is the process of creation. How a blank page or an empty canvas is transformed into something special by an artist. Many movies have dealt with that theme. But most of them, have failed to show that process in a realistic way.

Well, back in the 1950's French director Henri Georges Clouzot (Wages of Fear, Diabolique) decided to make a film on how Picasso would create a work of art. And suprisinghly Picasso agreed. So this movie consists on a series of empty canvas (the screen) in wich we see stroke by stroke how one of the 20th centuries most influential artists creates a painting or a sketch. No gimmicks. Just the real thing.

Sounds boring? Well, it isn't. It is fascinating. And as an extra touch, all the works that were created for this movie were destroyed, so that they would only exist in this movie.

This is just an amazing, unique movie. It played on Turner Classic Movies

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Revisiting "Julia"

Every guy has a sex movie they remember from his youth. That first sexy movie he saw when at 13 or 14, when the hormones were going crazy. I know many people who mention movies like "Porky's" as one of these movies, but I was too old when that one came out. Mine was an obscure movie I saw at the old Excelsior theater in Santurce.Yes, they used to show these movies at theaters, no late night Cinemax then. It was called "Julia" and I saw it again last night after so many years (thank you, Netflix!)

It starred Sylvia Kristel, the star of the "Emmanuelle" movies. And I thought it was the greatest movie.Seeing it again last night, well, I guess I have to moderate my position on it a bit. It's actually a pretty crummy 1970's soft core movie. Probably an R rated movie by today's standards.

But there were a couple of things that still make it worthwhile. First, the whole casual, European ttitude towards sex that makes it ten times better than a Hollywood repressed sex movie like "Porky"s".

And most important, it features one of the sexiest women ever to grace the screen, amazingly beautiful Sylvia Kristel at her prime. She was quite a sight.

As you can imagine "Julia" is not for everyone. But if you have Netflix and you were 14 in the mid 1970's...well....

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Deliver Us from Evil

This is one haunting documentary about a Catholic priest (father O'Grady,photo above) who sexually abused hundreds of children, some as young as 3 months old and how the Catholic Church knowing what was going on, simply transferred him from parish to parish, allowing him to come in contact with new children he could rape.

The interviews with the still unrepentant priest are revealing and unforgettable. He seems flippant about the whole thing, almost treating it as no big deal. He walks free the streets of Ireland after having served only 7 years in a California prison.

The interviews with the victims ad their family are really sad. These are people who because of their faith, trusted a man in cloth, only to be betrayed by him and the Church.

As for the Church, well, it shows you how it simply ignored the whole problem. How the hierarchy was more interested in playing politics and remaining in power than in solving the problem. The Church acted in a heartless and awful way. By the way, the current Pope's old job was dealing with the sexual abuse problem in the Church.

This is an amazing documentary.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Bon Jovi ticket rip off

A ticket for the Bon Jovi concert costs $350-$500 at the Hiram Bithorn. In Milwaukee, a seat similar to the $500 ticket costs $80.(
The local promoters with their "patriotismo" claim were able to prevent the Choliseo administration from producing concerts at good prices. So instead we have local promoters ripping people off.Amazing.

The Aura

Fabian Bielinksy's death a few months ago must be Latin American cinema's biggest loss ever. He could have been more famous than Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron. Because the two movies he made were simply brillian: "Nine Queens" and his last, "The Aura".

This is a movie Alfred Hitchcock would have loved. A shy taxidermsit who suffers from epilepsy and dreams of pulling off the perfect robbery finds himself in the position of being able todo that in real life. I can't say more about it. Just that everything is completely unpredictable and that there is plenty of suspense. None of the cheap "Boo" variety, but of the real kind. Of the one that makes you look away. The one the Master used to pull off.

Monday, May 07, 2007


When we were kids, we all had a day like this.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


The day Marlon Brando died someone at work sent an interoffice e-mail to everyone informing about his passing. A couple of young account executives, after reading it were asking out loud: "Who is Marlon Brando?" Amazing.

Well, TCM (channel 77-Onelink) is showing a documentary that more than answers that question. It features clips from all his movies and instead of narration, it features comentary by actors who knew him, from Martin Landau to Jane Fonda to Johnny Depp. This documentary shows you that screen acting can be measured in terms of before and after Brando. One also learns about his deeply selfish and eratic behavior. How he made Hollywood hate him and how how Hollywood had to welcome him back after his suceess in "The Godfather".

So to the culturally challenged account executives who didn't know who Brando was. Well, he was the most influential actor of the 20th century.