Monday, December 29, 2008

Man on wire

What would you do for art? How about doing a high wire walk between the Twin Towers? That's what Philippe Petit did in 1974 and it makes for one of the most fascinating documentaries I have seen in my life. Petit, a high wire artist had become famous for walking across the Notre Dame Cathedral and on a bridge near the Australia Opera House. But he became obsessed with the idea of doing a performance in the soon to be inaugurated World Trade Center.

This would not only mean doing the improbable act, but also breaking in the towers, avoiding security and throwing a line from one tower to the other using (get this) a bow and arrow. Well, how he and some friends did it is recreated in this movie and it has more suspense than any heist movie you have seen. And against all odds and quite frankly, common sense, they did it.

And then there's the footage of his high wire walk. One is in awe of someone like that. One feels he is a genius, an artist, a madman. It is a quite a sight.

And then there is a curious thing. There is never any mention of the destruction of the towers in the movie. And I'm happy that there is none. Because for 90 minutes the towers are there, as real as anything in the world. Perhaps this movie is the real work of art that people will will remember about them. And it is so damn beautiful.


A person in another blog did this year end exercise and I thought it would be a good idea to do it too.

First, I realized that I really needed a change in terms of job. In the end the only thing keeping me there was the camaraderie there and the fact that it was close to my house. Working somewhere just because of short commute is not quite right.

I also learned that I could travel alone again. I had a great time during my time in France and in New England. The fact that I took a guided tour always kept me busy and entertained. I simply enjoyed the scenery, met some interesting people and took some nice photos. Not once did I feel uncomfortable about traveling alone. That is quite an achievement for me.

Which takes me to the fact that I realized I am a pretty good photographer. My friend Erika gave me some insights into composition that I needed to learn and off I went into the world.

I learned that I will probably be a good retiree. My months away from work were really interesting. I was able to write, travel, read,take photos, watch old movies. I established a routine that kept me busy, interested and content.

I got over my self pity about the injury. My knee eventually got better. Sometimes I feel a slight discomfort, but I do a short exercise and it feels better. Time heals all wounds. And I learned to be patient with things that life throws at you.

I did a small thing that maybe is not so small at all. I learned to face my fears little by little. Fear of loneliness by meeting people. Fear of traveling alone by doing it in a grand scale. Seems it works when you do it like that.

I went back to my blog. I had stopped writing because I was tired of doing so much ad writing at work. I found the time and the energy to do it. I realized there's pleasure in writing. And that this blog is a little work of art I am creating (maybe).

Well, that's it for now. Maybe I will think of other things.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

No thank you, I am waiting for the Joseph Stalin one.

For the revolutionary in your household who needs to keep his or her appointments, a Che calendar. Available at Borders.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I hate this ad

I just saw the creepiest ad in my life. It is a TV ad for One Laptop Per Child in which John Lennon is brought from the dead to endorse this program. First you hear a voice similar to Lennon's talking about the idea behind One Laptop Per Child and then we see old Lennon footage talking to camera. what's worse the lip synching is not even that good.
It is a strange concept for a commercial. Maybe it will work since it will certainly get people talking. But still, the fake Lennon voice is really, really creepy.
Type "Lennon laptop ad on You Tube"

Trash I like

When I was studying communications at Grad School, the professor asked the students if anyone enjoyed watching trashy movies or tv. And it being a snotty school, nobody raised their hands. Except me. The professor and the other students looked at me as if I was a lunatic. The professor then asked me what trash I enjoyed watching. And I said "Good trash". And he replied, "And what is good trash?". My answer was "Trash that I like". Everyone laughed, some with me, others at me. But at least I had been honest.

Well, here's trash I like. Goofy 1960's movies. I love them. And last week I saw two of them. First up, "Casino Royale", a so called James Bond parody that is completely unfunny but is a truly watchable mess. Bad jokes, outlandish sets, gorgeous women. The movie had five directors, actors leaving in mid production and all kinds of complications. Actually, the "making of" featurette in the DVD is better than the movie.
"Casino Royale" is also one of the first movies I remember seeing as a kid. Seeing Ursula Andress and Barbara Bouchet posters in the theater lobby made me realize I liked women. So there's nostalgia involved in it too.

"Battle Beneath the Earth" is about a Chinese plot to invade the USA....from underneath the earth. Through tunnels where a Fu Manchu type villian plans to attack America with atom bombs.. It is also completely politically incorrect (Chinese portrayed by British actors), but the movie is so outlandish that one just laughs at the whole thing. This is one movie I wish I had seen as a kid. But watching it made me feel like a six year old again.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I have been scanning old photographs to place them in a digital phot frame that I will give my parents for Christmas. Maybe it's the season and the fact that I'm listening to a cable music channel that plays Christmas music, but I can't help but be moved by all the old photographs. First, when I look at the people who are no longer here. But here they are in these pictures, most of them taken on Sundays when all the family would get together and have lunch. Here they are dressed literally in their Sunday best. They are all there, smiling, going about their life. Facing their days like I am now.

Then there are the people who are still alive, but here they are so young. Probably younger than I am now. Smiling, wearing the latest fashions.

And hitting me on the face was the passage of time. And how fast it goes by. All the people in those photos were probably thinking so too. But there were place to go, gatherings to enjoy. Because against time, it's all we can do.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


With my new job comes a sudden realization: the trip that I wanted to take next year will have to wait. Which is a shame since I wanted to visit Europe again, maybe visit Germany and some Eastern European countries. I guess I will try to get a couple of days off and maybe go to New York City to visit a friend or maybe go to Miami. It's funny, but I got so used to not having to worry about things like that when I was freelancing. But the reality is that the freelancing world is dead here. I am lucky to get a job.
So Prague can wait.

two movies

I have 3 weeks until I begin my full time job so I have been basically taking it easy. I have been reading a lot and watching a lot of movies on DVD. And the other day I enjoyed quite a double feature. First I watched a movie called "Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days", a critically acclaimed movie that deserves all the accolades. Its set in 1987 in Romania and it deals with the relationship between two friends when one of them has to get an illegal abortion. It is a truly amazing movie, with great acting a a ten minute sequence so full of suspense, fear and dread that I found myself closing my eyes. I am not kidding. Very few movies have touched me the way this movie did. It won the big prize at Cannes and I hope it gets the Oscar. This is such a great movie.

While still on this mood I watched an Ingmar Bergman movie called "The Silence". I recall seeing this movie on PBS when I was kid basically because it dealt with sex and had some nude scenes. Since the world of sex was still a mystery to me, I was enthralled by this movie. Now many years later, I realize that it is an interesting, somewhat cold movie about the relationship between two women(sisters). There are some undertones of lesbianism and incest, which must have been pretty weird back in the early 1960's. Well, the idea would be unthinkable in a movie today, but that's another story. The acting is amazing, the camerawork is excellent ( I am sure Kubrick saw this movie before shooting "The Shining"). But like all Bergman films it leaves one kind of cold and pessimistic about life. Still I liked it.

I must admit this was quite an interesting double bill. But I made a note to myself to watch a lighter movie next. And I did. I watched "Snoopy, Come Home" which turned out to be not so light at all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Gregory's Girl" : loving movies and life

Yesterday I saw two movies on tv, first I saw "Wanted" a typical new action movie with a million gimmick shots and CGI sequences. It was fun and ok. And then I happened to run across "Gregory's Girl" on cable. And I realized why I love movies.

"Gregory's Girl" was movie written and directed by Bill Forsyth, a Scottish director, who made some of the 1980's most wonderful movies. "Local Hero", 'Comfort and Joy" and "Housekeeping", before disappearing from the phase of the earth. His movies were about the small things in life, about the little moments. His movies contained no great, bombastic scenes to try to capture you. They had small scenes that added up and charmed you.

My favorite Forsyth movie is "Local Hero", but I love "Gregory's Girl', a movie about teenagers that is not about getting laid, but about finding someone that likes you and maybe love you. Gregory, an awkward kid, develops a crush on a girl...but she has other (wonderful) plans for him. There are so many priceless moments here: Gregory realizing that the girl has actually accepted his invitation for a date. His scenes with his younger sisters are truly great as she gives him advice on what girls like. These moments are sweet and touching. And I love the two guys that realizing that girls do not like them, make plans to travel to Caracas, where the women to men ratio is 8:1 (or so they think).

"Gregory's Girl" is kind of technically clumsy, which works brilliantly in a movie about the most awkward and clumsiest time in anyone's life. I love this movie. It reminds me of my teenage years and, most important, of the fact that life is about the small things. It's not about the bombast, but about the whispers.

Catch it on FLIX this month.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I am becoming an NCSI fan. My father recommended this show and now I am completely hooked. I know these CSI shows are kind of routine, but I think this one is better. Great, quirky cast, interesting mysteries. I guess this is the kind of show you either love or hate. Well, I guess I love it.

on movies

The other day I was watching a movie from a few years ago ("Carried Away") and an interesting thing happened. There was this nude scene featuring a middle age Amy Irving and a late middle age Dennis Hopper. There was no sex involved. They just happened to be naked. And I realized that there are very few scenes like that in American movies, especially mainstream ones. You can see it in European movies, but not in American films.

Strange, isn't it? A common thing like walking around nude in the house is off limits to movies. Movies can show you violence. gore, guts hanging out...but let a breast or a penis hang out and it's the end of the world.Try explaining that to a creature from another world. Yes, we have people getting killed in all sorts of ways in our everyday pop culture, but our naked body is off limits. It is taboo. It is dirty.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

what might have been

28 years ago tomorrow, the dream of a renewal of a Lennon-McCartney writing partnership ended. Some jerk with easy access to a gun, ended that possibility. I've always figured they would have eventually collaborated, maybe not as The Beatles, but as two old friends doing some music just for the fun of it. The old grudges would have been put away. Time would have healed the wounds and the two of them would have given us some new songs. I am sure that would have happened at some point.

But it never did. Damn.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


One of the people who taught me to love movies (and taught me to read English and understand puns), passed away. R.I.P. Forrest Ackerman.


When asked why his books never had a love story, Ken Vonnegut said that because once you put a love story in a novel, it overshadows everything else in it. You can have the most amazing plot, but once you put the element of love, the love becomes the most important thing. I thought about this while watching Sam Peckinpah's "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" the other day. The movie is about revenge, money, the hipocrisy of religion. It also touches on the end of the Old West. But then there's the love angle, on the relationship between Hogue (Jason Robards) and Hellie (Stella Stevens) and everything else becomes secondary.
Love conquers everything, especially in art.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

old movies I saw again

When I was a kid, the Music Hall theater in San Juan used to show Disney movies all thetime. They would show the recent ones and also re-releases of all the classics. I, of course, went to see every one. I loved all of them, except two, "Fantasia" and "The Three Caballeros". Although I remember sitting still throughout "Fantasia" (which I think was hown at the Metro theater), I recall being completely restless and out of control during "Three Caballeros".

Well, I decided to see these two movies again. First up, "The Three Caballeros" and surprisingly I really liked this movie. It lacks the slickness of most Disney movies. In fact, the whole thing seemed completely improvised. And it may have been, since it was an effort between Disney and the U.S. government to create some goodwill between the United States and Latin America during World War II.

So it is an interesting movie for historic reasons. But it is much more. It is a fun, weird movie featuring some psychedelic visuals 25 years before "Yellow Submarine." And Donald Duck acts really strange. He acts like the horniest cartoon character ever, lusting after all the Latin senoritas. And I mean, Donald behaves like a drunk, spring break student in a "Girls Gone Wild" video. Truly bizarre. And I also noticed various instances in which inanimate objects became erect at the sight of some Latinas.

All in all, this is a really interesting movie to see. And the DVD comes with a behind the scenes documentary on how Disney helped the U.S. reach out to Latin America. The short film "Saludos Amigos" is also included.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I just wrote a person in another blog about how life can change things from day to day. And I feel like expanding on that today. A week ago I was pretty much set on the idea that my present career was pretty much over. Well, not over. But the idea of being freelance was already ingrained in my mind. I would work sporadically, in small places here and there because I figured the big, important ones would not want me anymore. Well, the other day I got a phone call that may change all that. It's from a good agency and the work situation sounds interesting since it will be in a specialized field. I see it as a way of being inside an agency, but not in a regular agency. And I see it as a place where I can end my days as a copywriter. Then again, I am assuming they will offer me a job. There are quite a few unemployed copywriters out there that could be interested in that same position.

But the thing is, suddenly all plans were changed. And maybe a I won't get the call, and all I'm planning now will come to nothing. Believe it or not, I'm finding a kind of beauty in this. I have never been a person who loves unpredictability, but I'm realizing that I better start loving it because that's what life is all about.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

asking the questions

Werner Herzog is a fascinating director. He creates documentaries that are unlike any other. While other drirectors tackle recent issues, he makes documentaries that deal with the big issues in life. His latest film deals with the question, "Why would somebody leave it all behind and decide to work and live at the South Pole?". He visits a base at the Pole, he asks the questions and we meet a unique group of outcasts (scientists, plmbers, truck drivers) who are driven to live outside the norm. They all wanted to escape. They are people who did not fit in and took a drastic way out.

The concept is better explained when Herzog shows us a penguin who for some unknown reason, leaves the flock and decides to head for the mountains. Herzog tells that even if we got a hold of the penguin and placed back in the flock, it would head for the mountain (and certain death) again. He asks, is the penguin crazy? A big question, indeed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

giving thanks

Here I am watching 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving", realizing how fast this year has gone by. This year saw me learning to walk again after my knee injury. I went to France for a month. Visited relatives in Mallorca. Went to New England.
Lost my job. Worked on my own. Took photos. Wrote a little.
All this in a year.
Reasons to give thanks.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I remember when I used to make fun of people who were not up to date in terms of pop music. To me, it was inconceivable that they were not aware of what was going on in the Top 40 world. Well, these days I look at the Top 10 and I don't know anybody. Well, I do know Beyoncé because of her sexy videos. But that is it. Who are these people making music now? The easy way is to say, well, Top 40 is crap these days. Now like when I was a teenager or a twentysomething. Which makes me sound exactly like the people I would make fun of all those years ago.
But. it's ok. I will keep listening to the oldies, to classical, to jazz. There is still plenty to discover in those worlds. Maybe it's the way of the world. Getting older. Maybe musically wiser.

Friday, November 21, 2008

murder and nice people

Call me corny. But I am becoming hooked on a genre called "cozy mystery". These are books featuring Agatha Christie-typ detectives working in small towns. My favorite now is Hamish Macbeth, a detective that appears in a series of novels by M.C. Beaton. These are cool, little mysteries that show the dark side of a small town, but that also stress the decency of most people. Whether that idea is true or not does not matter. The important thing is that they make for wonderful late night reading. In a world of horrendous things going on, there is some comfort in tales of murder and decency.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


There is something about the beach in the morning that is hard to describe. The sunlight, the calmness.

forbidden movies

When I was a kid I was really intrigued by the “forbidden movies” of the time. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s some movie theaters specialized in adult movies. These were mainly the Cinema Condado (next to the Chinese restaurant, near the Condado Beach hotel, its lobby faced the lagoon), the Miramar (now Fine Arts) and the Excelsior (now ‘El Josco”). I recall seeing the movie posters while walking around and wondering what the fuss was all about.

I had to wait quite a while to finally see these movies. The VCR and late night cable tv made some of these movies available to everyone. So I saw many of them.

One of the first ones I saw was “Emmanuelle” starring Sylvia Kristel. This one played at the Cinema Condado for ages, and I mean ages, it was there for probably close to a year.
It had a reputation for being a classy, couples oriented, sophisticated x-rated movie. And the excellent movie poster certainly portrayed that. It is one of the most creative movie posters of all time.

As for the movie itself, I guess it’s one of those things in which “you had to be there.” I imagine that in the early 1970’s, it was groundbreaking to see a movie that treated sex with some degree of seriousness. But the fact is that this seriousness can now be seen as pretentious and silly. The worst part is the air of terrible self-importance in every line and opinion about sex expressed in the movie.

The movie, of course, has Sylvia Kristel, a truly beautiful woman. So different from the generic porno actresses with fake boobs we see today in late night cable porn fare. She is a sight to behold. And her casual attitude towards sex and nudity is healthy, refreshing, endearing and oh, so European. She makes this movie watchable. This film would have been unbearable without her presence.

The movie was such a hit for Columbia Pictures (a mainstream studio doing “softcore-love the 1970’s!) that two more Kristel movies were made. There was also an onslaught of fake “ Emanuelle” with one “m” that were a pretty bizarre bunch. But to me, there is only one Emmanuelle, she has two “m’s in her name and her name is Sylvia Kristel.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The other day I went to see the new James Bond movie and as usual had to watch the 45 minutes of ads that the bastards at Caribbean Cinemas inflict upon us. But that is not the point of this entry. It's just that watching them, I felt a million miles away from the industry that made them. I no longer thought, "which agency did that?" or " I could have done that better." I felt nothing. I felt just like the hundreds of people at the movie theater. I was just thinking to myself " When will this barrage of meaningless ads end?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monster times

When I was about 7 years old, I bought a magazine at the Totti’s Drug Store in Condado that made a huge impact on me. It was called “Famous Monsters of Filmland’. It was a magazine about horror movies, obviously aimed at kids. In it I learned about the new horror movies playing in theaters and about the old ones sometimes I could catch on tv.
I learned about old movies stars Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and about people like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price who were still active in those days. In a way, my life long love affair with movies began with that magazine.
The magazine was published by a true film fanatic and collector called Forrest “Forry” Ackerman, a man who influenced the life of millions of kids, including people like George Lucas, Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg.

I just read that Uncle Forry is very ill these days. Here’s hoping for a recovery from a kid who discovered your magazine and was made happier by it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

the extraordinary in the ordinary

A few months back I was browsing books at Borders when I came across a collection of short stories by Raymond Carver. I had heard of him, but had not read anything by him. So right there I read one of his short stories. And I fell in love with his writing. I took the book home and actually read the book slowly, savoring each word and loving every story. His world was one of normal, everyday people. No one was extraordinary or did anything extraordinary. The beauty of his tales was that in his tale of simple, ordinary people he created magic. I am in awe of how he did it.

So this week I bought at Borders a DVD of "Short Cuts', a Robert Altman film that takes Carver's world to the screen. And it is such a wonderful movie. It is a tale of various people in LA and how they deal with, well, the everyday. It is such an intelligently done movie with none of the corny things that were present in something like "Crash". This movie is 3 hours long and yet, it leaves you wanting more. I am in awe of how Altman did it.

Unfortunately, both Carver and Altman have passed away. It would have been amazing to have seen another Carver set of stories brought to the movies by Altman. But, still, we have this masterpiece of a movie. We should be thankful for that.

college fund raising

When will my old alma mater realize that I am never going to be sending them money?
I have been ignoring their mailings for 25 years. It’s not like I am suddenly going to change my mind and become a part of the alumni drive. I have my reasons for not sending them money. Some having to do with the lousy way students were treated there. Some having to do with the extremist political ideology that permeates the place. Some having to do with the fact that I rather give my money to more worthwhile causes.

But still, every 3 months the envelope is there in my mailbox. And five minutes later it’s in my trash can.

Friday, November 14, 2008


The days seem to be going by faster than ever. It’s already mid-November. I have been working freelance for half a year ever since I was laid off in May. I seem to be very happy about this way of working. I am meeting new people, working on different accounts. When I have days off, I have my own routine. I write, take some photos, have a cup of coffee at Starbucks while browsing the Net. Spend a morning at Borders before the crowds go in. Watch movies. Study movies. Read. I call friends for lunch. I am never bored. There was a world out there that I was not enjoying because of the ridiculous hours in the advertising industry.

When work comes along, I am happy about it. I go to the agency or company and work.
If I like the place, great. If I don’t, it’s alright…I work there for a few days, get my money and leave. No commitment. It’s a nice deal.

I have been traveling a lot these past months. I have been to France, Mallorca, Madrid, Boston, the Berkshires, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine. I have seen truly beautiful places. I have enjoyed the wonderful colors of autumn for the first time in 24 years.

Not bad, not bad at all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


When I was in high school I had a friend who was obsessed with cars. This obsession translated into many instances of reckless driving that placed out lives at risk and to taking our group of pals to movies about people obsessed with, well, cars.

Of course, he dragged us to the Paramount theater in Santurce to see “The Gumball Rally”, a movie about an illegal cross-country race. It featured then cool guy (I guess) Michael Sarrazin and an unknown actor called Raul Julia. I remember kind of liking the movie, but I don’t recall whether I really did or if I was just being nice to my friend.

Thanks to the magic of DVD I was able to see this movie again 34 years later and decide for myself. And here’s my verdict.
1. It is a fun movie if you keep your expectations low. Very low.
2. Raul Julia shows his star quality really early in his career. He steals the movie as an egotistical, incredibly self-absorbed Italian driver.
And finally, the movie is better than its rip-off, Burt Reynolds’ “Cannonball Run”, which is, of course, no great accomplishment.

Still I am not sure how I feel about it. Maybe because time has made me nostalgic about movies of the 1970’s. But mostly, because it reminds me of my teenage days and of my long lost friend.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On reunions

My high school class has a Facebook group. And it has been interesting to see how people who had not seen each other for 30 years suddenly reunited online. For a few days, everyone exchanged memories of that teacher, or that student. It was a fun, touching experience. But suddenly everyone stopped writing.

And it has been the same with friends that one sees again after many years. One runs into them at the mall, one asks about a couple of common old friends and one says “Bueno verte.” With the promise, of course, of “meeting for lunch.” And one goes on with life.

It seems that both online and in real life, there is only so much one can talk with old friends and acquaintances. There are the old stories, the old memories, the common friends. But the truth is we have grown apart irremediably. We can talk for a few minutes. But that’s it. We have moved on and made a new life, new friends. The past is nice , but the idea of rekindling old friendships is unrealistic. Like Paul McCartney once said about the Beatles getting back together, “You can’t reheat a soufflé”. Well, actually, you can try, but one should always be ready for disappointment.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembering all who died…

From photos taken during my visit to Normandy, France this past June 5th.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Home movies and more

Anyone remember Super-8 movies? This was the film format used for taking home movies. It worked just like regular film used in motion pictures but had a lower quality and resolution. Parents used to buy a Super 8 camera and shoot birthdays, trips and all that sort of thing. Kids, well, we used to shoot movies with them. Because the fact is that many kids and teenagers had a lot of fun with those cameras and one could even edit the material (cutting it literally). In high school, some friends and I shot a movie in which our high school principal (we shot her footage secretly) was in reality a serial killer. It was 15 minutes long and a lot of fun to make.

Well, some people took the “let’s all make a movie” concept one step further and shot what is basically a monster home movie with some cool stop animation and titled it “ The Equinox”. A producer bought the film and added more footage and released it to theaters as “Equinox”. It’s a truly unique story and DVD distributor Criterion Collection, known for artsy fare, gave it a two DVD royal treatment.

It is truly an enjoyable experience. It includes both versions of the movie, interviews, other projects by the teenagers that made the movie. There is something very unique here.
It’s a DVD to see on a Saturday afternoon, while enjoying a few soft drinks and plenty of popcorn.

Order it from Netflix. Or catch the theatrical version that is playing on Showtime these days. But with that version you miss most of the fun that is included in the Criterion release.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Prime Cut

One of the great things about DVD is that you can discover forgotten movies. And this weekend I discovered a great one. It's called "Prime Cut" starring Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman and Sissy Spacek. It's one of those movies that could only have been made in 1972. It's a gangster movie set in America's Heartland. And it's central message is expressed in an exchange between Marvin and Hackman " Humans, cattle...what's the difference?" "There is a difference.".

This is a terrific movie full of every un-PC thing you can imagine. The movie begins with titles imposed over scenes showing you how cattle are killed and turned into ground beef. It has violence, nudity and a total sense of nihilism that is hard to match. And the idea of setting the movie in Missouri showed the dark side of small towns way before David Lynch made "Blue Velvet".

Lee Marvin is amazing as a paid Mafia man (the good guy here!), Gene Hackman is great as the mand running a cattle operation and a prostitution ring and Spacek (in her film debut) is touching as an innocent Midwestern girl forced into becoming a prostitute.

I loved this movie.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Remembering "American Graffiti"

Before he destroyed serious American cinema with “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, George Lucas was a director of small movies. Like people such as Peter Bogdanovich, Brian De Palma and William Friedkin, Lucas was a child of early 1970’s American cinema that sought to create more personal movies.

His first hit was an interesting nostalgic look at the rituals of “Pre-Beatle” American youth called “American Graffiti”. It was a movie that basically took place in one night and in it we see the lives of different teenagers cruising the streets in search of fun, booze, romance, sex.

In this movie we see many actors that were later to be pop culture favorites such as Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Susanne Sommers, McKenzie Phillips, Kathleen Quinlan, Kay Lenz and many others. It is light movie full of great songs. It is a look at the United States before Vietnam. It portrays an era innocence that will never occur again. It is a funny, sad, wonderful film. A small, quiet movie from a director that would never make a small, quiet movie again.

“American Graffiti” played at the old Cinerama theater in San Juan and is now playing on premium cable this month along with its forgotten sequel “More American Graffiti” which takes a look at the late 1960’s and which Lucas did not direct.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

a great Tuesday

It was a night to remember. Locally, Luis Fortuno won by a landslide, freeing Puerto Rico from the inept hands of Anibal Acevedo Vila. And in the mainland, Barrack Obama won easily, freeing the United States from the inept hands of the right wing.

In both cases, people voted for change. For 8 years, Puerto Rico had suffered from two administrations that were unable to face up to the economic problems facing the island. In the last 4 years, we were lead by an erratic, lying governor who would do anything to save his skin. He created terror in the private sector by his constant shifting when it came to taxes and by his willingness to support extremist groups looking to paralyze the economy through illegal acts. He was also willing to lead the island into a collision course with the U.S., just to get some support for his criminal trial. Stability is the most important thing for an economic system to succeed and Acevedo Vila was instability personified.

Now we are going to be lead by an intelligent, resourceful governor. A PNP governor who has transcended the old image of PNP as close minded people and who is willing to reach out to others. A person with a stable sense of what he wants to achieve.

In the US. Well, we all had to fight tears when we saw the tv screens last night. We were looking at a great moment in history. The era of the United States as the bigoted bully is over. The United States showed the world that it is a more open nation than people thought. That it is embarrassed for the last 8 years and wants to begin again. The whole world is watching and dreaming.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

a movie that challenges you (imagine that)

We have reached the point in movies and literature in which every movie or book has to have one interpretation. It seems popular art has lost its ability to leave doors open to many explanations. This was going through my mind as I watching Ingmar Bergman's "Persona" the other day. Here is a movie that like "2001" lets the spectator create his or her own explanation of the events just witnessed. And, even though it takes some effort one can enjoy that type of movie or book.

Effort. Maybe that's the word. We want our pop culture to be easy to digest. To be simple. Good guy. Bad guy. CGI. The End. Your mind at rest. Your expectations at ease. Movies are things to escape to. My life is complex so my my movies have to be simple and reassuring.

"Persona" is a movie that makes us realize that there was a time when movies wanted to challenge an audience. Young people used to seek out these movies. The youth culture wanted the offbeat, the strange. Today the are looking forward to "Transformers 2".

So I am glad to have seeing this movie. And kind of sad that movies like these will never happen again.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

When baseball mattered (to me)

It’s interesting to see how meaningless the World Series has become in my life. I barely watched an inning of this year’s Fall Classic. But there was a time when I wouldn’t miss a game. In fact, when I was a boy, my grades would fall dramatically during those days.
It was the time of daytime World Series, when I used to get home just in time for the start of the game. It was the days of the Orioles (my favorite team then) and Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Elrod Hendricks, Jim Palmer. It was the days of the Big Red Machine with Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose. Of the Pirates and Clemente, Stargell and Sanguillen. The World Series was a wonderful event before TV ratings decided that games would begin at 8pm and made it impossible for kids to see the whole game. Suddenly it didn’t matter anymore.

Friday, October 31, 2008

My father’s neighborhood theater.

This is a photo of the old Fox theater in Miramar. I never saw this old neighborhood theater, located next to the Lourdes gothic Church in Ponce De León, close to the old Fine Arts theater. It was torn down many years ago.

But my father did see it. This was the place where on Saturday afternoosn he used to watch serials, newsreels, westerns and adventure movies. Four hours of fun every Saturday for maybe twenty five cents. Must have been quite a time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shivers/ They Came from Within

This being Halloween season I keep going back to old horror movies. Especially strange ones I saw as a kid. Which brings me to a “They Came from Within” (AKA: “Shivers”). I saw this movie at the Regency theater in Fernandez Juncos in Santurce, Puerto Rico. At the time, I loved watching B horror movies and the poster for the movie made it clear that we were in B movie territory. It featured a woman in a bathtub being attacked by a strange creature. This meant two things, the movie had gore and the movie had nudity. A fun time was surely guaranteed.

I’m not sure what friend went to see this movie with me. But I imagined he must have been very bored to accept seeing a movie like this. But at the end of the movie, he must have agreed that this was a great one.

I didn’t know at the time that this was a movie by David Cronenberg, a director who would gain great fame in the 1980’s and 1980’s for movies such as “Scanners”, “ Videodrome” and in the 2000’s for the excellent “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises”. But what I realized then was that this was a terrific movie.

In an isolated apartment building in Canada a scientist was doing experiments which resulted in creating a virus that would make people lose all inhibitions, especially sexual ones. The virus begins spreading one night throughout the building, creating all kinds of mayhem. And this being a Cronenberg film and this being the 1970’s, anything was possible. No taboos went unexplored.

The movie featured Barbara Steele in a small role. She had gained some cult fame because of some horror movies she made in the 1960’s, but I was unaware of that at the time. It also featured a quirky looking actress called Lynn Lowry (see photo), who I considered to be extremely sexy. I had seen her in some other B movies and always found her to be beautiful in an odd sort of way. Actually that could be a topic for a separate blog entry.

So, all in all, this was a fun movie. And a couple of years ago I saw it on DVD and had a great time. It still holds up as a good horror flick. I may see it again these days. And I recommend it to people looking for a strange, no holds barred horror flick. It occasionally plays on Showtime and the Movie Channel on cable tv. Check it out or rent it. You’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Remembering "Carrie"

If you were a teenager in the 1970's, "Carrie" was a movie you never forget. I certainly never did. I remember a group from school went to see on a Friday afternoon. It played in the Puerto Rico theater in Santurce. In those days, one screen theaters like the norm and you would wait outside in the lobby to wait for the previous show to end. While waiting one would look at the lobby cards and the various posters for upcoming attractions. While doing so with a group of friends, we suddenly heard the biggest audience scream I have witnessed in my life. Two minutes later, hundreds of people left the theater, laughing, excited. Everyone waiting to get in was wondering what all the screaming was all about.

So we went in. The movie begins with a volleyball game and then the titles appear over scenes of the young women in their locker room. This was a scene that a teenager can never forget. There was nudity everywhere, there was Nancy Allen completely nude, Amy Irving in only underwear. You inmediately knew that anything could happen in this movie. And th movie does eliver some amazing shocks, including the final shock that made everybody jump out of their seats. It is still the most memorable jolt one can experience in a horror movie. No scene has ever made me feel that way.

I had not seen "Carrie" in years. But yesterday I decided to watch the DVD. First thing, the locker room scene is still as memorable. In a way, it looks more daring today since nudity has all but disappear from multiplex screens, replaced by gore and extreme violence. The shocks are still there but, with age, one notices different things. First, one can appreciate the cruelty that was inherent in the world of high school. even though life can always be cruel, nothing can be as cruel as high school. For some reason, those years bring out the worst in people. And "Carrie" certainly shows that. Second, one sees life's ironies in realizing what happened to many of the actors in the movie. John Travolta and Sissy Spacek went on to become stars, William Kaat ended up in awful movies, Amy Irving married Steven Spielberg , but her career went nowhere.

Finally, there's the ending. I knew it was coming and it brought back so many memories of that Friday afternoon at the Puerto Rico. But it did not make me jump. Unfortunately, things like that only work once in a lifetime. And in a dark movie theater. Especially on a Friday afternoon with friends.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bad movies we love

What is it about bad movies we saw as kids that make them so fascinating? When I was maybe 8 years old I went to the Metro theater with my parents to see this terrible movie called "Wicked, Wicked". It was a standard serial killer movie with a great twist (at least for an 8 year old) was in "Duo Vision" which basically meant that the screen was splt in half and you would be seeing two different actions in each one. Usually this consisted of the killer on one half of the screen and the potential victim in the other.

This movie, released my MGM, has never received a DVD or VHS I had not seen it since 1969. This all changed last weekend when wonderful Turner Classic Movies showed it as part of their TCM Underground movie series. And I must admit I enjoyed it so much. It was tacky, the acting was awful...but it was strangely fascinating. It seemed like a cinematic experiment in which the filmakers decided halfway through that it wouldn't work and just said "let's have some fun."

The movie also has Tiffany Bolling, one of those so 1960's sexy movie actresses that triggered my childhood's fantasies. So that made it even more interesting to watch.

All ina ll, a fun time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Double Feature

Last week I bought a couple of old horror DVDs at Best Buy that featured old fashioned Double Features. Since we are in Hallloween season I thought it would be fun to see some not so classic horror flicks. So this weekend I did a Double Feature of " The Shuttered Room" and "It!". And I have to admit that it was a lot of fun. "Shuttered Room" is another variation on the old "who's in the attic?" theme. It features Carol Lynley, Gig Young and Oliver Reed. Very 1960's.
"It" is a retelling a the old Hebrew folk tale of The Golem. It stars Roddy McDowell in one of his many "strange young man" roles. It is totally ridiculous, but very entertaining.
The other Double Feature DVD I bought was " Chamber of Horrors" and "Brides of Fu Manchu". I'll leave that treat for later on this week.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On vacations

I have been noticing that as years pass by, one's idea of a great vacation change. In my 20's when I had my vacation days I would choose wild places like Club Med(back when it was a single's paradise). I remember those vacations in Martinique and Cancun very well. It was all about the fun and the drink and the potential for sex. After all, Club Med in the late 1980's was a place in which there was practically no one over 30 there.

So, by magic, when I hit was goodbye Club Med, hello Miami. It was still a fun, sexy place, but certainly more organized and interesting than a simple resort. It was adult. Yes, it was more adult. I had grown a bit.

When I hit 40, I wanted to go to cities. So it was New York...museums. Good dining became important so going to cool restaurants became a must. Yes, the good life. Maybe catch a play on Broadway. Love the cities now.

After 45, well, I have been to France. Talk about sophistication. Went to Bordeaux, Paris, Normandy. Saw the beauty. Drank the good wine. Went to the museums. Sat in a Paris cafe and watched people go by. Heaven.

Now I'm going to a forest during autumn to simply watch the colors. Just that. To see the beauty of autumn after so many years of seeing it in college and not really appreciating it. And I'm looking forward to that. To nature, to beauty.
To a change of seasons that shows very clearly the change in me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mozart: better than Prozac

More and more I am using music as a kind of relaxation therapy. I put on the headphones, close my eyes and I do a 45 minute escape. And frankly, the music I am using for this is the kind of silly looking CD's that feature classical music. These days it's "Mozart for Massage". Last week it was "Bach for Relaxation". I can imagine classical music fans being outraged at this kind of use of classical music. But I love it. For a few minutes I listen to this music and everything is fine. Better than Prozac. Better than so many things that ruin your health. Put on some "Chopin at Midnight" and all destructive thoughts just dissappear.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Swiss Chalet, the Under the Trees. Some memories.

I am dedicating these two photos to my parents. They show two places from their youth. Places where they got together to talk, to have something to eat, perhaps have a soda. They were both located in Condado in De Diego Street in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Under the Trees was a restaurant that specialized in sandwiches, chicken wings. It was the Dunbar's of the 1950's. I remember going there, but it was no longer a popular place.
The Swiss Chalet was a special restaurant. They had the best tasting bolitas de queso in the world. I remember going there on Sundays with my whole family. My parents, my grandparents, aunts, uncles. And after having lunch we would sometimes go to catch a movie at The Riviera theater. located around the corner. It was such a wonderful time in my life. There was something so reassuring about having everyone I loved together in one place. Now most of them are gone. But as I write this I am remembering them. Keeping them alive through my thoughts. And recalling small moments that will never happen again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

back to work

Tomorrow I am going back to freelancing at an agency. A small miracle in a way. These are tough economic times and very few places are looking for freelancers. But thanks to Facebook I was able to get a two week gig. And one that involves working until 4pm only. Which is wonderful. I will leave work while the sun is still out. Now that's a miracle.