Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Slumdog kids

While watching the Oscars the other night I couldn't help thinking about the slum kids from Mumbai who star n "Slumdog Millionaire". They created magic in that movie, they were paid something like 500 euros and they remained living in the atrocious conditions of the Mumbai slums. And here they were at the Oscars, smiling, saying hello to all the big, glamorous stars. And today they may be on the way back to their life of extreme poverty. It's hard for me to comprehend this kind of situation. I hope they won't be forgotten. Someone for Fox should create some kind of fund for them. As I look at their smiles I don't want to see them in ten years in an E! documentary about their hard life or early deaths. Maybe someone is making sure they prosper. I do hope so. I even pray so.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Metro theater!!!!

Today I read that the Metro theater, the last of the great San Juan movie palaces turned 70. And that's quite a feat. It is the last remaining survivor of all the wonderful downtown theaters of my youth. The radio City, the Cinerama, the Metropolitan, the Paramount, they are all gone. But amazingly enough the Metro still stands. And it's still showing movies.

I have so many memories of this movie theater. I remember seeing " 2001" here as a little boy and being both amazed and perplexed by the movie. I saw a re-release of the "Wizard of Oz" here and of "Fantasia" too. I remember Tom & Jerry festivals shown on Saturday mornings at the Metro.

And even though I loved all the old theaters, to me, the Metro was the special one. Going there was a treat. The Cinerama screen. The smell of popcorn as one went in. The architecture of the whole place. I even had a special seat where I always sat when i went there.

The single screen theater was later turned into a triplex and perhaps it lost something. But it still remained a favorite. Sure, the theaters at the malls were bigger, but the Metro had something wonderful about it. Something about the moviegoing experience remains there. The buying of the ticket in the street. The marquee. The old memories and the new ones to be had.

Happy Birthday, Metro! You are one of a kind.

"Ship of Fools" and middle age

It's interesting when a work of art acquires new meanings when one grows older. Many years ago I saw the movie "Ship of Fools" about a cruise ship full of German passengers in 1933, just as the Nazis were taking power. And I realized the historical nuances that were present in the movie. Every passenger represented a particular type of person; the Nazi, the Jew, the aristocrat. But I saw as simply a movie with a definite historical allegory to tell.

Then seeing it yesterday, I discovered something. Almost every one of the characters is middle aged. And having entered that phase of life myself, the movie becomes something else entirely. I can see the characters as more than just stereotypes, they are people entering a particular phase in their lives. Every one of them is full of regrets, of what they did, of what they didn't do. They are wondering whether they can change this late in the game.They have moments in which they express hope, others in which they are so disillusioned that they can't feel but pessimism about it all. They are full of mixed feelings towards everything. And I can't help think that during these years I have experienced all these feelings myself.

Which also made me realize how very few movies deal with middle age. Most movies are about the younger years. There are movies about thirtysomethings. And even movies about seniors and their problems. But I can't think about many movies about people in their 40's and 50's. such a crucial part of life and movies (and books) pay little attention to it. So in a way, "Ship of Fools" is a great movie because it does.

This theme in the movie adds greater significance to something Michael Dunn says in one of those rare moments in movies when an actor talks directly to the audience: "You may say what does this have to do with you? It has everything to do with you". And he is right.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

laughing again

The other day I saw the trailer for the new Pink Panther movie. And I was reminded how much I liked those movies when I was a kid. I would see the new ones at the movies and enjoy the ones from the 1960's on tv. In fact one of my most vivid memories was seeing "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" with my mother and grandmother at the old Cinerama theater in San Juan. I laughed so hard and had such a wonderful time.

But something happened many years. In one of those nostalgia trips I seem to take so often, I bought a Pink Panther movie DVD collection. And I saw "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" for the first time in maybe 20 years. And it was such a letdown. There were a couple of laughs in there, but not much more. Which made me realize that even though we can see adventure movies form our youth again and enjoy them as one did as a kid, comedy doesn't age that well. What made me laugh years ago, doesn't do it for me now. There are exceptions like "Top Secret!" and the Monty Python movies (not all of them). But, in general. laughter seems to be a product of a particular period in one's life.

Monday, February 02, 2009


I realized that the new job would cut down on my writing and my movie viewing. When I get home from work I usually don't feel like watching a movie. I become tired and sleepy really quick. So my movie watching will probably be limited to Saturday afternoon. So I decided to watch special movies those days. Especially movies on DVD that come with a lot of extras. I love to watch a film and learn everything about it.

My first Saturday movie is "Reds". An epic movie that is remarkable for many things. It was one of the last of the intelligent epic movies. It marked the end of an era in which mainstream movies were aimed at adults. And on a personal level, it is the last movie I remember seeing at the old Cinerama theater in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Imagine telling a studio right now that you want to make a three hour movie about a Communist. You would be laughed off the phase of the earth. But Warren Beatty had enough clout at that time to pull it off. The movie is part romance, part history. And it works well on both levels. Maybe it works better on the historical side, because the romance seemed a bit cliche ridden.

The movie is also the last one I can recall that had an Intermission. This was a practice common to long movies in which the public was given a chance to take a 15 minute break, go to the bathroom, get something to eat or simply stretch the legs. I miss those wonderful Intermissions. And I love the fact that the DVD features such a break. It is a really nostalgic thing to experience.

All in all, a nice movie to watch again.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

about the game

For many years my father would get tickets to the Super Bowl. A company he did business with would give him 4 free tickets year after year. And it became a ritual, a time for some extra bonding between my father, my brother in law and me. They were some amazing times. But every year I would wonder whether that year would be the last. And one year it was. Basically because one year we realized my father was not able to handle the stress of going to the game.
So now we stay at home, have some things to eat and enjoy the game. And I will do that in a couple of hours. And I am so happy to do that.