“Without Men” …and Without Reason!

Without Men Movie Poster

Dios mío! Where do I begin? I would like to preface this blog post by saying that I don’t like to bash or badmouth anything I dislike, but this particular film is so tragically wrong, that I find myself forced  by the spirits of some of Hollywood’s Latino long-gone legends  (Ricardo Montalban, Dolores Del Rio, Katy Jurado, Ricardo Arnaz, and Rita Hayworth) to dissuade you from watching Without Men by director Gabriela Tagliavini.  The film is an adaptation of a novel written by James Canon.

The premise of the film is as follows according to iMDV: The women of a remote Latin American town are forced to pick up the pieces and remake their world when all the town’s men are forcibly recruited by communist guerrillas.

While I’m a huge supporter of all things Latin, I think that Latino film makers in Hollywood with the exception of a very few, namely Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo del Toro and Carlos Saldanha, do Latino films for the sake of doing Latino-themed films… and that my friends, is simply and plainly called pandering to Latinos, which I find as trite and tiring as Lady Gaga pandering to “her” gays, as if she were their savior and only advocate.

Why can’t Latino film makers make films with universal themes that appeal to all?  With Latino actors, or not… but that are stories that anyone can relate to, without the obligatory and blatant Spanish/Latino pueblo setting, roosters and chickens, thick Spanish accents and brightly colored and exaggerated set designs and costumes?  Why can’t we have film makers that will appeal to other aspects of our rich heritage and stop making a caricature of the already tired Latino stereotype in this country?

For starters, the film takes place in some fictional town called “Mariquita,” strike one for gay denigration (this word in Spanish is derogatory for gay).  Second, all the actors speak English with some ridiculous thick Spanish accent, including Ms. Longoria, when in fact they should be speaking Spanish (that’s what subtitles are for; let the bilingual impaired deal with it).  And finally, the writing and the acting leave much to be desired.  The story line is ludicrous and the acting, well, let’s just say that some actors should stay in television, and others should really work on their acting skills.  The script was mediocre at best and plain out ridiculous at worse.

Kate Del Castillo

The ONLY good thing that happened in that movie, was the moment in which there’s an apparition, and I don’t mean of a celestial body, but of the devil herself masterfully manifested in Kate Del Castillo, the ONLY reason I would have suffered through this experience, had the film not pixellated twice (it was filmed in digital format) before I walked out of it. Talk about personifying a character… she actually looked butcher than me and she was supposed to, she was the devil incarnated in her heavenly and womanly self!  Now, that’s what I call acting.

The film had an interesting cast, composed of, shall we say, Retro B-stars such as Paul Rodriguez and Maria Conchita Alonso, to A-Listers such as Kate del Castillo herself, Eva Longoria, Christian Slater, Cameron Manheim, and The Office’s Oscar Nuñez.  I was expecting to see Sofia Vergara, Jimmy Smits, Edward James Olmos, Rita Moreno, Benjamin Bratt, Elizabeth Peña and Esai Morales jump out of the screen as well, since the film practically was oozing “Latinoness” from every angle possible.

Why Eva Longoria would do this film? well, desperate times call for desperate measures I suppose, but Kate del Castillo?  Honey, you’re coming off a tidal Tsunami wave with La Reina del Sur, I’m sure this was your community service for the year and I commend you for it, but quite frankly, you don’t need it, not after your Reina del Sur mega hit, and your previous work in Hollywood, e.g. Under the Same Moon, Julia, Trade, and Weeds!  Don’t do it again…you’re much better than that, and you know it.

I think Latinos in Hollywood need to watch more film makers south of the border to see the universal themes being captured, without the unnecessary use of Latino themes per se… I don’t wear zarapes or “espeak wiss an ascent,” come on guys, it’s a de-service to all Latinos.  We know who we are, and we don’t need to be constantly reminded of the burros and roosters, and the Latino parody that is already perpetuated by mainstream Hollywood.

Give us stories of real Latinos: struggling college students, high-powered attorneys, politicians, surgeons, scientists, and corporate leaders with human interest stories, but above all, give us great story telling, like the great directors of Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema.  Learn from the past and apply it to the complex American Latino of the present… make it believable.

Until then, we will continue to be just that, a caricature, an ongoing joke of what “Mainstream America” thinks Latinos all look like.  Ya basta!  We don’t need it from Latino film makers.

And I’m not all evil.  Favorite Latino films of all time in no particular order: (If I missed some, let me know!)

  • El Norte
  • Mi Familia
  •  I Like it Like That
  • Mambo Kings
  • Selena
  • Luminarias
  • La Mission
  • Quinceañera
  • Under the Same Moon
  • Star Maps

There’s Something About Rio!

Rio Movie Poster

No it’s not Pixar or Disney Studios, this time it’s Blue Sky that brings the movie Rio; by far one of the best animated flicks since Toy Story 3!  Rio, the animated film by Brazilian director  Carlos Saldanha, and  starring Anne Hathaway, George Lopez, Leslie MannJamie Fox,  Will i Am and the surprisingly funny Jesse Eisenberg is a cornucopia of vibrant colors, sounds and sensory stimulation.  While the feature touches upon serious issues such as the illegal capture and smuggling of exotic fauna, it’s also a tender love story between two macaw blue birds (voiced by Hathaway and Eisenberg) and their parallel humans Linda and Brazilian naturalist Sylvio (Mann and Bernardo de Paula). What I liked about the film was that it cleverly serves a multicultural array of voices, which is as dynamic and colorful as the animation itself.  The script is funny and entertaining, though very stereotypical at times, and racially offensive on occasion, something I’m sure Brazilians will not appreciate (monkeys pick pocketing tourists, Blacks being portrayed as poor and not very bright– Yikes!).  Other than those two not so polite or correct, to say the least, stereotypes, Rio serves comedy for all ages, and an awesome soundtrack.  The images of Rio are as breathtaking as the real thing. If you’ve never been, you’ll want to book a flight immediately and if you have been, it’ll remind you of why you should return over and over again.  The film may be conventional to many but for me it was just the perfect story, which in the end gave me a fuzzy good feeling…and isn’t that why we go to the movies after all?  Why you should watch it: It’s Rio de Janeiro for crying out loud! What else do you want?  Eu gosto muito do Rio de Janeiro!

Even The Rain (También La Lluvia)

A must see film: Even the Rain

I give it 10 out of 5 STARS!

Usually when I see a film or read a book in Spanish, I tend to do my review in the Spanish language, but in this case, I will make an exception.  Though the film Even the Rain is in Spanish with English subtitles, I felt compelled to spread the word about the greatness of this film in English, with the intent of reaching a broader audience that will hopefully be compelled to go see it after reading this analysis.

Even the Rain, a film produced by TVe and Canal + España, directed by Iciar Bollain, and starring an international cast lead by Gael Garcia Bernal, Luis Tosar and Karra Elejalde, narrates the story of a film crew in Cochabamba, Bolivia filming a controversial movie about the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, while surrounded by a local pressure cooker situation where the  Cochabamba residents are in the midst of an uprisal against an international water company trying to privatize “even the rain water.”

From the opening of the film to the end, it’s hard not to hold back your tears and relate to the human desperation and struggle of the native Bolivians fighting for something as essential and basic as drinking water, inspired by true events that occurred in the year 2000 in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  The juxtaposition of the fictitious film scenes of the Spanish Conquest, whose thirst for gold was the cause of one of history’s most heartless and cruel genocides ever seen in the world, with the struggle of the natives to their right to water 500 years later is done brilliantly and effortlessly through a quilt of images that takes us from Spanish Conquest to the present time, and reminds us that not much has changed for some of the natives of the American continent. It’s like watching two films for the price of one, simply brilliant!

The script by Paul Laverty is intense, and the cinematograhy and imaging is heart-wrenching  and beautiful all at the same time.  Even the Rain is an amalgamation of intense emotions with fact and fiction all delivering an unforgettable cinematography experience: exactly what a great film is supposed to be like.  The Acting and the direction of the film are a rare treat, and  it is no wonder that the film became critically acclaimed in Spain and was also submitted to represent Spain for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars .

If you like films with substance and passion, then Even the Rain is a film that should not be missed.  It’s definitely going in my DVD collection.

From Prada to Nada

From Prada to Nada (Pantalion/Lionsgate)

Starring: Camila Belle, Alexa Vega, Wilmer Valderrama, April Bowlby, Kuno Becker, Adriana Barraza

Should you see it? No sé (Maybe)

For starters, let me preface this post by stating that I’m NOT a Jane Austin fan.  OK, now that we’re clear on that, not sure how I feel about this Latino-themed film starring a fairly young cast of Hollywood starlets: Camila Belle, Alexa Vega, Kuno Becker and Wilmer Valderrama. And worth mentioning separately is the fabulous April Bowlby, better known to many for her participation in Drop Dead Diva. While I do appreciate the fact that Televisa is making in-roads into Hollywood film production, to bring much needed Latino stories to the big screen, I’m also very cautious to give them much praise just yet (I mean, you’ve seen their tired Telenovela plots, right?). From Prada to Nada is loosely based, once again, on Austin’s Sense and Sensibility apparently (I’ve never read the book, nor do I plan on it any time soon), and like Televisa’s world renowned Telenovelas, it’s a story that’s been told more times than I care to remember.  So, as one of the premier Spanish entertainment media moguls of the world, and as it was expected, Televisa ensured it promoted some of its own talent (Kuno Becker, who the media network giant has evidently been desperately trying to cross-over to Hollywood; guess he’s sold his soul to the devil, pobrecito– as well as Alexis Ayala and Adriana Barraza).  I know of friends who walked out of the movie after 10 minutes but I believe in second chances and to being open minded and objective, especially when it comes to Latino film projects, because first of all, they are few and far between in Hollywood, and second, because you simply can’t write a fabulous and intelligent critique of it unless you have sat through the whole thing regardless of how miserable or ecstatic you felt through the experience.  I give the cast props for at least keeping me engaged (they’re all so pretty).  I also think the soundtrack was very well assembled and in the end it’s a film where I saw people like me: Latinos living in the U.S., being American yet  holding on to core pieces of their culture.  If Televisa is to succeed in its quest for world domination through Hollywood flicks, here’s one suggestion I give them: be original, stop recycling stories that have been told, use real stories of Latinos living in the U.S. and tell them with dignity and substance, and please, please, whatever you do, DO NOT make English films about the plots in your Telenovelas, it just won’t work.  The bilingual Latino consumer is smarter than that!