Wednesday, May 10, 2017

MOVIE REVIEWS #135: "MOONLIGHT", "FIRE AT SEA", "CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE", "MORRIS FROM AMERICA", "THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER", "WE COME AS FRIENDS", "GUEROS", and "UNBRANDED"!

Another day, another set of Movie Reviews.... (Sigh) I'm not gonna lie, for the most part, this batch of reviews was more chore than preference. Honestly, I'm hoping to mostly start diving into television for awhile so I can catch up on some Emmy shows, but honestly, even too many of those series feel like the general audience isn't just accepting less, but naval-gazing too many of the shows until they talk themselves into thinking they're great. Not always though, but when you do see greatness, suddenly the mediocre doesn't cut it. Really, though, with one eye on whatever insane news story going on today, and one eye on a relatively stagnant entertainment world, at least in terms of compelling things to really write about, At least, write about in a way that's interesting to me. I'm sure I'll think of something, of course, and probably try to do another Top Ten just to make and/or do something interesting.

In the meantime, between films, I've actually been seeking out way to turn off my brain off when I can. Or at least give it a rest. Constructively, of course.

(LAST WEEK)
David sits in chair, searching through Roku channels. 

DAVID
Oh, wait, the original "American Gladiators" is on Hulu now?! Oh, I know what I'm falling asleep to at night for a while now.... 
(Singing)
Dub, de-be-dub-de-da, de-duh-de-da! Dub, bub-a-dub-be-da, ba-dup ba-baa!"

So, to go through some of the older movies that I didn't get to review, I saw a couple classic French movies. First, Claude Berri's "The Two of Us" which I quite like a lot. Berri, I don't think gets enough credit in general and this is an autobiographical movie of his that's quite emotional and powerful. I also finally got around to Francois Truffaut' The Man Who Loved Women", his comedy, I guess about a guy who's obsession with women leads to several misadventures as he looks back upon his life, while analyzing them scientifically, supposedly for study, although it's quite possible he's just bragging. This one was remade in America with the same; it's an old Burt Reynolds movie, and by most accounts, not a particularly special one, the remake. I'm not sure this is one of Truffaut's best either; I keep feeling like this is more of his attempt to make an Eric Rohmer film, it's not bad or anything either. What was bad was, "The Machine", this was a British sci-fi film from a few years ago, that's basically "Ex Machina" only stupid. Fangoria kept saying it was "cool", (Shrugs) whatever that meant. I found it lacking. It was judge a bad low-budget sci-fi film that tried to seem deeper and better than it was.

Alright, let's get to it. Time for this latest edition of our MOVIE REVIEWS! Starting with the Oscar-Winning, "Moonlight' and the Oscar-Nominated, "Fire at Sea'!


MOONLIGHT (2016) Director: Barry Jenkins

★★★★★




The last six words spoken in "Moonlight" left me in tears. They're spoken by the main character, a man who's already gone by several names during the course of his young life, his birth name Chiron (Ashton Sanders) his first nickname as a kid, Little (Alex Hibbert) and finally, and most symbolically by Black (Trevante Rhodes) which is not simply a reference to his skin color, it's also representative of how he ultimately treats the world at large, including those he knows best and may even care for most. If he ever decides to allow himself to care for somebody again.... I'm certain that, being a straight white male that certain details will go over my head or not be immediately relatable to me, but that doesn't matter. "Moonlight" emotionally seems to have as much if not more resonance to me, than nearly any other movie I can think of.

I've stared at that last paragraph now for several minutes trying to figure out what direction to take this review next. No matter which way I go, I feel like it isn't satisfactory. Explaining in detail some of the events that occur is not gonna help you understand why they're important (and besides revealing some of them would basically just be giving away the film) and besides that, the movie isn't about the events themselves, as it is, the environment that surrounds Chiron. No, scratch that, it's not the environment, it's how he reacts to the environment that surrounds him. Or in some cases, doesn't act. In some ways he's an observer, others a willing participant, many times unwilling...- Mostly, Chiron is just, a troubled young man who's trying to figure out his way in the world. A world that in several ways, dealt him a bad hand. For one thing, he grows up small, which leads to other kids picking on him most days. For another, he's gay, which leads to more picking and even worse, a more complex layer of confusing emotions. For yet another, his mother, (Oscar-nominee Naomie Harris) is a crack addict. It's Miami in the '80s, and if you know anything about the history of cocaine, then the time period and world will be instantly familiar to you. Well, that's not quite true actually; I can't think of any media offhand that depicting the Miami drug culture of that time period, from, for lack-of-a-better-term, the ghetto. (Usually, I associate Miami drug culture with flash, and Phil Collins music and money and riches, even the cops would dress with style, and not even the corrupt ones) During one time being chased on his way home, he befriends a local dealer named Juan (Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali) who instantly recognizes he's scared and takes him home, hoping his wife Teresa (Janelle Monae) can get him to talk. As a child of a single mother, (Although admittedly Italian single mother, so I was raised by my entire family) I've often heard those in the African-American community speak about the importance of having a father to teach kids how to be a man, and all that jazz and stuff, but I'll be honest, I simply don't understand that need. Whatever "Being a man" entails, has never usually appealed to me, and frankly, I take some offense to the notion that that's essential in growing up, or, I don't know bad things will happen to you, or you'll do stupid things...- I don't know, I'm not gonna pretend I understand, but if more father figures were like Juan, I think I would understand it more. When he suddenly dies, offscreen, with no mention of how, we only gradually realize how much we miss him, and in turn, how much Chiron needs him. If there is a real through line in the movie, it's basically a three-act play about a relationship between two young boys, Chiron and Kevin. When he first befriend Kevin (Jaden Piner) they get into a faux fight to make Chiron look tougher than he is, to help protect him. The second time, in high school is when Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) is a bit of a local player who's still able to be manipulated by the local bullies, when they share a tender, emotional, sexual moment, The third, is practically the entirety of act three, when he's now married with a kid, and has started working at a Cuban restaurant. He's contacted Chiron for the first time in years and they share a night of, just talking. Of course, it isn't just talking. I read Kevin's character not simply as Chiron's childhood crush, but as a character who's real objective is to provide the emotional support of all those around him. This is why he does well with both women and men sexually, but is also prone to getting into trouble when what the other person might want emotionally, is not in his best interest. He reminds me of Colin Farrell's character in one of the most underrated movies this century, "A Home at the End of the World" which was another movie that saw characters grow apart and on their own and then reconnect with each other at three separate points in their lives. (That film, also dealt with a character who had his own struggles that came with his sexuality.) Instinctively, Kevin knows what everyone around him needs, and it's his duty to provide that.

There's so much that makes "Moonlight" a masterpiece. The writing, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney's original story, "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" is some of the best I've ever seen, but the acting is even more impressive. It's one of those movies like "Shine" where it's somewhat difficult to determine who exactly is the Lead Actor, since the characters age over time and only peripheral characters are played by the same actors the entire time and even they don't have much screen time, but the casting and the performances are amazingly top notch. This might've as well have been shot over years like "Boyhood" with how well they cast some of these parts, especially over time. It's also one of the best directed movies I've seen in awhile. One of the most difficult things to get over in terms of directing is emotional resonance; the last time I saw a film and filmmaker do it this well was Sofia Coppola with "Lost in Translation". It's not always enough with film to get over what the characters are saying between the lines (Or what they want to say but don't) and that's not simply great acting, that's spectacular directing.

Look, I haven't seen everything so far this year, and I might change my mind after some time has passed and on multiple viewing, but "Moonlight" might be the best movie made this decade so far. It's, up there. "Moonlight" is everything good about what a personal film should be.



FIRE AT SEA (2016) Director: Gianfranco Rosi

★★★★



So, along with "A Bigger Splash", this is the second time this year, a movie has stumped my, what-I-used-to-think-of as my extensive geography knowledge, with an Italian island I've never heard of. (Man, I gotta update my atlases and globes before I work on that ...Carmen San Diego? spec script. [Oh yeah, don't think I didn't hear about that. I'm aware.]) Lampedusa. is the largest of the Pelagie Islands, three small islands in the Straight of Sicily, which is between Sicily and Tunisia in the Mediterranean Sea. Specifically, the island is about seventy miles from Tunisia, that's about half the distance between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  That's worth keeping in mind, since Lampedusa is ground zero for the migrant crisis. You see, while the main one we tend to think about in regards to America migrant crisis, (Although, I don't really get how it's a "crisis") is about immigrants coming in through Mexico, especially now that the Embargo on Cuba has been lifted, there's not much concern over boats and what we might charitably call rafts with future refugees coming into the country anymore. But, in other parts of the world, a continuing migrant population has changed places quite a bit. And one of the big ones is the journey from Tunisia to Italy, or possibly from, literally the Shores of Tripoli, as Libya's coastline is little further distance by sea, but not far enough for people to risk their lives. On the radio and news, there's daily reports of ships calling out for help and only occasionally is their position found in time. Purportedly, the number of deaths of those who have just died in travel in recent years is approximated at 15,000, and those who survive. The documentary, "Fire at Sea" which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary on top of being Italy's submission for the Foreign Language Film category, and no, I can't recall the last time they submitted a documentary for that category either, is a stoic look, basically at life with some of the people, refugees and others on the island. There's no narration, and the film's approached is quite reminiscent to other slice-of-life pieces of cinema verite; I've seen comparisons of it to Frederick Wiseman and yeah, I can understand that. Actallly the approach reminded me more of Bill and Turner Ross's documentary, "45365", titled after the zip code of the area they filmed. The movie has some continuing characters and a few through lines, most notably a little kid called Samuele. I was more intrigued by many of the adults, especially those who work and jobs often revolve around the ever-growing migrant population. I'm going a bit back-and-forth on the quality of the film myself. I think it's effective in it's approach and some of the footage is quite intriguing. Not exactly, lively, it's pretty depressing most of it, and this isn't exactly a luxury resort island to begin with mind you, The best way to really judge the quality of documentaries like these is to determine exactly how much you get sucked into the film, and to me, there's just better movies like that lately. Hell, I think I actually preferred "Mediterranea" the feature film from a couple years ago about an African refugee making the daring trip to Europe to survive, but "Fire at Sea" is still quite powerful, and I do get, what I believe is the feeling and environment of people who live here. It's still powerful and gives us an up-close look at one of the world's biggest societal problems at the moment. "Fire at Sea" is admirable if nothing else, and transcends even that at times.



CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (2016) Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

★1/2




So the first thing I had to do when watching "Central Intelligence" was to lower the television volume, since for some reason they decided to blast a horrible En Vogue song right at the beginning. So, already I'm not liking this movie. And then, there's a young man who's name I decided to look up after realizing that it wasn't Dwayne Johnson in some horrible fat person makeup, named Sione Kelepi. He has exactly two IMDB credits, this movie, and Meghan Trainor music video for "All About That Bass". (So, now I've had to sit through two shitty songs) Apparently, he's a star on Vine, (Sigh), and from everything else I can tell, he seems like a nice guy who's quite a good and actually skilled dancer, who happens to be overweight. Anyway, they do, some special effects stuff, to make him look more similar to Dwayne Johnson, facially, and the next scene is of him, singing and dancing naked in the shower and then getting embarrassingly thrown, naked into the auditorium, where a young Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) is being congratulated by the school for being, awesome. The school laugh, 'cause bullying and public naked fat shaming is apparently funny. (Sigh)

You know, I haven't thought about this kid in years, but there was a kid I knew in elementary school, I'm not gonna mention his name, who was- I don't know what the event was, but all the fourth and fifth graders, (Well, not me, but those who participated) were doing this reading event to the younger kids at the school during lunch, and they got all dressed up in their favorite storybook characters for the thing. I remember for instance, that my teacher was Ms. Jewekl from the Wayside School books for the day, Anyway, well, this kid, wanted to come dressed up as this character who's outfit was just, a towel. I don't know the book offhand, but there's some kid's book where the main protagonist is trying to take a bath and gets interrupted or-, I honestly don't know, it's from an illustrated kids' book; the kind you to see on "Reading Rainbow", and it was apparently funny in the book, and he was trying to get into the spirit of the event, and I wasn't there so I didn't see what happened, and apparently his towel fell off. He left the school, and I don't know whatever happened to him, and other than a letter that he sent to the class one day, I never heard from him again. He was quite embarrassed and ashamed and, it was very unfortunate that he accidentally, flashed a bunch of kindergartners, all because he wanted to have fun reading his favorite book to them, so...- I mean, yes, it's played that it's horrible and embarrassing to the poor kid in the movie too, but,- there's a way to do this, that's not over-the-top and actually gains real empathy for the characters, and this movie doesn't do that. It's just, piling on, what's the most humiliated this person can be, 'cause we need this guy to turn into this ultra-muscle-y CIA super-spy in the future, for some reason.

Anyway, it's Bob (Dwayne Johnson) and Calvin's 20th high school reunion in a few days and Bob wants to reconnect with him, partly because, Calvin was such a good person that he was the only one nice to him in high school, and willing to give him his jacket when he needed it. This has led to a particularly twisted infatuation by Bob, even though he's still a relatively dorky fat kid at heart. He's dorky because he likes the Spice Girls and his favorite movie is "Sixteen Candles", which is again, apparently because it's The Rock, and it's funny that he would like such a movie. (Shrugs) Why, is that weird or funny? Anyway, Calvin is an international accountant, banker now, who married his school sweetheart, Maggie (Daniele Nicolet) and anyway, these two stories collide, for some reason, in this action-comedy buddy film, with a plot so confusing I'm not even gonna pretend to bother to explain it, not that anybody could or would pay attention enough to care...- basically, Bob may or may not have turned heel on the CIA and now they're out to get him, the CIA represented by Agent Harris (Amy Ryan) and at some point they have to go to the old high school bully, Trevor (Jason Bateman, 'cause of course it fucking is) for help, and he's still an asshole. (Annoyed sigh)  Okay, I am officially so sick of seeing Jason Bateman playing this kind of bully role that I am now officially begging for a Justine Bateman comeback. What the hell's she been up to anyway? I'm sick of her brother now. No more Michael Bluth, I want more Mallory Keaton in movies! Hell, why is Jason Bateman always cast as the asshole, anyway; I'm tired of it now.

"Central Intelligence" is the kind of movie that you watch, you get entertained and then you never think about it again, which is the best thing that can happen for it 'cause the more I think about it, the worst it gets. I like Kevin Hart, I like Dwayne Johnson, I really like Amy Ryan, but this movie is vapor at it's best. At it's worst, It's shoving together two different movies when there's no actual reason to. I mean, in another universe, this movie could've been an interesting gender-reversed "Single White Female", if you just downplay or completely dump the action plot altogether.and actually explore these two characters who's changed so much since high school, and have one's obsession with the other actually be scary and maybe even creepy, instead of just using that as an excuse to get Kevin Hart into the kind of funny violent situations that weren't funny when we trying to shove Chris Tucker and Chris Rock into them fifteen years ago. Or, just make them CIA agents, and have them be a modern-day Riggs and Murdoch or Cates and Hammond. Have them know each other from high school, and reconnect, that's fine, "21 Jump Street" did that and it worked. I don't know what happened here, but this was a disaster and these actors deserve a better movie.



MORRIS FROM AMERICA (2016) Director: Chad Hartigan

★★★★



Near the end of "Morris from America", Craig Robinson, gives a touching, well-written and emotional speech to his young son that surely is the reason that his name showed up on some Oscar ballots, as well as earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination. "Morris from America" is Director Chad Hartigan's third feature and second I've seen; he previously got on my radar after "This is Martin Bonner" won the John Cassavettes Award at the aforementioned Spirits. Looking back on that review of that film, I panned it, but made several mentions that there was skill and talent and inherently nothing wrong with the film; my major complaint is that it wasn't enough of a story. I guess I could make the same argument for "Morris from America", but the storytelling is much stronger here. It's an interesting motif though, it's the second film of his that's based around character who came from one country and then went to build a home in another. I think that's probably why this film works so much better, it's about the characters trying to build that home, while "This is Martin Bonner" was an interesting story about two good characters struggling with their own demons, but that aspect of "home" and what that meant, just did not travel through. He is from Cyprus originally, but apparently graduated high school in Virginia, so there might be something personal about this story for him."Morris from America" is about a young teenage boy, Morris (Markees Christmas) who has moved to Germany along with his father, Curtis (Robinson). Curtis originally left to Germany because he fell in love with Morris's mother. She's since passed, but they moved back for work, Curtis believing it's the best thing for them. Morris is not adjusting greatly. He's learning German well enough from his tutor, Inka (Carla Juri, yes, the girl from "Wetlands" but don't think about that) but he's mostly lonely and bored. And, apparently most all the other kids are, kinda dicks. He does befriend one friend, Katrin (Lina Keller) who I think is intended to be a-eh, what's the term I just learned from Anita Sarkesian, a-eh, manic-pixie-dream girl character, but she's actually more of a femme fatale. She's surrounded by the kind of idiot male friends who you know one day after a fight with Kevin she's gonna run off with them and then Paul's gonna tell him she was in an accident and he's gonna run off and see her at home outside her window, 'cause her parents won't let him in, and Kevin will tell Winnie, "I Love You" and she'll look at him back, "I Love You", knowing that she screwed, but they're still nowhere close to getting back together, but she knows just how much Kevin means to her and ergo how much she means to him now. Yeah, those kind of friends, they're the worst. Anyway, she befriends him, and he reluctantly goes along, 'cause femme fatale, and naturally, she shoots him in the balls, with a water pistol. It's not as funny as she thinks, and it's only 'til the end, when she takes him to a party and leaves him there, in another city that, she sorta realizes how big an asshole she is. Morris also deals with his love of hip hop and his desire to be a rapper, something that he and his father shared, since he also was a rapper and musician in his younger days. The multiple stories of a father-son story trying to work out their lives with Morris's story of trying to make out on his own in a strange world are quite comparable. Most effective though,is how the world feels natural, and we get sucked in and care about these character, credit to both the writing, directing and the great acting. "Morris from American" is a wonderfully strong independent film, the kind that we used to hope and recall that foreign films seemed like and how we think of them. A great character-based coming-of-age story that's filled with rich characters of several ages who need each other, yet much also go out by themselves. Sure, there's a bunch of them out there, but this is a good, strong one that's worth seeking out.



THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER (2016) Director: Brady Corbet

★★★1/2



In so far as I can tell, the main message of "The Childhood of a Leader" is, "Don't be shitty parents or your kid will turn into a fascist shithead Nazi?" Well, I don't think it's ever quite that simple..., but then again, I can't exactly believe that there are fascist shithead Nazis out there, who didn't have shitty parents. I mean, I'm sure there are, right? 


I can definitely see how some might view this film through a modern tragic lens and judge it as prophetic as much as anything else, but avoiding those obvious parallels, "The Childhood of a Leader", takes places, purportedly during World War I, although I don't think it's a World War I exactly in our timeline. The main characters is Prescott (Tom Sweet) a young eight-year-old American who is currently in France with his parents (Liam Cunningham and Berenice Bejo). The Father, is there because he is some kind of representative/assistant to President Woodrow Wilson, and he's there to help draw up the Treaty of Versailles. They're well-off and well-to-do, and belong to a more classical idea of parenting where children are seen and not heard most of the time, and generally relatively unemotional. Prescott gets some more emotional guidance from his teacher, (Stacy Martin) who comes everyday, or is supposed to come every day and teach Prescott. Unfortunately, he sometimes doesn't want to be taught that day, and apparently this is acceptable. I've seen some of the reviews on this film refer to Prescott's more obnoxious and bratty behavior, but yeah, it's hard to separate the actions of the kids with the actions of the parents themselves, and he himself is basically reacting to them, often in order to get a reaction. Of course, he's naturally rejected for this time and time again, no matter how much he acts out, especially when there are important guests around. The whole is movie is told in flashback, I guess, as we see in the future that young Prescott is a Leader, (Robert Pattinson as an adult) but, spoilers, if you haven't figured it out already, he's a leader of a fascist regime, or a leader in one.

I've seen some movies in recent years, especially foreign films, Michel Haneke's "The White Ribbon" comes to mine that tries to look at the youth of around this period of time and try to postulate on how these behaviors and other events culminated in the Nazi regime. I'm not quite sure I've really liked any of these films, including this one; I've definitely admired one or two, but I think they ultimately simplify a few too many things. Yes, clearly this film is influenced from some people's lives in particular, as well as some other films I can think of. It's the feature directorial debut from Brady Corbet, who I know mostly as an actor, and it is a bit odd that this is an American making this, as I said before this feel like a more European film idea, and basically, the entire movie feels like it's a buildup to a reveal that's not exactly that revealing to me. It does take an interesting look at the nature vs.  nurture debate, although I don't know how many of those questions it answers either. It observes and examines and it's ultimately a film worth recommending although I can't help but think I got left empty-handed from the movie.



WE COME AS FRIENDS (2015) Director: Hubert Sauper

★★★1/2



This was a tough one to sit through. They've all seemed tough for me to get through lately, but here's a documentary on the South Sudan. South Sudan is one of the world's youngest countries, carved out of the Southern Sudan after many years of war, and was immediately followed by Civil War in the country, between, somewhere between five and nine tribes, I guess. Africa, is very difficult to entirely explain historically; for one thing, there's like fifty-three goddamn countries there and they all formed in different ways. There's tribal aspects to the intricacies of the country; there's Colonial histories and influence, involved...- I mean, it's basically take the Middle East, and complicate by ten, and then, by 20 because as Westerners we know even less about Africa than we know the Middle East. I know, Sudan used to the largest country in the continent, at least in area, but that's no longer the case. The official national language is English, but there's over 60 indigenous languages and several tribes in the country, and even taking the top three major ethnic groups combined, the Dinka, the Bari and the Azande, they don't equal 50% of the country's population. On top of all that, there's a Christianity and Muslim divide too, so, yeah, no wonder this country is basically in a perennial state of Civil War. Oh, and they have oil reserves, so, bring in China influence, (And America) and who knows whether or not the government that's standing there today are pawns for some other country or not. "We Come as Friends" is an interesting title, 'cause there is this double-sided nature to what we'll call modern colonialism, which is more business based, than the traditional, well, occupy-and-conquer approach, that we got for most of, eh, history, but that's the thing, yes, there is this, we're using them for our own gain part of it, but we also do recognize the horrid state the place is in and truly do want to help. And no sooner did I think  that, did the movie focus in on some of the Christian missionaries that are trying to influence the natives. (Sigh)

You know, regardless of whatever religion you may or may not believe in, if there's one thing that's fairly despicable among almost every major religion, especially with the all the major and primary Christianity denomination there are, it's not that they're beliefs may or may not be misguided, or at least, not self-critically analyze, or the fact that they're preaching their word and actively trying to convert others, no, it's-, it's the fact that too many of them do this, with such a predatory nature. The biggest example at the moment is how several fairly despicable and often wrong-headed, almost cult-like renegade churches have done this in Central Africa. If you haven't "God Loves Uganda", and looked up some of the wretched brainwashing that's gone on there in recent years, it's pretty evil. I don't know if these missionaries populating the newly-formed, Christian nation of South Sudan is, or will end up being that bad, but ugh. Of course, this is only one real aspect of the new look at the young country, one of many side effects of colonialism, only now, in it's modern-day form. The movie looks at several others and actually does go out of it's way to see as many sides of the situation, some of them under penalty of perhaps, death. The film was directed by Hubert Sauper, his first feature since the Oscar-nominated "Darwin's Nightmare" over a decade ago. I haven't seen that one, which is also based on the changing condition in Africa, although that one's more environmental-focused than this is. I wish it was a little more clear on what's happening and who we're talking to; but that might be me. I feel like I've seen way too many Cinema Verite docs lately and trying to make sense of them can be a hassle, but I do like "We Come as Friends" as it documents a painful country's earliest beginnings.



GUEROS (2015) Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios

★1/2



Alonso Ruiz Palacios's debut feature, "Gueros", won five Ariel Awards, the Mexican equivalent of the Oscar, and several other awards throughout the world. I hate to be the one to bash something that everyone seems to really admire, but, I don't get it. At all. I think there might be something that connects with a Mexican audience here, but the thought I keep feeling while watching the movie was how utterly aimless the film was. I see this movie getting compared to Pawel Pawlikowska's Oscar-winning "Ida", for some reason, another movie which I thought was more stylistic meandering than it was, intriguing storytelling. As far as I can tell, the only thing the films have in common is that they're shot in black and white, and I guess, has decent cinematography; I wasn't overly impressed but..., (Shrugs) Anyway, the movie begins with a kid accidentally dropping on a water balloon off a building and onto a baby.  (sigh)

Okay, maybe this is just me, but I remember a lot being somewhat stupid as a kid; I certainly did one or two things I regret, but between this and the tossing the naked fat kid into the crowded gym in "Central Intelligence," I don't remember being this stupid, and this big of an asshole. Is this just me, or do other kids do this, and- I mean, I would come up with some things, but no, not water-balloons off of a roof, just for fun, and I certainly wouldn't have thrown one anywhere near a crying baby! I-I-, I just,- Anyway, the kid is Tomas, (Sebastian Aguirre) and because of this, his mother, decides to send him away for a little while to his brother Sombra's (Tenoch Huerta) apartment for a little while. Tenoch is a college student, on strike at the moment. Huh.

(Google search)

Okay, this movie takes place in 1999, during the UNAM Strike, UNAM is the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the largest university in Latin America, and this involved a rector who was raising tuition rates, which was and still is a hot-button issue in Mexico..., anyway, it gleams on this, but basically, everybody's poor already, and now the college students are striking, and Sombra has no electricity, although gets some from a downstairs neighbor with Down's Syndrome. Anyway, that's only sorta important, because the main journey of the movie is when Sombra, his slacker friend Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris) and Tomas begin searching for Epigmenio (Alfonso Charpener) a famous Mexican folk musician who is apparently near-death. Tomas is a fan and legend has it that Epigmenio once made Bob Dylan cry from his music. As far as I can tell, this is a made up name, and not a famous musician, but there's been other indy films I can think of about people searching out some mythic famous musician who was once famous and suddenly left. (Why is that a popular subgenre; not counting documentaries. I can't think of one film with that arc that's great.) On the way, on the way, (Sigh), on the way.... There's a lot of episodic subplots in the movie, and I don't necessary think any of them were awful, but I couldn't really care about any of them either. I guess the movie that's probably most interesting to compare this too is "Y Tu Mama Tambien", which is also a road trip that had metaphorical significance, but the point of that movie, was in how the characters themselves acted or changed, and that's the reason why I'm being far harsher on "Gueros" than others, 'cause I don't see character change here. It's just a fun journey, that's kinda random, and because they're stuck with the kid who wants to do, they might as well do it too. At one point when Sombra is asked why he isn't at the demonstrations, he says, "I'm on strike from the strike," and that's what this movie feels like. It's supposed to be about something important and historical and significant, but it's not. It's not even about a search for a real musician. The movie's title, is apparently a slang for lighter-skinner, Mexicans, eh, they did explain it, but I'm a little ignorant on the nuance still. It comes up, once, at a nightclub, when they run into, a-eh, who I'm gonna call a Jules et Jim, and have a little too much fun with her. I guess you can argue, that this is a comedy, and not to be so serious; in fact the movie I want to compare it to most is "Duck Season," a wonderful Mexican comedy, about kids trying to keep themselves entertained, which also took place in an apartment building without electricity at one point. I enjoyed that movie a lot; in fact I underrate it in general, 'cause of how funny and witty it is, even though the young kids do some stupid things in the movie from time to time. It's just as aimless and pointless, but that's the joke; they're in a situation where they can't do anything else so that's all they got. These characters can and should be doing more interesting things, and, I'm not saying they should, but the movie makes it seem like they're revolutionaries, or at least, some fringe members of a modern-day revolution, but...- I mean, I guess the other that comes to mind is Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Dreamers", about a disturbing three-way sexual relationship between college-aged kids home alone, which is also about, or supposedly the late 60's time period, but I hated that movie for similar reasons, 'cause of it basically being, "Movies, Sex, Movies, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Movies, Incest Almost, Ewww, Sex, Movies, three supposed adults with no parents too incompetent to do dishes or anything else that doesn't involve sex of movies, and then, Revolution in the streets" But at least that movie had characters having sex and talking about movies. These characters don't do anything that interesting, or worst then that, they barely seem like they want to do anything; they feel like it's a bother and a chore to do anything at all.

There's a decent movie, somewhere in this mess, and maybe Palacios will someday make it; he's clearly talented enough, but I-eh, I don't know what to tell you. I don't how this one is considered so great and special.



UNBRANDED (2015) Director: Phillip Baribeau

★★★★1/2



As impressive as it is to see a horse outrace a dozen and a half other horse for a mile and a quarter every first Sunday in May, and it is impressive, sure, but long distance horse travel, is both something of a rarity today, and also something that is far more difficult for bred horses to accomplish. Now, mustangs on the other hand....-

You might have heard the mustangs now-and-then without technically looking up the definition, but essentially it's a catch-all terms for wild horses. Those that aren't tamed and essentially run free through the land. You don't typically think about them, if you think about horses at all, but you might be surprised to learn exactly how big a problem they are in America. I'm not one of those people surprised, 'cause I live in Nevada, and while the Southern part of the state where I'm at certainly doesn't suffer from this problem the way others up North do, wild horses are, a bit of a nightmare here. Oh, they're amazing to look at, and you can find many locations up north to go and see them roaming free, and there's some places down here too; I've seen some riding out on, thankfully the other side of Lake Mead than the one I was at. There's some who are out there arguing that they might be an endangered species, which, (Laughs) eh, no. No, we're actually quite overpopulated with them. We have too many in fact, and especially in Northern Nevada which is ground zero for the overpopulation nightmare. Especially for ranchers, since the wild horses often eat up all the graze for the cows, so.... Yeah, they're a problem and it's gonna take a while to come up with a complete solution. However, one idea that Ben Masters among others has, is to, ride them. Cowboys still roam free here too, and Ben was impressed with the ride of mustangs when he had to get one on the cheap for a long cross-state ride and found out that they actually perform much better than other horses. "Unbranded" is a documentary about that presumption of his that they can be better-suited and cheaper for use, with a little training and taming of course. He decided to travel up the country, from Mexico to Canada, him and his three friends, and sixteen mustangs. It's a long trip, but quite an amazing one, going through New Mexico, Arizona, where we realize how treacherous travelling through the Grand Canyon trail is on horseback, which by all accounts, they're the first people in modern time to do it successfully, as well as Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, before reaching the Canadian border. It's a Summer journey by horseback, and quite a dangerous one. And not without it's problems and pitfalls and delays, and naturally, the weather ain't necessarily kind. If you remember for the Jean-Marc Vallee film, "Wild" how vast the weather and elevation can be for somebody hiking the entire distance from the U.S. to Canada, along a marked-out trail, then you'll know how drastic the weather can change here. "Unbranded" is a love letter to the West, to cowboys, to mustangs to horse-back riding, to friendship as well, although interestingly that ended up more tenuous at best, and also works as a mosaic of parts of the American West that frankly, most people don't get to see. There's so much more vast open land here, deserts, mountain, National Parks if they're lucky, much of which we just, at best, flyover when traveling. And to be fair, I'm not exactly one who's prone to making such a trek or a journey through some of the more dangerous terrains but I'm glad some are. I don't know how long all this land will last, and to be honest, I'm usually one of the ones in favor of building more large cities and towns around some of the lesser populated areas to compete with the East Coast Megalopolis-, 'cause seriously, why isn't Winnemucca like ten times as populated as it is? (It would really be helpful if it was, for several reasons) but there is a romance to the American West, and while it's not a pretty romance, and some of it is, quite dangerous and worrisome, this is the kind of movie that makes me remember why such a romance exists. Even if, sometimes the cacti and tumbleweeds, can really, really be annoying pains.
Post a Comment