Judy Reyes of Scrubs fame has always been one of my favorite actresses and it doesn't hurt that she references my home state in this song. I hope you all enjoy it.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Judy Reyes of Scrubs fame has always been one of my favorite actresses and it doesn't hurt that she references my home state in this song. I hope you all enjoy it.
A Better Life (2011)
Arthur Christmas (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Fright Night (2011)
Larry Crowne (2011)
Puss in Boots (2011)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Soul Surfer (2011)
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
The Debt (2011)
The Green Hornet (2011)
The Help (2011)
The Muppets (2011)
X-Men: First Class (2011)
You're Next (2011)
Labels: Películas de los Años 2010
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Despicable Me (2010)
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
The Losers (2010)
The Wolfman (2010)
Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)
Labels: Películas de los Años 2010
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
As much as I like Jude Law and Gretchen Mol, I can't deny that the two of them cannot save the 1998 romcom Music from Another Room from being one of the most dubious romantic comedies ever made. Then again, this is a movie that starts out with a younger version of the Jude Law character (Danny) literally helping his physician father deliver the infant which would grow up to be his future soulmate Anna Swan and then has him fall in love with her at first sight. That's right. The movie shows a young boy falling in love with an infant girl who has just been born. And it goes downhill from there.
To be fair, the movie is not all bad. There is a nice bit halfway through the picture where Danny starts reading passages from Anna Karenina to Anna's blind sister Nina (played by Jennifer Tilly) in order to ingratiate himself with Anna's family. His scheme never quite works but it did introduce me to the Kitty and Levin characters in Tolstoy's classic novel and thus exposed me to a side of the book I never would have experienced had I relied on conventional literary critics. Indeed, it was because of this movie that I finally broke down and borrowed Anna Karenina from the local library after putting off such a deed for years. And of course, I eventually ended up reading this novel and enjoying it very much.
Anyway, Tolstoy is a hard act to follow, even for a good movie. And Music from Another Room is far from good. However, it did provoke me into carrying out a long-delayed literary vow so it can't be all bad. I just wish it was better -- and more worthy of its literary references.
Monday, August 29, 2011
I was going to forego comment on this book when it was still in hardcover but now that it is starting to turn up in paperback, I feel obliged to say something.
Contrary to what one might believe, Apocalypse 2012 is not a novelization of the recent John Cusack movie 2012 but rather an ill-conceived attempt to cash in on the same Mayan prophecies that inspired that movie. The novel combines the story of a modern expedition to Mexico with the story of a pre-Conquest Mexican Indian but can't resist telling both stories without adding the world's largest infodump to its pages. Though the novel is allegedly based on notes left behind by the late Gary Jennings, the novel itself contains little of the wit to be found in actual Gary Jennings novels such as Aztec or Spangle. Worse yet, the novel's conclusion leaves the way open for a sequel. (For what it's worth, I have read that sequel and it was no improvement on this book.)
In short, this book exists only to provide employment for ghostwriters and to con money out of unwary readers. Please don't be such a reader.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
On paper, this seemed funny and no doubt it helped if you watched it when you were very young. However, the more I read about how they used to train chimps to do the type of stunts they did on TV, the more I wish the producers of this show had gone with an animated version.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Dexter: "My Bad"
Wow! Time for another season of Dexter already? How time flies!
When we last left Dexter Morgan, he had just found that a certain much-beloved character had been found murdered in her own bathtub. At the beginning of this episode, said character was still dead, doomed to return to the show only in flashbacks. Given that said character was one of my favorite characters on this show, it's hard to pretend that this made for an especially fun episode.
That said, the most memorable part of the episode was Dexter's oddly emotionless response to the death of said character. One character on the show describes his 911 call as a "lab report" and for a while, it looks like Dexter is going to attract some unwanted attention. But years of covering up his true self pay off and Dexter gets away with not being suspected of one of the few murders in the Miami area he had nothing to do with.
In addition, we get an in-joke reference to Dexter star Michael C. Hall's former role as an undertaker on Six Feet Under. Only this time around, Hall gets to play the client, not the undertaker.
Moreover, we get to witness the clumsiest murder in Dexter history. A murder so ill-conceived it seems a miracle Dexter got away with it. Is Season 5 the season we find out Dexter Morgan has a death wish?
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I have seen so many bad illegal alien movies over the years that it often seems like a miracle to come across one that is actually good. This is not to say that such films are rare. I could sing the praises of movies like El Norte and My Family all day but unfortunately, not all films dealing with Mexican illegal aliens are up to the standards of those films.
More often, they are up to the standards of the 1980 exploitation flick Border Cop, which starred Telly Savalas as a tough but kind border patrolman and which featured Michael V. Gazzo as a local crime boss named Chico Suarez who just happened to speak with the same accent Gazzo used for his Mafioso character in The Godfather, Part II. It says something about how bad this particular movie was that one of the most likable characters in this movie -- a Mexican female immigrant, natch -- ended up getting raped for seemingly no other reason than to give the Savalas character an excuse to show what a badass he was when he went after the rapist. In all too many such movies, the Mexican characters seemed to have little reason to exist apart from giving the Anglo heroes a chance to show how brave and noble they were and Border Cop was no different.
Granted, the USA does not have a monopoly on such bad movies. The 1985 Mexican exploitation flick La Tumba del Mojado presented such a downbeat view of the United States and the type of life awaiting those Mexicans who make it here that a Mexican acquaintance theorized that it was part of her government's plan to discourage illegal immigration. The only Anglos shown on-screen spoke with thick Texas accents and were depicted as being just a tad more friendly than the Wehrmacht. One of the few friendly faces the illegal immigrant of the title* met in the US belonged to a drug dealer who befriended the immigrant and eventually involved him in his business -- an involvement which, of course, had tragic results.
Ironically, one of the better movies I have seen concerning this issue is the 1949 drama Border Incident, one of the first American movies that dealt with this subject. Of course, this film was made during the heyday of the bracero program (a government program by which Mexican agricultural workers were transported to the US to help out American farmers). Back then, illegal immigration still seemed like a novelty and while the movie's writers expressed their share of sympathy for the Mexicans who choose to illegally enter the US, the movie still emphasized the importance of immigrating the legal way.
Nevertheless, the movie's villains were not the poor devils who crossed the border without government approval but the Latino and Anglo criminals who smuggled them across and then preyed on them. Indeed, the number of young Mexicans who fell victim to these crooks became so great that the Mexican and American governments teamed up to bring the crooks to justice. The Mexican side was represented by Ricardo Montalbán, who played Pablo Rodriguez, a Mexican policeman who went undercover as a Mexican peon. The American side was represented by future Senator George Murphy, who played Jack Bearnes, the federal agent who assisted Montalbán in his mission.
Contrary to American movie tradition, Rodriguez did not die the traditional early death Hollywood usually reserves for minority characters. Instead he ended up becoming the hero of the movie while Bearnes ended up becoming a victim of the bad guys -- quite a daring plot development when you consider that this movie was made at a time when many restaurants, theatres and public pools in the Southwest still discriminated against Mexicans and Latin heroes were far from the norm in American movies.
Could a film like Border Incident be made today? Not likely, given that the bracero program which partially inspired it no longer exists. For that matter, the idea of the Mexican and American government cooperating today to bust an international ring of immigrant smugglers seems highly unlikely as well. But it would be nice to pretend it was possible, if only in dreams.
* Mojado is a not so nice Spanish word for "illegal immigrant" which usually translates as "wetback" in English. It is often used in the titles of Mexican songs and movies and one relative of mine even claimed to have once seen a T-shirt that pitted a vehicle labeled "Mojado Power" against a vehicle labeled "Chicano Power." However, it is not a word that most Spanish-speaking people knowingly use in polite company.
Labels: Chicanas y Chicanos, Incidente en la Frontera, Inmigración Ilegal, La Tumba del Mojado, Mexicanas y Mexicanos, Películas Clásicas III, Películas Latinas I, Películas Neoclásicas II, Ricardo Montalbán
Monday, August 22, 2011
From the 1950 movie Two Weeks with Love, it's a very young Debbie Reynolds and her singing partner Carleton Carpenter going ape over a musical number.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Remember, you’re in Washington. Stop trying to be reasonable about money or you’re going to bollocks up the whole thing.
--Edward Andrews, Son of Flubber (1963)
There are many things I could say about the 2011 movie Larry Crowne but the one idea that keeps coming to mind is that it was meant to be sort of an anti-Crash. Instead of giving the movie-going public yet another scenario a la the 2005 movie Crash in which people of varying races and ethnicities spent most of their time symbolically tearing each other apart, Larry Crowne gave us a scenario in which the same variety of people came together to accomplish a common goal. In this case, the goal was the intellectual enabling of recently unemployed store clerk Larry Crowne.
What made Larry Crowne so special? The movie never really said though I imagine it has something to do with the fact that he was both a nice guy and a character played by Tom Hanks. A more sophisticated analysis was downplayed by a screenplay that found more pleasure in a running gag involving confiscated cell phones than in any serious social commentary.
For the record, the movie deserved some credit for inspiring my little sister to think seriously about going back to school like the title character did. However apart from that, the best thing I could say about the film is that it never promised to be more than a pleasant way to spend two hours enjoying the local movie theatre's air conditioning and on that one point, it most definitely delivered.
Remember all those old movie comedies in which the quirky female eccentric ends up winning over the grumpy old guy? This isn't one of those movies.
For one thing, the male protagonist in the 2008 movie Happy-Go-Lucky is not necessarily old but rather young. For another, he is not exactly won over by the quirky female protagonist but instead develops an odd fixation that is better seen than described. And for another...
Well, let's just say that anyone who rents Happy-Go-Lucky expecting a simple little comedy is bound to be disappointed. In fact, it is a wonder the producers of this movie were not sued for violating truth-in-advertising laws.
Yet despite a misleading title, Happy-Go-Lucky is more worth seeing than many recent comedies I can mention. Just don't rent it expecting a lot of laughs. Not everything worth watching in life is necessarily funny.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
My cousin, who divides her profession and her marriage between Houston and Dallas, told me her yuppie friend’s little girl spied an equally yuppie black woman strolling her own daughter down the sidewalk and the delighted little white girl said, “Look mommy, a baby maid!”
--Debbie Nathan, “Lives of the Maids,” The Texas Observer, March 11, 1988, vol. 80, no. 5
Needless to say, neither Ms. Nathan nor I endorse the mentality illustrated in this quote though I find it all too believable. Worse yet, I suspect that the only thing that has changed since that quote was first written is that today the little white girl would point to a Mexican woman's daughter before saying the same thing. I pray I'm wrong but still...
I have always liked Debbie Nathan's articles about the Texas-Mexico border and unfortunately this is the closest thing she has to a complete collection of articles. As you might guess from the title, it's not exclusively about the Mexican border and since it was published in 1991, one might even argue that it's a bit dated.
But it's still worth reading and given the type of rhetoric that has surrounded the Mexican border as of yet, one might say that its main problem is that it's not dated enough. Someday she might come up with a complete collection of her work but in the meantime, this is a good introduction to her work.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
It's funny how movies which imagine an USA without Mexicans never seem to imagine an USA suddenly devoid of Mexican lawyers or doctors or cops or nurses or even computer operators. Nor do they rarely portray an USA devoid of Mexican military men -- which is quite odd, considering the number of Americans of Mexican descent in the U.S. Armed Forces. Instead, it is always Mexican menial workers such as maids, janitors, gardeners and fruit pickers who seem to be the main ones affected by such a situation. At least, that is how it seems in the 2004 movie A Day Without a Mexican.
In a way, I get the movie's point. If we were to deport all the Mexicans who were in the USA illegally, it would create a big hole in our society. And though the movie does tend to overdo it with the melodrama, the movie's subplot involving the one Mexican who didn't mysteriously vanish proved to be quite effective in spite of itself.
Yet as much as I enjoyed the movie's humor, I couldn't help but find the movie's humor all too convenient. After all, all too many non-Mexican people in the USA already have trouble thinking of Mexican-Americans as anything other than illegal aliens. Why encourage them? And don't Mexican-Americans who aren't illegal aliens have stories worth telling too? If so, why do we always pretend that the only Mexican-Americans worth telling stories about are the ones here illegally?
Monday, August 15, 2011
It was my sister's birthday yesterday. Grease was one of her favorite musicals as a teenager and Olivia Newton-John was one of her favorite singers. So naturally I had to post this.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
It's yet another cartoon adaptation of a classic sci-fi movie with Ted Knight once again doing the narration. As you might guess, it takes considerable liberties with the Jules Verne novel which allegedly inspired it, but I doubt anyone of my generation noticed until we were much older.
And isn't terrible how often evil counts and their brutelike servants ruin things for everyone else? There oughta be a law...
Hey, I forgot they did a cartoon version of this series. And that Ted Knight spoke on the opening credits.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Do you want to know what the future looks like? Enforced worship in churches a mile high. And every country surrounded by a coral reef of bones. But fuck it. Maybe it should happen. There’s nothing on TV at the moment.
--Paul Rhys, Being Human, "Serve God, Love Me and Mend"
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Room 222: "I Love You Charlie, I Love You Abby"
Apparently I spoke too soon when I described the title character of the "El Genio" episode and his girlfriend as the only Hispanics on this series. During the last five minutes of this episode, one of the title characters of this episode was called by the name "Charles Moreno" -- and Moreno, of course, is a popular Spanish surname. Which, of course, means Charlie was Hispanic -- although not necessarily Mexican.*
Whether or not it was intentional from the writer's point-of-view that the audience saw the character in question as Hispanic seems doubtful. After all, the character was rarely described as being Hispanic the same way the title character of "El Genio" was. Nor was he given any of the conventional "Hispanic" traits that sloppy TV writers like to give to Hispanic characters. (For example, bad accents, frequent use of Spanglish, etc.) Nor was his impending marriage to what seemed to be a rather WASPy white non-Hispanic girl seen as being especially controversial. I would like to give the writer the benefit of a doubt and assume that this was the way he chose to make up for the more contrived elements of the "El Genio" episode but alas, there was no commentary on this episode so I guess I will never know for sure.
Anyway, the main concern shown during the episode concerning Charlie and his would-be bride Abby was more about their age than their ethnicity -- and the closest the episode came to a conventional ethnic joke lay in the fact that tacos were served at Charlie's impromptu bachelor party. Mr. Dixon and his girlfriend Ms. McIntyre were greatly concerned about Charlie and Abby's plans to get married at the end of the school year -- but the first attempt they made to get them to change their minds only resulted in Charlie and Abby moving up the date of their elopement. It was not until after the above-mentioned bachelor party and Abby's bachelorette party that Dixon and MacIntyre found a way to convince the young couple they were not ready to get married yet -- and even then it was a close call.
So the idea of a Hispanic character on a TV show dealing with issues which were not necessarily ethnic issues would seem to be a good thing, right? Even if I find myself preferring the way such issues were handled on old I Love Lucy episodes.
* Contrary to popular belief, Hispanic is not a political euphemism for "Mexican" and can be used to describe almost anyone with Spanish-speaking ancestors. Of course, since it is often considered a political term, it is not always used that way but it should be.
Monday, August 08, 2011
From the 1940 musical Dance, Girl, Dance!, it's Lucille Ball demonstrating quite obviously that she actually did play other roles long before she played Lucy Ricardo.
Apparently it was Ms. Ball's 100th birthday this past Saturday and yet she did not show up or eat her cake or do anything.
Seriously, Ms. Ball was the star of several of my favorite TV shows when I was growing up -- including my most favorite Lucille Ball show, I Love Lucy -- a fact I always found unusual given that I watched it at a time when I was not especially drawn to TV shows with Hispanic characters.
Perhaps I Love Lucy worked so well because it was not strictly a Hispanic TV show so much as a TV show that just happened to have Hispanics in it. It did not hurt that it was one of the few shows I watched growing up in which it was not considered unusual for a Hispanic to go to work wearing a suit. (As you may guess, my late father usually wore a suit when he went to work so it was probably inevitable that Ricky Ricardo would remind me of him even though my father was neither a Cuban nor an entertainer.) Nor did it hurt that the comedy did not always derive from the fact that Lucy and Ricky came from different worlds.
I Love Lucy was never meant to be seen as social realism but it always seemed more believable to me than many of the more recent TV sitcoms dealing with Hispanics -- which might explain why it continues to be as popular today as it was in the 1950s -- and why it continues to show up in syndication long after supposedly more socially relevant sitcoms such as Chico and the Man and AKA Pablo have bitten the dust.
Then again, it may be that it has so many fans because it is just a funny show that the whole family can watch. And heaven knows there are not many shows like that nowadays.
Sunday, August 07, 2011
Thursday, August 04, 2011
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
I just saw the movie version of this cartoon this past weekend and yet I'm ashamed to admit that I have absolutely no childhood memories of this cartoon. In fact, I owe almost all my knowledge of this cartoon's title character prior to this month to old Marvel comic books -- including the cross-over appearance he once made in Frank Miller's Daredevil. And of course, all that happened long after this cartoon went off the air.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Yes, it seems like a mere cover version of the classic Eddie Cochran song but some of those visuals literally made my mouth drop open. Who knew Ms. Harry was making videos like this in the 1990s?
Monday, August 01, 2011
One of the sweeter songs from the 1979 musical Hair. If only the lyrics were as good as the vocals. And yes, that really is Beverly D'Angelo of National Lampoon's Summer Vacation fame doing part of the singing.
Maude: "Maude's Dilemma: Parts 1 & 2"
Like most Norman Lear sitcoms in the early 1970s, Maude tended to have a lot of scenes devoted to loud arguments and constant shouting. So it's kinda refreshing to note that the show's most controversial episode actually started off rather low-key. The episode took almost forever to establish that the title character Maude Finley was pregnant, even longer to casually allude to abortion and even longer to actually use the word "abortion."
If anything, the show seemed almost too subtle. Though the story lasted through two half-hour episodes, it conveniently ended before we ever saw the inside of an abortion clinic. Instead, much of the time was taken up mining humor from the reluctance of Maude and her husband Walter to admit to their true feelings about her late-in-life pregnancy. Officially, Maude Finley was in favor of legalized abortion; she just didn't want to admit to wanting to have one herself. Officially Walter was in favor of whatever Maude wanted. Her twentysomething daughter Carol was a bit more open on the topic, continually reminding her mother that abortion was currently legal in New York. (The episode aired prior to the Roe v. Wade decision so abortion was not yet legal in every state of the union.)
As a person who recently witnessed the wavering of a friend who was committed to getting an abortion but not above having last-minute qualms about it, I must confess that I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more debate about the subject in this episode. Yes, one could hardly blame Lear and episode screenwriter Susan Harris for choosing the safest route past the network censors of the time. And one could understand Ms. Harris' determination to point out that good people have abortions too at a time when the opposite view was all too prevalent.
Yet I can't help wondering if the procedure would have been all that simple for Maude Finley. And I can't help wondering whether or not she ever experienced second thoughts. Perhaps I'm just projecting my own pro-life leanings onto a fictional character, but then again, up until a time quite recently when I spoke with the above friend who was getting an abortion, I was perfectly happy leaning in the pro-choice direction on the grounds that at least safe abortions meant less women would die. But there was something about my witnessing my friend's wavering on the subject that convinced me that one could be pro-choice and yet still have serious misgivings about an actual abortion. Misgivings that could not be easily cured with strict applications of feminist or liberal dogma.
I still prefer that abortions be legal if for no other reason than the fact that that's the best way to assure that they're safe. But part of me would also prefer that they be rare. And while I understand the many reasons Norman Lear would never feature my viewpoint in a TV episode, I nonetheless believe it is important. After all, not all issues can be adequately dealt with in the course of a half-hour television show. Abortion just happens to be one of them. However, I do respect Norman Lear and Susan Harris' efforts to prove otherwise.
Miami Vice: "Free Verse"
Geez, you can tell a TV show is old when director Michael Bay appears in one episode as a bit player so unimportant that he's only listed as Goon #3.
It's even more embarrassing to realize how old a certain show is when you're old enough to remember when this same show was the subject of magazine cover stories and endless hype about how said show was the way of the future. Oh, well...Time does have a perverse way of putting artistic pretensions into perspective. However, I must admit that I can't help wondering how much of director Bay's current directing style was inspired by what he witnessed while working on the set of director Michael Mann's Miami Vice TV series.
In any event, the episode in question concerned an assignment by the Miami Vice Squad to safeguard a visiting Latin American poet. Why was the Vice Squad being assigned to play bodyguard to a poet? The story never really explained why but then few people back in the day ever watched Miami Vice for the story.
One of the funniest bits in the episode occured early on when the appearance of two pretty female Vice Squad detectives provoked the visiting poet to ask whether all the police in Miami were as attractive. Then scar-faced Edward James Olmos' Lt. Martin Castillo character showed up and the poet noted that his question just got answered.
The rest of the episode was a cat and mouse game between the Miami Vice detectives (especially Don Johnson's Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas' Tubbs) and the various assassins sent out to kill the poet. Crockett proved especially disillusioned to learn that the poet was not only the target of a right-wing death squad but of left-wing assassins as well. And of course, one of the assassins proved to be working with an inside man whose identity wasn't revealed, natch, until the last minute.
The episode also went out of its way to note the poet himself was not as squeaky clean as his would-be martyr status would indicate. His own daughter was disgusted by some of his past actions and it wasn't until the very end of the episode that father and daughter experienced anything close to reconciliation.
Not that happy endings last long in Michael Mann world. But then one shouldn't really expect much cheerfulness on a show called Miami Vice.