Cahiers du la-la-la: Film through a young Central American's eye.
Take I: The 89th Academy Awards.
Now! In the eve of our content, let me begin by asking: "Why?".
I love cinema. It’s not only what I do, but what I breath when I wake, what I bathe with, every time I take a shower, what I smell whenever my damn fine Costa Rican coffee is being poured in the morning. But why, just why cinema –specially mainstream American cinema, ergo, in large scale, the rest- is in such decay?
I’m a couple of years younger than 30, and I remember the good old low-quality days of the VHS and even the Betamax. A time when you could play a cassette into a machine and you’d rest assure that the piece of art or piece of garbage movie you were about to see will be at least an original piece of work, mostly.
Now it’s a bit different.
Almost every single movie is based on something previously released: a prequel to a movie, a sequel to the prequel, a prequel to the sequel of the prequel, book adaptations, comic book adaptations, movies about inexistent sources but still made as sequels or prequels to books or comic books already adapted, graphic novel adaptations, movie reboots, movie remakes, movie sequels in a different universe that you have to buy the whole not-so-cheap previously released material –as in books, comic books or videogames-, to understand the “canon”, and of course my very favorite, and I’m sure yours too: Toy based movies, because, who needs plot when you have over saturated colors, over sexualized females and explosions? Right?
Not only that, today’s cinema is risking too much in visual quality and less in story quality, even some, and not few, will debate, myself included, whether film is better than digital and such. So, why? What’s going on? Why is cinema dead, as Mr. Martin Scorsese said recently?
Is it really dead?
The simple answer, no.
The complex answer, yes, years ago.
I will not enter into cinema history just yet in this take; let’s just say that the reason of this decay is not actually Scorsese’s fault nor his fellow filmmakers from that specific generation, but it’s around those fellows and what came a couple of decades later thanks to their unprecedented success.
Arrival (2016): Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Interesting plot, reminded me of Spielberg’s third major film. Beautifully shot movie, one of my choices for best cinematography and also montage. A shame that this people didn’t consider Mrs. Adams performance.
But, how full of fluoride does your brain has to be so you don’t see that twist coming?
Fences (2016): Directed by Denzel Washington.
This one would be my number one choice if it wasn’t because of that lovely but distracting theatrical feeling it gives. I couldn’t help but picture every single scene being portrayed by Mr. Washington, Mrs. Davis and company in my local theater. Hands down they both will take their respective accolades home, even though the movie constantly refers you to the stage, their performances take away any notion that we are witnessing actors. Every single person in this movie is simply exquisite.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016): Directed by –speaking of sequel/reboots/remakes- Mad Max himself, Mel Gibson.
When I left the theater after this one I was shocked. What an intense last act that was. You either love or hate my fellow Gooner Andrew Garfield on this one, I loved the man, but there’s little he can do against the previously mention Denzel. Hacksaw Ridge could and should get sound mixing and also montage, which is in debate between this one and Arrival.
Hell or High Water (2016): Directed by David Mackenzie.
This is my choice for best original screenplay, I enjoyed every single line of dialog in this one and the story of the movie itself has that No Country for Old Men (2007) vibe that I personally love.
That “Comanche” line will go on through history as one on the most epic one-liners ever.
I absolutely enjoy Mr. Bridges almost in everything and watching Hell or High Water was kind of amusing for me because I recently finished my latest script in which there’s this veteran grumpy sheriff and coincidentally the actor in which I based the traits of that character was Jeff Bridges and when I saw this Marcus Hamilton character I realized it was almost exactly what I pictured in my mind for this other character I created. Of course it’s highly unlikely to see a Jeff Bridges trying to solve a murder in the high Costa Rican páramo mountains, but one can dream.
Hidden Figures (2016): Directed by Theodore Melfi.
I am African American, or actually African Central-American, I know the struggle, I know my father’s, my uncle’s and grandparents’ struggle, but by any means that will make me condescend with a movie that, in the fashion of Men of Honor (2000), wishes to evoke and force, with the help from music and tears, any type of feelings of joy or inspirational behavior out of a clearly mistreated minority. In these movies the real heroes, if you think about it, end up to be the good old oppressors who where so kind to twist their arms a little bit so we should thank them for their generosity.
It becomes this type of societal or communal Stockholm Syndrome in which the oppressed continues to be oppressed people but decorated with medals or busts.
This selection is an absolute, shameless pledge for forgetfulness of the recent years’, stupidly called, white-washing tendencies.
So, does this makes me grateful as an African descent person? No, quite the contrary. It also offends me as a viewer.
La La Land (2016): Directed by Damien Chazelle.
This is the one in everyone’s mouths. The favorite for movie of the year and with good reason. 14 nominations for Mr. Chazelles’s brilliant musical eulogy to the movie industry and hard working dreamers. Excellent performances by the beautiful and talented Emma Stone and the great Ryan Gosling, great directing, the camera movement throughout the songs, the montage. La La Land is, and not in a subtle way, an homage to Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942), it’s in a way a modern day Casablanca, and perhaps that’s the reason it’s not my choice for best picture this year. Don’t get me wrong I loved this one, even though I don’t particularly enjoy musicals, I loved it, it’s a love letter to cinema, American cinema, and that’s what the Academy digs, and I do too but it’s not my choice for this year’s Oscars. I actually liked Mr. Chazelle’s Whiplash (2014) a bit better, I bought both blu-ray and soundtrack from that one.
Undoubtedly, Damien Chazelle is one of the most promising directors in the business, and let’s hope he keeps that amazing eye and storytelling up, for the sake of cinema and our viewing pleasure.
Lion (2016): Directed by Garth Davis.
I cried, I cried a lot.
Manchester by the Sea (2016): Directed by Kenneth Lonergan.
This is perhaps Mr. Casey Affleck’s best performance yet. Mr. Lonergan’s screenplay as well as his direction of are simply exquisite. The small talk on this movie is just a delight to hear and watch. At midpoint when you realize why Lee Chandler is the way he is your entire viewing experience changes in the best way possible. Michelle Williams is one of the contenders for best supporting actress, I think that she is the only one that could snatch the award from Mrs. Viola Davis, as well as Mr. Affleck, he’s also the one that in my opinion can fight up there with Mr. Denzel Washington for this years best actor. This movie is amazing, it’s sad, harsh, but has it’s moments of joy and laughter, one of my favorites in this year’s selection.
Moonlight (2016): Directed by Barry Jenkins.
I regret to inform you that I didn’t enjoyed Boyhood (2014) quite as much as you perhaps did. Moonlight is life. If you are human or if you are interested in human life and behavior, this is the film for you. There are no words to describe the experience sitting down there in the theater, since the curtains opened until the name of Mr. Barry Jenkins appeared at the end, it was a beautiful experience. This movie has no flaws, all three chapters are breathtaking, they immerse you into the life of this boy, adolescent and adult in way so profound and intimate that you forget you’re watching a movie as you take part of Little’s, Chiron’s and Black’s life and arc.
This movie is perfect, it’s beautifully shot, every performance is astonishing, I’m kind of shocked that the young actor who plays Little, Alex R. Hibbert wasn’t nominated, his performance is really something to admire. Mahershala Ali is also my candidate to take the supporting actor role, he just takes the human aspect to a very actual level as a mentor for young Little who embarks in a journey of self identity and the struggles to cope with it.
Moonlight doesn’t hold anything back and this is my choice to take away the big prize on Sunday February 26th, 2017.
Thank you both Mr. Tarell Alvin McCraney and Mr. Barry Jenkins
 Said no self-loving homo sapiens. Ever.