IT WAS NOT UNITL I turned 12 years old that I first experienced a death. A close relative had suddenly died; it was a complete shock for everyone. After hearing the news I remember sitting down at the piano to play a song over and over that reminded me of this relative. The funeral took place rather quickly and afterwards we all gathered at a relative’s house. The atmosphere was somber but there were periods of laughter throughout the night. Typically I was excited about all the food that somehow magically appeared while we were at the cemetery. There were so many desserts that they commandeered their own table. The amount of people who stopped over was staggering and it never let up for the next several days. By the end of the mourning period I felt the past week had been one long party. I discovered this was our custom for all future funerals. AS I HAVE GONE through the past years I have been exposed to other forms of mourning from my own experiences. There are some cultures that believe in cremation, while others are against it. In some faiths it is important to bury the body quickly, yet I have been to funerals where the body remains above ground for several days. Now one thing I have noticed as baby boomers have aged is hearing more people talk about incarnation. Excuse me for being simplistic but I can see how death would be less scary if one felt they would be coming back to life. To tell you the truth I feel however one deals with death is fine with me because I have seen so many people deal with loss in many different ways. There is not one that is better than another. Regarding myself I hope when my time comes people will focus more on celebrating my life instead of mourning it. Death is one of those things that everyone on the planet will experience in their life; so why focus on the sadness and sense of loss? Honoring a deceased person and sharing personal stories about them is something I find comforting, which is why I was enthralled with this animated, adventure comedy. DESPITE HIS FAMILY’S BAN on music Miguel, voiced by relative newcomer Anthony Gonzalez, wanted to be a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz, voiced by Benjamin Bratt (Doctor Strange, Miss Congeniality). His determination would lead him to the grave of his idol just in time for the Day of the Dead celebration. This film festival winning movie was exquisite in both the kaleidoscope of colors across the screen as well as the script that beautifully handled the subject of death based on Mexican culture. I thought the story was thoughtful, respectful, kind and in a way comforting; it did not shy away from the subject of death. With Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries, Rosewater) voicing Hector, Alanna Ubach (Meet the Fockers, Waiting…) voicing Mama Imelda and Renee Victor (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Weeds-TV) voicing Abuelita; I cannot say this was a true comedy. It had a few humorous moments but for the most part the word I would use to describe this picture would be heartwarming. As an added bonus to watching this movie there was a short film shown beforehand from the award winning Frozen realm, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” There is nothing you will lose by seeing this captivating film about life and death.
3 1/2 stars
Stories that get handed down from generation to generation sometimes take on a life of their own. I grew up in an area where the land was as flat as a piece of paper except for one hill. Growing up I heard a story about how the hill was formed from a glacier during the ice ages. Evidently a glacier was creeping down from the north and by the time it got to my area it was already on its last ice cubes of life before the ice age ended, leaving this mound of pushed up dirt in the middle of my neighborhood. By the way when I say hill I have to be honest with you; the height for it was the distance between 2 floors of an apartment building. So we are not talking very tall here. There is a story about a gold coin I have in my possession that was given to me by a relative. This coin was some great, great relative of mine who always kept it in a little secret pocket that was sewed inside of their clothing. I was fascinated with this unknown relative, spending hours daydreaming about the reasons why this particular coin had to remain hidden. Knowing my ancestors were not wealthy people, it seemed odd that the coin was not used as currency back then. I took the coin, wrapped it up and sealed it in a plastic bag to protect it. The fact that it was handled by my long deceased relatives provides me some type of connection to them. This is one of the reasons I enjoy hearing different types of folklore no matter where it comes from. PASSED down amongst the inhabitants in a remote area of the Argentinean rainforest was a story about a being who would emerge from the Amazon river to do battle against any evil forces. Vania, played by Alice Braga (Elysium, I am Legend), needed someone like that to help her and her father defend their land. This film festival nominated drama had the feel of a spaghetti western. Low budget, simple story, minimal conversations and action; I really got into this movie. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal (Rosewater, Bad Education) as Kai, I thought he was excellent in the role. Essentially the story was about good vs evil; it had the right elements in place to maintain one’s interest in the action. Now there were some parts that were easy to predict besides one side story line that seemed unnecessary. Visually I was fascinated with the landscape and thought the cinematography did a wonderful job of playing up the mystery of the forest. I am used to getting folklore verbally; this folk tale was a visual treat. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles. Several scenes had blood and violence in them.
2 2/3 stars
Humor is the soothing balm that cures the mind’s ailments. A good laugh can expel the dark clouds that build up to weigh down one’s thoughts. My sense of humor leans more toward the satirical instead of cracking a joke at someone’s expense. Since humor is a personal thing it may be hard to know when someone is making a joke when they are not familiar to you. There has been so many times where I have met someone new who said something they thought was funny but I did not get it. I may not understand their joke because when a person tells me something I assume they are telling me the truth until proven otherwise. Now I am guilty of doing the same thing regarding telling jokes to strangers; however, with a straight face I try to say things so outrageous they would be hard to believe. Of course there could be the issue of gullibility; some individuals go through life with a non-skeptical mind. My brain on the other hand has skepticism as its first filter for processing. Once two people understand each other’s sense of humor, the possibilities of eliciting laughter are endless. UNFAMILIARITY with a television show’s humor would lead to dire consequences in this biographical drama. Based on journalist Maziar Bahari’s book, “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love;” this movie covered the time Maziar Bahari, played by Gael Garcia Bernal (Bad Education, Letters to Juliet), was held captive in an Iranian prison while he was there covering the country’s elections. Unable to make contact with his mother Molloon, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Lake House, The Stoning of Soraya M.), he was only aware of his Iranian captor Javadi’s rosewater scent, played by Kim Bodnia (Bleeder, Pusher). Maziar could not believe his captors thought he was a spy due to what they saw on a television show. Using this story for his screen writing and directorial debut Jon Stewart (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) had a good grasp on what was needed to make an engaging film. With well done cinematography, the pacing was consistent even when a scene would jump to a different time period. The cast’s acting was exceptionally good which I felt made Jon’s job easier. For me the story was one of those stranger than truth type of stories where I sat there thinking how could this have really happened. My main issue with this film was how everything stayed on the same emotional level. It lacked intensity for me; however, I may be projecting here. Considering the scenarios, I thought this movie would have been an intense ordeal; maybe the book went into more detail. No matter, with this being Jon’s first time as a director he has no worries of anyone laughing at his creation.
It could happen at a business meeting, a party, or even at the grocery store; when you see an older version of someone you were in love with years ago. For me it happened at a holiday party. I had seen them across the room. It was obvious they were a happy couple, but I could still remember each happy event when it was me standing there and not him. I do not have the answers on the how and why it did not work out; the timing was not right, I was not mature enough, they easily could be one of many reasons why it did not last. But I wonder, if we had the opportunity to see a past love, how many of us would want to seek them out? Claire, played by Vanessa Redgrave (Anonymous, Coriolanus), was fortunate to have such an opportunity in this romantic comedy. Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables, Mamma Mia!) and Gael Garcia Bernal (No, Bad Education) played engaged couple Sophie and Victor. On a pre-honeymoon trip to Verona Italy, Sophie stumbled upon a group of women known as the “Secretaries of Juliet.” They were entrusted with the job of answering letters left by lovelorn individuals seeking advice from Juliet Capulet aka Romeo and Juliet. Asked to join them, Sophie answered a recently found letter that Claire had written back in 1957. When Claire showed up with her grandson Charlie, played by Christopher Egan (Eragon, Resident Evil: Extinction); Sophie joined them on their search to find the love of Claire’s life from decades ago. Though there were no surprises in this movie, it was beautiful seeing the countryside of Italy. There was nothing offensive or rude in this film nor did it have any foul language. Vanessa’s acting never goes bad; however, it showed the other actors were not as convincing as she was with her character. Overall there was nothing great or bad about the movie, perfectly suited for viewing on a lazy day. I will say if I had the opportunity to meet a past love, even if the relationship had ended badly, I would absolutely go if it meant going to Italy.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
The amount of money spent on marketing political candidates these days is obscene to me. There are countries that do not come close to having such amounts in their treasury. It seems to me that the only people who can run for office are wealthy individuals. This concerns me because in my experience some wealthy people have a hard time relating to the average person. For example, the man who bought Princess Diana’s dress that she wore when she was dancing at the White House with John Travolta. At a winning bid of $360,000.00, a gentleman bought it to surprise and cheer up his wife. How many of us can do such a thing? Where I find this excessive, I have the same feeling about the money needed to fund a campaign. It seems the issues are not enough to determine whether a person will vote for a candidate; it also depends on who does a better job of marketing the politician. One of the reasons I grew to enjoy this historical drama was seeing what a grassroots advertising campaign can accomplish. Nominated for best foreign language film with the Academy Awards, this film took place in Chile, 1988. Military dictator Augusta Pinochet had been in power for fifteen years and needed to show the world that his government was legitimate. A referendum was scheduled, but would anybody opposing Pinochet survive the election? Gael Garcia Bernal (Bad Education, Y Tu Mama Tamben) played young advertising executive Rene Saavedra, who had the task of creating a campaign that would not get censored. He created the “No” campaign. Starring Alfredo Castro (It was the Son, Tony Manero) as Lucho Guzman and Antonia Zegers (Post Mortem, The Life of Fish) as Veronica Carvajal; the story used humor, actual footage and a faux 1980’s style of filming to draw the viewer into a fascinating time in Chile’s history. I had a hard time getting into the story at first; it felt slow to me. Once the campaign started to come together I was enthralled with the genius of it. With excellent acting, the movie became inspirational for me. The question was could creativity, strong beliefs and dedication triumph over money. Spanish with English subtitles.