Posts Tagged “Spanish”


January 16, 2011
Camera Cinema Club
Spain / Mexico
Spanish / Wolof / Cantonese
147 Minutes (though seems longer)
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu [Amores Perros; 21 Grams; Babel]

Even Javier Bardem’s broad shoulders can’t carry the weight of this much hopelessness. Within the first five minutes of this feels like three hour “epic”, Bardem is given a cancerous death sentence, communicates with the dead, pisses blood, and attempts a reconnection with his bi-polar mess of an ex-wife. Who’s an abusive mother. And ex-drunk. And sleeping with his brother. Oh yeah, and he has two small children to care for and his only job apparently is picking up a couple of bucks from grieving families who need closure, and his “business ventures.”

In true Inarritu fashion, there are interconnected lives, though not to the degree of his past three major films. In this case the three story lines are Bardem’s dying, a sweatshop full of Chinese illegal immigrants who make knock-off purses in sweatshop conditions, and the Senegalese men who sell those purses illegally (along with some drugs) on the streets. Bardem pays off the crooked cops, argues with the Chinese about quality-control, and befriends the Senegalese sellers and warns them off the drug sales.

Bardem does all of this with the deep, soulful eyes, he’s famous for. He may have smiled twice during the film’s running time. Everywhere he turns, the world is against him, someone is taking advantage of someone, and he feels is. Or at least we’re supposed to think he feels it. Although the Chinese workers are locked in a freezing basement at night, we are led to believe that Bardem’s character, Uxbal wants to treat them better. Even though only one of the workers has any lines–his babysitter–Uxbal’s face tells us that he really, really cares about the plight of the immigrant workforce, both from Africa and Asia. Unfortunately, the screenplay affords us only two members of this downtrodden lot who we will recognize. The rest serve as background noise to the “immigrant experience” in Barcelona.

Bardem’s burden is so heavy that when one of his Senegalese sellers is deported, he feels responsible enough to look after the man’s wife and small child. When his ex-wife engages in behavior that would cause most of us to cut ties to her, he gives her another chance. When he hears of the poor conditions of the Chinese workers, he tries to do the right thing in a telegraphed tragedy–no good deed goes unpunished.

There’s not getting around the fact that the sheer shape of Bardem’s face can keep an audience’s interest for more than two hours. In fact, upon further review, his mopey face may be the only reason to recommend this film at all. It is two hours of sadness, dressed up in fancy colors and quick edits and showy focus tricks.

Bardem’s mopeyness doesn’t even stop when he meets his brother at a strip club where, no joke, the dancers have a single huge breast where there heads should be.

7.6 IMDB
5.3 Metacritic


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June 21, 2009
English / Portuguese / Spanish
112 Minutes — June 13, 2008
Action / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Louise Leterrier

Sometimes you just want to turn on the dish and sit back and watch something. Back in the 70s, whenever I read comic books, I was a Marvel guy and not a DC guy. Those guys were snobby, what with their Superman and Batman. My two favorites were Spiderman and Hulk. I like the whole “big guy misunderstood and forced to turn green due to others’ stupidity” of The Incredible Hulk. I’m sure I’ve seen every episode of the Bill Bixby series.

But here’s the thing: CGI has not risen to a level whereby a normal-sized man (Ed Norton) can change into a guy 30 feet tall and still make it believable. Say what you will about Lou Ferrigno in green makeup and torn pants, but at least he was a human being and so was Bixby. Once Norton gets the green eyes, they at first try to hide Hulk, but then we see him and its a cartoon that runs around fast with swooping cameras and quick editing which tries to confuse us enough so that we’re not really sure what we’re seeing.

The plot isn’t bad. I didn’t see the Ang Lee version, so I don’t know if this is a continuation or not. Banner is living in Brazil, hiding from some kind of governmental authority led by William Hurt. He sends his blood into an unseen scientist who tries to get him to try different experiments in the hopes that it will cure him. He is discovered and when the special ops team Hurt assembles proves to be no match for a 30 FOOT MONSTER HUMAN, he calls in Tim Roth, for some reason. Roth volunteers to be experimented on and this leads to the number one plot device in comic book history: the evil twin. When Hulk and Bad Hulk fight, I just wanted it to be over. It was all just too loud and ridiculous.

Norton tries the best he can to bring some kind of intelligence to the proceedings but he’s no match for helicopter gunships and CGI where no human actors are required.

6.1 Metacritic
7.2 IMDB

Incredible Hulk @ Amazon


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May 6, 2009
Campbell CA — Camera 7
Mexico / USA
96 Minutes
Crime / Drama / Thriller
Cary Fukunaga

The Greatest Sin Of All Is Risking Nothing.


SIN NOMBRE is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 70. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 SIN NOMBRE Discussion
• Break
• 19:09 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 20:08 The Last Five®
• 1:04:59 Credits and Outtake


**** Ebert
***^ Berardinelli
B- Gleiberman
B- Tobias
** Phillips
7.7 Metacritic
7.2 IMDB


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March 15, 2009
Camera Cinema Club
English / French / Wolof / Spanish
91 Minutes — March 27, 2009
Comedy / Drama
Ramin Bahrani [Man Push Cart]

8.7 Metacritic
8.2 IMDB
8.2 Critical Consensus


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March 1, 2009
Cinequest 19
Costa Rica
90 Minutes
Ishtar Yasin Gutierrez

Girl and boy leave abusive Grandpa and their life of picking over trash in a dump in order to hop the Nicaraguan border into Costa Rica. They are in search of their mother. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Symbolism all over the place. Two guys find a table at the huge Nicaraguan dump and we see them in the background carrying the thing along the same trail that the girl and boy use to cross illegally into Costa Rica. As the group is led by their coyote, one guy calmly walks back towards Nicaragua carrying a bottle or jar of some kind. The boy, who is mute, stumbles into a posh home where a woman is swearing at an empty rocking chair as if yelling at her invisible husband. We leave the home and there is no further explanation. There are butterflies pinned to walls which obviously mean that the pretty girl we’ve been following has few, if any, choices she can make for survival. She is constantly reminded that men will pay for girls of her age. She’ll be given nice dresses, but it’s not a life to be envied.

7.3 IMDB (49 Votes)


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February 28, 2009
Cinequest 19
Spanish / English
252 Minutes
Miriano Llinas

252 Minutes long. Get your head around that. What would you expect from a more-than-4 hour film in Spanish which takes place mostly in Argentina? Here’s the thing: there isn’t a single moment that drags. It’s the most amazing thing. We basically follow three different stories. The characters’ names are H, Y, Z. The fact that we don’t know their full names is just one of the charms. But what makes this film a particularly fulfilling experience is an almost perfect use of narration. And the use of time. Which is hard to explain. We’ve all seen films that use length of shots to their advantage. We’ve all been programmed to expect shots of a certain length. We notice when a filmmaker holds a shot longer than expected. Wong Kar Wai and Gus Van Sant to name a few. But director Miriano Llinas goes us one better. He holds a static shot for a long period of time, but he also films the shot from way, way back. So far away in fact that we can’t really tell who’s who. So in comes the narrator to tell us. “The farmer’s name is Rey.” [pause]. “He will hide a briefcase in a hay-bale” [pause where nothing happens and Rey doesn’t do anything]. “Here he goes.” [finally, Rey moves towards the hay bale]. This happens over and over. The narrator tells us what’s about to happen, nothing does, then the narrator says, okay now it’s going to happen. It’s a type of narration whereby the person could be sitting next to us and showing us a story that he filmed. This is hard to explain but a pleasure to experience. “The fat one will go to the truck and get a shotgun”. We wait from far away for what seems like five minutes “There he goes.” Then we see the fat guy go to the truck to get the gun. The narrator tells us what’s happening, sometimes WHILE it’s happening. This could seem simplistic, but for some reason it works pretty well. He also will explain a huge story about a minor character, with backstory, dreams, dark and happy experiences. We’ll spend ten or 15 minutes on these characters and at the end of the vignette, the narrator will say “this had nothing to do with what we’ve just seen” or, in a particularly funny scene, after a man has gone on and on about his theory of a crime, the narrator comes on to say “Every word he just said was wrong, he was correct about this crime in no way whatsoever.” So the narrator (and there are a half dozen) is there to correct wrongs, clarify plot moves, and explain what we’re seeing. The script for this film (setting aside it’s length, even) must have been much longer than usual. There is so much voiceover. Plot-wise, H is on a boat going up a river to settle another man’s bet. X witnessed a farmer’s murder, and is holding a stolen briefcase while holed up in a motel. Z is new in a management position and begins investigating the man who held his position for the previous 20 years. But those plot points in no way go far enough in explaining what’s going on, because with all the time we’re given to get to know these people, we can watch them do things slowly, in real time. A man watching the world outside his window; a man explaining the personalities of his co-workers; a man who is ridiculed by his colleagues but sets out for revenge; a woman who can easily manipulate the men in her life; the story of a gold heist gone wrong—each of these is given the time and energy they deserve. There are few loose ends.

Perhaps the find of the festival. Nothing dull. I needed to see what happens next. Fantastic storytelling. Never dragging. Narration is perfect storytelling. “Nothing much happens”…long scene…”then it does”…long scene. Or “The fat man will go to his truck.” But on the screen nothing changes for a long 45 seconds. Then we see the man go to the truck. Narrator: “there he goes.” The scene is five minutes long with the narrator telling us what is about to happen just before it does, sometimes way before it does. The director tells us through narration and shows us through action. Hard to explain how well this works. Action sequences are done with a series of still photos. This is probably to save money. Rumors of a $50,000 budget were thrown around before the show started. It was more than four hours long. We got a break near the middle. Will the stories come together at the end? Will they go off in tangents that don’t mean anything? Which character should we most care about? This film has perhaps the best use of a narrator in movie history. It was like sitting next to someone late at night while they spin a yarn.

If you get a chance to see it, do.

8.5 IMDB (66 Votes)


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July 7, 2008
Netflix DVD
Argentina / USA / Cuba / Germany / Mexico / UK / Chile / Peru / France
Quechua / Spanish
126 Minutes
Adventure / Biography / Drama
Walter Salles [Central Station; Paris, Je T'aime]

Before He Changed The World, The World Changed Him

A womanizing biochemist and an earnest young medical student attempt to ride a battered old motorcycle around South America, stopping on the way to visit a leper hospital.

ON: Adapted Screenplay Jose Rivera

7.5 Metacritic
7.9 IMDB


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Written by Michael W. Cummins