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|Index||25 reviews in total|
The critics generally were not kind to this film, but I submit that in
cases their middle class roots are showing. Anyone with a serious interest
in urban America in the '70s should see it. The visual style is jagged and
hyper but that fits the subject matter aptly. The effect on the viewer is
you either pay attention or get lost. Also, this is clearly not a movie
that's interested in creating a cardboard hero, but do we need another one
of those? The filmmakers are keen on showing Puerto Rican influence on NY
culture, an influence so deep that it's often ignored.
Benjamin Bratt did receive some kudos for his acting, but he deserved nominations. In the short documentary on the DVD, he mentions that in his teens he saw the film of "Short Eyes" and was frightened by the subject matter. He also mentions fear when offered the Pinero role, because he would be playing a real person. This must be one of the notable cases where an actor overcame some fear to turn in an astonishing portrait.
I hope I've suggested a few of the reasons to see this film. Among other things, it casts doubt on the mainstream as we've come to know it. Pinero would have liked that about it....
I think Pinero (the film) is a credit to the filmmaker and a testament to Pinero himself. I did not know of him before I saw the film but was quickly drawn in to the world of a man suffering from the collective guilt of humanity. He is depicted as being every kind of being one could be, most importantly a truthful one. From this I believe he died. Not from drug use but by using himself as an example, with the results being painful enough for him to go to drugs in the first place. He had extreme vision and let people see it through sincere eyes, the trademark of a great artist. I see some reviews where people think the film goes off in all directions without covering the heart of who Pinero was. To this I do not agree. I think the film leaves a lot to the imagination while covering his vast personality (an excellent technique to keep the audience thinking). A mix between who he was, and what he wanted. Perfect for someone to be introduced to for the first time. Which is what I think Leon Ichase was trying to do, introduce Pinero to me. Thanks Leon. One of my favorite and most inspirational films.
The film Piñero is poetry in itself. The film's music - the songs, the beat
of the tunes, the score - is very much an integral character in the telling
of the life and times of Miguel Piñero. It is really energetic in spite of
the grim aspects of Piñero's life. Writer-director Leon Ichaso put together
a structured montage of Piñero's biographic snapshots with his works: plays,
TV dramas, poetry readings, intermingled with signs of the times of 60s, 70s
news clips: Nixon stepping out of Air Force One, Reagan dodging his
assassination attempt on his life, image of Ayatollah and political crowds.
A brief lifetime of 41 years (Piñero was born December 1946, died June 1988) delivered in a most artistic, poetic, and musical way with the right mix and pacing - almost too fast as Piñero himself disappeared as life ends. Yet it was probably a full life in spite of it all: had a tenacious nurturing single mother, streetwise boyhood with abuse experiences, drug addictions, a heavy smoker, a thief in and out of prison life, and a poet, playwright, actor, co-founder of the Nuyorican Poet's Café with dear friend Miguel Algarín. The film goes back and forwards between life on the streets, scenes in a prison, scenes on a stage, and poetry exchange on rooftops, to Piñero alone and with strangers (what would happen if he did get a kidney transplant?) To him, life is a stage, a play, a poem and very much vice versa.
Bravo to writer-director Leon Ichaso! Technically behind the scenes: film editor David Tedeschi - the exquisite seamless Black and White scenes immediately followed by color scenes and continuously in and out of color and B/W - it's amazing! Along with the selection of lively Latin songs and the film score by Kip Hanrahan, Claudio Chea's cinematography, no doubt, adds to this ensemble piece of work. The talented group of actors (with Giancarlo Esposito as Miguel Algarin, Talisa Soto as Sugar, Rita Moreno as Miguel's mother, Mandy Patinkin as Joe Papp) complement Benjamin Bratt's brilliant portrayal of Miguel Piñero - heart-warming in spite of the dark shades of Piñero's life. It's great to be able to see Bratt in a role that he can truly stretch and show his soulful acting.
I thoroughly appreciate the film in all its fullness - wholeness. Somehow reminds me of Clint Eastwood's "Bird" 1988 (also a brilliant portrayal by Forest Whitaker as Charlie Parker, with a memorable heart-wrenching performance from Diane Venora as Chan, Parker's wife), a hard medicine (not easy to swallow) film of a Jazz genius, also short-lived (born 1920, died 1955); 160 mins. long but worth seeing.
Most movie-going audiences won't know who or what "Pinero" is. "Pinero" is the story of Puerto Rican-born icon Miguel Pinero, who came to fame in the 70s with his cutting edge poetry that many believe was the roots for rap and spoken word. That being said, the film is less of a biopic and more of a cut and paste story that flip-flops back and forth between different stages of the poet's life. Wonderfully portrayed by Benjamin Bratt ("Miss Congeniality"), he seems to have lived this character while filming. It may be hard for most to relate to his hard lifestyle but even with all of his faults and troubles, the character is likeable. Many people might liken Pinero to John Leguizamo, who happens to be a fan and an executive producer of the film. Many of the scenes are very intense, involving strong language, drug use, sexual content, and ideas that may shock some viewers. This is not a film for the kiddies, so don't bother bringing them. It's a very sad story, but very interesting at the same time. Director Leon Ichaso ("Hendrix") does a great job with the direction, including many standout flashback sequences. This might throw some viewers off and come across as "choppy", but really captures an artistic feel that fits the character. This promises to be one of the better films of the year and Bratt's performance deserves at least a nomination for Best Actor. As long as this sounds interesting to you, go and check this one out if you can find it somewhere. If you are offended easily, it might be best to sit this one out. Art house film lovers will eat this one up!
They'd do well to replace the words 'Director's Cut' with 'Director's
Slice'. I was fascinated by Miguel Piñero's life, inspired by his
poems, and blown away by Benjamin Bratt's performance, but the director
and editor conspired to mug an otherwise good movie.
Put simply, Leon Ichaso tried to use an "edgy" style to mimic Piñero's edgy life and it's agonizing to watch. I've come to accept the conceit of the fractured narrative, but I just can't stomach the unending jump-cuts, unnecessary camera refocusing, and worst of all the switches between professional-looking color film and the sort of push-button, digital, black & white that I associate with low-budget TV shows. If any of this was innovative I'd accept it as the director's prerogative, but even in 2001 it wasn't the least bit innovative.
As I said it is a good story and Bratt exceeded my expectations by a power of ten. I actually recommend 'Piñero' strongly, it's an enjoyable and worthwhile film that deserves to be seen. I just wonder what it could have been if MTV's shadow wasn't looming over it.
Benjamin Bratt shows great courage playing Puerto Rican poet Miguel Piñero with all the dark aspects of his character but managed to convince me with his brighter side as well. The movie is itself a piece of art, almost a poem, following the life of Piñero at New York's Lower East Side during the seventies and eighties. Piñero's poetry and writing made him famous - his plays were commercially successful and he wrote and acted for "Miami Vice" - and was essential for the rise of the "Nuyorican" culture. The cast is fabulous all the way, especially Giancarlo Esposito and Rita Moreno come across as tremendously warm hearted best friend and mother who won't give up on Miguel despite his difficult personality and way of life. The film was entirely shot in digital video, giving it a street style appearance and a great touch of reality. The time structure is challenging and the use of both black&white and color make it a visual treat. A MUST SEE and my favorite for next year's best actor academy award.
Pinero definitely makes it to my top five movies of the year 2001. It's one
of the best movies I have seen. I completely dived into the story of this
multifaceted artist who lived his live with drugs and poems, success and the
streets of the Lower East Side.
Benjamin Bratt gives an astonishing performance - far off the "nice" characters he used to play. I completely bought into him being Pinero. I did not for one second think about him as Benjamin Bratt - he is Pinero with all his might.
As well acted as Pinero is I think their is a serious flaw in the film as we really do not find out why Pinero is so self destructive and cannot hold a job. We see in flashbacks that he was abused but thats only scratching the surface. Who was this guy? We really don't find out but Benjamin Bratt is excellent. A career changing performance. Also, I've always liked Michael Wright. He's been typecast to death and has done a lot of junk but I've never been disappointed by any performance he's given and he's good in this film as usual.
Pinero is, to put it quite simply, a brilliant film. The representation of the poet's tortured life by Leon Ichaso is nothing short of breath-taking. The disjointed chronology, the flashbacks, the constant juxtaposition of black and white and color film make this film really bring out the essence of the Pinero's life. Bratt does an excellent job of imitating the man, right down the New Yorkan accent, and I must say I'm a little disappointed that this film, and Bratt specifically, were not recognized more in the recent nominations. The "Search for a Cause" scene on the rooftop is one of the film's best, and really encapsulates the attitude and the general ambiance of the film. In a time when Hollywood's creations are lagging in creativity and spirit, this is a refreshing change. Thank you Ichaso, Bratt, and especially Miguel Pinero.
The work and art of Pinero inspired me not this film. The confusing,
and utterly diabolical frame shifts from black and white to grain to
color to just about any other amateur film technique reminded me of my
experience during "The Blair Witch Project". Using nonadhesive
storytelling with a jumbled voice to the camera, one watching this may
not make it to the end. I did, mainly due to the captivating work of
one Benjamin Bratt but I cannot give this film much more credit.
Let me state: Pinero is a genius. He work will be forever remembered. I just could not pull myself together for this film. I think over the past five years, or at least since the release of this film, the biographical film has grown to be a stronger production. Actors are willing awards for their work (i.e. Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy), and this film allowed Bratt to be better than I could have imagined, but it was the surroundings of this film that made me take a step back. To begin, the story was troubling. Pinero's life was not light, or one that will make children smile, but it did have its moments to shine. Director Leon Ichaso, I believe, understood Pinero's chaotic life, thus created a film with themes of the same chaos. The issue then becomes that it didn't translate well onto the screen. In one instance, we were captivated by Pinero's life behind bars, the next moment he is winning awards, then we are pushed back into his jail time. There was no consistency. We would have moments when we went from his accomplishments to his troubled times that happened in the past, to something in the future. This could have been a strong accomplishment to help accompany the work of Pinero, but instead what occurred was a jumbled mess of cinematic value in which our characters outside of Bratt become merely nameless shadows. Also, his poetry (due to the lacking cohesiveness) becomes less poignant. We see very little of his play "Short Eyes" and really how he drew his inspiration for this award winning work. Ichaso tried to be original with his direction, but it withdrew from Pinero, ultimately turning those casual viewers away from watching the life of a great poet.
As you watch this film, keep you eye on Bratt's honest moments. There are times that he fades in and out of Pinero, but he gives over 100% dedication to what Pinero represented. His performance is one that should have put him on a fast-track to being the next Brad Pitt, but I think what ultimately hurt his opportunity was the fuzzy direction and inconsistent camera (as discussed) of this film. He is the only character in this film. Ichaso attempts to bring the people from Pinero's life to screen, but since we jump sporadically throughout the hour and a half, we never quite know who these important assets were. The friend in the van, for example, I thought was a performer in the play. Who really was the man that he lived with? These questions could have been easily answered through dialog or perhaps an informative introduction, but instead Ichaso cut corners and just gave us names throughout the film. A possible strong opportunity again lost due to over-creativity. What really happened to Pinero and Sugar? That was a deep relationship that needed a further element she was his muse...correct? With a straight forward bio-pic I shouldn't be asking these questions. Again, Pinero was phenomenal with his words, which wasn't accentuated enough. Ichaso could have taken lessons from a small film like "Lenny" which was able to use Bruce's words and story of his life cohesively.
The greatest element, for me, of this film was the ending. The poem about spreading his ashes through the Lower East Side made me want to read more of his poetry. It was such a powerful, yet flawed scene. I needed wanted to know more about the poets that were reading his work. Nonetheless, it was breathtaking. It showed the power of his words, and just a taste of how his influences now resonate throughout the hip-hop music genre. I was disappointed with this disc, because if offers nothing to really see the real Pinero. I was hoping for a bit of a "real life" biography, but nothing of the sort happened outside of Bratt speaking about how great this man was which is not true. Pinero, as stated before, is a genius, but not a great man. His work was sometimes underscored by his addiction imagine if he wasn't influenced by drugs ... hum ... would his work be as good?
Overall, I think this could have been a great film. I have no problems with independent cinema or about biographical films, but when you push too hard on one side, you sometimes loose the central focus. This was the case with "Pinero". Ichaso focused so heavily on making a cutting edge film that a good chunk of the story got muddled through the trenches. I wanted to know about Pinero, the struggling artist, not a confusing epileptic episode that was the final product. The characters got muddled in this mess, Bratt was the shining star, but that can be the only positive reaction one could have. The ending eerily reminded me of Depp's "Blow", but that could be a whole new conversation. I saw the angle that Ichaso was going, I just don't think the final product was put together very well. It seemed rushed and completely absurd at times.
Lower East Side
Grade: ** out of *****
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