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Arráncame la vida (2008)
The importance of this movie
In my opinion this is by far the best and most important Mexican movie since "La Sombra del Caudillo". A movie also made from a novel in 1960 that was seized by the army and never released, and was done in the same style of using fictitious names. After I heard that this movie was filmed in my home town Puebla (I'm a US citizen now living in LA), and a candidate for a nomination for best foreign film, I rushed for the book and read it. It didn't take too long for me to realize who and what she (Angeles Mastretta) was talking about, and I loved it. So I rushed for the DVD and couldn't find it, but somehow I saw the movie. In the version that I saw, I noticed an important and brief episode from the book (among others) that was missing in the movie almost at the end. I'm referring to a serenade performed by the best and most popular artists in those days, Pedro Vargas and Agustin Lara (there's a statue of Lara in a park in Los Angeles), that ended in a clean fist fight won by the kid with the motorcycle, that the young daughter of the general loved, and who mysteriously died a few days later in a motorcycle accident (?). Who was the rich kid? Well, who could afford to take these artists to Puebla for a simple serenade? But who wants to be an enemy of the media anyway. I wonder if the richest man in the world, whose name appears at the end in the credits as contributor to the movie, also contributed to the omission of this episode or if it was not filmed at all, that, I don't know. But anyway that is not too important compared to another character that is almost invisible in the book (and movie) by the name of "Don Mike Heiss". If you find out who he really was then do a simple research, like I did, and visit the archives of the New York Times. You'll be surprise of these articles from 1917 (the year Zapata was murdered)-1919 (Villa was murdered a few years later) when USA was about to invade Mexico again just to liberate this special agent ("Heiss") from a Puebla penitentiary. "HEISS" became the richest man in Mexico and probably in the world after Rockefeller, and was the partner of all the richest man in Mexico at the time, with the help of "General Ascencio", who was in charge of making offers nobody could refuse. After "Ascencio" died, "Cienfuegos" became one of the richest men in the world during the six years he was president. All this just proves that unfortunately there is nothing to celebrate next year on the centennial of the revolution the 18th day of November 1910, with the exception of remembering Aquiles Serdan the first martyr of the unconsummated and so-called revolution, initiated also in my beautiful home town of Puebla de Los Angeles (Mastretta?). The acting in this movie is the best I've seen in many years. Thank you Ana Claudia, Daniel and Roberto, from now on you are my favorite actors and director. Please don't go to Hollywood, you all are more needed in Mexico.
East of Eden (1955)
Celebrating a happy (and sad) 50th anniversary
I hadn't seen this movie since the 50's when I saw it at least 4 or 5 times. I didn't want to see it again since then because they never released a widescreen tape of it. So I waited and waited and finally it arrived, and just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his 3 movies and to remember the premature departing of such a great actor. The first thing I did was to see the movie and I couldn't be more happy to see it in the original cinemascope ratio and the stereo sound. But I got happier with the surprise that comes on the second DVD, with the deleted scenes and the screen tests and trailer (dvd #1). But the best part to me was to see him acting doing the wardrobe tests, particularly the one with Lois Smith. Where it seems that he ends up seducing her and saying to himself: "hey I was only acting!. Also there is a scene in the trailer when Julie tells him that she loves him, that was cut from the film and I think it should have been included. So thank you to whom it may concern for the treat. I just hope that the young people give it a try, after all is not in b/w. I'm sure they will love it, it's better than most of the new ones. Just like good wine, it gets better with the years.
High School Confidential! (1958)
The movie with the best opening credits and the birth of rap
Believe or not but in this movie I just love to see over and over again the opening credits. And I am sure that everybody that sees this movie, will agree with me. Another outstanding thing is that if you think that rap music was invented and started in the 90's, you must check out this lady from the 50's. Now, the rest of the movie is a very serious drama. A drama that made me laugh throughout the movie like if it was a comedy. Could this be a funny drama? I don't know but if you give it a chance you'll know what I mean. And about the DVD, I was disappointed to read that it was in "full screen", but when I saw it I couldn't be more happy to see that it was a mistake and it was in widescreen as it should (too bad it was mono). And too bad that in those days the credits at the end were so short. It would've been great to see Jerry do the whole "high school confidential" again, or maybe "great balls of fire". I gave it a 10 for the credits, 8 for the rap song and 0 for the rest, My total is 6.
Voyna i mir (1966)
An incredible realization
Ever since I've heard about this movie, I always wanted to see it. It was not until recently that I acquired a great Russian DVD copy with multiple subtitles. A restoration of the complete 7 1/2 hour long, widescreen version thought to be lost for a long time. It took me a whole week after work to see it all (4 DVDs + 1 of extras) and during the weekend I had to see it again, this time with company who also enjoyed it until the end.
I'm certainly not a movie critic or pretend to be so I'm not going to dissect and criticize this movie. It is just the urge to express my joy when I confirmed again that the cinema is undoubtedly a new form of art from the 20th century. It is a media that can display (audio visually) all the forms of art. Theater, music, paint and in this particular case, literature. I must confess that I never read the whole "war and peace" book, just a digest in high school. I calculate that it would take me at least a month of daily reading during a whole vacation with nothing else to do but to read the whole book. And in 5 years I m sure I'll remember the movie better than the book, just like many other movies made after the book. For instance; when I think of "A street car named desire" I immediately think of Brando yelling "STELLA", reading the Tennesee Williams play couldn't make me feel what the picture did, but the picture made me feel what Williams wanted me to feel. Many times the movie differs from the book and fails to deliver the message or feeling that the author pretends, usually because of the "natural handicap" that movies have which is the short time (usually 2 hours) to complete a whole novel. The best example to probe this should be the other "war and peace" from 1956. There is just no comparison. And since I'm not a critic I give this a 10.
King Creole (1958)
Long live the King
Undoubtly this is his best movie from the 50's, when Elvis was ELVIS (in the 60's he didn't made movies, only trash). And here he is playing the rebel James Dean just like everybody was in real life. And that was what everybody wanted to see, the real Elvis, our Elvis. Only he was better than James Dean "just because" he could sing like nobody else. And if everybody wanted to act like James Dean also everybody wanted to sing and look like Elvis. Among many other things in this movie the most outstanding element is naturally the music. And since the story is set in New Orleans the music is Dixie, but since this is Elvis it turned out to be "dixie-rock" and it sounds great. All the songs are complete (unlike "the girl can't help it") and Elvis really rocks. Sadly to me this was the last time I saw the real ELVIS. Whoever came back from the army 2 years later was somebody else, but I'm happy that at least came back. A similar fate had most of the R&R idols from the 50's, only some never came back. Seems like the object was to kill R&R. So if you are looking for trouble, you came to the right place. I bet Michael Curtiz was a big fan of Elvis too. (I only gave it a 9, because I missed the complete " hard headed woman" song)
The Girl Can't Help It (1956)
the movie that left a mark of frustration
If there is such a thing as a "love and hate" movie this must be it. A movie that attracted all young people all over the world, showing in cinemascope and stereo for the first time "rock and roll". The Platters, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Fats Domino and more, "trying" to do their best, and I mean "trying" because they were interrupted and couldn't finish their songs. I still remember the feeling, I was 13 when I saw this one, and the moment I heard "be bop a lula" I was in ecstasy. An ecstasy that didn't last too long because it was interrupted by a stupid silly line from a stupid silly Marilyn bad imitation. A song that only lasts 2' 35". An ecstasies that soon became a fury, and yes I kicked a lot of empty seats and left the movie theater in pure frustration. I always wonder if 20th century still has the cut material and could put it together just to make "The unfinished songs from "The girl can't help it"". Wouln't it be great if somebody comes with the idea of restoring all those legendary rock and roll performers singing their entire songs, instead of so many documentaries about the history of "rock" that abruptly interrupt the songs just when you are starting to enjoy them. I gave it a 10 for the music and a 0 for the plot and the rest, my total is 5.
Another acting class by Soler
Just like in "La oveja negra", this one may not be Pedro Infante's best acting role. But Fernando Soler, playing an unusual role for him, shows off again his acting craft to the point that he makes it his picture too. Adopting an almost perfect northern (norteno) Mexican accent, he succeeds to show the danger and stupidity of "machismo". I wonder if in those days it was really welcomed or understood. And this is why movies should not be forgotten. If we forget history, we are bound to make the same mistakes. Maybe this sequel ("no desearas la mujer de tu hijo") was not necessary to make. But with the same dramatical, comical and musical ingredients, it turned out to be just as entertaining. I wonder why nobody cares so far to restore all these Mexican gems from the 40's and early 50's.
Los tres huastecos (1948)
Pedro Infante x 3 plus...
Undoubtly this is one of the most beloved Mexican movies from the late 40's. Which was the most prodigal years of the Mexican Cinema in quantity and in quality. I feel proud when I see young people giving a chance to an old b/w movie (not only from Mexico or Hollywood), and end up enjoying it and asking for more. And this one in particular never fails. The cast is incredible; just imagine 3 Pedro Infantes with a different personality each, his favorite leading lady Blanca Estela Pavon who died a few years after, Mantequilla as funny as usual, and perhaps the one that steals the show, the irresistible little brat Tucita who has tarantulas and snakes for pets. And if this is not enough, you don't have to be Mexican to enjoy the great huapango music from La Huasteca. All this makes it a colorful movie, only in b/w. A great entertaining film that just must be digitally restored and preserved.
La oveja negra (1949)
An acting class by Soler
This may not be Pedro Infante's best acting role, but Fernando Soler playing an unusual role for him, shows off his acting craft to the point that he makes it his picture. Adopting an almost perfect northern (norteno) Mexican accent, he succeeds to show the danger and stupidity of "machismo". I wonder if in those days it was really welcomed or understood. And this is why movies should not be forgotten. If we forget history, we are bound to make the same mistakes. Maybe the sequel ("No desearas la mujer de tu hijo") was not necessary to make. But with the same dramatical, comical and musical ingredients, it turn out to be just as entertaining. I wonder why nobody cares so far to restore all those Mexican gems from the 40's and early 50's.
El siete machos (1951)
If one Cantinflas is not enough, here are two.
You may call this a Robin Hood Mexican western. Actually is a great comedy with 2 cantinflas (thanks to the old overlapping trick), Made during his best decade (40's) when everybody was waiting impatiently for his once a year movie. And this one was no deception, so be careful because at least 3 or 4, or maybe more scenes will make you cry of laughter. It is a shame that nobody cares to make decent dvds restorations of all this great movies from the 40's and early 50s, with the exception of "ahi esta el detalle"(very well restored by televisa). Please don't see this on a bad DVD copied from a VHS, I just did and my old VHS copy is much better than the DVD. So come on televisa or whoever, preserve the culture, and start restoring all those Mexican gems.