Never too late to make amends…

It’s been a while. This challenge didn’t go as planned but hey, so does life. I miscalculated the time film school really took if I were to do it right and still have a relationship at home but It paid off. It’s not that I didn’t watch that many films but to do that and write about it when in the middle of making movies and working on friend’s movies can get a little hectic.

I can now call myself a USC film school graduate and transition to the professional life which, no doubt, will sweep me out of the challenge I’m about to propose. You know what? Scrap that. I’m not really good with these kind of things so I will not add too much pressure at first. I will not make it official at least. 

Anyway, my goal is to write about movies weekly. I will start with one movie. There will be a difference though. But before I get into that, let me just tell you where this is coming from. Hell, let me start with where I came from… I think you may know I’m Brazilian. For the geographically challenged Brazil is in South America and we speak Portuguese (NOT SPANISH, for the love of God). I want to make films that are engaging and that are (for the most part) set in Brazil. This is because I feel there is a gap in representation from that part of the world, and when there is, it’s the wrong kind. 

Let me tell you what I mean. If I ask people what Brazilian movies they’ve seen, City of God is the first one that comes to mind. Then, if they are more savvy than most, they will say Elite Squad. The pattern here is films about violence, corruption and poverty set in Rio’s favelas. I’m kind of tired of this stereotype (exhausted really) and I believe we need to change it. This is not something new. Glauber Rocha named this phenomenon “The Aesthetics of Hunger.” By that he basically meant that people are hungry for this type of film that depicts a primitive state of a society. A place where there are no laws but to merely survive. Everything is game as long as you know how to play it. The land of no one where the fittest is synonymous of the most crooked. The location is exotic. Somewhere far away from the “civilized world” where savagery reigns. Basically the “white man” is hungry to return to the primitive. They can’t really do it in real life (aside from the trips they will take to these exotic places) and frankly, they really don’t want to.

Look, I’m not saying that City of God is not a cinematic masterpiece which I really believe it is. But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t exploitative either. Elite Squad is even more since it took the fame of this genre and rolled with it becoming increasingly more commercial with the sequel by even hiring Hollywood professionals to punch-in some “international” production value. The result was astounding and we all know it became the highest-grossing domestic Brazilian film ever. It was great that it brought a lot of attention to the domestic film market but the not-so-good news is that it kept pushing this exploitative favela-crime genre. In short, this is what I want to work against.

But going back to the plan, I will watch a Latin American film every week and comment about it. Yes, I will still watch the favela movies if they come because the point is to develop my own understanding and Latin American sensibility for films so I know what is lacking and what is plentiful. This is basically a research project for myself and I will just log the results here publicly and if someone happens to read it great, if not…no big deal. 

I will leave the previous posts there for posterity’s sake but if one day I feel like it, I will get rid of ’em (it’s my blog afterall :P).

Ok. That is all for now. Wish me luck. Better luck this time please.

MD.

film #2 | Una Noche

Havana, Cuba

| 2012, Cuba, UK, US, dir. Lucy Mulloy |

Wow. What a film this is. I wasn’t expecting the impact this film would have until I was swept into the story, as it developed. This is obviously not a perfect film. It has some problems and wouldn’t make everyone’s nothing-to-do afternoon watch. But it has character and it is very engaging.

We start out with a voice over intro from Lila (Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre), the younger sister of Elio (Javier Núñez Florián) who is best friends with Raul (Dariel Arrechaga). Lila is a tan teenager who is bullied by the “pretty” girls for her style since she a loner who finds closer friendships in guys. Her brother Elio, works in a kitchen where Raul is an apprentice and finds out about Raul’s dream of going to Miami to search for his father. The story revolves around these three characters who become increasingly connected to Raul’s dream of heading north. One of the problems is, even though the story is told through Lila’s voiceover, it had a tendency of sticking with Raul which may confuse who the story is supposed to follow but this is not really a problem to me. It could be seen as an ensemble told through Lila’s eyes. But I guess Lila still has perhaps the most emotional connection. You decide. These storytelling tools are just there as a guide but as filmmakers we don’t have to follow them as long as the story is engaging.

I hate to point negatives of artists’ works since I know how hard it is to make something, especially how difficult it is to stick to your original vision. The work takes a life of its own and it develops with the team that is creating it. So I say this with caution as merely suggestions. At some parts the use of non-actors becomes self-reflexive and we can tell they are acting but when they do forget about the camera, magic happens. Another thing is the story is saturated with sexual encounters and I get the people’s need to “release” themselves from this often oppressive way of living but I didn’t need it more than 2-3 times. Perhaps this is part of the research the director so throughly made by living in the island, and is something that is prevalent there, but I still can get the point sooner.

With that being said, the film is almost a visual research piece on the cultural development of these people. Aside from the obvious appeal that a film set in Cuba provides, the world of the film is well displayed as is its complex characters and their dilemmas. There is a lot of rich details and you should keep learning more details on re-watches. I love the moments of pure humanism when these characters react to each other in a organic way. The little things said are wonderful. It is pure-cinema. This is what makes this movie special. I can tell Lucy Mulloy is still learning the tools but already knows the core of what makes us human. It is amazing that this is her first feature and it is impressive that it was premiered at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival.

I will definitely be on the lookout for what she has in store next.

Oh, and did I mention it is extremely cinematic? Just look at the screenshot above.

I tried to be as specific as possible without spoilers and this is the most I can get right now but:

watch this film to the end! It is literally very important. And let me know what you think!

MD

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

| 1982, US, dir. Steven Spielberg |

First, let me apologize for the delay on posting again. I watched many films, I just did not get around to write about them. I will try to knock down one or two a week. Let’s get to it.

E.T. is E.T. I always loved this movie but it had been years I hadn’t watched it. I saw it in my Directing the Composer class with professor Kenny Hall. Kenny just happen to be the Music Editor for the movie and he gave us some insights of his experience working on it and it was amazing, but let’s talk about the film.

A great buddy story between E.T. and Elliott Taylor. E.T. gets left behind by his ship here on earth and finds Elliott, who helps him get back home. Elliott is an outsider who is always misunderstood, but once he finds a companion with the similar problems, his goal becomes to keep him. They share such a bond that it actually is shown physically in the narrative. When E.T. is sick, Elliott is also sick, when E.T. gets drunk so does Elliott. Elliott’s initials are also E.T. Basically, Elliot is E.T.

This is also a story against growing up. The kids hide this creature from the adults, which they know are a threat to E.T.’s well being. The camera is low almost the entire time because it’s seen through the kids perspective and only a few adults are ever shown in the picture.

Something that I also find very interesting is that E.T.’s arrival and discovery never becomes a world-wide story. The media doesn’t get to it, it stays a local event. This enables the story to be concentrated within the confines of the town and focused on the kids’ reaction to it. If the media had gotten involved, it certainly would not have been as effective as it was.

John William’s score is absolutely brilliant. Who can’t tell E.T.’s theme when they hear it somewhere? It just sneaks up on you and gives you such joy as it builds to the climax during the incredible bike sequence.

Definitely watch this and re-watch if you haven’t done in a while. It is absolutely worth it.

Please share your thoughts!

MD

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Big Lebowski

| 1998, US, dir. Joel Coen |

Updated:

The Big Lebowski…I mean what more can I say of a movie in which the conflict is incited by a rug that’s been peed on? I mean, really? It is amazing what the Coen Bros can do with a simple incident like that. Jeffrey “THE DUDE” Lebowski, an unemployed, bowling-loving, lazy bum is mistaken for another Jeffrey Lebowski who just happen to be a millionaire. The “bad guys” are looking for money that the millionaire’s wife owes them. The Dude is a pretty mellow guy (just look at his name) but when they pee on his rug, he decides enough is enough so he tries to collect it from the Big Lebowski.

Jeff Bridges is the key for making this loser: The Dude. His inertia is surprisingly interesting and consistent. His attempt to look pro-active takes the character development to a total different level. His buddy Walter (John Goodman) adds another dimension to the picture, though his excesively dirty-mouth takes me out a bit, but that’s just me. He does add so much to the comedy though, he is the spark that moves The Dude along, albeit often in the wrong direction. When The Dude tells him something happened, he immediately assumes he’s in it too and takes over the plans without telling him. He’s like the guy who was not invited to the party, yet he goes anyway and tries to change everything to his taste.

Oh yeah, and the bowling…lot’s of bowling. Each time the story gets more urgent, instead of getting to work on it, they go bowling. It’s hilarious.

What is even more amusing is the blatant use of they typical story formula: “Dude with a problem.” The Coen Bros take it to a literal level and I just think it’s awesome.

You have to watch this movie!

MD

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

film #1 | Linha de Passe

| 2008, Brazil, dir. Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas |

Linha de Passe is a depiction of a lower class family composed of 4 brothers and a single pregnant mother in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. It tells story of each member as they struggle through their suffocating circumstances in this unforgiving metropolis. What I love about this movie is that although it explores the theme of survival, it doesn’t concentrate on the over portrayed drug-controlled favelas as we’re so used to seeing, instead it shows what real characters go through and how they help each other keep their lives going.

As the title suggests, “Linha de Passe” is a term in football (or soccer for the stubborn ones) that means the line where one player can pass the ball to another with the least probability of interception. That’s what happens in this film. The story is passed character to character and each one has interesting traits. Denis is the older one who works as a motoboy and has a hard time providing for his son. Dinho is the more serious brother who seeks to cover up his shady past through religion. Dario is the football player who dreams of going pro, and Reginaldo is the younger one who is fascinated with driving a bus while constantly searching for his father.

To be honest, I did not like this film in my first viewing but this time I came to appreciate more each of their journeys. Maybe the quantity of characters obstruct a deeper development of each, diluting the narrative down a notch. Whatever it may be, one can still appreciate a pretty realistic picture of what it is to live in a cruel part of this city.

MD

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

¡Olá Mundo!

Hello World!

In short, I’m a Brazilian filmmaker studying at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The past year has been very generous to me. I don’t mean in the monetary sense or social-familial sense (although I had an amazing time with the love of my life and met some amazing people), but I’m mostly talking about experience. I have learned more than I can fully grasp right now, but I can definitely feel some of the results already taking place. I realize that the more I learn, the more I my ignorance surfaces and I get depressed, but I get better and life goes on. With that said, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of my greatest flaws is my writing and this is why you are bored right now as you read my lame late-night whines of something you don’t care about and begin to realize that you don’t even know why you’re still reading it. I guess is time I get to the point.

I was just locked for editor on an awesome thesis film for next semester called: “MICROECONOMICS” and the director (Aneesh Chaganty) inspired me immediately. He challenged himself to watch a movie a day for an year and write about each one in an effort to make him a better filmmaker. I envied him and that same second I decided to take upon a similar challenge:

  1. -I will do at least 3 movies/week
  2. -write about each one
  3. -catch up on the ones that I somehow miss

and it shall be called: The Aesthetics of Hunger. No. The Hunger of Aesthetics.

This is just the start. My goal is to get to 1/day. Wish me luck. My challenge starts today.

MD