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Friday, November 28, 2008

MMM (mini movie marathon)...

I went on one of my MMM's the other day--I'll talk about them in relevance to the subject matter of this blog.

The first one I'll keep short and sweet; "Volver" starring Penelope Cruz. It garnered a great amount of hype, most of it revolving around Penelope's performance. I wasn't buying into it, but if the movie is right there on your TV for free, and there's nothing else on, why not?

I must say, I was deeply impressed. Pedro Almodovar has to be one of the greatest storytellers in our history, and I always become completely immersed in all of his films--so far as to say I usually forget I'm watching one until it's over--it has me that involved. Cruz does seem to be a genuine actress despite my misgivings...it is a story of deep family secrets, what loneliness and betrayal can manifest, and how family ties, no matter how eroded, can be healed with kind words, understanding, and genuine love. Despite the description, it was by no means a "chick flick" (which I loathe). I highly recommend it.


Next up is another film I should have seen way before now--the South African movie"Tsotsi". Tsotsi is an African term for thug, or gangster, and is the name of the anti-hero in this film. In a nutshell, Tsotsi car jacks a wealthy woman, and when she protests, he shoots her in the stomach. As he drives away, he discovers that her infant son is in the back in a car seat. For reasons unknown even to him at the time, he takes the baby boy home with him.

This is not a perfect film, but it is an arresting one. Through the baby, Tsotsi finds his way from a hardcore, unapologetic criminal life to one of redemption, compassion, conscience, and consequence. I would have liked more backstory, and a bit more of what lead him to redemption, but considering the choices in films we have these days, I'll take what I can get. The performances are natural, understated, and completely affecting---the actors don't seem like actors at all, but regular folks plucked to be in this film. Think "City Of God"....if you enjoyed that one, you'll definitely get what Tsotsi is aiming for. I recommend this one as well.


We'll save the most questionable for last, which is "Divine Intervention". I confess, I sometimes have this morbid curiosity to view some DVD's that look like complete and total garbage. I think it's the same gene that makes me look at stuff like "New York Goes To Hollywood" on VH1, and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta".

Anyhoo, Wesley Jonathan is a very young guy who takes the place of the very older guy as pastor of a church. Shenanigans ensue. Honestly, there is not much to say beyond that, except for the women in the congregation's relationships with God seemed to be in direct linear context with how low their cleavages go. I didn't know if it was a church or Magic City (if you don't know what Magic City is, ask your nearest Southern friend or relative).

Oh yeah, Jazmine Lewis' acting skills seem to consist of how many ways she can style her hair in one week, and it is beyond sad to see the once promising Cynda Williams reduced to being Luenell's sidekick as a weedsmokin' heathen of the church (screen time about 8 minutes). Wesley Jonathan has a way of delivering his lines like he's talking to someone in real life, and trust me, in this context, it is not a good thing. This one is not even worthy of purchase from the bootleg blanket. Lord let us pray....

14 comments:

SolShine7 said...

I have yet to see any of those films and the only one I really want to see is Tsotsi. I'm not much of a Almodovar/Cruz fan but I might give the Volver a try. And as far as Divine Intervention goes I thought about renting it but it would show great wisdom to pass.

Sergio said...

I've seen practically all of Almodovar's films and I have to say that I wasn't bowled over by Volver. It came off to me like like one of those telenovellas on Telemundo. I felt it was one of his weakest films. I think Talk to Her and Live Flesh are without question his two best films. Please check them out. He has a new film with Cruz, Broken Hugs, coming out next year. It's going to be a thriller, I guess more in the vein of Live Flesh, but that's all I know about it so far. Can't wait to see it. And you're right. he is a master storyteller

Tsotsi is GREAT! I like it a whole lot better then you. I highly recomnend it to everyone. Interesting thing though, the director of Tsotsi, Gavin Hood, is right in post production for his new film Wolverine with Hugh Jackman the the big $120 million 2009 summer movie spin off from the X Men movies. Now of course it was the studio who offered him the gig and naturally he took it. But I keep waiting for a black director to make one of these big tentpole summer blockbusters. Is it because they're not being offered the opportunity or because they're too intimidated to take shot (which is another way saying they think they're not good enough which is something I suspect anyway)? And here's a question which black director you think would most likely direct one? My choice would be Clark Johnson, the actor who also directed S.W.A.T., The Sentinel and the final episode of The Shield. I think he definitely has that mainstream Hollywood blockbuster mentality.

And speaking of Cynda Williams, in case you're wondering what happened to her, she now lives here in Chicago which is where she's from originally. I've run into her a few times at some functions. I never really understood why her career never really tok off.

Then again she was married to Billy Bob Thornton for a minute...

Harlepolis said...

Pedro Almodovar is a cinematic institution.

He carried the torch from George Cukor IMHO, giving the consideration that he carried the torch of the "woman's director" tradition that Cukor was famous for.

I LOVE that movie, and Ms.Cruz gave one helluva per4mance(give me Penelope over her bland lifeless ass Salma Hayek - the comparision is dumb as hell to begin with).

But the woman who REALLY shined in Pedro's movies is Carmen Maura(the lady who played Penelope's mother), she suffering a dry spell untill his movies gave her career the revival of a lifetime. She nailed EVERY single role of all of his movies.

Check this boxet, everybody, I can't stress having this enough in your households(I sound like an Amazon reviewer lol):

http://www.amazon.com/Viva-Pedro-Almodovar-Collection-Education/dp/B000EAT24G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1227910969&sr=1-1

Trust me, you won't ever regret it.

As for 'Divine Intervention", it was a cute "gospel flick"(one of the better, at least). I really enjoyed it when I thought I wouldn't.

Hey, I'll support Jazmine Lewis no matter what coz I love the dame(I loooooove love love 'Traci Townsend', it was def a refreshing effort considering the dump that Black cenima are sinking in nowadays).

Harlepolis said...

4give the grammer calamities ya'll,,,,,,it was a LONG ass day *smh* lol

Sorry...

nikki said...

i watched tsotsi last year...moved me beyond tears. it was such a precarious film...i mean, every decision had ramifications, no matter how seemingly insignificant. i love any movie where the lead character changes, even if it's for the worse. the process is fascinating.

i too wished for more back story, first on what led him to a life of crime and more of an indepth look into why he decided to change. however, perhaps it would have been too heavy-handed had they done more. in the end, one doesn't have to really know why, so long as the journey is appreciated.

i appreciated that journey from careless criminal to one who recognized the ramifications of his actions. it was like watching the numbness wear off.

clnmike said...

I'll have to check out Volver.

charcoalink said...

Harlepolis, the George Cukor comparison you made is very interesting.

LMAO @ IW saying: "Oh yeah, Jazmine Lewis' acting skills seem to consist of how many ways she can style her hair in one week,"

Now that is JOKES. I must agree.

I cannot even pretend. Penelope looks good there!

--aulelia

Krysl73 said...

I'm a huge Almodovar fan, so I was glad to see him on you MMM... the women in his films are always strong and beautiful in their own way. I thought Volver was "pretty good". Check out Bad Education or Talk to Her.

I caught Tsosi on cable last year. I enjoyed it although at times it was hard to 'support' the guy after taking the baby and the way he forced the girl to take care of him. I guess it was just more real than I was ready to deal w/at the time.

Love you blog. Keep doin' what you're doin'.

The Obenson Report said...

I don't feel strongly one way or another for Almodovar's works. I've seen almost every film, except All About My Mother. But they usually don't stay with me for very long after seeing them. But I respect his efforts. He certainly is one of the more original and interesting auteurs working today, with an obvious stamp on all of his films.

I didn't care for Tsotsi. It reminded of films like Crash, because of just how manipulative, forced and sentimental it was. This was just a South African version of your choice of any American "gangster fairy tale." The only really redeeming thing about it is the cinematography, IMHO.

As for the last film, I wouldn't even bother saying its name :o) More power to you for having seen it.

sdg1844 said...

Love Almodovar. Penelope did a good job. Perhaps her best work is in her home country and language. I haven't seen the others yet and I've heard alot about Tsotsi.

DB said...

I've heard of Tsotsi from a couple people. I do want to check that out. But the other...Divine Intervention...when I saw Uncle Phil on the box i'm thinking nah.

Invisible Woman said...

@solshine: i think you'll really like volver--it shows strong women and family in a really positive light. considering the subject matter, you may like divine intervention too.

@sergio: even almodovar's weakest is way better than most's strongest, imho. i really enjoyed it, maybe more so cause some of the subject matter hit me on a personal level, i dunno.

either way, every film i see of his i think is a peice of art, no question.

i'd like to see other work of the tsotsi director. if cynda wants to keep working, she may consider relocating...i'm just sayin. maybe she's happy with whatever she's doing now in chicago...i hope so.

@harleopolis: thanks for your great comment. when i thought about it, your comparison to cukor was thought provoking--it is very clear that both directors adore(d) very strong women. Thanks for the info on the box set--it is already purchased from me as far as i'm concerned :-)

lol at your comment on jazmine and the grammer...

@nikki: your comment is spot on. for all it little flaws, it is a very moving film...i love the ambiguous ending...

@clnmike: do yourself a favor and check out all of almodovar's films when you can...

Invisible Woman said...

@charcoalink: penelope was really pretty and sensual in that movie--i read somewhere that pedro modeled her on sophia loren for the role--he even had her wear a fake booty for the part to make her more curvy like sophia! lol

@Krysl73: thanks for your compliment...welcome :-)

I've seen Bad Education--in some parts it's hard to watch, but i thought it was beyond brilliant. i have yet to check out the other one, maybe i will today.

i know what you mean about tsotsi, but i think that's what part of the film is about, what desperation can manifest....

@obenson: kinda surprised to hear about how you feel about almodovar, but when i think about it, i don't think about them long term either. but i think he is absolutely amazing in his creativity, both as a writer and a director.

i've read some of the reviews of tsotsi, and about a third of them felt exactly the same way you did.

@sdg1844: i'd like to hear what you think after you view tsotsi...
i agree, penelope seemed very at ease and natural in her native setting. it did her good.

@db: hey bro! yeah, poor uncle phil...his role was pretty....let's just say it's uncomfortable to see him in that movie.

madame z said...

Almodovar, I've added him to the directors I like and mean to check out. Volver I loved and thought P.C. was awesome.