Tag Archives: movie review

It’s NOT Complicated Enough …

Alas, this Tuesday, per the usual, I found myself miserably overwhelmed with the mounting To Do’s and exasperatedly conflicted about how to approach/attack/attack/approach … walk with grace and serenity onto the beautiful and mortifying yellow brick road of my unfolding life.  Fear of the unknown flogged and beat and raped me into a state of paralysis.  Instead of checking off my various To Do’s with vigorous glory as I’d fantasized doing while lying in bed on Monday night  — I spent most of Tuesday hiding under warm covers, venturing in and out of various states of consciousness.  Nightmares about serial killing con artists in the afterlife plagued my sleep; and Dreams about making my art (books & film) the world over and living comfortably off of their profits plagued my wake.

I’ll give you a quick download of the events taking place within the next 4 months: 1) Going to Grad School for my Masters in Film Theory.  Begin Fall 2011.  Woohoo!!!! 2) Must find summer job that pays more than present part-time job because I need to move out of my studio and closer to college. 3) Need to find new cheap studio or bedroom to move into — preferably with own side entrance. 4) Finishing Promotion rounds for my debut book The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive.  This entails contacting last round of potential reviewers, doing research on Universities & their Women’s, GLBTQ, Latino, & Mental Health studies Departments and pitching their professors my book as possible college course reading material.  As well as offering myself up as an expert speaker on the topics my book discusses: Latinos, Queers, & Addiction within both minority communities.

These are all AMAZINGLY splendid opportunities for personal betterment, I understand.  They’re also 150% mortifying since their manifestations seem to rely on one sole person: Muah.  Now I know that’s not true as I’m blessed to have a phenomenal support system of friends & family, therapy, prayer/meditation, etc … But knowing intellectually and feeling experientially the truth and untruth of something are two entirely different realities.  Suffice to say, I’d had ENOUGH of obsessing about how best to control the outcome of my life.  It was time to check into somebody else’s.

ENTER the Alec Baldwin/Meryl Streep Romantic Comedy It’s Complicated.  Because watching happy rich white people effortlessly enjoy fabulously opulent lifestyles is supposed to make me feel better?  So I thought.

According to It’s Complicated Hollywood continues its beige, more so egg-white, denial of  The Great Recession, which we — as a colorful multicultural country — are still experiencing.  And no, adding an affluent overly-tan Jewish family to an all white-cast does not diversify it.  Thanks for reminding us all of that, Meet the Little Fockers.  In case you haven’t noticed, Jews have ceased being a cinematic minority since 1960.

Her Family

Her Kitchen

Her Living Room

Her Friends

You may be asking yourself right now, “Byatch, why in the hell did you choose, out of ALL movies in the world, to check out on this one?”  I’ll tell you … I don’t own any DVDs except for The Kid Stays in the Picture, which I can’t NOT own because it’s my favorite documentary.  I don’t own any dvds because there are TOO many films that I love and if I own 2 of them, I have to own all of them and that would add a lot of clutter to my life.  Therefore, I had literally 1 movie to choose from.  Netflix streaming doesn’t work on my aunt’s Mac iBook G4, which I’m borrowing at the moment, due to the fact that it’s 1) Ancient and 2) Doesn’t have Intel Pentium blah blah.  I had -$29.35 in my bank account and didn’t get next paycheck until Wednesday so I couldn’t afford to rent a movie.  Thus, I only had my cousin’s collection of dvds to choose from.  Mind you, he’s a 28-year old guy with a girlfriend so it was either 300, The Godfather, or It’s Complicated.  300 is a racist piece of Western-loving Eastern-hating trash, which was not going to make me feel ANY lighter.  I’ve seen The Godfather about 30 times and as much as I love it, it was not going to take me from a dark place into a shinier one.  So I thought, maybe It’s Complicated will cheer me up a bit.  Also, Meryl Streep was in it and I could watch her act in anything.  She’s a bloody genius and a goddess.

As expected, Streep delivered.  She was endearing, lovable, and charming.  The rest of the film, however, was immensely depressing.  It wasn’t necessarily a bad movie. It appropriated all the classic cinematic conventions as it should have.  The movie was, you know, okay.  There was nothing imperfect about it.

In fact, it felt like watching a vacuum cleaner do its job right.  You’re like, “Yeah, my carpet’s clean.  That’s nice.”  Then you sit back down on your couch and realize you just watched a vacuum cleaner for 2 hours.  Depressing.

Let me elaborate:  The story was about a privileged anglo family who went through a mildly quirky set of circumstances (within cush surroundings), which ultimately brought them just a little closer together in the end.  Awwww, who cares.

It felt like I was watching holograms interact.  Where’s the humanity, the frailty, the vulnerability, the struggle, the triumph?  Where was its resemblance to reality?  It seems to me that the studio system has murdered every last introspective, reflective, existentialist romantic comedy writer in Hollywood.

Why couldn’t It’s Complicated have been Annie Hall?  Better yet, Annie Hall with some Cubans and Vietnamese 😉

Suffice to say, Tuesday was crap all the way through.  The Upside: Wednesday rocked.


This Movie ROCKED my socks off: “Schooling The World”!!!

Yesterday night I went to the opening night film of the Awareness Film Festival, which is taking place through May 8th.  I saw the documentary called Schooling The World: The White Man’s Last Burden.

I absolutely EFFING LOOOOOOVVVVED IT & found it truly AMAZEDAWGS!!!

The Film’s Summary (according to their website):

If you wanted to change/destroy an ancient culture in a generation, where would you start?

With the children.

How would you do it?

You would change the way it educates its children.

The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a ‘better’ life for indigenous children.

But is this true? What really happens when we replace a traditional culture’s way of learning and understanding the world with our own? SCHOOLING THE WORLD takes a challenging, sometimes funny, ultimately deeply disturbing look at the effects of modern education on the world’s last sustainable indigenous cultures.

Beautifully shot on location in the Buddhist culture of Ladakh in the northern Indian Himalayas, the film weaves the voices of Ladakhi people through a conversation between four carefully chosen original thinkers; anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; Helena Norberg-Hodge and Vandana Shiva, both recipients of the Right Livelihood Award for their work with traditional peoples in India; and Manish Jain, a former architect of education programs with UNESCO, USAID, and the World Bank.

The film examines the hidden assumption of cultural superiority behind education aid projects, which overtly aim to help children “escape” to a “better life.” – despite mounting evidence of the environmental, social, and mental health costs of our own modern consumer lifestyles, from epidemic rates of childhood depression and substance abuse to pollution and climate change.

It looks at the failure of institutional education to deliver on its promise of a way out of poverty – here in the United States as well as in the so-called “developing” world.

And it questions our very definitions of wealth and poverty – and of knowledge and ignorance – as it uncovers the role of schools in the destruction of traditional sustainable agricultural and ecological knowledge, in the breakup of extended families and communities, and in the devaluation of elders and ancient spiritual traditions.

Finally, “Schooling the World” calls for a “deeper dialogue” between cultures, suggesting that we have at least as much to learn as we have to teach, and that these ancient sustainable societies may harbor knowledge which is vital for our own survival in the coming millennia.

I highly recommend watching this brazen, brilliant, and mind-broadening flick!  It’ll prove a priceless addition to your thought collection.

Please check out Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden Main Website, “like” their Facebook Fan Page, and keep up to date with it on Twitter.

Enjoy!!!!

Big Hug ~ 🙂 V


Mildred & Veda Pierce: 2 Homegurlz from glENdAlE

SO, I finally got to see the much awaited, much anticipated, much salivated over > Mildred Pierce … The Christine Vachon/Todd Haynes/HBO re-make with Kate Winslet & Evan Rachel Wood in the starring roles …

One of my besties Kuntz a.k.a Brit Lauren Manor TIVO’d it so that we wouldn’t have to bare the anguish of waiting a week in between unfolding mini-series parts.  We watched it straight from 8:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m. with a couple of bathroom breaks in between.  I got a $70 parking ticket.  It was intense.

Unlike Brit — who was underwhelmed, I absolutely loved it.  Flaws, disappointments, and all.

Let me explain.  I am a Cuban-American lesbian yet again watching another film about anglo-heterosexuals writhing with self-loathing, elitism, and Ayn Rand drive during the economic & emotional depression of 1930’s America.  I saw, as expected, a couple of background extras that were black & asian.  Only one spoke: The African-American servant with an exaggerated yet appropriate British-ized American accent — nose in air as he bows to his master-like employer.

When watching Mildred Pierce, I expected to be re-acquainted with a culture I grew up with, but have rarely interacted with on a personal level — Really Rich White People.  Strangely yet not, I’ve come to feel a familiarity with their stories. Although Jay Gatsby & Daisy Buchanan know nothing of and probably rarely thought of the minority subcultures I belong to, I have come to understand the inner monologues of their omnipresent yet exclusive lives extremely well.

The American films and books I was raised on familiarized me, connected me to the subtle yet ravaging violence of anglo-european descendent angst.  Through them, I’ve learned that the privileged suffer too, and quite differently.

Keeping this in the forefront of my mind, I’ve been able to watch, reflect upon, and even love HBO’s Mildred Pierce for exactly what it was.  The characters & their world — which is NOTHING like mine or that of most people I know — are valid in their own right.

Oh, Mildred!  The movie has been looping in my head since last night.

Therefore, let us begin dissection …

WARNING*: The following will contain spoilers!  I will not discuss every element of the film as I only want to satiate my pressing craving to gorge upon the ripe & juicy portions.

CHARACTERS & THEIR EMBODIERS:

VEDA: (Young Veda as played by the actress Morgan Turner)

I always struggle between the imperious urge to unabashedly express my honest thoughts & sentiments on a piece of art — whether it be performance, written, or visual — without judging it like a critic.  Don’t get me wrong, I think critics are necessary because they exhibit a public shamelessness society needs to remember that it’s okay to voice their own brazen truths.  Critics say EXACTLY what they feel and think about a piece of work usually without regard for whether their opinion will positively or negatively affect the artist(s) that put their heart into creating it.  As a fellow artist, however, it’s quite excruciating to decimate, pick at the bones, of a work you really didn’t jive with.  I’m ravaged by guilt and flooded with compassion because after all, as my mom says, “they did their best.”  Consequently, I’ll have to preface my following review of Ms. Turner’s work, and any “judgment” I express about another artist’s creation (esp. when it’s negative) — by saying it’s MY personal opinion on the matter.  I am under no delusion that my take on film, writing, art is The Objective Truth.  It’s just my subjective perspective …

Turner’s performance as the snobbish and disturbed Veda proved anguishing.  She butchered the complexity of an otherwise fascinating character with an over-the-top one-dimensional personification.  Ice skating on the surface of her character, Turner pretended to be Veda in the way a child pretends to be an Indian when playing “Cowboys & Indians” in the elementary school yard during lunch.  Turner’s performance lacked the maturity, depth, and sophistication crucial to Veda’s spirit.   I imagine that innate to Veda is a demanding old soul who grows more dissatisfied and embittered with time.  Her ageless personality doesn’t flourish because it’s set in stone from a very early age.  Unlike her little sister Ray who innocently discovers herself along the way.  I imagine Mildred & Veda’s characters / relationship much like that of the mother & daughter in The Bad Seed.  Rhoda Penmark (the daughter), effortlessly brought to life by Patty McCormick, was similar to Veda in a lot of rudimentary ways.  Patty McCormick would have been a much better choice for young Veda than Morgan Turner.  Maybe she just needed to rehearse more?  I’m not sure what the remedy would have been for such a sickly performance. I felt bad for Kate Winslet who had to pick up the slack and carry the truth of each interaction in every scene they shared.  I did not believe this girl was Veda or even Mildred’s daughter, which truly annoyed & bothered me because I wanted to SO bad.

On that note, let us turn to the actress that breathed ferocious life into a flat-lining character …

VEDA: (Older Veda as played by the actress Evan Rachel Wood)

Wood’s performance as Veda was truly transformative.  The film up to that point had been mainly about Mildred Pierce “trying to make it.”  Their relationship seemed secondary and almost inconsequential until Evan Rachel Wood showed up.  She was fierce, fabulous, and, finally, BELIEVABLE.  She was so believable, in fact, that I grew feelings of sympathy and sadness towards Veda.  Wood embodied Veda in physical mannerisms, voice intonation, eye communication: She did IT ALL.  She skillfully communicated the complex torture an insecure, starving, yet powerful spirit undergoes when it’s rotting to death and struggling to fight it off a pitchfork.  She had insuppressible chemistry with Winslet.  Mildred & Veda were finally Daughter Adored & Mother Loathed.

I finally understood Veda’s revulsion with Mildred and Mildred’s obsession with Veda.  I think of Mildred as Dorian Grey and Veda as the painting he hides in the closet which accrues all the ugliness he harbors inside.  On the outside, Mildred seems hardworking, loving, and fair, but internally, she’s tortured by an unbearable shame she feels toward her “humble” identity and station in life.

Veda, an extension of herself, takes on all her self-loathing and her relentless drive to rise above that abhorrent feeling of worthlessness — At Whatever Cost.  She’ll do anything not to be classified as “a peasant — a very ill bred person” — not to turn into her mother.

I could go on, and on, and on.  What I’m trying to say is that Evan Rachel Wood as the terrifying, heartbreaking, and unreachable
Veda was truly spectacular.

MONTY BERAGON & BERT PIERCE: 

Guy Pearce as selfish, charming, & degenerate loafer/lover/pedophile Monty Beragon was fantastic!!!

Bryan F. O’Byrne as the emotionally intelligent, intellectually simple, and kind-hearted dad/ex-husband Bert Pierce was the most realistic of all.  I absolutely ADORED watching him.  Enthralled in his silences, his sighs, his breakdowns … when he performed, I felt as though I were watching a scene in a documentary.  A multi-dimensional character & actor > I was blown away by his ability to translate the curious brilliance of “regular men.”  Mildred & Bert’s relationship was my most favorite > from unhappy couple, to cordial enemies, to respectful acquaintances, to unconditional best friends and life partners.  I rarely see films that depict heterosexual relationships — especially between men & women from this generation — with such tenderness and frankness.  Yay for Mildred & Bert!

MILDRED PIERCE:

And last, but definitely not least, Mildred Pierce.  I passionately love this character: Human in all her glories and all her flaws.  The mother who really truly did the best she could to give her children a better life and try to save them from want or suffering.  She literally spoiled Veda rotten.  Oh, Mildred!  We love your heartfelt good intentions even though they often come from a place of self-loathing, fear, voracious need to love and be loved … and ultimately trap you in relationships/predicaments that bleed your self-esteem dry.

Kate Winslet as Mildred Pierce was mostly — dynamic and lovable.  In the first parts (before Wood arrived as Older Veda), I felt Winslet wavered in her emotional dedication and investment to many scenes. She felt a bit repetitive at times.  I think that was mostly true when she had to interact with young Veda (Turner).  Winslet vibrantly came alive, however, on multifarious levels and left me captivated with jaw dropped, in scenes she shared with Bert Pierce, Monty Beragon, and Older Veda (Wood).  Kate Winslet ultimately pulled it off, per the usual.  A talented character actress, I could watch her in anything.

DIRECTING/CINEMATOGRAPHY/EDITING & COSTUME/MAKEUP/SET DESIGN:

Awesome!!!!  Perfectly appropriate to time, place, and culture.  I’d elaborate, but I’m exhausted and want to wrap up this post.

Moral of Story:

1. Mildred Pierce started the Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles chain.

2. Don’t spoil your kids or they’ll turn into Diva Monsters who hanker for fame and money like rats with rabies hunt for cheese.  Oh yeah, they’ll also steal your useless alcoholic man and hate your guts forever.

3. According to Veda, Glendale is the Compton of the 1930’s and one should be ashamed of such humble beginnings?

4. Rich white people in Pasadena suck.

5.  Love yourself and be proud of exactly who you are or you’ll be heartbroken your whole life.

6.  Don’t have kids.  They’re a total waste of time.