Why I love Her – Movie Review

2014 was another year of expected Oscar winners but I was thrilled to see Spike Jonze’s Her  at least get a statue for best original screenplay.

If you didn’t like the film that’s fine but I hope that your opinion is based on more than disapproval over Scarlett Johansson’s role as Samantha. I would love to hear a better argument than the one from audiences that ruin their own viewing experience with Scarlett’s physical appearance… specially since we don’t even see her in the film. Don’t named actors deserve an opportunity to be someone different in every film? The role of Samantha is hard to conceptualize and it was probably also difficult to develop, pitch and a tough casting call. To me this is precisely what makes it so interesting.  We get to see how something goes from being an OS to becoming… God?

The cinematography is stunning. Every frame is captivating, crisp and carefully arranged. It was obvious that everything was thoughtfully orchestrated to achieve cohesiveness between all elements like the art direction, sound design, editing and the costume design. I loved the color scheme, the simple lines, the nostalgia of the retro designs. All of it worked in perfect balance and calling it “hipster” doesn’t take away from its artistry.

I walked out of the theater feeling happy. I don’t remember the last time I experienced this kind of contentment after watching a film. The story is not emotional in the same way as other love stories are, but it is poignant. I was glad that Her was made. Spike dared tell a story that is cutting-edge, fresh, thoughtful, subtle and poetic. At all times, audiences are delighted not only with warmth and style, but with plenty of silence and stillness to take everything in.

Debates about connection and love is ultimately what keeps us going back to the movies. This film gifted audiences with the opportunity to explore a future in which the world could be lonely and cold (this is how my brother and mother interpreted the movie) but perhaps it could be viewed as a world that’s hopeful and optimistic. I connected with the positive side of the argument. I’d like to think that maybe connectedness doesn’t always have to come from human connection. I applaude this story for not judging itself but rather exploring the possibilities of a world that is complex and ultimately ran by an elevated understanding of oneness.

To me, Her decidedly gets 5 out of 5 stars.

A warm review for Blue is the Warmest Color – Movie Review

I watched Blue is the Warmest Color with my brother. Selling him on watching the movie required no convincing: “I found a french film about two lesbians, wanna go?”, “Yep”. And that was that. But not only because of the lesbians, at least 35% of the excitement was due to his love for french cinema, a love that has also rubbed off on me.

Many of us are familiar with the pacing of french films. We know that they are slower than most American movies and we feel a hint of cinema verité that bleeds into many aspects of the production: script, performances, editing, et cetera. Yet another great quality of french films is the unexpected plot twists and unconventional structure of the storyline. A french film can take us on a journey that doesn’t give us clear clues (or any clues at all) for what’s going to happen next. It’s a different viewing experience than watching American movies because most of us who are used to watching mainstream films, like to try and guess what’s going to happen next. Even more, we like to be right about our guesses. Every time we say “I knew that was going to happen!” we feel like experts, like cinema connoisseurs. French cinema on the other hand doesn’t encourage audiences to guess, instead, our guesses are ignored with multi-directional plots and quietly unexpected turns. Blue is the Warmest Color does this well and it keeps us engaged with a well crafted story that is intimate, entertaining and satisfying even thought -like always- some might disagree. Oh well, c’est la vie.

Adèle comes to us as a confused high schooler and she walks away as an adult who knows herself better. Actress Adele Exarchopoulos does an exceptional job at adjusting her screen presence with a refined subtlety that allows her character to develop emotional maturity. Her performance gives us no room to wonder what’s going to happen next, because we are genuinely invested in what’s happening at that very moment. It’s an existentialist approach and I might be reading too much into it, but if anybody knows existentialism, it’s the French. Just sayin’.

Adèle falls in love with Emma as we fall in love with Léa Seydoux‘s immaculate performance. She is smart, smooth, strong and so interesting looking with her cool blue hair. Throughout the film blue is the color of beauty, the color of safety, the color of calmness. Emma’s hair, Adele’s English classroom, the nail polish of her first kiss, all blue. All bliss.

This is a film about relationships. Most obviously, the love relationship between Adèle and Emma but ultimately, Blue is the Warmest Color is a film about Adele’s relationship with herself. Her story resonated with me and it will also resonate with anybody that has fallen in love, anybody that has made a mistake. anybody trying to let go. Go watch it.

I give these three hours of warm blue bliss 5 out of 5 stars.

El Norte – Movie Review… from a U.S. Citizen!

I usually don’t like immigration movies and El Norte is definitely on my top list for one of the most depressing movies ever made. There are many beautifully sad films like Lilja 4-Ever (also an immigration film) La Vita è Bella (loosely related to immigration), Schindler’s List and Dancer In The Dark (the ultimate sad movie). So, I would like to start by saying that if you fancy supremely depressing films because after watching them you are able to appreciate how easy you’ve got it, you need to watch El Norte.

And perhaps you are like me. Maybe you don’t love films that highlight tragedy as a theme, or plot-points that take you from one bad situation to another. If that’s the case, let me surprise you by saying that there is still a chance that you’ll enjoy this film. As a brand new US citizen (muahaha!) I have gone through my fare share of BS in order to be a part of this society. As much as we all enjoy criticizing our own cultures there are some people out there, people like Arturo and Rosa from the film, people like me, that will go great lengths to walk past all those imperfections and take advantage of the opportunities that the north has to offer.

Arturo and Rosa are a brother and sister who run away from the Guatemalan Civil War in the early eighties to come to the US. It feels like the film does a good job at painting an accurate picture of rural Guatemala at this time. The director Gregory Nava does a great job at amplifying the differences between continents. During the second act, he even allows for a sporadic laugh when multi-cultural interactions full of mishaps get ridiculous. Lastly, the third act invites us to engage with some very compelling performances that make this tragic and realistic story resonate with all of us, wether the situation feels close to home or not. El Norte was nominated for an Academy Award in 1984 for Best Original Screenplay and it is also a part of the prestigious Criterion Collection. To me, specially the latter recognition is usually a good enough reason to watch this or any film.

I took my citizenship test a couple of weeks ago, a day that was more than ten years in the making. Ten years that took my time, great commitment, support from my loved ones, money… all of it for that moment. I was in a room waiting to be tested on my worthiness for probably the biggest challenge that I have decided to take onto so far. My interviewee said “you passed, congratulations” and I smiled. I walked out of that government building alone yet feeling empowered because I knew that I didn’t need anybody to congratulate me. I made it. For those of you who know exactly what I mean, watch this film and be thankful.

I give this film four (out of five) stars.