Tuesday, January 16, 2007

To our Mexican brothers in Filmmaking:

As celebrated as the film of the year so far on this blog on November 11th, 2006, spanning 3 continents and 5 languages with a crew of 1,200:


As Alejandro said in his acceptance speech "...emotion needs no translation."

Directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; written by Mexican screenwriter, novelist and professor Guillermo Arriaga; Cinematography by Mexican DP Rodrigo Prieto; Edited by Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione; Original Music by Gustavo Santaolalla.

What I think is of note is this quiet movement that is going on. It seems to me the drama coming out of Mexico right now is among the very best and consistent in the world.

Look at the great films of THIS year alone:

"Babel" - Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
"Children of Men" - Alfonso Cuaron
"Pan's Labyrinth" - Guillermo del Toro
and worth noting
"Volver" by legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodovar.

Recall some of the past work of these Mexican directors:

Inarritu: "Amores perros"; BMW films: "Powder Keg"; "21 Grams"
Cuaron: "Great Expectations"; "Y tu mama tambien"; "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"
del Toro: "Cronos"; "Mimic"; "The Devil's Backbone"; "Blade II"; "Hellboy"

From a country whose peoples cross the border at great personal sacrifice and loss of life for unforeseen perils and the promise of opportunity. Do these directors embody the spirit of their people, that we as a nation possessed ourselves a mere 100 years ago, that created a foundation of legendary achievement, a time when we were creating ourselves out of great turmoil and pain?

It has been said that "300 hundred years of peace in Switzerland produced the cuckoo clock, and the 30 year war produced the Renaissance". In that regard expect more product in the vein of "Night at the Museum." I am not putting that film down. It's been #1 at the box office for 5 weeks in a row and obviously what the public is demanding in this country. Something safe enough to bring our sheltered children to, to watch alongside our friends and family members, that whispers the promise that it will not offend, disturb or rattle our delicate sensitivities. Who wants that when everything is so PERFECT in the world?

Here's what some of our foreign counterparts produced this year:

"The Queen"; "Venus"; "Joyeux Noel"; "Tsotsi"; "Volver"; "Curse of the Golden Flower"; and the above mentioned Mexican films.

Sure we've had some good films this year from the venerable Clint Eastwood (2), Mel Gibson (ahem), Robert de Niro, Scorcese, Edward Zwick, and Marc Foster, to name a few. But we all know, people vote with their wallets, so let's see what the highest grossing films are for 2006.

No surprises hear:

1) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead man's Chest
2) Cars
3) X-Men: The Last Stand
4) The Da Vinci Code
5) Superman Returns

So far in the top 5 we have 2 movies based on comic books, a movie based on a RIDE at Disneyland, a film about talking cars and a best selling novel pretending to be about the true nature of Mary Magdeline and the cover up surrounding it.

Escapism, fantasy, make believe? No political statements here. The only statement that can be gleamed from this is "we're very happy to have our heads buried in the sand. Please continue to destroy our planet while we turn to look the other way". That may be just my interpretation, though. Don't mind me.

Let's continue:

6) Ice Age: The Meltdown
7) Night at the Museum
8) Happy Feet
9) Casino Royale
10) Over the Hedge

Much more optimistic here, right? Now were into films aimed entirely at preschoolers and toddlers (minus the Bond film, which I admittedly enjoyed).

Care to see the next 5?

11) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
12) The Pursuit of Happyness
13) Click
14) Mission Impossible III
15) Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

I'm pleased with number 12, "The Pursuit of Happyness". A nice holiday film about a poor slob who picks himself up in order to provide a better life for his family. A film about the American Dream directed by a true American: Italian director Gabriele Muccino, who until this film has only directed films in his native country.

I guess my message is painfully obvious. I'm of the minority of idealistic naivetes who look at film as art, not commerce, and not always mere entertainment.

Why should I think a film can change people's attitudes? How can I believe a simple film can change the course of world events? Dream on. That is unless you include the vilified film,"Triumph of the Will". Commissioned to depict honor, peace, spirituality, unification, rebirth, purpose, belief and cooperation. A film that unified a disparate nation of people spread across the globe, that brought the nazi regime to power and- well you know the rest. Its producer, by the way, was a first timer who misunderstood the power of film and the power of the artist as someone who COULD influence and shape opinions, Adolph something-or-other.

With great TALENT comes great responsibility.

What is the public telling us? Why are these films being celebrated with the only award that really matters, success?

(Follow the money trail).

WHO CONTROLS THE MEDIA? Why are almost ALL NEWS and COMMUNICATION outlets UNIFIED under one banner? These are questions for artists. This is what we are charged with.

Let's celebrate our Mexican brothers tonight for reminding us about the power of cinema, of great drama and, as Inarritu stated in his acceptance speech, "...emotion needs no translation."

"Babel", Best Motion Picture as nominated by the foreign press. Well done.

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