Thursday, November 1, 2007

Flikas y Los Fieles Difuntos

Finally saw the new Benicio del Toro and Halle Berry flick, Things We Lost in the Fire and was reminded why I hold the former in such high esteem. His talent and emotional range are such that I could watch him smoke a cigarette for ten minutes, an eternity in film. Here he plays a recovering heroine addict at odds and occasionally in cooperation with Berry. Painful and ultimately redemptive, the film struggles with Berry's two note breadth. She goes from maniacally desperate freaking out to cold and aloof with no sense of the humor a simple smile or nod of the head can imbue a gesture or a look. She delivers it but it falls flat more often than not. Meanwhile Benicio squints, rolls his eyes, bares his teeth and can make it all part of a real sense for the silly and the comedic truths in an everyday conversation about riding the white horse. One-and-a-half thumbs up. Look forward to Benicio's dyptich on the life of Che Guevara, The Argentine and Guerrilla.

I also saw the Hillary Swank led Freedom Writers about a high school teacher in Long Beach who walks naively into an urban campus where war on the streets spills into the classroom. Based on a true story, the tale is a modern take on Stand and Deliver, also based on a true story, where the good hearted maestra bonds with her kids and gets them all the way to graduation and makes published writers out of them all. What gets me, however is the incessant need to cast Puerto Ricans with obvious New York caribeño-urban enunciation. How am I supposed to believe the little Chicana chola gangster girl when she sounds like a J-Lo knock-off. Worse yet, all the cholos in the film speak exclusively in perfect Spanish (subtitled). Chicano gangmembers stopped speaking formal spanish 50 years ago. The filmmakers should have hired Manny and the boys at Suspect. It almost reeks of something more sinister... a subtle attempt to criminilize immigrants. What up, foos?

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