Classic Movie Review: The Barefoot Contessa (1954)


Title: The Barefoot Contessa
Release Date: September 29, 1954
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Production Company: Figaro
Summary/Review:

The Barefoot Contessa is part of the trend of “show business is sleazy” satirical dramas following on the heels of Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve (the latter written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz who wrote and directed this film).  Writer/director Harry Dawes (Humphrey Bogart) is part of a Hollywood team traveling Europe looking for a “new face” when they discover flamenco dancer Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner, born in North Carolina and not the slightest bit Spanish) in Madrid.  Maria becomes a superstar after making three films with Harry, before marrying Count Vincenzo Torlato-Favrini (Rosanno Brazzi).  But since the movie begins at Maria’s funeral, and the film is told in flashback, we know that things are not going to end well.

Despite the title, the movie is not really about Maria.  She is more of an object for men to desire and for more conscientious men like Harry to philosophize about.  To be fair to the film, it makes no pretence at being a movie about Maria and spends a lot of time in voiceover monologues by Harry, Count Vincenzo, and even the sleazy publicist Oscar Muldoon (Edmond O’Brien) who works for a couple of millionaires who are pursuing Maria romantically. But it strikes me that the movie would be much better if it was from Maria’s perspective. The dialogue in the film strives towards witty repartee, but misses the mark so that it just embarrassing.  The film starts very well, and the friendship between Harry and Maria is very strong, but ultimately The Barefoot Contessa is a disappointment.

Rating: **

Podcasts of the Week Ending June 19


Twenty Thousand HertzFoley Artists

Behind the scenes with the talented people who provide the everyday sounds for a movie.

WBUR Consider ThisConsider This: Why Some Black And Hispanic Parents Want To Keep Remote Learning

Amid the urgency to get children back to in-school learning and panic about “learning loss,” parents in some communities are finding advantages to remote learning.


Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Movie Review: Miss Juneteenth (2020)


Title: Miss Juneteenth
Release Date: June 19, 2020
Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples
Production Company: Sailor Bear | Ley Line Entertainment
Summary/Review:

By a wonderful coincidence, Miss Juneteenth came up on my watchlist just in time for me to post my review on Juneteenth.  The movie concerns Turquoise Jone (Nicole Beharie, previously in 42), a woman who won the Miss Juneteenth scholarship pageant in Fort Worth, Texas when she was 15, but now struggling to make ends meet as single mom and a waitress at a bar.  She registers her own daughter Kay (Alexis Chikaeze) for the Miss Juneteenth pageant, even though Kai is not enthusiastic and would rather join the dance team.  Turquoise maintains a tenuous relationship with Kai’s father Ronnie (Kendrick Sampson), although he’s irresponsible about supporting his daughter.

The plot is predictable in that it’s a story of a parent trying to live out their own dreams through their child.  But it’s a predictable story because it’s so true to life, and the film is filled with both heartache and sweetness.  Beharie is terrific in the lead role, and Chikaeze is promising young actor who I think can have a great career in film if she wants it.

Rating: ***

Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 280-271


Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:

500-491 400-381 300-291
490-481 390-381 290-281
480-471 380-371
470-461 370-361
460-451 360-351
450-441 350-341
440-431 340-331
430-421 330-321
420-411 320-311
410-401 310-301

Artist: 50 Cent
Album: Get Rich or Die Tryin’
Year: 2002
Label: Interscope
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “What Up Gangsta”
  • “Back Down”
  • “Lifes on the Line”

Thoughts: I’m dimly aware of 50 Cent due to jokes people make about his name and his notorious first pitch at a Mets game.  50 Cent reminds me a bit of Eminem (who appears on the album) but less horribly offensive.  The beats are good but the typical posturing and recitation of violence is tiring.


Artist: Nirvana
AlbumMTV Unplugged in New York
Year: 1994
Label: Geffen
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “About a Girl”
  • “The Man Who Sold The World”
  • “Something In The Way”
  • “All Apologies”
  • “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”

Thoughts: If you weren’t around in the early 90s, you probably aren’t aware how big the MTV Unplugged phenomenon was at the time.  I guess after all the over-produced music of the 1980s, people were eager to hear their favorite artists perform acoustic music.  Most of the concerts weren’t really all that great but a number of them were released as albums.  Nirvana shook things up from the generic formula of Unplugged concerts by playing several covers of artists ranging from Leadbelly to David Bowie and inviting members of the Meat Puppets to join them to play three of their own songs.  It still holds up more than a quarter-century later.


Artist: Led Zeppelin
AlbumHouses of the Holy
Year: 1973
Label: Atlantic
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Over the Hills and Far Away”
  • “D’yer Mak’er”
  • “The Ocean”

Thoughts: Back in my Classic Rock days I went back and forth over whether Houses of the Holy or Physical Graffiti was my favorite Led Zeppelin album.  This album has some epic tracks like “Over the Hills and Far Away” and “The Ocean,” and the silly of fun of “D’yer Mak’er” but maybe doesn’t hold together as well as an album as my teenage self thought.  We’ll see when we get to Physical Graffiti if that album has stood the test of time better.


Artist: Alicia Keys
AlbumThe Diary of Alicia Keys
Year: 2003
Label: J Records
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Karma”

Thoughts: Alicia Keys is a name I recognize, but the only song of hers I could name is “Empire State of Mind” (and I had to look it up to verify it was her song). This smooth album shows that Keys is an artist of considerable skill but this is a musical style that doesn’t resonate much with me.


Artist: Radiohead
Album: The Bends
Year: 1995
Label: Capitol
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Planet Telex”
  • “Fake Plastic Trees”
  • “Sulk”

Thoughts: Radiohead’s second album showed that they were more than just the band that had a hit with “Creep” and was the first of a string of terrific albums they’d release in a 12-year period.  We’ll see three more of those albums further down the list.  I don’t think Radiohead really achieved their unique sound and experimental nature until their next album.  Nevertheless, The Bends is a pretty terrific 90s rock album.


Artist: Curtis Mayfield
Album: Curtis!
Year: 1970
Label: Curtom
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue”
  • “Move On Up”

Thoughts: Curtis Mayfield’s solo debut is a masterful blend of soul, psychedelia, and funk with some jazz and Afrobeat influences.  The lyrics are politically-charged and are still relevant 51 years later.


Artist: The Byrds
AlbumSweetheart of the Rodeo
Year: 1968
Label: Columbia
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”
  • “I Am a Pilgrim”
  • “You’re Still on My Mind”
  • “Hickory Wind”
  • “One Hundred Years from Now”

Thoughts: Sweetheart of the Rodeo is a stark change in style from the folk-rock music The Byrds made earlier in their career (and the type of Byrds’ music that still gets played on Classic Rock radio and in the soundtracks of movies set in the 60s).  The music has an old-time country feel that is different than the breezy country rock that became a plague upon the music of the 1970s.  This is the only album by The Byrds featuring Gram Parsons whose vision of Nashville country fusion informed the direction of this album before he moved on to an even better country rock album with The Flying Burrito Brothers.


Artist: Gang of Four
AlbumEntertainment
Year: 1979
Label: Warner Bros.
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Ether”
  • “Damaged Goods”
  • “At Home He’s A Tourist”

Thoughts: As someone with a penchant for punk rock and leftist politics, I should have come to Gang of Four much earlier. But  they are just one of the many bands I didn’t get around to much to my detriment.  Better late than never, I guess.


Artist: The Velvet Underground
AlbumWhite Light/White Heat
Year: 1968
Label: Verve
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “White Light/White Heat”
  • “I Heard Her Call My Name”
  • “Sister Ray”

Thoughts: I have to confess I’ve never listened to a Velvet Underground studio album just compilations.  This album has a roughness of sound with lots of distortion, and especially on the 17-minute final track, “Sister Ray,” lots of improvisation.  There’s also oddness such as a short story read in one channel with an instrumental on the other channel on “The Gift.”  Not bad for an album with only 6 tracks.


Artist: Mary J. Blige
AlbumWhat’s the 411?
Year: 1992
Label: Uptown/MCA
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Real Love”

Thoughts: Blige’s hip-hop/soul debut sounds very early 90s.  Not that it’s a bad thing, just an interesting the way time leaves its stamp on music.


Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485. Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483. Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482. The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481. Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478. The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477. Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469.Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465. King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464. The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462. The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459. Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457. Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456. Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455. Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453. Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452. Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451. Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448. Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446. Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444. Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443. David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • 440. Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • 439. James Brown, Sex Machine
  • 438. Blur, Parklife
  • 437. Primal Scream, Screamadelica
  • 435. Pet Shop Boys, Actually
  • 433. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
  • 431. Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?
  • 430. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
  • 429. The Four Tops, Reach Out
  • 428. Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • 427. Al Green, Call Me
  • 426. Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • 425. Paul Simon, Paul Simon
  • 424. Beck, Odelay
  • 423. Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  • 422. Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • 421. M.I.A., Arular
  • 417. Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come
  • 416. The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  • 415. The Meters, Looka Py Py
  • 414. Chic, Risqué
  • 413. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cosmo’s Factory
  • 412. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Going to a Go Go
  • 409. Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead
  • 408. Motörhead, Ace of Spades
  • 406. Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
  • 405. Various, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era
  • 403. Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele
  • 402. Fela Kuti and Africa 70, Expensive Shit
  • 401. Blondie, Blondie
  • 400. The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • 398. The Raincoats, The Raincoats
  • 397. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • 395. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  • 392. Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner
  • 390. Pixies, Surfer Rosa
  • 388. Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black
  • 387. Radiohead, In Rainbows
  • 386. J Dilla, Donuts
  • 385. Ramones, Rocket to Russia
  • 384. The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
  • 380. Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
  • 378. Run-DMC, Run-D.M.C.
  • 377. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
  • 375. Green Day, Dookie
  • 374. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers
  • 373. Isaac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul
  • 371. The Temptations, Anthology
  • 369. Mobb Deep, The Infamous
  • 368. George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
  • 365. Madvillain, Madvillainy
  • 364. Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
  • 363. Parliament, The Mothership Connection
  • 360. Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove
  • 358. Sonic Youth, Goo
  • 357. Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  • 356. Dr. John, Gris-Gris
  • 354. X-Ray Spex, Germfree Adolescents
  • 351. Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure
  • 350. Stevie Wonder, Music of My Mind
  • 349. MC5, Kick Out the Jams
  • 348. Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)
  • 347. GZA, Liquid Swords
  • 346. Arctic Monkeys, AM
  • 345. Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
  • 344. Toots and the Maytals, Funky Kingston
  • 343. Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits
  • 342. The Beatles, Let It Be
  • 341. The Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream
  • 338. Brian Eno, Another Green World
  • 337.  Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding
  • 335. Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes
  • 334. Santana, Abraxas
  • 333. Bill Withers, Still Bill
  • 332. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
  • 330. The Rolling Stones, Aftermath
  • 329. DJ Shadow, Endtroducing…
  • 328. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
  • 326. Prince, Dirty Mind
  • 323.The Clash, Sandinista!
  • 320. X, Los Angeles
  • 319. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
  • 317. Billie Holiday, Lady in Satin
  • 316. The Who, The Who Sell Out
  • 310. Wire, Pink Flag
  • 309. Joy Division, Closer
  • 308. Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets
  • 307. Sam Cooke, Portrait of a Legend
  • 306. Al Green, I’m Still In Love With You
  • 304. Bill Withers, Just As I Am
  • 301. New York Dolls, New York Dolls
  • 299. B.B. King, Live at the Regal
  • 297. Peter Gabriel, So
  • 294. Weezer, Weezer
  • 293. The Breeders, Last Splash
  • 292. Van Halen, Van Halen
  • 289.  Björk, Post
  • 288. The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers
  • 287. The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man
  • 283. Donna Summer, Bad Girls
  • 282. Frank Sinatra, In the Wee Small Hours
  • 279. Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York
  • 278. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
  • 276. Radiohead, The Bends
  • 275. Curtis Mayfield, Curtis
  • 274. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo
  • 273. Gang of Four, Entertainment!
  • 272. The Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat

 

TV Review: Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020)


TitleStar Trek: Lower Decks
Release Date: 2020
Creator: Mike McMahan
Season: 1
Episodes:10
Production Company: CBS Eye Animation Productions | Secret Hideout | Important Science | Roddenberry Entertainment | Titmouse, Inc.
Summary/Review:

Starfleet:  they’re just like us!  The animated comedy series Star Trek: Lower Decks shows the perspective of low-ranking crew members aboard the starship U.S.S. Cerritos. The four main characters included Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) a wise-cracking rule-breaker who is the captain’s daughter, although neither of them publicly acknowledge their relationship. Mariner befriends the nerdy but ambitious Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) who is a stickler for the rules.  The cast is rounded out with D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells), an Orion medical ensign who is very enthusiastic about everything Starfleet, and  Sam Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), an engineering ensign adjusting to a new cyborg implant.

This show isn’t breaking any ground as joking about the tropes and conventions of Star Trek go back a long way. The adult animation style and humor are also nothing new as it’s pretty similar to your run-of-the-mill animated shows on The Cartoon Network/Adult Swim.  And yet, I found the show had a goofy charm I enjoyed.  Maybe Discovery and Picard set me up to have low expectations for the Paramount+ Star Trek Universe.  I definitely felt this show improved vastly as the season went along and I would be happy to watch more when season 2 is released.

 

Related Posts:

Book Review: Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid


Around the World for a Good Book Selection for Antigua and Barbuda

Author: Jamaica Kincaid
Title: Annie John
Publication Info: New York : Farrar, Straus, Giroux, c1985.
Summary/Review:

Annie John is a novel about a young girl growing to become a young woman.  The story includes the deterioration of her relationship with her mother, her love for another girl named Gwen, and Annie John’s depression.  Colonization weighs over the story in the conflict between traditional ways and English culture. I don’t know if this novel is autobiographical, but Kincaid writes with a sense of lived experience while also being timeless.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***

A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part II)


A Favorite Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive (Part I) brought you from the year of my birth to 1988.  Today we’ll continue with another 16 years of my favorite movies.

1989. Do the Right Thing

Honorable mentions:

1990. Paris Is Burning

Honorable mentions:

1991. Delicatessen

Honorable mentions:

1992. The Crying Game

Honorable mentions:

1993. Tales of the City

Honorable mentions:

1994. The Lion King

Honorable mentions:

1995. Toy Story

Honorable mentions:

1996. When We Were Kings

Honorable mentions:

  • Fargo
  • Trainspotting

1997. Good Will Hunting

1998. Next Stop Wonderland

Honorable mentions:

1999. Genghis Blues

Honorable mentions:

  • Beau Travail
  • 42 Up
  • Being John Malkovich
  • Outside Providence

2000. Best in Show

Honorable mentions:

2001. Donnie Darko

Honorable mentions:

2002. Lilo & Stitch

Honorable mentions:

  • Amelie
  • Bloody Sunday
  • Gigantic (A Tale Of Two Johns)
  • Lost in La Mancha

2003. Finding Nemo

Honorable mentions:

2004. Mean Girls

Honorable mentions:

Stay tuned for the third and final part.  Well, hopefully not final.  Just bringing it up to the present year.

TV Review: Star Trek: Picard (2020)


TitleStar Trek: Picard
Release Date: 2020
Creator: Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer and Alex Kurtzman
Season: 1
Episodes:10
Production Company: Secret Hideout | Weed Road Pictures | Escapist Fare
Roddenberry Entertainment | CBS Studios
Summary/Review:

Beloved character Jean-Luc Picard, played by the even more beloved actor Patrick Stewart, returns to the small screen nearly 20 years after his last appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis (the only one of the 10 films in the original Star Trek film series that I’ve never watched). The premise of the series is that 14 years before it begins, Admiral Picard was active in relocating the Romulan people before the star near their home planet went supernova. After synthetic life forms carry out a devastating act of sabotage on the Federation’s facilities on Mars, the Federation calls off the relocation project and ban all synthetic life.  Angry at these two betrayals, Picard resigns from Starfleet.

In the present day a young woman, Dahj (Isia Briones), seeks out Picard’s help after realizing that she is an android created from the remains of Picard’s friend Data (Brent Spiner) .  Romulan spies kill Dahj, but not before Picard learns that she has an identical twin, Soji, working at a Romulan outpost on an abandoned Borg cube called The Artifact.

Picard puts together a crew to help find and help Soji.  This includes a friend and colleague who helped with Romulan relocation, Raffi (Michelle Hurd), who struggles with substance abuse. Raffi finds a captain with a ship, La Sirena, Chris (Santiago Cabrera) who has a traumatic background in Starfleet.  They are joined by Agnes (Alison Pill), a synthetic life expert who is naive about space travel.  Along the way they pick up Elnor (Evan Evagora), a samurai-like Romulan who  was raised by a sect of warrior nuns to provide protection. To please the fans, familiar characters from the Star Trek franchise make appearances, including former Borg Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), and Picard’s crewmates from Enterprise, Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi ( Marina Sirtis).  Brent Spiner also returns to play Data in dream sequences and Altan Inigo Soong, the son of Data’s creator.  One of the weird aspects of the show is that Picard not only quit Starfleet, but hasn’t kept in touch with any of his friends which is both out of character and used to create artificial tension.

In the early episodes, the show moves slowly, setting up Picard’s current situation and introducing the new characters.  There are elements of mystery and spy thriller with Picard thrust into the role of detective.  It was a refreshing change from the fast-paced action for action’s sake of Star Trek: Discovery.  By the end of episode 3 when we finally see Picard on the bridge of a starship and hear him say “Engage!,” it is a cheezy moment for the fans but one that is well-earned.  Unfortunately, during the second half of the season the show goes off the rails.  All the worst instincts of Discovery for shocking twists are indulged and a lot of drama is forced from the characters making bold choices to raise the stakes that seem irrelevant a few scenes later.

For a show called Picard, the title character seems lost in the crowded cast.  And yet, we don’t really get to know the new characters all that well either.  Sometimes they seem to do things that are out of character, but then their characters never seem to be developed well enough to know in the first place.  I loved Star Trek: Generation as a kid, but the level of graphic violence and profanity in Picard that makes it “gritty and dark,” makes me not want to share it with my kids. There was some promise in Picard, and maybe it will be fulfilled in the upcoming two seasons that are in production, but right now I don’t feel compelled at all to want to watch them.

Related Posts:

Classic Movie Review: Él (1953)


Title: Él
Release Date: July 9, 1953
Director: Luis Buñuel
Production Company: Producciones Tepeyac
Summary/Review:

Él (Spanish for “Him,” but also released as This Strange Passion in the United States) is a Mexican film directed by the Spanish-born Luis Buñuel.  I’m familiar with Buñuel as a figure in the Surrealist art movement and particularly as the director of the bizarre silent movie classic Un Chien Andalou. Except for a few sequences near the conclusion, Él is not a surreal movie.  In fact, it feels a lot like a classic Hollywood film.

Francisco (Arturo de Córdova) is a prosperous middle-age man who spots a younger woman, Gloria (Delia Garcés), at church an aggressively pursues her.  Gloria appears resistant to his advances but after a flash forward in time, we learn that Gloria marries Francisco.  The better part of the film then features Gloria narrating to her friend and former fiance Raul (Luis Beristáin) about how starting with their honeymoon, Francisco has tormented her with an irrational and paranoid jealousy. If you have any experience with domestic violence, be warned that this is not an easy movie to watch.

The movie reminds me somewhat of Gaslight in the way the charming older man swiftly turns into tormentor of his younger newlywed wife.  But unlike Gaslight, there is no underlying mystery to Francisco’s jealousy, he’s simply mentally ill.  There are parts of the movie that also remind me of the dangerous obsession of Vertigo, particularly a scene in a bell tower, although I have no idea if Alfred Hitchcock was influenced by Él. The direction and the action in the film is good, but ultimately there is not much to this movie beyond a startling presentation of paranoia.

Rating: **1/2

Podcasts of the Week Ending June 12


 

The Last ArchiveChildren of Zorin

A history of “fake news” through the story of a Soviet journalist who covered the United States in the 1970s with a conspiratorial bent.

Radiolab Breath

Stories about breathing from the miracle of a baby’s first breath to the history of teargas to the crash of breath mints during the pandemic.

This Day in Esoteric Political HistoryOllie!

Oliver North ran for Senate in 1994 and almost won, a terrifying preview of the Republican Party’s rightward lurch into neofascism.  I remember this election well.  I even saw John Warner and Marshall Coleman at a restaurant.

This Day in Esoteric Political History –  Those Pesky Fenians

If you don’t want to read When the Irish Invaded Canada, check out this short podcast about the history of the mid-19th century efforts of Irish American Civil War veterans attempting to bring the fight for Ireland’s independence to Canada.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021