Movie Review: Saludos Amigos (1942)


Title: Saludos Amigos
Release Date: August 24, 1942
Director: Norman Ferguson | Wilfred Jackson | Jack Kinney | Hamilton Luske | Bill Roberts
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Summary/Review:

Saludos Amigos is the first of the package films Disney released in the 1940s, and due to the random order of my viewing, the last I watched.  This movie is most directly connected to the Walt Disney company’s goodwill tour of Latin America in 1941, and features full-color documentary footage of Disney artists traveling by plane around South America.

The short film features four segments, one each set in Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.  “Lake Titicaca” features Donald Duck visiting the titular lake as a tourist.  “Pedro” is the story of young airplane making his first flight to collect the mail in a journey over the Andes.  In “El Gaucho Goofy” the American cowboy and the Argentian gaucho are compared and contrasted.  The final and best segment, “Aquarela do Brasil,” introduces José Carioca, who teaches Donald Duck to dance the samba. Amazingly enough, the famous title song was only a few years old at the time this movie was made, and Disney actually made it popular in the United States!

The film is slight, but enjoyable enough, especially the music.

Rating: ***

Movie Review: The Three Caballeros (1944)


Title: The Three Caballeros
Release Date: December 21, 1944
Director: Norman Ferguson (supervising director), Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts,  and Harold Young
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Summary/Review:

The second of Disney’s six package films of the World War II era is also the second to originate from Walt Disney & company’s good will visit to Latin America after Saludos Amigos (which I’ve not yet watched).  The movie focuses on Donald Duck receiving birthday gifts from his feathered friends in Latin America, the Brazilian parrot José Carioca and the Mexican rooster Panchito Pistoles.

The first two segments are animated shorts that we watch with Donald. “The Cold-Blooded Penguin” tells the story of a penguin named Pablo who hates the cold and migrates to the Galapagos. “The Flying Gauchito” tells the story of a boy from Uruguay who adopts a flying donkey.  Both stories are cute and feature lots of puns and sight gags.

José then joins Donald and takes him on a journey to Bahia in Brazil through a pop-up book where they sing and dance with Aurora Miranda. Panchito joins them and they learn the Christmas story of Las Posadas.  The three birds travel around Mexico on a flying sarape, exploring various song and dance traditions.  Then things get weird as Donald has surreal visions while singer Dora Luz performs.  Donald then dances with Carmen Molina among shrinking and swelling cactus before the grand finale.

For much of this movie Donald Duck is incredibly horny about the Latin American women performers.  Even if you set aside 2020 sensibilities about the “male gaze” and sexual harassment, the fact that these excellent performances by Miranda, Luz, and Molina keep getting upstaged by Donald going full-Tex Avery is just rude.  I’m not sure why the filmmakers felt they needed nonstop “comic relief” but it doesn’t feel like they had much goodwill for the artists of Latin America.  The visuals are pretty impressive in the animation and I really like the musical numbers, especially Aurora Miranda’s.

Rating: **1/2

Classic Movie Review: Notorious (1946)


Title: Notorious
Release Date: September 6, 1946
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures
Summary/Review:

I never knew how much I needed to see a drunk Ingrid Berman angrily cuss out a cop, but this movie satiates that desire.  And that’s only the prologue!

Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, an American socialite whose father is convicted as a Nazi spy.  Federal agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) recruits her to help infiltrate a group of fugitive Nazis operating out of Rio de Janeiro.  Much like The Stranger, the issue of Nazis continuing to operate was clearly a concern in the immediate aftermath of WWII, but I’m still impressed that entire films of fictional Nazi fugitives were written and produced so soon after the war. One odd thing about this movie is that while it primarily takes place in Brazil, I don’t think we see a single Brazilian character.

En route to Brazil and as they establish themselves in Rio, Huberman and Devlin fall in love.  This leads to a racy-for-1946 scene where the couple kiss for over two minutes.  Of course, considering that most human beings would like to kiss Bergman and/or Grant, this is also wish fulfillment for the audience.  Like Hitchcock’s Spellbound, the romance leads a character to act unprofessionally, but this time it’s the male character Devlin, whose jealousy will ultimately put Huberman’s life in peril.

Huberman is tasked with getting acquainted with her father’s friend Alex Sebastian (Hollywood supervillain Claude Raines), a financier of the German war engine, and find out who he’s associating with and what the Nazis are plotting.  The movie is a slow burn as secrets are revealed one by one and the steps that Huberman takes to gain access further strain her relationship with Devlin.  It all leads to a satisfying denouement.

Rating: ****

TV Review: American Experience: Into the Amazon (2018)


TitleInto the Amazon
Release Date: 9 January 2018
Director: John Maggio
Production Company: An ARK media and John Maggio Productions film for American Experience.
Summary/Review:

The American Experience documentary tells the story of the 1913-14 expedition to explore Brazil’s remote River of Doubt accompanied by former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and his son Kermit Roosevelt.  I’m familiar with the story from reading Candace Millard’s River of Doubt, so I was eager to see the documentary;s approach to the history.

It’s a well-produced but unimaginative take on the history documentary format with talking heads, archival photos shown with the “Ken Burns effect” (and curiously also making the figures in the photos appear 3-D against the background), and film of actors recreating the expedition in the Amazon.  Another curious decision is to have the recreations in black & white, matching them with the archival footage, but denying the audience a glimpse of the vibrant colors of the rainforest that the men on the this journey would’ve seen.

I was slightly disappointed, but I expect if you were completely unfamiliar with this historical event that this documentary would be a good introduction.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: River of Doubt by Candice Millard


AuthorCandice Millard
TitleRiver of Doubt
Narrator: Paul Michael
Publication Info: Books on Tape (2005)
Summary/Review:

The River of Doubt, or Rio da Dúvida, was the actual, dramatic name of a river in Brazil’s Amazon region that is now called the Roosevelt River.  Fresh off his failed attempt to return to the Presidency as the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party candidate, Theodore Roosevelt conducted a scientific expedition for the American Museum of Natural History to explore this remote river in 1913-14.   Brazil’s greatest explorer Cândido Rondon joined Roosevelt as  leader and were accompanied as Roosevelt’s son Kermit, a naturalist, and 15 porters.  This book describes the adventure along the river that was plagued by waterfalls and rapids that required frequent portages, disease, loss of food and supplies, and the threat of the indigenous peoples, the Cinta Larga, tracking the expedition.  One member of the party drowned, one was murdered, and the murderer was abandoned by the party in the jungle.  Roosevelt himself suffered injuries and illness that brought him close to death and expressed the wish to be left behind.  It’s a harrowing story that despite happening in modern times seems to be from a more distant era.

Rating: ***1/2

World Cup Round of 16 Rooting Interests and Predictions


After an exciting round of group play, the knock-out rounds for the 2014 World Cup begin today.  Below I’ve listed the teams I’m rooting for and the teams I expect to win (not always the same) for each game.

28 June 2014

Brazil vs. Chile

This is a tough call.  I have a soft spot for Chile and they acquitted themselves well in group play, but I’ve always liked Brazil and it would be tragic if the host nation exited the tournament this early (especially after having to endure all the corporate, government, and FIFA corruption).  That being said, I expect Brazil will have no problem winning this game and probably advance at least to the semifinals.

Supporting: Brazil           Prediction: Brazil

Colombia vs. Uruguay

Colombia is one of the most exciting teams in the tournament with the most feverish fans.  Uruguay did well in group play, but aren’t going to go far without their bitey star Luis Suarez.  Colombia is an easy team to support and pick for the win.

Supporting: Colombia         Prediction: Colombia

It’s interesting that four of the five remaining South American teams are essentially playing for one semifinal spot.  I expect that Brazil will advance from this group of four, but the Brazil versus Colombia quarterfinal has the potential to be an exciting match.

29 June 2014

Netherlands vs. Mexico

Mexico is our biggest rival, but I’ve been swayed to their side this World Cup for several reasons:  CONCACAF regional pride, the performance of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, the exburance of coach Miguel Herrera, and their exciting style of play in a tough group.  I adopted the Netherlands in 2010 as my team to support after the US elimination (mainly because I had just visited Amsterdam that year), but the karate chop performance of the final kind of took the bloom off that rose.  Still, the Netherlands look like a dominant side that may advance all the way to the final again, and will be hard for Mexico to beat.

Supporting: Mexico          Prediction: Netherlands

Costa Rica vs. Greece

Costa Rica’s team is the surprise of the tournament, giant-killers in what should’ve been the toughest group.  It’s hard not to like Los Ticos.  Greece are also surprise members of the final 16.  However, they haven’t shown a lot of skill in the group stage.  I expect another Costa Rica win.

Supporting: Costa Rica     Prediction: Costa Rica

An all CONCACAF quarterfinal would be a thrilling thing, but I expect that the Netherlands will progress to the semifinals from this group of four.

30 June 2014

France vs. Nigeria

I tend to root for the underdogs, so I have to favor Nigeria here, but France is looking like one of the top teams in the tournament, so I don’t have much hope for the African side.

Supporting: Nigeria         Prediction: France

Germany vs. Algeria

Algeria is the other surviving African team who’ve drawn tough European competition in Germany.  I’ll root for Algeria, but expect Germany to make it at least to the semifinal.

Supporting: Algeria          Prediction: Germany

There’s an opportunity for an all-African quarterfinal coming out this group of four, but it’s more likely that European neighbors Germany and  France will meet to decide a spot in the final four.

1 July 2014

Argentina vs. Switzerland

I’ve not been impressed by Argentina who  won a weak group by basically holding out for a Lionel Messi wondergoal.  On the other hand, Argentina has enough talent that should be able to advance as far as the semifinal without breaking much of a sweat.  I haven’t got much of a sense of Switzerland, but I’ll be rooting for them just so that USA would have a more potentially beatable side in the quarterfinal, should it come to that.

Supporting: Switzerland       Prediction:  Argentina

Belgium vs. United States

Sure, Belgium is a dark horse to win the World Cup, and sure they won all three of their group matches.  Sure, the United States has struggled and only just made it out of group play.  But Belgium played in one of the weakest groups, while the United States faced down three challenging opponents without ever throwing in the towel.  I believe that we will win.

Supporting:  United States       Prediction: United States

While I think that the United States can make it to the quarterfinal, Argentina is the prohibitive favorite of this group of four.  Still, Iran held Argentina scoreless for 90 minutes, so maybe someone can pull of a miracle win.

Song of the Week: “Batuque” by Dom La Nena (Jeremy Sole and Atropolis Remix)


Today’s song is a remix by KCRW DJ’s Jeremy Sole and Atropolis of the song “Batuque” by Dom La Lena.

Dom La Nena is a Brazilian-born cellist, singer and songwriter now based in Paris whose debut album Ela was released in 2013.

What are you listening to this week?  Let me know in the comments!

This Week in Soccer


Here’s the report on my first week as a novice soccer fan.  See my previous post Forming an Association with Football for more details.

USA v. Brazil (10 Aug 2010) – A friendly match in the New Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey to thank the US fans for their World Cup support.  Supposedly the experienced US side fresh from the World Cup would have something to show to a young Brazilian team featuring many players appearing in their first international match.  Instead, it turned into an embarrassing rout with stylish Brazilian play exposing the weakness of the USA’s back line with attack after attack after attack.  Only great goalkeeping by Tim Howard and Brad Guzan prevented Brazil from running up the score.  More on this debacle from the Boston Globe.

At the very least seeing Brazilian players in the Meadowlands reminded me of the glory days of Pele and the New York Cosmos.

Mexico vs. Spain (11 Aug 2010) – I stopped in a pub in Boston for supper on Wednesday night and they had Spain’s first World Cup championship friendly at Mexico on the TV.  This game was Spain’s first defense of a lesser-known title, the Unofficial Football World Championship.  Basically the UFWC folks have created a basic title system akin to boxing championships tracing back to the earliest international football match in 1872.  When Spain defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup championship they ended the Dutch run of 21 title defenses and unified the UFWC with the official world championship.  Mexico had a good chance of snatching the title away from Spain with an early first half goal but David Silva of Spain equalized in stoppage time just before the end of the game (the UFWC champion retains the title in a tie).  The drama of the moment was lost on me because the Univision broadcast for some reason reset the clock at zero at the start of the second half so I had thought I was watching the first half until the players started shaking hands.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid (13 Aug 2010) –  Yet another friendly, this team matched two European club powers to contest the Beckenbauer Cup in tribute to the Bayern great Franz Beckenbauer.  It was fun to watch some of the best players in the world duke it out but the game ended as 0-0 tie with Real Madrid winning the cup in a penalty shootout.  Real Madrid’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas proved to be the hero of the match with several dramatic saves.

This leads me to a question which will probably betray my ignorance and American heritage:  How is it that with the goals in soccer being so enormous that there are so many scoreless games?  I mean if you ever stand by one of those nets it would seem impossible for a ball not to get in there no matter how good the keeper and the defense.


This weekend was too busy to watch soccer so I didn’t see any games of the teams I purportedly am following.  I did learn that as a supporter of Everton and the US national team I can be double embarrassed by Tim Howard’s fumble in the penalty area which allowed Blackburn to score the only goal of the game:

I’ve also I discovered a German team with the best name ever:  Wormatia Worms. Granted it’s funnier in English if you imagine annelids playing soccer, and ignore that Worms is the name of city in Germany.  Still, if the Wormatia Worms played higher than the fourth division in Germany I’d definitely start watching their games.