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Arty Chick’s Seven Picks: Week 10

This week is heavy on movies about couples. They include rom-coms and complicated relationship stories, and the characters range from criminals to musicians to politicians, from kings to bakers. The genres include classic dramas, and film noir, and brilliant satire. And there’s a good dollop of sex, for good measure.

They’re mostly from the 80s and 90s, though one is from the 60s. And something they all (except one) have in common is that they were nominated for a lot of Oscars, and won quite a few.

 

The films are: Moonstruck, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Body Heat, Nashville, Out of Sight, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and The Lion in Winter

Review: La Llorona

This political horror film takes its title from a Meso-American folkloric legend about the ghost of a woman who roams waterfront areas mourning her drowned children. In the film La Llorona comes into the lives of a powerful family as they’re sequestered in their house and slowing pulls the patriarch’s very dark past to the surface. Set in Guatemala, the film centers on Enrique (Julio Diaz), a retired general who has been tried and convicted for the genocide of the country’s Mayan-Ixil population during the civil war there. Just after his conviction though, a higher court overturns the it, but the public is up in arms. And Enrique and his family become prisoners in their own home. All the indigenous servants except one quit, fearing for their safety. And then a young woman shows up at the door, the new maid. But who is she really?

Review: Once Upon a Time in Venezuela

This immersive documentary was seven years in the making. It takes place in Congo Mirador, a small village bordering Lake Maracaibo in northern Venezuela. At one time it was a thriving little town, but sedimentation and pollution from the country’s oil drilling industry have killing the fishing industry and people are either starving or moving away. Against this backdrop two women are in a personal political fight. Mrs. Tamara is a die-hard Chávista, and so backs Chávez’s successor Maduro and sings the government’s praises, despite how clearly it is not working for Congo Mirador. She’s also the elected representative of the town. Natalie is a schoolteacher who is vocal about her opposition to the current government, risking her job, but defiant. One of them will not come out the winner. 

Review: The Mole Agent

The Mole Agent feels very much like a narrative film even though it’s a documentary, and that’s a good thing. It tells the story of Sergio, an 83-year-old man recruited by a private investigator in Chile to go undercover in a nursing home. The daughter of one of the residents thinks her mom may be suffering abuse there. But rather than becoming a film about the evils of institutional care for the elderly, it’s a warm and humorous take on a community of old people who Sergio can’t help but grow to care for.

Review: Bacurau (Nighthawk)

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Brazil is a village called Bacurau. It’s cut off from the world. They have to truck in water and supplies. But the people live their everyday lives pretty normally. Then strange things start to happen. The town disappears from maps. Their cell signal is gone. Their water supply truck arrives with bullet holes in it. And then a couple on motorcycles appear. Turns out they’re part of a gang of blood-thirsty tourists who aim to use the town for target practice. They chose the wrong town.

Review: El Ángel

Set in Buenos Aires in 1971, El Ángel is a true crime drama about a baby-faced teenage sociopath named Carlitos (Lorenzo Ferro) whose love for thievery blossomed into a passion for cold-blooded murder when he met fellow student Ramon (Chino Darin). It’s a truly disturbing portrait of a kid totally devoid of a moral compass. And you’re on the edge of your seat the whole way because you just know he and his accomplices will (and should) be caught.

Neruda

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda received a Nobel prize for literature in 1974 and is considered by many to be one of the greatest who ever lived. More poem than biopic, Neruda is a creatively told imagining of one portion of his life. In 1948, the Chilean government outlawed the Communist Party (prodded by the US government) and Neruda (Luis Gnecco) suddenly went from esteemed Senator to revered fugitive with the doggedly determined police investigator Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) on his tail. It is through this chase that Neruda’s character and the wide influence of his work are revealed, and Peluchonneau is brought under Neruda’s spell. It is really quite wonderful!

Aquarius

Aquarius is the name of an apartment building overlooking the beach in Recife, Brazil. Clara (Sônia Braga) is the only resident there. A beautiful woman in her mid-sixties, she loves her apartment, and try as hard as they might, the company that has bought out all the other residents cannot persuade her to take their very generous offer so they can build another high-rise like those surrounding her. But to Clara this is her home, where she loved her now deceased husband and raised her children. It is where she is planning to die, after a life well-lived. The developers suffer under the mistaken notion that they can force this old woman out. But Clara is not going!

Ixcanul (Volcano)

This fascinating drama takes its audience into a culture few of us will ever experience. Ixcanul means volcano and the film takes place in a village that is just on the edge of an inactive one in the mountains of Guatemala. A family lives there cut off from the modern world, speaking Kaqchikel, the ancient language of the indigenous Mayans. The few times they interact with the outside world they mistakenly trust a translator with an agenda to tell them what was said in Spanish. Though it is mainly a coming of age story of the central character Maria, it is also a tale of the divide between the powerful and the powerless, and a starkly written and beautifully shot enthnography of a mysterious place out of time with the world. It is probably too slow for many people (Mainstream Chick, I’m talking to you), but I was taken with it. And it’s Guatemala’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film.

CinemaClash Podcast: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Knight of Cups, Embrace of the Serpent, and more!

I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but 10 Cloverfield Lane is more of a psychological drama filled with twists and turns and solid performances that keep you on the edge of your seat for a surprisingly entertaining – or at least, attention-holding – two hours. For more (spoiler-free) insight and debate on 10 Cloverfield Lane, Knight of Cups, Embrace of the Serpent, and more, check out the latest CinemaClash podcast with me and my cinema nemesis Charlie Juhl: