The Frida Cinema Blog Post #17

It Came From Salt Lake City: The 10 Best Sundance Horror Films

Hereditary screens Saturday, January 18th

Hereditary

In honor of HorrorBuzz’s special screening of A24’s Hereditary, I’d like to take a look at 10 other Sundance horror favorites that have shaped the boundaries of 21st century horror.

 

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

A Girl Walks Home Alone

Described as “The First Iranian Vampire Western”, this film takes an unorthodox look (with a hint of David Lynch) at the vampire love story. A young man falls in love with a mysterious woman, who turns out to be a skateboarding vampire that preys on men who disrespect women. Slow building and atmospheric, this movie makes limited use of dialogue and offers subtle social commentary, qualities that add to the strength and eeriness of its visuals.

 

 

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook

Combining strong influences from German Expressionism with the heavy emotions associated with grief, The Babadook creates an unsettling black hole of frenzy. A grieving widowed single mother and her son face an evil deity from a creepy story book, taking over their home and life. The intertwining of the emotional trauma and the supernatural is so tightly wound that it’s difficult to tell what’s real, keeping you on edge.

 

 

Under the Shadow (2016)

Under The Shadow

A hauntingly creative film, Under the Shadow mixes traditional Middle Eastern folklore, cultural pressures and the social consequences of modern warfare. In 1988 Iran, a mother and young daughter face the terror of the Iran-Iraq war and evil spirits in their home after a missile crashes through their roof but doesn’t detonate. It’s a unique perspective of a society struggling between its old ways and modern cultural evolution.

 

 

What We Do in The Shadows (2014)

What We Do In The Shadows

This quirky horror comedy takes a This is Spinal Tap-style approach to present vampires in a new light. Four vampire flatmates of various ages are filmed by a documentary team, showing their daily struggle as roommates while also trying to adapt to the modern world. A hilarious reinvention of the vampire story, horror fans will be sure to enjoy What We Do in the Shadows.

 

 

The Witch (2015)

The Witch

The directorial debut of Robert Eggers, The Witch utilizes imagery, sound, and deep attention to detail to create a distinctly sensory horror experience. In the 1600s, a farmer and his family go to live in the dreary New England woods where they face fear, paranoia, and the evil lurking in the neighboring trees. Divisive and horrifying, it will leave you with chills long after it ends.

 

 

Mandy (2018)

Mandy poster

One of the best roles of Nicolas Cage’s recent film career, Mandy is wild even by the standards of Cage’s filmography. When Red’s girlfriend Mandy is kidnapped and killed by a sadistic cult, he goes on a bloody rampage to defeat the cultists and avenge her name. A psychedelic horror film that seamlessly combines a multitude of genres, Mandy is unlike anything else in film today.

 

 

American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho poster

Based on the controversial novel of the same name, American Psycho is bitingly critical of the 1980s yuppie culture. Wall Street yuppie Patrick Bateman, is obsessed with everything being perfect, a goal that is hindered by the psychotic murderous outbursts he has from time to time. Surprisingly, it was adapted into a popular and well-reviewed musical that ran in London and Broadway.

 

 

Get Out (2017)

Get Out

Comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut in horror, Get Out kicked off a new wave of ethnic-focused horror. Chris, a black man, goes to meet his white girlfriend’s family only to be unknowingly dragged into horrific, racially-motivated exploitations beyond his wildest nightmare. Filled with symbolism and metaphors for racism, Get Out is an insightful commentary on the state of race relations in America today.

 

 

Saw (2004)

Saw

The first feature film of director James Wan, Saw ignited a long-running franchise and created Jigsaw, one of modern horror’s most popular villains. Jigsaw imprisons two strangers, with the two awakening to find themselves pawns in his twisted game of death. A film known for its disturbingly unique death traps, it has become a part of horror pop culture like its predecessors Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street.

 

 

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project

Without a doubt, the impact of The Blair Witch Project on horror cinema was nothing short of a revolution. Told through found video footage, three students explore the urban legend of the Blair Witch in the woods until they lose their map and become victim to the eeriness around them. Due to the disturbing simplicity of the film, many were convinced that it was a real documentary. One of the most significant films of modern horror, its influence can still be seen in movies over twenty years later.

 

 

LINK: https://thefridacinema.org/it-came-from-salt-lake-city-the-10-best-sundance-horror-films/

Latin Heat Entertainment #5

2020 Oscar Noms Find Latinos Lacking In Front of Camera

Written By Justina Bonilla

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

The announcement of the 92ed Oscar nominations left many disappointed in the lack of ethnic talent being recognized. For Latinos and Latinas, there were sadly no nominations in front of the screen, other than a nomination for Antonio Banderas in the lead actor category. However, an array of Latino talent were nominated in a variety of categories behind the camera.

It was encouraging to see more Latino talent featured in major films of 2019, which includes: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (America Ferrera); Us (Lupita Nyong’o); Alita Battle Angel (Rosa Salazar); Terminator: Dark Fate (Gabriel LunaNatalia Reyes & Diego Boneta); and The Adams Family (Oscar Isaac). Along with Latino oriented films including, Miss Bala (Gina Rodriguez), Dora and The Lost City of Gold (Isabela Merced (Moner), Michael PenaEva LongoriaEugenio DerbezBenicio del Toro); and Red 11 (Carlos Gallardo, Ulysses Montoya). Nevertheless these few films are just a drop in the bucket of Latino representation among the over 230 American films released in 2019.

When Latino in Hollywood are only 3% of all the lead roles in Hollywood and only 4.5% of the more than 47,000 speaking roles in the 100 top-grossing U.S. films (according to the USC Annenberg Inclusion report released last year) the likelihood of Latinos getting an Oscar nominations is unlikely if the roles are not there. Therefore, when the few Latinos who did land a lead role are overlooked for an Oscar nomination, it is even more glaring and frustrating.

Latino Oscar Nominees:

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:

Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year:

Klaus – Sergio Pablos and Marisa Roman

Toy Story 4 – Jonas Rivera

Achievement in Cinematography:

The Irishman – Rodrigo Prieto

Achievement in Costume Design Nominees:

Jojo Rabbit – Mayers C. Rubeo

Best Documentary Feature:

The Edge of Democracy – Petra Costa and Tiago Pavan

Best International Feature Film:

Pain and Glory – Pedro Almodóvar (Spain)

Overlooked talent worthy of Oscar nominations:

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

Lupita Nyong’o in Us

Best Actress in a supporting Role:

Jennifer Lopez (R)
Ana de Armas

Ana de Armas in Knives Out

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Achievement in Cinematography:

César Charlone – The Two Popes

Checco Varese – It Chapter Two

Achievement in Directing:

Fernando Meirelles – The Two Popes

Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling:

Mike Elizalde – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

While it’s easy to view the Oscars and its academy as the main culprit for the lack of diverse nominations, its merely a side effect of a bigger issue, lack of opportunity.  The obstacle reinforces the struggle ethnic actors, including major ethnic actors face in being limited in access to roles, typically because of stereotypes put on cultures, ethnicities, race, etc.

As director Luis Valdez pointed out, “Hollywood deals in stereotypes in every movie that it makes”. For example, the high school films feature the stereotypical roles of the nerd, jock, outcast, popular girl and bad boy (The Breakfast Club); while Latino stereotypes in film are usually negative like gangbangers, drug dealer, or overly sexualized.

Adding to the stereotyping problem, which also takes screen representation away from Latinos is the continued practice of “brown facing”. Brown facing is when white actors are given Latino roles written as Latino, often perpetuating stereotypes. Or worse, when a white actor completely washing out the ethnicity of characters based on real-life Latinos, such as Ben Affleck in Argo portraying Mexican-American technical operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, Tony Mendez, or Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity portraying WWII Mexican-American war hero Guy Gabaldon. These roles lead audiences to believe these real life heroes where white, not Latinos.

The Real Tony Mendez and Ben Affleck

Since the beginning of Hollywood, the majority of the stories in film have mainly focused on the White American social experiences and cultural perceptions. As for ethnic talent, they have either faced more obstacles to get an opportunity for a role in Hollywood, or had to establish themselves outside of Hollywood in order to be recognized i.e. Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).

Despite recent ethnic themed and cast films like CocoCrazy Rich Asians, and Black Panther becoming highly successful, major studios are still reluctant to make room for ethnic talent and stories to thrive the same way white talent and stories have and still do.

With the recent announcement of the initiative LA COLLAB backed my Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose mission is to accelerates Latino visibility and authentic representation, Latinos are now being more proactive about seeking parity. it is hoped that this will help increase Latino participation in Hollywood. And begin the dismantling of institutionalized stereotyping within the industry.

 

LINK: https://www.latinheat.com/events/2020-oscar-noms-find-latinos-lacking-in-front-of-camera/

Latin Heat Entertainment #4

Behind the Lens: Oscar Nominee Rodrigo Prieto For “The Irishman”

Written By Justina Bonilla

Martin Scorsese’s recent film The Irishman on Netflix has become a hit with critics and audiences alike and with members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences who just gave the film 10 Oscar nominations.

 

Though filled with the Scorsese trademarks, its most notable feature is the CGI effects used to de-age the main actors, Robert De NiroAl Pacino and Joe Pesci, thanks to its Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto.

 

Prieto was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He’s known for his style of “strong moody lighting”. As well as experimental and unconventional camera techniques.

 

Over his career, Prieto has worked with a variety of highly respected American and international directors, including Oliver StoneAng LeePedro AlmodóvarSpike Lee and multiple collaborations with Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu.  He has also collaborated with Martin Scorsese in three films, including The Wolf of Wall StreetSilence and now, The Irishman. For his cinematography work with Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) and Scorsese (Silence), Prieto received two Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography.

 

 

In The Irishman, Prieto faced the challenge of visual journey within 309 scenes and 295 different sets. Influenced by still photography, he used color science to create distinctive colors for each decade. From the use of Kodachrome emulation to emphasize colors and brightness for the film in the 1950’s, to the end of the film being colorless and bleak through bleach bypass.

 

For the CGI de-aging of the main actors, Prieto had to use three cameras, a primary camera and two witness cameras to capture each angle. He also used infrared tracking marks on the actors as visual markers for the CGI in post-production. At times, there were as many as three of these “Three Headed Monster” cameras capturing the actors.

 

Soon after its release on November 27thThe Irishman soon went on to win the Board of Review’s Best Film of 2019.  It was also honored as one of the ten AFI’s Motion Pictures of the Year 2019 list; with 5 Golden Globe nominations. Adding ten (10) Oscar nominations to this impressive list, one of those for Prieto for Best Cinematography.

 

Photo: Netflix

With all of the critical praise and recognition The Irishman it’s no doubt on its way for Oscar gold. If nominated for Best Cinematography, Prieto could become the 5th Latino to win Best Cinematography. Continuing the strong and growing presence of Latinos behind the camera.

 

Latino Oscar winners for Best Cinematography up to 2019:

Emmanuel Lubezki (GravityBirdman and The Revenant)

Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth)

Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi)

Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)

 

Oscar Nominated Latino cinematographers up to 2019:

Gabriel Figueroa (The Night if the Iguana)

César Charlone (City of God)

John A. Alonzo (Chinatown)

William A. Fraker (Looking for Mr. GoodbarHeaven Can Wait1941WarGames, and Murphy’s Romance)

 

Honorable Mentions: Other Latino/Hispanic Cinematographers in films of 2019:

Gabriel Beristain (Iron Man 3, Suicide Squad, Blood In Blood Out)

Checco Varese (It Chapter Two and Replicas)

Pablo Díez (The Final Wish)

Patrick Munguia (Miss Bala)

Juan García Gonzalez (Wonder Park)

Robert Rodriguez (Red 11)

Michael Dallatorre (Brightburn)

Javier Aguirresarobe (Dora and the Lost City of Gold)

Julio Macat (After the Wedding)

Pedro Luque (Jacob’s Ladder)

Natasha Braier (Honey Boy)

César Charlone (The Two Popes)

Link: https://www.latinheat.com/everything-related-to-film/film/behind-the-lens-oscar-nominee-rodrigo-prieto-for-the-irishman/

Latin Heat Entertainment #3

Linda Ronstadt: Honored By The Kennedy Center

Also Catch the CNN Documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice Currently on Demand And Available on DVD and Blue Ray

Written By Justina Bonilla

Among last month’s honorees at the 42nd Kennedy Center Honors were Sesame Street the TV show, Sally Field, Michael Tilson ThomasEarth, Wind & Fire, and music icon Linda Ronstadt this past December. Ronstadt joins the other talented Latinx performing arts titans such as Rita MorenoSammy Davis Jr., Gloria Estefan, Carlos Santana, Martina Arroyo and Lin-Manuel Miranda to be so honored.

The Kennedy Center Honors were established in 1977 to “chart the international standard of excellence set by America’s artists, (some of which include Actor/Director Clint Eastwood, Singer/Performer Tina Turner and Opera Singer Jessye Norman), as well as the aesthetic inspiration provided by artists of other nations who have achieved prominence on these shores”, like Led ZeppelinPaul McCartney and The Who.  It’s the concluding and main event of an invitation-only weekend-long event, which includes in order, the Chairman’s luncheon, the State Department dinner, White House reception, and finally the Honors event and supper.

Honorees are recommended by both the Special Advisory Committee of the Kennedy Center and the general public. Then, based on their contributions to the arts (music, theater, motion picture, television, dance and opera), the five honorees of the year are selected by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.

Ronstadt often referred to as “The First Lady of Rock” is one of the most remarkable female icons in American music history.  She emerged professionally out of the 1960’s California rock scene, singing with the trio The Stone Poneys, then as a solo artist.

Seamlessly Ronstadt combined folk, county, pop and rock music, creating a unique sound, which fit her beautifully bold and distinct voice. She created a slew of hit songs, i.e., Different DrumYou’re No GoodBlue Bayou and I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You) among many. She released over 30 studio albums and 15 compilation or greatest hits albums. She then Ronstadt would also go on to experiment with opera and jazz in her music. In 1981 she auditioned and landed the lead of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance for which she received a Tony nomination

After twenty years of establishing herself musically Ronstadt, honoring her Mexican heritage released her first Mariachi record, Canciones de Mi Padre (Songs of my Father). The highest selling non-English album in American history. For this record, Ronstadt would go on to win the 1988 Grammy for Best Mexican-American Performance and eventually the 2011 Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Ronstadt retired from singing in 2011. Later in 2013, she revealed while promoting her book Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir, is unable to sing due to Parkinson’s Disease. Since then, she has been recognized with a diversity of honors:

2014: Inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame

2014: Awarded the National Medal of Arts and Humanities by President Barack Obama.

2016: Awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

LINK: https://www.latinheat.com/tv-3/tv-news-tv-3/linda-ronstadt-honored-by-the-kennedy-center/

The Frida Cinema Blog Post #16

10 Must-See Movies About Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood screens Monday, January 6th through Wednesday, January 8th

Singin In The Rain

Quentin Tarantino’s critically acclaimed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is hitting The Frida Cinema this month! A critical yet longing homage to vintage film and TV, it’s only appropriate that we take a look at other films that feature or deal with Tinseltown.

 

 

Hollywood My Hometown (1965)

Hollywood My Hometown poster

In this unique TV film, entertainer Ken Murray shows candid moments of old Hollywood’s most beloved stars. Through his amateur home videos, he lovingly films family, friends, and Hollywood stars at their prime or early in their careers. It has the added appeal of being an honest look at Hollywood culture during a period when major studios heavily processed and tightly controlled the images of their stars.

 

 

 

Ed Wood (1994)

Ed Wood poster

A biopic of the eccentric cult filmmaker, Ed Wood is Tim Burton’s passionate love letter to Wood and his films. As an underdog, Wood’s story is relatable for many others who came to Los Angeles with dreams of making it big in Hollywood but never did. Undeterred by production mishaps and the mediocre talent available to him, the film demonstrates the ludicrous lengths to which Wood would go to finish his projects.

 

 

 

Blacklist: Hollywood on Trial (1996)

Joseph McCarthy

A television documentary, Blacklist: Hollywood on Trial dives into Senator Joseph McCarthy’s scandalous investigation of Hollywood for Communist Party members, former members or sympathizers. These trials shook up Hollywood leading to the infamous “Blacklist” of 150 names, including the Hollywood Ten, the most famous victims of this era. This dark patch in American history is essential to Hollywood history, due to the devastating long-term impact on and off the screen.

 

 

 

Complicated Women (2003)

Complicated Women poster

Based on the book of the same name by Mick LaSalle, this documentary focuses on the actresses who became faces of women’s liberation in film during the pre-Code era. Before the cultural shift of the 1960s, actresses like Dolores Del Rio, Barbara Stanwyck and Mae West pushed the boundaries placed on women in society through Hollywood films. Taking on topics such as the gender double-standard of power, flawed heroines, and personal sexuality, the film shows how the legacy of these women lives on in spite of the Production Code’s severe restrictions.

 

 

 

Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

Singin In The Rain poster

This beloved musical comedy takes a satirical look at the culture of Hollywood’s silent film era and its transition to talkies. Showing the overwhelming structural changes needed to accommodate the public’s demand for sound, the movie touches upon how many actors’ careers were ruined by the advent of sound while others thrived. It also pokes fun at the massive egos that the industry tends to draw.

 

 

 

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (2003)

Easy Riders Raging Bulls poster

The collapse of the traditional Hollywood studio system saw the rise of “New Hollywood” – that is, the movie brat era directors who revolutionized film as we know it. An in-depth documentary, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls analyzes the pioneering works of the era’s greatest filmmakers including Steven Spielberg, Frances Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and Roger Corman. It also explores the impact their films had on Hollywood and culture in general.

 

 

 

Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

Hollywood Shuffle poster

Robert Townsend co-wrote, directed and starred in this satire of Hollywood’s constant reinforcement of stereotypes, with a pronounced focus on ones pertaining to African-Americans. It also shows how many within the Hollywood system are oblivious to the problematic impact of these images, ignoring them as long as it helps their bottom line. While Hollywood is more diverse today than it was at the time of the movie’s release, stereotyping is still an issue and as such its message is still timely.

 

 

 

Louis B. Mayer, King of Hollywood (1999)

Louis B Mayer

Before television, Mayer changed Hollywood forever by establishing MGM studios as the dominant force of Hollywood’s Golden Age. He’s also credited with creating the star system, the process of studios building up and controlling all aspects of an actor’s image such as Cary Grant. A penetrating look at Mayer, this documentary evaluates the deep impact his power and creations had on Hollywood as well as his turbulent personal life.

 

 

 

What Price Hollywood? (1932)

What Price Hollywood? poster

Before the multiple remakes of A Star is Born with Lady Gaga, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland and so on, there was the original film, What Price Hollywood? All of these films follow the basic plot of a successful man falling in a downward spiral as the young woman he helps becomes successful. Each heroine faces major tragedy, exposing how fame and fortune doesn’t always equal happiness.

 

 

 

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Sunset Boulevard poster

Arguably the most honest film about the dark side of Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard reveals how easily people in show business can find themselves trapped in destructive habits and lifestyles. Norma Desmond, a has-been actress Norma Desmond played by Gloria Swanson, symbolizes the perceived disposability of actresses by showing how the industry places “expiration dates” on women when they get “too old” and thus no longer “in vogue”.

 

 

LINK: https://thefridacinema.org/10-must-see-movies-about-hollywood/

The Frida Cinema Film Event Post #33

Ladyhawke: 35th Anniversary

Ladyhawke poster

1985 is alive with Richard Donner’s enchanting gothic fantasy Ladyhawke, screening just in time for its 35th anniversary!

In medieval Europe, Phillipe “The Mouse” Gaston (Matthew Broderick) is a thief who narrowly escapes execution and makes a run for it. He unexpectedly cross paths with the former captain of the guard Navarre (Rutger Hauer) and his hawk, Ladyhawke. Phillipe soon discovers the heartbreaking curse bedeviling Navarre and his lover Isabeau (Michael Pfeiffer) and it falls to him to break the spell and reunite this couple that is “always together, forever apart”.

Nominated for two Academy Awards, Ladyhawke is a visually breathtaking film everyone nostalgic for the 80s should see.


“The film is gorgeous to watch, especially since the quality of light is so central to the plot: Is it afternoon or sunset?” – Eve Tushnet, Patheos.com

“This is a criminally neglected piece of good gothic fairy tale fun.” – Ian Nathan, Empire

“Ladyhawke is a very likeable, very well-made fairytale that insists on a wish for its lovers to live happily ever after.” – Variety

 

 

LINK: https://thefridacinema.org/event/ladyhawke-35th-anniversary/

The Frida Cinema Blog Post #15

The Writer’s Room: Favorite Christmas Films

Olivia Hussey in Black Christmas
Olivia Hussey in Black Christmas.

Every holiday season, one can’t help but look forward to the movies that make the season special. Whether it’s a film from our childhood or a recently discovered gem, these movies make us feel like it really is the most wonderful time of the year. The writers of The Frida Cinema have put together a list of our favorite Christmas films, including movies that deal directly with the holiday or ones that are simply set during Christmas. Regardless of which category they fall into, they make our holiday season that much merrier!


Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas

Trevor Dillon: Four years before the release of John Carpenter’s horror phenomenon Halloween, Bob Clark (Porky’sA Christmas Story) quietly made the first great slasher movie with the original Black Christmas. Awesome performances from Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey are among the best that the genre has ever produced, but it’s Clark’s steady hand behind the camera and ability to create atmosphere (with help from the holiday season setting) that steals the show. Also, the idea of phone calls from the killer (a trope that would be used throughout the 70s and 80s) is played to perfection here. This one still gets under my skin almost fifty years later.

 

 


Olive the Other Reindeer (1999)

Olive the Other Reindeer

Isa Bulnes-ShawThe Nightmare Before Christmas is my favorite movie period, so I don’t think of it as a Christmastime film per se. Olive, the Other Reindeer, however, is an obscure holiday special close to my heart that just oozes Christmas through and through. It’s about a dog named Olive who loves Christmas but feels out of place. When Santa reveals Blitzen is injured, he announces that Christmas might have to rely on “all of the other reindeer”, which she mishears as “Olive, the other reindeer”. Convinced that she’s actually a reindeer and that Santa needs her help, she journeys to the North Pole with a con-artist penguin named Martini and evading a Christmas-hating mailman determined to thwart her mission.

I watched it at least once every year ever since I can remember – I still remember all the songs despite not having seen it in a few years! Just looking at stills from it makes me nostalgic, taking me back to childhood Christmas seasons and reminding me of other beloved cartoon specials: SpongeBobPowerPuff GirlsFairly OddParentsAnimaniacs, the list goes on!

What always stood out to me most was the art style, which I can now appreciate fully knowing that it’s actually three-dimensional CGI made to look identical to the unique illustrations of the picture book it’s based on. It’s also awesome to know that Matt Groening and Drew Barrymore produced as well as lent their voices to the film. The thing is wholesome on the purest level with a genuine spirit that makes me feel cozy and warm.

 

 


Jingle All The Way (1996)

Jingle All The Way

Adrienne Reese: While I know that Jingle All the Way is considered a bad movie, the 8-year-old in me knows in her little untainted heart thatit’s the greatest Christmas film of all time! As a child of the 90’s that loved action hero TV shows, this movie understood me, and its portrayal of the capitalist ethos underlying Christmas toy frenzies continues to remind me of the Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo crazes of my day. Arnie, Sinbad, and Phil Hartman (three actors with some of the best comedic timing in the game) star in the movie and spectacularly commit to their performances amidst the utterly ridiculous hijinks going on around them. If you do not like this movie, it’s because you’re watching it wrong – it’s a reindeer-punching, Santa-fighting, weird movie that is not supposed to be taken seriously.

Its screwball comedic style, cheesy one-liners, and heartfelt drama all come together to make the movie lightning in a Christmas snow globe. When it’s Christmas time, that also means it’s “turbo time” for me!

 

 


Tangerine (2015)

Tangerine

Atalia Lopez: Sean Baker’s Tangerine is a somewhat unlikely pick for a Christmas movie, but I always find time to watch it during the holidays. Notable for its use of the iPhone 5S for all principal photography, Tangerine is a raw look at the city of Los Angeles from the vantage point of its protagonists, Sin-Dee and Alexandra. The two friends (who are both trans prostitutes of color) reconnect the morning of Christmas Eve after Sin-Dee’s release from a brief stint in jail. When it’s revealed that Sin-Dee’s fiancé and pimp has been cheating on her while she was locked up, Sin-Dee embarks on an odyssey across the city to track down the “other woman” in the space of one day.

With the exception of a few short trips on public transit, the journey shows us the streets up close and we follow the characters as they navigate the city on foot. This reflects the imbalance of power that the women experience through the clear connection between transportation, power, and autonomy: the johns have cars, while the girls do not. Unlike other notable Los Angeles movies like ChinatownBlade RunnerSunset Boulevard, etc., the streets are not a blur that pass by in the background but are the domain of these characters.

Ultimately though, Tangerine is a film about friendship and family – both the family we have and the family we choose.

 

 


National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Christmas Vacation

Reggie Peralta: A lot of words come to mind when one thinks of National Lampoon: “wholesome” isn’t one of them. Yet somehow, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation proves to be one of the most wholesome holiday movies of the 80s, if not all time. Not in the sense that there aren’t crude jokes or profanities: there are, but the movie isn’t just a pretext for them to be made. Rather, the film has a surprisingly warm tone that contrasts with the mean-spiritedness you might expect from a Christmas comedy aimed at adults.

This is thanks in no small part to the dynamic between Clark and Ellen Griswold. Played by Chevy Chase as an everyman constantly pushed to his breaking point, Clark is a hero for the modern age while Beverly D’Angelo is a fitting foil as the supremely supportive Ellen, effortlessly defusing her husband’s rants and outbursts and standing by him as he tries to put on the best Christmas yet. The perfect blend of sentiment and satire, Christmas Vacation makes for hilarious, highly rewatchable viewing.

 

 


Babes in Toyland (aka March of The Wooden Soldiers) (1934)

Babes in Toyland

Justina Bonilla: Among all the magical Christmas films that give me a warm and fuzzy feeling, my favorite is legendary comedic duo Laurel and Hardy’s musical comedy Babes in Toyland. Based on the 1903 operetta of the same name, the operetta gave life to the beloved Christmas songs “Toyland” and “March of the Toy Solders”. Other adaptations were made over the years such as Disney’s 1961 version starring Annette Funicello and a 1986 production featuring then-child stars Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves, but none speak to me the way the original does.

Babes in Toyland follows goofy toymakers Ollie De (Hardy) and Stanley Dum (Laurel), who live in Toyland with their sister Little Bo-peep and their mother Widow Peep. Though Bo-Peep is in love and engaged to Tom-Tom, the greedy and shrewd Barnaby wants Bo-Peep for himself. Despite Barnaby’s dastardly attempts to force Bo-Peep to marry him, he is outsmarted by the screwball antics of Laurel and Hardy and resorts to summoning the monsters of Bogeyland to attack Toyland. It ends up falling up to our two unlikely heroes to save the day.

A fun musical filled with cutting edge special effects, dark fairy tale elements and hilarious slapstick comedy, Babes in Toyland is essential viewing for every Christmas in my home and will be for many years to come.

 

 


Joyeux Noel (2005)

Joyeux Noel

Sean Woodard: Based on a true story, Joyeux Noël focuses on the ceasefire between French, Scottish, and German forces on the Western Front on Christmas Eve in 1914. I believe one of the film’s strengths is the filmmaker’s choice to have each actor speak their native language rather than dub them. This language barrier makes the eventual bond over music and celebrating Mass more impactful. The contrast between the camaraderie they share for one day and the consequences the soldiers face following their unofficial truce is heartbreaking. While some may argue that the film is overly sentimental, the film reminds us that the ties that bind us together are stronger than the forces that try to tear them apart.

 

 


Tokyo Godfathers(2003)

Tokyo Godfathers

Sammy TrujilloTokyo Godfathers is a lovely holiday film because it takes the common tropes found in Christmas films and turns them on their head. The three wise men in the film are not kings but vagrants living on the streets of Tokyo. They are not royalty but societal outcasts in the form of a trans woman, an alcoholic, and a teen runaway. While most Christmas films have a miracle towards the finale to solve any remaining conflict, Tokyo Godfathers relies heavily on coincidences so unlikely that one must assume divine intervention is at play. Most importantly, the three protagonists have all abandoned their families and instead find comfort and love in the makeshift family to protect each other from the cruel world that mistreats them. It’s a Christmas film that wins over even the biggest of Scrooges like myself!

 

 

LINK: https://thefridacinema.org/the-writers-room-favorite-christmas-films/

Latin Heat Entertainment #2

Latino Films Inducted To The National Film Registry

By Justina Bonilla

Since 1988, the National Library of Congress’ National Film Registry has chosen 25 films a year to preserve for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. This list in the past has inducted iconic and groundbreaking films from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Godfather and Disney’s Snow White. The 2019 film inductions are more diverse than ever, with ten films directed and/or featuring ethnic talent, including five Latino/Hispanic talent.

Director/Writer Luis Valdez
Writer Josefina Lopez

Inducted this year, are two highly regarded films in Latino American and Chicano cinema, Zoot Suit and Real Women Have CurvesZoot Suit is the second film written and directed by the Father of Chicano theater Luis ValdezReal Women Have Curves is a modern classic by Chicana playwright Josefina Lopez, who created the story and co-wrote the screenplay.  Both Real Women Have Curves and Zoot Suit began as plays, showing the significant influence of plays in Latino American film history.

Latino/Hispanic talent was also featured in other inducted films, namely Purple Rain (leading actress Apollonia Kotero), Boys Don’t Cry (actress Hillary Swank), and Platoon (actor Charlie Sheen).

Past inductees featuring significant Latino/Hispanic stories and/or talent include:

 

West Side Story Rita Moreno, Jose de Vega
The Revenge of Pancho Villa Edmundo Padillo (Dir)
Dracula (Spanish Version) Lupita Tovar
Ben Hur(Silent Version) Ramon Novarro (Lead)
Stand & Deliver Edward James Olmos
El Mariachi Robert Rodriguez (Dir)
Chulas Fronteras Doc Mexican Border Music
High Noon Katy Jurado (Lead)
Night of the Living Dead George Romero (Dir)
Gilda Rita Hayworth
Salt of the Earth Rosaura Revueltas, Juan Chacon
El Norte Gregory Nava (Dir.)
La Bamba Luis Valdez (Dir)

In 2018, the National Film Registry faced criticism, due to its lack of diversity in its list of 750 films. According to TIME Magazine Only 36 films were directed by people of color. Now, the National Film Registry is adding more films with ethnic talent behind and in front of the camera. Solidifying the importance and impact of ethnic talent and stories in American cinema. Contributions that have been overlooked for years, due to preferences for non-ethnic stories and limited and/or stereotypical ethnic roles.

Latino oriented films and significant films with Latino talent that should be evaluated for consideration by the National Film Registry for induction include:

 

Alambrista Domingo Ambriz, Trinidad Silva
American Me Edward J. Olmos (Dir. & Actor), Sal Lopez
Blood In Blood Out Benjamin Bratt, Jessie Borrego, Enrique Castillo
Born In East L.A. Cheech Marin (Writer, Director, Actor)
Crossover Dreams Leon Ichaso (Dir.), Ruben Blades
Desperado Robert Rodriguez (Dir), Antonio Banderas
Kiss of the Spider Woman Hector Babenco (Dir.), Raul Julia
Mi Familia Gregory Nava (Dir.), Jimmy Smits, JLO
Requiem for a Heavyweight Anthony Quinn
Selena Gregory Nava (Dir.), Jennifer Lopez
The Book of Life Jorge Gutierrez (Dir.), Zoe Saldana
The Bronze Screen Nancy de Los Santos (Dir. +2)
The Girl From Mexico Lupe Velez
The Three Caballeros Aurora Miranda, Carmen Molina

Significant Films featuring Latino talent:

The Goucho Lupe Velez
Ocean’s 11 (’60) Cesar Ramiro, Henry Silva, Sammy Davis Jr.
Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn Ricardo Montalban
Anna Lucasta Sammy Davis Jr.
The Fugitive Dolores del Rio, Pedro Armendariz

LINK: https://www.latinheat.com/spotlight-news/latino-films-inducted-to-the-national-film-registry/

The Frida Cinema Blog Post #14

Top 5 Christmas Horror Films

Black Christmas + 2 Other Christmas Horror Movies screen Friday, December 27th

Gremlins Gizmo

In honor of the 45th anniversary of the slasher horror classic Black Christmas, I’d like to take a look at five Christmas-themed films that every horror fan should see!


Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

Anna and the Apocalypse poster

A Christmas musical, Anna and the Apocalypse is filled with holiday cheer, zombies, and blood galore. A zombie apocalypse breaks out in a quaint Scottish town, with the majority of residents being infection. Schoolgirl Anna and a handful of her classmates attempt to find their loved ones and escape while also dealing with teenage struggles. A Breakfast Club meets Dawn of the Dead and White Christmas, it’s a unique cinematic experience that will undoubtedly become a horror holiday classic.

 

 


Krampus (2015)

Krampus poster

A modern take on the European Christmas folk tradition, Krampus introduces a new generation to the legendary demon. When the dysfunctional Engel family gathers for Christmas, their resentment and hatred for each other leads to the loss of the Christmas spirit. This summons Krampus, who seeks to terrorize the family and drag them all – even the children – to hell. Now, the Engels must put aside their differences and and come up with a way to beat the beast and survive the night. A great Christmas horror film, Krampus is one to watch snuggled up with loved ones.

 

 


Silent Night, Deadly Night(1984)

Silent Night Deadly poster

One of the most controversial and heavily protested films of the 1980s, Silent Night, Deadly Night offended family groups with its depiction of a murderous Santa in advertisements. After witnessing the death of his parents by an assailant in a Santa outfit, Billy is sent to live in an abusive orphanage. When he grows up and leaves the orphanage, Billy snaps and goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa. Although other movies depicting a killer Santa came out before this one, the backlash for Silent Night led the studio to pull the commercial from television and ultimately, the film itself from theaters. However, it became a cult classic beloved by horror fans to this day.

 

 


Gremlins(1984)

Gremlins poster

An unlikely horror-comedy classic, Gremlins has become more beloved with every passing Christmas. After being given an unusual pet in the form of the Mogwai Gizmo, Billy doesn’t follow the care instructions for the creature. This leads to the creation of an army of Gremlins who take over the town. It’s up to Billy and Gizmo, with a little help from their friends, to defeat the mischievous monsters. It’s a visually and musically incredible experience, as well as one that features one of the cutest creatures in film ever.

 

 


Black Christmas(1974)

Black Christmas poster

Nine years before Bob Clark directed the comedy classic A Christmas Story, he helmed Black Christmas, the quintessential holiday horror. A group of female college students throw a Christmas party at their sorority house during winter break. After receiving an obscene and threatening phone call, one of them goes missing. Soon, more sorority sisters are killed and the calls continue, leading them to suspect that this phantom killer and the phone caller might be the same person. A trailblazing film, Black Christmas established many signatures of the horror genre today with its plot twist and visual styles.

 

 

Link: https://thefridacinema.org/top-5-christmas-horror-films-to-see/

The Frida Cinema Blog Post #13

The Irishman: A Modern Scorsese Masterpiece

The Irishman

Martin Scorsese made a name for himself writing and directing realistic dramas like Casino and Goodfellas. At first glance, one might see The Irishman as just another gritty gangster movie, filled with Scorsese signatures such as Catholic imagery, familiar actors, and intense attention to on-camera details. However, Scorsese reaches new heights with this film, examining brotherhood, family, and coming to terms with one’s own mortality. It’s a melodrama beautifully realized by Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, three titans of crime cinema.

De Niro himself described The Irishman as “…a classic story about loyalty, about brotherhood and betrayal. But a betrayal for a reason that people can understand.” Said story is based on the nonfiction book I Heard you Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, a former criminal investigator. It chronicles the life of Frank Sheeran, a union driver turned hitman for the Bufalino crime family who also, supposedly, played a key role in the disappearance of teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa.

The film opens in the 1970s as Sheeran (Robert De Niro) drives his friend Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and their wives to a wedding. The trip is accompanied by narration from Sheeran about his life with the mafia, from his chance meeting with Bufalino in the mid-50s and becoming an alleged established hitman to his complex relationship with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Eventually they make it to the wedding when Hoffa suddenly disappears. When no trace of Hoffa can be found, everyone suspected of being involved with his disappearance either dies or goes to jail for unrelated crimes. After Sheeran is released from jail, he’s left to face the consequences of his actions as well as his own demise.

 

The Irishman

 

In order to capture a vast age range for the film’s main cast, Scorsese and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto used CGI to de-age the actors. At first, many were concerned about how the actors would look, as other attempts at CGI de-aging in other films looked extremely fake. The moment the movies goes back in time however, you can’t help but be surprised at how much the main actors look like they did in iconic, earlier roles of theirs in movies like The Godfather Part III and A Bronx Tale. The CGI is seamless, with it making you forget at times that De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci are all in their mid-to-late 70’s.

Seeing De Niro, Pacino and Pesci act together in a Scorsese film is a joy for many who grew up watching their films. Funnily enough, Pesci hadn’t acted in anything for 10 years when he was asked by De Niro to be in the movie. It’s very fortunate that Pesci agreed to come out of retirement for the film as it wouldn’t have been as impactful without his supporting performance. He solidifies this remarkable acting trinity with his calm yet commanding presence. Also making appearances are an array of famous comedians, including Ray Romano as the teamster attorney Bill Bufalino and cameos by Sebastian Maniscalco as Joseph ‘Crazy Joe’ Gallo and Jim Norton as the legendary comedian Don Rickles.

Thanks to Netflix funding the project and allowing Scorsese the creative freedom to make it the way he imagined, the movie gives viewers both the comfort of a Scorsese film and the experience of seeing a new creative venture. It’s already recognized by the Board of Review as the Best Film of 2019 and listed on AFI’s Motion Pictures of the Year 2019 list. Without a doubt, this movie will be nominated in several Oscar categories and hopefully win a few.

Though the film is almost three-and-a-half hours long, it kept my attention the whole time. I was drawn immediately into the story and floored at how fast it went by, keeping me mesmerized for every minute. Filled with nostalgia, suspense, great music, relatable characters and beautiful imagery, The Irishman is sure to be remembered as one of Scorsese’s best films ever.

 

 

Link: https://thefridacinema.org/the-irishman-a-modern-scorsese-masterpiece/