The Main In Spain (Film Thoughts: Everybody Knows/Todos Lo Saben)

Everybody-Knows-posters-1-218x340I was drawn to ‘Everybody Knows’ because of its Director, the Iranian Asghar Faradi. I liked two of his earlier work: ‘A Separation,’ and ‘The Salesman.’  This is his first film in Spanish, and I know he did a French language one before, though I have not seen it. ‘Everybody Knows’ (Spanish title: Todos Lo Saben) is a kidnapping thriller movie, but it is also, and more, a melodrama. If you came looking for an edge-of-your-seat thriller, you probably will be disappointed. I had to re-callibrate my expectations myself, but once I settled in that this is a slow-burning kind-of-sexy Spanish story, I was fine.

And it stars two of the biggest films of Spanish cinema – Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, and they both sizzle here. Cruz plays Laura, whose daughter gets kidnapped. I kind of knew that something was going to happen tot he daughter the way it was set up. Irene (Carla Campra) is beautiful and luminous in the early scenes you just want to tell her “you in danger gurl,” and the party scenes aren’t over yet and she is gone. The story’s focus moves into the peeling of the layers of the relationships of the people left behind, that the kidnapping at some point would hardly matter.  I thought at times that the pacing slowed, but then I got that it needed to slow so we can fully know all the other characters. I was always a little lukewarm about Cruz but she is great here, giving a pained performance that never gets to ‘too much.’ And Bardem is wonderful, an empty slate in the beginning that becomes more and more complicated as the story evolves. I know that the buzz on this was fairly negative coming out of Cannes, but I liked it enough. It probably would end up as a lesser Farhad, but a lesser Farhad is a solid effort.

Deep In Vogue (Television Thoughts: The Man Who Would Be In Vogue, Pilot Episode, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, F/X

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I had been looking forward to seeing ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ because o a couple of things. Firstly, I remember when this incident happened, and followed the case close enough when it was on the headlines. Of course, the old me don’t remember really that much about the case, so I thought it would be well to see it unfold in a different way. Second, Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan, is half-Filipino so culturally it is resonating with me – although really being a psychopath doesn’t really get dictated by nationality. And lastly, this looks to be one of the gayest shows this season – directed by Ryan Murphy, and starring Ricky Martin and Darrin Criss. Well, Criss isn’t technically gay, but I have only seen him play gay, so he might as well be.

And the pilot. ‘The Man Who Would Be Vogue’ was pretty engaging. I know some have complained that it was a little slow, but I thought it moved quickly enough, and really, is there that much to say to warrant nine episodes? It begins at the day of the shooting, and moves back and forth in time. There were details I didn’t really know – that bird which got killed by a stray bullet was something I didn’t know. Plus, I thought the performances were universally good. Edgar Ramirez looks and talks like the real Gianni that it was sometimes jarring. And what great revelation Ricky martin is here. I know he has acted before, and I have seen him on stage even on Les Miserable, but his Antonio D’Amico here has great shades of subtlety (I suspect Murphy’s hand there)  Penelope Cruz is inspired casting – there’s just a dash of camp there for vavavavoom but you never feel it isn’t real – Cruz gives her great humanity. And Darren Criss is blazing hot to look at as Andrew Cunanan, which probably best represented the character: all accounts from people he knew said he had charm. There are moments of deep depth in Criss here – in the ‘fantasy’ sequence of him and Versace on stage at the San Francisco Opera, you can see his mind swirling as Cunanan’s probably was- but slim writing probably hindered him in some scenes. When he gets to his car after killing Versace, we never truly know what is going on in Cunanan’s mind, and Criss never really filled in the blanks there.

For sure, though, the show is great to look at and sounds incredible. The bright Miami sunlight gives it a great glow, and there is that stunning opening sequence of Casa Casuarina choreographed to Albinoni’s Adagio. I am hooked, and cannot wait for the next episodes.

Oh My Mama (Movie Thoughts: Ma Ma)

ma-ma-posterI keep on forgetting that Penelope Cruz won an Oscar (2009, for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, though I barely remember that film or her performance in it) and I wonder if she has been saddled by the Supporting Actress curse, because I can’t remember her in anything significant since. So here comes “Ma Ma,” a film she co-produced and stars in – and the best thing in this film is her performance. She plays Magda, a woman who finds out she has breast cancer. Directed by Julio Medem, the film is long on melodrama – it’s one of those four-hanky movies disease movies – and sometimes it gets too down that it becomes too exhausting to watch. Medem peppers the film with fantastical scenes that make him look like a low-rent Terence Malick, making the movie depressing and confusing. Plus, the film is overly long, or maybe it just feels that way for me.

But all is not lost, because the acting is good here – Cruz, as I mentioned, is wonderful. She gives her Magda a great dignity – you feel sorry for her and at the same time admire her brevity. (Though physically, even at her sickest, Magda is still beautifu, making the character less believable)  Luis Tosar plays Arturo, who plays an unlikely love interest for her. He gives his underwritten character gravity. Asier Etxeandia plays Julian, Magda’s doctor, who gets involved in her life, though I thought his character a bit creepy for getting too involved. These are all photogenic actors who are great to look at, and the Madrid setting is luminous. Do I think this film is worth seeing? I guess it depends on your tolerance for disease movies, as this one is pretty grim.