Sunday, September 25, 2016

Movie No. 68 (2016): STRAWBERRY AND CHOCOLATE

Strawberry and Chocolate (1993)
Directors: Tomas Gutierrez Alea / Juan Carlos Tabio
Cast: Vladimir Cruz, Jorge Perugorria, Mirta Ibarra
In Spanish, with English subtitles

Personalities and ideologies clash in this charming comedy about two men. One is homosexual who is an individualist. The other is a heterosexual who is Communist. Their odd friendship stems from a casual encounter in an ice cream shop at a park. The unusual bond is shaken in an exciting way by the intrusion of a suicidal neighbor. 

The screenplay is riddled with some witty and funny dialog. Watching it, I thought the movie could make a good and interesting play. It reminds of "Kiss of a Spider Woman" without the bleakness. Jorge Perugorria gives a calculated performance that's just charming and competent.

The movie was nominated Best Foreign-Language Film at the 1994 Academy Awards.

This is my second viewing of the movie. The first time was in Columbus, OH in 1997.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 11, 2016


Monday, September 5, 2016

Movie No. 67 (2016): STRANGER THINGS (Season 1)

Stranger Things (Season 1)
Directors: The Duffer Brothers and others
Cast: Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Charlie Heaton, Millie Bobby Brown

Season 1 of Stranger Things consists of eight episodes. It's like one long movie (more than 5 hours). I watched all the 8 episodes in one seating; so, I'm considering the entire season one movie.

Stranger Things is an original mini-series, created by The Duffer Brothers, who also directed and wrote some episodes. Stephen King's thumb marks may have been conspicuous in the plot, subplots, and narrative, however the series is still original (with influences). 

The story begins with four boys playing Dungeons and Dragons then a little later one of them (Will Byers) disappears on his way home. The year is 1983. Once Will's family, friends, and the whole county learn about his disappearance every seems to care and get involved. In the process of finding Will, we get to know the story of the county. We get to know the back stories of every character that matters. We get to know the importance of friendship and family in trying times. Even secrets get exposed, past pain rekindles. All these are intricately woven in the narrative. 

There are lots of interesting aspects of Stranger Things. The cinematography and art direction easily convince the audience that everything they see on the screen are in the 1980s. In the dialogue, there are references to pop culture during that time - Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, etc. I agree that it is a homage to iconic movies of the 1980s. There's this scene where a little girl follows the flickering Christmas lights, reminiscent of Poltergeist. The image of four kids walking in the train track in search of the body of will Byers, reminiscent of Stand By Me. The bike chase, reminiscent of ET, The Extra-Terrestrial. In fact, hiding the runaway girl with telekinetic power is also reminiscent of ET. The girl with telekinetic power is Carrie-ish. There are scenes that are reminiscent of Alien, Aliens, Explorers, Goonies, Legend, etc.

This is one movie where every performance is superb and convincing. Winona Ryder may have given the most memorable performance, but, we can't discount that the five child actors, including the telekinetic girl, also give calculated but electrifying performances. Ensemble acting has enhanced the movie's strengths and greatness.

There's a rumor about second season of this show. In my opinion, there's no need for it since season is an accomplished work. But, if there's really a second season, I really can't wait to see what will happen.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 4, 2016