(Photo by Fox Searchlight/courtesy Everett Collection)
What makes a movie truly sexy, enough to to grant it entrance to our guide of the sexiest movies ever? Variety is the spice: For some movies, it’s about the animal chemistry between its stars (Body Heat, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) or the building passion of its characters (Brokeback Mountain, Titanic). With others, the turn-on is the illicit thrill of being bad (Unfaithful, Secretary) or the purity of self-awakening and discovery (Gloria, Moonlight). Sometimes it’s about the mood a movie evokes, intoxicating and overwhelming, like with In the Mood For Love or Y Tu Mama Tambien. And, yeah, sometimes it’s all about the sex scenes: Mulholland Drive, Lust, Caution, In the Realm of the Senses have got your number. Recently, we’ve added 365 Days, Malcolm & Marie, The Newness, Deep Water, and The Voyeurs.
(Photo by © Focus Features)
For some, staying home right now can mean curling up with a loved one on the couch for a date-night flick or gathering the whole family together for movie night. For many others, it can mean flying solo – long days and nights of streaming by yourself. We’re here to help with some movie suggestions we think are tailor-made for that latter experience.
Just like going to the movie theater alone can be a singularly joyous “treat yo self” excursion, solo home-viewing can be a great experience too – if you choose the right film. There are movies out there that actually benefit from being watched alone: It might be that they require a level of concentration and focus that distracting friends and loved ones just won’t allow you, or that the maximum scare factor is best felt when you are completely isolated – just like the babysitter being stalked on screen. It might just be that the movie has the kind of awkward/titillating sexy bits that make watching it with a first date – or, let’s say, mom – not exactly ideal. Watch it alone – no judgment, no nervous giggles.
To help those solo-fliers get through the next little while, the RT team pulled together a list of movies perfect for watching alone for all of those reasons – and a bunch that are just guaranteed to put you in an awesome mood the moment they start. Which might be the best reason of all.
What’s your favorite movie to watch by yourself? Let us know in the comments.
Click on each movie’s title to find out more, including where to stream, rent, or buy.
Thumbnail image: Everett Collection, Paramount Pictures, Focus Features
Twenty-five years ago today, Thelma and Louise jumped behind the wheel in search of a little freedom — and although the trip didn’t turn out quite the way they’d planned, their movie has enjoyed a far smoother journey, becoming one of the best-reviewed (and most popular) road trip movies of the last quarter-century. In celebration of Thelma and Louise‘s latest milestone, we’ve compiled a list of audience-tested and critic-approved road trip movies that’ll keep you going for hours.
The Roadblocks: Unfortunately, the brothers embark on their journey with a suspended license, and they aren’t about to slow down for a little inconvenience like the police (or mall pedestrians). Meanwhile, one of Jake’s spurned girlfriends (a bazooka-toting Carrie Fisher) is hot on their tail, and has no intention of letting the Blues Brothers reunite — or, for that matter, letting Jake live. Confined to the highways and byways of Illinois, The Blues Brothers doesn’t cover as much ground as most road movies, but it’s a high-speed trip — and it culminates in one of the most righteous car crashes ever filmed.
Notes from the Road: “Constantly hilarious, with a comic supporting cast to die for.” — Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner
The Roadblocks: Borat is essentially his own roadblock — if he isn’t shocking and/or offending middle Americans with his witless comments about women and minorities, he’s picking an epic, distressingly naked fight with his best friend and producer (Ken Davitian). It will not surprise you to learn that things don’t go according to plan.
Notes from the Road: “Although I knew it was dishonest, cynical, and the ultimate in cheap-shot humor, I laughed more at Borat than at any other film this year. So I guess the joke is on me.” — Peter Keough, Boston Phoenix
The Roadblocks: It’s the establishment, man. Okay, so they might be biking across the country with drug money stuffed in a tube, but Wyatt and Billy aren’t bad guys. Problem is, their scruffy appearance and relaxed attitude toward local customs have a way of attracting untoward attention from The Man.
Notes from the Road: “This is a glorious widescreen vision of a hot and bothered America, at once beautiful and lost.” — Ian Nathan, Empire
The Roadblocks: They’re both broke and the girl needs $850, for starters — and then there’s the complicated tangle of personal relationships that forces its way into their path at seemingly every turn, initiating a series of uncomfortable reckonings along the way.
Notes from the Road: “Grandma is a small film, but one with huge things to say about the meaning of family and the value of living on one’s own terms.” — Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Roadblocks: Screenwriter Robert Riskin pulled out all the stops for Colbert and Gable’s journey, including a series of screwball misunderstandings, the most famous hitchhiking scene in movie history, and an added dash of last-minute wedding excitement in the final act. If its ingredients all seem overly familiar now, it’s because they worked so brilliantly here.
Notes from the Road: “It Happened One Night is a true classic in every sense of the word, one that withstands the test of time and indeed defies it completely.” — Scott Nash, Three Movie Buffs
The Roadblocks: The Hoovers are on a tight 48-hour timetable, for starters; making matters more difficult is their lack of funds, as well as the gloomy presence of Sheryl’s brother (Steve Carell), who recently tried to commit suicide, and Richard’s father (Alan Arkin), whose heroin habit just got him kicked out of a retirement home. And then there’s the matter of that ancient yellow Microbus…
Notes from the Road: “This inspirational, hilariously sad dysfunctional-family-road-trip dramedy offers absolutely everything — except pretension.” — Brian Marder, Hollywood.com
The Roadblocks: Once Mardukas loudly feigns fear of flying and gets them kicked off their flight to L.A., he and Walsh are forced to embark on a hellish cross-country journey that finds them dodging interference from the mob, a competing bounty hunter (John Ashton), and their own loathing for one another. A sequel is reportedly in the works; here’s hoping the decades in between haven’t softened their mutual disdain/begrudging respect.
Notes from the Road: “When it comes to odd-couple action comedies, this is pretty much the epitome of how to do it.” — Luke Y. Thompson, New Times
The Roadblocks: As pretty much everyone who watched it already knew, Ernesto grew up to be the revolutionary Che Guevara — and The Motorcycle Diaries dramatizes his political awakening on the trip, sparked by firsthand experience with systemic corruption and a poverty-stricken populace.
Notes from the Road: “You get so caught up in the beauty of the images, and lost in the weathered faces found along the way, you quite forget that you’re traveling with Che Guevara — which is, of course, exactly what the original experience would be.” — Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times
The Roadblocks: Unfortunately, Kermit also attracts the attention of Doc Hopper (Charles Durning) and his mealy-mouthed sidekick Max (Austin Pendleton), whose frog legs restaurant franchise needs a new spokesman — and who doesn’t take kindly to being spurned by a banjo-playing frog.
Notes from the Road: “Still one of many great reasons to be a movie buff.” — Rory L. Aronsky, Film Threat
The Roadblocks: Things go wrong early and often, from the eight-headlighted lemon Clark buys from an unscrupulous car salesman (Eugene Levy) to an ill-advised pit stop at the depressing Kansas homestead of Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his off-putting clan. It doesn’t help that beneath Clark’s family values exterior lurks the heart of a drooling lech; his panting pursuit of an unnamed beauty (Christie Brinkley) causes almost as many problems as his refusal to ask for directions.
Notes from the Road: “Constantly hilarious, with a comic supporting cast to die for.” — Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner
The Roadblocks: Well, for starters, the Alamo doesn’t have a basement. And then there’s the biker gang, and the fire at a pet store, and the former child star in possession of the bicycle… what doesn’t stand between poor Pee-Wee and his bike?
Notes from the Road: “It’s a true original — a comedy maverick that looks and feels like no other movie I know.” — David Steritt, Christian Science Monitor
The Roadblocks: Cruise’s efforts to get back to Los Angeles by plane are thwarted by his brother’s phobia, forcing the two to travel by car (and make regular stops for viewings of The People’s Court). Naturally, the slow journey in close quarters brings the two closer together — and brings up long-buried family secrets.
Notes from the Road: “A fascinating, often very moving, frequently funny film.” — Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel
The Roadblocks: Sideways is full of messy detours and unfortunate events, including a broken nose for Jack, a car crash, and a howling early-morning pursuit by a naked giant (memorably played by Lost’s M.C. Gainey) — but they can all be traced back to one thing: Jack’s fear of commitment and unquenchable thirst for sexual conquest.
Notes from the Road: “From its first minutes, maybe even from the credits, you know you are seeing something very special.” –Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press
The Roadblocks: Men, mostly. After Louise fatally intervenes in an attempted rape on Thelma, the duo turn fugitive — and their journey is further complicated when a run-in with a hunky young thief (Brad Pitt) leaves them caught for cash and stuck in an increasingly desperate spot.
Notes from the Road: “Their adventures, while tinged with the fatalism that attends any crime spree, have the thrilling, life-affirming energy for which the best road movies are remembered.” — Janet Maslin, New York Times
The Roadblocks: To begin with, the idyllic secluded beach they’ve promised their female companion doesn’t exist — which actually isn’t as big a problem as the hornet’s nest of secrets and repressed desires that’s knocked over after they all start fooling around. It’s the end of an era for Mexican politics, and for our protagonist’s relationships.
Notes from the Road: “Easily one of the sexiest and funniest films about class struggle ever made.” –Manohla Dargis, L.A. Weekly
Not since Charlton Heston played a Latino drug officer in Touch of Evil has a giant of American cinema so, ahem, convincingly inhabited a Mexican on screen like Will Ferrell in this week’s Casa de mi Padre. Making his Spanish-language debut, Ferrell plays slow-witted black-sheep-of-the-clan Armando Alvarez, whose swarthy brother Raul (Diego Luna) is taking the family into the drug trade against the nefarious La Onza (Gael García Bernal). Meanwhile, Raul’s fiance, the beautiful and tragic Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), has fallen for Armando, a wedding turns into a hyperreal bloodbath, and a mystical white panther stalks the patently fake jungle sets dispensing oracle wisdom. The movie is an affectionate satire of the unintentionally comic Mexican telenovelas, with a heavy dose of bad Spaghetti Westerns, overly sincere performances, and even a touch of Jodorowsky strangeness. We sat down with the star recently for a chat about the film…
This movie has everything: action, romance, surrealism, panthers…
Will Ferrell: [Laughs] Yeah.
As I understand, you’d always wanted to do a Spanish-language movie. At what point did it become this one?
You know, I had the general idea and then it really was Andrew Steele, the writer, who just kind of created the whole story, the whole setting. When we talked about it I was kind of like, “Andrew, I don’t know what exactly but I’m sure it’s gotta be some epic story, probably with a love element and some sort of melodramatic tale.” But yeah, he kind of turned it into this story and added the narco traficante element to it. Then when we added Matt Piedmont, the director, to it, he kind of added the surrealism element with the way he shot things and finding and using old lenses at Panavision to shoot on, shooting it anamorphic and not processing the film and stuff like that. It just kind of kept getting… the simple structure was built and then more and more layers of schlack were added.
That being the technical term.
Were you, like Matt, a fan of the telenovelas?
I had seen telenovelas just, you know, cruising around the TV and had always thought to myself, “God, these things are kind of fascinating.” They were so over the top and had this weird style to them; they were very bizarre. So that was where the initial concept came from, but then Andrew, those guys, they know their cinema really well and they were kind of connoisseurs of bad Mexican cinema from 1969 through the middle ’70s — you know, a lot of these Spaghetti Westerns with the jump cuts and the continuity issues and things like that.
So we’re not talking about Sergio Leone-level stuff here.
More like the kind of movies you’d accidentally see on late night TV…
Late at night on TV, poorly dubbed in English. [Laughs] So they started talking about what if we added those elements, and I thought — that’s amazing. But I can’t say that I knew that world so well. Between Matt and Andrew, they really gave it the style that it has.
When you committed to do this, had you made the decision to speak fluently in Spanish?
Genesis Rodriguez was very full of praise for your… cadence.
[Laughs] That’s very nice.
She’s the expert, having been in telenovelas.
She would know. She’s a pro. And Diego [Luna], too, actually did telenovelas ’til he was 19, I guess, which I didn’t know. We didn’t realize that he saw it as an opportunity to make fun of what he had done as an actor.
He didn’t think you were serious about the movie, right? Like it was some kind of practical joke?
Yeah. He even sat down with us — we all had drinks in Venice and he was like, “Are you really gonna learn Spanish?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” Then he said, “Alright, well… I guess I’m in.” [Laughs] But when I had the initial idea I always thought, “If I’m gonna do this, the joke won’t be that I speak Spanish poorly.” The joke has to be that you’re sitting in the theater, watching it, and I come up on screen speaking Spanish and a couple of things go through your head, like: “How long is this gonna last? Is it gonna last the whole movie? There’s no way… oh my god, I think it is.” And the third point being, “And he sounds pretty good, I think.” [Laughs]
‘Cause that gag would’ve gotten old in about two minutes.
Exactly. That’s a sketch. So I knew that if I was gonna do this I had to at least sound as authentic as I could. That’s why he hedged our bet a little bit with the family, with the father and Diego commenting at times, “You speak so weird” and “You’re not the smart one.”, Also, we knew that for native speakers I would sound decent, but a little off. So I tirelessly worked with a translator for about six weeks out from shooting, and then every day, on the set, we’d drive together and go over the lines, and then drive home together and go over the next day’s lines.
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Does Matt speak Spanish?
No. Matt doesn’t speak Spanish, Andrew doesn’t speak Spanish, so… [Laughs]
That must have been an interesting set. Genesis was saying that Gael and Diego would sometimes ad-lib and you’d be left with a kind of blank stare…
How did that work? I mean, you obviously have your particular comedic style, so how did that mesh when you’re speaking Spanish? Did that mean you had to find a different style of comedy when you were doing it?
You know it was almost, in a weird way, like being a silent film actor — [laughs] — or what I imagine that would have been like, in the sense that I knew that it would be all I could do just to memorize what my lines were and get them down with authenticity and emphasis in the right places, so it sounded like I was speaking the right way. That would be hard enough. I just knew that it was not like I was gonna get all that down and then start fluently improvising. So I just kind of found moments: in reactions, non-verbal, physical things — like the moment where I help Genesis up on the horse, and the moment before that where I’m talking with Efren [Ramirez] and Adrian [Martinez] and I’m rolling the cigarette and we’re laughing. I couldn’t get the cigarette to work at all, everything was just spilling out and I just went with it.
Which became a running gag.
Yep. We just kept running with it, and finding these through lines; they were the things that were more improvised, as opposed to actual dialogue.
Will we ever see that missing reel of you wrestling with the white panther?
[Laughs] No. I don’t think there’ll be any wrestling. We always had that — the lost footage. The other character, the other kind of personality in the movie, is that it’s just bad. It’s a bad movie, so we wanted… we just knew we didn’t have the time or resources to choreograph a scene with a puppet panther.
Where did you find these puppets? There’s one taxidermy that looks like he was found on the side of a road.
The one that moves actually came from Henson.
The animatronic one?
Yeah. Those people were nice enough to want to be involved for very little money. [Laughs] And then Piedmont, he loves his set design and production design and finding strange taxidermy and things like that. Kevin Kavanaugh, the production designer, who’s actually an old friend from growing up in Orange County, he was so scrappy and innovative and he came up with a lot of that stuff. That set that Kevin built, of the lake, that’s one of the funniest moments to me — where Genesis is like, “It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen” and it just looks terrible.
It’s like a sound stage version of a sound stage set.
[Laughs] Right, right. That’s what I like about this movie.
But I like that it’s mixed with some quite impressive cinematography elsewhere.
Yes. And at times, the movie looks big and expensive, it’s crazy.
Since they’ve done several films together, did Gael and Diego come as some kind of package deal?
[Laughs] Yeah. I mean they’re good friends. I think they just talked to each other and were like, “Hey, we have such a history together on screen — let’s do this together and kind of make fun of that.” I think there were so many meta opportunities for them they were just, “Let’s do this.” [Laughs]
I get the impression that those guys are amusing, but I was surprised at how funny they really are in this.
You know, it’s funny: they’re pretty impressive guys, because they’re really funny in English — they’re sarcastic, you know; just when we talk in English they have a great sense of humor. It doesn’t surprise me, though, that they were funny, because they’re so committed. I always found that to be the case when I was on Saturday Night Live — the best hosts, a lot of the time, were the straight dramatic actors, ’cause they would just commit to scenes wholeheartedly without saying “Give me a funny line here.” They knew that if they just trusted the context it would play funny, and sure enough those were some of the funnier shows. These guys, they instinctively knew that as well.
Genesis plays it very straight, too — which makes her funny.
Yeah, I think so too. That scene on the horseback where she talks about her upbringing and living on the streets and everything like that, it’s just delivered so dramatically that it makes me laugh.
I read some talk that you and Adam [McKay] are working on a sequel to Step Brothers. Will that be your next project together, with him directing?
Yeah, I think so. In fact, I’m calling him right now, after this interview, to let him know that you’re the third or fourth journalist who’s said “Step Brothers 2 — come on.”
John C. Reilly will be back, I’m assuming.
Oh, absolutely. We already have a story beated out — it’s just a question of whether we can write it in time and get it ready for a certain slot in the fall, and that sort of thing.
I think seeing you in two together in the Tim and Eric movie whet the appetite again.
I know! John’s the best and I love working with him. We’re dying to do something again together.
Casa de mi Padre is in theaters this week.
The Edinburgh Film Festival has come to a close and Rotten Tomatoes thought we’d make a traditional look back over all of the films playing at this year’s fest and present to you – in strictly alphabetical order – our 10 must-sees. As a public-facing festival, Edinburgh’s selection attempts to combine the accessible with the artistic, and delivers a collection of movies both diverse and outstanding. From spoof comedies to harsh drama, from in-depth documentaries to cutting-edge animation, Edinburgh dares to be different and programmes a festival that’s at turns youthful and experienced, offering movies for just about any cinemagoer imaginable. And for us, it’s two weeks of life in dark rooms — just how we like it.
Black Dynamite – Michael Jai White is silencing the jive talkers in this hilarious spoof of Blaxsploitation capers of the 70s. It really is the grindhouse that Grindhouse should have been, as White — the titular Black Dynamite — attempts to foil a plot to deal drugs to orphans that goes all the way to the White House. The jokes wear a little thin towards the end, but for the large part it’ll have you in stitches, and Jai White revels in the period humour as booms enter shots, actors miss cues and them poor orphans are all drugged up. – Joe Utichi
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Le Donk – Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine are best known for their thoughtful, considered drama collaborations like Dead Man’s Shoes and A Room for Romeo Brass, so news of a mockumentary shot in five days with Considine taking on the character of a Northern roadie called Le Donk was ever so slightly worrying. We needn’t have taken the time to fret, though, because the result is riotously hysterical, and Considine revels in creating a character so desperate for attention that you can’t help but fall in love with him. Le Donk is shifting gear for the Arctic Monkeys and brings along a documentary crew for the week while he tries to introduce the world to a rapping prodigy he’s discovered. Meadows’ forte is in finding real heart at the centre of any story, and that continues here, for while the journey is brilliantly funny, you also get a sense of the character as a human being. We want more. – JU
Exam – From Stuart Hazeldine, who’s already making Hollywood waves working with Alex Proyas and scripting Paradise Lost, Exam is a modest British sci-fi thriller set in one room as a group of candidates from all sorts of racial and social backgrounds compete for a mysterious job. A blank sheet of paper sits in front of them and they’re told to answer the question on it. Over 80 minutes of real time, we enjoy their interaction as they try to figure out their situation and work with and against one another. It’s the kind of small-scale/big-impact sci-fi flick we don’t see enough of these days and it’s simply gripping from start to finish. It transcends its modest budget to deliver a slickly shot and incredibly entertaining experience. Expect big things from Hazeldine, and cross fingers and toes that Exam finds a distributor willing to give it a big release – you won’t want to miss it. – JU
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Fish Tank –
Red Road director Andrea Arnold proves she’s no one-trick pony with this stunning follow-up set on an Essex estate. Newcomer Katie Jarvis plays 15-year-old Mia, a would-be street dancer with a neglectful mother and a hilariously cheeky little sister. When charismatic Connor (Hunger’s Michael Fassbender) starts dating her mother, Mia’s world changes — but is it for the better? The ambiguity of their relationship drives both plot and characterisation forward in this beautifully observed, bitterly funny and utterly involving drama that marks Arnold as a true British talent. Watch out for a winning turn from up-and-comer Harry Treadaway, too. – Anna Smith
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For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism – It wouldn’t be right if a site about film critics didn’t include a documentary about film critics in its top 10. A critic himself, Gerald Peary goes on a journey of the American film writer, starting right at the beginning and presenting a detailed history of the art. Along the way, he gives faces to the faceless critics of newspapers, TV shows and websites and profiles them on what made them critics. Incredibly eye opening, and featuring contributions from the likes of Roger Ebert and Harry Knowles, it’s a documentary well worth watching. – JU
Humpday – Lynn Shelton‘s hilarious comedy is also the winner of our second Rotten Tomatoes Critical Consensus Award, and joins the powerful company of Let the Right One In. Mark Duplass and The Blair Witch Project‘s Joshua Leonard star as a pair of straight friends for whom a drunken night turns into a harsh reality as they realise they’ve talked each other into having sex with one another for a local amateur art-porn festival. Deftly exploring masculinity and homosexuality as well as relationships both intimate and not, Shelton’s indie is a real treat. – JU
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Mary and Max – This delightfully offbeat Australian stop-motion animation deserves to be a huge hit. Beautifully narrated by Barry Humphries, it tells the story of Mary Daisy Dinkle, a lonely Australian girl with a mother who spends all day “testing sherry” and a father who lives in his shed. After pulling a random address out of a New York phone box, Mary writes to Max Jerry Horovitz, an equally lonely middle-aged American. An unlikely pair of penpals is born as Mary and Max begin to share the intimate details of their lives. The animation is terrific, and the visual gags work just as hard as the verbal ones. Themes become darker as the film progresses, but Mary and Max never loses its sense of hope or Amelie-style charm. A must-see. – AS
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Moon – Sam Rockwell stars in a futuristic sci-fi made by David Bowie’s son: what’s not to like? Turns out Duncan Jones (famously born Zowie Bowie) has inherited his father’s talent: this debut is an assured, inventive film that makes good use of its tiny cast. Rockwell is Sam Bell, an astronaut working solo on a space station on the Moon. It’s a lonely life, but his sentient computer Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) keeps him company and tends to his needs. Their odd couple friendship sets the film off to an amusing start, but events turn sinister when Sam discovers his doppleganger on the moon. All sorts of possibilities spring to mind — time travel, cloning, twins, the lot — in this intriguing thriller that pays tribute to cult sci-fis such as 2001: A Space Odyssey. – AS
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Rudo and Cursi – Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna are reunited on the big screen eight years after Y tu mama tambien introduced them to international audiences and made a hot name out of director Alfonso Cuaron. This time it’s his brother Carlos behind the camera (he scripted the previous film) but the chemistry is still there as the pair play brothers who are plucked out of the Mexican slums to become overnight soccer superstars. But the fun comes when the duo start enjoying their manic lives a little too readily and tensions start to form between them. – JU
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The September Issue – No-one in the fashion world commands more fascination and influence than Anna Wintour. The feared editor of US Vogue was the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, yet the real woman has remained shrouded in mystery — until now. Filmmaker RJ Cutler follows Wintour from the office to fashion shows, shoots and meetings as she plans the September issue of Vogue. The result is a fascinating portrait of a blunt, decisive and ambitious woman. And when Wintour ruthlessly kills pages commissioned by creative director Grace Coddington, the dynamic between the two strong-willed women becomes the centrepiece of an increasingly revealing documentary. – AS
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Diego Luna is bristling at RT’s suggestion he pick just five favourite films. “It’s really unfair to have to say only five films,” he complains as he picks his final choice. “This barely covers my life; I’m up to about the age of 16 by the end of the list!”
The 29-year-old has been acting since before 16 in his home country of Mexico, but burst onto the international stage aged 22 as part of the trio of leads in Alfonso Cuaron‘s Y Tu Mama Tambien. That film marked his first collaboration with Gael Garcia Bernal (see his five favourites here), a partnership that continues – this time with Cuaron’s brother Carlos at the helm – with Rudo and Cursi, out now in UK cinemas.
Indeed, the Cuaron connection is another sticking point for Luna. “I’d also want to say that when I saw Children of Men, for me it wasn’t only a fantastic film, but it was an important film for me because not only do I know the guy but I’ve worked with him, collaborated with him. Every time I have something I show it to Alfonso and hear what he has to say. I’d actually say that film is, for me, the most important film today because it’s a relationship I’m still working on and learning from.”
But what of his final list? Read on to find out more.
“It’s so corny, but it was the first film I saw and the thing about the mother hit me really badly. I remember it was a good connection with my sister, who was fifteen years older. I was about 5 or 6.”
“I’m still kind of psychoanalysing myself but my first shock was with the relationship between the mother and then the father. To find out that your parents are not perfect and in fact they do behave sometimes like thieves to protect you, it was powerful.”
“Three Italians! I remember crying really badly with that when all the films in the projection room are on fire. I remember that also it was a film that when I was really young I could see myself reflected in the younger part of the film. And you can grow with the film, you know. When you become more mature you find a lot of sadness in the story of the old guy while he’s watching at the beginning and the end.”
“Still with the Italians, I’m sorry! With many things in life you’re there because there’s a cute girl around that you want to go out with and you end up finding magic. You end up not caring about the girl but wanting to stay there because of what you found. That happened with Amarcord to me. I really thought a lot about creating images and the connection that cinema had with theatre in a way. That film feels a little bit like theatre. I lived all my life watching theatre and it’s when I found the connection with what I was watching and could do in my life.”
“This was a really important movie for me as a teenager. It was a movie I could have fun with, that I thought was a piece of art and that I thought was doing something modern that had to do with my life. Cinema until then, the ones I really appreciated were done by guys that lived in a different reality from mine and were talking about something in the past that had connections with what I was living but I would have to make an effort to be part of the story and make it work for my reality. With the Coen brothers I thought I was looking at something which was an idea from the day before, you know, and also the commitment they had to their point of view was amazing. I felt excited and it was the perfect film to fall in love with when I was young.”
Rudo and Cursi is out now in UK cinemas.
Gael Garcia Bernal may be Mexico’s best known acting export of recent years, having made a powerful debut in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Amores perros in 2000. A year later he co-starred with Diego Luna (read his five favourites here) in Alfonso Cuaron‘s Y tu mama tambien. After a busy career which has seen him work with the likes of Pedro Almodovar, Michel Gondry and Fernando Meirelles, he reteams with Luna, and a different Cuaron — Carlos — for Rudo and Cursi.
Of his five favourite films, Bernal had an easier time picking them than his co-star — and curiously they’ve both chosen a Disney classic as their first choice — and told us, “These films are definitely a little glimpse on who I am. I could keep going forever to give the full picture. These reflect not only my life but also the work I do.”
“It was the first film I saw and through it I discovered cinema. Simple as that.”
“It was one of the most intense ways of getting into the adult world and I saw it when I was really young. I couldn’t believe that there were stories that were so close to reality. It felt like that, it felt very real.”
“It’s amazing. It’s a story about a family and the whole human drama is there. It’s fantastic.”
“I think that’s when I discovered that the juxtaposition of images is what cinema is all about.”
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful movie. A philosophical introspection on the nature of revolution and change and deciding to be on one side or the other. And it’s about how the outside world makes you decide how to step on one side or the other. It’s possibly one of the most eye-opening films i can ever recommend to anyone because it gives you a glimpse on an internal struggle.”
Rudo and Cursi is out now in UK cinemas.
Brother of Children Of Men helmer Alfonso Cuaron and Oscar-nominated screenwriter of sizzling Mexican roadtripper Y Tu Mama Tambien, Carlos Cuaron makes his directorial debut with comedy drama Rudo and Cursi. He inked the script, too, which sees Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna as rival siblings going head to head as professional footballers. Rudo is the tough-guy goalkeeper. Cursi is the happy-go-lucky goal-machine. Something has to give. Powered by their energetic performances, it’s spiky, frantic, funny and, according to Cuaron, nothing to do with football…
Carlos Cuaron: I cannot say they are the worst players… but they are not as good as Rudo and Cursi! We all play in the same Saturday league, although they don’t play that often because they’re always working or touring. They used to play in a team that I founded 23 years ago. We just have fun.
CC: It’s all scripted. There’s very little improv, because we didn’t need it. Maybe only two or three bits. I was looking for naturalness and the dynamic these two guys have together is just amazing.
CC: When I was writing the script, I knew didn’t want to make a sports movie. I was very clear that I wanted to make a sibling rivalry story. So when I was writing the script, the football was getting in the way of the drama. One day, I saw Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, which is probably the most violent film I’ve ever seen — but the violence is off camera. When I finished watching the film, I said, ‘Hey, that’s what I have to do.’ Haneke gave me this solution.
Gael Garcia Bernal in Rudo and Cursi
CC: Sports like baseball or baseball are easy to dramatise, because all of them have a pause and that helps with the tension. Football never stops. I’m a football fan. I believe in the beauty of the game. If you are a fan, you have two choices. Go to the stadium, where you see the whole beauty of it. Or stay at home, watch the beautiful moves on the slo-mo cameras. Don’t go to the cinema, because you won’t see it there.
CC: Exactly. The only moment football really stops is with a penalty kick — and that is a moment that is really dramatic. A penalty kick becomes a Western duel. It’s two guys facing each other. Destiny and potential death, whether metaphorical or literal. That’s why in the penalty kick at the end of the film, I shot it like an homage to the Sergio Leone Westerns I saw when I was a kid, especially The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.
CC: I think Children Of Men is just amazing. I’m not a Harry Potter fan but I enjoyed Azkaban. I did Y Tu Mama Tambien with him and I think it’s a beautiful movie. But when he says that A Little Princess is his most personal film, I know that it is. It was our first feature. Whenever we talk about it, I tell him, ‘We were so unconscious. We knew shit, man!’ I didn’t even know how scripts were written! I hope I could do that again. But how can you recapture that freshness? I think Francois Truffaut said that a director’s first film is his best because it is his purest. And that’s probably true.
CC: I have an agent in Hollywood and he’s looking for material. If I get the offer and I feel I relate to that material, I will do it. I would love to do a horror film, a thriller, a tearjerker… I like diversity. I would just like to sustain my sense of humour!
Rudo and Cursi is out in the UK today.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival is well underway in the Scottish city, screening hundreds of brand new films and cramming A-listers into posh hotel suites. This year, Rotten Tomatoes is proud to be an official media partner of the festival, and we’ll be presenting an award to one of the films in the programme. Click here for more information.
The festival has, in the past, played home to the world premiere of Serenity and the European first-show for Clerks II. Its programme is open to the public, and provides a wide variety of home-grown, European, American and international cinema. Last year’s festival saw two of the freshest movies of the year play to UK audiences for the first time – Knocked Up and Ratatouille – and they were joined by the indie likes of Hallam Foe and French warbler Les Chansons d’Amour.
In short, there’s something for everyone of every age, gender and nationality, and it’s probably one of the most relaxed and, in turn, exciting festivals on the calendar. It’s also a good place to start or join in that ever-exciting early awards buzz, and with that in mind we thought it’d be a good idea to let you know what we think of the films on display so you can add them to your wish-list.
We’ve picked twenty interesting films from the programme so far to tell you all about. If you didn’t make it to the festival, this is your guide to the hot films to look out for in the coming months!
Set in London at the beginning of the Second World War, The Edge of Love revolves around charmingly scruffy poet Dylan Thomas (played by Matthew Rhys), famed for his intense, romantic verse, and the two loves of his life – wife Caitlin (Sienna Miller) and childhood sweetheart Vera (Keira Knightley).
The material lets the talented ensemble produce career best work; Knightley, despite an initially jarring Welsh accent, is pitch perfect as the slightly naive but banterous Vera, whilst Miller impresses hugely with her portrayal of an emotionally damaged, promiscuous pleasure-seeker.
It’s all fairly depressing, and not entirely convincing, with the spiralling self-destruction on show dredging up all the ‘tortured poet and his muse’ clichï¿½s found in a million bad TV literary adaptations. The result is a well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful stab as serious, romantic drama that is not as clever or affecting as it thinks it is. Orlando Parfitt
Robert Carlyle makes a welcome return to form in Summer, an intelligent and brilliantly-acted family drama. The Scot plays Shaun, an embittered middle aged man who spends much of his time reluctantly caring for his wheelchair bound best friend Daz. The film goes onto examine what bought him to this point in his life, uncovering years of misfortune, bad decisions and an uncaring establishment. Shaun then looks back with rose-tinted glasses at his youth and yearns for the freedom’s of his salad days, before his troubles began. Fairly bleak to-to-be-sure, but intensely moving and powerful too, thanks to the emotionally resonant central performances. OP
With Donkey Punch, you get two great movies for the price of one; a brilliantly set-up, marvellously tense teen thriller, and a barmy, magnificently over-the-top slasher horror. It’s just a shame they’re shoe-horned together in the same film.
We begin with a trio of girls from Leeds, Northern England, on holiday in Mallorca and getting ready for a night on the tiles. Eventually they meet up with four good-looking men who persuade them to continue their night on a yacht they’ve ‘borrowed’ from the harbour master.
Things suddenly take a turn for the nightmarish however when one of the men delivers the donkey punch of the title (we won’t reveal what it is, but it’s kind of disgusting). She drops dead, and now the lads must try and get rid of the body and calm down the two remaining girls.
It’s a brilliant set-up, but suddenly a new film cranks into action, as the girls begin picking off the lads one-by-one in increasingly bizarre, over-the-top and hilarious ways. Those with a strong stomach should still definitely seek out Donkey Punch – a refreshing, if maddeningly schizophrenic antidote Hollywood norm. OP
Very rarely does RT get shocked, sickened or appalled at the cinema these days. This little indie horror film at Edinburgh turned out to have one of the highest concentrations of sheer wrongness we’ve ever seen – in a good way.
Mum and Dad revolves around airport cleaner and Romanian immigrant Lena who, one night, after a series of misadventures, finds herself unable to get back home. ‘Luckily’ her seemingly-happy-go-lucky colleague Birdie offers her a bed for night with her family. Thinking her troubles are over, at least in the short term, Lena accepts, but the invitation turns out to be a one way ticket to a hellishly violent, sadistic suburban hell.
Birdie’s sinister ‘family’ includes ‘Mum’ — a barmy, torture-obsessed housewife whose sadistic deeds are made all the more shocking by her maternal pretentions — and ‘Dad’, a fat, greasy sexual predator who wears a party hat. So begins a nightmarish journey for Lena as she is forced to abandon all humanity to escape this twisted family unit.
if you’re a hardcore horror fan and have a strong constitution — and have a healthy disregard for family values – then you should check this out, just don’t say we didn’t warn you! OP
A deserved winner of the Golden Bear in Berlin this summer, Elite Squad, Jose Padilha‘s testosterone-fuelled actioner revolves around Nascimento, commanding officer of BOPE, the hard-as-nails paramilitary wing of Rio’s police force entrusted with keeping order in the cities drug-cursed favelas.
Macho and ultra-violent, the director defiantly take sides in the drug war through blaming both drug dealers and their rich clients for the violence and social problems their trade creates. However Elite Squad is more even handed than some have suggested, with Padilha not shying from showing the brutality of BOPEs methods and the widespread corruption in the police force. OP
An amusing exercise in ’90s nostalgia, The Wackness is anything but wack…
It’s New York in 1994; Cobain has just shot himself, Biggie and Tupac are still friends and Giuliani has only just been elected mayor. Experiencing it all is Luke (played by former child star Josh Peck) a self-confessed loser in his last year at high school – and also a part-time pot dealer.
We meet him in the office of one of his clients – and best friend – Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), a self-medicating psychiatrist. The film then follows the pair through one long, hot, life-changing summer.
It’s the often hilarious script that stays in the mind. Kingsley generally gets the best lines (when Luke tells him he feels down, he asks “is it because of Kurt Cobain?”), and despite a wavering New York accent, shows a real flair for comedy. OP
Standard Operating Procedure is essential viewing, but often difficult to watch. Master documentary maker Errol Morris (who won an Oscar for his Robert McNamara interview The Fog of War) sits down with (almost) all of the prison guards responsible for the sickening scenes of prisoner humiliation and torture that emerged from Abu Ghraib prison in the aftermath of the Iraq war.
You may find Morris’ empathy with his subjects, almost all of whom show little remorse for their heinous acts, hard to bear, but it’s arguable that by simply letting these individuals have their say they damn themselves far more than any liberal commentator could. Documentary at its most powerful and timely. OP
Imagine the basic conceit of Groundhog Day — a man is forced to relive the same day over-and-over again – re-imagined as an atmospheric, jolly creepy Spanish horror film and you’ll be somewhere near to Timecrimes.
This superbly sinister effort follows Hector — an ordinary suburban guy who one night glimpses a naked woman through the trees. He goes outside to investigate, but finds himself attacked by a rather angry and aggressive man with a bandage head.
The movie is at its most effective in the opening scenes in the woods, with director Nacho Vigalondo proving adapt at conjuring scares and making guys with bandaged heads look very creepy indeed. Timecrimes, along with the similarly well-produced Spanish-horror-thriller [Rec], proves the Iberian peninsula a fertile breeding ground for brilliantly made frighteners with brains. OP
Thomas Turgoose (spectacular as the young skinhead in England) plays Tomo, a teenager from Nottingham who — for reasons that are never explained — arrives by train in London despite not knowing a soul and having nowhere to go. After he’s mugged and loses all his money, he befriends Marek, a Polish boy living with his builder father. They soon become close friends, and both lust after the hot French waitress who works in their local cafe.
It’s a simple, almost plotless story, but one that is made immensely powerful by the characteristically superb and naturalistic performances. The simple shooting style – the film is shot in black and white and features little camera movement – amplifies the bonhomie and natural chemistry of the two young leads as they embark on a series of hilarious scrapes. OP
A spectacularly silly, amusing and gory examination of the world’s problems with fossil fuels, Blood Car is set to become a cult favourite.
Set in the near future – with cars rendered almost non-existent by the scarcity of oil – this low budget effort centres around Archie; an ultra environmentally conscious vegan kindergarten teacher who has been trying to build a car that runs on vegetable juice.
One day, with the car engine refusing to run on the fauna-based liquid, he accidently cuts his hand, a drop of blood dripping into the contraption and immediately starting the motor. The result? Green fingered Archie has inadvertently invented a car that runs on human blood.
It’s a hilariously dark stuff that feels like it could have evolved from a Grindhouse fake trailer. A deliciously tasteless scene towards the end of the film, featuring a trigger-happy government agent and Archie’s kindergarten class, is worth the price of admission alone. OP
The Edinburgh Film Festival drew to a close at the weekend with the world premiere of Faintheart, a sweet and sentimental romantic comedy set in the world of Viking re-enactments.
Faintheart revolves around Richard (Eddie Marsan), an overgrown kid who is far happier brandishing his broad-sword in battle than he is in facing up to family responsibilities at home. When he misses his father-in-law’s funeral in favour of a Viking brawl, wife Cath (Jessica Hynes) kicks him out, leading our hero on a quest of the heart as he struggles to win her back with the help of his Norse chums.
It’s charming stuff, played for laughs by a uniformly excellent cast and the script is chock-full of comic gems, laughing along with its subjects without ever actually poking fun at them. The result is a fine family film that is sure to leave a smile on your face. Chris Tilly
Philippe Petit‘s successful 1974 attempt to cross the gap between the Twin Towers on a tightrope is documented in this kinetic film from James Marsh as a fast-paced caper about a charismatic Frenchman’s drive to do something outrageously necessary. From the moment the Man on Wire starts we’re introduced to Petit as a man with passion and belief who is convinced that these two buildings were built for him to cross.
What follows is an examination of the method behind the madness, as the sheer endurance trial that was the planning of the event is shared through Petit and his key collaborators. He spent 45 minutes on wire, but rigging it, sneaking the rigging into the building and planning the entire operation took years, stretching right back to a news article he read in a dentist’s office about the Twin Towers’ construction. The film leaves its audience in no doubt that Petit is special and that this act of rebellion – the walk was totally illegal – was his gift to the world. Absolutely gripping stuff. Joe Utichi
It’s hard to know how much to reveal about Let the Right One In. Such is the nature of the film’s delicate plotting that it’ll prove to be a different but equally fulfilling experience should you be aware of its subject matter or not before you watch it. Like Pan’s Labyrinth, the film’s fantastical elements disguise the real human drama of its characters and while it might, on the surface, appear to be a new twist on a familiar genre, at its heart it’s one of the most original coming-of-age stories in years.
As Oskar, young actor Kåre Hedebrant’s confident performance is at turns sweetly innocent and surprisingly dark. If your tolerance for foreign-language films is limited, let this film change your mind. If the idea of a coming-of-age story fills you with dread, let it convince you otherwise. In fact, if you only see one film that’s off the beaten path this year, you’d do very well to let the right one in. JU
When an old man (Brian Cox), fishing by a river, is forced to witness a group of young hoodlums shoot his dog he becomes determined to see justice prevail; pursuing the boys’ fathers (Tom Sizemore and Robert Englund) to encourage them to punish their sons and, when that fails, turning to the law. Red is a heartrending tale of a man who has lost everything trying and who is desperately to hold onto what’s right, Brian Cox is relentless in the lead role, delivering a stunning and strangely disturbing performance as he seeks retribution.
The film may go a little too far before the end, but for the most part it’s brilliantly gripping with shades of Stephen King about its thrilling structure. JU
Walter is a sad, lonely, embittered Connecticut teacher whose life has been on a downward spiral since the passing of his wife. However, all of that changes when he is sent to New York to present a paper on economics, and arrives to discover an immigrant couple living in his long-forgotten apartment. Understandably perturbed, Walter kicks them to the kerb, but compassion leads him to go after them and invite the strangers into his empty home.
The Visitor is stirring, heartbreaking stuff, told at a stately pace perfectly in keeping with the story unfolding. Director Thomas McCarthy truly gives his characters time to breathe, and as their story slowly plays out, it’s impossible not to be swept up in the gut-wrenching emotion of it all. He’s helped out by a grandstanding performance from Richard Jenkins as Walter. It’s brilliantly multi-layered and full of subtlety and nuance.
Combined with McCarthy’s economic script – which brilliantly deals with the sensitive topic of immigration without ever feeling preachy or patronising — it makes for a magical movie-going experience that will provoke thought, discussion, sadness and joy in equal measure. Truly outstanding stuff. CT
One of the most powerful documentaries in a long time, Alone in Four Walls introduces us to the inmates of a Russian prison for boys aged 11-14, interspersing their daily activities with tales of their crimes from the boys themselves and from their families and victims. It’s hard to know what to feel about these inmates as they go through the usual struggles of adolescence and the regional struggles of poverty on one hand and then we’re told, in police report detail, what found them in the institution to begin with.
Emotionally harrowing, with an incredible attention to cinematography, this, like all documentaries should be, is a window on a world we’ll never come across, but more than that it’s a frighteningly appropriate film for a world in the throes of increasing teenage violent crime. Want to keep kids out of jail? Showing them this would be a good place to start. JU
Werner Herzog returns to documentary filmmaking with Encounters at the End of the World, this time travelling to Antarctica to share stories about the people who call the frozen continent home. Starting off, and frequently returning to his base in McMurdo, a desolately grey and dreadfully functional town that most in Antarctica call home.
Herzog’s typically editorialised commentary singes the film with humour, as he shares with us his insistence to financiers that he wouldn’t be travelling all that way to make another movie about penguins, though, of course, he finds a researcher to plug with questions about the flightless birds’ sexual proclivities and mental instabilities. There are moments of extreme humour as he interrupts a woman’s tales of her travels by opining that “her story goes on forever,” and wonders how many languages have died in the time he’s been talking to a man who’s explaining, at great length, how often languages die.
But, equally, there are scenes that seem extended for no reason other than to keep the running time feature length and while Herzog finds plenty of characters, few of them seem compelling enough to warrant the journey. People who call Antarctica home are bound to be slightly weird by our standards, but are they really as crazy as Herzog seemed to hope on his journey out there, or are they just people doing their job exploring extremes so that we don’t have to? JU
Not only is WALL*E one of the freshest films of the year – some critics have even thrown around the word ‘masterpiece’ like they believe it this time – but it’s also one of the loveliest, most charming and most accomplished animated films of all time. Pixar’s tale of a little robot, WALL*E, who dreams of a new companion in the shape of a sleek and shiny probe called EVE is a testament to Pixar’s emphasis on story and emotion.
It shouldn’t work – not in an era of big, noisy and exposition-heavy event movies – and yet it really, truly does. Within a few minutes without even a hint of dialogue the film has you totally invested in this little character’s journey and you’re with him right until the end. Combine such a strong core with some of the most beautiful and creative artwork ever seen on screen and WALL*E deserves to be remembered as a proper classic. JU
The Black Balloon is a typically-bright but satisfyingly-dark Australian drama about a teenage boy, Thomas Mollison (Rhys Wakefield), whose autistic brother Charlie (Luke Ford) requires constant attention and whose acting out is starting to put a strain on the friendships Thomas is developing at a new school. When a girl comes along, in the form of a beautiful school friend, Thomas’ relationship with his brother, and parents who’ve largely ignored him to take care of Charlie, will be tested.
Toni Collette and Erik Thomson co-star, but it’s really a movie for Wakefield and Ford, with the latter particularly brilliant as the autistic Charlie. It’s a selfish side of caring that’s rarely witnessed but inevitably present; a teenager’s desire for a “normal” brother and a relationship with his parents that’s hampered by the special needs of his sibling and it’s handled delicately and emotionally without delivering and overly-sentimental piece. JU
Mancora will be compared to Y Tu Mama Tambien, being that it’s about a sexually-charged road trip involving three hot, young things in a Spanish-speaking country, but there’s something decidedly more real about the consequences of these actions. As incest makes way to tribal drug trips, the characters go on hard, real journeys and push themselves to their limits, perhaps in an attempt to find some feeling within them: as the film begins, our lead, Santiago, has lost his father to suicide and finds that he’s disillusioned with his surroundings.
But, rather disappointingly, the film quite simply isn’t as entertaining as Alfonso Cuaron‘s predecessor, and the conclusion of the journey feels false and all too convenient. Nevertheless, it’s of a high quality and should make stars of its leads if it’s given the exposure in North America that it deserves. It certainly marks Ricardo de Montreuil as a director to watch. JU
BAFTA is putting the final preparations in place for BAFTA Goes to Mexico in association with ezylet.co.uk, a weekend of special Mexican events that starts tonight with a glitzy party and a celebration of the work of director Alfonso Cuaron. RT-UK caught up with Cuaron ahead of the celebrations to talk about Mexican filmmaking, keeping it in the family and, of course, the possibility of a return to the world of Harry Potter.
RT-UK: You must be having a busy week, I imagine you have a bunch of friends coming in for the BAFTA celebration…
AC: Actually it’s the first time I’ve seen people here, today. I’ve been really busy, though, I’ve been writing and supervising the film that my brother Carlos is shooting in Mexico – he wrote Y Tu Mama Tambien and he’s directing his first feature. It’s Gael [Garcia Bernal] and Diego [Luna], the same cast of Y Tu Mama Tambien, I’m producing that with Guillermo [del Toro] and Alejandro [Gonzalez Innaritu]. Then I’m producing a short that Jonas, my son, is directing that is going to Venice. And his feature film is going to Venice too, so it’s a lot of stuff going on!
RT-UK: It seems like it’s a good time to be a Mexican filmmaker.
AC: The most important thing, I think, is the community; that’s what’s more exciting than anything else. It’s really a community that supports each other and it’s a community that’s extremely politically aware. It’s a community that understands that sometimes cinema is a means for something more important. In that sense it’s a community that, even with aesthetic differences sometimes, comes together for the important issue. It’s really exciting to be a part of that.
And it’s also a community that has decided to, finally, erase the borders so it’s not about Mexicans it’s about filmmakers. A big chunk of the Argentinean and Brazilian community are making fantastic films and there’s no difference between them and the Mexican community; it’s pretty-much the same. It’s about filmmakers that you bond with. I have so many good friends in that community and we’re always looking to collaborate.
RT-UK: You’ve started a production company with Guillermo and Alejandro, is that going to continue your form of making films both in Mexico and the rest of the world of various different ideas and sizes?
AC: The thing is that the company doesn’t have a nationality, in a sense. Right now we’re producing Carlos’ film in Mexico but there’s a plan to do this other film in Argentina and probably one that’ll be in America. For us it’s not about Mexico, it’s just about filmmakers. I believe in what Marco Muller from the Venice Film Festival talks about as nomad cinema. You can see it in Sokurov films, that he can do Russian Ark in Russian in Saint Petersburg in the Hermitage Museum and he can do The Sun about Hirohito in Japanese in Japan. Both films have the same soul and the same heart of this filmmaker who happens to be Russian. This community of filmmakers that are bonding are doing so because they have the same approach, I think.
RT-UK: It seems to be the case that you’re able to preserve a certain sense of passion whether you’re making Y Tu Mama Tambien or Harry Potter which are clearly very different films.
AC: Yeah, hopefully. They’re mine so it’s kind-of difficult to talk about because I’m too close to them, but I can see it in the work of my peers; I can see it in Guillermo through Pan’s Labyrinth and then I watch Hellboy and I can see that same passion again; it manifests, for me, in the girl in Pan’s Labyrinth and the teenager on the roof in Hellboy; those two are Guillermo del Toro. Two different manifestations of the same thing.
RT-UK: Does being around Guillermo, Alejandro and the rest of that community make you raise your own game?
AC: We’re brutally honest with each other. Sometimes painfully honest! But that’s an amazing comfort, you know, because you know that you don’t have to be trying to smell the bullshit around. I trust their judgement and I know that if they’re going to get tough on me it’s coming from the standpoint of caring and love. That just pushes the envelope. If I’m getting lazy or anything or if I talk about the next project I’m going to do, sometimes they’ll tell me, “You know what, that’s becoming lazy. You’re not trying to stretch yourself. You can do that, but it’s boring. Go and do it, become a ‘bureaucrat of cinema,'” as we say.
And it’s not exclusive to those two either; I can have these conversations with Fernando Trueba or Emanuele Crialese. It’s very obvious to see the Mexicans just because we’ve known each other for a long time and I guess it’s easy to identify the three of us together, but each one of us has relationships with other filmmakers that we’re in constant communication with. There’s this attitude of love of filmmaking and love for filmmakers. Yeah, there are filmmakers that are very competitive but, then, maybe they don’t want to be your friends!
RT-UK: It’s not about movies being better than each other; it’s about having a good raft of great movies…
AC: Well that’s the thing, I love my work but I really admire seeing a great film and when I see a great film I tend to want to meet with and talk with the filmmaker. In most cases you realise it goes both ways; a communication is established and in many cases a relationship is established, and once you’ve established that relationship it’s a great support to know that you can rely on somebody else. You can call and ask someone for advice. Obviously with Guillermo and Alejandro there’s baggage, there’s history, and that makes everything very telepathic, very second-hand.
RT-UK: Making Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban appeared to be a strange decision after Y Tu Mama Tambien, but it also appeared to lead to the chance to make Children of Men – what’s the story behind that?
AC: Well, actually, I wrote Children of Men right after Y Tu Mama Tambien and that didn’t happen at the time. Of course Harry Potter helped make Children of Men happen. That’s one of those beautiful coincidences; I did Harry Potter because it crossed into my life and I was completely unfamiliar with the material. Guillermo is the one who kept on telling me, “You need to read it.” Originally I was making jokes about them offering it to me. I read it and I really fell in love with it. It just made sense, you know, and when I did it I spent the two most beautiful years of my life doing that film. After one of the perks was that I could do Children of Men; it’s just one of those things, I’ve been very lucky. Sometimes you have to just not follow your ego as the perception you wish people had of you, you have to follow what you feel is the right thing and you have to understand why you’re making those choices.
That was the thing about Harry Potter, I have to say, it was something instinctual that I knew I had to do it. When you commit to a movie you’re committing one or two years of your life to a movie, and that affects what you do with your life. I don’t want to get really old and realise that I’ve wasted my life making films. I want to look back and say that I lived and that I was making films as I was living. It’s the combination of all of that stuff.
RT-UK: Is the Potter universe something you’d like to return to?
AC: You know, it was such a great opportunity and such a beautiful two years and everything around Harry Potter – JK Rowling’s creation – is enveloped in this really beneficial energy. I got the benefits of that energy for those two years. So yes I’d be very tempted to do so even though, at this point, I feel a little bit like I have to try to do the films that are not going to exist without me. On the same token, I would be really tempted because it was really beautiful. I just started reading the last book and something I respect is the care the producers have put in the film franchise. It would have been so easy after the success of the series just to take the cynical approach of knowing that no matter what people are going to see those movies. Actually they’ve been taking a lot of care from beginning to end, so yeah I would be really tempted.
Arguably, "Children of Men" is Cuaron‘s best yet (with a current 92% Tomatometer), no small feat considering his filmography includes "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien."
And Universal agrees: they’re giving "Children of Men" a plum Christmas Day opening, despite not exactly being feel-good holiday fare. It’s a desolate, almost overwhelmingly bleak vision of the future, one in which humanity’s survival is no longer ensured beyond the next generation.
But Cuarón is nothing if not optimistic. His quixotic energy permeates all of his movies, which range from brusquely sexual comedies ("Y Tu Mama Tambien") to family-friendly blockbusters ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban").
And his energy comes through in person. On a computer screen, Cuarón might read like a cynic ranting about the today’s political climate. But hearing him talk, there’s subtle cheerfulness in his voice, one which reveals he never stops anticipating the future and what it may eventually bring.
In our extensive roundtable chat, we talk dystopias, adolescents, a tropical North Pole, and a certain bespectacled teenage wizard.
On Directing a "Harry Potter" Film
Alfonso Cuaron: Actually, at the beginning, when they offered me the whole thing, I was kind of snobby about the whole thing. I never read the books or seen the movies, and I was kind of arrogant about it, I have to confess. And then Guillermo del Toro called me and completely…pretty much…how do you call it? When your parents do the thing?
Not to reprimand. But…sort of. He called and said, "Have you read the book? Okay, read the book and then call me." So then at page 100, I called and said, "Man, this is brilliant." He says, "Yeah, you have to do it." That’s what happened. But then, of course, I read one and it’s one of those things where you keep on reading.
On Challenging His Audiences
AC: I despise movies that explain. I cannot stand exposition in movies. I start getting, like, a rash. It’s like getting suffocated in the theater. Because I love cinema. And cinema is becoming something that is not cinema. Cinema is becoming a medium of illustrating stories. Cinema is becoming a medium in which you can close your eyes and you can watch the movie.
I really love films in which audiences partake with the whole thing. They have to fill up all the gaps in-between the moments that you create. And I’m not saying that as a filmmaker, but as an audience. I enjoy watching a movie where I have to make my own conclusions.
On Developing "Children of Men"
Q: You were given a script of this, and you were initially reluctant.
AC: Oh, because the script sucked.
Q: Did you retain anything from that original script?
AC: Zero. I didn’t even finish the script. I read 15, 20 pages and I said, "Okay, bye-bye." What happened was the premise kept on haunting me. And I had to stop at some point to reconsider why it kept haunting me. And that’s when the whole process began.
"Children of Men" is in theaters today.
In this week’s Ketchup, Jason Bourne will discover his true identity in 2007 in "The Bourne Ultimatum," we’ve finally got some non-pirated pictures of the third "Pirates of the Caribbean," and we get to marvel at the all-new "300" trailer.
Also, the next Bond film gets a storyline, and we get a "The Hills Have Eyes 2" trailer. Read on for more.
This Week’s Most Popular News:
Bourne’s Identity Revealed in "Ultimatum"
We thought "The Bourne Identity" was revealed at the end of the first film, but his "Supremacy" confirmed there was more to the story. Now, Matt Damon promises that the third film, "The Bourne Ultimatum" will finally find Jason Bourne knowing his whole story.
First Official "Pirates 3" Pics!
We’ve seen a few sketchy-looking on-set snapshots from the third "Pirates of the Caribbean" flick, but not this pretty. Click on in to enjoy a few crisp-looking photos from "At Worlds End."
Trailer Bulletin: The Amazing-Looking "300"
Between RT and the other sites I write for, I’ve pretty much run out of adjectives for how awesome Zack Snyder’s "300" looks. And by "looks" I mean … wow. The visual fireworks are pretty darn dazzling. And now there’s even more in an all-new theatrical trailer.
Story Set for Next Bond Flick?
There’s already been a good deal of conjecture and gossip thrown around regarding the NEXT James Bond movie, and here’s the latest: Apparently the next 007 adventure will be based on an Ian Fleming story called "Risico" — but that story’s already been used for an earlier Bond flick!
Teaser Bulletin: The Horrible "Hills Have Eyes 2"
…and I mean "horrible" as in "scary," not as in "a terrible movie" — because obviously I haven’t seen the thing yet. Anyway, an early (and kinda creepy) teaser trailer for "The Hills Have Eyes 2" has hit the ‘net, so come check it out!
In Other News:
This week at the movies, we’ve got antisocial behavior ("Jackass: Number Two," with Johnny Knoxville and the gang), hell-raising politicos ("All The King’s Men," starring Sean Penn), fearless warriors ("Fearless," starring Jet Li), and flying aces ("Flyboys," starring James Franco). What do the critics have to say?
For some, the perilous, grotesque antics of the "Jackass" posse offer inarguable proof of America’s cultural decline, if not a bellwether of the Apocalypse. For others (Critical Consensus included)… well, what can I say? Wasabi snooters? Off-road tattoo? Gets me every time. Now, Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O and the rest are back with "Jackass: Number Two," a film that promises to be as puerile as its title. But guess what? It’s getting pretty good reviews! The critics say this latest collection of stoopid stunts and bad behavior maintains a certain warped integrity in addition to its sophomoric laughs. At 64 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Jackass" may be worth a ride, provided you can stomach this stuff. And it’s better-reviewed than its predecessor (49 percent).
"All The King’s Men" has everything that makes for a compelling movie. It’s got a great cast (Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Anthony Hopkins, among others). It’s based on a great novel (by Robert Penn Warren). It’s got great cinematography. Unfortunately, critics say, the superlatives end there. Loosely based on the life of populist Louisiana Governor Huey "The Kingfish" Long, "All The King’s Men" tells the story of a small town rabble-rouser’s ascent in politics and descent into shady morality. Critics say the film is too bombastic to work, with too many vague characters and an over-the-top performance from Penn. The film received a muted reception in Toronto; it currently stands at 15 percent on the Tomatometer. And it’s well below the 1949 Oscar-winning original film (94 percent).
Jet Li has come to personify a specific film subgenre: the historical martial arts epic. "Hero" and the "Once Upon a Time in China" movies were marked by sweeping visuals and Li’s remarkable athleticism. But the star says he’s no longer making that type of picture; if that’s the case, critics say "Fearless" makes for one heck of a swan song. The film tells the tale of a great martial arts master who looks inward after succumbing to his own ego and the murder of his family. The scribes say "Fearless" is quite a show, with remarkable action sequences and an interesting philosophical undercurrent. "Fearless" is currently at 70 percent on the Tomatometer. And it’s Li’s third consecutive fresh American release, following "Unleashed" (68 percent) and "Hero" (94 percent).
"Flyboys" tells an old-fashioned tale of courage and heroism with the latest in CG technology; unfortunately, critics say, the technology ends up overshadowing everything else. The film tells the story of a group of Americans who volunteered to fly in WWI alongside the French. According to the critics, "Paths of Glory" this ain’t; they note that the CG effects are excellent, and the dogfights are exciting, but the story and the characters are far less involving. At 37 percent on the Tomatometer, "Flyboys" doesn’t soar.
"And another thing… None of you better be making any wisecracks about ‘The Pink Panther!’"
Also in theaters this week in limited release: "American Hardcore," a documentary about the life and death of the louder-faster punk rock style, is at 100 percent; "The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros," a coming of age tale set in Manila, is at 100 percent; "Jesus Camp," a documentary about evangelical Christian campers, is at 93 percent; "Old Joy," a meditative tale of eroding friendship starring indie darling Will Oldham, is at 88 percent; "Solo Con Tu Pareja," the debut of "Y Tu Mama Tambien" helmer Alfonso Cuaron, is at 80 percent; "The Science of Sleep," Michel Gondry‘s latest head trip starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg, is at 69 percent; the "Project Greenlight"- approved horror flick "Feast" is at 57 percent; and "Renaissance," a visually remarkable French noir, is at 50 percent.
It played in just over 100 theaters back in July, so you can be forgiven if you haven’t heard a whole lot about "Crónicas" just yet. But the Ecuadorian crime thriller (which features a stellar lead performance by John Leguizamo) hits DVD this week, so if you’re on the lookout for something a little exotic, intense, and insightful, you should absolutely toss this title onto your Rental List / Netflix Queue. After watching (and enjoying the hell out of) the film, I tossed a handful of questions to writer/director Sebastián Cordero, and here’s what the filmmaker had to say.
RT: "Cronicas" is loosely based on actual events. What were the events that inspired the "Monster" character in your film?
SC: A few true cases of serial killers in Ecuador and in Colombia were the inspiration for the "Monstruo de Babahoyo".
One of them was the "Monstruo de los Andes" (Pedro Alonso Lopez), who supposedly raped and murdered hundreds of little girls in Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. He was a fascinating and sick character: a friend of mine who met him in prison a couple of decades ago told me he was extremely charismatic, very well liked by other inmates, and a sort of mediator when conflicts arose in the jail. The death sentence doesn’t exist in Ecuador, and the maximum jail time you could do in Ecuador at the time (no matter what your crime was) was 16 years. Pedro Alonso did his time in jail, and was actually released a year early because of his good conduct. He was deported to Colombia, where he was put in a low-security mental institution, from where he soon escaped. Nobody’s heard from him since then, but his psychiatrist (with whom I met) told me his type of behavior probably wouldn’t have changed, although old age would eventually cut down his libido.
The other inspiration was Luis Alfredo Garavito, a child rapist and murderer in Colombia who supposedly killed 192 children over a period of ten years. I remember when I read about his arrest, I was struck by an interview of his wife at the time, and how she said she thought he was a good man, and had never suspected he could lead such a double life. She actually had a child who potentially could have been his victim, and she had never felt unsafe with him (except when he drank).
I felt the duality within these real characters was absolutely fascinating, particularly since I had been playing with the idea to explore characters that had such extremes within them. It was a real challenge to me to have one character be the most terrible "monster" you could imagine, and yet be at times the most sympathetic character in the story.
SC: The original link to both Guillermo and Alfonso was the great Mexican producer Bertha Navarro. I met Bertha when my first movie ("Ratas, Ratones, Rateros") had been nominated for a Mexican Ariel Award as Best Foreign Film. I told her about the project of "Cronicas," and she was very enthusiastic about it, soon becoming attached as a producer to the film. Bertha had produced "Cronos" and "The Devil’s Backbone", and was actually the person who gave Guillermo his first break, and they’ve been working together since then; so it was only natural to make Guillermo part of this project. Alfonso came in almost immediately after: Bertha had worked with him before (and knew him very well from Mexico), and it coincided that after the success of "Y Tu Mama Tambien", he and his partner Jorge Vergara had been looking for projects to produce in Latin America. Guillermo and Alfonso became ideal mentors for me, because they respected completely my vision as a director, but they also pushed me to the limit, making sure I was getting the most out of everything. They’re both perfectionists, and when you have people like that pushing you so passionately, you want to take them up and push with them all the way.
RT: John Leguizamo delivers some fantastic work in the film. How early did he come on to the project? Did you find that his involvement helped gain interest from distributors?
SC: John actually came on to the project pretty late (a few months before shooting). I had always had him in mind for Manolo Bonilla, but had been skeptical about him because I had heard his Spanish wasn’t fluent enough. On the other hand, I loved the idea of casting a Latino who had lived all his life in the US, because I felt his severed "roots" was something that added a lot to his character. Eventually, I met John, and realized that his level of Spanish was good enough for the movie (although he always jokes that his grammar level is the same as a third grader, which is the age when he left Colombia!), and actually I loved the idea of playing with him switching back and forth between Spanish and English (something a lot of Latinos in Miami do).
John’s involvement in the film definitely helped to gain interest from distributors, particularly in the US, where he’s very popular. It’s funny, but in Ecuador, while we were shooting the film, people were more familiar with Leonor Watling (because of "Hable con Ella") than with John. I must also add that once John came on board, he immediately became one of my strongest allies, fighting a lot of battles by my side, and supporting the movie passionately at every step of the way.
RT: "Cronicas" has been a favorite across the festival circuit (Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, and many others) for quite some time now. What was it like to finally sit down and watch your movie with an enthusiastic festival audience? Was your pre-festival cut the same as your final release cut? Did you reshape the film in any way based on audience reactions?
SC: It’s amazing to watch the film with an audience, because for the first time in a very long process, you gain a little bit of perspective on the movie you’ve been working on, and you get an idea of what’s working and what isn’t. The biggest challenge I find when writing, directing, or editing a film is to be able to step back and look at the film as if you were just another spectator, so that you can evaluate the problems and issues you might be having with some sort of objectivity. When watching the complete film with an audience, you absorb everyone’s reactions, which is a difficult but terrific experience. The film wasn’t changed since its premiere at Cannes in 2004, but I played with the editing for many months before that (even after it had been submitted to Cannes)… the changes didn’t come from “audience reactions” per se, but from the comments I got from Alfonso, Bertha, Guillermo, and Isabel (Dávalos, my Ecuadorian producer); and from the reactions I had gotten from my close group of collaborators whose advice I trust the most at every step of the way.
RT: The critical reaction to the movie has been generally quite positive. Do you find yourself reading reviews and taking praise/criticisms to heart? How important is it to a filmmaker that he feel "embraced" by ‘the critics’?
SC: It’s wonderful to feel “embraced” by the critics, but that’s not the reason you make a movie, and you always have to maintain some distance and healthy cynicism about people’s reaction to the movie. I like to read and hear everything that’s been said about the movie, and I usually deal pretty well with the negative stuff (I’m more aware than anyone that my movies are far from being perfect, and filled with flaws!). I usually try not to let the positive things get to my head, and to learn from the negative things so that I don’t make the same mistakes again. However, you do need to take negative criticism with a grain of salt or you will get paralyzed with your upcoming work.
RT: Aside from Mr. Leguizamo’s commanding lead performance, there’s some thoroughly fantastic work from Damian Alcazar as the duplicitous (and potentially dangerous) Vinicio Cepeda. How difficult was it to cast this character, considering his "duality" throughout most of the film, and how did you decide upon Mr. Alcazar?
SC: Damián Alcazar is one of the greatest actors I’ve ever met, and everyone in México will tell you the same. He’s not very well known internationally (yet), but I feel his range as an actor is astounding, and I would work with him again as soon as I get a chance to. I originally saw him in “La Ley de Herodes” ("Herod’s Law"), a magnificent black comedy about political corruption in Mexico, but didn’t originally consider him for "Cronicas" because his character was supposed to be Colombian, and I was really worried that the different accents would be an issue. Bertha Navarro (my producer) kept insisting that the Colombian accent would not even be a problem for Damián, and thankfully I trusted her. Damián did such a good job that when people saw his portrayal of Vinicio in Ecuador, everybody thought he was a Colombian actor. I think I loved the fact that Damián is really such a nice guy, and he projects that, making you want to trust him, and yet you do sense a dark side inside of him (something which I wanted both in his role and in John’s).
RT: "Cronicas" has been entered as Ecuador’s official "Oscar-eligible" title, which is quite an honor in and of itself. Coming from a nation that doesn’t produce a large amount of movies, how important is it to you that Ecuador be "cinematically represented" on a stage like the Academy Awards?
SC: That was very important for me, particularly since Ecuador produces very few films per year, and there is no support from the government or cultural organizations towards local filmmaking. So, to have Ecuador “represented” on an international stage like the Academy Awards brings a lot of awareness that supporting local filmmakers is important. Almost all Latin American countries have strong laws that support filmmaking through a film institute, tax breaks, and financial support (that’s the reason Argentinean cinema is so vibrant today, despite the economic crisis there), and for years Ecuadorian filmmakers have been fighting for support… So when one of our films gets international attention, it’s another way of making politicians realize how important film is to a country’s identity.
RT: After dozens of festival screenings around the world, "Cronicas" ended up as a Palm Pictures release. How did that process work, and how do you feel about the way your film was marketed and released?
SC: After the first Cannes screening, there was a lot of interest from several distributors in "Cronicas", and Palm’s offer was probably the most interesting: plus, they were so passionate about the film that we felt we were in good hands with them. In general, I feel Palm did a good job with the release of the film. Of course, there are always risks we were aware of (like counter-programming, or targeting the film to a Latino audience) which might have not worked as well as we wished, but I think the film did very respectably, and I’m pleased with the results.
RT: With foreign and "arthouse" distribution being the niche market that it is these days, does a film like "Cronicas" work "better" on a home video release?
SC: Although you always want to catch a film on the big screen, you have to be realistic about the fact that most of your audience will watch an “arthouse” film on DVD at their convenience. However, without the theatrical distribution, an “arthouse” film will never have the same reach on home video, so it’s the combination of the two releases, which helps the success of the film.
RT: The film is a smart and quietly scathing indictment of modern TV journalism. Do you feel that the mass-media world often makes it more difficult for law enforcement to do their job? Is it ever acceptable (or advisable) for a journalist to "intrude" upon the story he’s reporting? Is "Cronicas" a criticism of a specific event, or is it a criticism of modern journalism in general?
SC: I think there are a lot of grey lines when you deal with ethical and moral dilemmas, and the nature of journalism definitely begs for a lot of questions to be asked, questions which don’t necessarily have right or wrong answers. For me, Manolo’s first transgression happens when he decides to stop the lynching at the beginning of the film: as a journalist he should have only been reporting what he witnessed; but as a human being you admire him for stepping forward and actually doing something to stop this atrocious violence (even if he might be doing this for the “ratings”). I’m very cynical about people’s reasons for doing things, and yet I do believe that a character like Manolo might be very idealistic too, and might be starting out with the best intentions. It’s only later on that his arrogance blinds him into thinking he’s the only one who can do anything to catch this killer. I think I was trying for the movie to work on different levels: to make you think about the nature of modern journalism (the moment you point a camera somewhere, you’re changing the very event you’re covering) without necessarily pointing the finger to anyone; but also to examine human nature, its arrogance, and lack of tolerance.
RT: How difficult is it to balance the "entertainment" side of a film — along with the messages you’re trying to convey?
SC: To me a good film should hook you and not let go off you until the final credits, but it should also make you think. I think there’s nothing contradictory with being entertained and thrilled by a great story, which might also have a strong message. You don’t want to insult your audience with losing subtlety and beating people over the head with a “message” everyone is aware of, and you don’t want to make the film too challenging to enter. A right balance is tricky, but it’s definitely something I strive for.
RT: Congratulations on being hired to direct Harrison Ford in the historical thriller "Manhunt". Do you see many similarities between this project (which is about a Civil War veteran charged with apprehending Abraham Lincoln’s assassin) and "Cronicas", which has to do with a TV reporter who tries to bring a serial killer to justice?
SC: Thank you. There are actually quite a bit of similar themes in these two movies, and I’m really looking forward to exploring these with a completely different approach.