Whilst in the homeland TBE had the opportunity to see two movies: All About My Avatar (Todo Sobre Mi Avatar) and Titanic Broken Embraces. They were both good and bad in their own ways.
Because TBE is emotionally immature and likes jokes, we generally prefer Almodovar’s older films to his newer ones. Here’s a little film history for you: In the wake of Franco’s demise Spain witnessed a cultural explosion when all the pent up red lines were crossed and everyone was super-energetic and a buoyant spirit reigned supreme and this is from whence Almodovar came. Sometime in the 1990s he got mature and serious since he was “at the height of his creative powers.” His newer movies are still better than almost everyone else’s but since TBE’s attention span tops out at about the length of a video clip they sometimes feel like a chore.
The story of Broken Embraces is too complicated to summarize here but we thought it was really good except it started to get a little slow when the director (in the movie, not Almodovar) and Penelope Cruz went to the beach, and it got a little sentimental from there on out.
Also the violence, which wasn’t much, was in the weird stylized style that one sees in some Egyptian movies, like Ehki Ya Shahrazad! We don’t really care whether violence is stylized or not. But it can be jarring and introduce some distance between the (formerly engrossed) audience and the story when a film that has been “realistic” until that moment suddenly veers into blatant unrealism or stylization. If directors are unwilling to portray brutality, we would prefer they allude to it the old-fashioned way, with a shot of the push down the stairs (or hand heading toward a slap) then a quick cut to the injured party on the ground, in the hospital, etc.
Also Almodovar is an amazing craftsperson. We know virtually nothing about directing in the sense of relationships between movie stars and directors that are frequently characterized as “stormy” (speaking of which, when did the drink known as the “dark and stormy” become the new mojito?), but the command Almodovar shows in actually crafting a film, especially noticeable in his cuts from doors closing to other doors opening, is a thing to behold. The whole “making it look easy,” “there-not there hand of the craftsman” aspect of the movie is pretty amazing.
Also Penelope Cruz is pretty amazing, and her and that Anthony Lane article in the New Yorker the other week about Grace Kelly, about whom we know nothing except what we read, had TBE wondering how America lost the art of producing glamorous movie stars. Probably the point at which it became impossible was when someone coined the term “glamazon,” the bête noire of TBE’s stock of portmanteaus.
TBE can’t wait until everything is in 3d. Like real life we mean, and when people wear 3d clothes and walk around wearing 3d glasses so they can take advantage. Or when movies in string theory start coming out and are shown in 10D or 11D. That’s our dream, but it might not happen soon, considering that 3D is apparently extremely taxing on one’s eyeballs and so might not be the killer app Hollywood intends it to be.
Avatar as a story is stupid. The text is that these aliens are being destroyed by rapacious military contractors and it’s a wonderful allegory about the US or Israel or China and Native Americans or Iraqis or Palestinians or Tibetans but then the important subtext is that the natives can’t save themselves so they need a white person to do it for them, since he’s actually better at being a native than the natives themselves. Nothing shocking but then nothing’s shocking but then again we like the Battle of Algiers better.
Since the story is retrograde, the reason to see it is because the 3D effects are awesome. When TBE’s B-School correspondent status updated, “I can’t believe (name withheld) went to see Avatar in 2D,” we thought he was being a bit recherché, but after seeing it we understood. It really would be a waste of your hard-earned time to go see it in 2D. Even if it was a silent movie it might be worth watching. Especially the parts in the enchanted forest, which we particularly enjoyed.
Finally, may we suggest walking out when the movie is about half-hour from the end? Like that last Batman movie, the ending stretches on and on in a really tiresome way.