Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is easy on the eyes yet sometimes hard to watch, which is a credit to the Director and that connection he creates between viewer and heroine – in this case Cleo, the family maid and emotional heartbeat of the film. We love and sympathize with Cleo immediately. There’s no way she’s making it to the end unscathed.
Cleo is part of the family yet could be fired any minute for, say, not cleaning up after the dog the day Dad leaves the family forever. That uneasy precipice between acceptance and utility has made her a warrior that handles each situation with a compassion lacking in the noxious men around her. She’s the Marge Gundersen of Mexico City – insofar as she spends much of the film pregnant, making all the right moves within a world where the options are questionable.
Cuarón does more with silence than most do with tons of exposition and editing. There’s a reason he’s the only person to be nominated for Best Director and Best Cinematographer in the same year.
Like some of the 1969 sci-fi movie Marooned referenced within the film, Roma moves at a snail’s pace – allowing the story to seep into being rather than seem forced upon you. Underlying anxieties of race and toxic masculinity bubble beneath the surface, tethering the zeitgeist of 1971 Mexico City to the here and now.
What Yalitza Aparicio brings to the role of Cleo is astounding. She has an unassuming charm yet commands the screen. A masterfully presented scene of Cleo in labor does something few films ever do: get me to suspend my disbelief. I’m always hyper-aware that there’s a sound guy holding a boom mic off camera and a slew of crew itching for craft services. It’s a curse that keeps me from enjoying movies like most folks do. But there are moments in Roma when I forgot I was watching people pretend. It’s a great trick if you can pull it off, and Roma does so with grace.
Chadwick Boseman Forever!!
It is clear that Chadwick Boseman chose iconic roles like Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Black Panther with deliberate intent and for a specific purpose. In an age where positive roles for Black actors is often sparse, Chadwick managed to land and portray historical figures that made most respect his talents if not revel in his ability to transition effortlessly for one character to another. Even I had to give his African accent a solid B+ (It’s the highest grade the Nigerian Standards Bureau can give for an African accent to a non African FYI.)
Holding out and preparing for these dynamic roles came with both great frustration and incredible resolve I’m certain. Not to mention the taxing ordeal of battling Colon Cancer as the grueling scheduling of filming and increasing responsibility for positive representation loomed. Even under extreme duress, Chadwick’s commitment to others appeared to outweigh his own tribulations, unbeknownst to us all.
Black Panther may have been just a movie to some and that may be because some can easily rattle off 10 movies with a king of non Af-Am origin. It represented a lot more to others. Albeit imagined, imagery on cinema often accomplishes more to augment the social narrative and society itself than actual reality. If negative stereotypes influence perception then positive ones absolutely have the same converse effect.
Even in jest, the cultural misappropriation of raisins in potato salad on SNL skits directly spoke to the tampering of black culture to which T’challa championed, represented and aptly responded “Oh hell Nah Karen!”
If you don’t understand the relevance of representation, it’s probably because you are thoroughly represented. After all, no one is ever grateful for every breath they take until they are gasping for air.
R.I.P Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for breathing life into the possibility of Black excellence.
The Mandalorian Gets Star Wars Right
Star Wars is pretty silly, and that’s okay. If we want Shakespeare, we already have it. I don’t expect some fantasy silliness to ever take the place of nutritious art. Still, I like candy, too, and that’s what we get from those films whittled from the paper-thin mythologies of the original.
Enter The Mandalorian, like some nameless Sergio Leone anti-hero through a planked saloon door, stopping the piano player and all conversation in its tracks. There’s a stranger in town. Could be Clint Eastwood, could be Charles Bronson. In this case, it’s Pedro Pascal, a Chilean actor best known for Game of Thrones and Narcos. You’d never know it, though, since as of episode 7 we’ve yet to see “Mando” sans helmet. This only adds to a coolness originally displayed by another famous Mandalorian, Boba Fett. Boba actually debuted between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back in a hastily produced Christmas cartoon.
Not everyone likes it when silly wants to be taken seriously. Still, there’s a way to do it that’s not as jarring as Adam West v. Christian Bale.
Jon Favreau, whose Iron Man truly kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, acts as executive producer and showrunner of The Mandalorian, and he knows just how to balance the whole thing with an aesthetic more Alex Ross than Jack Kirby. As head writer, Favreau successfully walks that tightrope between nostalgia and the now. He tempers seriousness with one of the most adorable little puppets you ever did see. I’m talking about “The Child,” better known via recent memes as “Baby Yoda.” In the same way that the Mandalorian isn’t Boba Fett, the Child isn’t Yoda – yet both have those original characters baked into their DNA.
At 15 million clams an episode, you get some excellent production value. Cinematography, music, and special effects are all on point, as are cameos from the likes of Amy Sedaris, Bill Burr, Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, and Taika Waititi. Waititi also directed the final episode of Season 1, to be released December 27th.
The Mandalorian may be the best byproduct of the original series. Check it out on Disney+.
Aaron Paul Breaks Bad Once Again
Vince Gilligan brings us the further adventures of Jesse Pinkman as only he can, and the results are pretty entertaining.
Released on Netflix and in theaters on Friday, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie steps back and forward in time to resolve Pinkman’s story in two tension packed hours. Thankfully, Gilligan doesn’t bite off more than he can chew, and manages to pack more action into this story than in four frickin’ seasons of Better Call Saul.
You know that feeling you get when an episode of Saul ends and you feel like you’ve just been tricked into watching lawyers talking for an hour? You won’t have that with El Camino.
Now, if they could just spin off Jonathan Banks the same way.
Some familiar faces show up here and there, and they thankfully don’t chew up too much of the scenery. Worth noting that Robert Forster does a fine job in El Camino, and he unfortunately passed away the day the film was released. Peace out, Mr. Forster.