Roma is an absolute masterpiece and is the best film of 2018, bar none. Cuarón’s masterful work of art receives a five-star review from me.
From the moment I saw the first frame, a shot looking down at floor tiles with water rushing past them as an airplane shines through from above, I knew that this was going to be a special picture. I believe Roma is the movie of the year. This black-and-white gem beautifully tells the story of a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s. Director Alfonso Cuarón’s (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and Gravity) passion project is vibrant and visually shines. It’s a powerful portrayal of love, hope, and family. A movie our country needs to see and embrace right now. While it’s distributed by Netflix, I highly recommend experiencing this tour de force on the big screen. A must-see movie, that’s also a humane love letter. Very rarely do I come across a film with this much realism and inner beauty. On screen, Roma is a film that blossoms right before your very eyes. I had the pleasure of seeing this gem at the St. Louis International Film Festival last month, and I am looking forward to seeing it again in theaters.
Our film centers around Cleo (a powerful Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. The film is inspired by the women who raised this gifted director, Cuarón’s vivid autobiography is a love letter and an emotional portrait of what it means to be family. Roma is a gorgeous look at life on a grand cinematic scale. Aparicio gives Cleo a sense of comfort and wonder as she deals with her own personal struggles on screen. It’s an intoxicating docudrama that will fully engulf its viewers right unto center stage. We zero in on the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, where Cleo is a maid in the household of Sofia (a strong Marina de Tavira), whose household consists of her husband Antonio, their four young children (Toño, Paco, Sofi, and Pepe), Sofia's mother, Teresa, and another maid, Adela (an empathetic Nancy García). Cleo’s life revolves around cleaning, cooking, taking the kids to and from school, serving them meals, putting the kids to bed and waking them up.
In between these scenes, we witness a marriage on the brink of collapse through Sofia and Antonio. Shortly after, Antonio, a doctor, leaves for a conference in Quebec. Sadly, this is the last time his children will ever see him again, as he runs off with his mistress. Later, we see Cleo and Adele going to the movies with their boyfriends, Fermín and Ramón. Cuarón fills each of these scenes with authenticity and rich rewards. This film could go down as his magnum opus, filled with poetic and cinematic bliss. Halfway through the movie, Cleo realizes that she is pregnant and Fermín wants nothing to do with her and their child. His toxic masculinity rages on and unveils his arrogance. While Fermín decides to leave, Cleo is left continuing to take care of Sofia’s family and also preparing for her baby. We begin to closely follow Cleo and her journey for an entire year. Whether it’s traveling with the family to hacienda for New Year's or to the beaches at Tuxpan, we are with Cleo every step of the way.
What is so captivating about Roma is Cuarón’s ability to break through barriers of language, culture, and class. His masterclass soars to refreshing new heights for cinema and the world in general. This is a film that our country needs to embrace right now, as we witness this philosophical humanist love letter blossom frame-by-frame. Everything from the writing, directing, acting, camerawork, and cinematography is executed perfectly. I have already watched it once more since it was released on Netflix last Friday (the 14th), and will continue to watch it on a weekly bases throughout this awards season. The pleasure of this film is that it felt like a brand-new experience watching it the second time around. Spellbound, Roma will be hard to top for 2018 and has my vote to receive the highest honor of Best Picture at the Academy Awards next year.
Roma had its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film, where it won the Golden Lion. Roma was also chosen by Time magazine and the New York Film Critics Circle as the best film of 2018, and by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten best films of 2018. It has received numerous awards thus far, including three Golden Globe nominations. Cuarón said: "There are periods in history that scar societies and moments in life that transform us as individuals. Time and space constrain us, but they also define who we are, creating inexplicable bonds with others that flow with us at the same time and through the same places. Roma is an attempt to capture the memory of events that I experienced almost fifty years ago. It is an exploration of Mexico's social hierarchy, where class and ethnicity have been perversely interwoven to this date and, above all, it's an intimate portrait of the women who raised me in a recognition of love as a mystery that transcends space, memory and time."
Aparicio shared her thoughts on the similarities between herself and Cleo. “My life was similar. We were both poor, and we both wanted to go to Mexico City to improve our family’s lives.” Her own mother worked as a nanny, just as Cleo does in the film. “She is still a domestic worker. When I was younger, I used to help her so she could finish earlier.” Aparicio's mother provided the inspiration for Cleo. “I wanted to be like my mum; as strong as her. She was my role model. The film is like a tribute to women in general – these invisible women are always there in the home, taking care of the children.” Roma is my favorite film of the year and is the best film of 2018, hands down. This beautiful black-and-white portrait of human life will strike you with heartbreak and awe. Roma is a turning point in cinematic history and will continue to shape the way we look and observe film. This is the reason why we go to the movies, to be mesmerized by enriching stories that will bring us closer together as human beings.
Roma is rated R (Restricted). For graphic nudity, some disturbing images, and language.
Review: The Other Side of the Wind
Chaotic, visually stunning, and a worthy tribute to a legendary director. Orson Welles’ long-lost film is a must-see for any cineastes out there.
Behold, almost 50 years in the making, The Other Side of the Wind finally can be seen in its entirety. It’s a film that left me gobsmacked by the end, wishing there could have been more to offer. Sadly, this is the closest we will ever get to the vision of Legendary director Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, and F for Fake). This was an on-and-off again development that sadly did not see completion during Welles’ final breath. Shooting began in 1970 and went through until 1976. Welles continued to work on the project during the 1980s but fell into legal, financial, and political complications. Ultimately, The Other Side of the Wind was stopped, sitting in limbo, and haunting Hollywood ever since. The film starred John Huston, Bob Random, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg, and Oja Kodar.
Huston’s character resembled Welles himself, as a man coming back from isolation and returning to America after two decades to make one last movie. The narrative is utilized as a film-within-a-film and is mashed up with mockumentary pizzazz. Splicing between color and black-and-white footage and a rapid cutting approach, you’re in for a wild ride. This long-lost chapter into Welles’ canon is something cinephiles can drool over. This Hollywood satire focuses on the last days of a legendary film director named Jake Hannaford (played by John Huston), who is struggling to make a comeback in filmmaking. Notably, Hannaford is hard at work on his final masterpiece, The Other Side of The Wind. It paralleled with Welles’ own personal life, while we (the audience) are struck with awe. Messy throughout, we see an artist working overtime to complete his crowning portrait. Blended with graphic nudity and rapid-fire dialog, The Other Side of the Wind’s thorny beauty is a feast for your eyes.
The world premiered was unveiled at the 75th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2018, and was released on November 2, 2018, by Netflix. If anything, this masterwork proves that Welles was ahead of his time, as great artist usually are. Editor Bob Murawski (The Hurt Locker) used Welles’ own personal notes to chop and piece together the closing product. While composer Michel Legrand (The Thomas Crown Affair) layered in his upbeat and jazzy score. Legrand stated: "I asked myself constantly, ‘How would Orson have reacted?’ The very subject of the film touched me: the idea of the passage of time, the renewal of inspiration. I am proud to be the link between these two Welles films. I take it as a gift from Orson, through the clouds." The Other Side of the Wind is a piece of history finally laid to rest and can now age gracefully. Somewhere in the universe Welles is looking down from above, smiling at his ultimate masterstroke.
The Other Side of the Wind is rated R (Restricted). For sexual content, graphic nudity and some language.
Review: Beautiful Boy
Beautiful Boy is an authentic and raw film, full of blood, sweat, and tears on the struggles with addiction. Actors Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell give Oscar-worthy performances.
“Anyone who has lived through it, or those who are now living through it, knows that caring about an addict is as complex and fraught and debilitating as addiction itself.” – David Sheff
In St. Louis, very rarely do you get to see a movie and then have a live Q&A with the real-life actors afterward. Well on October 28th, 2018, my wife (Glynis) and I got to meet actor and Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) and author Nic Sheff, who’s memoir (Tweak) is based for the making of Beautiful Boy. What a time we had listening to their work on making this heartbreaking and inspiring movie. Beautiful Boy is an emotionally true story about Nic Sheff’s real-life struggle with drug addiction over the course of many years. Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, this film chronicles the gut-wrenching story of survival, relapse, and recovery. It’s a powerful portrayal.
Oscar nominees Carell and Chalamet respectfully portray David and Nic Sheff, the father and son duo. Their chemistry together on screen is vivid and, at times, will send shivers down your spine. The movie's narrative takes a bit to get going, as we bounce around different shots and flashbacks of Nic’s addiction. Yet, director Felix Van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown) is still able to amplify the ugliness of addiction and the toll it takes on a family. The family dynamics are front and center, as we see the drugs consuming Nic’s life and his family adapting to find new ways of help. You’re with Nic every step of the way. Likewise, you’re with David along the way too, watching a father grapple with how to help and comfort his son he so deeply loves.
Carell and Chalamet give Oscar-worthy performances, as we watch each actor give an honest portrayal. Like a punch to the gut, Carell and Chalamet will leave you shaken by the end. Beautifully shot, profoundly truthful, and deeply compelling, Beautiful Boy is a much watch movie for 2018. Yet, the confusing non-linear narrative keeps the film, as a whole, from fully soaring to masterful heights. Nevertheless, these are minor flaws to a worthy film that depicts the grueling experience of walking next to someone unconditionally. The closing titles reveal that Nic has been eight years sober, "and it would not have been possible without the love and support from his family and friends." At the end of the Q&A, my wife was able to shake his hand and tell him how “inspiring and strong he is.” Beautiful Boy resonates on this imperfect, yet beautiful world we live in.
Beautiful Boy is rated R (Restricted). For drug content throughout, language, and brief sexual material.
My experience of Beautiful Boy at the Hi-Pointe Theatre.
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