by/por: Eric González
A Slipping Down Life (Lions Gate Entertainment)
Once in a while, you are lucky to see a movie that, despite of not having special effects, fantastic explosions, or sex – attributes forced to us on a daily basis by Hollywood –, keeps you interested and make you feel good at the end. One of such films is a little gem by the name of “A Slipping Down Life”.
Evie Decker (Lili Taylor) is a bored and sometimes naïve girl living with her loving father in a small southern town. Her days slowly go by and, on occasion, she realizes that she is trapped in that little town, with no happy future in sight. However, her life changes dramatically when she meets a Drumstrings Casey (Guy Pearce), a talented singer, who also happens to be trapped in that toxic environment. Despite their character differences, their relationship proves fruitful and productive. This is not only a story about two lost souls, but also a story of life in small town USA. It is a powerful examination of life in general. Superbly acted by Taylor and Pearce, and delightfully directed by Toni Kalem, “A Slipping Down Life” is a small and tender movie that deserves your attention. The DVD is presented in its widescreen version. (USA, 2004, color, 109 minutes)
Broken Wings (Sony Pictures Classics)
When we see movies in this country, we mostly tend to connect what we see in the screen with our daily lives in our own environments and way of life. In other words, we rarely think that similar situations exist in other places and other countries. The reality is that we share the same issues and the same problems. A good example of this can be observed in the powerful drama “Broken Wings”, which show us a slice of daily life in a working class neighborhood in Israel.
“Broken Wings” traces the life of a family that recently lost the father and how his death affects all the members of the household. We are witness of the struggle of Dafna, a hard working, single mother, in trying to keep her children happy and stable. And this endeavor is hard, especially because Maya, the oldest, talented daughter, wants to be a singer, and her youngest brother, Ido, has an accident on the same day of her long-awaited audition. In the meanwhile Yair, the oldest brother, quits school to work in a job not worthy of his intelligence. This is what life is all about, presented in a raw, riveting way. Their pain is our pain. Superb performances by Orly Zilbershatz-Banai and Maya Maron also make “Broken Wings” a must. The film was the winner of the Audience Award in the 2003 Berlin Film Festival and nine Israeli Film Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Nir Bergman), Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. The DVD includes subtitles in English (the movie is in Hebrew). (Israel, color, 84 minutes)
Brothers in Arms (First Run Features)
With the election for the next President of the United States coming closer, the campaign keeps getting nastier, with spin doctors working overtime like never before. One of the contenders, current President George W. Bush, has been accused for a long time — even before his campaign — of not completing his military service. The evidence has been conveniently hard to find, but there are indications that that was indeed the case. On the other hand, the other contender, Senator John Kerry, has been accused by the Bush media people of exaggerating his service in the Vietnam conflict. The well-documented and eye-opening documentary, “Brothers in Arms”, provides evidence that Kerry did honorably serve his country in that war.
“Brothers in Arms” refers to the relationship of six men that met in Vietnam in 1969, and worked together in a patrol boat. It tells the story of Gene Thorson, Del Sandusky, David Alston, Mike Medeiros, Tommy Belodeau, and their leader, Lt. John Kerry. The film examines the interaction between these courageous men during and after the war. We hear testimonies from all of them, except Belodeau, who died of cancer some years ago. Among many things, they talk about a typical day in the boat, their missions, how Kerry got his Silver Star, and how they got enlisted in the army. We also learn about how they managed to deal with the issues once they returned home. Of particular importance, too, are the segments showing Kerry as an anti-Vietnam war activist, were he says, “We were supposedly trying to win their hearts and minds, and you just feel us alienating them on a daily basis.” Eerie. Iraq, anybody? He also mentions that “Vietnam taught me about governments that don’t tell the truth.” There are times that we really feel the special bond that these men share, especially when their comrade in arms Belodeau dies; when they join Kerry in 1996, during the period when he was combating false rumors about his service in Vietnam; and in 2003, during the launching of Kerry’s presidential campaign. Aptly directed by Paul Alexander, it is all here for history. This is a must-see film that unveils the truth about one courageous group of men that truly love their country. The DVD also includes a director’s statement, biographies, photos and the trailer. (USA, 2004, color, 68 minutes plus bonus material time)
General Santa Ana: Su Alteza Serenísima (Desert Mountain Media)
General Antonio López de Santa Ana (1794-1876) has been one of Mexico’s most controversial figures. He was recently portrayed in the movie “The Alamo” as responsible for leading the forces that defeated Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, William Travis and their militias at the famous battle of El Alamo in 1876. However, in 2000, a very interesting film about this legendary man of uniform was released and it features him in a different light.
“General Santa Ana: Su Alteza Serenísima” takes a closer look at the last three days of Santa Ana’s life. Having returned from exile, and still having plans to regain his days of glory, the General (played by Alejandro Parodi) receives the visit of some of his friends and not-so-friends. Some of these friends are apparently bribed by Lola (Ana Bertha Espín) , Santa Ana’s wife, in order that they can make the General feel happy and powerful, as in the old days. The conversations between Santa Ana and all these visitors are fascinating, and we can get a view of the intrinsic world of Mexican politics. In addition of Parodi and Espín, powerful acting is provided by veterans Pedro Armendáriz, Blanca Guerra, Ana Ofelia Murguía and others. This film, directed by the also veteran Felipe Cazals, is history told in a wickedly and engrossing way. Because of that, it received 11 Ariel Nominations (Mexico’s Academy Awards), including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. The DVD includes biographies, interactive menus, and English subtitles. (México, 2000, color, 112 minutes)
The Cat and the Canary (First Run Features)
In 1978, director Radley Metzger, who had made a name for himself in the erotic film world under the name of Henry Paris, took a break from that genera and released a great new version of the mystery and suspense classic “The Cat and the Canary”. This novel was first presented in the New York Stage in 1922. The first film version came out, as a silent, in 1927, and directed by German master Paul Leni. Universal redid it 1930, with sound, and called it ‘The Cat Creeps”. A version in the Spanish-language, “La Voluntad del muerto,” also appeared that year, but the prints were unfortunately lost. In 1938, the “The Cat and the Canary” was produced by Paramount, and starred Bob Hope. Three decades later, Metzger successfully brought it back to life, and the good news is that the DVD version presents the digitally remastered, uncut edition.
The action takes place in Glencliff Manor in 1934, where the relatives of the recently deceased millionaire Cyrus C. West meet for the reading of his will and testament. He does this by showing them a pre-recorded movie during the course of dinner. In the film, West informs them about who the lucky recipient of the goods is going to be. In addition, he notifies them that there is a second inheritor, in case something happens to the first one. Matters get complicated when they receive the visit of the chief psychologist from a local mental hospital, who advises them that a dangerous patient just escaped from that institution and it’s believed to be near Glencliff Manor. What follows is an intelligent and entertaining thriller in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock and the great crime novels. The film stars a powerful cast, that includes Edward Fox, Honor Blackman, Carol Lynley, and the marvelous Wilfrid Hyde White. In addition to the uncut version of the film, the DVD features “Pictorial History: From Stage to Silent Movie to Modern Thriller” and production and director’s notes. (Color, 1979, 98 minutes plus additional materials time)