McQueen’s masterful film is the kind that works on multiple levels simultaneously—as pure pulp entertainment but also as a commentary on how often it feels…
Gerardo Valero was born in 1962 in Mexico City, where he currently resides with his wife Monica. He has a degree in Architecture and an MBA from the IPADE Business School in Mexico. His interest in movies started at a very young age as his father used to take him and his brothers to double or even triple features at their neighborhood theater. He mostly remembers seeing Tarzan movies and Disney classics, though mostly they watched a lot of forgettable war and cowboy movies. He remembers "The Poseidon Adventure" being talked about by everyone at his school, and by the time he saw "Jaws" at age thirteen, it became his favorite all-time film and somehow still remains so, even after watching it more times than he can recall.
Valero first learned of Siskel & Ebert in the mid-eighties during one of many summers he spent with friends in Columbus, Ohio. By 1988 it appeared on a cable station in Mexico and soon became a must-watch for him. Then the internet came along, and in 1999, he emailed Roger his very first suggestion for his "Little Movie Glossary," which, incredibly, he chose for one of his coming Yearbooks! Since then Valero has sent him dozens (or hundreds) of suggestions and, even though his days of batting 1.000 in that department didn't last very long, he has happily been published about 20 times in Roger's annual "Movie Yearbook." He has also contributed to Time Magazine's “10 Questions” (segments on Alex Trebek, Andy Roddick and Hillary Swank) and to "Freeze That Frame" in the long-defunct Video Review Magazine (1991).
Valero has won prizes in a number of trivia contests: an Omega watch for the James Bond contest (1995) and a VCR for the Lethal Weapon one (1996), both by Premiere Magazine (Mexico Premiere), and his first DVD player in the Godfather trivia contest by Cinemex, a Mexican movie chain (1998). His main interests are movies and DVDs, playing tennis, following the NY Yankees and, whenever possible, traveling. His favorite film is still "Jaws," but the first two Godfather movies make him question his standings every time he watches them.
I find it mind-boggling that something as trivial as an action film series could become such a constant presence in my life but that's been the case with the James Bond movies. It's not so much that their span happens to equal mine (to the very week, by the way) as I didn't start following them until I was 9 years old -- but ever since, they've always been around one way or another: from big theatrical openings to re-re-releases in the beat up movie houses of old; from Betamax tapings of network T.V. broadcasts (pausing the machine to edit the commercials), to the great looking discs of today. Every couple of years or so they have made their appearance and I've watched each one dozens of times regardless how good or bad they were, an odd fact for which I've had no reasonable explanation.
"The Godfather Part III" is one of my favorite movies. I admit a personal obsession with the film that would have never existed had it simply been either good or bad. Some fans of the series clearly love to hate it; they equate Sofia Coppola's presence to that of Jar Jar Binks in the "Star Wars" trilogies, but I believe this is an over-simplification. "Part III" is an uneven picture that could and should have been great. That's what's maddening about it.
Ben Affleck's "The Town" (2010) is an impressive effort from a third time director whose acting choices almost derailed his Hollywood career. With the clear exception of "Changing Lanes" (2002), this film is better than everything he ever did before and the reason is simple: instead of choosing to be involved in another blockbuster wannnabe, Affleck wrote, directed and starred in this heartfelt project about a fascinating borough that he seems familiar with. It is also a work of numerous, obvious inspirations, raising the question of whether said fact makes it any less worthy.
No cinematic genre lends itself less for repeated viewings than comedy. Finding a truly funny picture is hard enough (not that you could tell from the typical reactions at a "Fockers" screening) and besides, how many times can people laugh at the same joke? Comedies also tend to age the worst. Among those that I recall once driving audiences wild here in México were "The Party" (1967), starring Peter Sellers, with all the guests falling into a pool full of bubbles, and Peter Bogdanovich's zany screwball feature "What's up Doc?" (1972), but watching them today mostly leaves me cold.
Robert Redford's "Quiz Show" (1994) depicts the early days of television during the 1950s, a world that evoked fantasy but was run by real human beings. Unlike today's TV programming, the shows from those days were innocent and naïve (much as portrayed in "Pleasantville") but the people behind the scenes were like their colleagues in Sidney Lumet's "Network" (1976). "Quiz Show" shares some basic themes with the latter: the wrongdoings that network executives repeatedly commit, those that good people can occasionally perpetrate as well through greed, and the common denominator between them.
I'm under the impression that people settle on an all-time favorite movie at a relatively early age. With time they become increasingly difficult to displace, no matter what cinematic greatness may follow. This is what best describes my experience with "Jaws" (1975). Eventually I may have acquired a greater admiration for "The Godfather" films but by then it was too late. My first viewing of "Jaws" felt perfect. I later learned it wasn't.
Does groundbreaking cinema go hand in hand with movie greatness? That's a question answered by Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (1982). Like "Metropolis" before it, here's a rare film with sequences that generate a sense of awe. Even though we now live in an age when the creation of extraordinary cities of the future has become routine thanks to digital effects, it's hard to imagine the Canyons of Coruscant (in the "Star Wars" prequels); the futuristic Washington in "Minority Report" or even the forthcoming versions of present day cities (in the new adaptation of "Total Recall") without the influence of "Runner" and none of these examples keep the audience's eyes fixed to the screen like Scott's Los Angeles of 2019. Here's a director whose doesn't just use special-effects to tell a story, he creates visual works of art in every frame of his films.
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"Carrie" (1976) was based on standard horror material but became memorable thanks to Brian De Palma's ability to keep an audience unnerved every step of the way. Think for a moment of the nature of telekinesis, the film's supernatural gimmick. The ability to mentally transport things is surely not as intriguing or frightening as the gifts of other Stephen King characters, but the director seems to realize that once the public buys it, he can then take liberties and add it to other dimensions related to the protagonist's fears and obsessions. That's s what made the picture unsettling. Some of the De Palma's other films have felt more like exercises in movie craftsmanship ("Body Double," "Raising Cain," "Snake Eyes") but this particular story lent itself particularly well to his usual directorial traits and they felt fresher at this stage of his career.
It seems like every film inspired on real-life events becomes controversial for one reason or another. The greater the subject's notoriety, the louder the outcry. The backlash to Oliver Stone's "JFK" was extreme by any standard; it became one of the rare features widely attacked for existing in the first place. This wasn't all that surprising; the movie took one of the most painful events in American history and came up with shocking, damaging conclusions. That Stone tackled the "whats" of the case (the pieces that didn't fit) was already a touchy proposition; that he tried to uncover the "whys" is what took the reaction the next level. Should a film like this have been made?
When it comes to "Making of" documentaries, I put one above all others. It is "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse" (1991), a full-length feature about the filming of Francis Coppola's "Apocalypse Now". Nothing quite illustrates its impact like Francois Truffaut's statement: "I demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not interested in anything in between." That the pain it captures eventually translated into cinematic greatness only serves to make it more compelling.