Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
It doesn’t say much about abusive charlatans, their enablers, and their victims, that we don’t already know.
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.
Jan de Bont's "Speed 2: Cruise Control" is one of the most maligned movies of all time, earning the wrath of critics and audiences alike. It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of two percent and an average IMDB grade of 3.5--levels usually reserved for such monstrosities as The Village People's "Can't Stop the Music" (8/ 3.7) and the insult to all things good and decent that is Adam Sandler's "That's my Boy" (21/ 5.5). Judging from its box office performance, more people hated "Speed 2" than actually saw it. Yet I have to admit that after watching it on its opening weekend in 1997, I left the theater more than happy and was not surprised by the thumbs-ups it received from Siskel & Ebert. Then all hell broke loose. When I dis a movie a friend likes, all he has to do is bring up "Speed 2."
After watching Tim Burton's remake of "Planet of the Apes" (2001), I concluded there was no need for another "Ape" movie to ever be made. Thirty-three years of progress in makeup technology didn't help the latter version become any better than the one that inspired it. That's why, hearing there would be a "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" a decade later, I had no expectations and feared the worst, but the results were pleasantly surprising. We often associate the word "remake" with a lack of creativity so when an exception turns out, it's important to look back and try to understand the reasons behind this.
I'm fairly certain most Martin Scorsese fans prefer his Robert DeNiro period to the current one with Leonardo DiCaprio. The later entries may include the film that won him the Academy Award for Best Picture ("The Departed") and they've surely displayed signs of greatness, but I don't think any of them can be discussed as pinnacle achievements like his earlier ones.
The plot in "Face/Off" (1997) may sound ridiculous in real life terms but allowing our imaginations to experience and accept such preposterous events, the kind none of us will ever be able to live through, is a prime example of the great feats that cinema can achieve. And what a fantastic concept "Face/Off" had to begin with. There have been recent features where I've had a hard time grasping how boardrooms full of film executives could possibly green light the spending of millions of dollars when being pitched ideas that no filmmaker, however talented, could ever have succeeded with ("A man cures his depression by talking to a puppet beaver!" "A young archer princess grows closer to her mother when a witch turns her into a bear!").
Fred Zinnemann's "The Day of the Jackal" (1973) is a great example of how a film can do a good job of creating tension and involving the viewer by sticking with the most basic cinematic elements. We have the benefit of comparing it with a remake ("Jackal," 1997) that went on the opposite direction and by wrongly doing everything that its predecessor got right, making he merits of the earlier version all the more evident. Both are distinctive reflections of how studios perceived audience tastes in their respective time periods. They are as different as two movies based on the same source might be and can hardly be classified in the same genre. The later entry is a brainless action flick; the original is a "thriller" in every sense of the word.
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.