Crazy Rich Asians
Very few films have ever captured the pains of being first-generation American quite like Crazy Rich Asians.
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.
Is Bryan Singer's "The Usual Suspects" (1995) one of the greatest films ever made? I admit there was a time, right after I saw it, that it seemed special. For most of my first viewing, I thought I was watching a standard crime thriller when suddenly it caught me off-guard and left me stunned. Once the DVD came out, I rushed to buy it but then, as the years went by, I noticed it had been left on its shelf abandoned as I had little interest in watching it again. I couldn't remember much about the characters or the plot, in fact, there was only one thing that stuck in my mind about it. Readers who've previously watched it will instantly know what I'm taking about.
David Cronenberg's "The Dead Zone" (1983) is my favorite adaptation of a Stephen King horror novel. Some parts from "The Shawshank Redemption" are terrifying in a different way, and are better classified in other genres. I'm also fond of some of the other films his works have inspired. "Carrie" and "The Shining" were mostly outstanding, but the casting of adults as teens in the first and the absence of an everyman feel to the lead protagonist in the second are the main reasons why I place "The Dead Zone" above them. The latter films were made by exceptional directors (DePalma and Kubrick), but Cronenberg's taste for the unusual, turned out to be a more adequate fit for King's material.
During the 1970s and 80s the typical Clint Eastwood vehicle was heavier in plot than characters. In most cases, he simply played another variation of his usual loner, with a different name and leading lady. The female role was barely relevant, came well in second place to Clint's and was nothing more than a plot resource. It didn't really matter who ended up playing her but for a while Sondra Locke got the part repeatedly.
Streaming free on Amazon Prime.
Rob Reiner's films represent a remarkably mixed bag. The best scripts he's chosen have made for rather good pictures ("Misery," "A Few Good Men," "When Harry Met Sally...") and the bad ones ended up being "North" and "The Bucket List". There have been a few filmmakers like Hitchcock who always managed to take their work's origin to the next level but I have my doubts even he could have made "Bucket's" digital journeys to the Taj Mahal/Himalayas interesting.
Many of today's films seem to be made solely for financial reasons, but the case of "The Exorcist" is more complex than most. It was a tremendous financial success, the all-time box office champ for a while, but only a psychic could have predicted that people would line up to see a movie of this nature.
Don Siegel's "Dirty Harry" (1971) may not be the greatest film of Clint Eastwood's career but its title character is certainly the one that best defines it. Looking back, it's hard to imagine it took five years for such an acclaimed picture to arrive here in Mexico. Censorship wasn't common in those days but there was something about "Harry." The only other feature that I can recall getting a similar treatment was "Two Minute Warning" with Charlton Heston. Both dealt with mad snipers on the loose so my guess is that someone decided it was better not to give anyone ideas.
Lawrence Kasdan's "Grand Canyon" didn't make a splash when it opened here in Mexico, and it's not the kind of feature that's ever shown on our TV, so hardly anybody I know has even heard about it. It's not an easy movie to describe. When people ask me about its subject, I say something like "It's about a group of people from Los Angeles living in despair who end up feeling better when they all get together and visit the Grand Canyon." Most of them seem to loose interest but the response of those who do see it is mostly overwhelming.
Watching "The Tree of Life" brought "Grand Canyon" to mind. The films couldn't be more different, but both deal with a search for a deeper meaning in our existence-- a sense of helplessness in trying to place ourselves in the grand scheme of things. They also lack defined plots or conventional structures.
Based on the current trends in Hollywood films, we tend to think of the movie industry as some sort of giant Business Corporation, with board rooms all over town constantly analyzing projection charts and planning the next sequel to another obscure comic-book hero flick (in 3-D). Then five years ago "United 93" came along and defied most of the usual reasons for a film to be produced in the first place. It surely wasn't made with the idea of losing money but you could anticipate this wasn't going to be your typical drama/action-adventure movie (or a blockbuster for that matter). It was never even going to help sell great amounts of movie candy (though I can recall attending a screening of "The Passion of the Christ" years ago, and seeing people entering the theater with the usual giant containers of popcorn and soda, so I guess some moviegoers can eat through anything). We knew beforehand that "United 93" would be tackling a difficult subject worthy of scrutinizing, after watching it we come to understand this was one of those few "necessary" films.
There's nothing quite like the movies if you want to learn what people's hopes and dreams were during the period in which they were made. Take for instance the recent "Up in the Air". In the present when air travel has turned into something to be endured, George Clooney's Ryan Bingham showed us how it can become an enticing way of life. The same subject was also portrayed extensively, under a very different light, some forty years as the "Airport" movies dealt with our fears of dying in new and horrible ways, while glamorizing our dreams of flying first-class, surrounded by a movie star in every seat. As the trailer for one of these features once put it: "on board, a collection of the rich and the beautiful!" They also marked the advent of a new genre (the Disaster Film) as well as the "Ark movie" which Ebert's Little Movie Glossary defines as "mixed bag of characters trapped in a colorful mode of transportation". How many films can claim to this kind of impact?
"No good movie is long enough and no bad movie is short enough". As much truth as this phrase carries it is also a fact that editing choices greatly influence a film's outcome. One of the best examples to illustrate this point is Guisseppe Tornatore's "Cinema Paradiso" which was released in 1990 as a 124 minute gem that won Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards and the unconditional love of everyone I've ever discussed it with. Further, it made no sense to learn that a much longer version of the film had been released in Italy a couple of years before to mediocre reviews and box-office results. How could material this good ever be ignored? The answer came years later in a single viewing of one of those DVD editions that includes the complete 173 minute version. As strange as this sounds, I believe that the butchering of Director Tornatore's original 1988 vision saved his film from utter mediocrity, and took it to an all together higher level.