Synecdoche, New York
If we don't "go to the movies" in any form, our minds wither and sicken.
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.
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.
Streaming on Netflix Instant
"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.
With films like "Zodiac" (2007) David Fincher has become Hollywood's serial-killer specialist and yet his entries from that genre seem to have more in common with "The Insider" than with "Psycho" or "The Silence of the Lambs" He shows a great fascination with the details surrounding each case, than with their heroes and villains. His approach is usually just as meticulous when inspired by fictional works ("Seven", "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") as by real-life events. Perhaps it is Oliver Stone's "JFK" that this film most resembles; obsession is at both their cores.
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.