Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Best Movies of 2018 - Festival in LA

By José Alberto Hermosillo
The Best Movies of 2018 - Festival in LA
Top 20 films I have seen this year:
  • Roma
  • Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot
  • The Favorite
  • The Sisters Brothers
  • Shoplifters
  • First Reformed
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me?
  • Happy as Lazzaro
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • Annihilation
  • Cold War
  • Mary Queen of Scots
  • Border
  • The Silence of Others
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Ben is Back
  • If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Destroyer
  • Leave No Trace
  • A Quiet Place
  • Bad Times at the El Royale
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Festival in LA ©2018

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Silence of Others: Speaks Up in Amnesiac Spain

By José Alberto Hermosillo
The Silence of Others poster ©2018 Cinephil
“The Silence of Others” is an award-winning documentary that bravely appraises the truth of the enforced disappearances under the Franco regime.

This insightful non-fiction work revives the memory of a country forced to forget those unhealed wounds of repression and the people who never give up pursuing the bull’s eye.

This documentary, produced by Pedro and Agustin Almodóvar, brings to light the disappearance of hundreds of individuals ordered by the Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco and his cronies four decades later.

After Franco’s passing in 1975, the new administration offered the killers, abusers, and torturers an amnesty. That atrocity was called the “Pact of Forgetting.” The agreement certainly did not do justice to the thousands of victims, who, after their disenchantment, had to go out of their country to prosecute the criminals globally.

The “Pact of Forgiveness” is forbidden by the UN. Crimes against humanity cannot be condoned by the statute of limitations of a partisan judiciary power nor fall into mass amnesia in Spain or any democratic country.

“The Silence of Others” executed a meticulous investigation to identify the victims of those crimes committed by the armed forces – involuntary disappearances, mass graves, and kidnapping of newborn babies.

Paradoxically, as with any other government in the world, there are still people who lived comfortably during Franco’s era and feel nostalgia for the right-wing achievements.
Robert Bahar, co-director. The Silence of Others. 

Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2018 Festival in LA
The documentarians Robert Bahar and his wife, Almudena Carracedo, spent seven years working on this project. They spent hundreds of hours interviewing people, visiting locations, traveling to different countries, and editing the project for fourteen months.
The Silence of Others ©2018 Cinephil.
Time is the protagonist in this film – war criminals who die without serving time. Beloved characters also died without seeing justice. For instance, the brokenhearted old lady who places flowers on the side of the highway yearning for a missing one, pointing under where the mass graves are located. Others still remember their parents, brothers and sisters, and stolen babies.

Spain has countless victims claiming acknowledgment, lawlessness, and proper compensation. 

Other conscious survivors became activists and fought in the courts. They pressured judges internationally and kept the cases open. They also found an ally in the Argentinean judge Maria Romilda Servini de Cubria, who traveled to Spain to bring Franco’s generals to a fair trial.

In the international arena, other troubled places followed Spain’s path to justice outside their borders: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Uganda.

One can feel hopeless since it takes too long to have things done in the courts. Moving one step forward, two steps backward. Until one day, people can see the light at the end of a tunnel.
The Silence of Others ©2018 Cinephil
“The Silence of Others” is a superb documentary produced by a group of very talented people. Their impressive work includes the aesthetics of its stunning cinematography by its co-director, Almudena Carracedo. 

The needle-point editing was the responsibility of Ricardo Acosta, Kim Roberts, and Mrs. Carracedo. The haunting music was composed by Leonardo Heiblum and Jacobo Lieberman.

Pedro Almodóvar presents this Oscar-worthy documentary as part of the official selection of the Los Angeles Film Festival. 
IDA (International Documentary Association) screening. 
Photo Jose A. Hermosillo ©2018 Festival in LA
The Audience Award winner documentary at the Berlinale Panorama 2018 also won the Pare Audience Award at the International Documentary Association (IDA). “The Silence of Others” has been shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature for the Academy Awards 2019 and is scheduled for theatrical release in the USA in Spring 2019.
Robert Bahar, director: The Silence of Others. Film critic José A. Hermosillo 
©2018 Festival in LA
“The Silence of the Others” is a cornerstone document that demands justice and democracy. It deserves to be witnessed by everyone, including the younger generation, who wants to see a positive change in the world.
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Festival in LA ©2018

Monday, December 24, 2018

Anna and the Apocalypse: Zombieland in a High School Musical

By José Alberto Hermosillo
Anna and the Apocalypse poster ©2019 Festival in LA

 “Anna and the Apocalypse” is an extraordinary, underground teen horror/musical with sensational dark humor. An instant cult classic!!!

When British co-writer Ryan McHenry worked in the seventeen-minute short film “Zombie Musical,” he never imagined a few years later, it would turn into a coming-of-age, high school musical “Anna and the Apocalypse.” 
Anna and the Apocalypse display at the Arclight, Hollywood. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo.

The director of this terrific film is the young and talented John McPhail, who placed all the elements together to make this fun-to-watch, animated flick. “Anna and the Apocalypse” appeals to a new generation of film-goers.

They added a few more novelty elements and characters to upgrade the short into a feature film, making the story more vivid and fluidly entertaining. 

They shot the movie in twenty-eight days, averaging a record of seventeen sets a day in a non-sequential order.
Anna and the Apocalypse. Photo Jose Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA
At that time of the year in Englandthe weather conditions were challenging. The filmmakers had plenty of rain, wind, fog, and snow during the production. 

Having only six hours of daylight, they worked from dawn to dark. For that reason, pre-production was essential for the well-being of the film.  

They also spent a week planning the climactic song “Hollywood Ending.”
Anna and the Apocalypse. Photo Jose Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA
During the shooting, director of photography Sara Deane always looked for that emotional beat to drag the viewer’s attention to a focal point. Miss Deane created an electrifying and colorful world through her lenses. With the convenient help of the seasonal Christmas decorations made out of this zombie musical, a genre film worth watching. 

She added that working in the hallways was more challenging because space was limited and more complex to light.

“Anna and the Apocalypse” combined the zombie assaults with gaudy and well-choreographed musical numbers. 
“Anna and the Apocalypse” is a provocative story within the Zombie Genre. 

The filmmakers mixed romantic comedy with horror to help break the structure - beginning with every character's desires, goals, and dreams and foreshadowing the story’s outcome.
In this highly original story, Anna and John (Ella Hunt and Malcolm Cumming) confront the evil teacher Savage, terrifically played by Paul Kaye.

For the central characters, losing a good friend gives real meaning to fighting the Zombies. 

The representation of zombies becomes personal as the symbol of the undead, and depression-like Santa Claus is for happiness.
John McPhail, director. Anna and the Apocalypse. Photo Jose Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA
Director John McPhail wanted everyone in the film to feel real. He is a believer in character truthfulness. 

McPhail firmly believes that actors are people, not kids. In the character’s bios, he has to know where they are coming from and where they are going. 

In McPhail’s own words: “‘Jaws’ has the same structure of ‘Ghostbusters,’ and still are two different movies.”

Director is a huge fan of Musicals: “West Side Story,” “Cabaret,” “Moulin Rouge,” and “Legally Blonde” stage. 

He worked with three other composers who had never done a musical before. They ensured they were on the same page and used a comparable terminology that included respect for everyone and everything - honor the female characters, the zombies, and the bullies too.

The memorable music includes the terrific songs “Christmas Means Nothing Without You,” “Break Away,” “Soldier at war,” “Turning My Life Around,” “What a Time to Be Alive,” “Human Voice,” and of course, “Hollywood Ending.”

This film is not for the British only. Even though it was made in England, “Anna and the Apocalypse” Music is Universal. American and worldwide audiences can identify with the songs, the comedy, and the fantastic dead and alive characters.
John McPhail, director. Anna and the Apocalypse. Photo Jose Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

The magic of cinema comes when a movie like this appeals to everyone. 

The director said, “The comedy has a sparkle and comes from something real.” He added, “What America has brought to Grand Britain, now we want to give back, like this pleasing and surprisingly original film.”

The new hard-core fans of this genre can rejoice that the stage version of “Anna and the Apocalypse” will be touring theaters around the globe pretty soon. Enjoy!
Jose Alberto Hermosillo, John McPhail, director.
Anna and the Apocalypse. Photo Jose Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

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Festival in LA ©2018

Roma: An Unprecedented Best Picture Nomination for a Movie in Spanish

By José Alberto Hermosillo

After the announcement of Golden Globes and Independent Spirit Awards nominations, “Roma,” the epic Mexican gem in Spanish, is facing the realm of being nominated only for Best Foreign Language film. But the winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival is a contender in other categories, including Best Picture at the Oscars® 2019.

The New York Film Critics Circle and LA Film Critics Association agree “Roma” is the year’s best Picture.

In recent years, the Oscars® has been under fire for the lack of diversity and inclusion. Among other desperate measures, the Academy® extended memberships to more individuals in the film industry from around the world. The new international members can be a big boost for foreign films in Hollywood, such as “Roma,” “Cold War,” and “Shoplifters.”

The Academy can’t make everybody happy with the most popular film award, and to give out an Oscar® is not the “Miss Congeniality” contest. Controversially enough, the Academy has to place aside peoples’ favorite choices to value the technical qualities of a film.

The members of every branch have specific norms to evaluate each submitted film and recognize them with the deserved award.

Academy® voters may not fall for a black & white movie in Spanish with no big movie stars displaying a slice of life set in Mexico City in 1971.

The style of the Mexican film is closer to Italian Neorealism and may not appeal to many American viewers, but others are big-time fans of the director’s work. At the same time, members will know how to recognize the talent, beauty, and perfection that the Netflix production called “Roma” has.

One of the main reasons Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” conquered the voters’ eye last year was for the harmonic combination of all the aspects of filmmaking, directing and acting, cinematography and art design, costumes and makeup, sound and music. Something similar can happen to “Roma.” 
As long as the project made by the director of “Y tú mama también” complies with Academy rules, the film can compete in other categories such as Best Original Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Set Design, Sound Design, Costumes, Directing, Acting, and even Best Picture.

One thing is undoubted: the visionary filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón conceived this masterpiece without showing the entire script to his actors. A challenge that only great directors can achieve. 

Understanding the movie may require multiple viewings. Mainly because we have to learn the importance of the film’s place and time – Mexico City – year: 1971 – two of the main elements of this uneasy film.

The richness of the production in “Roma” is perceptible with the authentic reconstruction of Colonia Roma and its vicinity.

The director worked tirelessly with the Oscar® winner set designer Emilio Caballero (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), who previously reconstructed the devastated area of the Tsunami in Asia for the film “The Impossible.” More recently, Emilio did a fine job in the fantastic movie “A Monster Calls.”

The elaboration of the interiors and exteriors in “Roma” was a gigantic work of art because that “colonia” was destroyed after the 1985 and 2017 earthquakes.
Roma ©2018 Netflix
To build all the streets, hospitals, and movie theaters, Alfonso Cuarón and Emilio Caballero had to rely on pictures, videos, newspapers, and memories of their childhood.

The filmmakers want us to discover specific details that the film has but doesn’t tell us openly.

Roma is a town located in the middle of Mexico City. A place of transit where people pass by on their way to the “Zócalo,” also known as Plaza de la Constitución. People’s destination is a Civic Center that we don’t see in the Picture. That place is considered Ground Zero for individuals to publicly celebrate, dance, vote, protest, and publicly demonstrate their political concerns.
"Roma" actresses, Yalitzia Aparicio (Cleo), Nancy Garcia (Adela), María de Tavira (Señora Sofía). Photo José Hermosillo ©2018 Festival in LA
The story of “Roma” happens in a tumultuous time under the “populist” or “leftist” presidency of Luis Echeverria (1970-1976). He was responsible for the “Corpus Christi Massacre” perpetrated by the government-sponsored and trained by the CIA called the “Falcons,” also known as the “Alcones” displayed in the film. More than one hundred students were killed.

Echeverria was elected “democratically” but also had prominent involvement in the riots of 1968. The army killed dozens of students protesting in the streets in the barrio of Tlatelolco in 1968.

Those tumultuous times in Mexico included the organization of the 1968 Olympic Games and the Soccer World Cup in 1970 and the subway construction. Elements that represented another setback for Mexico’s economy. 

The government wanted to show a different face of Mexico to the world. In the 1970s, the people suffered the consequences of the tremendous burden-those investments generated.
Roma ©2018 Netflix
In Oscar history, a film in Spanish has never been nominated for Best Picture. There is a collection of movies that were “partially” spoken in Spanish but never won: “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” (1948) “Giant” (1956), The Postman/Il Postino” (1995), “Traffic” (2000), and “Babel” (2006).

Another example of a foreign-made film nominated for Best Picture was the silent film set in Hollywood, “The Artist.” A French, USA, and Belgium production that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2011. A French victory for many.

Therefore, a foreign language film released in USA movie theaters a week before December 25th can qualify to be nominated mainly in all categories.

“Roma” aims to make history by becoming the first movie entirely spoken in Spanish to be nominated for Best Picture. Alfonso Cuarón will not only be nominated for Best Director, but he is also the front-runner to win the Oscar. Also, he will be nominated for Best Cinematography and Original Screenplay.

The other Foreign Language Films nominated for Best Picture in history were:

1939 – “Grand Illusion” – France – French
1969 – “Z” – France, Algeria – French
1972 – “The Emigrants” – Sweden – Swedish
1973 – “Cries and Whispers” – Sweden – Swedish
1995 – “The Postman/Il Postino” – Italy – Italian, Spanish
1998 – “Life is Beautiful” – Italy – Italian
2000 – “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” – Taiwan – Mandarin
2006 – “Letters from Iwo Jima” – USA – Japanese
2006 – “Babel” – USA, Mexico, France – Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, English.
2012 – “Amour” – Austria – French.
Festival in LA ©2018