Friday, August 29, 2008

Golden ? Mexico

Nathaniel here! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Soon I should pop up at my own web home more than once a day again. A big thank you to loyal reader Paxton who sent in the list of the 11 official contenders for the Mexican Oscar submission this year that you'll see in the southern hemisphere of this post. Mexico has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film 7 times. The honored films were:

Macario (Gavaldón, 1960)
The Important Man (Rodríguez, 1961)
Tlayucan also known as: The Pearl of Tlayucan (Alcoriza, 1962)
Letters From Marusia (Littin, 1975)
Amores Perros (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, 2000)
The Crime of Father Amaro (Carrera, 2002)
Pan's Labyrinth (Del Toro, 2006)

As you can see there, Mexican cinema has recently caught Oscar's fancy again after that long dry spell that followed Mexico's triple play in the 1960s. The resurgence has a lot to do with these four men.

Pictured from left: Gonzalez Iñárritu who has had both a foreign nominee (Amores Perros) and a reg'lar old Best Picture nominee (Babel); everyone's favorite Mexican movie star Gael Garcia Bernal (who kicked off the Aughts with back-to-back-to-back arthouse hits), Guillermo Del Toro who after years of cult favor has rather successfully branded himself for the mainstream as a creepy creature feature kind of pop force; and the best filmmaker of the group Alfonso Cuaron who has yet to win a foreign film, a director or a Best Picture nod but whose films are well known and often well regarded. Only one of these four men might be involved in this year's Oscars.

Mexico has yet to win the Foreign Film Oscar but Pan's Labyrinth obviously lost its race in a squeaker (if its 3 other Oscars are any indication). This year's submission possibilities (links go to official site or video footage) are:

  • Arráncame la vida. Roberto Sneider adapts the period novel from Ángeles Mastretta.
  • Cochochi's claim to fame is that it's an indigenous drama spoken in Tarahumara. You don't see that every day... or, well, ever. Laura Amelia Guzmán & Israel Cárdenas's film has a certain relaxed fly on the wall vibe but I can't say that I'm a fan. Having seen it I can assure you that Oscar won't go for it. It's too alien in feel without that exotic pull that can get AMPAS interested in a foreign culture in the absence of more familiar strengths like acting, epic atmosphere or Hollywood plotting.
  • Cumbia Connection is a Monterrey set urban musical from director René Villarreal.
  • Déficit. Gael García Bernal gets behind the camera. His directorial debut concerns the wealthy set in a tourist hotspot. Bernal's starpower will make Oscar voters curious at the very least.
  • Two Embraces. Enrique Begné directs this split drama.
  • Nonna's Trip from Sebastián Silva is a family comedy about a simulated vacation.
  • Familia tortuga Directed by Rubén Imaz. A drama about family loss.
  • La zona a class warfare drama from Rodrigo Plá.
  • Lake Tahoe. This teen drama is the sophomore film from Duck Season director Fernando Eimbcke. It won the Alfredo Baeur Award @ Berlin. I haven't seen it but I'm sorta rooting for it already given my instant crush on Eimbcke. It all began in Toronto in September 2004... sigh. Seriously, he's a doll. And if you still haven't seen Duck Season, it's not for the lack of me preaching for it.
  • Partes usadas Mexico loves teen movies this year. This one, directed by Aarón Fernández, involves car part thieves.
  • Burn the Bridges. (see previous post) When I was on the jury at IIFF this spring, we gave the young lead actress our only acting prize. She's very affecting.
Can we hear from any readers who've seen these? Which ones are you rooting for? If you haven't seen these, cast a really uninformed vote. That's what everyone does in the foreign language category, ya know.


Crisbrother said...

ok..good things from Mexico. Lake Tahoe is going to compete at the San Sebastian Film Festival this September.

I'm allready gathering information of my country's posible submitions for the Oscar... soon i'll send it to you aswell... there is more than one loyal reader you know.. hahahahaha.. :)

c.p. iñor said...

I'm from Mexico... and already rooting for Eimbcke's film....

but I must add... where's La Misma Luna (Under de Same Moon)? I tought that could have a chance.

Adam said...

I'm up for anything giving Gael Garcia Bernal work, but BEHIND the camera? Unacceptable. I like him where I can see him.

whitney said...

Thanks for this list. I haven't seen any of them, but I'm excited for them. I think Mexico is a country that sometimes gets undeservedly ignored in film history studies. I hope I can change that for myself.

Beau said...

dude. I recognize the blasphemy involved in saying this to the film community but Eimbcke is even hotter than Bernal.


crisbrother please do.

whitney i totally plan (at some point) to watch the foreign film nominees. like pick a country and watch all. Mexico has few enough nominees to actually accomplish this though France, for example, would be impossible

C.P. Under the Same Moon was only eligible last year.

adam never fear. GGB had the good sense to act in his film as well. he's coming at you from the front and behind.

beau ¡tan guapo!

Crisbrother said...

Hey Nath (and everybody) if you are going to Toronto Fest, try to go watch "Tony Manero", thats from my country (Chile) and is the most possible choice to get submitted... The film is going to New York aswell, to the NY Fest.

It could be a little odd for the academy, bue after No Country's wining, anything can happen..hihi.

Anonymous said...

Go Mexico!!!!!

Based on national reviews and critical appraise I can say that...

Arráncame la Vida is definetely not representing us.

Cochochi may be too arthouse. (Stellet Licht didn't get a nomination last year)

No way for Cumbia Connection

Garcia Bernal's Deficit got pretty awful reviews

Two Embraces may be a possibility

Nonna's Trip is a no go.

Familia Tortuga got quite a few awards here, but I herad the pace is way too slow for Oscar.

La Zona is way too violent

I have heard nothing of Partes Usadas

Burn the Bridges' best review I've seen comes from Nathaniel so I doubt it'll go (though it's a minor possibility.

And finally we have LAKE TAHOE!!! One of my most awaited films this year. The Mexican Academy will probably realize the mistake they made in 2004 when they sent Innocent Voices instead of the amazing Temporada de Patos, which went on to win almost every award at the Ariels (Mexican Oscars).

SPOILERS: Two Embraces, Familia Tortuga and Burn the Bridges
LONGSHOTS: Cochochi, Deficit and La Zona

c.p. iñor said...

Thx nat for make it clear for me...

Also, agreeing with Whitney in that "ignored" thing.... but I think it's because here in Mexico the Academy choose really pretentious -some really bad- film to represent us... but of course some times they choose right or at least respectable.

I don't know why Buñuel's work in Mexico (that's a LOT) is so underseen in general.

Paxton Hernandez said...

Thanks, Nate!


Unknown said...

I'm thinking in La Zona. Mainly because it seems quite poignant and it's starred by the almost always amazing - and hot on Hollywood now - Maribel Verdú (Pan's Labyrinth and F.F. Coppola's upcoming Tetro). Plenty of eyes would be turning to that one, if nom'd.

Eduardo Ferrer said...

Today, the Mexican Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Mexico will submit "Arrancame la Vida" (Tear This Heart Out) directed by Roberto Sneider.

Based on the novel "Tear This Heart Out" by Angeles Mastretta, this film is starred by Ana Claudia Talancon (The Crime of Father Amaro), Daniel Gimenez Cacho (The Bad Education) and Jose Maria de Tavira (The Mask of Zorro).

Synopsis: Set in the tumultuous years following the Mexican revolution, this extraordinary tale of love is seen through the eyes of the irresistible Catalina Guzman, a guileless adolescent who leaves her poor parents to marry a retired general twice her age.

Max said...

I think "Arráncame la vida" was the perfect choice for Mexico's Best Foreign Language Film submission this year:
- The story is great, and its portrait of 15 years of mexican history (1930-1945) from a woma'n POV is really interesting.
- Ana Claudia Talancón is well casted as the leading character. Not a great actress but she is natural and really charming.
-The film is the most expensive ever made in this country (can you imagine that US 6 million can be the highest budget ever in the history of Mexican films?).
-The production quality of the film is really great. Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes, Hairdressing: Everything is superb.
-The story has certain "Like Water for Chocolate" flavour.
-The acting of Daniel Giménez Cacho is excellent. He has reached a certain "Pedro Armendáriz (the father) style".

On another hand, nudity and sex references (quite tame for a mexican film but notorious for american standards) can alienate certain conservative viewers who are, ironically, the audience that this film aims to reach. In Mexico, specially in conservative cities as Monterrey, this thing on nudity, sex and strong language is a big issue for older audiences.

I hope "Arráncame la vida" can be the 8th Mexican film to obtain a nomination to BFLF Award, but I'm not sure if it has the potential to win, regarding that better films like "Amores perros" and "Pan's Labyrinth" could not.