Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I’m really glad I had the experience of seeing the movies in this course, because the only Mexican movies that I had seen before the course started were The Three Amigos and Nacho Libre. Other than those, the only movies from Spanish speaking countries that I’ve seen are from Spain, Cuba and Argentina.
I remember thinking a few weeks ago that even though the movies in this course were really different from each other in general, that some of them also had a lot in common with each other (or common themes in some way) and it was hard to write a blog that would sound completely different from a previous blog that I had written. Many of the movies in the second half of the course focused on crossing the border and in the end, they were very similar...Touch of Evil – Mexicans and Americans cross the border into the other country, and both American and Mexicans are the ‘bad guys.’ The Three Amigos- Americans cross the border, and end up saving the day. The Wild Bunch- Americans cross the border and the Mexicans are written to be really stupid and everybody gets killed except for the group that was the most scared of getting killed. Traffic is purely about crossing the border and it’s different in the way that there are more perspectives on many things. In comparison to some of the other border crossing movies, I actually think it’s the most interesting in terms of the layering effect of status, and who has more power. The Wild Bunch had a bit of that going on too, as I wrote in my blog for that movie, but I don’t think it was as meaningful as in Traffic. In the second half of the course, I think that the only movie that didn’t focus on the relationship between Mexico and the US was Que Viva Mexico.
I think that seeing the different border crossing movies were educational if you wanted to focus on learning about different perspectives of border crossings between Mexico and the US because they all pretty much have a different ending and a different ‘bad guy’ and ‘winner’, but in the end, I learned more from the first half of the course because the movies were more contrasting. Aguila o Sol was way different from El Callejon de los Milagros, and even though we compared Aguila o Sol and Los Olvidados in one of our discussions because of the orphan theme, the movies were still contrasting. Batalla en el Cielo was refreshingly different from the other movies. I think that if the course were longer, that seeing the various border crossing movies would have been a good introduction, and then we could have branched off into more movies about the perspective of Mexico from countries other than the US...like are there movies that have Mexico in them from a country in South America? Or Europe? I think that I would like to see those if they exist, especially after taking this course, and also because I hate most Hollywood movies with a passion. It’s worth it to me to order a movie from Spain (like I had to with Batalla en el Cielo because they didn’t have it on Amazon and I didn’t want to look much longer) if I’m going to get something out of it. Like I said, Batalla en el Cielo was different from other movies, and even though it’s not something that I would watch with my friends or family (also since it’s European, I can’t play it on my DVD player anyways), I still really learned from it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


One aspect of this movie that I found interesting occurred in the first couple of scenes. There is a definite contrast in the level of organization between the Americans and Mexicans. In a way, it seemed ironic. The Mexican cops knew where the drugs were going to be even though it was a simple drop in the middle of the desert. The Mexican army also knew what was happening and were very precise and disciplined in how they intercepted the police. The Americans, on the other hand, had a much more complex and high tech way of trying to stop the drug smuggler, but the DEA and police ended up getting in each other’s way because they had no communication between themselves. Their drug bust ended up in a chaotic gunfight and chase, and the smuggler nearly got away. In the Mexican scene, guns were drawn but never fired. Their bust was more controlled, which is opposite of what you would expect from the Mexican side.
I liked how this movie was contrasting to the other movies that we’ve seen in this class where the sections are split up and generally (mainly at first) the two countries were separate instead of like in The Wild Bunch where we were mainly evaluating the Americans physically in Mexico.
All of the Americans in the movie are upper class Americans, even the kids are rich - rich and drug addicts. But it wasn’t like a common theme where Americans are rich and Mexicans are poor because the movie showed both rich and poor Mexicans.
In a lot of the parts in the US that had something to do with Michael Douglas and his family, the screen was blue and everything in Mexico had a gold/bronze screen. Why? Maybe it’s partly to make the different sections even more contrasting and easily distinguishable?
Michael Douglas’ character is as concerned with helping drug users as he is with stopping drugs, perhaps because of his daughter’s drug problem. He ends up talking to the General, and asks him about Mexico’s treatment of addiction and his answer is that when they overdose, there’s one less person to worry about. This is another example of how Mexico and the US contrast in this movie.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Three Amigos

When I was around twelve, I recorded this movie off of the Disney channel on TV like I did other with a lot of other movies. I really liked this one though, I thought it was funny, I liked the music in it and I watched it a lot. Now it’s really hard for me to look at it from a different point of view, especially from an academic point of view for a class where we’re supposed to discuss the different perspectives of Mexico. When I watched this movie when I was younger, I didn’t care about the Mexico part of it, I just cared about the singing bush and the other humour. Now I still think that the music is well-composed for the movie’s purpose, but I can’t believe that I missed how ridiculous a lot of the humour really is. This time I pretty much only laughed when Dusty asked if they had anything other than Mexican food, but I didn’t laugh because it was funny, I laughed because it was pathetic. The truth is, I’m finding it really hard to come up with anything other than the word stereotype, but I’ll keep trying. I guess I’ll just point out things instead of coming up with a general statement about my opinion.
It seemed like the perspective of Mexico was just a few small towns, where the people were either poor or bad. The people in the poor towns were seen as uneducated, obviously when Carmen misunderstood what the movie was. I guess at some point, that idea could have been humorous, ‘A small town is desperate for help, so a woman mistakes a movie for an advertisement and sends for the actors.’
The actors of the Three Amigos in the movie were in apparently a lot of movies about Mexico, but they didn’t seem to know anything about it when they actually went there, which is why it was pathetic when Dusty asked about the Mexican food.
Overall, I thought that for this kind of parody, it was really well done, which is probably why I liked it when I was younger. This answer is probably really obvious, but due to the sentimental history that I have with this movie, I have to ask, what is it really trying to say? Is it trying to make complete fun of the relationship between the US and Mexico (a common theme in the movies of this course)? Or was it just a partial parody of Mexico with the intention of creating a comedy, so they added in more funny stuff with a Mexican theme? Or is there actually any difference between those two questions? I don’t know if I’m choosing the right words to say what I’m thinking.
I thought that the part where they were drinking water in the desert would have been perfect for a humorous environmental ad: don’t waste water, other people need it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Wild Bunch

I thought that this movie was the most interesting one so far since reading break. I liked it because it wasn’t in a documentary style, and just in general, the way it was directed, it was more interesting than the movie last week.
I watched the movie with subtitles and I thought that it was weird that they didn’t translate the Spanish dialogue into English. I understand that they were in Mexico most of the time and the director probably wanted to capture as much of the culture as possible (I think that this is why I liked the movie better than last week where the culture was pretty much just shown in the beginning), so they wanted to have people speaking in Spanish. But there were entire conversations that went on for a few minutes that weren’t translated, for example when Teresa and Angel are talking, so it made me wonder who the audience was meant to be, and if all of them were expected to understand both languages. The rest of the movie seemed to aim towards Americans, language-wise, for example, when they said the word ‘gringo,’ they usually surrounded it with English so that the audience could understand them.
I also thought it was weird that the only American women in the movie were in the beginning in the Temperance Union, and the rest of the woman were Mexican, and half of them were naked most of the time. I don’t know what the movie’s trying to say, because it wasn’t really the common message that Americans are superior...Angel was Mexican and he was always part of the family to the group. No matter what country they were in, all of the groups were just looking for the “prize” whether it be money or guns, and race didn’t matter. In fact, the rich and powerful people were mainly Mexican, the General.
This wasn’t extremely obvious to me until the end, but there was a kind of layering effect that ended up being kind of humourous. Like I said before, all of the groups were looking for a prize of some sort. It ended up being a kind of chase, but each team was different. The ‘wild bunch’ was really smart,and in the bounty hunter group, there was only one smart guy and the rest weren’t as capable, and the soldiers were rich but stupid, which was obvious when they were trying out the machine gun and when they tried to convince the wild bunch to follow them to the General – in that part, the wild bunch outsmarted them. So in the end, you might have thought that the rich people would have won because they had money, and now guns, and that the bounty hunters would have continued to lose, or maybe you wouldn’t have thought that, but what happened was that for the most part the General and his followers died first, and then the wild bunch, and then for the most part, the bounty hunters. Only one person from the two bottom groups survived, and the people from the Mexican town, who were considered the weakest because they didn’t have weapons. Most of them survived, except Angel and Teresa, who had left the town to try to be something bigger.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

touch of evil

I’m finding it difficult to talk/think about this movie. I thought that it was really boring and hard to watch and therefore hard to follow at times. I don’t know why I didn’t like it. If somebody had summarized the plot for me, and I hadn’t seen the movie yet, then I probably would have thought that it was interesting and I might want to see it. Again, I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I guess it was the way it was directed. I think that there could be so many different ways of showing this movie...it could even be a good play, I think....except for the first scene...that would have to stay as a movie. I wasn’t that impressed by it though because I’ve seen other movies that have similar one-shot openings (like Soy Cuba, where the camera starts out looking out of a helicopter and it slowly descends).
I’m tired of writing about music and photography in my blogs just because they’re what is the most familiar to me, and I tried to read the first part of the essay for this week to hopefully find inspiration as to what to write and I’m finding it really hard to get passed all of the unnecessary elaborate vocabulary that academics use to make themselves sound smarter. I wish that they would just get to the point so that I can spend my time really thinking about what they’re saying rather than trying to decipher the essay. I really have my work cut out for me for Thursday. Here are some of the things that I reacted to. I thought it was really unfair how people were being treated by others (the guy who was framed, the Mexican cop, and his wife). Also I noticed that Americans weren’t completely portrayed as the ‘bullies’ when they were picking on the Mexicans, it went both ways when the wife was also picked on.
I guess I’m also finding it hard to write because I’m still confused from the discussion on Thursday about the different kinds of reality, and what we are and not allowed to talk about. Could racism between Americans and Mexicans be a kind of real___? Yes, there is racism in the (real) world, but how much of it was true (truth= a variation of real__), and how much of it was exaggerated for the sake of getting the point across to the audience? The bullying went both ways, so I guess it showed that people are horrible to each other in general, not just Americans to Mexicans, which is the message in so many other movies.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

que viva mexico

This movie was weird and random and I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand the general statement or the purpose of it. I thought it was really artistic...the photography was amazing at first...in the beginning of the movie when they compared people in the present with the sculptures of people from the past the lighting and angles were beautiful...there was one where they showed the slant of the pyramid and it filled up most of the shot. In the rest of it they showed a face...In the end, it’s not that it wasn’t as artistic, but it seemed like they put a lot of effort into the first part and then in the end they showed really cheesy parts (like when the woman got shot and then she did the worst death that I’ve ever seen acted out and then the music goes from a solo timpani to a really loud gong and then you see her hat rolling down the hill...i couldn’t believe how cheesy that part was, especially with the combination of the death and the gong) ..so i guess my point is that the movie’s quality isn’t consistent.
Also, the music was inconsistent both by itself and with its relationship with the rest of the movie. The movie reminded me of Batalla en el Cielo in that it focused a lot on the artistic and sound. Like he said, it’s about expression, not communication. That’s what this felt like too even though it’s probably not meant to. I really loved the piece in the opening scene (the one that re-occurred twice later in different variations)...the piece used Mexican instrumentation, but had Russian influence (chromatic harmonies, humming, etc.), so it seemed like the composer was Russian and tried to interpret Mexican music but still have a European identity so that it could reach out to Europeans. It wasn’t until a scene in the middle (I think it was after the weird pilgrimage) where they finally played pure Mexican music...the one where people are dancing in the town...and then later at the bull fight, they also played traditional music, but I think it could have been Spanish instead of Mexican...I don’t know. Also, when they were in that weird house thing, and there’s music going on, but then the camera shows a picture of that General guy (I forget who he was) and they put in a random dramatic musical statement with a kind of darker instrumentation to kind of say “watch out, he’s bad.” And then earlier, they were in that house and the music was playing and then all of a sudden on top of it there were weird random drones. So weird.
But the other part of the whole music thing is that other than the bull fight, and the part where the girls are singing in the paradise-type place with the monkeys it didn’t seem to fit in...it seemed like the composer wrote a bunch of music and then placed it anywhere. Like I kind of said before, I noticed the music more because the movie was mostly sound and images.
The movie also reminded me of the movie Soy Cuba. It is also Russian, and it exaggerates the Cuban point of view of the relationship between Cuba and the USA...if i understood this movie more, I would probably be able to see more examples of how Russia is exaggerating/its interpretation-other than the music. By the time the movie was half way through, I was bored because I didn’t know what to think.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Batalla en el Cielo Blog

This blog is over 800 words, I hope that’s ok, I had a lot to say.

Tonight was the second time that I watched this movie, and I’m glad I watched it twice. The first time was this weekend, and it was spent basically trying to take in all of the information that the movie was spitting out. Maybe I shouldn’t say ‘spitting out’ because if it was true, then I wouldn’t feel this lost. Maybe I’m over thinking it, maybe not, but I have no idea, and it’s driving me crazy...I haven’t said what I’m talking about yet, so here it is: I’m a very visual person, and I find it hard to speak out in class discussions because when I watch a movie, the things that are running through my head are the relationships between the film score, the photography, and the characters (surprise!...it’s probably because I have always wanted to be a film score composer and when I graduate from UBC in May, I’m going into photography, while a lot of other people are thinking about the things that we actually discuss in class, basically everything else other than what I automatically think about, and no matter how hard I try, it’s really hard for me most of the time to think the way that others think like...after I’m done with UBC, it won’t matter how I think, because I won’t be graded on it, and I’m going to go on into an artistic field ... but here’s the point:

If you add up the time it takes to run through the dialogue in this movie, it would probably be about 30 minutes or less. The rest of the 100 minutes is either credits or photography ... it should be a movie that I can relate to perfectly but it seems like Reygadas is saying so much in all of the pauses and the photography, but there’s so much, I’m going to have to watch the movie over and over again to understand why exactly he put pauses in (some of the pauses were long enough to be like an actual photograph with a really great composition that I would put on my wall – that said, even though the beginning scene was really artistic with the choice of music and the way that the camera descended and gradually showed what was happening, and from a photographer’s point of view, and interesting composition, I wouldn’t want that anywhere near my wall...same story with the still shots after Marcos and Ana have sex and they’re just lying there...great composition and lighting, but no thanks – I think that whoever was behind the camera or in charge of the photography was a genius.

Maybe it’s all easier that I think. Maybe I’m just excited that we’re finally watching an extremely visual movie and it’s way more simple than I think...but most likely not. I’ll have to wait what people think about it on Thursday.

Even though I’ll have to watch the movie again to have a full understand of the symbolism in the photography, I noticed that whoever was behind the camera (well Reygadas was probably in charge of this) really played with the sense of ordering and time. For example, in the first scene, they could have showed what Ana was doing first before they showed Marcos’ face (reaction), but they wanted to show his reaction first before they showed what he was reacting to. Then later, like I said in class, in the metro, they showed Marcos and his wife first before they revealed where they were and what they were doing there. All you could see were their heads and you could hear the annoying beeping, but you didn’t know where it was coming from (this is similar to the scene in the country where you can hear the hammering but you have no idea what it is until after Marcos and their wife have a conversation). I figured that they didn’t show that they were selling stuff in a hallway somewhere until later, because they wanted the conversation to happen first, with very few distractions to the viewer because it was a follow up of the previous scene when Marcos answers his phone and gets the news from his wife. But in the country scene, there’s no reason why they have to show the source of the hammering at the end, because it isn’t really following anything...I guess it’s similar to the opening scene in that way.

Last thing for now because I’ve written over 700 words...I noticed that there was a sense of going from simple to complex in the metro scene...It’s like they were trying to create layers: first there’s minimal information, just a conversation and beeping, then gradually more information is provided: people ask questions about what they’re selling, and then we see what they’re selling, and then we see the people in that hallway thing, and then finally loads of people walk past them. I wonder if this technique is portrayed this much anywhere else. Maybe that’s what they were trying to do with the first scene, and the country scene, but in less drastic layers. I have to watch the movie again.