Happy birthday Film Club!

The (mostly) honorable members of Film Club

Time flies when you are having fun! Our first year of Film Club has indeed flown by.

I have mentioned Film Club before (here), and it obviously merits a birthday post.

The club was started by one of my old students who then recruited three other guys: a genius film savant in Australia, another old student and exquisitely insightful film critic, and myself. The main component I bring to the table is my old age, which brings a lot of these films to life for these guys. Keep in mind that this is a totally amateur club, so while the guys are brilliant, none of us has formal training other than maybe a college course in film. So our approach is fairly naïf, even when we might do some homework researching the films we have seen.

The mechanics of the Club are fairly straightforward: we decide on a theme or genre for the month, the films are uploaded to our Discord platform and then we have an Internet meeting and talk about the films.

We have watched a total of forty-eight films, some have blown my mind like The Proposition and La Grande Bellezza which both merited their own blog posts. Many I have already seen, but I do not mind re-visiting. Some have been hilarious like The Castle, and some I frankly did not care for like Mr. Nobody, or Upstream Color, and that is ok, there is something wrong if you like every film you watch.

Here is the list. What do you think of these films? What themes of genres do you recommend we watch? Let me know your thoughts below!

Non-Linear Narratives

  1. Citizen Kane (1941)
  2. Annie Hall (1977)
  3. Mr. Nobody (2009)
  4. Biutiful (2010)
  5. Enemy (2013)

Light & Color

  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
  • Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  • Volver (2006)
  • Midsommar (2019)

Film Noir

  1. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  2. Chinatown (1974)
  3. LA Confidential (1997)
  4. Nightcrawler (2014)

Western

  1. Fort Apache (1948)
  2. The Wild Bunch (1969)
  3. The Proposition (2005)
  4. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

The city as protagonist

  1. Wings of Desire (1987)
  2. Do the Right Thing (1989)
  3. City of God (2002)
  4. La Grande Bellezza (2013)

Scandinavian +

  • Tangerines (2013)
  • The Square (2017)
  • Another Round (2020)

Family

  • Tokyo Story (1953)
  • Belle Époque (1992)
  • The Squid and the Whale (2005)
  • Farewell Amor (2020)

Horror

  • The Birds (1963)
  • The Witch (2015)
  • Under the Shadow (2016)
  • Get Out (2017)

Light-Hearted

  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
  • Cinema Paradiso (1988)
  • The Castle (1997)
  • The Dinner Game (1998)

Christmas Time

  • Day of the Beast (1995)
  • Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
  • In Bruges (2008)
  • Carol (2015)

Sound Design

  • Eraserhead (1977)
  • No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • Upstream Color (2013)
  • Sound of Metal (2021)

Is there a film canon?

  • Duck Soup (1933)
  • Casablanca (1942)
  • 8 1/2 (1963)
  • Taxi Driver (1976)

À propos, next month we are going to explore war in film…

Film news (revisiting Iñárritu and Tarantino, and discovering Penn)

PC: The Top 100 Project

PC: The Top 100 Project

After many years of not watching any films, I am slowly catching up on my film viewing. This Christmas break was particularly fruitful in that respect.

When I thought of writing about my recent film experiences, I realized I have actually used this blog for a total of seven posts about the seventh art (my readers love my humor). Antonioyrocinante started in 2011 but my first film post is not until 2015 (which proves my film viewing drought). If you are so inclined, you are welcome to look up my posts on:

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote by brilliant ex-Monty Python Terry Gilliam

Almodovar

Wes Anderson’s Castello Cavalcanti (technically an ad for Prada)

Jojo Rabbit, a satire on Nazis

Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley

Casablanca

Wes (Anderson) and Woody (Allen)

My recent “discoveries” have been from some of my favorite auteurs and a new one!

I have been a fan of Alejandro Iñárritu since his 2000 Amores Perros and have not missed any of his films: 21 Grams, Babel, Rudo y Cursi, Biutiful, Birdman and The Revenant.

On the Tarantino front I am lagging a bit, not having seen his last two works The Hateful Eight (2015) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). I did, however, recently view Inglourious Basterds and loved it! What I enjoy about Tarantino is the almost comic book graphic aspect. While Almodovar plays with color to imbue his films with texture and depth, Tarantino uses them to contrast the scene, which tend to be very dramatically framed – like they would be in a comic book. Other films like The 300, Sin City or some of the super hero genre use this comic book approach, but in these cases it is very much a literal use of comic book visuals.

From a narrative perspective Iñárritu tends to use overlapping and intersecting stories, whereas Tarantino bets for a more twisty turny story. Either way, the viewer is in for a roller coaster ride!

One key element all of these directors share – and I did mention it before on my Woody Allen post- is their abilities to squeeze the maximum out of their actors. For example: Tarantino with DiCaprio or Brad Pitt in Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds, and Iñárritu with Michael Keaton or Javier Bardem in Birdman and Biutiful.

My recent discovery (although the movie dates back to 2007, sorry) has been Sean Penn as a director. It is not unusual for intelligent, restless actors to get behind the camera, and Penn is no exception. Into the Wild is a straightforward enough story with a proper beginning, middle and ending, but Penn does a great job of telling that story, creating suspense and emotion. Although I have not read Jon Krakauer’s book, Penn does a fine job of telling this story.

“Here’s looking at you, kid” Celebrating the 75th anniversary of Casablanca

 

My first film review was in high school in London in the early 80s for Casablanca. It is my favorite movie because it has all the ingredients I love in the perfect quantities: simple but effective plot, suspense, love, even humor, great cast – Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre… great music, great script, it is full of memorable quotes and one liners. It is all around awesome.

As some of you know I do not own a TV, but I do like my movies, so I have a big screen and projector set up with surround sound. You see, I am an old fashioned old man and I still watch DVDs.  I love watching movies, although I don’t get to see as many as I would like.

It took me over a year of watching Craig’s List like a hawk until I found a decent digital projector that fit my meager teacher salary. In fact it was my last long excursion on Rocinante before the accident. I rode to Venice (Florida) to pick it up. It so happened that my acquisition of a projector coincided with the 75th anniversary of Casablanca, so I celebrated it by watching it a couple of times!

In case you have not seen it yet, go see it.

“What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?”

“…My health, I came to Casablanca for the waters.”

“The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.”

“...I was misinformed.”

 

 

 

Alfredo’s Barbacoa

With my nephew Jimmy

With my nephew Jimmy

Victor working hard

Victor working hard

The Valencia Crew

The Valencia Crew

Blessed with friends

Blessed with friends

Alfredo's

Alfredo’s

Preparing my trip w Alfredo and Pipe

Preparing my trip w Alfredo and Pipe

Alfredo's

Alfredo’s

Meta Photo

Meta Photo

My über trendy sister’s boyfriend, told me about Alfredo’s in the mid-eighties but I never got to go until 1990 when I moved back to Madrid from Boston. I would have lunch there with my office mates every Friday: “Fridays is Freddy’s” was our war cry. These lunches would include Alfredo’s legendary burgers and a lot of beer and bourbon. Needless to say Friday afternoons back at the office were not very productive. That was my first contact with Alfredo, and as Rick would tell Chief Inspector Renault in Casablanca: it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Alfredo, an American living in Madrid and me, a Spaniard that had grown up in America.

Alfredo’s Barbacoa is an authentic – and by that I mean authentic, burger joint in Madrid. The burgers are from the best Northern Spanish cows, (the awesome steaks come from American Heifers bred in Denmark), the meat is cooked on an oak charcoal grill, and that makes all the difference. The coleslaw is a touch sweet and even hard-core Alabamians swear by it. There is Miller and Bud, (and Jack and SoCo), the decor is full on Americana, with the odd Spanish reference thrown in for reality’s sake. The TV is always showing rodeo shows, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks or nowadays Taylor Swift. The dining public goes from the prince of Spain and the odd assorted celeb, to full Spanish families for weekend lunches, working lunch executives, Americans that treasure Alfredo’s like the gem it is, all sorts of party groups and of course the die- hards.

With time I got to know Alfredo’s family, all the wait staff, the cooks, everybody. When I moved to my bachelor pad in the mid-nineties I lived literally around the block from Alfredo’s so it almost became my dining room. Some nights when the joint would close Alfredo and I would go out and hit the bars, fortunately we occasionally still do!

My relationship continues with Alfredo, his son-in-law Victor and the rest of the family and staff: I would host most of my company’s important meals there including client and vendor meetings, even my dealer convention was hosted there. Tracy and I held our Spanish wedding party there, we even dressed up in our wedding outfits! My little sister Rocky hosted a dinner with all my friends the first Christmas that I came back after a year in Boston. My friends from Valencia always go there for a meal when they are in town. I hosted University alumni reunions. I always took my students there when they got homesick of American food. And of course I go there as often as I can, alone or with friends. Last week I treated my sister and her lovely family!

So Alfredo and his (now) three restaurants are an important part of my life in Madrid, it is my favorite restaurant, my go to restaurant and more importantly I feel like family there.