Archive for September, 2007

3:10 to Yuma

Sunday, September 16th, 2007—Film

3:10 to Yuma (USA 2007, Western), Writers: Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas; Director: James Mangold

I’m pressed for time to write this post, but if I don’t get to it soon I’m afraid I won’t at all, and that would be a shame because 3:10 to Yuma is a fantastic film. Definitely one I want to recommend. The first thing I did after seeing it was tell my stepfather to go see it. He loves “guy” movies and he loves great movies, and 3:10 to Yuma is definitely both those things.

The film is based on Elmore Leonard’s short story and is a remake of the 1957 film starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. James Mangold directed the latest version. It’s an excellent thing when you marry a genre like action or western with a filmmaker known for sensitive, complicated films that feature wonderful characters (Walk the Line, Cop Land, Girl Interrupted). You wind up with a unique take on genres that characteristically trade depth in favour of bullets and explosions.

3:10 to Yuma illustrates the point that all films, regardless of genre, benefit from strong character development. It’s what makes the Bourne trilogy superior to the Die Hard series. And it’s why Daniel Craig in Casino Royale was the most successful Bond to date.

The story follows the relationship between Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and Dan Evans (Christian Bale). Okay, I realize it’s not sounding like much of a “guy” movie yet. ;-) But hold your horses! Wade is a deadly outlaw. And Evans is part of a posse that’s escorting Wade to Contention where he’ll catch the 3:10 train to the Yuma prison. It’s a dangerous job for Evans; more than one member of the posse meets with Wade’s violent ways en route to Contention.

Seeing this movie, I felt like I was back in film school watching a William Wyler western. It’s a classic western with the benefit of modern technology and all that it entails: excellent effects, sharp visuals, etc. But the reason it works so well is that the characters are believable. Crowe and Bale are a great pairing. Of the two, I’m partial to Crowe. Bale always strikes me as a little bit one note, although he was excellent in Batman Begins. But both give top-notch performances.

However, it’s Ben Foster as Charlie Prince who steals the show. From the moment we first look into his eyes, it’s evident how much work he’s put in to creating his character. You know that he has developed an entire history for Prince. And it shapes his every word, his every movement. Watch him steal the coat off a sleeping townsman and sweep it over his own shoulders. Foster is magnetic in every scene he plays in. (He’s also incredibly versatile; his Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand was 180° from Prince.)

I could go on. But not tonight. ;-) See this film!

Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate)

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007—Film

Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico 1992, Drama/Romance), Writer: Laura Esquivel; Director: Alfonso Arau

I dedicate this post to JP and CS. All those years ago, Like Water for Chocolate was the start of one of the most beautiful families I’ve had the joy of knowing. Thank you for the inspiration.

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Like Water for Chocolate has to be one of the best titles in the world. Here’s the explanation on the back of the DVD:

“In Mexico, hot chocolate is made of water, not milk. To prepare the drink, one brings the water to a boil and then adds the cocoa. When someone becomes extremely agitated, it is said that they are ‘like water for chocolate.’ This expression is also used to describe a state of sexual arousal.”

The film is an adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s 1989 debut novel of the same name. I haven’t read her book but I’d like to, especially knowing that each chapter begins with a recipe.

After seeing this movie, I’m finally tempted to start cooking as opposed to just baking. Like Water for Chocolate is an incredibly luscious telling of the sensuousness of food. It begins with a young woman narrating the story of her great-aunt Tita (Lumi Cavazos) who grew up during the Mexican Revolution in the 1910s.

But it’s more than a story—it’s a myth, a legend. We’re told that Tita was unusually sensitive to food even in utero. She cried whenever her mother cooked with onions, and was born in a flood of tears which were dried and used as cooking salt. Not surprisingly, Tita matures into a something of a goddess in the kitchen.

At a party one evening, Pedro (Marco Leonardi) notices her serving dinner and falls in love with her. But when Pedro asks her mother for Tita’s hand in marriage, he learns that family tradition forbids her from marrying; as the youngest daughter, Tita must care for her mother until she dies.

Devastated, and according to logic that can only exist in the movies, Pedro agrees to marry Tita’s sister in an attempt to be close to Tita. And so begins a love affair that touches everyone around the couple—that is, anyone who tastes Tita’s cooking. She pours her heart and soul into every meal and unconsciously flavours each dish with her emotions. When she’s angry, her food causes indigestion. When she’s heartbroken, dinner leaves everyone weeping and longing for their one true love. And when she’s passionate, her food stirs up deep-seated lust and desire; her quail in rose petal sauce nearly brings her sister Gertrudis (Claudette Maillé) to orgasm at the table.

The quail dinner scene takes the film into some of its more serious subject matter. Driven to wild sexual abandon by her sister’s cooking, Gertrudis runs naked into the night and throws herself into the arms of a revolutionary soldier who is riding by on horseback. She later returns as the head of the revolutionary army.

Like Water for Chocolate eventually delves a little deeper into some of the Mexican Revolution’s darker moments. One particularly upsetting scene involves a rape and a murder. But these incidents aren’t the focal point of the movie, and are not at all graphic in their depiction.

Overall, Like Water for Chocolate is a sexy and delightful film about love and passion, folklore and magic, and surreal connections between the living and the dead. Highly recommended, particularly as a date movie. Just ask JP and CS. ;-)