Mondo Films Origins

If you watch the Italian film/documentary Monde Cane today you’ll find little to be shocked about, but for your parents and certainly grandparents it opened a new whole view of the world.

Half documentary and half movie, Mondo Cane was the first movie to dare to show the kind of gross scenes that today populate You Tube. Stuff like the life in Papua New Guinea, the multiple wives of a tribesman leader, people eating insects in New York, US soldiers saying good-bye to a bunch of girls in bikini, geese being over and force fed in France to fatten their livers, a snake store in Singapore, bull’s races in Portugal, and bloody Catholic processions in Italy. When it was released it was an adults only movie… today it would hardly reach a PG-13 status. The world has changed it’s parameters.

It’s not clear how many scenes of the movie are acted and which are real, but at the end the movie became a cult film and the legacy of Monde Cane and Gualterio Jiacopetti the director, was the courage to show the world on film that not all traditions and morals are the same across the world, a duty that unregulated You Tube inherited and has been replicating lately.

Moreover, from 1962 to the 1990s the “mondo” became a genre of movies, a genre dedicated to show how different people is across the world in a documentary. Watch it, though in 2014 it would hardly shock you or your kids.

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What a Cult Movie is?

The essential definition of a cult movie is: a controversial film that has acquired a passionate fanbase. Let’s add that a cult movie has followers that engage in repeated viewings, that quote dialogue, and write and talk actively about the movie. On the other hand, there’s a strong opinion mentioning a cult movie should be a non-mainstream, non-Hollywood one.

So, what we do with movies as Star Wars (1977), Casablanca (1942), Terminator (1984) and more recently The Fast and the Furious (2001)? These are blockbusters and comply with the cult film definition.

Moreover, a cult movie should have a distinct narrative or aesthetic. But as in other aspects of art this is not always evident. So the ground is that a movie is a cult movie when someone says it is. Let’s retake the joke about pornography: how you differentiate between artistic nudity and pornography? Easy, when you see it. However, a cult movie still needs followers to talk about it and a fanbase, still one fan is a fanbase.

Some say a cult movie should have a subversive or controversial message. I think subversion is not be a not a sine qua non condition, but the controversial element must exist in a cult movie. A good example is the Blair Witch Project (1999), controversial? yes, subversive? not that I can see it.

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There are also cult movie directors, such as Stanley Kubrick, Luis Buñuel, and Quentin Tarantino and here we face again the conflict of commercial movie vs. cult movie. for instance, George Lucas, a Hollywood blockbuster specialist, who’s first two movies were cult films: American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars (1977). Another example of cult movie, blockbuster director is Steven Spielberg, watch Jaws (1975) and E.T. (1982).

Finally, outside the USA is a whole world of cult movies. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920) (The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari) by Robert Wiene, is the first cult movie ever made. While Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht by Werner Herzog (1979) was the first remake of a cult movie, of Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) by F. W. Murnau, that also became a cult film.

Cult movie directors mushroom outside the US, one of my favorites is Italian Dario Argento, whose movies are a commercial failure and not cult movies in the US, whereas in the rest of the world Argento’s films are immediately cult movies. Moreover, there are also cult movie actors in the non-US cinema, Mexican actor Mario Moreno “Cantinflas” is both a cult movie and blockbuster star. Just because he performs in a movie, the movie is a cult film, e.g.: Ahí está el detalle (1940), which is not even included in the IMDb website, but still 80-years later Cantinflas subversive performance on it is admired and quoted, his way of dressing imitated, and the title of the movie itself has achieved status of a popular byword in Spanish-speaking countries.

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Michel Houellebecq’s Les Particules Elementaires

Or The Elementary Particles in English. This is a straightforward novel where everything is what it seems and therefore, these circumstances, bother most of North American-English speaking-Shades of Gray readers.
The 200,000+ place on sales on Amazon of this book clearly states the books condition on the preferences of English speaking readers. The plot goes against the sellable guidelines of what a plot should be in the English language: there’s no clear conflict, there’s no antagonist, there’s no special item or object, there’s no condition to overcome, there’s no goal to conquer. Therefore, if you read Goodreads’ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58314.The_Elementary_Particles critiques about the novel you’ll find stuff like:
characters are monodimensional
blatant racism
misogyny
offensive
pornographic
distasteful
the story is ridiculous

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So? Welcome to real life: life is racist, macho-sided, pornographic, offensive, mono dimensional, and ridiculous. And still you have to live it. None of the main characters in The Elementary Particles is a young, gorgeous, millionaire trying to have funny sex with a 20-something girl. Michel Houellebecq’s characters are in their thirties, overweighed, they aren’t handsome, and from time to time they decide to masturbate. Is this so horrific for American readers? I believe this is so real to be bearable and acceptable for the average North American reader.

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Four Impressions on Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Four impressions on Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

First impression. When I began reading I said: “this is why Audrey Hepburn got famous, by interpreting this innocent playgirl-escort-geisha: Holly Golightly”. Holly is a beautiful girl that knows how to squeeze men to get jewelry, dresses, the rent, and of course cash, a whore would say my grandpa. Holly is the kind of girl ignorant of anything not useful for having fun and making money. She doesn’t give her cat a name because that’s too much commitment, she was married at 14 and left the hillibilly’s home with no notice, and thinks about Mexico as a great place to raise horses. Then I googled the famous poster of Hepburn with pearls around her neck and in a black dress seated with a white cup of coffee and her hair tied back. She looks exactly as Capote painted Holly in the book, but on the other hand, I also understood why Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to be in that role.  

Second impression. After the first pages the reader knows he’s facing an unreliable narrator telling an unreliable story. The narrator is an incipient fiction writer called “Fred” by Holly because of her brother and we never know his name. This is crucial considering the story is told only from his point of view. Narrator “Fred” never says he’s in love with Holly, he considers her a friend, admires her, maybe envies her, and eagerly helps her. Considering the novella is set up in the 1940s and written in the 1950s, it subtlety seems to me that “Fred” never falls in love with Holly because he’s a homosexual man. Of course, he’s never identified as a gay straightforward, but the popular perception that “Fred” falls in love with Holly is also never expressed in the novella.

Third impression. The novella is not what I expected. Yes, maybe because everybody praises it, maybe because of Hepburn’s iconic poster, maybe because of Capote’s previous stories about real murder cases, or maybe because there can’t be a breakfast at Tiffany’s (it’s a jewelry). The thing is that I was expecting something bolder from the story and it didn’t come.

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Fourth impression. Its literary value is not in the iconic character of Holly Golightly; it is on the unreliability of the characters, the narrator, the main character (Holly, indeed), and of every other else that appears, even those who even doesn’t dare to speak. The very beginning of the story is untrustworthy… Bar owner Joe Bell calls “Fred” to show him a set of pictures from Africa from an old friend. On one of those pictures there’s a wooden statue with the face of Holly. The narrator doesn’t believe she’s been in Africa, so he starts telling us how he met her. They met when he rented his first apartment at the brownstone…    

Finally, do yourself a favor and if you watch the movie just see the beginning to get a grasp of Holly and don’t bother on paying attention on the male character. After 20 minutes the movie is a Hollywood commercial interpretation of a decent novella. 

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‘Gone Girl’, a TV Series that was born as a Novel

The Spanish publisher and editor Jacobo Siruela says he doesn’t like young writers because all of them write as if you were watching an American movie.

Today, novels are written as movies and if the first five pages don’t have enough drama or action to grab you, the book is out. The market is wild and publishers want immediate conflict and huge hooks to hold the reader, who at any point may throw the book away and watch Netflix or see a short coming from Beavis and Butthead’s brains in YouTube.

Gone Girl, a novel by Gillian Flynn is a well crafted thriller plagued with more twists that it needs and a weak ending where the bad guys prevail. But it  is also a light and easy reading. A good best-seller.

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I was curious about it because I got an email from Gandhi, my Mexican bookstore, it said: “Gone Girl. You have not read anything like this…”

And so I thought: “Hum, I haven’t read anything like that? Innocent or aggressive publicity for a best-seller?”

Critics from Salon.com, The Huffington Post, and Entertainment Weekly pose the novel as literary fiction. I have serious doubts in thinking of Gone Girl as a piece of what Americans call literary fiction. Supposedly, it is literature because it shows fragmented pieces of narrative that fit together at the end while introducing different narrators, which are deceitful.

Want to read a literary novel with a bunch of doubtful narrators? Go grab My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. Want another with an unreliable narrator (written originally in English)? Get the Third Policeman from Flan O’Brien.

In Gone Girl the narrators are traitors, but they do not deceive the reader. The narrators are totally 100% reliable, they say true stuff. It’s different to portray a character that betrays other fictional characters than having a narrator hiding information to the reader on purpose and making the reader think at the end about the validity of his word throughout the whole story. That doesn’t happen in Gone Girl, you can trust the characters. They are deceitful for other characters, but not for you, the reader. You won’t end the novel doubting if Amy and Nick are good or evil of if they really did what they did for love or lust. You’ll know both of them are human beings capable of betraying whoever they meet, that’s it.

The bookstore was right about Gone Girl: “You have not read anything like this…” because it isn’t a book, a novel, it was thought and designed, as Jacobo Siruela says, as a screenplay, Gone Girl is a TV series —not even a movie. Each chapter was built as a TV chapter of 40 minutes, it would be better seen every Thursday on screen than read on paper. The tension and the fun would arise slowly with weekly chapters and the twists it has are enough for at least four seasons.

I wish Reese Whiterspoon god luck in taking Gone Girl it to the movies next year, but I still think it would make a better sitcom than a film.

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Solar by Ian Mcewan

Ok, first thing this is not Ian McEwan’s best novel and second this is not an apology for solar energy. Even though the publisher and many critics state that the novel is about climate change and its dangers first, and then that it is McEwan’s best I’m sorry to spoil you, Solar is neither.

The third thing and the reason I’m writing this is because the novel is fun and I would recommend you, my dear blog followers to read it. It is fun and humorous, and let me tell you that’s something rare in McEwan’s writings. McEwan had always been tragic and sad, and well, that’s why I like him! But this novel is different and that’s the only reason why I recommend it.

It’s divided in three parts and each part has two or three long scenes. Of course, it is still a drama, furthermore, it’s a tragedy. I can tell you things are not going to end up well, but it´s worth reading.

Solar is not a collection of arguments favoring solar energy or against climate change. It is about a man, Michael Beard, a Nobel prize, a winner in every sense of the word, an Alpha Male, a prestigious guy, money is not a trouble for him, women aren’t either. He may be a kind of boy with autism but as he pushes forward in his life he creates more and more trouble around him.

He’s a jerk and basically that’s it. So not only the jobless guy with no education is an asshole, Nobel prizes also suck. So although tragic, it’s fun. At least I like it, but at end, I could have died without reading it.    Image

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Life Sucks in Grimms’ Tales

For the Grimm brothers the raw, inevitable, injustice of life keeps coming back and forth is. This may be weird for some of us because after the Second World War, the US and Europe have insisted in promoting an idea of the world where injustice and unfairness are bad, are not correct, are a deviation from the norm.

In Grimms’ stories of the early nineteenth-century —derived mostly from Medieval tales— justice was not the norm or the point to be made. Moreover, unfairness in life didn’t have to be explained or justified, as it’s today, in Grimms’ tales shit simply happens.

When we read their tales we wonder about the reasons of the characters: Why is this cat/man/step-mother so mean? Why is this disgrace happening to this so cute little animal? Why is there no good ending for the main character? The tales transcribed by the Grimms didn’t want to explain why the world is not just, they only let us know that irrespectively of what we do, things can go wrong, that life’s unfair.

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Nobody has the duty to help an inferior being. In “The Death of the Hen” the hen doesn’t share a nut with her rooster partner and starts choking. Two persons that could have help denied the aid to the rooster, and so the poor hen dies. Six mice, a lion (what he’s doing in the forest is not explained), a deer, a wolf and a fox helped the rooster hauling the hen (don’t ask me why). When they were about to cross a brook they all fell, drown, and died (what a massacre!) The rooster remains alone with the hen’s body, digs a grave, and also dies. Inferior beings are not worth a rescue, this is the lesson. Don’t expect help from somebody on a better position.

Men are crap, and you should never trust them. In “Cat and Mouse Partnership“ we see an uneven relationship –an allegory to wife and husband(?) The mouse (female) and the cat (male) are partners and live together. They keep a pot of fat as provision for winter hidden in the church. The cat lies three times to the mouse and eats the fat. At the end she (the mouse) complains to the cat about the betrayal, but he threatens with eating her if she keeps grumbling. Men are so mean and hold to much power in a relationship that you cannot even protest, if you do then it gets worst.

And the Grimms were right, we need to remember from time to time that “that is the way of the world”.

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Why are Dungeons and Dragons movies so bad?

Why are Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) movies so bad?

First, because they have not portrayed an original plot, and second they have tried to represent D&D play-rules instead of showing an exciting adventure. Just read one of the close to 100 novels based on D&D to find a good script for a movie.

In Dungeons and Dragons [2000]. Jeremy Irons appeared as the bad guy, a crazy wizard that wants to get rid of red dragons and get political control. We have to add a teenage princess that goes bananas and wants to promote democracy in the realm! Democracy in a Dungeons & Dragons world? What’s next? Human rights for goblins? Animal rights for carrion crawlers? Freedom of speech for druids and sorcerers?
It’s indeed a boring, boring movie, but when you add an atmosphere copied not from Tolkien, but from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace [1999] it’s an insult to the intelligence of the viewer: a duel of two metal swords that for some strange reason have red and blue gleaming lights, a girly princess, dressed and acting as Queen Amidala speaking to an assembly about democracy, and an evil wizard mimicking Palpatine in speech and gesture. Finally, there’s a bad taste inclusion: a black young guy acting and speaking with the stereotype of the perfect African-American teenage jerk, named Snails and being, yes, a thief! I’m not sensible about racist stereotypes to have a laugh in the movies, but Star Wars influences and a making fun of black people in a D&D movie is simply bull-shit!
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The second movie was produced five years later: D&D Wrath of the Dragon God [2005]. This time instead of copying from other movies the producers decided to create a movie based on the canonical classes, races, spells, limitations, and usages of classic and updated D&D. Unfortunately they forgot to throw in an interesting plot.

If you want to have a nice evening do yourself a favor and don’t watch these movies, play D&D instead.

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EPN a New foreign Policy for Mexico 2012-2018

Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s Elected President, visit to Guatemala first, and then the South American tour to five countries gave an incipient but small sign of a switch in the Mexican foreign policy. We can divide the visit in three sections: Central America, South America and the not visited countries.

Background
International tours as Elected Presidents were inaugurated by Vicente Fox in 2000 and later continued by Felipe Calderón Hinojosa in 2006. Fox tried to promote a new policy towards Latin America that would reinforce trade and collaboration, but the appointment of Jorge G. Castaneda at SRE left aside any impulse towards the region and concentrated in the US until 9/11. From that point onwards the role of Mexican foreign policy deteriorated under the eyes of Mexican analysts and politicians. It became silently but not explicitly pro-American, while Mexicans did not notice any economic or political benefits for been supportive of the US after 72 years of exercising an independent foreign policy. Felipe Calderón took a similar approach traveling to Latin America as Elected President but crowned his tour by visiting George W. Bush.

Central America
Visiting Guatemala in the first instance and asking the other Central American leaders to attend aimed at reinforcing Mexico`s bonds and influence with its immediate neighbors. For the last 12 years this relationship has been relevant only in the desk with two big named policies that lacked budget: Fox`s Plan Puebla Panama and Calderon`s Mesoamerican System that did not deliver any relevant result in policy or social terms. Nevertheless, EPN was not able to get together with the five Central American presidents because El Salvador`s Mauricio Funes never confirmed his attendance due to the tense relationship with Guatemala and Nicaragua`s Daniel Ortega complained and criticized the means by which the visit was planned, while at the same time let the world know that he is not interested in renovating links with a Mexican non-leftist government. In conclusions, the signs of a new policy of more collaboration towards Central America still need to be seen and the Guatemalan position of legalizing drugs would and Ortega not help.

South America

The visit to Peru was a sign of the increasing trade and Mexican private investment in the country, while EPN avoided Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, ie, Latin American Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) countries. Colombia and Chile have been the great Mexican trade partners in South America since the 1990s and for historic reasons there are friendly political ties between the two since the 19th century, this axis has lots of leeway for development.  Brazil and Argentina are the two largest economies of the region, in the case of Brazil it is of the outmost importance for Mexico to get into its market and have a free trade agreement signed. Whereas the Argentina visit focused on restructuring the fractured relation that Calderon left by criticizing the nationalization of the Argentinian national petroleum company YPF. In conclusion, it seems that there is no interest in fostering a relationship with ALBA’s countries, keeping the good stand with Chile and Colombia, a concern in entering the Brazilian market, and adding Peru and Argentina to Mexico’s allies in the region.

 

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Mosley’s The Man in My Basement

Normally I do not talk about the personal life of the writers or about who admire them, but  Walter Mosley is an exception. First, he is a black-jewish best-seller writer. I can’t think of another author fulfilling these conditions. As a result, his narrative is embedded in race tensions, could it be different? Second, President Clinton said Mosley is one of his favorite writers.
The Man in My Basement is a strange novel. It seems it would be a kind of fantasy or postmodernist work, but it ends up being modern and realist. The protagonist, Charles Blakey is broken, about to loose his house, unable to get a job and a 39-year old alcoholic with difficulties in managing his personal life. It seems he’s going to hell when a small white man knocks at his door and offers to rent Blakey’s cellar for the summer. He wants to be down there, imprisoned, alone, unbothered and fed by Blakey.
The white man is only able to get into Blakey’s cellar by the middle of the novel and the tension is built from the dialogues both men have, their conceptions of evil, what they have done, what they are, what they want to be and why are both of them right now right here. From these discussions I extract the quote: “More often than not men make the decisions that lead to their own deaths.”
This is a strange novel, far from the common as its author and joyful to read in a couple of nights.

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