A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston, 2004)

A few months ago, I criticized Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006) for trying to tell three or four very promising stories all at once, and not doing a satisfactory job of telling any of them, and for distracting attention away from the work done by less-well-known foreign actors by casting two movie stars (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett). It turns out that the kind of movie I was looking for had been done two years earlier: Maria Full of Grace features a then-unknown Colombian actress, Catalina Sandino Moreno, in the first feature film by writer and director Joshua Marston. It tells the story of a pregnant Colombian teenager, Maria (Sandino Moreno), who agrees to become a "drug mule," being flown to New York after swallowing small boluses of drugs encased in plastic; the drug-runners retrieve the packets after she excretes them. It's one of those behind-the-headlines stories that can easily turn melodramatic or preachy, and it's to Marston's and Sandino Moreno's credit that it never does. Her creation of the resourceful, rebellious, determined Maria, who keeps her head when things go seriously wrong, earned Sandino Moreno a nomination for the best actress Oscar in her film debut. She lost to Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, 2004), but has worked regularly since then: I saw her just the other night as Luisa, the girlfriend of Cole (Joshua Jackson) on the Showtime series The Affair.