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Top of the World: 10 Spanish Speaking Movies

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This past semester at university I had a Contemporary Spanish Cinema course. It was optional, but I took it for my own curiosity as, I have to admit, I don’t think I had seen any Spanish movies before. Here I mean Spanish from Spain. Some names were familiar, such as Almod贸var, but I still didn’t really know what to expect and if I would like it or not. Well, I did. The teacher was interesting and I loved almost all the movies we watched! The course is over now, but in good memory of it I’ve decided to do a…. top list! However, here I won’t only include Spanish movies from Spain, but Spanish speaking movies in general. So, some South American movies will be included on this list (actually, I think there’s only two) and movies produced by Spain, but not Spanish speaking won’t be included (here I can think of The Others with Nicole Kidman. We watched it in class, it’s very good, but not a word of Spanish is spoken in it).

Before I start the top, here are some new, and not so new warnings:

As I’ve just discovered the world of Spanish movies, I haven’t seen them all! So it’s no use saying “you should have put this film on your list.” If I haven’t seen it, I just haven’t, so I can’t include it. Among all the Spanish films I saw, I think that maybe 4 or 5 are not included in the list, so it’s not that much as you can see. And those are not like the “obvious” Spanish films that everybody should see. But of course, if you are curious to know if I have seen some particular film that might be among the 5 that are not on the list, you surely can ask! 馃檪

I don’t say that any of these films are better than another one. This is a very subjective list. These are my personal favourites. Please respect my choices.

My course was about聽contemporary Spanish Cinema, meaning that the list doesn’t include Spanish movies from the 40s or the 50s for example. The oldest one is a 1980’s movie. However, if you know some good “old” Spanish films I should watch, please don’t hesitate to recommend them!

I think it would be important to mention that I did see all these films in class, but most of my viewings were related to the course, except for one.

All the Almod贸var’s films I saw are included in this list.

Ok, here we go!

10.聽La Mala Educaci贸n (Bad Education) – Pedro Almod贸var, 2004

I chose this film for my final essay of Spanish Contemporary Cinema and I got an…. A! 馃榾 Look what the teacher said about my text: “This was an excellent paper, with an outstanding engagement with both historical context and literature on the subject. Great work! Only as a minor comment, the paper, is 1000 words larger than the word count asked for, be sure to double check these things (I appreciate the effort but usually its better to try and not overdo too much). At any rate, this paper shows an excellent engagement with course topics and it was very insightful and complete assignment.” 聽Ok, I write too much, but hey! I got an A you know! 馃槈

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9.聽Flores de otro mundo (Flowers From Another World) – Ic铆ar Bolla铆n, 1999

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8.Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al bored de un ataque de nervios)– Pedro Almod贸var, 1988

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7.La piel que habito (The Skin I Live in) – Pedro Almod贸var, 2011

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6.XXY – Luc铆a Puenzo, 2007

A very interesting and touching Argentinian movie about the complex subject of intersexuality. I actually saw this one in a different class.

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5.Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother) – Pedro Almod贸var, 1999

Definitely my favourite Almod贸var’s film so far, and the first I’ve seen.

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4.El laberinto del fauno (Pan鈥檚 Labyrinth) – Guillermo del Toro, 2006

Ok, I think everybody knows this one. I loved it, but I actually thought she would spend more time in the labyrinth!

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3.聽Pa Negre (Black Bread) – August铆 Villaronga, 2010

Another great聽film about Spanish Civil War, still with the mean guy from Pan’s Labyrinth. Here I cheat a little as the film is not in Spanish, but in Catalan.

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2.Y Tu Mama Tambi茅n (And your Mother Too) – Alfonso Cuar贸n, 2001

Another pretty well-known film. I watched it because of Gael Garc铆a Bernal and I was not disappointed. Amazingly shot. A Mexican movie. The only one I watched that was not related to the course (or any other course if I think of XXY)

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1.聽Tambi茅n la lluvia (Even the Rain) – Ic铆ar Bolla铆n, 2010

The film that made me discover Gael Garc铆a Bernal. I didn’t know what to expect from this film, but it’s just amazing. The story is breathtaking and the actors are excellent. Not to be missed.

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Here it is. I know there’s much more I have to see such as Almodovar’s Talk to Her or聽Diarios de motocicleta聽with Bernal, but these films gave me a good preview聽of how great Spanish cinema is. If you are like me five months ago and haven’t seen any Spanish films, I hope this list will be useful to you!

It was good to be back! See you soon! 馃檪

And Happy New Year too!

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Put your Dance Shoes and Watch “Footloose”!

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When Bonnie from Classic Reel Girl announced that she was hosting the Gotta Dance! Blogathon, celebrating dance in the world of cinema, I, of course, had to participate to this highly appealing event. You see, apart from my passion from classic films, I also have a passion for dance. I love watching dance television shows, dancing myself (I did two years of dance when I was in CEGEP). When there’s music around, I can’t help swinging. And, of course, I love dance movies because they are the perfect combination of my two passions.
In this field, when I think of a movie that makes me want to dance, the first one that comes to my mind is Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984) Of course, the 80s were a great decade for dance movies with movies such as the one previously named, Flashdance or Dirty Dancing. Of course, dance in films already existed with the Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly of this world, but here I’m mentioning films were the only performing art is dance (not dance and singing). They are movies who really celebrate dance, movies about about dance. It’s the central subject.
Footloose takes place in the boring little town of Beaumont. Ren聽McCormack (Kevin Bacon) and his mother Ethel (Frances Lee McCain) have left Chicago to come live in the city with Ren’s aunt and uncle. The problem in this city is that dance and rock & roll music have been forbidden by city reverend, Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), after a fatal road accident. That’s a problem for Ren as dance is his passion. He makes new friends, including聽Willard Hewitt (Chris Penn) and Rusty (Sarah Jessica Parker) and falls for the reverend’s daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer). Ren has to compete against her boyfriend Chuck (Jim Youngs). Things don’t start too well for Ren as he always seems to get himself into troubles. However, his only objective will be, with the help of his new friends, to bring back the art of dance in the city.
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Footloose story was based on a real life event聽that happened in the very religious town of Elmore City, Oklahoma in 1978. Dance was forbidden for聽90 years and a group of teenagers decided to challenge this. (IMDB) 90 years! Imagine the nightmare.
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I don’t know where I first heard about this film, but one thing is sure, it’s the kind of film everybody knows the existence of. I was curious to know what kind of film it was. So, I watched the trailer and was amazed. Those dance moves, this music; all this was everything I needed to be entertained. So, I immediately borrow the film at the video club and it turned out to absolutely be my kind of film. I later bought the dvd and watched it over and over.
Footloose is聽聽the perfect representation of the dance style at the time, which was much more cool than today’s one.
The film聽starts in a perfect way with the opening credits where we see different pair of feet doing dance moves, some being quite imaginative and creative. Our attention is immediately grabbed with this scene and we feel like getting up and dancing too. However, we have to sit down to watch the rest of the film.
Of course, this is not the only moment that makes us want to get up and dance. My favourite dance scene is the one when Ren dances in a warehouse. Things aren’t going very well for him and that’s his way to externalize his anger. We can easily say that it’s聽the most impressive scene of the film with some amazing dance moves and stunts. Kevin Bacon could dance, however, for this scene, he had four stunt doubles for the more difficult tricks.
A very amusing dance scene is the one when Ren teaches to Willard how to dance. Of course, we laugh a lot while watching this scene, but, just like Ren, we are really impressed by Willard’s improvement. The interesting thing about this scene is that Chris Penn really couldn’t dance so he had to be taught on the set. This scene was added precisely because of that. Mixing fiction and reality can sometimes be worthy.
We don’t only remember Footloose for its dance, but also for its music. How can we forget the theme song “Footloose” sung by Kenny Loggins or “Let’s Hear for the Boy” sung by Deniece William (both nominated for an Oscar), or “Holding out for a Hero” sung by Bonny Tyler??? If you like 80’s entertaining music, Footloose‘s soundtrack聽certainly is a must to your musical library.
Footloose‘s main objective is to celebrate dance, how this one can cheer us and feed us. Just like Ren wants to prove it to the people of Beaumont, dance is not a synonym of debauchery and danger. Dance, after all, remains an art.
So, has David Bowie said “Put your red shoes and dance the blues”!
A big thanks to Bonnie for hosting such a nice blogathon. I invite you to read the other entries as well:
And a happy National Tap Dance Day to all! 馃檪
A Time to Dance - Hearts and Laserbeams
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A Journey in the 80’s: Desperately Seeking Susan

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Today, for my fourth review as a member of the Dirty Dozen ( a Facebook group formed 聽of twelve movie reviewers), I’ve decided to write about one of my favourite movies of the 80’s. Well… now that I’m thinking about it, I think it really is my number one favourite. Anyway, I’m talking about Desperately Seeking Susan. This film was directed by Susan Seidleman in 1985 and starred Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Aidan Quinn, Mark Blum, Robert Joy, Laurie Metcalf, Anna Levine, Will Patton, Steven Wright, Peter Maloney and John Turturo. The film was nominated for the best Foreign Language Film at the Cesar.

Susan Seidelman
Susan Seidelman

In a 1984’s interview, Madonna described this film as a “murder mystery comedy romance”. Well, we have no doubt, it’s far from being an ordinary movie! The main action takes place in New-York. Roberta (Rosanna Arquette), a young married woman without any story, is bored with聽her pathetic suburban聽life in. Her husband, Gary (Mark Blum), a pools seller, doesn’t seem to really care about her and Gary’s sister, Leslie (Laurie Metcalf) in always introduced in their life in a way or another. She takes a lot of place. Roberta only interested is the personals section of a New-York newspaper. What’s grab her attention the most is the little message of this section聽called “Desperately Seeking Susan”. A couple is sending messages to each other via this newspaper personals section. It’s their way to find each other when one is gone. Roberta is fascinated by this woman, Susan (Madonna) and want to discover who she is.

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On her side, Susan, who was in New-Jersey, is back to New-York. Her and her boyfriend Jimmy (Robert Joy) have an appointment. Of course, Roberta knows about it, thanks to the personals, and decides to follow her. She finally lost her, but buy 聽a coat that had belonged to her in a pawn shop. In the evening, she finds a key in the coat pocket and a picture of Susan. She then decides to dress up like Susan just for fun. However, she wants to return the key so she gives an appointment to Susan in a park. She sets the appointment via the private message section and signed it as “A stranger”. Susan read it and don’t think it’s really amusing, but decides to go to the appointment because she wants her key back. However, she is arrested when she arrives because she doesn’t give enough money to the cab. Roberta doesn’t notice her and continue to look for her.

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Then, what’s important to know before I continue is that one of two days before, Susan was in a man’s place for the night. Before she left the place in the mourning, she stole some money and a pair of beautiful earrings. She was then going to catch her bus and was noticed by a mysterious stranger. The day she’s having her appointment with Jim, she learns that this man has been thrown out of a window and that the earrings聽she stole from him belonged to Nefertiti and where stole in a museum. She tells Jimmy (except for the earrings) and this one, who worries for her, sends is friend Dez (Aidan Quinn) after her. So, after Susan gets arrested, Roberta is disturbed by the mysterious and dangerous guy ( Will Patton) who think 聽she’s Susan. When she tries to escape, she falls on her head. Dez arrives at the same moment. When he sees she’s having trouble, he goes after her to take care of her. However, he really thinks she’s Susan and so does Roberta as has she lost her memory… I won’t tell you more. This is only the beginning of the film.

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You have to know something. I love classic films, but also Madonna. I used to be obsessed by her. I still am, but I’m taking it more easy you know! So, of course, I wanted to hear all her music and see all her films (which I haven’t done because they are not all good films). Of course, Desperately Seeking Susan was high on the list. The first time I saw this film, it was a VHS copy of the film that my grandmother had recorded for me on television. So, I first saw it in french (but at the time I didn’t care for watching my movies in french, not like today ahah). I immediately loved it. Since, I have seen the film countless time and know it quite by heart. And, yes, it became my favourite Madonna’s film.

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The distribution of this film is very interesting. Rosanna Arquett won the BAFTA award for her performance as Roberta and Madonna received a good feedback about her acting. She is, in my opinion, the most interesting element about this film. Really, you can’t say that this is not a good performance, because she is kind of playing her own role. Indeed, just like Madonna, Susan is a little rebel, she likes to do whatever she wants and doesn’t really care聽about what people may think of her. Susan clothes in the films were also designed in the Madonna’s style (her dressing style in the 80’s), not to mention that the action takes place in New-York, the city where everything started for Madonna. Rosanna Arquette is also great in this film. It’s a star I know less than Madonna, but she was quite interesting in Desperately Seeking Susan聽and, in my opinion, perfect for the part of Roberta. Aidan Quinn, who plays Dez, was good, but sometimes a little too serious, Well, that was part of his character, so I guess he played it right. I think my favourite male character in this film is Gary (Roberta’s husband) played by Mark Blum. He is so stupid, because he understands nothing about his wife Roberta and his only preoccupation is to sell pools to his customers. Well, that’s what makes him one of the funniest things in this film. The parts where he is with Susan are delightfully hilarious because they are two opposites.

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DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, Rosanna Arquette, Mark Blum, 1985, (c) Orion

The fact that Desperately Seeking Susan is a murder mystery comedy makes it very interesting. Why? Because there is a certain suspense. At first, just like Roberta, we want to know more about Susan. Then, we wonder who is this mysterious stranger who is after Susan and when Roberta has her accident, we can’t wait to see what will happen. But all this is told in a comic way so it becomes very pleasant to watch. It’s, honestly, the king of movie that didn’t bored me at all. It grabs my attention from the beginning until the end. There are no unnecessary scenes. The fact that it was directed by a woman is also very interesting because, first, female movie directors a more rare than male movie directors, but also because we can really feel this film was directed from a woman’s point of view. The female characters are more important than the male’s ones and everything is settled to their advantage. They are, also, independent women, even if they each have a man in their life. Well, Susan is clearly independent. Roberta is less, but she tries to be. It’s actually quite fascinating聽to see her evolution. Well, I think we can say that Desperately Seeking Susan is kind of a feminist movie.

Susan Seidelman and her actresses
Susan Seidelman and her actresses

“Good going stranger”, this line said by Madonna is probably the most famous line of the film. “I don’t believe it”, comes back several times to. Seriously, they never “believe it” in this film! It’s a movie full of surprises, not only for us, but also for the characters. 馃槈 The story is, in my opinion very聽creative聽and there are some great lines in the screenplay. Here are some of my favourites:

1-聽Leslie聽: I can’t believe the two of you are eating in the middle of a crisis like this.

Gary聽: We’re nervous, what do you want…

Leslie聽: Then take a Valium like a normal person.

2- Gary聽: Susan! What are you doing?

Susan : I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?

3- Leslie聽: Everybody I know is desperate, except for you.

Roberta : I’m desperate.

Leslie : Ha!

Roberta : Well, sort of.

Madonna in the cab. Love her facial expression!
Madonna in the cab. Love her facial expression!

Finally, something we have to mention about this film is its great and entertaining soundtrack. A very 80’s music that fits the film perfectly. Madonna’s success Into the Groove was written for this film. We can hear it in the scene where Susan meets Gary in a bar and聽during聽the ending credits. It’s one of my favourite songs from the Material Girl. Know it by heart. The video clip shows some part of the film and is very enjoyable. I’ll let you聽watch聽it.

I also invite you to watch this 1984 Madonna’s interview. She doesn’t only talks about the film, but she does talk about it at least. She gives her opinion about acting. It’s quite interesting.

Well, writing about this film is something I should have done before! Before I saw many classic films, it used to be part of my top 10. Now I think it might be part of the top 20. Just a really worth watching film. I haven’t dressed up like Susan for an Halloween few year ago! If you haven’t seen it, I hope your reading made you want to do so.

See you soon!

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