Wednesday, November 29, 2006

La Epoca de Oro Part 2, My Favorites

Someone asked me for a list of my favorite films from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema (La Epoca de Oro) so I've assembled a small list of some the movies that quickly came to mind. Here they are, in no particular order:

Films starring Pedro Infante

Pedro Infante is one of my favorite movie stars. I could create an entire list of favorites just using his films. He's a legendary actor and singer who died tragically in his prime and has practically become a saint in Mexico. His movies are often tragicomic and more often than not, he gets a song or two to sing because, well...he's Pedro Infante! My favorite movies of his include:
La Oveja Negra - Directed by Ismael Rodriquez, co-starring Fernando Soler.
Escuela de Vagabundos - Directed by Rogelio Gonzalez.
Tizoc -Directed by Ismael Rodriguez, co-starring Maria Felix.
Nosotros los Pobres - directed by Ismael Rodriguez.
A.T.M. - A Toda Maquina - directed by Ismael Rodriguez (and co-starring Luis Aguilar).

Los Tres Huastecos - directed by Ismael Rodriguez, Pedro plays three very different brothers to great comic effect.
Los Tres Garcia - directed by Ismael Rodriquez...again!
Dos Tipos de Cuidado - directed by (surprise) Ismael Rodriguez and co-starring Jorge Negrete.

Other Movies

Si Adelita Se Fuera Con Otro - Directed by Chano Urueta, starring Jorge Negrete with Gloria Marin.

Simon del Desierto
- Directed by Luis Bunuel, Sylvia Pinal plays the devil incarnate as a sexy schoolgirl.

Viridiana - Luis Bunuel again directs Sylvia Pinal, this time playing a nun.

Maria Candelaria - Directed by Emilio Fernandez, starring Dolores del Rio and Pedro Armendariz. Cinematography by the great Gabriel Figueroa.

Salon Mexico
- Also directed by Emilio Fernandez, starring Marga Lopez.

- Directed by Roberto Galvodon, starring Ignacio Lopez Tarso. Macario meets God, The Devil and Death in the perfect Dia de los Muertos movie. You will understand the Mexican fascination with death after seeing this film.

Rio Escondido - Directed by Emilio Fernandez, starring the stunning Maria Felix. This is one of her best performances.

Susana - Carne y Demonio,
directed by Luis Bunuel, starring Rosita Quintana and Fernando Soler. Rosita Quintana is a bad, bad girl.

El Bruto
, directed by Luis Bunuel, starring Pedro Armendariz and Katy Jurado.

This list just skims the surface. There are dozens of other movies worth checking out, including the Mexican version of the 1931 Dracula, filmed at night using the same sets as the Tod Browning version but with a very different mood and pace than the American version. Los Olvidados by Bunuel is so famous that I didn't include it and it should be easy to rent. I didn't include any Mexican wrestling movies (even though I like them too) because they're not from the Golden Age, strictly speaking. I also did not include any Tin Tan, Resortes or Cantinflas films. I like a few of their movies but I find them in the same vein as the Marx Brothers or Abbott and Costello. It's not my cup of tea. I much prefer the comedy of Viruta and Capulina.

Most of these films I haven't seen since I was a little kid, but I think they will hold up well.
Palomitas anyone?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

La Epoca de Oro

Happy Thanksgiving. I’m driving back to Phoenix from California, where we spent the holiday with my in-laws. I wanted to share a few thoughts and memories about some videos I recently found on You Tube.

The Million Dollar Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles.

I grew up watching movies from the golden age of Mexican cinema (La Epoca de Oro), peppered with a few Spanish and Argentinian films. Even though my family wasn’t rich, my parents were big movie fans and we went to the cinema on a regular basis. They knew the theatre schedules for noches de dos por uno (two for one night) and we made the rounds between the Million Dollar, the Alameda, the Monterrey, the California and the Unique (my parents pronounced it “eunuch”). My mother and I would go as one pair and my father would stand outside the theatre until he found another solo moviegoer, then he would offer to split the cost of a ticket to save as much as possible. Once inside, it seemed that my mother’s purse would transform into Felix The Cat’s bottomless bag of tricks as she would produce cans of soda, refried bean sandwiches and/or burritos, Fritos and chewy, by-the-pound bin candy. Occasionally, we would splurge on the variedades movie show at the Million Dollar where, for the price of admission you would get two movies, a cartoon plus a variety show between movies which might feature jugglers, magicians, comedians, dancers, puppeteers…I guess you would call it vaudeville. Vendors would come up and down the aisles, selling ice cream and candy.

Pedro Armendariz and Dolores del Rio in Las Abandonadas.

When the house lights went down, I was in the company of the likes of Pedro Infante, Libertad Lamarque, Jorge Negrete, Silvia Pinal, Sarita Montiel, Pedro Armendariz, to name just a few of the greats of Spanish language cinema. I realize now that I’m much more familiar with the great actors and actresses of the Mexican/Spanish cinema than I am with American cinema. I didn’t become familiar with Spencer Tracy or Katherine Hepburn until I was an adult, so I have enjoyed catching up on my film history with Turner Classic Network.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of telling you that I found some videos on You Tube which took me back to my childhood. If you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll be missing part of the fun of these clips but they’re worth checking out anyway. Not all of these clips are from the Golden Age and most of the movies from that age were not musicals, but I've chosen clips with songs because music is a universal language. You’ll notice some are a little more modern, but they are also from my childhood and among my favorites, so I’ve included them.

Love from the Flying J!

If you can't see the flash object below, please click on this link to check out "Mis Favoritas."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

That Fertile Feeling

I just came across a box of video tapes we had packed away during our move from L.A. One of the tapes had a copy of a short movie from the 1980's featuring my old friends and Cholita co-conspirators, Vaginal Davis and Fertile LaToyah Jackson. The movie is called "That Fertile Feeling" and I hope Vaginal and Fertile won't mind, but I had my husband upload it to YouTube. As you can see from the video, my copy was starting to deteriorate after 20 years. Hopefully, it will find new life and maybe live forever on the web. People on the other side of the planet will be scratching their heads, wondering what the word "eleventuplets" means.

I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day - Happy Birthday To Me

It was kind of bewildering pulling up to my local polling place in Scottsdale today. The cars in the lot were covered with bumper stickers reading “Stop PETA” and “Bush/Cheney.” I’ve known for quite awhile that I stick out like a sore thumb in Phoenix with my homemade dresses and odd fashion sense. Someone came up to me just last week and said to me “you definitely don’t dress like you’re from Phoenix.” I took that as a compliment. Although I feel at home in the Sonoran Desert, I can’t help but feel different in an area that is as homogenous and conservative as Scottsdale/North Phoenix. After all, this is the first place I’ve ever seen someone wearing a t-shirt with the face of Ronald Reagan superimposed on the iconic image of Che Guevara.

This summer I met a couple of my MySpace friends for lunch. I had never seen them in person and as you probably know, people on MySpace don’t always look like their pictures, so I was concerned that I wouldn’t recognize them in a crowd. I had nothing to worry about. My two young friends stood out like exotic, colorfully plumed birds in a room full of gray sparrows. Just looking at them put a smile on my face. I was struck by the colors, patterns, creativity and originality of their appearance, an outward manifestation of their ideas and personalities. I had taken that look for granted when I lived in L.A. and to my surprise I realized that I’d missed it. I guess that’s part of what appeals to me about sewing my own dresses. What I wear is a unique reflection of my personality and background. Wait…does this have anything to do with the election? I guess I just want to paint a picture for you of the extent of the conformity by which I’m surrounded.

I often feel that I live in an ocean of sameness, so my family and I do a lot of traveling to different parts of the state. A couple of weekends ago, I visited Prescott and went to what I thought was an art/yard sale in the backyard of the Catalyst Infoshop, a volunteer run workshop, bookstore and gathering place. They had recently hosted a punk show to benefit Food, Not Bombs. The day I was there, I met some local artists who were bartering and selling their creations and a young man who was giving clothing away to anyone who needed it. The little “arts district” in Prescott had such a good vibe to it that I was shocked to learn that this workshop had been the target of an FBI raid (the owner was arrested and subsequently died in federal custody). It seems sad that in the current climate of fear, such a small group of artists and activists can’t express dissent without the government shutting them down.

Yesterday, my daughter’s sixth grade class staged a mock election. One of the propositions on the Arizona ballot this year is a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. It’s yet another attempt to prevent the legal recognition of same sex unions and put them on a “lesser” level than heterosexual unions. My daughter and her friend (who moved here from New York) were the only two students who voted against this proposition. I was so proud of her, even though going against the grain will probably not endear her to her peers.

I started writing this blog entry in the late afternoon, but because it is my birthday my husband and daughter insisted on taking me out to dinner so I put the writing on hold. On the way to the restaurant my daughter asked me about how I’d voted. I told her that I was sure I’d voted for everything that would be defeated. I’m used to being disappointed on Election Day. In the past, pretty much every candidate and proposition I voted for could be counted on to lose. It’s 9 pm in Arizona and this year, it looks like things may turn out a little different for once. CNN is projecting Democratic control of the House, which means we might have our first ever female Speaker. Wow! What a great birthday present…happy birthday to me!