Pedro Almodovar

review im so excited2

Pedro Almodóvar’s late career is revealing him to be a contemporary Alfred Hitchcock. For those whose perception of the Spanish director is filtered through his campy, punk-y early work, that may come as a surprise. But no other director working today has such a command of form, also Hitchcock’s true artistic medium. Hitchcock deployed his talent for pacing, timing and suspense in the service of the horror genre, though his films were leavened with comedic passages. Almodóvar displays the same control over the heartbeat of his films, and his nominal comedies all have tragic, horrifying premises. His latest, I’m So Excited!, is another of these tragicomedies masquerading as a farce, and it marks a return to form for one of the greatest directors working today. Its premise is not unlike a Hitchcock classic — Rope or Strangers on a Train — but inverted and in the air. In fact, its Spanish title, Los amantes pasajeros, could equally have been translated as Rakes on a Plane. Though he consistently nods to the current economic crisis rending Spanish society apart, Almodovar cares more about a well-executed farce than a timely piece of commentary. He’s more interested in narrative uplift, and his airplane comedy delivers that in spades. I’m So Excited! is a return to form, a maturation of his distinctive style, and a thoroughly enjoyable romp in the sky.

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Anyone who’s flown on a Southwest flight knows the flight attendants can get a bit silly. But hopefully the reason is not because they are taking pulls from hidden bottles of alcohol behind the privacy curtains. Unfortunately the passengers of Peninsula Flight 2549 in I’m So Excited are not so lucky, but their flight attendants have a good reason to try and take the edge off. A mistake that happened before the flight took off (thanks to the antics of a few grounds crew members plus two funny cameo appearances) damaged the landing equipment and now the pilots are trying to find a free runway to try and make an emergency landing. While the crew drugged the passengers in coach to keep them from noticing they had been flying in circles for hours (and nowhere near their intended destination), those in business class end up finding out the truth, and the results are not what you would expect.

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Hey, there, sweet reader. Today hasn’t been the sunshiniest of Fridays, so let’s take a break and watch something sure to elevate your mood. Pedro Almodovar‘s latest film, I’m So Excited (which was once referred to as The Standby Lovers, and has now clearly been renamed in honor of The Pointer Sisters’ song), has just sent out its first teaser trailer, and it is a delight. Drugs! Dancing! Lip-syncing! All on a jet hurdling through the sky! Get your tickets now. (Get it?) Back in June, we learned a bit about the film when Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz joined the cast, including its apparent plot: “a comedy…that’s about a plane full of people who reveal their most guarded secrets to one another when the aircraft starts to go down.” And that’s just about all we know at this point, though it’s certainly not essential for enjoying said first teaser. Get excited with the teaser trailer after the break.

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Culture Warrior

Twelve years ago, the western and the musical, two genres that were incredibly successful during Hollywood’s heyday, had been considered long dead with no hopes of a revival on the horizon. After all, why would either of these genres make a comeback? The western is a remnant of a sense of American cultural imperialism and pre-Howard Zinn history-writing long past, and the film musical requires such an astounding degree of suspension of disbelief that audiences who seek special effects that blur distinctions between the fabricated and the real simply aren’t willing to engage it. But lo and behold, on December 25th, 2012 (always a day for big movies), a western (Django Unchained) and a musical (Les Miserables) will be launched into wide release on the heels of outstanding buzz (sure, Tarantino’s film is a revisionist western, but since revisionist westerns have been around for nearly fifty years, let’s just refer to them as the current standard western, shall we?). It’s difficult to say how this particular revival of these Hollywood genres has taken place. Of course, the unexpected success of previous films of these genres that took a risk with audiences (3:10 to Yuma and True Grit, Moulin Rouge and Chicago) certainly helps create the terrain for more such films, but this doesn’t necessarily explain why updated versions of classical Hollywood genres come back into style. Arguably, there are a multitude of genres we could use today, but unfortunately have no contemporary examples of. For instance, the ’30s and ’40s-style […]

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Pedro Almodovar

In all honesty, the headline here could be “Another Film From Pedro Almodovar? Yes, Please” because the man can make as many movies as he damned well pleases. However, there’s a certain thrill to learning that he might have another science fiction project in front of him, considering what he did with the (admittedly sci-fi-lite) The Skin I Live In. According to Variety, the director is interested in going over-the-top for an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-inspired concept. So not only is there more sci-fi to come from Almodovar, there’s more body horror. Unsurprising, but still exciting. It doesn’t appear that we’ll get to see it any time soon, but since he’s been averaging one film every 2-3 years (and with I’m So Excited coming in March of 2013), perhaps we’ll get to see his take on 1950s sci-fi by 2015. That gives him plenty of time to announce that Antonio Banderas is starring.

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Anyone who saw last year’s surgical horror story, The Skin I Live In, knows that director Pedro Almodóvar can pull a first-rate performance out of Antonio Banderas, which makes sense, seeing as they’ve been working together for over 20 years. And anyone who has seen Almodóvar’s starring vehicles for Penélope Cruz, like Volver or Broken Embraces, can give similar compliments to his relationship with that actress. Almodóvar is a filmmaker who knows how to get the best out of the people he’s working with. But what he’s never been able to do is direct Banderas and Cruz together in the same movie. As a matter of fact, even though they’re maybe the two most famous Spanish actors of the last two decades, up until this point nobody has been able to get them both to appear in the same film. That’s all set to change come Almodóvar’s latest project, however. His new film is a comedy called The Standby Lovers that’s about a plane full of people who reveal their most guarded secrets to one another when the aircraft starts to go down. In addition to Banderas and Cruz (whose official involvement we reported on yesterday), the film is also said to include an all-star cast of Spanish actors including Javier Cámara, Guillermo Toledo, Raúl Arévalo, Hugo Silva, Cecilia Roth, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Blanca Suárez, José María Yazik and Antonio de la Torre. That’s a lot of Spanish-sounding names.

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While the rest of the movie-going universe debates the merits of Prometheus, Ridley Scott is busy putting the final touches on the Cormac McCarthy-scribed thriller The Counselor. The film stars Brad Pitt as a lawyer who gets involved with drug trafficking, and already sported the promising supporting cast of Michael the-best-thing-about-Prometheus Fassbender and McCarthy veteran Javier Bardem. According to Deadline Bloomington, another McCarthy veteran (remember All the Pretty Horses?), Penélope Cruz, has officially been added to the cast after being rumored for a role for some time. No word on what character she’ll play, but despite any reservations audiences have had about Scott’s latest star-studded genre outing, this cast in the first script penned by really-freaking-good novelist Cormac McCarthy seems promising. Deadline notes that the film has been described as [sigh…] “No Country For Old Men on steroids,” which promises exactly the opposite of everything that made that Best Picture winner interesting. Principal photography for The Counselor begins this summer.

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For what’s looking to be the last official programming announcement from this year’s AFI FEST presented by Audi, the fest has revealed their special film retrospective as curated by Guest Artistic Director Pedro Almodóvar. The filmmaker has put together a program of five films (including one of his own) to form an essential cross-section of horror films and thrillers. Almodóvar’s picks include his own Law of Desire, saying that the film is “a fundamental title in my career…I don’t think I’d change a single shot, and not because it’s perfect but because I recognize myself in all of them…It’s true that my palette has darkened and, in the case of the latest film, the humor has almost disappeared. Fortunately I’ve changed sufficiently so that no one can accuse me of repeating myself, but I’m still the same.” The film’s screening will take place on Monday, November 7, and Almodóvar and star Antonio Banderas (also the star of that “latest film” Almodóvar mentions, the magnetic The Skin I Live In) will introduce the film, and it will be followed by a “conversation” about the auteur’s career. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. The best part? Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting this Thursday, October 27). Even with parking fees in Hollywood, that’s still cheaper than a movie ticket. The complete schedule grid is now online for […]

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Creating the world of a disturbed, yet brilliant, plastic surgeon harboring more than one secret is no easy task, but director Pedro Almodóvar rises to the challenge with his beautiful and haunting film, The Skin I Live In. An equal challenge was that of creating the music for this world to keep up with the story’s various twists and turns. From the frenetic strings that draw us in at the beginning of the film to the final piano refrain, composer Alberto Iglesias’s score helps create a world that refuses to let you, much like the mysterious woman trapped in the doctor’s home, out until the film’s very last frame. I spoke with Iglesias about the process of working with Almodóvar on this film, the challenges of expressing the emotion in scenes with little to no dialogue and how sometimes, an ax is an equally important part of the composing process as any instrument. (English is not Iglesias’s first language so please keep that in mind as you read his responses.)

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As it turns out, I’ve been slightly remiss when it comes to praising this year’s 25th edition of AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi. I’ve tossed off comments about how the festival gets better with every passing year, but in the wake of today’s announcement of the festival’s Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings, I’ve realized that I have not gone far enough. AFI FEST has not just gotten better this year, the festival has made a dramatic jump to top-tier status, rolling out titles that play like a cinephile’s Christmas list for 2011. Today’s lineup announcement is essentially a “best-of” list of this year’s festival favorites, including Michel Hazanavicius‘s The Artist, Steve McQueen‘s Shame, Oren Moverman‘s Rampart, Lynne Ramsay‘s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Roman Polanski‘s Carnage, Simon Curtis‘s My Week with Marilyn, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala, and Wim Wenders‘s Pina. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. The best part? Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting October 27). After the break, check out the full list, including descriptions and showtimes, of the films to be featured as AFI FEST Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings.

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Great personal tragedies have the uncanny ability to leave a mark on those they touch – but Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In takes that concept to frightening new levels, mixing in healing with horror, pleasure with pain, and medical advancements with mental illness. The film centers on Antonio Banderas as gifted doctor Robert Ledgard, a reclusive type who does something out of his in-home clinic in a secluded section of Spain. Whatever type of medicine Robert publicly practices, we are not privy to it for some time (a reveal that proves key later in the story), but we are let in on his secrets almost immediately. Ruined by the tragic demises of both his wife and daughter, Robert has withdrawn into a different field of work – crafting a new type of human skin that is, in a sense, unbreakable. The skin is spliced from human skin and pig skin, meant to withstand heat and cold, to heal quickly, to show no signs of violence no matter what is inflicted on it. And while this is a noble (and understandable, given his past losses) pursuit, there’s one small piece of Robert’s plan that sets it apart – he’s lying when he tells the medical community that he needs to test it on human subjects. Because he already has. And she’s locked up in his home.

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It’s Unofficial Pedro Almodóvar Day here at FSR! Everyone, join me as I celebrate in the traditional way – by throwing teeny, tiny bits of Penelope Cruz-shaped confetti in the air and watching Antonio Banderas manufacture fake skin. Wait, is that not how you celebrate your Unofficial Pedro Almodóvar Days? That’s about to change. On the heels of AFI FEST announcing Almodóvar as their Guest Artistic Director for this year’s festival, the trailer for the filmmaker’s next film, The Skin I Live In, has debuted online. The film bowed at Cannes to some mixed reactions, though our own Simon saw the film at the fest and bestowed on it an “A” review, noting that the work mixes some classic Almodóvar hallmarks into a film that, at first glance, just plain doesn’t sound like a typical Almodóvar film. But The Skin I Live In sure does sound like an out-of-the-box choice for the auteur, starring Banderas as a doctor who may be tortured on the inside, but who is on the verge of a medical breakthrough, creating a superskin that can be transplanted on to damaged skin. And maybe more…? The film’s trailer is a touch tedious, broken up with title cards that hint at some of the different types of people who inhabit the world (or, as it were, the film’s world), followed by glimpses at some of those supposed types of people. But some of those people seem to cross over various types, and that’s part of the intrigue of […]

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The American Film Institute announced today that Pedro Almodóvar is set to serve as the Guest Artistic Director for this year’s AFI FEST. As the festival is celebrating its twenty-fifth year in existence with this next festival, the addition of Almodóvar shows just how much the fest is expanding, both in terms of size and prestige. As part of his duties, Almodóvar will a present a coincidentally-timed twenty-fifth anniversary screening of his Law of Desire. The filmmaker will also create his own sidebar program of films that he credits as inspirations to his work. Many of Almodóvar’s films have shown over the years at AFI FEST, including Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, High Heels, All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Volver, The Headless Woman, Broken Embraces, and Bad Education. His next film, The Skin I Live In, premiered at Cannes and will open in New York and Los Angeles on October 14, so I wonder if AFI FEST won’t see some sort of special cast and crew screening with Almodóvar now involved in the festival. I’ve witnessed firsthand the growth of AFI FEST over just a short amount of time, having attended the fest for the past four years. Last year’s premiere films alone made up were monster hits – AFI FEST showed The Fighter, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan. The year before that, the festival’s big films included fare such as Precious, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.And those were just the big […]

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Culture Warrior

Last week, as I watched Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, I noticed that the trailers on the rental Blu-Ray were all of titles sharing space at the top of my queue: titles like Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil, and Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun. All, I quickly realized, had been released by the same studio, Magnet Releasing, whose label I recalled first noticing in front of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. After some quick Internet searching, I quickly realized what I should have known initially, that Magnet was a subsidiary of indie distributor Magnolia Pictures. The practices of “indie” subsidiaries of studios has become commonplace. That majors like Universal and 20th Century Fox carry specialty labels Focus Features and Fox Searchlight which market to discerning audiences irrespective of whether or not the individual titles released are independently financed or studio-produced has become a defining practice for limited release titles and has, perhaps more than any other factor, obscured the meaning of the term “independent film” (Sony Pictures Classics, which only distributes existing films, is perhaps the only subsidiary arm of a major studio whose releases are actually independent of the system itself). This fact is simply one that has been accepted for quite some time in the narrative of small-scale American (or imported) filmmaking. Especially in the case of Fox Searchlight, whose opening banner distinguishes itself from the major in variation on name only, subsidiaries of the majors can hardly even be argued as “tricking” audiences into […]

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Yet again I find myself sitting in the dark waiting for one of my most anticipated films of this year’s Cannes film festival, and am met with a chorus of coughs ringing around the screen. Here’s a thought – if you are allergic to either a) the dark or b) the cinema, maybes it’s time you stopped going. It sounds like a bloody Victorian bronchitis convention every time the lights go down… Anyway, The Skin I Live In (also known as The Skin That I Inhabit, depending on how you translate the original Spanish title), is the latest in this year’s auteur-focused Competition line-up, and thanks to both director Pedro Almodovar‘s assertions that he set out to make a horror “without screams or frights” and his reunion with sometime muse Antonio Banderas, this one sat at the top table in terms of anticipation. Warning, there be a few spoilers below, though I have tried to avoid as many as possible. But like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, such is the nature of the film that some hints are a necessity.

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SebastianGutierrez

We wanted to get inside the mind of director Sebastian Gutierrez by finding out his Top 5 films, and he somehow managed do so while naming over a dozen other films. From Bunuel to Gilliam, find out who inspires one of the weirder writer/directors out there.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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