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Miriam Colón

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of March 10

“These tropes cumulatively function as what philosopher Robert Pfaller has termed “interpassivity”: they cynically perform our annoyance at seeing the same old thing again for us. We can walk out of these films feeling satisfied, refreshed, and maybe even a little superior for seeing how the mechanics of movies work. And yet, this facsimiled dissent does not result in movies with original ideas, but instead in things like The LEGO Batman Movie, or, say, Miller and Lord helming the forthcoming Han Solo movie. Not unlike a punk buying a T-shirt with an anarchy symbol on it from Hot Topic, we fool ourselves if we believe this humor to be as subversive as it pretends to be.” Along with the death of cinema itself, the death of comedy is a constant in the world of criticism; Violet Lucca offers the latest iteration, with at least some words of praise thrown in for those modern directors who know how to build a joke.

“Once united, Phelps and O’Gaffney propel a series of semi-discrete set-pieces, starting with an inevitable Great Escape from the camp, facilitated by the white-on-white camouflage of wearing the Arabic prisoners’ white robes in the German snow. From there, Two Arabian Knights features high-speed train stunts, a second adventure for our hapless protagonists as naval stowaways, a romance with a shipwrecked Arabian princess (who else but Mary Astor?), a palace invasion, a gun duel, and a third and final getaway. However discontinuous in action and ambience, these rarely feel like loosely strung vignettes, mostly because Milestone’s hold on tone and his connection with his game, jovial actors tie things together.” Staying at Film Comment, praise for one forgotten comedy comes from Nick Davis’s appreciation of Milestone’s Two Arabian Knights. While Mark Harris doesn’t exactly excavate a forgotten film, he does remind us that Persona played so badly commercially in its ’67 release at least in part from Bergman fatigue, however much a break the film made with his past efforts. (“As Variety’s critic succinctly put it when he got his first view of Bergman’s Opus 1, ‘big themes are still his forte.’ The severity and rigor with which Bergman attacked these issues and his complete lack of interest in packaging them ingratiatingly for his audience both dates the movie and makes it enduringly fascinating.”)

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‘Bless Me, Ultima’: A Favorite Coming-of-Age Novel’s Respectful Adaptation

Ganalon’s Antonio learns some magic from Ultima (Colon)

I’ve never read Rudolfo Anaya’s 1972 coming-of-age novel Bless Me, Ultima, the tale of a Hispanic schoolboy in a small New Mexico town during World War II. But I know it’s considered a landmark of Chicano literature, and that generally means a devotional, earnest adaptation.

On one hand, this is an often-lovely story of growing up Hispanic in America, as seen through the amber-lit idealization of childhood memory and framed by the narration of the grown Antonio (Alfred Molina). On the other, it’s a struggle of good and evil between Ultima (Miriam Colón), a wise old medicine woman (or curandera) alternately sought and shunned by her community, and tyrannical landowner Tenorio (Castulo Guerra), a fiery villain who never evolves beyond cliché. He’s an angry, vindictive killer who dominates the town. Meanwhile, the wise-beyond-his-years Antonio (Luke Ganalon), the youngest in a sprawling clan scattered by war service, tries to work through the contradictions of a culture that publicly embraces Catholicism but quietly preserves the folklore and spiritual beliefs of its pre-Christian heritage.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly