Sunday, 31 January 2016

The little things that start to happen after two years of life in Ireland

Today, two years ago, Andy and I arrived to Ireland to start again. Making the desicion was actually easy since we both have been here before and loved it. But of course, making a place for yourself when you know no body and you feel overwhelmed with all the paperwork and things you need to do is not.

One of the first places we went to, of course, Phoenix Park

I went to watch Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago and it is spot on on many things, which Eilis, the main characters sums up in one brilliant speech (beware it's a light spoiler):

"You'll feel so homesick that you'll want to die, and there's nothing you can do about it apart from endure it. But you will, and it won't kill you. And one day, the sun will come out you might not even notice straight away-it'll be that faint. And then you'll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who's only yours.And you'll realize that this is where your life is".

A lovely movie I'd recommend to anyone

Maybe I'm talking about a movie to avoid getting too personal, but the fact is that after two years, there are little things that start to change, and it feels lovely. They might seem silly (yes, I made a list), but they make life so much better.

  • When someone gives you an address, you now know in which area it is.
  • When you enter your corner shop, the staff recognizes you and maybe even make small chat.
  • When you listen to the radio, and a they play a song from a local artist, you recognize it and hum along,
  • When you walk home and bump into a neighbour, you make quick eye contact, say hi and go on.
  • When someone uses slang, you know what they mean.
  • You use slang sometimes (my favorites include "give out", "what's the story" and "deadly").
  • When you want to go out for food, you know a nice place.
  • When something breaks in the house, you know where to get it fixed.
  • You occasionally bump into a person you know in the street or the supermarket.
And one of my favourites: when a tourist approaches you and asks you where is something, you are able to help them because you know :D

Sometimes I still get lost and have no idea where the place I'm supposed to be is, or something is a big deal in the news and I've no idea why, or there is a celebrity nearby and everyone looses it but me. And while that makes Radiohead's "Creep" play softly in my mind as I walk with too many layers of chlothing for such a lovely, sunny, one-digit-temperature day, I suppose it's OK, and I believe it's part of the process.

Finally, I made a similar post one year ago, where I wrote my thoughts after the first 12 months. 
I hope to revisit this in a year, and for now, I'll keep learning, working and trying my best :p

Sunday, 24 January 2016

So, is Leonardo Di Caprio winning his Oscar for The Revenant? Here are some facts and my opinion

Now we are in those 5 or 6 weeks between the Oscar nominees are announced and the award ceremony. A time that not many people care about but that I'm really into. And this year, the buzz about the big day seems to be divided between the lack of diversity and Will Smith's boycott to the golden prize, and Leonardo di Caprio's Best Actor Nomination. And if you're in Ireland, Saoirse's Ronan Best Actress nomination for Brooklyn (along other Irish artists that are running for a statue of their own).

Now, this is not the first time Leo gets a nod: 2005 - The Aviator, 2007 - Blood Diamond (plus 2014 - Wolf of Wall Street production, and 1993 - What's Eating Gilbert Grape Best Suporting Actor); but since the last time he got it, he has become some sort of Internet meme, and as some would say, his win would "break the Internet".

I saw The Revenant, film for which he is nominated, and it's ringing many Oscar bells:

✔ Based in a true story, which apparently is crazier than the movie.
✔ A 156 minutes drama.
✔ Set somewhen in the recent past, during the last 200 years of American history, telling very stylishly portrayed all-American stories, just like previous winners Argo, 12 Years a Slave, The Artist, The Hurt Locker, No Country for Old Men... should I continue?.

However, there are also some signs that he might go home literally empty-handed:

✔ Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who made Birdman, the film that got him awards for Best Movie & Best Director last year, and managed to give Michael Keaton a nomination in Leo's same category, which at the end, he didn't win (despite giving an amazing performance) thank's to Eddie Redmayne (who played Stephen Hawking on The Theory of Everything). Which takes me to...

✔ Eddie Radmayne is nominated again, for his role as Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl...

✔ And this movie combines two Oscar magnets: Eddie Radmayne and a serious and dramatic context for a man to put on a dress on the big screen. Sounds weird? Let's remember that Jared Leto -until then known for being the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars, with some low profile acting roles-  won an Oscar (Best Supporting Actor) for playing Rayon, a fictional trans woman.

✔ Besides that, The Revenant could fit in the category of Isolation Survival Drama [a movie that manages to upset agoraphobic and claustrophobic people at the same time: one person, alone in the immensity of the ocean/space/desert but at the same time, confined to a little space risking death if they make the wrong move], one that I talekd about in a post last year. This includes movies such as Gravity, Life of Pi and 127 Hours, which always get some nominations, but rarely nail the big performances.

But enough of discussing the movie itself... What about Leo's performance? 
I'd say it was great, and deserving of recognition, but the emotional range of it was too dominated by pain, sadness and anger, which makes sense because of the story, but doesn't really allow a very wide range of emotions. 
And speaking about displaying emotion in a Isolation Survival Drama, if we compare Leo's Hugh Glass in The Revenant to Matt Damon's Mark Watney in The Martian (also a Best Actor and Best Movie contender), you'll see what I'm talking about.
In The Martian, Mark is also hurt, hungry, isolated (in freaking Mars) and his team asumes he's dead and leaves him to die (showing much more remorse about it, but still). Yet, this guy shows frustration, but also a bit of madness, happiness about the little things, surprise and hope. In fact, I'd say Matt's flaw is the opposite to Leo's, his character seemed sometimes masochistically thrilled to be there and perhaps it was missing a bit of darkness.

And I have to say it, there is something about this character that feels worn out, almost like a remix of many other of his roles...

✔ A man from a vintage era...

✔ That seems to be in control...

✔ Until something goes wrong...

✔ And then he suffers...

And yes, not all his movies follow this exactly, and he doesn't die or goes mad in all of them. I won't tell you the ending of The Revenant, but it's not a spoiler to say that he goes through a lot after the bear from the trailer unstiches him like an old doll.

So, is he winning an Oscar this year? I really think he will, but I wouldn't bet much money on it either.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Those weird times when international media makes comedy out of Venezuela/ns (not including the joke-like-but-actually-real news)

As I was having my morning coffee and checking my Facebook on this Sunday morning, I saw a friend sharing a post which translates to "Song I Venesuela is the hit of the season in Lithuania". The image of three men with cliche South American dictador outfits made it for me, and I needed to watch.
So this is how Lithuanian pop bands dress when they try to depict Venezuelans. Via
In case you feel like watching it, here's the full video with English subtitles:

And as I finished watching, I thought about a few other occasions in which Venezuela (and Venezuelans) has been made fun of by international comedy. And I don't mean when something so awful that is funny (when it's not happening to you) appears in the news (like that time everyone was teasing Venezuelans about the infamous toilet paper shortage), or when our country is used as an alternative setting to North Korea or some African desert for an action movie or video game where a violent and chaotic background is needed, 
I mean when things like that time when Justin Timberlake dressed as Elton John and dedicated a spoof of Lady Di's inspired song "Candle in the Wind" to the then recently deseaced Hugo Chavez.

This was for the opening speech of Saturday Night Life. For the record, when he says "everything in this song it's true", he's serious...

Speaking of Saturday Night Live, the show has a not-so-known semi-recurring Venezuelan character called Fericito, a Venezuelan comedian played by Fred Armisen (whose mother is Venezuelan so he knows what he's talking about). 
See the video where the guy was introduced to the show for the first time (sometime in the late nineties):

Fericito was a nightclub comedian and he had all the cliches of Venezuelan cheap Radio-Rochela-Style comedy, mixed with a Miamiesque-Variety-Show tackiness. The "catch line", the percussions, the stupid eyes and so on. The character was so succesful that for a while he had his own sketch called Showbiz Grande Explosion! (yes, with an exclamation mark, he's tacky like that).

But this isn't Fred Armisen's only time wearing the yellow-blue-and-red. He nailed the borderline dictador role with the infamous Parks and Recreation episode called Sister City (fifht of season two), where he plays Raul Alejandro Bastilla Pedro de Veloso de Morana (my guess this was to make fun of our tendency to have two long names followed by two long surnames, and use them all), the leader of a Venezuelan delegation sent to the town of Pawnee, because their city, Boraqua, is a Sister city to Leslie's midwest small town.

The American delegation is expecting a group of third world modest, poor, simpletons, but when they get a trio of cocky, authoritarian, loud, pen-stealer, big spender, romantic crazed, Miami loving, vain military representatives, hilarity ensues...

By the way, Fred gets an A+ for his Veneuzelan accent.

On a more local note, there was a Chilean commercial that went viral in Venezuela a few months ago because it made fun of Venezuelan president's comments about how a little bird spoke to him.
Watch and cry baby:

If you speak Spanish, you'll see that the accent is closer to a Cuban accent than to a natural Venezuelan one. I can assure you it wasn't an accident.

In a lighter and less political note, I'm gonna list a video called Signs you're Venezuelan by Venezuelan-American comedian Joanna Haufmann:

And then there is this video in College Humor of 2012's Miss Venezuela making an A-for-effort attempt to answer a final round question in Miss Universe in English. Is she nervous? Is she lost in translation? Is she crazy? we'll never know.

Do I find this stuff offensive? Not really... Actually I find it surprising when a foreign show or comedian makes fun of Venezuela, I'd say is a similar feeling to the one you get when you see your name on a can of Coke.

Do you find this offensive? Please, learn to take a joke.

If I ever find more examples, I'll update (if you have any and would like to share them, great!). And speaking about offensive jokes, just for the record, the only truly offensive ones are the ones made with hurtful intentions, even if they're the lightest and more family-friendly of them all.

So no, we're not all egocentric, salsa-dancing, guys with a thing for holding machine guns, but to be fair... imagine that a Venezuelan pop band decides to make a music video about Lithuania. Do you think it would be accurate, researched and free of cliches? Yeah right.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Some quick thoughts on the evolution of "The Force" through the three Star Wars "eras"

I already mentioned that The Force Awakens is one of the movies I liked the most last year. It's not odd that I've kept thinking about it, and one thing that has been in my mind is how differently The Force is presented in this one, compared to last decade's and last century's (and now that I put it like that, it seems like this is an ages long story... three generations and counting... wow).

In the first "era" of Star Wars (1977 to 1983), The Force is treated like this mystical energy field that connected all the living things in the galaxy. 

VERY new-agey. But perfect for a time when hippies were still roaming the Earth in large packs, and vague enough for anyone to make it their own and intepret it as they felt like it. Probably part of the reason that the concept became so loved and succesful.

Quoting Yoda (a very new-agey guy himself) from The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V): "For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us." 

In the second "era" of Star Wars (1999 to 2005), we saw all this metaphysical allure dissapear behind a "scientific" explanation. Now The Force wasn't just energy surrounding us and keeping the Galaxy alive, it was caused by these microscopic lifeforms living in the cells of creatures: the midi-chlorians.

Besides sounding like something you'll forget right after the 8th grade biology test, they were a fairly dissapointing attempt at shedding light where there was no darkness (as we say in Venezuela, "no aclares que oscurece", which means "don't explain 'cause you're making it all more confusing").

But let's give them some credit, it was the turn of the millenium and an explanation closer to hard science semmed like a better idea than something that was basically "because of magic".

And then we enter the third Star Wars Era (2015 and expected to be until 2019). So far, the best explanation of The Force in this new pack of films *now worries, no spoilers, as it's on the trailer* it's when Han Solo simply says "It's true... all of it". Now the Jedi, the Sith and The Force simply are, no explanation provided, they now happen to exist just as magic and fairies in any other Disney film.

So, which explanation do you prefer for The Force: the mystical energy field, the midi-chlorians or none?