3 posts categorized "Magical Realism"

January 14, 2019


Sailboat posterAustralian actor-turned-director Cameron Nugent’s debut feature is an inept magical realist story infused with a tone-deaf sense of humor and a vague sense of thematic direction. This film’s rudderless political subtext, involving an immigrant Mexican family living in an unnamed dusty American border town, gives way to bizarre sexual content (witness Jake Busey’s cock-show as an elementary school teacher in tight sweat pants with no underwear). A pro-Big-Tobacco message gets smuggled in for good measure. Shooting guns into the air for no reason also happens out of context. Nothing adds up.

Noel Gugliemi plays Jose, a face-tattooed Chicano family man with Meyo (Elizabeth De Razzo), his loyal housekeeping wife, and their six-year-old son Sailboat (Julian Atocani Sanchez). Jose supports his family’s leaning ramshackle house with a single wood beam that prevents the structure from collapsing on its occupants, ostensibly killing them. Jose drives around in a homie-not-approved four door ‘50s Oldsmobile missing its backseat doors.

There might be some arcane political commentary the filmmakers are attempting to make with the collapsing-house metaphor, but it doesn’t come across. 


The child actor Sanchez delivers monotone voice over narration that upends the movie before it gets started.

“You find the most important things when you’re not looking.” Sailboat finds a ukulele that every character inexplicably calls a guitar.

Sailboat 1

This “important thing” enables our young musical prodigy to write a song that casts a spell over anyone who hears it. The problem is that the filmmakers didn’t go to the trouble of creating a piece of music to fill the bill. They instead play a single tone akin to a honking car horn whenever Sailboat performs his soul-quenching sonic creation. This is just lazy filmmaking. It’s infuriating for an audience to feel so openly insulted by irresponsible filmmakers.

Without irony, a repeating guitar motif arrives in the guise of “The Sound of Silence.”

JK Simmons

J.K. Simmons’s presence seemingly endorses “A Boy Called Sailboat,” although the A-List actor probably shot his scenes in a single day, and didn’t know much about the movie beyond his isolated bit as a used vehicle salesman in the middle of nowhere.

The people who come from miles around to hear Sailboat play his (silent) song sure do enjoy Meyo’s spicy meatballs. There are a lot of things not right about “A Boy Called Sailboat,” not the least of which are the mixed messages the film sends to kids. This is not a movie to leave laying around for your children to watch alone or even with parental guidance.

Not Rated. 92 mins.

One Star


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November 29, 2017


Shape_of_waterThe five years that Guillermo Del Toro spent writing and developing “The Shape of Water” (with co-writer Vanessa Taylor) pays off handsomely for this return-to-form behind Del Toro’s most recent masterpiece “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006).

The wildly imaginative auteur once again delves into magic realism, albeit with a determinedly America-based story that presses on social issues of racism and sexism in a methodical way. Everything about the film is balanced to an acute degree. The result is an instant classic of magical realism that takes the viewer deep into the souls of the narrative’s six primary characters; no simple feat, especially considering that one of them is a tall sea creature capable of biting the head off a cat or of falling in love with a human.

Richard Jenkins

“The Shape of Water” is a movie that works best the less you know about it going in. Suffice it to say the story is set in Cold War era Baltimore where a mute cleaning woman (played with earthy aplomb by Sally Hawkins) finds an unexpected soulmate. The ubiquitous Richard Jenkins gives a beautifully nuanced portrayal of a closeted gay ad artist living in the oppressive political landscape of 1962 America. Michael Shannon is ideally cast as a Government agent brought in to investigate, assess, and supervise a sea creature (elegantly embodied by Doug Jones) that is considered to be a God in his country of origin.

Sally Hawkins

Paul D. Austerberry’s flawless production design supports Del Toro’s mercurial approach to a stunning color palate of watery blues and greens. You will never think of turquoise, or “teal,” the same way again. Few films achieve the stunning beauty that this one does.

Most pronounced is Del Toro’s effective use of sexuality to ground his characters in their humanity, or lack thereof. The terrain is magically real, but the characters are anchored in their humanity and corporal needs.

Shape of Water movie trailer gives FIRST look at Abe and drops the F-bomb |  Films | Entertainment | Express.co.uk

“The Shape of Water” is an unapologetically adult movie that commands multiple viewings. It is not a film to be watched on a small screen. This film’s estimable visual impact requires a large scale in order to drink in and digest its narrative weight. As the title implies, this is a movie that surrounds the viewer’s psyche and physical being. It is a film that achieves everything it sets out to accomplish. The cinematic experience of watching it is truly breathtaking. That Del Toro was able to make the movie on a budget of just $19.3 million, with Toronto sitting in for Baltimore, is a testament to his visionary and communicative abilities as a gifted filmmaker capable of creating real magic.  

The Shape of Water (2017) | Dog And Wolf

Rated R. 123 mins.

5 Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

November 09, 2007


Love_in_the_time_of_choleraJavier’s Illusion
Magical Realist Novel Almost Hits One Right Note
By Cole Smithey

The famed 1985 magical realist novel of Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez gets an ambitious but off-key cinematic adaptation that trips up except in the casting of Javier Bardem as its romantically enthusiastic protagonist.

British director Mike Newell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") works from a script by Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist") to tell the epochal story of Florentino Ariza, a young poet living in turn-of-the-century Cartagena, Columbia who falls hopelessly in love with a girl named Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). Fermina’s protective father (John Leguizamo) facilitates her rushed marriage to Dr. Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt), a European-educated aristocrat, thereby dooming Florentino to swear a lasting love that waits busily for the doctor’s death in order to reclaim his true love. But when the momentous event finally occurs some 51 years later, Fermina takes torrential offense at Florentino’s vulgar attempt at cashing in on his vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.

Love in the Time of Cholera Review | SBS Movies

"Don't show your face again for the years of life that are left to you; I hope there are very few of them."

Fermina’s hostile rebuke sets off the film’s flashback progression that eventually makes some sense of the its grotesque title.

The current tendency toward magical realist films demonstrates a deeper reach for escapism than common film genres present. Movies like "The Martian Child," "Lars and the Real Girl," "Wristcutters: A Love Story," "Slipstream," "The Darjeeling Limited," "Atonement," and even Todd Haynes ode to Bob Dylan "I’m Not There" all share magical realist themes that go beyond their geographical and cultural context toward a universal element of inexplicable imagination.

Love in the Time of Cholera" | Salon.com

It’s not a far reach to conjecture that our current geo-political and ecological predicaments have cornered some filmmakers into searching for unequivocal truths to supplement a reality strained by devastation and doom. A significant element of magical realist texts is the responsibility they put on the reader or viewer to decode the material. "Love in the Time of Cholera" makes its first demand for ciphering via a juxtaposed title that pits a subjective experience against a haunting plague — interject any kind of war against humanity.

Love in the Time of Cholera | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Although Florentino and Fermina are in love, the capitalist demand for greed decrees that she must marry a cad who will eventually cheat on her. An important irony lies in Florentino’s incessant substitution of heartbroken emotion that causes him to seek sexual refuge at every opportunity for the 50 years that he waits for Fermina. The assertion that Florentino makes to Fermina’s papa that "There is no greater glory than to die for love" mutates into keeping count of his carnal conquests (well over 600 before he attempts to reunite with Fermina). The fidelity that he swears finds more devotion to his own transcendent stamina, and his loose code of ethics finds him stalking a married woman.

Review: Love in the Time of Cholera - Slant Magazine

Mostly, there are bawdy laughs to be had over Florentino’s slapstick sexual connections that occur in alleys, parlors, and on boats. The character’s obvious need to be loved proves to be a powerful aphrodisiac for attracting female partners, but the filmmakers miss the mark on keeping an appropriate tone the way Spike Jonze did with "Being John Malkovich," a near-perfect example of a magical realist film. The winky-wink casting of actors like Benjamin Bratt, John Leguizamo, and Liev Schreiber in secondary roles distracts from the story’s momentum and takes the viewer out of the movie regardless of the quality of their performances.

Love in the Time of Cholera (film) - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia

The film works best when Florentino exerts his poetic skill to write love poems for inarticulate lovers as a side business. He’s most fulfilled when enticing romantic commitment between others with rhymes that hit you with the full force of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s inflamed writing style. If you want to get the woof and warp of "Love in the Time of Cholera," you’ll have to read the book. That said, Javier Bardem's intoxicating performance is reason enough to see the movie.

Rated R. 138 mins.

2 Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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