"OK," I said to my movie-going partner, as we left the 8-plex, "Let's describe the film in three words."
It took her only a step or two: "Melodromático, chistoso and... cheap."
"Chistoso meaning unintentionally funny, I assume?"
"Of course," she said. We both had trouble keeping from laughing out loud when confronted with several of the movie's overly melodramatic dramatic situations.
"I agree. And how about predictable, lack of an interesting plot, and Keanu Reeves," I suggest.
"That's too many words," she shot back.
But this film deserves a tongue lashing. I wanted A Walk in the Clouds to be good; I was pulling for it since the promo material arrived in May. It had to succeed. It was the new film from Alfonso Arau, co-director of Como Agua Para Chocolate(Like Water for Chocolate), the brilliant 1993 film that garnered top honors in Cannes and Mexico, but got snubbed at the Academy Awards. This time, with Hollywood's backing, Arau would play the game from inside, and he'd show 'em how beauty, insight, and magical realism can work in domestic films.
But the 1940s period piece, a love story of an altruistic GI just back from the front (Reeves) and the only daughter of proud Napa wine growers (Aitana Sánchez-Girón) is neither magical nor insightful, and only slightly beautiful.
How can you cheer a film that features, as its climax, a fire à la Gone with the Wind (I'd swear those were gas jets spreading the flames so fast), and Reeves tearing up a half-dead, 400 year-old grape vine in order to save the family farm? This is not a giveaway. You could see it coming 30 minutes away.
How deep a love story can you expect from a script writer, Robert Mark Kamen, who specializes in action films such as the Karate Kid series and Lethal Weapon 3?
Only veteran Anthony Quinn, playing the wise, drunken abuelo, rises above the mundane story and his typecast role, to bring a sense of joy to the screen.
"I'm sad," said my partner as I started up the car, "because it's a Mexican director and it would have been a good opportunity for Latinos in Hollywood." But isn't Hollywoood discovering the Latino community (Mi Familia, Desperado)? There will be more, and better opportunities than A Walk in the Clouds, no? We pull onto the freeway in silence.
Imagine a canvas surface that can change at your command: colors and images swirl and move and reinvent themselves at your command. All the while this "painting" tells you a complex story. It speaks to you; you answer back and it responds again.
This treasure is the artwork of Lucia Grossberger-Morales, who, with a mouse as a paintbrush and a computer keyboard as her palette, creates interactive, multimedia computer art. Her latest computer creation is called Sangre Boliviana.
Sangre Boliviana is a CD-ROM disk containing nine interactive, multimedia parts that explore the artist's relationship with her native Bolivia. Each part tells a story with surreal, beautiful and sometimes painful images. All nine pieces are an interactive adventure exploring the limits of the meshing of computers and art.
It all began 15 years ago, when she was looking for a medium for her art. "I had a dream I was a little dark-skinned boy with a magic box that was a so powerful," explains Grossberger-Morales, "I knew after that dream that computers were to be my medium. So I sold everything and bought a computer."
Like a genie with a magic box, Grossberger-Morales directs her "intelligent canvas" to not only show art, but to envelop those adventurous enough to experience the enchantment it holds within.
You can see more of Lucia's work in this issue by going to her area in the arte section.
Sangre Boliviana is at the Santa Cruz Art Museum, the McPherson Center, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz, from September 2-24.
September is Hispanic Heritage Month, at KQED-TV, Channel 9, with programming that explores a diverse array of Latino cultures and issues. The San Francisco public TV station has presented Hispanic Heritage month for several years now, and this year's programming features a slew of excellent shows on Latino issues, culture and history.
Chances are, you won't have time to see the entire month's worth of programming, so KQED's Tina Bachemin recommends two shows that should not be missed: the award-winning KQED production "Neighborhoods: The Hidden Cities in San Francisco-The Mission," airing on September 13 at 8pm, and "Songs from the Homeland," showing September 20 at 10pm, which explores the Mexican American experience through Texas border music. "A lot of people don't understand Tejano music," say Bachemin. "They've heard the name Selena and that's about it. 'Songs from the Homeland' tells the story of the development of this genre."
Sun., Sept. 17, 1:30pm
An examination of the challenges of maintaining South America's economic and cultural freedoms in the face of strong foreign and domestic pressure.
Tues., Sept. 19, 10pm
A report focusing on the thousands of Cuban detainees being held in U.S. prisons without any charges against them and without due process or legal redress.
Wed., Sept. 20, 11pm
An "Austin City Limits" program featuring Tejano music.
Fri., Sept. 22, 11pm
A performance concert featuring Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, an Afro-Cuban percussion, vocal and dance company.
Sun., Sept. 24, 12:30pm
A profile of California's Mexican-American population and the Latin American Caribbean communities of Miami and New York City.
Sat., Sept. 30, 8am
Adapted from Gary Soto's novel of the same name, this drama follows the adventures of a working-class Chicano boy who is invited to the pool party by a rich Chicana girl.
Sat., Sept. 30, 3:30pm
Host Huell Howser traces the history of mariachi music
from its origins in Jalisco, México to present day sounds on the
streets of L.A.
The word's out on the street: Seven years after their first record, Caifanes is calling it quits. At press time, the group's publishing company was denying the "rumor," but sources say the departure of guitarist Alejandro Marcovich is the key to the group's decision.
The breakup comes while the group is enjoying its greatest popularity ever with its monster hit Bajo el Nervio del Volcán. Last year, Volcán was awarded Billboard's "Spanish Language Rock Album of the Year," and the disc was their breakthrough release into the tough U.S. market.
"On one hand it's a shame," says Elena Rodrigo, rock promoter and executive director of Aztlán Records, "It signifies the end of a cycle, and age, that started and ended with them. On the other hand, there are new groups just as promising as Caifanes was, they're just not as well known yet."