Posts Tagged ‘Diego Luna’

How To Ruin Your Life Brilliantly

A Rainy Day in New York

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Elle Fanning, Timothee Chalamet, Selena Gomez, Liev Schreiber, Jude Law, Diego Luna, Rebecca Hall, Cherry Jones, Will Rogers

Oscar winning director and veteran scriptwriter Woody Allen (Hannah and Her Sisters, Annie Hall) delivers another witty slice of New York life filled with paranoia, lust and intrigue featuring all the hot young stars of the Instagram generation: Elle Fanning (The Beguiled) Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) and music celebrity turned actress Selena Gomezn (Rudderless) in his new film A Rainy Day in New York.

Oscar nominee Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) plays Gatsby Welles a disgruntled privileged millennial who accompanies his sweet and sometimes naïve girlfriend Ashleigh Enright wonderfully played with a bubbling effervesce by indie film darling Elle Fanning (Mary Shelley, The Beguiled, Maleficent)  to New York City to interview the difficult middle aged film director Roland Pollard superbly played by Live Schreiber (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Spotlight) who goes off the rails after the screening of his latest film and suffers an artistic breakdown.

As Ashleigh and Gatsby get inadvertently separated in the Big Apple, Ashleigh gets caught up with the foibles of hot movie star Francisco Vega played by Mexican star Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Milk, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and scriptwriter Ted Davidoff wonderfully played with just the right amount of neurosis by Oscar nominee Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) who confronts his wife Connie played by Rebecca Hall (Frost/Nixon, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) for having an affair.

Gatsby meets the wise cracking Shannon in a breakout performance by Selena Gomez on a student film project and they hit it off while afterwards he attempts to drown his sorrows at a glamourous cocktail bar in Manhattan where he meets a mysterious beautiful blond woman.

Back in his own territory, Woody Allen delivers a very funny scripted film about a day in the life of paranoid New Yorkers as the weather deteriorates along with their moral values. Chalamet and Fanning are brilliant as the two main protagonists proving once again director Allen’s ability to cast the hot young stars of contemporary cinema.  

There are some terrific cameo performances especially by Cherry Jones (Boy Erased, Whisky Tango Foxtrot) as Gatsby’s supposedly snobbish society mother who reveals to him her rather bizarre past much to her son’s utter despair.

For those that love classic Woody Allen films, make a plan to watch A Rainy Day in New York – it’s hilarious, funny and smart with a suitable twist at the end.

 A Rainy Day in New York gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is superbly scripted by Woody Allen with some great one liners including how to ruin your life brilliantly and ably uses all of New York’s legendary locations including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Rebellion in the Galaxy

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Jimmy Smits, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O’Reilly, Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones

British director Gareth Edwards grew up on the original Star Wars Trilogy like most young kids born in the 1970’s and was heavily influenced by directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The Godzilla and Monsters director pays homage to the original Star Wars trilogy in the superb spinoff film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story featuring a diverse ensemble cast.

Felicity Jones

In the lead roles are British actress and Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Inferno) as Jyn Eso and Mexican star Diego Luna (Milk, Elysium) as Cassian Andor along with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) as Eso’s father Galen Eso and unrecognizable Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) as treasonous Empire pilot turned Rebel Bodhi Rook.

Diego Luna

Audiences must remember that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a prequel to the original Star Wars film made in 1977 and centres on the rebels lead by Eso who plan on stealing the plans to the Empire’s galactic weapon of mass destruction, The Death Star. As the film unfolds and there is lots of inter-planetary travelling, Eso along with Andor and an Empire droid wonderfully played by Alan Tudyk battle the mighty Empire commandeered by an evil Orson Krennic superbly played by the blue eyed Australian star Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind).

Ben Mendelsohn

What is most impressive about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the tight narrative and impressive visual effects, the plot ably written by screenwriters Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz who pepper the action packed intergalactic journey with visual treasures and homages to the original Star Wars trilogy which dazzled the world back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Riz Ahmed

Any fanboy or girl of the original trilogy especially the first two films, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back will appreciate all the references in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story including the Death Star, brief appearances by the malignant Darth Vader voiced again by James Earl Jones and even a glimpse of R2D2 and C3PO as the droids wave goodbye to Eso and the gang as they travel to Scarrif, a tropical island planet with an Empire base which resembles the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai resulting in one of the best battle sequences seen in any of the Star Wars films.

Director Edwards sets the bar high with Rogue One with a tight storyline, witty dialogue and solid central performances by Felicity Jones and Diego Luna. There is also some influential supporting roles including Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) as Saw Gerrera who is Jyn Eso’s guardian after her father Galen is mysteriously captured by the Empire Stormtroopers and Jimmy Smits (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) reprising his role as Senator Bail Organa.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a superb prequel, a visual sci-fi feast which will have specific appeal to the dedicated fans of the Star Wars franchise. Now that George Lucas has sold the rights to Disney, the Star Wars universe is going to expand exponentially and in more innovative ways, cashing in at the all international box offices as each new film gets released.

This is highly recommended viewing for lovers of this extraordinarily imaginative Sci Fi franchise. If you love Star Wars then don’t miss Rogue One, it’s a classic.

 

Paradise Regained

Elysium

elysium

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Cast: Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna, Jodie Foster, Brandon Auret, Alice Braga, William Fichner, Wagner Moura

South African born director Neill Blomkamp’s new sci-fi drama Elysium is visually astounding, thought provoking and violent. It’s the year 2154 and the wealthy citizens of earth have abandoned the overpopulated planet to go and live in a state of luxury and physical wellness on a wheel shaped space ship orbiting the earth’s atmosphere known as Elysium. Back on earth, the poverty-stricken and physically ill inhabit teeming run down cities filled with violence, decay and disease, of which Los Angeles is the metaphoric urban centre. Those men who are fit enough to work, spend their days in menial industrial labour, manufacturing robots which will police the poor citizens of the once prosperous planet whilst the rich international citizens of Elysium live in an illusory paradise, with clean air, mansions and advanced medical science.

elysium_ver3

Matt Damon (Invictus, The Bourne Trilogy) plays Max a poor workman who as a boy dreams of travelling to Elysium and whilst growing up in an immigrant Mexican neighbourhood, befriends Frey played by the gorgeous Brazilian actress Alice Braga (City of God). Oscar winner Jodie Foster (Flightplan, Silence of the Lambs) plays Delacourt the malicious and ruthless defence secretary of Elysium who enforces the rules of exclusion, keeping illegal space immigrants from entering the super rich enclave. Whilst Elysium and the rubble strewn devastated Los Angeles, is metaphorically a story about the widening gap between rich and poor in a skewed yet almost relevant 21st century version of contemporary society, it is Blomkamp’s visually arresting and riveting style which keep audiences glued to a plot rife with Third World ironies and First World warnings.

The action and violence is top notch and District 9’s breakout actor Sharlto Copley stars as the malevolent South African mercenary Kruger who is hired by Foster to chase Max both on Earth and on Elysium. Watch out for the fantastic facial reconstruction sequence which makes Total Recall look like child’s play.

To reveal more about the plot would only give the twists away and in Elysium there are many, but what is so impressive about Blomkamp’s second Hollywood film is his increasingly inventive story is told with verve and candour whilst the theme of the world’s super rich receiving preferential medical treatment is both relevant and frighteningly apt. Paradise is regained as Max, equipped with a scary Mad Max neuro outfit battles with Kruger in a seemingly savage wasteland amidst a bid for a rather vicious and technological coup of the coveted Elysium.

Diego Luna (Milk, Contraband) stars as Julio who assists Max is achieving his quest of reaching Elysium, which takes on Biblical proportions along with William Fichtner (The Lone Ranger) as the evil industrialist Carlyle.

Heavily influenced by such classics as Blade Runner, Mad Max and even Slumdog Millionaire, Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium is both impressive in scale, with exhilarating action and special effects sequences aided by the best sound editing heard on film recently.

Whilst all the plot twists might not add up and in parts characterization is too sparse, the overall vision of a dystopian society which has no remorse at leaving a massive poverty stricken, malnourished and scarred population to fester on planet Earth while the wealthy live in a high tech gated lavish community such as Elysium, is enough to view this as more than just another sci-fi action thriller, but one with an overt and brutal socio-political message: the wealthy cannot prosper at the expense of the neglected poor whether it’s through medical science or technological and economic advancement.

Elysium is brilliant, captivating, horrifying and visionary, a sort of Moonraker on acid. Recommended for serious Sci-Fi fans and lovers of District 9.

Activism and Martyrdom

Milk

directed by

Gus van Sant

The article below was prepared for a film workshop and discussion of Milk held at the inaugural Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival November 2011.

“My name is Harvey Milk and I want to recruit you”.

 

Political Activist, Martyr and lover of Opera

These words were used at a speech Milk made on the San Francisco City Hall steps as an elected city supervisor at the Gay Freedom Day Parade on the 25th June 1978 four months before being assassinated. This scene in Gus Van Sant’s film is critical to the viewing of Milk as not just as a film about the Gay rights movement in America, but a film about civil rights and the fight for protection against bigotry and the preservation of individual freedoms which should be enshrined in any democracy.
Milk was an activist for Gay rights and for human rights and he galvanized the communities of Castro Street in the Eureka Valley and also the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco for the protection of civil liberties. Milk was also the first openly gay man to be elected to an official position in a major metropolitan American city. He was a south-African equivalent of an Executive councillor and not merely a ward councillor.

Historically any political movement with a strong base of supporters, martyrdom works. There are examples of martyrs in a range of socio-political movements worldwide from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, to Ruth First. Milk knew of the risks he was taking as an openly gay supervisor who was ready to engage in public debate at a time when the gay rights movement was blossoming along the American West Coast.

Milk was ready to die for his beliefs and was already casting himself in the role of a martyr – he persevered in the face of constant death threats. He challenged opposing viewpoints which were mostly grounded in the form of religious bigotry and parochial conservatism crystallized in the form of Florida religion fanatic Anita Bryant and Californian Republican Senator John Briggs.

Milk stood up for what was right at a particular moment in a historical context which reflected the aftermath of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and followed on from similar social political movements in America most notably the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the anti-war demonstrations of the late 60s and early 70s (notably about the Vietnam war). Harvey Milk was a skilled political activist and knew how to mobilise his supporters effectively.
Milk’s challenge to gay and lesbian people in America was this – We have to let them know who we are. You have to be open about your sexuality. He was the political version of the current crop of Hollywood stars and singers who are breaking through the glass closet Zachary Quinto and Ricky Martin, David Hyde Pearce, Neil Patrick Harris.

As a film, Milk was hugely successful for 3 reasons –
1) Director Gus van Sant is an openly gay director and has touched on homosexuality in his previous films, My Own Private Idaho and his award winning film Elephant.
2)  The screenwriter Dustin Lance Black who won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay was openly gay.
3) Milk as a film was researched and had the input of surviving members of the Gay rights movement of the 1970s notably the influential Cleve Jones, played by Emile Hirsch in the film, Milk was shot in all the actual locations in and around San Francisco, notably the City Hall and Castro Street neighbourhood. Van Sant encouraged all the actors to improvise in their characters in the authentic locations they were shooting in. Seasoned actor, Sean Penn’s performance of Harvey Milk is exceptionally brilliant, notably winning him a 2nd Best Actor Award.

There is a moment in Milk when Harvey is delivering the recruitment speech at Gay Freedom Parade that this biopic transcends the boundaries of being just a film about gay rights, but a film about justifiable civil rights. Ironically the call for recruitment sounds very similar to Uncle Sam calling for new army recruits to the US military. Gay people came to San Francisco from small towns across America and the gay community swelled after the end of World War 2 when many closeted military men disembarked at San Francisco after returning from the Pacific theatre of War and remained in the city, not obviously keen to return to conservative mid-Western towns.

Viewing Milk in a South African context

South Africa is an intensely political society and as a new democracy which has enshrined the rights of every individual by having one of the most liberal constitutions, gay people are protected by the constitution but is there an adequate justice system to enforce the civil liberties of gay people in SA. This point is made in Milk in the 70s when gay men are beaten up and victimised by SF police officers in the film. Even though gay rights are enshrined in the South African constitution and discrimination based on sexual orientation is forbidden, does the South African police force adequately uphold these rights in contemporary society? In terms of Gay Pride marches worldwide from Sao Paulo to Warsaw – the role of the police as both protector and persecutor is brilliantly explored in the documentary Beyond Gay: the Politics of Pride.

Best line in the film – “I sound like a homosexual with Power” – from being marginalised to being politicized that was the legacy that Harvey Milk gave to the American and the international gay rights movement.
Harvey Milk was a quintessential Gay politician who only served in office for one year but his impact on social change and his symbol as a martyr for the gay rights movement in America and internationally is huge. Milk was 40 years old when he first came out the closet and started living as an openly gay man.
The character of Dan White played by Josh Brolin in Milk represents a complete dichotomy from Harvey Milk. White was also a fellow city supervisor from a strong Irish Catholic neighbourhood who was concerned more with supporting a family on a municipal salary than supporting any of Harvey Milk or Mayor George Moscone’s liberal city ordinances. Dan White viewed Harvey Milk as a threat and he acted upon that threat, whereas Milk underestimated the danger of Dan White as a potential enemy. The last quarter of the film, there is a sense that Milk had almost become cavalier with his political power despite receiving numerous death threats. Milk was willing to become a martyr and for the cause, often remarking that politics was theatre.

Politics is Theatre

Politics is theatre except the scripts are different, but there remain the stars even they become legends as martyrs.

Van Sant skilfully shows not just the extent of the Milk’s activism but also his passion for the gay rights cause at the immense cost of his personal life and safety. The film beautifully reconstructs the fateful events leading up to Milk’s assassination and the truly poignant ending of Harvey Milk being heralded as a martyr by the community he served and adored. Milk is more about Martyrdom and Activism in a socio-political movement in the 1970s and the call for equal civil rights for gays and all other minorities.

Today in San Francisco there are convention centres, streets and public institutions named after slain City Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Corner of Castro and Market Street in Eureka Valley is now called Harvey Milk Plaza.
The immortalization of martyrs for a cause is not new in any political movement and is especially significant in the current SA political context with conference centres, highways and streets being renamed after struggle heroes against Apartheid more appropriately in cities such as Durban and Johannesburg.

Proposition 6 as put forward by Californian Senator Briggs was legislation that allowed the California state to discriminate against employees in this case teachers on the basis of sexual orientation. Milk’s biggest triumph was getting the gay communities and the broader society to vote against the implementation of proposition 6.
Irony is that Gay Marriage in America as a federal law is still banned. Only several US states have passed legislation allowing gay marriage to date including Vermont.
Proposition 8 (ballot title: Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment; called California Marriage Protection Act by proponents) was a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008 state elections. The measure added a new provision, Section 7.5 of the Declaration of Rights, to the California Constitution, which provides that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” – Wikipedia source.
Innovative film style of Gus Van Sant –Van Sant’s visual style is unique from extreme close-ups highlighting the intimacy of the characters to showcasing the broad political activism that Milk did to galvanize and protect the gay community in San Francisco in the 1970’s. Political activism involved taking over a block then a neighbourhood and gaining support and credence for specific municipal issues.
Suggested Reading and Viewing: ~
Biography: The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life & Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts
Documentary: Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride by Bob Christie

 

A Fine and Fabulous Portrayal

milk

The brilliant film Milk is recommended not so much for its excellent coverage of political mobilization but more for Sean Penn’s superb and heartfelt portrayal of Harvey Milk. Of course there are those seventies fashions, James Franco skinny dipping and the wonderfully coy Emile Hirsh. Well worth the viewing.

If viewers loved director Gus Van Sant’s earlier works including My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy and Elephant, then this film is up there with Gus Van Sant’s original masterpieces.

There is a detailed analysis of Milk under the title Activism and Martyrdom http://www.davidrwalker.co.za/2011/11/milk/ in a comprehensive article praising the merits of this film as a biography and a moving portrait of the Gay Rights Movement in America.

Milk also stars James Franco, Diego Luna, Emile Hirsch, Alison Pill and a fine supporting performance by Josh Brolin as supervisor Dan White.

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