Elisa & Marcela Review

Reviewed by Luis Fernando Reyes Diaz

CREDIT: Netflix

When my younger brother Raul invited me to join “The Nerd Corps” as a writer for their website, I was delighted to do so. Hell, I love to write. I might not be great at it, but I really do enjoy it. However, when he asked me to review a foreign film from Netflix, I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to write about “BoJack Horseman”. Once again, life has denied me yet another chance happiness, or so it seems. Oh well, perhaps one day I’ll get to write a review of “BoJack”. Perhaps, one day. 

Anyway, I ended up deciding to watch “Elisa & Marcela” (2019), a black-and-white film about the romance of two young women. Set in turn of the twentieth-century northwest Spain, the movie’s plot intrigued me a lot. Having been raised by the public education system in Texas, I was taught that lesbians didn’t come into existence until the 1990s when Ellen DeGeneres invented them. Seeing as the film is based on “true events”, you can only imagine how confused I was. As the film started, I wondered if Isabel Coixet’s movie would be a master class in historical revisionism.  

The film begins in Argentina in 1925. Initially, we follow a young woman who seeks out an older woman outside of Buenos Aires. The older woman begins to recount her life in turn of the century Galicia. 

Our titular characters Marcela (Greta Fernández) and Elisa (Natalia de Molina) meet when the former starts attending the latter’s school. They immediately fall in love with one another, but can’t find a way to express it because they’re growing up in a time period in Spain’s history when everything is in black and white. Did I already mention that this film was shot in black-and-white? Ooops! Moreover, just in case you didn’t get the hint that this a historical film, Coixet reminds you how conservative Spain was in the past when Marcela’s father sends her off to a school in Madrid after he starts sensing that his daughter is becoming a feminist and that she also might be a lesbian. 

A couple of years later, Elisa reunites with Marcela, who’s now a teacher in Galicia. Elisa moves in with Marcela, permitting themselves to be intimate with one another, both emotionally and physically. Unfortunately, their happiness doesn’t last long because the town’s people aren’t ready to be woke. Their anger and disgust towards the couple eventually causes Elisa to migrate supposedly to Cuba. Fortunately, before leaving, Marcela learned that her English cousin Mario has recently drowned. In what has to be the most unbelievable attempt at tackling the subject of “passing” ever filmed, Elisa returns to town, pretending to be Mario. 

Mario convinces a local priest that he really, really wants to marry his cousin. The priest, who’s clearly blinder than I am (and I’m legally blind), happily agrees to wed Mario and Marclea. Unlike the priest, the villagers are not gullible enough to fall for the trick. Fearing for their safety, Elisa and Marcela flee to Porto, Spain Lite–“Portugal” as it’s officially known–where they try to raise money to immigrate to Argentina. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Marcela is pregnant during all of this. My bad! Honestly, I forgot to mention that because the way that this film deals with Marcela getting pregnant is the best example of lazy plot development that I’ve seen in a while. In fact, for a couple of minutes I thought that Marcela and Elisa were faking the pregnancy as badly as Elisa is trying to pass as Mario.

The authorities in Porto eventually discover that Mario is actually a woman and that they’re dealing with the same-sex couple that the police in Spain are trying to apprehend. While in prison, Marcela gives birth to a baby girl. Things aren’t looking good, but fortunately the mayor of Porto and his wife become friends with our protagonist. Unlike almost everyone else whom Elisa and Marcela interact with, the mayor and his wife are really kind people. In fact, the mayor is so unwilling to hand Elisa and Marcela over to the Spanish that he makes it possible for them to escape to Argentina. But before they can make their escape, Marcela decides to leave her daughter behind with the mayor and his wife. Spoiler alert warning! It turns out that Marcela’s daughter is the young woman whom we meet at the film’s beginning.  

At the risk of sounding like “a hater”–as the youth nowadays call a critic–”Elisa & Marcela” could’ve used another round of revisions. It has a powerful story to tell. For crying out loud, Elisa and Marcela’s marriage is the first recorded same-sex marriage in Spanish history! But in Coixet’s hands, the importance of this historical moment is lost in the film’s lackluster plot and scenery. And while I certainly would recommend watching this film, especially for those of you who like to discuss foreign films with your Tinder dates, I can’t help but give it a B-. In other words, it’s watchable.  

Hustlers Maneuvers Itself Into a Bonafide Hit for Originality in 2019

In Hustlers, Lorene Scafaria provides us with a groundbreaking film about sex work and how it maneuvers the 2008 Recession while including an Oscar worthy performance by Jennifer Lopez.

CREDIT: STX Films

The newest directorial effort from Lorene Scafaria is born from an article in 2015 from New York Magazine, “The Hustlers at Scores” by Jennifer Pressler. The film follows the cast of Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, and Cardi B as dancers that try to maneuver their work during the recession in 2008 until the team of Lopez, Wu, Reinhart, and Palmer decide to drug powerful men from Wall Street then use their money to pay themselves and the club they want to support.

Obviously the film is directed by Scafaria, a woman, so the female gaze is at work in this film which makes it a much more interesting take. Let’s be real, if this film was directed by a man I cannot imagine it being this grounded and nuanced while not being entirely “graphic.” Even though they do play dancers at a strip club these women never really feel like objects because they are not only seen as dancers. We carefully examine and explore the life outside of the club of each one of these women. The film is seen through the lens of Constance Wu’s character who talks to a journalist portrayed by Julia Stiles as she recaps her life and the events that went down in the club they worked at during the recession.

CREDIT: STX Films

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez’s dynamic throughOut the film makes it a delightful and enticing moviegoing experience. Another aspect that I seem to have enjoyed so much was the music and attention to detail to create the time period this story takes place in. Usher comes into the club at one point and you cannot imagine the smile on my face as “Love In This Club” played during the scene. Todd Banhazl’s superlative cinematography creates the atmosphere of the film with some interesting writing choices by Scafaria.

Even though the script feels a little uneasy at times with to me feeling like it is balancing two tones at the same time. Lorene Scafaria still directs a hit, and there is something under the surface in this story about betrayal, sisterhood, and the paranoia surrounding the recession that makes it a surprising hit after those credits roll.

Other than what is stated, there seems to be an aspect of this film that stands out from the rest, and that is in the performance by one Nuyorican icon, Jennifer Lopez. Believe me when I say that Jennifer Lopez’s performance in this film is Oscar worthy. She is powerful, vulnerable, and an incredible mentor to these dancers throughout the film that is enticing and eye opening to watch on screen. J Lo is able to wrap herself around this character while truly becoming a “hustler.” The versatility shown by her will definitely push her for a campaign once Oscar season starts to ramp up.

Even though Ramona is in control, the film controls itself as it provides a bonafide hit that will grow with its audience throughout the year. Hustlers is an entertaining but heartbreaking film that you should definitely plan on watching.

4/5

Encyclopedia of Super

A Review of Jason Inman’s Super Soldiers

Photo Credit: WorldofBlackHeroes

I suppose I should be proud to be the writer of ‘The Nerd Corps’ first book review on this site as I offer up my opinions on Jason Inman’s ‘Super Soldiers’ in this post.  As an adult it has grown quite difficult to find time to read as my attention has turned from only school and books to a life full of dog walks, significant other dates, podcast recordings, movie watches and full-blown attention deficit disorder at times.  I did my best to read this as quickly as I could and unfortunately that was over the span of a few months.  So, to Jason and everyone else, I apologize in the time it took to write this review.

Starting off, let me introduce Jason Inman who you may have heard on the podcast twice as he graciously agreed to talk with myself and Raul for around an hour each time (Episodes 85 and 237 if you want to take a listen).  Jason is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an author of books (duh) and comics (Jupiter Jet, Science!, etc.), and quoting from his website jasoninman.com “a former host of DC All Access and a regular guest on Collider Movie Talk, Geek & Sundry, Collider Heroes, Screen Junkies, SourceFed, and Film HQ…Besides uploading weekly videos on his youtube channel, Jawiin, Jason has hosted his own podcast Geek History Lesson for over five years which was nominated for a Podcast Award”.  These two aspects of Jason, that of a veteran and that of the encyclopedia of all things nerd, come into play with his book Super Soldiers which focuses on the comic book heroes and villains who served the United States military. 

First, I must comment on the ease of reading I found with this book.  Jason has the ability to condense a lot of history of these super powered figures into four to eight pages each. His inclusion of many of the lesser known heroes and villains such as Gravedigger, Isaiah Bradley, and Nuke along with various unfamiliar (to me at least) details of the more popular figures (Captain America, Punisher, etc.) helped keep my attention piqued as each chapter I was exploring the details of someone I didn’t know or finding out more about the heroes I had grown up with.  Jason does not shy away from the controversial aspects of each character’s history either but delves right into their history, be it Batwoman’s sexuality during the peak of “don’t ask, don’t tell” or the mistreatment of Gravedigger and Isaiah Bradley due to being black men in a WWII America.  Any comic book fan will want to run out and pick up the back issues of many of these character’s comics (I’m personally going to buy up as much of Gravedigger’s “Men of War” as I can find).

On top of all this, Jason includes his own military experiences helping to bridge that gap between comic book lore and reality.  From speaking on the difficulty of transitioning back to civilian life, just like War Machine, to pranking his sergeant ala Beetle Bailey, he is able to compare and contrast the life of an enlisted soldier with these fictional stories of super powered (and sometimes not so superpowered aka Sgt. Rock) heroes.

This, in my humble opinion, is a must read for all fans of comics and comic book heroes.  The amount of information contained within these 218 pages is astounding, so be sure to keep this close at hand when researching who came before Captain America or how Flash Thompson went from bully to hero.  As Sir Francis Bacon coined once upon a time, “Knowledge is power” and as Super Soldiers goes, “Knowledge is Super Power”. YoungYoda out.

P.S. be sure to pick up Super Soldiers on Amazon and give a follow to Jason at the following: Twitter & Instagram- @Jawiin; Go listen to his podcast “Geek History Lesson” (@GHLPodcast) wherever you listen to podcasts.

IT Chapter 2: The Clown Returns With a Hit (Review)

IT Chapter Two is an impressive sequel to its predecessor that delivers on all cylinders from the establishing shot to the final credits.

CREDIT: Warner Bros.

We constantly talk about the state of horror in the industry, and how much the genre keeps evolving into a refreshed and insightful style of this incredible medium called filmmaking. For me, my very ignorant opinion on horror changed in 2017 with Andres Muschietti’s hit “IT (or known as IT Chapter One).” After being blown away by the coming of age/horror masterpiece by the Mama director in 2018, I would be blown away by another director in the name of Ari Aster with his directorial debut, Hereditary. Now in 2019, I am eagerly anticipating the conclusion of this story with IT Chapter Two and I can say that this is one that will be one I will be talking about for the rest of the year.

I don’t think I have been this nervous about a sequel to a reboot in a long while. Now to preface, I think what helped the most with this watch was that we recently watched its predecessor again. IT Chapter Two is a monumental achievement by Muschietti and his incredible cast and crew. The film delivers on everything it has riding on it some aspects being the direction, dynamics between the adult Losers, and underlying story of revisiting trauma.

CREDIT: Warner Bros.

This time around the Loser’s Club are played by Jessica Chastain (Beverly), James McAvoy (Bill), Bill Hader (Richie), Isiah Mustafa (Mike), Jay Ryan (Ben), James Ransone (Eddie), Andy Bean (Stanley), and of course the incredible Bill Skarsgard returns to deliver a goosebumps inducing performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The younger cast returns to portray themselves again with some accompanying de-aging technology (which by the way is pretty much unrecognizable). The adult cast works wonderfully together and it feels like the spirit of the Loser’s Club never leaves them. Some of my favorite dynamics were Beverly/Ben, Richie/Eddie, and Bill/Mike. Each of the components of the club help each other to form a bond in the film that you truly believe from beginning to end. This sequel never actually feels like a sequel even though it picks up 27 years after the events of Chapter One. We never lose sight of the things that made the first installment incredible even though the story is much more mature.

IT Chapter Two is not better or worse than Chapter One but it is just the right blend of what to expect from the film with some outstanding aspects. Andres Muschietti has provided us with a horror masterpiece that we will be keeping in conversation for years to come. Something tells me we will also be doing the same with this incredible director. I for one cannot wait to see what this incredible creative force will bring to his next directorial effort The Flash.

Another Shark Tale…But Different

A Review of ‘bad cgi sharks’

Photo Credit: Bad CGI Sharks

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a fan when it comes to the B-movie genre, especially when it is one which involves sharks.  My eyes have been on the receiving end of too many badly acted, directed, and written scripts that have possibly dropped my IQ further than the copious amounts of alcohol I had consumed while day drinking in college.  Sharknado to me is almost as bad as the plastic surgeon hired by Tara Reid and if you listened to my comments on “The Nerd Corps” podcast, then you know my disdain of ‘The Meg’, which I refused to watch.  If I wanted to see Jason Statham punching and running from a large object, then I would just watch Hobbs and Shaw.

Where many of these movies falter is that they either don’t know they’re a horrible b-movie shark flick, or they do know it but bad acting and heavy-handed action sequences overpower the slight comedy sprinkled in (which, unfortunately, generally comes across as corny).  ‘Bad CGI Sharks’ however has decided to flip this and instead of relying on overpriced action sequences, they instead inject a far more comedic approach, relying on the dialogue (comedic not character) and a brotherly love story to be their foundation (they also throw in a magic Italian director who has the power to basically do whatever the f*ck he wants, which is kind of cool and more believable than a payphone existing in 2019).

Through the film, I found myself caring about the brothers and their story.  Matthew, being the more serious of the two, is made to deal with his estranged brother Jason who has basically downed 20 redbulls and is set free in Hollywood with his only dream being to make a Shark Movie they had written when they were eleven.  The dynamic between their two personalities helped set the tone of the film as both must work together while being chased by floating 3-D monstrosities that continuously fail to render. Because of this, Matthew learns to open up more and have fun while Jason realizes that not everything in life is sunshine and rainbows (just most of everything).  The brothers grow closer through each scene as they barely escape the pixelated jaws hunting them. 

I must also bring up the infinite entertainment value brought on by the continuous (what I like to call) “under the radar” jokes.  Those jokes which on paper probably aren’t seen as funny, but the dry humor and perfect delivery make me belly laugh into oblivion each time (Go watch Talladega Nights for more instances).  The best example of this is when Matthew is speaking with his boss, saying how his brother is ruining his life, and catches a glimpse of the self-motivation poster his employer has tacked up behind her.  He proceeds then to recite, “I want to learn…grow…and…suck…seed.” Now, many of these jokes are sprinkled throughout the film and their addition is a definite positive for any viewer who has the sense of humor of a prepubescent boy (which means me).

Bad CGI Sharks doesn’t shy away from what it is (hell, it’s the name of the movie) but barrels forward with low quality land?…hover? shark villains pushing our story along with a massive amount of comedic flare and a heart-warming journey.  Jason Ellsworth, Matthew Ellsworth, and Matteo Molinari have created something rather unique in a genre filled with the rotting filet-o-fishes of shark movie pasts.  Because of this, I’m giving Bad CGI Sharks a solid 8/10 rating.  YoungYoda Out.