Review 1: Cuban Food Stories
I saw this one at the Tower Theater while drinking Cuban coffee on an empty stomach. It’s a documentary by a Cuban emigre who travels around Cuba and talks to people about food. These are people who catch, grow, prepare, serve and/or sell food. The film is beautiful, the people charming, the settings picturesque, the food wonderful. There are spectacular drone shots of colorful towns, lush forests and rural landscapes, and closeups of ceviche, grilled octopus, roast pork and other delicacies. You will leave the theater hungry.
This movie made me feel good about Cuba, which leads to another thought. In addition to its good qualities this movie is slick, well done propaganda. Perhaps the film maker really is ambivalent about having emigrated, as he suggests. Or perhaps he would not have been allowed to make this movie without showing Cuba in the most favorable light, i.e., things were bad in the ’90s but today they are getting better, people are better off and happy, it’s a great place to visit, etc. However, the hardships of daily life are obvious to anyone who looks. As my movie viewing companion said afterwards, the people in the film spend most of their time looking for food. One notices their teeth, their overall look of having been through hard times. The electricity fails. The happy fisherman was trained as a physicist and now rationalizes his difficult life (what else can he do?).
I recommend this movie as long as you can enjoy the food and not be bothered by any political subtexts. Verdict: Four thumbs up, one thumb down.
Review 2: The Black Stallion Returns (also available on Netflix)
This is a really bad movie. I enjoyed the original whose plot involves a special horse that falls off a boat and saves the little boy who rides the horse to victory in the big race. Cartoonish but so are most movies and this one was visually beautiful, apolitical and had a happy ending. Plus the horse porn if you are into such things. Then I got talked into watching the sequel.
The newer movie revolves around a struggle between good and bad Arabs to repatriate the famous horse to the Sahara where they plan to run it in a hokey every-5-years race on which tribes with poor risk-management skills bet the farm. You can tell the good from the bad Arabs because the main bad Arab is fat and has a Brooklyn accent and the good Arabs are thin and have Roman accents. Also we are made to understand that the bad Arabs cheat rather than follow important movie rules of noble-savage fair play. The good Arabs take the horse and explain to the little boy that it’s really theirs, and who can blame them. They head off for Casablanca and the boy follows in a flying boat. Much drama and silly plot escapades follow until inevitably the little boy wins the big race for the good Arabs but then is too stupid to either take the horse back home with him or sleep with the hot Arab chick who would do him in a second since he’s now the high-status race winner.
I recommend this movie if you liked Mystery Science Theater, or if you have young daughters who are into horses as horse porn is probably more wholesome than vampire porn. Verdict: Four thumbs down, three thumbs up.