This Month's Feature Films
This month's feature films honor NYU's La Herencia Latina month and National Native American Heritage Month.
Civil-rights activist Cesar Chavez battles social injustice in this biopic, directed by Diego Luna. The film follows Chavez's efforts to organize 50,000 farm workers in California, some of whom were braceros - temporary workers from Mexico permitted to live and work in the United States in agriculture, and required to return to Mexico if they stopped working. Working conditions are very poor for the braceros, who also suffer from racism and brutality at the hands of the employers and local Californians. To help the workers, Cesar Chavez (Michael Peña) forms a labor union known as the United Farm Workers (UFW). Chávez's efforts opposed, sometimes violently, by the owners of the large industrial farms where the braceros work. Stars Michael Peña, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera, John Malkovich, John Ortiz, and Michael Cudlitz.
This biography of one of Mexico's most prominent, iconoclastic painters reaches the screen under the guiding hand of producer/star Salma Hayek. Hayek ages some 30 years onscreen as she charts Frida Kahlo's life from feisty schoolgirl to Diego Rivera protégée to world-renowned artist in her own right. Frida details Kahlo's affluent upbringing in Mexico City, and her nurturing relationship with her traditional mother (Patricia Reyes Spindola) and philosophical father (Roger Rees). Having already suffered the crippling effects of polio, Kahlo sustains further injuries when a city bus accident nearly ends her life. But in her bed-ridden state, the young artist produces dozens upon dozens of pieces; when she recovers, she presents them to the legendary -- and legendarily temperamental -- Rivera (Alfred Molina), who takes her under his wing as an artist, a political revolutionary, and, inevitably, a lover. But their relationship is fraught with trouble, as the philandering Rivera traverses the globe painting murals, and Kahlo languishes in obscurity, longing to make her mark on her own. Frida was directed by Julie Taymor, whose Broadway production of The Lion King won her international acclaim.
Written and directed by Gregory Nava and starring Jennifer Lopez, this biopic concentrates on Selena's relationship with her family and her rise to fame, dealing only briefly with her tragic death. Abraham Quintanilla (Edward James Olmos) is a veteran musician who leads a family-based singing group, The Dinos. At a young age, he notices that his daughter Selena (played as a child by Becky Lee Meza) has a strong singing voice, and he works her into the act (her big number is a version of Over the Rainbow). However, as she grows older, Selena (played as an adult by Jennifer Lopez) wants to establish her own musical identity; while her heritage is Mexican-American, her primary language is English, and her favorite artists are American pop acts like Donna Summer. While Selena and Abraham sometimes argue about the musical direction of the group, he always respects and supports her talent, and her blend of Tejano roots music and danceable pop rhythms soon sparks a revolution in Latin music.
Loosely based on a real-life operation during World War II, this action-adventure from director John Woo stars Nicolas Cage as Joe Enders, a Marine traumatized by the loss of his entire platoon in the Solomon Islands during an ambush he believes was deadlier than necessary due to his indecision. Suffering from eardrum damage in Hawaii, Joe manages to be declared fit for duty once again thanks to a sympathetic nurse (Frances O'Connor), but his new assignment isn't what he expects. Joe is ordered to safeguard a Navajo soldier named Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) because the military has developed a new secret code based on the near-dead Navajo language that is proving unbreakable to the Japanese. Any soldier that speaks Navajo is an immediate asset, including Ben and his pal, Charlie Whitehorse (Roger Willie). Joe's orders are to 'baby sit' Ben during the invasion of Saipan, protecting him if possible, but -- if the code-talker's capture becomes imminent -- to kill him before he falls into enemy hands.
Alike is a 17-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents and younger sister in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. She has a flair for poetry, and is a good student at her local high school. Alike is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. At home, her parents' marriage is strained and there is further tension in the household whenever Alike's development becomes a topic of discussion. Wondering how much she can confide in her family, Alike strives to get through adolescence with grace, humor, and tenacity - sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, but always moving forward. Winning 14 awards and receiving 27 more nominations, Pariah is one of the most acclaimed LGBTQ themed films of recent years.
Inspired by actual events, director Matthew Warchus' Pride details the unlikely friendship forged between a small community of striking miners in Wales and the London-based gay and lesbian activists who raise funds to feed their families in the summer of 1984. With no end to the strike in sight, the urban activists venture into the countryside to deliver their donation in person, and find they have more in common with the people of this struggling community than anyone on either side could have expected. Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, and Paddy Considine star.
Yves Saint Laurent
Pierre Niney stars as Yves Saint Laurent in this biopic tracing the career of the legendary French fashion designer, from his first meeting with future lover and partner Pierre Bergé in 1958 to the height of fame. Niney won the Best Actor César for his role, and the film was nominated for best costume and production design. In French with English subtitles.
2001: A Space Odyssey
A mind-bending sci-fi symphony, Stanley Kubrick's landmark 1968 epic pushed the limits of narrative and special effects toward a meditation on technology and humanity, based on Arthur C. Clarke's story The Sentinel. With assistance from special-effects expert Douglas Trumbull, Kubrick spent over two years meticulously creating the most realistic depictions of outer space ever seen, greatly advancing cinematic technology for a story expressing grave doubts about technology itself. Despite some initial critical reservations that it was too long and too dull, 2001 became one of the most popular films of 1968, underlining the generation gap between young moviegoers who wanted to see something new and challenging and oldsters who didn't get it.