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Hannah B. Campbell briefly flashes a nipple in Screwed (2013),

 and looking good are Brianna Brown,

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Rachel Ward film clip (collage below)

Danica Curcic and Astrid Grarup Elbo in Darling (2017) in 1080hd



Priscilla Luciano and Lisseth Candia Encina in Downhill (2016) in 720p



Kari Wuhrer in Hellraiser:Deader (2005) in 1080hd

Alexa Davalos in And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003) in 1080hd

Could there be a better choice to play Pancho Villa than Antonio Banderas? After all, both men are non-actors who have managed to create a movie career by playing themselves. It could easily be re-titled And Starring Antonio Banderas as Himself. On the other hand, Banderas did face a difficult challenge since the real Pancho Villa had more than one facial expression!

Kidding aside, Banderas really did a remarkable job.

So did the filmmakers.

I've argued in the past that a "true" story has to abide by the same rules as a fictional one - it still has to provide an interesting story, good character development, and either entertainment or education - preferably both. In fact, I think it is reasonable to argue the following:

A. The greater the man or woman, the more details of his life a film must ignore, because the more difficult it is to fit all the important things into two hours.

B. A historical picture has to be MORE entertaining than a fictional one, because everyone already knows how it comes out. Where's the suspense in Star 80 when we know Dorothy Stratten will get killed? In a fictional story, the cinematic hook is that the audience wonders where it will lead. Since the audience knows where a biopic's road will lead, it must provide even better roadside attractions to hold our attention.
For this story, however, I am willing to make an exception to Rule B, because it is in another category of reality altogether. It is reality that is wilder than anything you can make up. In fact, if this story were made up, nobody would believe it, and critics would damn it for its unrealistic storyline. This movie provides great appeal simply by its premise alone, simply by the fact that things really happened this way, and the viewer just can't believe it. That sense of wonderment, coupled with curiosity, provides a unique kind of movie-going thrill. I found myself barely interested in the story, but fascinated by the very fact that it was true. I was continually amused as the script threw ever more implausible details at me.

Most of the major details are accurately recounted. D.W. Griffith did send one of his men to make a deal with Pancho Villa, paying the famous Mexican Revolutionary $25,000 and 20% of the gross for the privilege of filming a real revolution in action. Some time later, Mutual Film Company paid Villa again to make a biopic which consisted of dramatic re-enactment mixed with actual battlefield footage. Villa himself appeared in the battlefield scenes, and also in a fictional dream sequence in which he saw himself in the future, as the President of Mexico, delivering a stirring speech to the crowd. Villa made some remarkable concessions in order to co-operate with the filmmakers, including an agreement not to attack at night (which he subsequently and wisely ignored), and a decision to change his battle plans in the siege of Torreon so he could attack from a direction which permitted optimal filming conditions! The deal was beneficial for both parties. Mutual Films obtained footage which was truly unique, and Villa received some positive publicity to counter the daily lambasting he received from the far right wing American papers owned by the Hearst Corporation, who pictured him as an anarchist and a terrorist.

Sadly, the real footage from the Villa films is now presumed lost.

When this movie concentrates on Villa, played by Antonio Banderas, and the things that really happened, it is absolutely fascinating. The script goes to great pains to show the very best and very worst aspects of the legendary warrior. As shown here, he was a complex man. He could be generous and compassionate. He was an idealist who truly believed in his cause. He was a great master of the horse and pistol, but also a soulful man and a favorite of children. He also had a wild temper and killed indiscriminately, including innocent foreigners and women who angered him.

On the other hand, when the film adds in some layers of fictional embellishment - heart-warming orphans, a sappy love story, and so forth - it fails, simply because that critical sense of jaw-dropping amazement is lost to us when we know we are watching bullshit. The only part of the fictionalization that I enjoyed was when screen veteran Alan Arkin was on screen as a world-weary mercenary.

There are also some parts of the movie which hover somewhere between truth and fiction. There are real characters portrayed inaccurately for some reason or another. Take, for example, the character of William Christy Cabanne, the man who directed the real Villa biopic. He is played by Michael McKean as a middle-aged sissy who breaks down weeping and faints when Villa plays a nasty prank on him. The real Cabanne was 24 when he made the first Villa film, 26 when he made the second. I don't know if he was a complete pussy, as portrayed here, but his IMDb bio states that he graduated from Annapolis. If that's true, the pussy angle is out of the question. To be fair, there are some obvious inconsistencies in the IMDb biography. It says that he was born in April, 1888, graduated from Annapolis, served in the U.S. Navy for several years, then left the service in 1908. Based on that, assuming a minimum five year hitch, he would have had to enter the USNA at about 11 years old. Something is wrong. His birthdate seems genuine  - there is a picture of his tombstone online -  so I guess the alleged Naval service is a bunch of baloney, likely a legend which sprung up from the fact that Cabanne once wrote and directed a movie about Annapolis. Perhaps Cabanne himself spread that legend. But I'm speculating. I was unable to confirm or deny his Naval record. Whether he was a total wimp or not, the fact remains that Cabanne was not in his 50s or 60s at the time, but was a very young man when he made the two Villa movies. He continued to make (grade B minus) movies for another 34 years after he left Villa in Mexico - and even then he was only 60 when he retired from the industry!

HBO, as always, went to the wall to deliver the product. You already know they got a major star to play the lead. They also hired a director who has directed a Best Picture (Driving Miss Daisy), and has been nominated as Best Director (Tender Mercies). They hired the head writer of TV's M*A*S*H, who has also been nominated for an Oscar (Tootsie). They gave the film a $25 million budget - then a record for a non-theatrical film. The DVD transfer is their usual excellent job, and it features a "behind the scenes" featurette as well as a full-length commentary by the screenwriter.

A couple of observations about some sloppy elements in this film. I liked what they did, but for $25 million, they should nail details like this:

1.A newspaper story, as pictured in the film, is about Barry Bonds. Not sure how he fits in to the whole Mexican revolution. Why didn't they just use a real newspaper headline from the era?

2. What are overhead wires doing at point A in rural Mexico in 1914? And how do they mysteriously disappear at point B? Since there is no sag in the wires, I guess that just to the right of point B there was a telephone pole or some other form of support which was airbrushed out, along with most of the wires which stood out against a bare sky. I guess further that the airbrusher just decided "fuck it" when he got to the hard stuff on a multicolored, multitextured background.   

OK, I guess I've made my point, and I don't mean to detract from the film's obvious merits - an incredible story to begin with, professional production values, and a portrayal of a charismatic man by an equally charismatic actor. Well worth a look, if the subject interests you.

Ariadna Gil in Belle Epoque (1992) in 1080hd

The thing I admire most about the filmmakers of Spain is that they seem to have the ability to present a highly developed aesthetic sensibility without descending either into maudlin sentimentality or pretentious, arty bullshit. They just work the art into the story. Francisco Trueba, the director of La Belle Epoque, is a perfect example. One of his other films, The Girl of your Dreams, is one of the most consciously styled films I've ever seen, practically a 1930's stylistic wet dream, yet it uses the art only to support the characters, and never allows the aesthetics to overpower the humanity of the story.

This movie, Belle Epoque, which is also about the 1930s, is not as stylized, but it uses a consistent green and gold palette, and is just as effective as The Girl of your Dreams in blending the aesthetics with the storyline. Similar in joyful hedonism to "Sirens" and  "Stealing Beauty," it is an ode to a special hopeful time in Spain, the brief Republican dream that stirred the imagination of the entire world in between the death of the Spanish monarchy and the rise of the fascists.

"La Belle Epoque" means "The Beautiful Age", and usually refers to the peaceful time of artistic flowering which took place in France at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the period in which the modern world of art began. Spain's Belle Epoque was a shorter one. The republic lasted only from 1931 until 1939, but it gave Spanish intellectuals hope that the old bastions of repression, the Church and the monarchy, would finally lose their joint death-grips on Spanish thought. During that period, many celebrated their ability to cast off the repression, to think as they chose, to embrace sensual lives, to choose agnosticism, and to speak their convictions freely in public. This film uses one large, intellectual, free-thinking Spanish family to show how the new attitudes in Spain affected various lives.

Jorge Sanz plays a deserter who ends up in the countryside home of an elderly painter. When the old man's four daughters arrive, they all compete for the attentions of the handsome and eligible stranger. In a sense, they all succeed. Even the lesbian! The best part of the lesbian episode is that the director actually found a way to make that sexual encounter believable, by letting it occur during a masquerade party in which the lesbian is attracted to the man because he is quite an attractive woman in his costume. The lesbian sister dances the tango with him, she dressed as a soldier, he as a maid, her leading of course. Then, aroused by her command of the situation, she forces him to get on his back, and mounts him.

This film is a pure pleasure to watch from start to finish. It made me feel good while I watched it, and for hours afterwards. American filmmakers seem to have to choose between humanity and art, and their films seem to have one or the other, never both. The most "artistic" films of America seem to renounce life, not celebrate it. They could learn a lot from this film, and from director Fernando Trueba.

Jodie Foster in Catchfire (1990) in 1080hd

Jodie Foster is kind of the Joe DiMaggio of acting, in the sense that both have an unchallengeable aura far beyond anything actually related to their mere mortal achievements.

To hear DiMaggio's proponents describe him, you'd think he was faster down the line than Mantle, a better fielder than Mays, and a better hitter than Ted Williams and Babe Ruth combined. DiMaggio was, of course, a great ballplayer, but nowhere near as great as the legend that has sprung up about him. Between ages 27 and 32, a baseball player's theoretical prime, he averaged 22 homers and 102 RBI's per year, and hit .303 over that span. During his famous 56 game streak, he didn't hit as well as Williams hit for that entire season. He stole only 30 bases in his life, and fielded only .978. His lifetime batting average was .325. Per 550 at bats, he averaged 29 homers.

Fine numbers, but I'll bet you thought he was much better than that, right? Everybody does.

And the same is true of Jodie Foster. She made Backtrack during the absolute zenith of her acting career, 1988-1994. That period started with her best actress Oscar for The Accused and concluded with her nomination for Nell. In the middle was her signature role in Silence of the Lambs, which won her yet another Oscar. There you go, three best actress nominations in six years.

This film was made in that period, and offers no evidence to support either her script judgment or her acting abilities. It's a mediocre film, with often illogical, even incomprehensible plot twists, and poor character development. Jodie is not especially good in it, and is even responsible for some of the problems. She isn't awful, but she shows none of the spark and imagination that you'd expect if you hired the best young actress in the world, which many people considered her at the time.

Dennis Hopper and Jodie play a hit man and his intended victim who end up in love despite their obvious incompatibility, and end up fleeing from the mob and the FBI and heaven knows who else.

The movie irritated me, frankly. Here are some especially irritating moments:

Jodie is calling Hopper a rapist after he offers her a choice - die or give her life to him. OK, fair enough, but there is one scene where he asks her to put on some garter belts and similar paraphernalia, and she is humiliated, and still in her "you rapist" mode.  She is dressing in front of him, at his insistence, but obviously making ironic comments and still trying to trick him ("maybe it would be better if I tied you up, baby"). The scene cuts to someplace else, and when we rejoin Foster and Hopper, she is punching him playfully in the morning, and telling him to put down his newspaper and come back to bed. HUH? Was there something in between? How did that happen? Their relationship is the point of the movie, yet we don't see why it develops.

The very highest ranking law enforcement guys apparently spend their lives in a trailer listening to phone taps, and only work on one case at a time. Hopper makes a call to arrange a meeting with the mobster who wants him dead. The FBI is listening at that very moment, including Fred Ward, the senior guy on the case, and they immediately shout stuff like "let's roll", and head to the rendezvous point. Fred obviously has nothing better to do than to listen to the phone calls of a low-level mobster dailyfeb18/7.

Jodie confesses to a weakness for pink Hostess Snowballs. Hopper goes to a little rinky-dink country convenience store, and comes back with several hundred two-packs. This kind of store probably wouldn't carry Snowballs. The odds are against it, because there are many alternate snack cake suppliers, and most stores would not have this in their assortment. But even if they did carry them, I'm going to guess that the highest volume c-store in the world would not have that many on hand. In fact, I'll offer you a bet. Name anyplace in your city that sells food. Name Sam's Club or the highest-volume Safeway, I don't care. I'll bet that you could not find several hundred two-packs of pink Snowballs in any location which you select.

At one point, Hopper and Jodie manage to escape some mobsters by driving up an old dead-end road to where a helicopter is waiting conveniently. The chopper is not manned or guarded, and starts right up for Hopper. He also happens to know how to pilot one. That is one versatile hit man. But that's not what irritated me. That came next. Hopper and Foster fly away from the thugs, and another chopper is on their tail within seconds, filled with mob guys wearing black suits and fedoras, firing machine guns. No exaggeration. Of course, Hopper out-maneuvers the other pilot and tricks him into crashing into a butte.

In fact, the finale is even sillier. Hopper and Foster agree to meet the mob at a refinery, where they are wearing some of those metallic-looking fire suits. They set some fires, escape in their suits, and within a short time, the entire refinery explodes. Cops circle the place, credits roll. A couple minutes later, during the credits, we see Hopper and Foster sailing somewhere, and he is playing a saxophone. Run the last credits over a black screen.

And this is the fully-restored director's cut! Imagine how irritating the theatrical release must have been, because the studio cut out 21 minutes of footage, and wouldn't release it in the USA at all. In fact, Dennis Hopper, who directed, disowned it, and it ended up being credited to the ubiquitous "Alan Smithee."

More angles of skater Gabriella Papadakis's wardrobe malfunction