November 2008

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Spain’s Precious Jewels: Penélope Cruz and Pedro Almodóvar

FROM the Founder
November is here! I just cannot believe how fast the time is going. Are you ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas? You know, the holidays are just around the corner. November’s issue is very important to me because recently I had discovered the many heritages that I was not aware of. I found out through my research that I am from Mexican, Spanish, British, Italian, and Yaqui ancestries. So, this month’s issue is the focus of my Spanish heritage. The next issue, I will have several choices of films from Mexico, so on. Overall, I am enjoying and loving life. I have been watching more films lately, which often does not happen. The Golden Globes® and the Academy Awards® are approaching within months and I simply cannot wait. I look forward to writing more issues, this February will mark the second anniversary of Monte Pictures. I would like to dedicate this issue to the Caballero, Vasquez, Meza and Cole family for their support, guidance, and encouragements as I pursue my two life long goals: to obtain a Ph.D and to make films. I conclude by saying: Great health to you and your family. A quotation: "Man's greatest actions are performed in minor struggles. Life, misfortune, isolation, abandonment and poverty are battlefields which have their heroes - obscure heroes who are at times greater than illustrious heroes." - Victor Hugo

Javier Serrano

Monte Pictures© was founded by Javier Abraham Serrano in San Diego, California in the year 2007. In his quest to pursue a career in filmmaking, Javier composed a monthly newsletter to express visually his passion for cinema to all variety of audiences. In his non-published autobiography, “What a Life,” he writes, “If I could achieve this dream and goal of mine to open a film production – Monte Pictures, then it would be obviously possible for anyone to achieve their dreams.”


Grade: A+

“Volver is without doubt the best Spanish film to date”

Penélope Cruz defines beauty, grace, and brilliant acting in Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver,

which won her the coveted Best Ensemble Cast at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. I have to admit this is by far one of Spain’s best films ever produced; luckily, it was written and directed by Almodóvar. The film opens in a cemetery full of women cleaning to their families’ gravestones. Raimunda (Cruz) and her sister Sole (Lola Dueñas) and Raimunda’s daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo) are tending the grave of their parents who died in a tragic fire. After Raimunda and Sole’s Aunt Paula (Chus Lampreave) dies, Sole returns to the village for the funeral skeptical of the rumors indicate that her mother’s spirit roams around Aunt Paula’s home. Raimunda and her daughter Paula do not attend the funeral only to bury her husband’s body caused by Paula stabbing her father because of sexual assault. Aunt Paula’s neighbor Agustina (Blanca Portillo), whose mother had disappeared without a trace, tells Sole that she has heard the aunt talking with Sole’s departed mother, Irene (Carmen Maura).

Black Book
Grade: A


I fell in love with this movie. In my mind, this is without doubt one of the best films on the subject of

Nazism ever made. The film opens up in the 1950s in Israel after the war. A husband and wife depart from the tour bus roaming around the gorgeous environment of Israel. Ronnie, the wife, leaves her husband’s sight for a brief moment becoming lured to the sounds of children singing. Ronnie recognizes the teacher inside the classroom; she helped her escape from The Netherlands under Nazi regime. Rachel Stein (Carice Van Houten) is flabbergasted and stunned from Ronnie’s visit. The film flashes back to 1944, where the story begins. Rachel, a very popular opera singer in the Netherlands before the war, is hunted by the Gestapo because of her Jewish ancestry. She is separated from her family, and her hiding place has been destroyed and the Nazi air force. She visits a lawyer named Smaal (Dold de Vries), who provides her with some of her father’s money so she can flee. Rachel is united with her family and tries to flee by boat with other Jews. However, they are ambushed on the river by German SS. Rachel is the only one to survive the brutal massacre, but does not manage to escape from occupied territory. She becomes involved with a resistance group, where her first duty is to become blend in with the other German women and must seduce the General.

Baby Mama
Grade: B

I was first introduced to this film by a dear colleague of mine named Linda Olea. When I

found this film at my local Blockbuster®, I so needed to get this film because of her highly recommendation of the film. Tina Fey plays Kate Holbrook, a successful single businesswoman from Philadelphia. At the age of 37, she has finally decided to have a child of her own, but her chance of becoming pregnant is slim. She has been denied by adoption agencies in the city; Kate is desperate and hires an immature, humorous surrogate mother named Angie (Amy Poehler). When Angie becomes pregnant, Kate begins preparing for motherhood until her surrogate shows up at the door in the middle of the night with no place to go. Their relationship is strained when their conflict personalities put them at odds as Kate learns and prepares herself in the balance of motherhood while catering to Angie. Kate is promoted as Vice President of Development; she has to the task to renovate an ancient building in a growing neighborhood of small businesses. Kate befriends and soon dates Rob (Greg Kinnear), a local owner of a blended juice café. Through the lies, betrayal and forgiveness; Kate and Angie become the Tom and Jerry episodes of real life.



Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap (1980) Labyrinth of Passions (1982) Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) The Flower of My Secret (1995) All About My Mother (1999) Talk to Her (2002) Bad Education (2004) Volver (2006) Broken Hugs (2009)
* Missing a few of his films on this list.


edro Almodóvar is arguably the most successful and

internationally known Spanish filmmaker of his generation. What I find most intriguing about the style of Almodóvar is the use of elements of culture, popular songs, humor and strong color that defines his work of genius. Nearly three decades, Almodóvar has written, produced, and directed such films like Labyrinth of Passions and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, where he was cited as a “woman’s director;” The Flower of My Secret, All About My Mother, which won him his first Academy Award as a producer for Best Foreign Film; Talk to Her, which he became the first person to win an Oscar for a script that was written in Spanish; and my most favorite film: Volver. Every film has captivated the audiences alike and I have to cite Pedro Almodóvar has my top four favorite directors of all time, along side Robert Wise (The Sound of Music), Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho) and William Wyler (Ben-Hur). Even though, I am no where near his craftsmanship of perfection In filmmaking I do hope that I may be compared to his direction of style that illuminates women’s role brilliantly in the motion pictures.

Garden State
Grade: A -


Think Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, Zach Braff shares comparison to Good Will

Hunting but the only thing that sets these two actors apart: one, Matt Damon won an Oscar for his writing for his film. Secondly, Zach Braff was able to direct his film and won a Grammy for Outstanding Movie Soundtrack. Garden State written and directed by Zach Braff who is truly gifted filmmaker. Andrew Largeman (Braff) awakes from a bizarre nightmare in which he is on a crashing plane. He is awakened from the nightmare by a telephone message from his father, informing Andrew that his needs to return home because his mother has just passed. The struggling actor leaves his Los Angeles apartment and returns to the state of New Jersey to attend his mother’s funeral. At the funeral, he recognizes both gravediggers as his old friends from high school, and they invite Andrew to a party that very night. The morning after the party, Andrew visits his father’s doctor because of constant headaches. While filling out the forms, he meets a girl named Sam (Natalie Portman). The doctor soon discovers that Andrew has stopped taking his medication of lithium and other mood stabilizers and anti-depressants pills. The friendship between Sam and Andrew soon escalate into a love affair of four days of passion. One rainy night next to the fireplace Andrew informs Sam of his entire past and the reason why his mother was permanently placed in a wheelchair.

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