Archive for August, 2007

Movie Review: Take My Eyes/To Doy Mis Ojos

te-doy-mis-ojos2.jpg Director: Icíar Bollaín

Spanish release: 2003

U.S. release: 2006 w/ limited distribution

I was really afraid of watching this movie. Because of its very serious subject matter, i had not asked any of my friends to watch it with me, expecting replies of “No.” I was afraid of it. A mass of nerves, i rented it on Netflix and held onto it for over a 4 weeks before forcing myself to go through with it.

(Deep inhale and exhale)

Te Doy Mis Ojos is a drama focused on the struggles of two working class people of Toledo, Spain, but the setting could be easily changed with the story still essentially intact. Pilar fights against those voices that keep her tied to her husband, Antonio: her mother’s sense that all women must have a man, her own emotional pattern of accepting Antonio’s beatings and yelling, and society’s definition that women < men. Antonio struggles with a sense of his own worthlessness as a salesperson in a department store, and more importantly, as the less appreciated son in an emotionally callous family.

We witness how Antonio’s inability to understand and express his fear and pain are the cause for his possessiveness of Pilar, and how this leads to his attempts to maintain control of her through violence.te-doy-mis-ojos1.jpg

To a different degree, we also witness Pilar’s journey. While in the midst of preparing for her sister’s wedding, Pilar recollects how she met Antonio, how he proposed to her, and her own expectation of happiness. And we see her finding meaning and building relationships beyond the walls of her house as she learns to become a guide at an art museum.

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Why i write…

I am realizing that part of why i write is for the same reason that i am engaged in social change work.  I am trying to save a life – my own.

Report back from visiting Family

I felt frequently frustrated visiting my family last weekend for my grandmother/popo‘s funeral. My relatives typically talk about inanely boring things and this was barely any exception. It’s strange having to put on my masculine face for hours and hours on end. I felt like snapping at my brother numerous times (and did not always restrain myself) during the viewing ceremony of popo‘s body. It disturbed me to play the role of “grandson” of a woman that i did not know very well.

Another part of what grated on my mind was the inherent sexism of the ceremony. We sometimes stood and sometimes kneeled in a particular order before the two altars in the funeral home based on gender and relationship to my popo, the mother of my mother.


D aughters-in-Law (lined up beside their respective husbands)


Grandsons (by sons)

Grandsons (by daughters)

Granddaughters (by sons)

Granddaughters (by daughters)

There was also something sexist about the bowing. All people who had come to pay their respects had to bow to the altar three times, bow once to the men, walk around to where the body is (behind the main altar) and then bow once to the women and once more to the men.

This was mostly frustrating for me because my brother was clearly lost about the order of things taking place and i felt that i had to play the role of the responsible, oldest son when in fact i was neither the oldest nor the son. I felt an obligation to family to help things move along smoothly. Which basically meant that i did what i was told. The one upshot of my brother not being mentally organized is that because he didn’t quite know where to stand, we and my cousin who is a woman and daughter of a one of my grandmother’s sons messed up the order a bit, which gave me some bit of satisfaction. Unfortunately, nobody cared enough about where the three of us were to start anything since we were all in the back anyway (my mother is the only daughter to have children).

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Anime Review: My Neighbors the Yamadas

Director: Isao TakahataYamada family portrait, kind of

based on comic strip by Hisaishi Ishii

Japanese release: 1999

U.S. release: 2005

I am torn in attempting to review this film. I have no complaints about the actual execution and stylistic choices of the animators and Japanese voice actors, which is predictably excellent coming from a pro like Takahata; but thinking about its choice of subject matter – the family – and its predictable treatment of that institution disappoints me.

My Neighbors the Yamadas is about a typical middle-class Japanese family living in the suburbs: there’s the overworked father, the somewhat lazy stay-at-home mother, the slacker son, the cutesy innocent daughter, and the wise-cracking, cantankerous grandmother. Oh, and a dog. Lacking any pretension of having a central plot, the director chose to instead put a lot of short stories together around the theme of “family.” While this makes sense when one considers that this film is based on a newspaper comic strip (thus its very minimalist complexion), it also prevents any maturation of the characters. Or, as one of the side characters remarks about the grandmother as she draws a line in the sand to separate her trash pick-up from his, “She’s still the same 60 years later” (in this case, 60 minutes later).

Despite this Is this Your marriage?movie’s seemingly low production values, it’s more like a cross between the Simpsons and a BBC comedy than a Saturday morning cartoon. The characters throw accurate punchlines – aimed at the middle-aged.

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