If you’re looking for a curated playlist of critical movies, look no further than this my friend. First and foremost, familiarize yourself with this article entitled the “Three amigos change face of Mexican film” by the Hollywood Reporter. The article deftly summarizes the artistic cabal of three Mexican American filmmakers: Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Cuarón, del Toro, and Iñárritu form a super team of epic proportions, not just in the context of contemporary cinema. Championship series winning, legendary sports teams are an apt comparison, in measuring the synergy of these artists. In applying my knowledge of film studies, I recommend the following movie playlist for those interested in exploring one of the best filmographies of the 21st century.
The following film list is intended for mature audiences.
Serious movie fans should start with Iñárritu’s Amores perros in Español with English subtitles. His collage of three major stories interwoven and set against a city that plays as much as a character as the leads bites viciously. Audiences will experience a crash course through the capitol of Mexico and a wide array of emotions and themes.
Second on the list should be El espinazo del diablo or The Devil’s Backbone. General movie audiences could see Guillermo del Toro in an entirely different light, if they recall their first exposure to him coming from films like Hellboy or Pacific Rim even — seen in this light, del Toro retains less gravity. 2001’s Devil’s Backbone establishes Guillermo del Toro as a master of the macabre and a deeply literate romantic. He makes Tim Burton look amateurish and one wonders what del Toro could do with a story world like the Planet of the Apes.
Double down on del Toro if you think my comparison to Tim Burton is out of line and watch Pan’s Labyrinth in English — and if you’ve seen it before, try it in Español then. Pan’s Labyrinth stands as testament to the glorious power of fantasy. Visually stunning and beyond imaginative. Exquisitely crafted with amazing detail, it easily stands as a dark classic in the modern movie canon, combing Edgar Allen Poe, Hans Christian Andersen, and Lewis Carroll through a bold lens of Beetlejuice proportions.
Fourth on the list is Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. The 2013 film might be fresh in the mind of some audiences. Avid fans should re-watch the film after reading some film reviews online. At the time, the movie was well hyped and received, so it was easy to miss the subtle details packed into the dense masterpiece. Gravity improves the sci-fi trope of claustrophobic space narratives on par with Kubrick, Lucas, and even Nolan (anachronistically). In large part some of its success is owed to its sense of balance, in marrying a philosophically Eastern form to a thrilling take on technological transcendentalism.
Keep going with Cuarón if you think he is a sci-fi lightweight that doesn’t belong in the same sentence as Kubrick, Lucas, and Nolan too. Number five on the list is Children of Men. The 2006 sci-fi film by Alfonso Cuarón returns audiences to the gritty year in which all three directors produced groundbreaking films almost simultaneously, as if harmonizing like an acappella group. Children of Men stays fresh among the sea of zombie narratives that flooded the last decade; it presents dystopian action in florid sequences accompanied by a psychedelic soundtrack.
Six on the list swoops in with Birdman. We start and end this cinematic journey with Alejandro González Iñárritu. Bringing audiences up to date, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) pays homage to authors of fiction and drama. The art of acting and storytelling soar from a seemingly simple premise. On the surface what looks like parody — and warrants an earlier jab at Tim Burton — transforms into a deeply dramatic reflection on the Visual Arts. In addition, it is neatly edited into a sharp form befitting a modern remake of a delicate ballet such as Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
If you make it through the first six films, you will surely anticipate the latest film by Iñárritu. The Revenant looks to be this Holiday season’s most critical film, and if diehard movie fans follow the trail back to Amores perros they will witness moviemaking at it’s finest, especially with a deep catalog of unmentioned films by the terrific triumvirate known as the Three Amigos of Hollywood today.
Mexican American storytelling would greatly benefit from these filmmakers tackling a mega-novel like 2666, for it would be an unbelievable challenge only fit for the three.
Internet fans should start hounding the genesis of such a project: Cuarón, del Toro, and Iñárritu make the film version of 2666.
Just in case this miracle movie materializes, fans should start to read the novel now. Check-out this year’s BookTalk to see more about Roberto Bolaño’s literary magnum opus.
And if you are doubtful of the ability of these filmmakers in adequately adapting a classic novel, consider a bonus seventh film to this playlist. Alfonso Cuarón’s 1998 version of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations smoothly reanimates the Victorian bildungsroman. Truly underrated and possibly overlooked, Cuarón’s take on Dicken’s penultimate novel shows the potential for film to revitalize the best prose.
With the current media obsession over comic book heroes and mass murders, media consumers should clamor for finer art. The further South one travels, the weaker the attention is paid to injustice yet it is most deserving of appropriate ridicule. 2666 uncovers the brutality of borders. American audiences would be better off entertaining the border stories of the Americas rather than lamenting about ones across the globe elsewhere, or at least we should recognize the excellent craft of artists trying to capture it for us, artists like Cuarón, del Toro, Iñárritu, and Bolaño.