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Thoughts Before Seeing The Curse of La Llorona

On Instagram this morning, the prolific cartoonist / writer / etc., Lalo Alcaraz, posted his disdain for some promo items for the new movie, The Curse of La Llorona. He mentioned that he’d be skipping the movie.

laloalcaraz1
Not only do they have a white gringa actress brownfacing the lead Latina role, their promotional item of SAGE for “Curse of La Llorona” looks like something out of a Party City Halloween display. I’m skipping this movie”

I admire Mr. Alcaraz and his talent, work, and accomplishments, so I’m not criticizing him in this case—although I do enjoy critiquing public figures and fellow artists :D. I just wanted to tip-tap some thoughts before seeing “La Llorona” for myself.

I was on a Los Angeles bus when I first saw a bench ad for “The Curse of La Llorona“. I thought, “Oh cool. They’re finally doing something official, huh?”
I like some of the movies in the “Conjuring Universe” so it’s interesting to see an installment with some cultural familiarity. I looked up the production and was slightly dismayed that the first photos that popped up were of (white) actress, Linda Cardinelli. Bummer. I was hoping for the lead to be Chicano, Mexican or Latino of some sort. I’ve got nothing against Cardinelli (Freaks and Geeks, ER, Mad Men, Daddy’s Home), but the story of La Llorona is uniquely Mexican in root. It seems they could have spent a little more time searching for a Latina lead. I’m not alone in thinking this, others have brought up issues with the movie’s casting. Anyway, I noticed that the other listed characters are Latino, and thought, “Well, okay. At least.”
Although I was hoping for a more ‘ancient’ tale, I thought it would be interesting to see how they set the story in a modern Los Angeles, probably involving the Los Angeles River. I think the river is crucial to the Llorona legend.

I’m not an expert in the story of La Llorona. I know it has to do with a woman who drowned her children, and then haunts from the netherworld with terrifying moaning and weeping, seeking other living children to kill. One specific version I learned from illustrating my cousin’s Chicano ABC’s book, “E is for EZLN” many years ago. “Ll is for La Llorona” – My crummy drawing accompanied my cousin’s text about a Mexican woman who drowned her own children to spare them their possible fate at the hands of Spanish invaders. Or… the Spanish invaders killed her and her children in the river. Or something like that. It’s a very scary idea. Similar to other Mexican folklore monsters like the Cucuy or Chucabra. Raymond

Back to Lalo Alcaraz’s post. He says Linda Cardinalli’s character, Anna Tate-Garcia is a brown faced “white gringa”. I wonder if her character is supposed to be a white woman who might have been married to a Latino, explaining her hyphenated name. Yeah it would have been nice to focus the story on a Latina lead for a change. The actual “Llorona” character is played by a Latina actress, though, and there are other supporting Latino characters like Raymond Cruz. I guess we could get nitpicky and complain that only (L.A.-born) Raymond Cruz is of Mexican descent, and the actual Llorona is not Mexican. But then it opens up the discussion of whether or not we should be more united and supportive of our Central, South, and Caribbean American brothers and sisters. Mindful of a bigger Latinidad or Chicanidad as I’ve heard it described.

It sucks that we get stuck between these discussions. Upset that a usually Mexican-specific folk tale is watered down into the “Latin” marketing narrative with ethnicities being interchangeable and actively given to non-Mexicans…. While trying to be excited and supportive that our fellow Chicano and Latino artists are getting work and sharing this story on a broad scale.

I think it can be seen as a good thing when Latinos play Latinos, regardless of the particular ethnic root. At the same time we can be critical in the representation. I haven’t yet seen “The Curse of La Llorona” so I don’t know if it’s all about Linda Cardinelli’s character and her children, or if it really focuses on the story of the character of La Llorona. Also, it’s a bummer that when people DON’T see these movies, then studios (aka “Hollywood”) might take it as solid evidence that the general population doesn’t want to see Latino stories. And if we DO give them money, they think… Oh, we gotta do more like this!

With all that said, I am an actor and artist who would also love opportunities like these movies. And I’d appreciate it if people would celebrate with me should I ever gain access to these kinds of creative avenues. And I simultaneously concur with Lalo’s decree: “Try harder, Hollywood.”

I think it’s important to have a critical but positive perspective, seeking to improve the bad while celebrating the good. I think I’ll go see “The Curse of La Llorona” tonight 😉

Jordan Peele’s Movie “Us” Creeps and Disappoints

Disclaimer

I’m a big fan of Jordan Peele’s creative talent (Key & Peele, Get Out, Keanu, The Last OG) so I critique the movie, “Us”, out of love. Also, I try to stay general in my thoughts, so there shouldn’t be any spoilers below.

This movie is about Us.

"Us" Movie Poster - A close-up view of a torso wearing a red jumpsuit, with two hands, one wearing a brown leather glove, clasped and grasping a pair of golden scissors, in front of the torso's chest. The "Us" title is on the lower part of the image in doubled cursive font.
Jordan Peele’s new movie, “Us”

Before I saw Us, I wondered if it was going to be an exploration of Americans fighting with themselves. Or maybe a depiction of the “other side”, politically or ideologically, as villains, and how they are really us in the end. I thought that it could even get more specific in allegorically depicting a confrontation between Black American conservatives and liberals. Well, the movie is none of my wacky assumptions, and it’s also possibly all of it.

Us got me thinking a lot.

Us contains familiar scary movie elements: a cabin in the woods, questionable decisions, creepy strangers, jumpy moments, disturbing imagery, and a fascinating exploration of the duality of the American psyche as expressed through Jungian archetypes… wait what? I like thinky scary thrillers like Us, but the storytelling isn’t as satisfying as its cerebral nature. I somewhat enjoyed it, but I left the theatre a bit confused and disappointed.

Writer-director Jordan Peele was probably very intentional with every element of the story, but the successful parts don’t make it as good as I want it to be. There are appealing elements like the government conspiracy references, the reversals of male/female cliches, and setting of weirdo Santa Cruz, California. Some moments and dialogue are comical, and probably shouldn’t be. Other moments seem to exist for the sake of unsettling the audience, and don’t really help the story.

The Brilliance is the Conversation?

Like Get Out, Us is a creepy movie that stays with you for a while. Maybe its brilliance is in the fact that it creates conversation. A lot of art strives for this cultural achievement. My wife and I are still talking about it although she didn’t care for it as much as I did. We agree on the movie’s merits while maintaining different opinions and affirming that our differences can actually build relationship and strengthen our culture. Through discourse we see that we’re humans with wants and needs, dreams and dramas, like anyone else. We may be on different sides, but if we reach across that aisle, joining hands across America, then we can remember that we’re not that different.

The weirdo on “that side” isn’t so foreign. They are the same as… Us. 😉

More Related Thoughts….

Visuals

Us crams in a lot of interesting visual elements, many of them related to the theme of duality. Characters, shadows, faces, scissors, 11:11 phenomenon, and even Michael Jackson. Some characters give us some chilling mannerisms, including Get Out-ish tearful gazes. And even with all the visuals, is it weird that I wanted more exploitation of movie’s red jumpsuits, golden scissors and leather gloves? Anyway, I’m sure we’ll see red jumpsuits and chanclas during Halloween this year.

Santa Cruz aka “Berkeley Lite”

It’s a nice change of pace to see a movie set in Santa Cruz amongst the surf-ready (dirty) beaches, and famous (dingy) Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. I grew up near SC and even worked there a while, so I also like making fun of it 🙂

Government Conspiracy / Secret Society

Is the movie alluding to the Illuminati involvement in American society (haha!) And if you connect Get Out and Us, would it add up to some kind of warning of a coming calamity? (God’s Judgement in the referenced Jeremiah 11:11) There is that owl, right?!?
If Jordan Peele or I disappear, then we’ll know he tried to warn us.

“Two Bodies, One Soul”

Are the bookend images in the movie a reference to a hot topic regarding the current US President? And recent events caused the Shadows of America to come out of the shadows, and they’re uniting across the nation. We are supposed to be one nation, so it’s a bummer when we remember that “those” people are really us.

Republican / Democrat / Conservative / Liberal

I don’t follow the religion of American Politics so my knowledge is somewhat superficial. The only news I get tends to be based in pop headlines provided by Instagram and Google. So if you’ve gotten this far, take this next part with a spoonful of sugar…

I wonder if there are possible references to people stuck in an opposing ideological or political side of America. For example, I’ll pick on two prominent Thought Leaders in American politics: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Candace Owens. Depending on your religious views, you might think either one of those women are brainwashed or crazy to have a certain philosophy. However, when we lay down our weapons, have a conversation, and try to build relationships, we can see through the red, and see they’re just like us. And maybe that’s why the themes of duality work so well on different levels.