Argentina is a fascinating country on the other side of the world from the USA, yet in many ways familiar.
There are probably more European immigrants in Argentina than any other South American country. Both former Nazis and Jews fleeing from persecution resettled in Argentina before, during and after World War II.
I offer this as background for an Argentinean film called “Anita.” The Anita of the title is a young Argentine woman with Down syndrome. Anita lives with her mother (award-winning Argentine actress Alejandro Manzo) in Buenos Aries. Anita’s mother runs a small stationery shop she inherited from her late husband. One morning her mother leaves Anita in the shop so she can attend a Jewish anti-defamation league meeting. She locks the door and cautions Anita not to leave.
A horrendous explosion occurs while Anita is up on a footstool. The blast blows out the windows and door of the shop. Anita is knocked unconscious, but she recovers and wanders out through the wreckage in search of her mother.
Writer-director Marcos Carnevale was inspired by an actual anti-Jewish terrorist attack in Buenos Aries on July 18, 1994. The attack claimed the lives of 86 innocent victims and injured hundreds more. It was the single deadliest terrorist attack in Argentine history. The perpetrators have never been located or prosecuted, though the origins of the attack are strongly suspected to be in the Hezbollah anti-Israel, anti-West hate group in Iran.
But “Anita” is not about politics, violence or religion. It is about one mentally-challenged woman’s survival, with the help of complete strangers. “Anita” celebrates human compassion. Not all of Anita’s protectors are willing or selfless. Some pass the buck, so to speak, but conscience inevitably draws them back in.
For this reason I find “Anita” a wondrously hopeful film. If you believe in the inherent goodness of human beings, it is the “feel-good” movie of the season.
Three and a half stars
“Cowboys and Aliens”
Neither Fish nor Fowl
When I did an advance on “Cowboys and Aliens” for Atlantic Ave magazine earlier this summer, I thought to myself this could be daringly brilliant or really dumb. The answer lies somewhere in between. This Steven Spielberg production looks great, has a dynamite cast and a script that both honors and spoofs the movie Western traditions, but it gets headed off at the pass once those darn aliens start jumping around.
Steely, blue-eyed James Bond actor Daniel Craig looks good in a cowboy outfit, and does some convincing choreography as badass gold-robber Jake Lonergun. Harrison Ford is more grizzled than ever as his nemesis, Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde, and Olivia Wilde is stunningly lovely as the obligatory babe, Ella Swenson.
Ella has a very special secret in this tall tale adapted by director Jon Favreau from the 2006 graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.
“Graphic novel” is just a nicer way of saying comic book. Like “Super 8’ earlier this summer, “Cowboys and Aliens” goes off the rails- way off the rails- and off a cliff. The advance screening crowd seemed to enjoy it and even applauded after the grand finale, but they didn’t pay for tickets.
This movie will please neither fans of Westerns nor alien monster movie fanciers. I guess that leaves fanboys (the film debuted last week at Comic-Con). We’ll see if there are enough of them for this film to earn back its production costs.
One and a half stars