Movie Review – Roma – Alfonso Cuaron and his Netflix Masterpiece

oscars statue for the awards ceremony
The big one: this year’s Oscar Awards Ceremony

I decided to do a movie review of Roma for a couple of reasons. It’s not a widely-released in movie theaters in the US, and it will not be a part of the AMC Theaters Best Picture Showcase (#AMCBPS) despite being one of the eight nominated films for Best Picture.

Why? From what I read, in short, the movie rights were not released to American theaters: only to Netflix.

[pullquote]Colonia Roma is a neighborhood in Mexico City, set in 1970 and 1971. It is not the name of the leading actress, like I thought.[/pullquote] This movie is said to be 90 percent of scenes from Director Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood memories, based upon a nanny he adored named Libo (hence, the tribute during the credits). The story is mainly about a nanny, Cleo, who struggles with her life once she becomes pregnant and abandoned by the baby’s father. While, at the same time, she nurtures four children of a mom (Sofia) that also becomes abandoned by her husband.

I won’t write much about this storyline to avoid spoilers.

However, here are several random notes to give you some perspective. The entire movie is told via English subtitles, so don’t look away; you need to be focused. [Ed note: no way could we do Peetimes for a subtitled movie.]

More notes: the riot in the movie is known as the Corpus Christie Massacre. There’s one male nude scene. There’s a very graphic scene involving Cleo’s baby at birth that is a little disturbing; so brace yourself. Cleo and Sofia share a knowing look of despair without words, when a wedding is taking place next to them while they eat ice cream with the children.  [pullquote position=”right”]It’s obvious the pain the two women are feeling, as they both struggle putting their life back on track after their devastating heartbreaks.[/pullquote] I found it odd the children got painful sunburns during their beach visit, but the mom didn’t have any sunscreen.  Interesting that huffing in the 70’s is equivalent to juuling now.

How many dead animals can one person have in one house? Oh my! Taxidermy overload.  Also noteworthy was how families back in the day had one television, and everyone sat together and watched the same TV shows.

[pullquote]The scene I adored the most was when Cleo laid head-to-head with PePe (the youngest child) while he was mad at his brother who just hurt his feelings. This scene showed you how passionate and aware Cleo was about those children.[/pullquote]

Cuaron filmed this movie in Mexico City, which resulted in several mis-dated appearances regarding the airplanes and automobiles seen.

Finally, the ending took me by surprise, as I thought there was going to be another scene to wrap up the story, but there wasn’t.  Let me know if you felt the same way.

[pullquote position=”right”]You will likely enjoy this movie, despite the subtitles.  [/pullquote]The problems women experienced in the 70s is the same today, but now more women are smarter, stronger, and better equipped as Female Masterpieces to survive life’s roadblocks and setbacks.

Catch it on Netflix before the Oscars air on February 24. 

Movie Grade: B

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Hip Indie Theater Review in Tijuana, Mexico – Cine Tonala

Three levels of food, brews, music, WIFI, film, and fun!

I sit here with delightful empanada pastries, and a nice menu in this three level establishment in downtown’s Cine Tonala — right on the ‘infamous’ Av. Revolucion in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. It’s a sneeze to walk across the main San Diego border, then a longish walk, cheap van-taxi, or short UBER ride from there, and feels safe as sandwiches (which you can order here). The WIFI is fast (ask for the password), and there are large laptop tables near power outlets. 

[pullquote]The Cinema Room also has FREE COLD AC – which on a hot, humid day like today, is a blessed relief. Eats, drinks, movies…cool air and good company — this is an unusually fine venue in old downtown TJ.  The toilets are for patrons only – so get a beer, a movie ticket, or at buy least a sweet.[/pullquote] Bathrooms are kept clean, stocked with free toilet paper — more precious in Mexico than gold (remember not to flush it. Baja sewage systems can’t handle that). 

The downstairs is open to the street, has a hip brick interior, craft beer on tap, and vintage posters adorning the walls, including stylized versions of Mexican and USA Presidents from JFK through Obama. Cine Tonala will even let you free-sample the craft brews. The tenders also create mixed cocktails, and play a good selection of music recognizable from the states. The music is set low, so you can hear your companion talk, creating a nice intimate setting. It’s a far cry from the thumping, thudding, ear-blasting dance clubs lining the rest of the way along Avenida Revolucion. (Which many young adults like. So loud. But, heck. It’s their ears. Now get off my lawn!)

The 2nd and 3rd floor funnels the cool outside breezes, with catwalks and balconies overlooking the human zoo below. Those levels opens at 3 pm and have what they call “Magic Hours” (Fri 5-7 pm…3×1 national beers): Happy Hour, to US speakers.

It’s a great little cinema house that clearly wants your business. I’m surprised they make a living, showing such a specialized fare of international limited release favorites and cult-classic Mex faves — but they attract a devoted crowd. I’m relieved. We need funky/creative places like this in the world. Sure I can stream such things on my own, but not in a fun crowd of fellow fans, with amazing beer options. GO THERE, OKAY?

Enough employees speak enough English to make this an Ex-Pat watering hole, movies aside, although the vintage, classic oldies and Indies films draw locals as well. The theater doesn’t look like much from the outside, but that’s par for the course in Tijuana. I felt safe enough running to the Damas (ladies) room with my laptop plugged in.

The employees at Cine Tonala gave me a peek into into the cinema room and offered me a free show. They play 3-4 films a day in cold AC. Nice. The chairs are vintage and a bit creaky, but have decently soft seats = good enough for  90 minute films.

There’s lots to read. Ask for the upcoming movie list, or peruse the  magazines, including brand new issues of American Cinematographer with fun covers (I saw one about the making of Avengers: Infinity War and another about Solo)They have a Facebook page too, where you can add your review — or post one in our comments below.

[US Dollars are accepted.]

Address: Av. Revolución 1317, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico
Hours: 1 pm — 2 am weekends, or til 10:30 pm weeknights
Phone: +52 664 688 0118

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