Cinephile Interview III: Committed to Celluloid

It’s amazing how much you can learn from someone like Fernando. A proud native of Mexico, Señor Fernando Rafael Quintero Castañeda began blogging in 2010. His first review showed a perfect score, but two years later, his meticulous criticism has given only a few more of those. Visit Committed to Celluloid, an offering of quick but succinct insight on film.

This interview was conducted between November 25th and November 26th.

One of the more unique (and far more successful than it sounds) aspects about your blog is that you try to use posters made by fans, not the ones designed by producers. How did this idea start, and how have you managed to keep it going so well?

Well, sometimes mainstream poster art is just horrid. Badly photoshopped, cheesy taglines, weird angles, that kind of thing. So I try to couple my unique perspective on a movie with someone else’s unique perspective on what a film poster should be. Not just a publicity tool but also art. I think it all started when I happened upon a set of striking, dramatic Black Swan posters. Ever since then I try to accompany my posts with fan-made art. Most of the time, it’s just better.

Cheesy taglines are staples to hastened marketing. Out of curiosity, what tagline you find one of the most misleading, so much that you can’t make sense of it after going to see the actual film?

Hmm, I have trouble thinking of a specific one. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

I was thinking something like “May the farce be with you.” That’s Spaceballs, Mel Brooks’s underrated Star Wars lampoon. Speaking of which, you’re one of two bloggers in my community who has admitted to not having seen Star Wars. The other one (he knows who he is) told me confidently that it’s on a list of movies he has not seen and has no earthly desire to see. Is there a specific reason you haven’t seen such a classic?

It just has never caught my attention. Doesn’t seem like something I’d really enjoy. I might be wrong, though, so I do plan on seeing them. It’s just not a priority.

Glad you’re not deliberately avoiding it. (smiles) Are there any films you have avoided with your life, no matter who is going to praise it?

I don’t think there’s one that I desperately avoid. I try to give every movie a fair chance. But I’m not too fond of war films, so I tend to avoid those.

“I try to give every movie a fair chance” is THE most basic and crucial law of film critique. Let’s flip-flop the previous question: have you ever been truly surprised by a film you initially had no desire to see?

Yes. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, it’s pretty great. I went with my aunt to the movies one day and she insisted we see Shattered (Butterfly on a Wheel). It stars Pierce Brosnan, Gerard Butler and Maria Bello. It opened in theaters here but I don’t think it did in the US. I think that it even went straight to home video. Anyways, she wanted to see it. Not that she was a big fan but she wanted to see ANY movie and that’s what was available. I had my reservations. The poster was awful and I had a mild Brosnan aversion but I ended up enjoying the film a lot. It’s a nice little thriller. And it’s the best Gerard Butler performance I’ve seen so far.

I had to look that one up; I’d never heard of it. Apparently it opened in Miami, then it premiered on TV. IMDb doesn’t say so, but it probably went to video afterward. Neither Brosnan nor Butler is a great actor, but I’d highly recommend watching the former in GoldenEye and the latter in Coriolanus.

On your recent review of Rust and Bone, I commented that I know I have to trust anything on your blog that surpasses four stars. A four-and-a-half star grade is a high and rare honor to earn from you. Then there’s the five star grade, which I’ve only noticed in five or six reviews, out of at least 250. What does it take for a film to earn the absolute greatest on your scale?

Yeah, like you said, I rarely give 4 and-a-half or 5 star ratings. I guess for 5 stars it has to be pretty much perfect in my book. Or at least its flaws must be pretty small so I can still ignore them. I’ve given that grade to Biutiful, Casino, Chicago and The Godfather, among few others, which are movies that I think nail just about everything, artistically and technically speaking.

Now you have me curious. Would you give a perfect score to…say…Casablanca, or would the occasionally cheesy dialogue (i.e. Ingrid Bergman’s “kiss me” scene) bump it down a notch or so?

I don’t know. Maybe I could give Casablanca the perfect score but after a much-needed rewatch. I’ve only seen it once and many years ago so it’s no fresh in my mind. I need a reminder and then I’ll deliberate (laughs). Cheesy, dated dialog can alter my perception of a movie, though. That’s why I wouldn’t rate West Side Story with 5 stars. I love it, it’s great, but I wouldn’t give it a perfect rating in this day and age. Maybe if I were seeing it in 1961.

I agree, even though West Side Story is easily one of my favorite movies.

I’ve heard you say many times that you don’t enjoy going to movies with friends. Is there a specific reason as to why?

I love my friends, I really do. But most of them have TERRIBLE taste in film. Or just don’t care about film at all. So when we hang out we try to do other things. Mostly I go to the movies alone, I like it better that way but when I go with someone, it’s probably one out of maybe 4 close friends whose taste in film I respect. All women, coincidentally. Wait, no, there’s my friend Javier, who I don’t see very often, but we’ve gone to see some great movies together, like Almodóvar’s Los Abrazos Rotos.

YES!! I can’t argue with you there. I’ve gone to see movies like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Lorax, The Three Stooges–films that aren’t much more than decent, but my friends always leave with me saying it was “such a good movie” or “my new favorite movie.” Love my friends, but it just drives me nuts.

You mentioned Pedro Almodóvar, the director of Broken Embraces as well as several other acclaimed films. You’ve stated that Almodóvar’s 2006 film Volver is your favorite, in a difficult tie with Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1. I know from your review that you saw the latter at the age of thirteen (lucky you), so it’s possible that left a mark of fascination. (smiles) What was mind-blowing about Volver?

It’s a film that I love so much but I can’t quite put my finger on why. I think it’s a masterful blend of comedy and drama (just like life itself) with absolutely perfect performances. Almodóvar loves doing movies about women and here he’s at his very best. He really knows how to depict strong, imperfect women. Everything else works as well: music, cinematography, costumes. The writing is superb. The story is very intimate and personal. I also saw this one fairly young (at 16) and it made quite a mark. Wasn’t expecting a lot since I wasn’t a huge fan of Cruz or Almodóvar then, but I loved it instantly.

You weren’t a fan of Penélope Cruz because you hadn’t seen her performance in Vicky Cristina Barcelona at the time! She was unforgettable there.

As the interview comes to a close, I leave one final question at hand: Who is a film character you feel resembles you?

I hadn’t seen a lot of Penélope Cruz roles by then, no. Only bit parts in some crappy movies in English. But Volver was certainly a turning point. She’s one of my favorite actresses now, and I look forward to each and every one of her performances. She’s immensely talented and very beautiful. If her son with Javier Bardem decides to pursue acting, he has some VERY big shoes to fill. And about a film character I resemble, I find it a bit hard to see myself in movie characters but the last one I really identified with was Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) in Midnight in Paris. He’s very passionate, what he loves he really loves and he’s enamoured with Paris, like I am. Only he’s there, and I’ve never been (laughs).

You can find Fernando on Twitter @FernandoRafael


15 thoughts on “Cinephile Interview III: Committed to Celluloid

  1. Great interview guys. I second Fernando’s love of Almodovar and in that, I know I can rely on his taste in movies. Such a good blogger and to use (part of) his own title, I’d refer to him as “Committed to.. Follow”. There are few bloggers out there that are as commited to reading and commenting on your material. I’m always grateful for Fernando’s input. 🙂

    • So do I. Fun fact: I thought “Volver” was pronounced like “revolver” without the “re” until I saw Chico & Rita. There’s a scene in that film (about 70% of it is spoken in Spanish) where Rita writes a sentence on the bathroom mirror using her lipstick–one of the words in the sentence is “volver,” which (obviously as Spanish) is pronounced with the soft “b” sounds (“bol-beh”), and it means “to return.”

      I found it interesting, but I can imagine Fernando facepalming if he reads my absurd analysis of the title. Makes me feel even stupider, considering the school district I go to is 35% Hispanic, so I should know enough Spanish to know how to say “return” haha.

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